Recent Diesel Car work

Just got PDF files for two recent pieces I wrote for Diesel Car magazine’s EcoCar supplement.

VeryParticular deals with arguments about where particulate pollution comes from and whether or not hybrids and electric vehicles are as bad as has been suggested in some publications.

UsedEVs is a look at the rapidly developing market in secondhand Electric Vehicles.

Phew

Back to business, we’ve finished moving stuff and got the house sorted. The office is functional the server is running and online, I got my accounts sorted in time for HMRC deadline day and I’ve no excuse for not touting for more work. But first, need to post some recent samples from Diesel Car magazine.

Nextcloud(2)

As promised the server now runs Nextcloud and MySQL. Unfortunately Nextcloud was forked from the latest version of ownCloud and requires the latest ownCloud client on the desktop. Which wasn’t supported by my operating system a LTS version of Linux Mint based on Ubuntu 14.10. So I waited for the next KDE version of Mint to arrive, which it did in September. Now Nextcloud syncs everything with my desktop, which is fine except that the desktop is temporarily set up in the garage of our temporary accommodation. Until we move to our (hopefully) final destination I’m using an old (Bodhi Linux) laptop which runs the client fine, but I daren’t sync too much because the disk isn’t that big.

The other ‘interesting’ issue is remote access to the server which is being blocked somewhere. It’s fine via the LAN but not via the Internet. I’m beginning to wonder if my new ISP contract has something to do with it, even though it’s the same company. More on this when I get to the bottom of it.

Nextcloud

I’ve blogged about ownCloud before, and written a couple of features about it for MM. Unlike a lot of software that I’ve installed, tested, written about then forgotten, ownCloud is in regular use.

My entire /home/phil directory is synced to an ownCloud server, which is just an old Athlon 3500+ desktop sat in my office, and I can access it from anywhere with an internet connection. It’s so convenient I’ve installed the client on my wife’s PC and use a folder we can both access for simple file transfers between our machines. Changes are afoot though some falling out between the majority of ownCloud devs and the management of the ownCloud company which markets the supported commercial version has led to the majority of devs leaving.

Being open source of course they left with a full copy of the source code which they have forked to create Nextcloud, and have just put out their first release with instructions for upgrading from ownCloud.

We’re moving house soon (-ish subject to lawyers) so the server and network is all going to be packed away. Once we’re settled I think I’ll stick a new disk in the server and install Nextcloud from scratch, and do it right this time using MySQL rather than the default SQLite.

Garden Looking Good

We’re selling up and moving house so I went round and took some photos of the garden looking at it’s best. (Click to enlarge)

 

Android, not Google

I’ve written a few pieces over the last couple of years about ditching Gmail, Google Search, Maps, Docs etc but the final frontier was Android which I had on my phone and tab. Having manged to break the screens on both just before Christmas I treated myself to a new large format phone with a 5½” screen and CyanogenOS rather than regular (Google) Android.

Read all about it here: NoGoogleAndroid

It’s Cloudy again

ownCloud on my webserver works just fine. But the obvious snag is that web host companies charge for storage space, and generally charge more than a dedicated cloud storage provider. ownCloud have thought of this and provide a plugin to connect to external storage using various common protocols.

Given that I got into ownCloud because I want to avoid government snoops and US corporates selling my data I want a UK based cloud storage provider that allows access by FTP or SFTP. There are several issues.

A lot of companies with a UK website turn out to be branches of US companies who don’t disclose where there servers are. Many companies provide cheap, even free, storage but only if you use their Windows, Mac or Mobile client software. Won’t link to ownCloud unless you pay for the ‘Pro’ package which often starts at £10/month. I did find one exception, Memset which charges 4p/GB/month. Set up is easy and it links to ownCloud via FTP or SFTP. But I can’t make it accept files.

In desperation I signed up to a 30 day free trial with iWeb. It also uses FTP and connects to ownCloud just like Memset – but it works. This demonstrates to my satisfaction it’s not me or ownCloud at fault, so I’ve filed a support ticket with Memset. I hope they fix it, after 30 days iWeb gets expensive!

The long term plan is to mirror my entire /home/phil directory on ownCloud so I can work anywhere without needing to remember what to copy/backup before I go.

 

Ofcom

Ofcom’s annual report is out, but knowing that most people, even most tech jouralists wouldn’t read it they sent out a media release featuring some simplistic quotes. The one that got all the attention was a bizarre claim that 6 year-olds are more tech savvy than 45 year olds. To make things even more contentious they backed it up with a quiz so that we could all test ourselves.

Most of the questions are subjective and only test opinions. Each has a four option multiple choice format which is very limiting. So I decided to give some real answers:

Thinking about the following gadgets and services – which statement best describes your knowledge and understanding?

4G mobile
Seems like a good idea but coverage is patchy and the service expensive. It’s not available where I live, where I work or anywhere I visit regularly so my failure to use it is not a reflection of my Tech Savvy.

Superfast broadband – internet
I’ve used ADSL since it became available in my area, and 56k dial-up before that. What the UK government (and Oftel) is pleased to describe as Superfast is much slower than that considered normal elsewhere, and even that won’t be available in my area for many years. Once again not my failure, yours.

Smartphone or tablet ‘Apps’
Yes, I have both. Smartphone for over three years, the Tab for more than two. Do I get extra points for rooting the phone within days of purchase, removing the phone companies bloatware and installing Cyanogenmod? No.

Smart glasses such as Google Glass
Yes I’ve heard of them, read about them, seen them online and on TV. Don’t know anyone with a pair.

3D printers
I haven’t used one since 2005 so my experience is a bit out of date, though I have read about new models. They are a bit useless without 3D CAD software though, and using that requires a lot of training and a lot of experience. Very few people in any age group have 3D design skills.

Please tell us how much each of these statements applies to you…

I tell my friends or family about new technology
Sometimes, if I think it’s relevant to their lives. None of my friends are interested in virtualisation though, or NoSQL databases.

I like working out how to use different gadgets
Yes, and sometimes I read the manual too.

I am one of the first to try out new technology
Very much depends on price and availability. I do try out new Linux distros, but have yet to use Windows 8. I didn’t buy a smartphone until the price dropped to under £100 on PAYG.

I like to find out about new technology
Yes, I read a lot of blogs, media reviews and so on.

My friends or family ask what I think about new gadgets
Sometimes. No good asking me what I think about sewing machines, but I do have opinions on cordless drills.

I know how to use lots of gadgets
Too vague. Lots? Do you mean only digital electronic gadgets?

I watch TV shows online (e.g. BBC iPlayer, 4OD)
Yes. And TED, YouTube, Arté

New technology confuses me
All new devices take some getting used to, but if the user interface is well designed they don’t confuse me.

I wouldn’t know what to do without technology
Again, vague. Digital technology, or all? Given a spade I reckon I’d be pretty good as a subsistence farmer but without the backing of a metallurgical industry I’d struggle.

I do lots of different things on the gadgets that I use
Yes, I make bread in the breadmaker and coffee in the cafétiere, not great the other way round though.

I upload photos and videos online (e.g. on Instagram, YouTube)
Never on Instagram, not for many years on YouTube. But I have had a personal website since 2004 and I share files via ownCloud.

I prefer to contact friends by text message than by phone call (e.g. by SMS, BBM, iMessage)
Depends on the contact and the message. SMS is useful for simple Q&A sessions, not good for complex discussions. BBM and iMessage are proprietary and only useful if you and your contact use the same system, which they often do not.

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Once again, sloppy tech journalism supported by sloppy ‘research’ from Ipsos-Mori who really should know better. If you want a thorough piece of writing on a technical subject, contact me.