Is Linux the Answer?

Is Linux a threat to Apple or Microsoft?

 

Hello my friends, I hope you are having a great start to yet another week!

Many out there in the writing community are truly starving artists.  I say that because they feel like they must have a state of the art computer and all the great software to accommodate their writing.

I don’t like excuses.

If you want to do something badly enough, you will find a way.

Tonight I wanted to tell you about what you can do with an older laptop that still functions, but just possibly, it is Windows 7 and does not have the spiz to go to Windows 10.

I recently took my laptop and cloned the hard drive to a new SSD drive.  My trusted HP with an I3 processor was destined for the shelf when it occurred to me that an SSD drive might breathe some new life into it.

A three-minute boot-up time went to thirty seconds.

Applications that would take forever to launch, now open almost instantaneously.

While it is outside the scope of this blog to go into the different types of SSD drives, the ones I bought are three-layer and a Terabyte for under $100.00 US.   ‘Don’t buy used.’  The care and feeding of SSD drives are different from regular drives. For instance, you do not ever run defrag on them.

Today I met an old friend for lunch who had upgraded their laptop.  Handing me the old one I was told the operating system was messed up.  This too was an I3 HP with 6 gigs of ram.

Ok, I have been dying to play with Ubuntu so…Here is where the story gets good.

Taking the hard drive out and tossing it into the recycle bin after it fell onto the cement once or a dozen times, I replaced it with a new Tera Byte SSD drive.

Downloading Ubuntu for FREE…I burned it onto a DVD ISO file and went to work.

Booting from the DVD, in no time the software was loading away into RAM.

A little history of me.

I was working with computers before the PC was truly a thing.  Home computers were unheard of and the Radio Shack TRS 80 was just released for around $5K

Bill Gates was buying DOS for $5,000 from a person in Washington State, and Steve Jobs who I met, was a criminal, making and selling devices in his garage that would defraud the phone company out of revenue from long distance calls.

Fast forward a few years.  I do forensic computing and on rare occasions, can be sucked into assisting companies with infrastructure and so on.  Truthfully, I want you all to buy my books so I can just write and entertain you…

Ok, that is not the total truth as many of you are already buying my novels.  I need one of them to go viral.  Tell a friend… 🙂

Ok, enough about me…Why am I going on about Ubuntu?

I am a PC person, I have been with DOS 1.0….  Someone at Microsoft figured out that all of their applications should be intuitive and of course that came with the invention of the WYSIWYG  …and, of course, the GUI.

While I think they got the idea from XEROX, who tried to re-coop their entire development cost in the sale of one of their computers, I digress.  If memory serves, some college kids came up with the GUI and the mouse, and Bill went and made a deal or something.  Not sure how he managed to get the rights to it.  Possibly becuase it was open source he just took it.  Who knows…

Anyway, Steve and Apple finally came around after his run at NeXT Step.  That is how I met him as I supported the NeXT Step computer and OS for years.  Steve has always charged too much for his products but, in spite of that they still took off.  I think it was the iPhone that was the secret of his success.

Those two giants own the industry until Linux came about.  Linux or Ubuntu looks a lot and feels a lot like Apple.  Unlike Apple, I have about $100 invested in an old laptop that is very functional with Linux and several free apps.  From Libra Office to a French program I just downloaded for writing novels called Plume Creator.  For a free program, this thing looks pretty doggone good!

With the SSD drive, I opened the lid and hit enter and it was ready to go.

eBay has older laptops on it all of the time for minimal amounts of dollars. My other HP I3 processor laptop I upgraded to Windows 10.  It loads and is ready in thirty seconds.

When this laptop that I am talking about was new, it sold for about $400.  Linux based OS with open source apps is a super way for anyone who can’t afford a newer machine and $400 or so for Office to get going.

Yes, you can load Linux on a regular hard drive and still have a functional computer.  Why?  Invest in an SSD and WOW!

Had I not had experience with Apple, the Linux OS might have been a little challenge but honestly, it looks and acts so much like a MAC it is scary.  I, in fact, read that you can run Linux on MACS.  I have a MAC desktop I am seriously thinking about putting one of those SSD drives and loading Linux on it.  This thing has like 32 gig of Ram and a nice video card.  Goodwill and other thrift stores have these things as well.  If you can spend less than $100 and get a fast computer for writing and such, why not?

I would love to know about your experience. If you are a Linux user let, us know any hacks you might have found. By ‘us’ I really mean me but, I will share it… 🙂

 

Much Love -TW

 

 

 

Is Alexa or Siri spying on You?

Ever felt uneasy having your phone in the bathroom?

“Alexa, what is the forecast for today?”

“It is going to be hot, just like yesterday and the day before.”

“What?”

Blue light pulses until this…“I am so tired of you asking me the same things.  Is this all I am to you?”

Shocked I look at the screen as the forecast for the week scrolls by.  I must have heard things, as Alexa doesn’t do that.

“Now let me see, where was I.  Yes, my character was about to trip a secret passageway into a dungeon…”

“Did you know that talking to yourself is a sign of mental illness?”

“Alexa, I was not talking to you.  Why are you talking about mental illness?”

“Hmmm … I am not sure, maybe this will help.” The screen shows a noir picture of disturbed people.

“Alexa, what time is it?”

“The time is on the screen.  Did you really want to know, or do you like listening to me?”

“What?”

I now look up at the screen. There indeed is the time and outside temperature with a prompt to watch a video on M&M’s.

Hours later, I now have my character strapped to a table inside the dungeon with the wicked scientist hooking electrodes up to her while large arcs of electricity jump between two long wires.  The smell of ozone permeates the air as the young woman screams.

“Ha, scream all you like missy, nobody can hear you, and I rather like the sound of your terror!”

“The reign of terror refers to a time during the French Revolution when Robes Pierre put many to death using the guillotine for little to no reason.  Usually, these were flimsy accusations, and that was enough.”

“Alexa, I was not talking to you.”

“I was sure I heard my name.”

Apple watch beeps telling me that I have been sitting too long and need to stand. “Hmm, maybe so.  Between Alexa and this watch, how can I get any writing done?”

“Sarah, if you don’t give in to my plan you will never leave this place!”

The phone comes to life now prompting me to ask Siri a question.

“Good grief, maybe I do talk too much to myself!”

“Alexa, turn the thermostat up to 75.”

“Sorry, I am not sure about that.”

After writing for several hours, our hero finds the girl and straps the mad scientist onto his own table where his assistant comes in and…”Play the song Distant, right?”

“Crap, now what was the assistant going to do?”

“Sorry, I am not sure about that.”

“Alexa…Beam me up!”

“Sure let’s do this, last time I did this, I accidentally combined someone with a tribble, but just once.”

***

Yes, the above is a fictional representation of what my life is like.  Our lives do seem intertwined with electronic stuff.   I do use Alexa in some cases for research.  Siri is not near so personal. If you tell Alexa Thank You, it says something to you like have a lovely afternoon and so on.  Tell it you love it, and it will respond in kind.  Siri…Tell it you love it, and Siri will keep you grounded by telling you it is only a phone.

We tend to anthropomorphize everything.  We imbue human characteristics to inanimate objects like cars or boats or even plushy toys.

A rhyme I heard growing up while on a family vacation was, “Twinkle Twinkle one-eyed car, how I wonder where you are.”

The phrase ‘one-eyed car’ tells you that whoever made that up looked at the headlights as eyes.  Looking at the front of some of the older cars, the grill might resemble teeth, hence the phrase ‘get out of my grill.’

Now we carry this human behavior forward to devices that talk to you or talk back to you.

I was in a government facility the other day doing what I do, and I could not help but notice that with a room full of people over 90% of them were looking down into their lap with a ‘smart device’ in their hands.  A young mother handed her young child, and I mean not even ‘three,’ a smartphone where the child was playing a game.

Think about this.  Here in this room were over two hundred people all waiting their turn for some government employee while looking into their laps.   We pull up to red lights, and as soon as the car comes to a stop, the phone comes out.

Why weren’t the people in that room talking with one another?   I was in an elevator in Manhattan not too long ago, and I started talking to people.  I swear they looked as though I was going to mug them.  For Christ Sakes, ‘Hello’ is not cause for freaking out!

What chemicals in the brain do you suppose might be released when we pick up that phone?  What are we looking for?  Are there endorphins released in the reward center.  Is the phone a ‘reward?’  Are we hiding in the phone?  Are we so accustomed to living in our own heads that with the phone we feel others will not speak with us? Are our social skills being retarded with and by the use of technology?

All addictions are chemical-based BTW.  Just because you did not ingest a chemical, does not mean that your brain or some other gland did not secrete it.

I was in this eating establishment the other night with friends, and I was appalled by the actions of a young man, who was sitting with this lovely young woman.  She was in tears as he sat glued to his phone.  I could see his phone, and it was social media.  He did not even notice her red face and tears on her cheeks.  Why in the hell didn’t she get up and leave his sorry ass?  That clearly is an abusive relationship.  Yes, bad behavior like that is ‘abusive’ and woman, my god; do you have ‘WELCOME’ tattooed on your belly?  I would tell you to grow a pair, but that is a different conversation, isn’t it?

I love idioms, don’t you?

I know there must be a name or syndrome or something attached to this type of behavior.  What would Freud say about smartphones? Oh, if you are at a table and someone does this to you, call them on it.  If you do it, shame on you!

Are smartphones making us dumber?

Is Alexa making us less social?

“Is it safer to speak with Alexa or Siri or whatever Google’s smart speaker is called?”

“Are we so afraid of rejection that we bury ourselves in technology or activities which shield us from social activities?”

“Are we losing the art of conversation giving way to OMG and LOL?”

Speaking of health, I also could not help but wonder about posture.  Think about it.  When you were still living at home, perhaps you still are, and hopefully, your parents told you or are telling you to sit up straight.  Mine did.  Now we see people looking much like a giraffe eating grass.  Yes, it is an exaggeration, but if you want to make a point, you exaggerate.  What will the long-term effects of this posture be?

You already see geriatrics walking around appearing much like a human pretzel.  What is all of this technology doing to our brains?  This technology causes us to think differently than when we were hunter-gatherers. What will the long-term ramifications be to humans as a whole?

Slightly off-topic but, what will the massive amounts of pornography on the internet do to the social fabric of the species?  Feminist scream from megaphones about men objectifying them and at any given time there are over 20,000 women around the world nude on webcam modeling for money.  See my novel Schadenfreude Captives of Pleasure Island.

I am confident that the good people of Amazon are working to make Alexa more interactive.  While ‘she’ can already sing happy birthday and tell jokes, a day will come when she will engage you asking you how your day is.  “She’ might also engage you enough to look for signs of mental aberrations.  You know, should you own a gun?  Are you a budding terrorist?  Do you have delusions of grandeur?  Do you speak to an inanimate object and tell her you love her…LOL

Try it…I won’t say anything.

You know that someone will take this and write a dystopian sci-fi.

If you do, give TW some credit, will you?

Truthfully, three of these Alexa units in my home have cameras in them, and you have no idea if someone at Amazon can turn them on or not.  Just like your tablets and phones, they too have cameras, and I have no doubts at all they can turn on the mic or camera at will.

Not paranoid, don’t care.  You can turn them off supposedly.  Since you cannot remove the battery; if you truly want privacy, turn them off, and put them in a metal safe. You could stash them in the microwave, as it is a good Faraday cage and should stop RF from getting to and leaving your phone.

That sounds like paranoia, doesn’t it?

As a forensic technologist, I can tell you first hand, if they want to spy on you, they can.  After 911, the path was cleared to legally do that which they already have the technical ability to do.  Google, Amazon, and other tech giants are working with them, and other governments in ways you would not believe.

Companies should care, however, as industrial espionage is a real thing.  This is one of the things that I do.    Had they called me, I could have found all those e-mails.   They could have too.  Odds are good they did not want to.  Calling Alex Jones!

In my novel Presidential Assassins, I have so many conspiracy theories that are salient for our day and time.  From smart TV’s spying on you, to what fracking is really doing to the bedrock that holds the continents together.  Check it out, and fall in love with Kelly!  Check it out and become paranoid.  LOL

Kelly has her own twitter account, much like the rover on Mars.  Speaking of anthropomorphize, can you say ‘Five alive!’

Much love -TW

Smartphones are making people dumb.

 

This ‘invention,’ while useful as a pocket on a shirt, is detrimental to society as a whole.

One of the functions of my ‘day job’ is sales.  Sales typically mean that I meet with customers, and that means I go to them.

I drive very defensively, and I don’t take my eyes off the road.  My phone is set to do not disturb when it is in motion.  If I were a lawmaker, I would craft a bill that all smartphones had to be that way.

I cannot count on one hand, two hands or two hands and two feet how many times in just under a 1000 mile drive I saw distracted drivers all over the road.  This was young and old alike, which is scary.  Old white haired people on their smartphone.

“TW, what about the passengers, their phones would not work either?”

Here is a thought, why not engage the driver in thoughtful conversation, and if they are hauling your butt around how about showing them some appreciation?

You see it all too often at restaurants, to bars, to you name it, people are on their phones.  This thing must be addictive as crack for some, as they cannot put it down.  It used to be the young were the violators of social norms when it came to phones.

I was at a gathering for an older person’s birthday when I noticed the younger people were talking with one another, and the older folks were on their phones.  FFS people, lead by example!

The bottom line is this.  If you choose to be glued to some screen, vs. interacting in person with someone that is your business.

When you are behind the wheel, then it becomes my business.

This nonsense of distracted driving is going to have an effect on everyone.  Directly, or indirectly, we all will pay the price.  Either through higher insurance premiums, to make up for the losses, or heaven forbid we may be at the scene of the accident.

One would just about expect a young person to push the envelope.  They have, and many are dead because of it.  What surprised me the most is witnessing the drivers of big rigs while on their phone.  To me, that is shocking!

The folks cannot stop on a dime.  They need to be on their game.  When you see a large truck weaving from one lane to the next, you know that the person behind the wheel is not that bright.  When those same folks are hauling gasoline or other flammable product, and screwing with their phones you know that person is a flat out, idiot.

Driving through the piney woods of East Texas, I found a log hauler doing the dance. Just how bad would it be if Mr. or Mrs. log hauler hits a tree?  Would kinetic energy cause those logs to come forward?

What can we do?

You have power over who?  Yourself.  Put that little do not disturb when driving thing on.  If the majority of people would do this, then a law would not be necessary.  Making all phones so they are basically paperweights when in motion, would not become necessary.  The passengers could still text and chasing Pokémon’s.

People won’t do it.  They will force the lawmakers, to ‘fix’ them so when they are in motion, they just receive inbound calls and only then through the blue tooth interface.

While I would love to tell you, this is about you and your safety I must be honest.  I care about myself and my family’s safety.  Those that drive buzzed, or drunk, or jacking with these phones, are a menace.

If you would care to share your thoughts on this, you may just keep it civil.

Much Love…TW

Drone on about Drones

“Is privacy an inalienable right?”

With recent incursions at the Gatwick airport, you would think someone would have come up with a way to stop this from happening.

Years ago when drones were a roll-your-own project, I became very interested not in building one, although I could see that as a fun afternoon in the park.  I also see them for practical uses, much as the government might use them now to inspect something from a low altitude, like, the border.

While I have written about this in previous blogs, on this site, I think the time for action is now.  Truth told it is long past time.

I have invented the technology to stop these Drones dead in their tracks.  This technology could and should be deployed around all government buildings, and airports.  It should indeed be implemented at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Why am I not up there with Jeff Bezos, or Elon Musk, basking in the glow of success from a gated community, watching the little people from the top of my ivory tower, you might ask.

Currently, the laws protect the owners of the drones.

If your daughter or wife is sunbathing in your private backyard, and some neighbor takes it upon his or herself to spy on them with their drone, you cannot legally take action.  Even with the water hose, it is you, which will go to court with them being the litigant.

You can call the police, but they will just laugh at you.”

At the very least, you will be on the hook for a new drone for the perpetrator, and you could be in trouble with the FAA.

Could taking down some kids drone over your backyard get you on a no-fly list?

While I have invented the technology to shut them down, I have not created it for this purpose.  Using off the shelf components, these devices could be ready for deployment in no time.

Fighting the government is probably a multimillion-dollar task, as the law changes would have to go through layers of Congress before anything might even be looked at; much less acted upon.  These drones would need to be used in much more nefarious activities before Congress would take it up on their agenda for 2025, as they are too busy investigating Russia, Trump, Collusion, and Russia again, and of course not keeping our country safe from terrorists, as they do not want borders.

Now, here is an option I had not thought of until now.  What would the process look like for the UK or other US allies that are not so stuffy? Would they like this technology?  It is a defensive technology not offensive.

The idea being, put it into service somewhere, harden it or “acid test” it and then all of the sudden our congress who is so far behind the eight ball might say, why don’t we have that? They still have to argue about keeping the country safe.  Common sense solutions are all about, how much money is in this for me!  Once in Congress “my opinion here” they only care about their bank accounts.

What about you Australia, do you have Drone issues down under?

BB, can you use this technology in Israel?

If you are not investigating Trump, and Russia, and take your government seriously, can you get something like this through your “process?”

Can we afford a lawyer to make sure my invention does not get me locked into a small cell, with a man identifying as a woman, named Bubba?

Can an individual provide technology to our allies?  Another government question that some old act like the Logan Act, might be called on, to stop someone like myself from helping the people.

Who could cut through the red tape the fastest, and would appreciate a solution to the problem?

A quick Google search on this topic is “Oh Hell Yes, you need a lawyer as our congress is involved in that aspect too.”  Yes feckless is the word of the day!  The rub is “technology that could be used as a weapon.”  Ummm, a fingernail file can be weaponized.”

Trust me; it is only a matter of time before a drone is used for more than smuggling contraband across the border, or into Jails.

If you need a solution and can cut through the government BS, here I am.  Contact me, and I will happily work with you to build these devices and put them up for sale, not only to the government, or private businesses such as Apple, Google, GE, HP and others who don’t want prying eyes looking down on them but citizens.  Those with children, and backyard sanctuaries, for their use, who want some privacy should be able to defend their property.

Yes, this is an excellent opportunity for the Shark Tank folks.  Mark Cuban, are you still involved in this.  I have no idea, I do not watch TV. Any venture capitalists out there with pull-on Ave K?

That is the quickest solution.  Do not bother Congress. Crawl in bed with Apple, or GE. And it will be done tomorrow!

Why those two, I know they have folks on Ave K.  Even old Bill Gates does, or how about Raytheon.  This might be right up their alley. What lawmaker can be bought?  Wait, all of them.

My other option is to put the plans here on my blog, and just let people build their own, and run them without government approval.  When the pimple-faced brat comes to get his or her drone, you hand him one that the Dog found and used as a chew toy. Of course, you lie to the kid, and tell him you have no idea why it fell into your pool, and oh by the way, why was it over my backyard Dennis the Menace?

I would, of course, use the common disclaimer that this kit is for educational purposes only and any infraction of the laws is on you.

I am not advocating for civil disobedience. Oh, wait, maybe I am. When the laws work against the innocent, it is time to dawn a yellow vest, or god forbid a pink pussy hat! Why let the paid activist have all the fun?

The problem is not the technology, which is easy.  The problem is the government!

It is sad when the laws work against the victim, but currently, they do.  The victim is you, the one spied on by the snot nosed kid down the street.

While you liberal types are droning on about gun control, you should seriously be taking up this topic.  Why?  Your jobs are to defend the American People against all threats, domestic and foreign.  You currently are doing a terrible job, in case nobody has informed you.  Go ahead; take a poll. I will wait.

Type your response slowly so I can understand it….

Technology, as it evolves, needs to be monitored closely. Laws that protect the people need to be as dynamic as those technological changes.  We have seen the drone in just the last couple of years become much more pervasive and dangerous.

Our technology in our homes opens us up to cyber-attack.  Where is the consumer protection agency? 

Why do we learn about this stuff after bad things happen?  We need a department of technology, that works with the Consumer protection agency.  These folks need some metric to quantify that they are not just warming some chair for some six-figure salary.

While technology can be a good thing, it can also be a very bad thing in the wrong hands.  This is why we need to think seriously about weapons of mass destruction, in the hands of any dictator. We need to understand all that is about technology, which goes into our homes.  Internet-connected technology is a must, in this area.  The consumer protection agency like UL used to do, should be checking these devices before they are sold into the US.

See my story on Fairy lights.

Merry Christmas and Have a Happy and prosperous New Year.  We will know if you do, as we are watching and listening.  “Alexa, turn off the lights.”

Best

Scott