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Rodney Gedda's piece of the Web

June 30, 2015
by Rodney Gedda
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Alternative mobile OS redux

A while back I blogged about the possibilities for alternative mobile platforms. Unfortunately the pace of development has been slow since, but the good news is products like the new Meizu Ubuntu-based device are coming to market.

The new Meizu Ubuntu-powered smartphone

The new Meizu Ubuntu-powered smartphone

 

Since then FirefoxOS is focusing on higher-end devices, Sailfish has strong interest in a tablet and Tizen is now available on smart watches and TVs from Samsung,

Locally, Telstra was looking at FirefoxOS, but not much happened there. The Big T is also on Canonical’s Carrier Advisory Group (CAG) for Ubuntu Phone so we’ll just have to wait and see what (if any) outcome there is.

It must seem like an insurmountable task to break into the global smartphone market, but there are a few reasons to give it shot. First, the two dominant platforms can’t be everything to everyone; second, the refresh rate of handsets is quite high so there is a large window of opportunity; and third, with more standard apps and dev toolkits the hassle of supporting multiple platforms should diminish over time, even if you ignore the growing apk support for non-Android OSs.

I noticed the other day in the large tech retailers’ catalogues the arrival of Microsoft (not Nokia) branded smartphones in Australia. It would be great to see a few others options available as well.

May 31, 2015
by Rodney Gedda
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WordPress child themes with Child Themify

If you want to reduce some of the pain of managing theme changes in WordPress take a look at the Child Themify plugin which will create a child theme from an existing one with the click of a button. The “child” theme can then be styled to suit your needs and when there is a main theme update your changes won’t be overwritten.

child_themify_button

That said, I updated one of my sites yesterday and the header template was overwritten to which I had to add in the custom code – my fault but the limit of child themes are you want to avoid too many template changes as they will conflict with updates in the parent theme.

You can browse the latest free themes on WordPress.org

April 30, 2015
by Rodney Gedda
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The desktop virtualization dearth

I can’t believe how few options there are for desktop virtualisation (or virtualization) on Windows. I’m using VirtualBox to host Linux on Windows but I have a BIG problem with a BIG snapshot file that seems to keep growing to 20GB+ making the available space on my Windows partition shrink and shrink away.

It seems even the big virtualisation vendors like Microsoft, Parallels and Citrix have lost interest in a personal desktop virtualization product. VMWare and VirtualBox look like the only viable options.

I have downloaded the latest Bochs and will give that a go. There’s certainly a market opportunity here.

March 29, 2015
by Rodney Gedda
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TablePress for easy tables in WordPress

Looking to add GUI-editable tables to your WordPress site? Take a look at TablePress.

TablePress for easy tables in WordPress

TablePress for easy tables in WordPress

It supports a number of JavaScript controls and can even import tables from Excel.

I’ve used it on a few sites and the great thing about it is you can hand over table updating to anyone who can log in and edit a Web form.

 

February 28, 2015
by Rodney Gedda
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What to do when the NBN comes to town: Copper cable cut

Being at one of the early release sites, it’s now been over a year since I moved to the NBN. In truth, I did have to keep my copper connection active in order to keep my POTS phone number, but that’s another story.

As of this month NBN Co started dropping letters on everyone indicating the 18 month window of dual copper-fibre service in the area had come to a natural end. From March copper phone and internet services will cease and we’ll all be on fibre. I hope there isn’t too much disruption among those homes and businesses that could get the NBN but haven’t moved yet. Get your mobile handsets ready!

Interestingly, there was an article this week about the prospect of supporting two types of fixed-line access methods like copper and HFC/Cable or FTTP. That might have made sense 20 years ago when the first cable networks were rolled out in this country, but nowadays fibre does voice and data very well and we have more expansive and faster mobile networks.

I’m all for a multi-technology mix – where it makes sense! In an expansive suburban area like mine, where it’s not uncommon for premises to be several hundred metres from a node, let alone an exchange, fibre is the best option and the natural successor to copper. If you can push 100Mbps down existing copper lines in an high-density apartment building using FTTN then sure, go ahead and do it and save yourself the cost of retrofitting fibre. But there is not much point in “investing” in FTTN technology in suburban areas using the old copper network only for people any distance from the node to end up with DSL speeds. We’ll just have to see where the MTM approach ends up.

One of the things I’m happy to report is my home phone number was easily ported from the copper to the fibre connection by my ISP. I’m using the UNI-V port on the NBN router, not a VoIP service and the call quality is just as good, if not better, than what the copper network delivered.

One happy NBN and Ubuntu user from Gosford, NSW

One happy NBN and Ubuntu user from Gosford, NSW

NBN Co has received some favourable press from our local newspaper, the Central Coast Express Advocate. A local law firm has moved off copper completely and is enjoying the benefits of the NBN. The photo in the article also shows the business is using Ubuntu Linux on at least one desktop – go Ubuntu!

What to do when the NBN comes to town blog series:

January 29, 2015
by Rodney Gedda
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Notification to nowhere

Most operation systems have notification services that attempt to notify, if not inform, the user when a significant even has occurred. Such as? Hmm…

  • Battery is low
  • Your mother called
  • You have a system update available
  • You have a reminder set to check the eggs

Unfortunately there are some notifications which are a little less useful that others. Take this one that Kubuntu spits out every now and then. It has been niggling at me for some time.

Kubuntu's anti-notification notification

Kubuntu’s anti-notification notification

“An application has crashed on your system (now or in the past)”. In other news:

  • Why?
  • What?
  • Which?
  • Who?
  • When?
  • Where?

It even says it is a “Helper”. Helping what? The user to become more confused?

A notification system should do something, like notify…

December 31, 2014
by Rodney Gedda
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All the best for 2015

As 2014 draws to a close I’d like to wish everyone all the best for 2015.

Any plans for 2015? I, like most people, will be starting it with holidays.

No doubt the Back To The Future Part II predictions will receive a lot of scrutiny in 2015. I think we’ll be doing well to see more electric cars in use, let alone flying ones.

Have a Happy New Year!

November 30, 2014
by Rodney Gedda
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Choosing an independent PR firm

Over the years I’ve had many people ask me for advice on choosing a PR and media relations firm. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question of course, but if you’re new to media marketing then a good place to start is with an independent PR firm.

Independent firms are “independent” in the sense they are not part of a multinational enterprise and are owner-operated, sometimes with a handful of support staff.

Here’s a quick list (in no particular order) of independent PR firms with a focus on IT & business:

Good luck finding the one that suits your requirements. If you’re an independent and not on this list feel free to add yourself in the comments.

October 31, 2014
by Rodney Gedda
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Open source as a case study in software reformism

Having read the Anarchist FAQ a number of years ago I found the brief mention of the open source movement quite interesting, no doubt owing to my personal interest in open source software.

I won’t summarise the FAQ here (that’s for another long post) only to draw a brief comparison of how open source projects resemble what an anarchist society is meant to look like across the entire spectrum of production. In the free software world:

  • The concept of central nanny state is meaningless and irrelevant (nation states)
  • The concept of a private corporation controlling the IP of the software is also meaningless and irrelevant (capitalist firms)
  • The fabric of society is centred around discrete open source projects (trade unions)
  • The open source projects interoperate with each other as required (resource sharing)

Open source production essentially operates in parallel with proprietary software production and, while including artificial state constructs like copyright, trademark and patent provisions as part of the final product, would continue unabated if the state broke down. If copyright did not exist every open source product would function as intended.

There’s no doubt open source is a revolution in software production, but for the purpose of this post I’ll discuss how it’s also a good example of reformism as well.

Anarchists consider “reformism” as developments intended for public good, but do not solve the root cause of social inequality. Welfare, public housing, land rights and education funding are all examples of reformism within the existing state-capitalist social structure we live in (monarchies and theocracies aside).

While revolutionary, open source projects, their sponsors and end-users (most everyone these days) are still subject to state-capitalist interests and can be on the receiving end of use exclusions, copyright and patent claims, trademark infringements and can be corrupted by capitalist interests. This is most apparent with today’s fascination with cloud computing and smart devices. Every cloud service and mobile device uses some open source software, but many are not very open systems (especially mobile) and are very tightly tied to the vendor’s interests.

Nonetheless, open source is still a leading example of reformism. The projects are not waiting for some fanciful “post revolution” era when the developers are all free to product what software they like without fear of prosecution. As anarchists say, their idea is to “create a new world in the shell of the old” and the open source software movement is doing just that.

Free software principles can also be applied to other industries. Take mutual banking (and to some extent crowd funding) as an example of pooled resources with interest and fees charged at a rate that covers the administration costs. While also an example of reformism with the current system, mutual banking is a worthwhile “new world in the shell of the old”. It would still have to stave off the established institutions, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a worthwhile to many people in need of financial services.

Open source software combines the platform of revolution with the practicality of reformism. Let’s hope the movement carries on strongly in parallel with the new era of cloud-mobile computing.

September 30, 2014
by Rodney Gedda
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Wearable computers at work

This month I received a smart watch as a gift and one of the first things I did was wear it into work. I don’t have any big plans to use the device for my work, rather I’m probably like most people that “bring” their portable computers into the workplace – I’ll gradually adopt applications that are useful to both my personal and work requirements. If your watch can count your steps why can’t it receive your email?

We’ve all heard about BYOD and, increasingly, BYOA, so there is no reason to think wearables won’t fall into that category. Just this week I was interviewed by The Australian about the proliferation of wearable computers (and their apps) into the workplace.

Wearables in a workplace could deliver everything from operator assistance to safety alerts and fire drill instructions and would have “a profound impact” on business.

Companies will offer work apps for smartwatches, says Telsyte report – Chris Griffith, The Australian, September 30, 2014

 

Like most “new” trends the business market has actually taken advantage of the technology for some time. When I was an engineer I remember walking around the plant with a wearable gas detector for safety reasons. Today’s wearable computers could easily be adapted for such purposes. BYOW anyone?…