Bad Voltage Season 1 Episode 19: Fedora Murder Trial

From the Bad Voltage site:

The whole team return (remarkably) to speak, weirdly, only about things beginning with the letter F. Myself, Bryan Lunduke, Jono Bacon and Stuart Langridge present Bad Voltage, with the following “F-ing” things:

  • Fire Phone: Amazon release a phone, and we decide whether it’s exciting or execrable
  • Firefox OS: the Mozilla project’s phone OS, reviewed by Stuart and discussed by everybody
  • Freshmeat: the late-90s web store of software for Linux has finally closed its doors. Reminiscence, combined with some thoughts on how and why the world has moved on
  • Fedora Project Leader: Matthew Miller, the newly-appointed leader of the Fedora Linux project, speaks about the direction that distribution is planning, working with large communities, and whether his job should be decided by a Thunderdome-style trial by combat
  • err… our Fabulous community: we catch up with what’s going on

Listen to: 1×19: Fedora Murder Trial

As mentioned here, Bad Voltage is a new project I’m proud to be a part of. From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

–jeremy

Bad Voltage Season 1 Episode 16: Forgotten to be Right

From the Bad Voltage site:

Myself, Bryan Lunduke, Jono Bacon, and Stuart Langridge present Bad Voltage, the greatest podcast in the history of this or any other universe. In this episode:

Listen to: 1×16: Forgotten to be Right

As mentioned here, Bad Voltage is a new project I’m proud to be a part of. From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

–jeremy

Bad Voltage Season 1 Episode 15: Why Dear Watson

Myself, Bryan Lunduke, Jono Bacon, and Stuart Langridge present Bad Voltage, :

  • Bryan gave his yearly “Linux Sucks” talk at LinuxFest Northwest, and the rest of us take issue with his approach, his arguments, his data sources, and his general sense of being
  • The XBox 360: reviewed as a TV set-top box, not as a gaming console
  • The up and coming elementary OS: is it any good, and what do we think of it?
  • Our discussion of elementary OS raised a number of questions: Daniel Foré, leader of the project, talks about the goals of the OS and answers our queries
  • Community recap: your emails and forum posts and happenings in the Bad Voltage community

Listen to: 1×15: Why Dear Watson

As mentioned here, Bad Voltage is a new project I’m proud to be a part of. From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

–jeremy

Bad Voltage Season 1 Episode 14: Cloudy Donkey Mascots

Myself, Bryan Lunduke, Jono Bacon, and Stuart Langridge present Bad Voltage, in which the cloud shows up a lot this week, in the following ways:

  • Personal cloud storage: what do we use, what do we like, and what do we think? Companies, personal clouds, servers, tarsnap and Dropbox
  • Christian Schaller, who manages the team at Red Hat producing their “Fedora Workstation” concept, wrote up what “Workstation” is and now comes to answer questions about it
  • Breaking Down the Bullshit: we look at “the cloud” as a whole. What does it mean? And why?
  • I review the Pebble watch: as one of its original Kickstarter backers, I’ve now had the Pebble for long enough to form an opinion
  • Community recap: your emails and forum posts and happenings in the Bad Voltage community

Listen to: 1×14: Cloudy Donkey Mascots

As mentioned here, Bad Voltage is a new project I’m proud to be a part of. From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

–jeremy

Pebble Smartwatch Review

This review was originally done for Bad Voltage, but I figured it may also be of interest to my general readers.

In Season 1 Episode 13 of Bad Voltage, we covered the topic of wearables. One device that came up in that episode was the Pebble watch. For those who are unfamiliar with the device, it’s a first generation smartwatch that has an e-paper display and an ARM Cortex-M3 processor. It was originally funded via kickstarter, where the project hit over 10 million dollars of funding based on a goal of just $100,000. I was one of the initial backers, who got a Jet Black Pebble for just $99. With its fairly low price point, the watch is admittedly pretty basic from an aesthetics perspective. The rubber watch band, for example, is certainly not my favorite. The watchface itself, while plastic, is sleek and well constructed and the e-paper display is quite usable. The battery lasts for around a week, depending on usage, and the device is even water resistant, meaning it can be fully submerged in water or worn while running in the rain. It connects to iPhone and Android smartphones using Bluetooth and can alert you with a silent vibration and on screen notification to incoming calls, emails, text messages, weather alerts, sports scores, calendar events and more. You can also select from a wide variety of watchfaces. Some of the watchfaces are extremely well done and while simple, this is one of my favorite aspects of the watch.

From a customization perspective, that’s really just the beginning though as the watch can also be loaded with apps. Cyclists can use Pebble as a bike computer, accessing the GPS on their smartphone to display speed, distance and pace data. You can use the music control app to play, pause or skip tracks on your phone with the touch of a button. You can use the device to control your GoPro camera or nest thermostat, and there’s even a Freecaddie app that works as a golf rangefinder.

The Pebble can receive simple alerts and notifications from “if this then that” or via a web-facing RESTFUL endpoint. There is also a C-based SDK. Basically you can send anything that would have been a push notification directly to the device and the device can send data from the accelerometer and buttons back up to the Internet. The app ecosystem is fairly new, but some interesting 3rd party apps are already starting to appear, with services like Pandora, RunKeeper, Foursquare and Yelp jumping into the fray.

For those who didn’t like the look or construction of the original Pebble, which is still available with an MSRP of $150, the next generation Pebble, the Pebble Steel, is already available. As the name indicates, the new device is made of brushed or matte stainless steel and comes with either a leather or metal band. The watchface itself is both larger and higher quality and now comes with Gorilla glass and a notification LED. Overall the new Pebble Steel looks significantly nicer but does so at a higher cost of $250.

So, what’s the Bad Voltage verdict? At $99 I have to say I’m pleased with the device. To be fair, the new app store has certainly had some hiccups, and some of the apps are either a bit buggy or sound more useful than they actually end up being. The largest disappointment is probably that you can only have eight watchfaces or apps on the device at any given time, which is not nearly enough. But, for a first generation device that cost less than a hundred dollars I think it was a bargain. The new Pebble Steel looks to be a nice iteration, but whether it’s worth $250 is likely a matter of personal preference… so I leave that decision to the listener.

–jeremy
Google+

Withings WS-50 Smart Body Analyzer Review

This review was originally done for Bad Voltage, but I figured it may also be of interest to my general readers.

As I mentioned in the season one, episode four “Open Source Health” segment, I’m someone who makes a concerted effort to stay relatively healthy. Part of that means exercising regularly and being cognizant of my eating habits, but as an Open Source tech guy, I’m someone who prefers to make empirical decisions. I like data. I like being able to spot trends and from there see if I can find causation. Unfortunately, I’m not dedicated enough to regularly weigh myself, write it down manually and then start graphing that data. Enter the Withings WS-50 Smart Body Analyzer, which is an Internet connected Smart Scale. A few seconds after stepping on the scale, you’ll know your body weight, BMI, fat-lean ratio and heart rate. It even tracks air quality, carbon dioxide levels and temperature. That’s just the beginning, though. Moments later, all the data is synced and available online in the Health Mate dashboard. From that dashboard you can view a variety of graphs and trends, see how you’re progressing toward goals that you’ve set and see how you compare to normal ranges for your body type. You can also access the data via both iOS and android apps. Armed with this data it’s easy to spot that your recent trip to Los Angeles for SCaLE may have caused you to put on a pound or two, or that giving up a certain product after a certain date actually has paid dividends. If you need a bit of an extra motivator or are just the attention seeking type, you can even automatically post your data to Facebook and twitter. The scale supports multiple users, identifying different users by weight, with a clever system for choosing between users with similar weights.

If that’s all you use the Smart Body Analyzer for, I’d already consider it an extremely useful device. Especially if it actually motivates you to adhere to the fitness goals you’ve set for yourself. But, once you’re using the Health Mate dashboard, you’ll find that it also integrates with other Withings products. Add the Pulse Activity Tracker, for example, and you’ll get sleep cycle analysis along with steps taken, calories burned, elevation climbed and distance traveled throughout the day. Additional data sources aren’t locked into Withings products, however. With over 100 supported 3rd party apps you can add information from RunKeeper, MyFitnessPal, Fitbit and many more. This allows you to form a fairly comprehensive view of your overall life.

So, what’s the Bad Voltage verdict? The Withings WS-50 Smart Body Analyzer is a great way to track and monitor a large number of health-related metrics. While expensive for a scale, in my opinion $150 is a small price to pay for a device that is easy to setup, easy to use on a daily basis and provides such a plethora of health related data.

–jeremy
Google+

Bad Voltage Season 1 Episode 11: Internet of Thugs

Myself, Stuart Langridge, The Invisible and Inaudible Ghost of Lunduke, and Jono Bacon present a new Bad Voltage, in which we discuss:

  • Our new series, Breaking Down The Bullshit where we delve into the current buzzwords and trends and determine if they are all hype or have substance. In this show, we discuss the Internet Of Things: crock of doo-doo or the future of technology?
  • Jeremy reviews the Withings WS-50 Smart Body Analyzer and we discuss it and the notion of measuring your body to get fit
  • Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media joins us to discuss print media, free culture, publishing, the Internet, privacy, and where the future is taking us
  • Jeremy and Jono saw Lawrence Lessig keynote recently, and we all discuss whether his ambitions of ridding governments of corruption is in any way possible
  • We talk about Bad Voltage community goings-on, on the forum, the chat channel, such as selfie contests, gaming servers, Bad Voltage apps and more!

Listen to: 1×11: Internet of Thugs

As mentioned here, Bad Voltage is a new project I’m proud to be a part of. From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

–jeremy

Bad Voltage Season 1 Episode 10: Midnight Throne Travels

Good Listening, Bad voltage

Myself, Stuart Langridge, Bryan Lunduke, and Jono Bacon present a new Bad Voltage, in which we discuss:

  • Tech conferences — which ones are good, which ones are not, and why?
  • Desktop machines versus laptops, and a review of Stuart’s new gorgeous desktop computer from PC Specialist
  • Whistleblowing. In the light of the Snowden and Manning revelations, is whistleblowing a good idea, what’s available to protect whistleblowers from problems, and do we need to protect against those motivated by malice?
  • Miguel de Icaza, head of Xamarin and past founder of the Gnome and Mono projects, talks about why he was singled out as a “traitor”, what he’s doing now, and how to best work in the open source world
  • The winners in the Bad Voltage Selfie Competition! See the forum for more details and all the entrants

Listen to: 1×10: Midnight Throne Travels

As mentioned here, Bad Voltage is a new project I’m proud to be a part of. From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

–jeremy

Bad Voltage Season 1 Episode 9: The Starting Pitstop

Myself, Stuart Langridge, Bryan Lunduke, and Jono Bacon wend their troublesome ways down the road of:

  • We weigh in on the upstart/systemd brouhaha in Debian and discuss what happened, why it happened, and whether it was a good thing or not.
  • Bryan reviews the Lenovo Miix 2 tablet and we get into the nitty gritty of what you can do with it.
  • We take a trip down memory lane about how we each got started with Linux, which distributions we used, and who helped us get on our journey.
  • We take a recap and look at community feedback about guns, 3D printing, predictions, Bad Voltage gaming, the Bad Voltage Selfie Competition and more, all making an appearance.

I think Bad Voltage continues to progress nicely and this is probably my second favorite show to date (it may be difficult to surpass 1×07: Life On Mars in our first season, but we’ll certainly try).

Listen to: 1×09: The Starting Pitstop

–jeremy

Google Nexus 5 Review

This review was originally done for Bad Voltage, but I figured it may also be of interest to my general readers.

In this episode I’m going to review the recently released Nexus 5 phone, manufactured by LG. While the 5 in the product name is a reference to the device’s nearly 5 inch screen, it’s also the 5th iteration of the Google Nexus line (the predecessors being the HTC Nexus One, Samsung Nexus S, Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the LG Nexus 4). The exterior of the Nexus 5 is made from a polycarbonate shell, unlike the Nexus 4, which used a glass-based construction. At 5.42 inches tall and 2.7 inches wide, it’s a big phone but is shaped to feel smaller than it looks. It’s surprisingly light for its size, at only 4.6oz, and is 8.6 millimeters thick. The phone feels a bit more solid than a Samsung Galaxy S4, but sitting next to an HTC One it looks a bit, well, plain. But being flashy or ostentatious was never Google’s goal with the Nexus line. It was to showcase the unbridled, unadulterated and bloatware free vanilla Google Android experience. And the phone’s 445 pixel per inch, 4.95-inch, 1080p IPS screen helps a great deal in doing that. At the time of this review the Nexus 5 was the only phone officially running Android’s latest version: Kit Kat. And that’s a big part of the Nexus experience and something no other phone is going to offer. Manufacturers often take many months to port new versions of Android to existing handsets and in some cases ports you think will come never do. Even the new Google Play edition of phones will likely never receive updates as quickly as the Nexus line. If that’s important to you, most of this review probably doesn’t matter. Get yourself a Nexus 5. It’s hands down the best Nexus phone to date. On that note, Kit Kat is the best Android version to date as well, and is a fairly significant change from previous versions of the software. It’s sleeker, cleaner, more refined and more modern looking while being considerably more responsive. Google Search and Google Now are integrated much more seamlessly than in previous versions. And while I’m not personally a fan of Hangouts replacing SMS and MMS, one nice thing about Android is that you can easily change that.

Now, back to the phone itself. Some good: The quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 2G of RAM means that the phone is astonishingly fast. By far the fastest phone I’ve used to date. The display is absolutely gorgeous. The battery life has also been better than most Android phones I’ve used. The  overall build quality of the phone is high and the form factor is extremely usable. The Nexus experience is also difficult to beat. Some bad: While battery life has been better, it’s still fairly unpredictable at times. The camera is probably the weakest part of the phone and is considerably worse than other flagship offerings. That said, Google claims that much of the issue is software related so we may see some marked improvement here. The speaker, while fairly loud, is also frustratingly distorted at times. While I like the overall form factor of the phone, it is quizzical that they chose to give it such a large bottom bezel, especially considering the phone has only software buttons. The lack of an SD card slot is also disappointing.

So, what’s the Verdict? If you want the Nexus experience or would like to buy an off contract phone, at $349 for the 16GB model and $399 for the 32GB model I think the Nexus 5 is going to be impossible to beat. I’m certainly extremely happy with the device myself. That said if you’re in a position where you have to buy a phone on contract, the HTC One (which I’ve seen as low as $75 with a 2 year contract) or possibly the Samsung Galaxy S4 are probably better options.

–jeremy
Google+

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