Bad Voltage Episode 54 Has Been Released

Jono Bacon, Bryan Lunduke, Stuart Langridge and myself bring you Bad Voltage, in which we are curmudgeonly, we are ethical philosophers, and:

  • 00:02:00 Are developers learning libraries and not learning the actual programming languages they’ve chosen? And is this a problem? Are JavaScript hackers just using jQuery or PHP hackers just using Laravel when they shouldn’t? Or is this greybeards complaining about the kids today?
  • 00:16:47 Review: the Blue Yeti USB microphone. Almost by coincidence, the whole Bad Voltage team have purchased the Yeti USB mic from Blue Microphones, and so we all review it together
  • 00:27:20 The rise of self-driving cars brings up the question of algorithmic morality; how should the car be programmed in the event of an unavoidable accident? Protect the driver at all costs; reduce loss of life overall even if the owner gets the short end of that stick; what? This is a big decision that needs to be made: how do we think this should be handled?
  • 00:39:50 THe UK government have recently started making more noises about banning encryption from being used by ordinary people, to prevent terrorists from being able to communicate without security services reading it. It’s the Crypto Wars and the Clipper chip, all over again. Meanwhile, Apple have made a big point of how they work hard to protect their customers’ privacy by ensuring that iMessages are end-to-end encrypted and so forth. Clearly, these proposals are in opposition. The question is this: if Apple declared that these government proposals were incompatible with their customers’ privacy and so threatened to pull out of the UK market… who would blink first? And would Apple do this? And is it OK that they might have this level of power?

Listen to 1×54: The Trolley Problem

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 Episode 53 Has Been Released

Jono Bacon, Bryan Lunduke, Stuart Langridge and myself bring you Bad Voltage, in which Jeremy is unwell and yet battles on heroically, everyone is cynical about politicians and yet battle on heroically, and:

  • 00:02:14 The rise of inexpensive open source computers: the PocketChip and DragonBox Pyra are examples of new cheap open source computing devices, and everyone knows about the Raspberry Pi. Are these things cool for people who aren’t the Bad Voltage team? What good are they? Isn’t it great that these exist?
  • 00:12:22 “Vigilante malware” as a concept is in the news again; this time, there’s a real example, Linux.Wifatch, a network worm which infects Linux-based routers and embedded devices and then… turns off insecure options and makes sure they’re up to date with patches. It’s malware, but on the side of good. Maybe this is the way forward? Question mark?
  • 00:27:55 We’ve been asked about Owncloud quite a lot, and brought it up for discussion frequently: now we speak to project founder Frank Karlitschek about what Owncloud’s up to now and why it might be a good idea
  • 00:44:37 Why don’t the open source community continually introduce laws saying things like “all router firmware must be open source” so the enemy has to spend resources and time battling these things, much like they keep introducing laws saying “everyone must use DOCX” and we have to battle them? Why not fight fire with fire?

Listen to 1×53: They’ve Got A Flamethrower

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 Episode 50 Has Been Released

Jono Bacon, Bryan Lunduke, Stuart Langridge and myself bring you the wonderful world of Bad Voltage, in which you get a mat underfoot because your feet hurt, there is a small Lunduke on the scene, and:

  • 00:04:48 Mycroft, the open source “AI for everyone” home automation thing that you can put in your house and speak commands to, has achieved its Kickstarter goals and will happen. We like it. Here’s why
  • 00:24:48 Chris Waid from Thinkpenguin and savewifi.org speaks about the American FCC’s consultation which requires restricting wireless devices from using unapproved frequencies. Understandably, the SaveWiFi team are very concerned this will result in outright banning of open source router firmware and possibly open source wireless drivers generally. Today we discuss the issue with Chris, whether it’s quite as big a problem as is suggested, and what can be done about it
  • 00:48:17 Hack Voltage: Jeremy spends a minute recommending a cool thing. In this episode, a bathroom mirror which runs Android
  • 00:49:24 Unbiasedly leading on from Mycroft, one of the things it touts itself as is integrating with your home automation; Internet-of-Things things around your house, whether thermometers or Dropcams or smart fridges. We’ve been getting into home automation to varying degrees, and it’s a big area; here we talk about it and open standards
  • 01:08:14 Jono reviews the LIFT standing desk conversion kit, and the idea of standing desks generally

We’re doing a live show, and you can be in the audience! See details of Bad Voltage Live, in Fulda, Germany on September 30th 2015, at badvoltage.org/live!

Listen to 1×50: Automated

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 Episode 49 Has Been Released

Jono Bacon, Stuart Langridge and myself bring you the wonderful world of Bad Voltage, in which it’s all about the money, it’s never about the privacy, and we disagree about:

  • 00:05:03 The Endless Computer bills itself as “a computer for emerging markets”; a unit with a priority on design, created to plug into an existing TV and pre-packaged with content so it doesn’t need an internet connection. We discuss whether it lives up to its lofty goals.
  • 00:21:26 At roughly the same time, Dustin Kirkland wrote an extremely angry “open letter” to Google about his horrible Nest smoke alarms, and meanwhile our own Jeremy found himself very happy with his Nests. We asked Dustin for a comment, and Jeremy reviews the Nest 2 and why he’s considerably happier
  • 00:37:52 Hack Voltage: Stuart has been playing with drawing app Gliffy
  • 00:39:15 Microsoft: friend or foe of the open source community? Every time they seem good they turn around and do something terrible to us, but then the open source community have finally moved beyond the “Micro$oft” years and we want to embrace them as being on-side. Are they OK now? Are they as bad as they ever were?

We’re doing a live show, and you can be in the audience! See details of Bad Voltage Live, in Fulda, Germany on September 30th 2015, at badvoltage.org/live!

Listen to 1×49: The Tapas Of All Bananas

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

 

Nest Protect Generation 2 Review

In the next episode of Bad Voltage, I’ll be reviewing the Nest Protect Generation 2, a network capable Smoke + Carbon Monoxide detector. Tune in tomorrow to listen to the ensuing discussion and the rest of the show. In the interim, here’s the review:

Nest Protect Generation 2

As someone who travels quite a bit, a smoke detector that can notify me when I’m away is a compelling device. As a technology guy who has a fair amount of home automation equipment, a smoke detector that can integrate into my increasingly smarter home seems like a natural choice. So, why am I just now reviewing the Nest Protect? Well, the first generation Protect had quite a reputation for false alarms and a “wave” feature that was so buggy it resulted in a recall. And while I’m an early adopter who suffers through quite a few wonky first generation devices, when it comes to something as important as a safety device… I decided to play it safe. But when Nest recently released the Nest Protect generation 2, I decided to take the proverbial plunge.

While the generation 2 device is noticeably sleeker than its predecessor, its what’s inside that prompted my purchase. It uses an advanced smoke sensor, called a Split-Spectrum Sensor, to detect a wide range of smoke events, including both slow smoldering fires and fast flaming fires. That sensor is shielded against outside light and encased in a stainless steel screen, which has a hexagonal pattern designed to let smoke in and keep bugs, dust and fibers out. This should vastly decrease the likelihood of a false alarm. The device also has built-in sensors to detect carbon monoxide, heat, humidity, occupancy and ambient light, as well as (slightly disconcertingly for some I’m sure) a microphone. On the outside is a central button, surrounded by a colorful LED ring, which alerts you to the current status of the device: Blue during setup/testing, green for good, yellow for warning and red for an emergency.

Setting up the device was extremely straight forward. Download the Nest app (available for Android and iOS), select “Add product” and follow a couple simple prompts. Total install time was less than 5 minutes per device, although I installed the battery powered version. If you opt for the hardwired version it will take a little longer. You can enable a couple optional features during install, including Pathlight (which will turn the LED ring into a night-light if you walk by in the dark) and Nightly Promise (which will result in the device glowing green briefly at night, to let you know that it’s fully operational). Installation concludes with a final safety test.

As part of the install, you select where the device is located in your home. One thing that separates the Protect from a more traditional device is the Heads Up feature. If smoke or CO levels are elevated but not at emergency levels, the device will loudly say: “Heads up: there’s smoke in the hallway”. Once the levels pass a certain threshold, the full alarm is sounded and you will start to receive mobile notifications. Unlike the first gen device, you can silence the alarm from the app, although due to regulations there are some parameters around when you can do so. As a networked device, when one Protect senses trouble, all devices will alarm. That means if my Protect on the 3rd floor detects smoke, the device on the 1st floor will also alarm, making it much more likely someone will hear it. The device also regularly tests the battery and will inform you if it’s low, hopefully making the just-not-often-enough intermittent chirp of a dying smoke detector a thing of the past.

There are some additional features that more advanced users may take advantage of as well. The Protect can integrate with other Nest devices, so for example you can have a Dropcam send you a picture if the Protect alarms. There is also full IfThisThenThat support with quite a few existing recipes available. This enables scenarios such as “Text a neighbor when your Nest Protect detects a smoke alarm emergency” or “Add a reminder to my calendar when Nest Protect batteries are low”.

So, what’s the Bad Voltage verdict? At $99, the Protect is significantly more expensive than a traditional smoke detector. While I’ve only had the second generation devices for a little over a month, I haven’t gotten a single false alarm yet. If that remains the case, the additional features, notifications and integrations are compelling enough to justify the cost for me. Because I like redundancy, I also installed a more traditional (although Z Wave enabled) device on my second floor.

–jeremy

LinuxQuestions.org Turns Fifteen

WOW. Fifteen years ago today I made the first post ever at LQ, introducing it to the world. 15 Years. I know I’ve said it before, but 5,354,618 posts later the site and community have exceeded my wildest expectations in every way. The community that has formed around LQ is simply amazing. The dedication that the members and mod team has shown is both inspiring and truly humbling. I’d like to once again thank each and every LQ member for their participation and feedback. While there is always room for improvement, that LQ has remained a friendly and welcoming place for new Linux members despite its size is a testament to the community. Reaching this milestone has served to energize and refocus my efforts on making sure the next fifteen years are even better than the first fifteen. Visit this thread for more on how we plan to do that. We can’t do it without you.

–jeremy

HTC One M9 Review

Here’s my review from the latest episode of Bad Voltage. Note that a slightly longer version, with some pictures and a quote is available at LQ.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Android. As a result, I use and test a lot of different Android phones. I plan to start actually reviewing more of them. First up is the HTC One M9. You may remember that I mentioned the One M8 when I reviewed the Nexus 5. HTC’s 2015 top-of-the-line phone builds on the same sleek design as last year’s M8, sticking to the luxurious all-metal case and 5 inch Super LCD3 1080p HD screen while incorporating some key spec improvements, such as an upgraded Octo-core Snapdragon 810 processor, a 20 mega-pixel camera and a 2840 mAh battery. While it’s a bit heavy at 157g, especially compared to the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S6, I prefer the weight and balance HTC has created. At 5.69 by 2.74 inches, it’s about as large as I prefer a phone to be (For comparison, the iPhone 6+ is 6.22 x 3.06 and the Nexus 6 is 6.27 x 3.27) The M9 is one of the few flagship phones to still feature expandable storage via SD card, and it offers a unique Uh Oh one-year replacement program in the US. While the phone ships with Android 5.0, I’d expect a 5.1 roll-out in the next month or so. The device is priced at $649 unlocked in the US, with on-contract pricing starting at $199.

With the specs out of the way, let’s get to what’s important; how does the One M9 perform on a day to day basis. Let’s start with the first thing you’ll notice if you’re coming from a non-HTC phone, which is Sense 7. Sense is the UI skin that HTC puts on their Android phones. If you’re a Samsung user, it’s the equivalent to TouchWiz. My last couple full time phones have been from the Nexus family and I tend to prefer the stock Android experience. That said, Sense 7 is actually quite nice. It’s clean, performs well and has a few little touches that would be welcome additions to Android proper. An interesting new feature is a home-screen widget which dynamically changes which apps are displayed within it, depending on your location. (Work, Home, on the go). The theme generator is also pretty cool: you can take a snap of anything and the phone will analyze the image and create a full palette of colors to use with icons and app headers. Even the font and icon shapes will be altered to match the overall feel of the new theme.

While the screen doesn’t have the density or resolution of the Galaxy S6 or LG G4, its 441 pixel per inch screen looks better than the similarly spec’d Nexus 5. HTC has once again eschewed playing the number game here and opted for a non-2k experience which offers almost no discernible benefits to me at this screen size while eating up more of your limited battery. While the speakers haven’t changed much since the previous version, they are still far and away the best available in any phone. The camera is one area that has had a big change since the previous model. The 4-mega-pixel Ultrapixel sensor has been moved to the front of the phone and the aforementioned 20-mega-pixel camera now sits on the back. The phone produced quality photos in my tests, although low light scenarios are a bit of a weak point. I did notice some shutter lag at times, but there are similar lags on my Nexus 5.

While the battery is slightly more capacious than the previous One and HTC estimates you should get a full day of use out of the phone, I’d say that’s ambitious. To be fair, most Android flagship phones seem to be roughly equivalent in this regard and it’s really an area manufacturers need to focus on in my opinion. One other thing that’s changed, and this time not for the better in my opinion, is the power button transferring to the right-hand side of the phone. This may be a more natural place for it to be positioned and some people seem to prefer it, but the fact that it’s the same size and shape as the volume buttons above it results in me inadvertently hitting the incorrect button at times. It’s placement has also resulted in me accidentally powering the screen off. Perhaps I hold my phone in a different position than most people, but I suspect it’s something I’d get used to over time.

One frustrating thing about the phone is that, while it supports QuickCharge 2.0, which can charge the phone 60% in just 30 minutes, the charger that ships with the phone is not QuickCharge enabled. That seems ludicrous for a phone in this price range. It should also be noted that during serious use, the phone tends to get a bit hotter than other phones I’ve used.

So, what’s the Bad Voltage verdict? The One M8 was one of my favorite phones last year. The slick design of the M9 is still amazing, but I will say the competition has upped its game considerably. While the M8 had the plasticky S5 and the small iPhone to contend with, the M9 has to compete with the also well designed S6 and the newer updated iPhone 6. A flagship phone has to score well in a lot of areas for me to consider it a phone worth recommending. It has to have solid performance, gorgeous design, a camera that will capture memories accurately and expediently, last through a full day of use and be reasonably priced. That’s a tall order to be sure. I think the HTC One M9 makes the short list (along with the Samsung Galaxy S6 and if you don’t mind a giant phone, the Nexus 6 or LG G4). If you’re looking for an Android phone I’d recommend you look at those phones and pick the one that suits your personal tastes best. As the Nexus 6 is too big for me, my personal choice would currently be the One M9. As a testament to just how good the phone is, I lent my review device to an iPhone user so they could get a feel for Android. They’re no longer an iPhone user.

–jeremy

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