Archive for Mike Stone

Lame Exuse

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Believe it or not, this entire post is a lame excuse to try out the new editor in WordPress 3.9. It’s pretty amazing.

A Long Absence and Excuses

To all those that still occasionally visit this blog, hello! It’s been quite some time since I posted an update, and I want to let everybody know what’s going on.

Not Quitting

First and foremost, I just want to let anybody that cares know that I’m not planning on quitting this blog, at least at the present moment. There has been a long absence, and I apologize for that. There is a reason for that, if a particularly poor reason.

Motivation

So, why haven’t I been writing? Well, there’s lots of excuses that I could give, but the big reason is I just haven’t been motivated to write. I’m trying to get that picked back up, but it’s been difficult. It’s not that I haven’t been doing anything. I’ve been spending more time with my family, which I really enjoy. The importance of that was really driven home for me last fall when my Dad passed away in October. It’s so weird that when someone is available to answer questions, you rarely have any. It’s only after you’ve lost their attention that questions rise to the surface.

Stop Whining Stone!

I don’t mean for this to be a whiny article full of “Woe is me” type crap, but I do want to give everybody just a little bit of context as to what’s going on. I do miss the interaction that I got with people because of this blog, so I’m anxious to start doing it again soon. I’m hoping very soon. I’ve just got to get over that hump.

Blackberry a Defense for Google Against Rockstar?

If you haven’t been watching the news today, a big bomb was dropped on Google. The Rockstar consortium (Apple, BlackBerry, Microsoft, Ericsson, Sony, and EMC) has sued Google as well as Asustek, HTC, Huawei, LG Electronics, Pantech, Samsung, and ZTE. Is there an obvious and easy way around Rockstar?

Brief History

So what happened is this. Nortel was going bankrupt. Google bid for their patents, but lost out to a consortium of companies. That consortium includes Apple, BlackBerry(then known as RIM), Microsoft, Ericsson, Sony, and EMC. Even at the time, Google’s Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, wrote that Microsoft, Apple and others were engaging in hostile patent warfare against Android.

Silver Bullet?

BlackberrySo, how can Google and company get around this particular issue? There may be a quick and easy was to do it. Maybe. I won’t pretend to be a an expert at patent law, but I do know that one member of that consortium is not doing particularly well these days. In fact, they’ve been shopping around for a buyer. Blackberry. As a member of the consortium, they would have full rights to the patents owned by the consortium. A purchase of Blackberry by Google would bring ownership of those patents (at least partial) to Google, making the suits against Google moot.

Second Option?

Department of JusticeEven if a Blackberry purchase isn’t a possibility, there’s another possible solution out there as well. During the initial purchase, the DOJ investigated the companies involved because they were concerned (as was I) that the patents being purchased would be used in an offensive against Android. As it turns out, they were right about that (and by extension so was I). The DOJ only approved the purchase with the hopes that Rockstar would only use the intellectual property it purchased strictly to defend itself from Android initiated lawsuits. It may be that the DOJ may not take kindly to this particular aggressive action by Rockstar.

Summary

There’s quite a bit of worry out there today regarding these new suits against Google and the Android ecosystem. I’m not going to say that worry isn’t warranted, but there are options available to Google that could very well make this a minor bump in the road. We’ll have to wait and see how things pan out, but this lawsuit may not be the huge problem so many people think it’s going to be.

Why Can’t I Watch Disney Junior?

Watch Disney JuniorI have three kids 5 and under, and so we’re always looking for a good way to keep them occupied in the car and around town, and they all love Disney stuff. In fact, Disney is the only reason we haven’t completely cut the cord as far as television is concerned.

My wife saw this on TV this morning. There’s an App for the Kindle Fire to Watch Disney Junior. We already knew there was an app for iDevices.

Now, you’d think that because the Kindle Fire is really an Android device, they’d put this out in the Play Store or make it available to more than just the Kindle Fire. You’d think that, but they don’t. This app is listed as incompatible with my Nexus 4 and my Nexus 7, and only exists in the Amazon App Store, despite the fact that Disney has released more apps to the Play Store than the Amazon App Store.

It’s not just the Disney Junior app either. Disney has an app to watch the standard Disney Channel, and to Watch Disney XD. None of these apps are available for Android outside of the Kindle Fire.

Is Amazon paying Apple to keep these apps exclusive to the Kindle Fire, or is Apple intentionally avoiding the Android platform outside of the Fire?

Is Amazon Paying Apple for Watch Disney Junior?

It’s possible that Amazon is paying Apple to keep these apps exclusive. This seems unlikely to me as none of these apps are being billed as exclusive by Amazon. If they were going to pay Apple to keep these apps away from other Android devices, you’d think that they’d brag about it. They’re not bragging, so I doubt that they’re paying Apple for these apps.

Is Disney Intentionally Avoiding Android?

Disney and Apple have had some pretty solid ties in the past. I’m sure we’re all aware that Steve Jobs sat on Disney’s Board of Directors. That was because he was pretty much the owner of Pixar when Disney bought it. As a result of that purchase, Jobs joined the board and became the single largest individual shareholder of Disney stock. Many people probably don’t know that Disney and Pixar weren’t the best of friends until Bob Iger replaced Michael Eisner, and Iger currently sits on both the Board of Directors to both Disney and Apple. Also, the stock owned by Steve Jobs didn’t exactly vanish into the wind when he died. It transferred to the Steven P. Jobs Trust (now the Laurene Powell Jobs Trust) run by his wife. Disney’s ties to Apple are still very strong, so this seems like the more likely choice.

Other Ideas?

There is, of course, a third possibility. I hadn’t noticed the Watch Disney Junior app being available even for the Kindle Fire until this morning. I can honestly say that I don’t know how long it’s been available. The first Amazon review for it shows up on February 16, 2013. That means that it’s only been available on the Kindle Fire for about six months. It’s possible that the app is still in progress for a wider selection of Android devices. Six months seems like a long time if that’s the case, but I’ll admit to not being aware of all the processes required to get an app done at Disney. I’ll update this article if the app suddenly appears on the Play Store.

Regardless, it’s very annoying. I’m not going to buy an iDevice just to have this app. I would like to see the app become available for other Android devices, but it’s been more than a year that it’s been available for iDevices and at least six months for the Kindle Fire. If Disney were going to release it for Android, you’d think they’d have done it by now. Maybe I’m wrong. Let me know in the comments.

Watched Apple’s Announcements Today

I watched Apple’s announcements today.

I was totally inspired.

Living In Interesting Times

Actually, this post isn’t going to be about Linux. I’m sure everybody has heard the proverb “may you live in interesting times”. Well, this last couple months, that’s how I’d describe what’s been going on with me. You won’t see much interesting showing up on the blog because while there has been a lot of interesting things going on in the Linux world, I haven’t had a lot of time to delve into it. Let’s start at the top.

Kaitlyn Elizabeth

Late last year, we found out that my wife and I were expecting our third child. We couldn’t have been more excited. Everything went great until 27 weeks, 6 days when my wife went into labor (for the first time).

For those of you that aren’t up on all the details of pregnancy, 40 weeks a pregnancy. A baby is considered “premature” up until they’re 37 weeks along. 28 weeks is very early.

We spent a couple nights in the hospital, and the doctors and nurses managed to stop the labor…. mostly. My wife was put on bed rest and given shower and bathroom privileges. She wasn’t to leave the bed for any other reason. She was started on medication to keep the labor at bay as well. Because she was on full bed rest, I got the job of taking care of our other two children (and Amy).

At 32 weeks, she couldn’t take the medication anymore because it could cause issues with the baby beyond that point. I think she made it a full day before going back into full swing labor.

This is a reoccurring pattern at this point. We were in the delivery room 6 or 7 different times over the next 5 weeks. We were sent home, and sometimes admitted. Amy spent a full week in the hospital at one point. It was really starting to take a toll on both Amy and I mentally and physically.

The real trick here was despite the fact that Amy was pretty much “in labor” this whole time, because the baby was premature the doctors were unwilling to “help things along”. Finally, 37 weeks arrived. Amy was in the hospital at the time, and the doctors finally agreed that the time had arrived. It didn’t take long before we had a healthy baby girl.

Cancer

We were actually in the hospital after Amy had gone into labor at the 28 week mark when I got a call from my brother. My Dad had gone into the hospital for a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI henceforth) and the doctors had detected Cancer cells in his bladder.

My Dad had a bout with Cancer several years ago in his Prostate, and it was thought to have been at least pushed to remission. These new Cancer cells implied otherwise. Of course there were tests, but Dad only opted for the non-intrusive ones. This November he’ll be turning 90, and he’s of the mind that this round of Cancer will either kill him quickly, or something else will. Don’t agree with him, and I think that he should be looking into his treatment options after he finds out what the source of these cells is, but it’s his call to make and not mine.

Alzheimer’s

The news of my Dad’s Cancer had barely stopped echoing in my ears before I got another call. This time it was from my mother. Things had been… slipping for my mother for a while now. She was having a harder and harder time remembering things. She’d gone to several doctors and none of them found anything wrong with her.

Finally, she went to a neurologist who gave her the diagnosis. She has Alzheimer‘s.

It’s not terribly far along at this point, but it does create some serious issues, the largest of which is caring for my Dad.

See, while my Dad is going to be 90 this November, my Mom isn’t even 70 yet. Most days Mom doesn’t know what day it is, let alone if she’s completed basic tasks, like eating or taking medication. My brother and I have started calling her twice a day (morning and evening) to remind her to do both. We have to stay on the phone with her or else she’ll hang up the phone and get distracted by something and forget what she was doing. My Dad has never been one to complain, which is actually starting to be a problem. My Mom will forget that they haven’t eaten, and just not. Dad won’t say anything. This has been going on long enough that he’s lost over 60lbs.

Interesting Times

There’s not really an ending to this story. Not yet anyway. The proverb says “may you live in interesting times”, but “interesting” could mean so many things, both good and bad. The last couple months have brought me both in bulk. Interesting times? To say the least.

 

Protect your Privacy in a Post Prism World

What Microsoft does to Protect your PrivacyWe’ve been hearing a lot about Prism lately. It’s a big topic and a big deal. I hear excuses for it all the time. “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” “It’s for our security!” Blah blah blah. None of the many excuses I’ve heard have remotely justified Prism to me. That’s one of the many reasons that I rely on Linux to protect my privacy.

Microsoft and the NSA

If you’re using Windows, and you want to protect your privacy, you can spend a lot of money to do it. You can buy packages that will protect Windows. You can upgrade your firewalls. You can install virus and malware protection. You can encrypt your files.

Do you honestly think that will protect you from the NSA and having your data sucked down at will by Prism? Of course it won’t.

The trick here is that Microsoft allegedly is working with the NSA. They’re giving the NSA access and allowing them to bypass their encryption. Nothing you’re installing to protect your privacy is working.

Now, Microsoft has denied that this is the case. What we now have is a case of he said she said regarding your privacy. Who do you believe? And that’s the billion dollar question.

Any OS can be Secured, Sorta

Microsoft would have you believe that Windows can be just as secure as Linux, and they’re doing everything in their power to protect your privacy. The thing is, you have to take their word for it. And that’s not just the case with Windows and Microsoft. It’s the case with any proprietary OS where the code is locked away from the customer. We can’t look and see if what Microsoft is telling us is true. We can’t look and see what Apple is telling us is true.

It’s hidden.

This is where Linux by it’s very nature is better. The code is open, and anybody with an Internet connection can download that code and verify that no NSA snoop has a back door to their operating system. Just by being open, Linux does more to protect your privacy than Microsoft and Apple combined. Combine Linux with tor, and you’re virtually invisible. On top of that, you don’t have to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars to achieve this. It’s all free.

Protect Your Privacy

Even before Prism, I had a hard time coming up with a good reason to use Windows. Now, post Prism, continuing to use Windows or OSX seems like you’re just wrapping your private affairs in a pretty bow as a gift for anybody that Microsoft or Apple makes a deal with. If you’re even slightly interested in keeping your private matters private, you should be using Linux.

Ubiquitous Linux: It’s Everywhere

UbiquitousLinuxSometimes I’m sitting here, trying to come up with something to write and I’m coming up dry. It’s not because there’s nothing going on with Linux. Quite the contrary. Linux is always moving, changing. It’s hard to believe just how ubiquitous Linux is. It’s literally everywhere.

The Obvious

Of course, there’s the obvious places you can find Linux. Android phones, the Internet, and of course super computers. Linux has long dominated those markets, and everybody is pretty much aware of that fact.

The Not So Obvious

Some of the other areas that you can find Linux are pretty amazing. Just check out some of these:

  • Japanese high speed rails.
  • San Francisco High-tech traffic control systems.
  • Toyota In-Vehicle-Infotainment and communications systems.
  • DeLaval robotic cow milking systems.
  • The New York Stock Exchange.
  • CERN’s particle accelerator.
  • Air Traffic Control systems nation wide.
  • United States nuclear submarines.
  • DVR devices.
  • French Parliament.
  • Commercial Bank of China.
  • The U.S. Postal Service.
  • Virgin America
  • etc….

Seriously, the list goes on and on. In a world that’s literally so full of Linux, it seems weird that it would be hard to think of something to write about. About the only place that Linux isn’t so ubiquitous is the desktop computer.

Of course this is why those who don’t have the facts seem to think that no one uses Linux, or that Linux is difficult to use. For those of us that do have the facts, it’s obvious that Windows and OSX are used by a small fraction of the number of users that use Linux on a daily basis.

Can you imagine what this world would be without Linux? It certainly wouldn’t be the world that we know. I guess it would be more like the 80s instead of the 21st century. Maybe Microsoft would have more power over us than they do now? Scary thought, air traffic control powered by Windows. Gives the term “crash” a whole new meaning, or maybe it keeps the old one. Either way, I think if Windows were managing air traffic control, I’d fly less.

I guess I don’t have a lot more to say, but just keep this in mind. Next time someone tells you that no one uses Linux, you should tell them how ubiquitous Linux really is.

Attention Hospitals: Use Linux!

Use Linux!I’ve been pretty quiet lately, and there’s a good reason for this. One Wednesday, my 28 week pregnant wife went into labor. She went in for a checkup because her Braxton Hicks contractions (false contractions) were really bothering her, and she was informed that they weren’t exactly Braxton Hicks. She was admitted the the hospital and started on Magnesium to stop the contractions (28 weeks is really early for those that are unaware) and some steroids to speed lung development in the baby if the Magnesium didn’t work. Fortunately, the Magnesium has seemed to do it’s job, and she’s feeling as well as a 28 week pregnant woman is suppose to feel. They’re releasing her from the hospital today if all goes according to plan, which the nurses and doctors all assure us is what they expect.

During this time, my wife and I have managed to turn our little hospital room into a small computer lab. We’ve got 3 laptops, two tablets, and two smart phones. The hospital is nice enough to provide us with wifi for our Internet surfing needs.

Now that my nerves have settled down a bit from the thought of having a baby that early, I feel the urge to point something out. I feel a little uncomfortable when I see all your medical equipment hooked up to computers running Windows XP.

Yea, Windows XP.

Hospitals, you should really not be using Windows XP for two reasons that I, as a patient, find very important.

Stability

We’re dealing with medical equipment here, so it’s important that it’s available when it needs to be available. While the Windows running medical equipment wasn’t absolutely essential to my wife’s recovery, I would hate to hear of a situation where something catastrophic happened and it resulted in the loss of life. You don’t want to be suffering from a BSOD when the D could be quite literal. I don’t even mean that to sound funny. This is a serious situation, and an unstable operating system like Windows XP could literally cost a patient everything. For me and my loved ones, Windows XP is not nearly up to par. Use Linux! Please.

Security

Beyond the obvious stability issues, Windows XP can’t be counted on for security. I understand that this is medical equipment, and that the doctors and nurses aren’t exactly surfing Facebook on it, but if the patches aren’t kept up to date, they might as well be. I recall at one point in my career that an unpatched Windows XP box would survive less than a minute on the Internet before it was infected with something. Less than a minute!

I understand that Microsoft has fixed most (if not all) of the issues that caused that short infection Window, but new things are popping up for Windows machines literally daily. I don’t want a system with all the medical information of me or a loved one on it to have all the security of a rickety screen door. Windows XP is not what I would consider the peak of secure systems. All it takes is one infected computer inside the network, and hundreds if not thousands of patients information could be floating around on the Internet. This wouldn’t be possible if hospitals just used a system that was less vulnerable to infection than their patients. Please, use Linux!

Available Options

OK, I know that some of the software that they’re using may not work in Linux, but I think my concerns are valid ones. Further, with as messed up as the medical system is in the United States, do you seriously want to throw in licensing concerns and costs to Microsoft?

I brief glance around the web showed me that there are some options available, and if there’s some pressure to move to a more stable and secure environment, I’m sure some of these software companies would comply. There’s nothing for them to gain as a company by not supporting more stable and secure environments.

If you work for a hospital in the IT department, please look into these options. If you don’t work in a hospital and you’re just in one, or if you’re non-IT staff, please ask your IT staff to look into these options:

Speaking for myself and my family, I would feel a lot safer if hospitals ditched Windows entirely. Please, use Linux!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Linux Desktop

This is NOT a minimal DesktopHow often do you stop to look at your desktop? I can honestly say, I look at my desktop more or less depending on what OS I’m using. Is that weird?

Scientific Study

Today at work, I received a new project. That’s not terribly relevant other that it’s what spurred a revelation. While thinking about how I was going to go about solving a particular problem, I suddenly realized that I was staring blankly at my desktop.

My computer at work is a crappy Windows 7 box that has the hardest time with the most basic tasks. For me to say that I don’t like it would be an understatement, but today I noticed something different. My desktop is a huge mess. There are literally icons and folders scattered everywhere.

Why is this interesting? Well, it’s probably not in all honesty, but this is not typical behavior for me. I usually keep things pretty pristine. I like the minimal desktop look, and having icons and folders scattered is not minimal. After some brief cleanup, and was walking to get lunch, and as I walked through a row of cubicles, I was noticing other people’s desktops too. To a person, they looked like mine. Disaster areas. Garbage scattered hither and yon. Every Windows desktop seemed to be that way.

Finally my day ends, and I’m able to sit down at my home computer for a second. I breathe a sigh of relief when I see my spotless Linux desktop happily waiting for me to do something. Ironically, that something happened to be digging through my old screen shots. As it turns out, every screen shot I’ve ever taken of Windows is piles of icons. Everywhere. Every screen shot I’ve taken of Linux is neatly organized with a fairly minimal desktop.

Does using Linux make me more organized? My “Scientific Study” says Yes! And when I say “Scientific” I mean “Not Scientific at all”. Seriously, this “study” ranks right up there with studies funded by Microsoft “proving” that Windows is more secure or less expensive than Linux. We’re talking utter crap here.

The Question

Still, it’s interesting to me that I work so much differently when I use Linux vs. when I use Windows. Is it more than just me? Go back through your screen shots if you have them. Are you more organized when you’re using Linux than Windows?

My Desktop Gallery