Travel Mode Ensues

Well, time is ticking down for me for the last little vacation of the year. Saturday morning I’ll be heading toward the airport for my flight up to Seattle. I’ll spend about 4 days which is about all I could get and two of those are weekend days. Originally, I had requested a week off and would have flown one way and taken the Amtrak back after a few days in Portland.

There’s not a lot I hope to accomplish in Seattle besides days of walking around the city, eating some of the great food up there and drinking the beer at a few of the taphouses and brewpubs, and just getting familiar with the city. Gonna be a good time I think. Much better to go with no real expectations and just let it happen. I’ll snap some photos with my new Nikon camera, enrich my GooglePlus photo albums, and then come on back down on Wednesday to work. Probably will not have another set of days off until around next May or so given the new work schedule.

Tomorrow I’ll pack up my RedOxx AirBoss and Saturday I’ll hit the road. First do some breakfast and then drive on over to the SF airport. Probably only gonna take my Nexus 7 this time since it does all that I need with the Google Voice integration. Won’t need to lug the cell phone from what I can see.

Vacations are good times ™.

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The Sunday Morning Blog Post

Its been some days since I wrote here it seems. No lack of commitment on my part. I attribute it to the ebb and flow of either worthy or stupid things to commit to the database and for your public perusal. I could look at it as a positive sum event that work has taken over some of the daily grind for me as I transition away from projects which have driven me down to something hopefully which will pick me back up again.

I like writing news blurbs here and trying to bring things to date with my own ramblings and thoughts. To be fair I’ve started a few entries for this place yet dropped them for a variety of reasons. Not really a quality or quantity thing. More like a desire to see things through. Now its Sunday and I sit here with some French Press coffee watching morning news. Its quiet here in the house. Last night I went out with my son for dinner to one of the four or five places he will eat. I had some fears after our lingering divorce and the relocation of my wife’s new husband that my son, so resistant to change, would forever be a victim of the change. He simply is not capable of adjusting like my daughter and resisted. I am somewhat happy to say after 9 months or so he has found a way forward to deal with how it all came to be.

I’ve enjoyed reading a few blogs that I’ve written about here before. I still like the act of visiting the actual blog. Seems like a conscious type of thing which I can choose to do and the words seem to have more force and focus for me when I read them first-hand. Thanks for Jonas for his 15 years on the job. Pioneers in blogging are really few and far between and many times I’ve asked the why of continuing it. Reading another’s journey kind of reinforces my own. These blog things come and go and people often post their very first entry and walk away to their own drumbeats and we never hear more. I wonder how many blogs are simply started and we are left with a single announcement post and then the writer simply leaves the building. I’ve “almost left” a few times.

Finally, its a Sunday morning here in the house. I hear the voices from my roommates now echoing the house. Its a Sunday morning and the blog content runs strong in me. At least for today. I decide to try to write more often here but I know next week I really will because I enter travel mode next Saturday and fly up to Seattle to go experience that city on foot. I’ll walk and drink beer and try to get a degree of separation in a few days.

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The Big Android Day

If you use Android, yesterday was big. Yet the news outlets this morning only carry news of the pending release of a new iPad. To be expected I guess given the pandering nature of US news coverage. It matters not that Android is the Number One mobile OS in the world. What matters is that these news folk seem in lock step with how they portray any possible news story that Cupertino may decide to illuminate us with.

But on to the news at hand. Yesterday we saw the arrival of major things, the changing of things, and even more.

Nexus Program Changes – We got three new devices yesterday from Google but the real thing here is that the Nexus program is at a crossroads. Before, we counted on heavily discounted phones with reference platforms of the new mobile OS. These were fun factories for all of us that appreciate the basic OS experience of Google without any of the skins or themes. But now, the price points have gone up as have what we get. From here on out, the Google Nexus program will be a highlight for more expensive devices. My take is if you want to play you will have to pay going forward. I don’t mind it at all. We are seeing costs commensurate with what carriers have done to us across the board and we get more. The things we get by buying direct are the updates, the factory images, and the developer support networks. Each of the things is a value but I think the biggest thing for me personally is the factory image support. This has saved my hide more than a few times. We may get the Nexus Player, the 6, and the 9; but we are getting really a new program which will simultaneously launch on all the carriers. This also is a major change.

The Nexus program also widens its scope in other ways. There is now a Asus infused Nexus Player and we welcome back HTC to the fold. The guys that made us the first phones running Android are back with a tablet which looks gorgeous. Motorola joins up and we get the Shamu sized Nexus 6. Whether this phone is in my future or not remains unclear but what is clear is the program is evolving. Maybe it becomes what Silver was meant to be. Who gives a s**t? We have new Nexus toys! Spend your hard-earned dollars and support them. Give the developers some cash to help them build for our devices. Lets all flash and root and break warranties starting early November.

The Android L experience is new. We are seeing a major shift in the OS now and it gets the 5.0 moniker. This is new and undoubtedly we will see minor version bumps and changes. This is like Linux in so many ways. What Lollipop really means is not new software though. What it really means is a changing of how we get Android. I believe we are moving to a annual cycle so that phone maker OEMs and software guys can catch up and remain relevant.

I know I’ve missed a whole bunch of things. Just like our news agencies around the Bay area. But don’t doubt. Yesterday was a huge day for Android. Now what remains to be seen is how Google handles the pre-ordering and shipment queues. That has been the other challenge when getting the devices straight from Google. I will be pre-ordering the Nexus 9 and Player tomorrow when they open for pre-ordering frenzy. I still love the Nexus 7 2013 version dearly and it will run Lollipop as will the Nexus 5 which should be considered as an alternative if you don’t want or need the so-called phablet. I think the N5 is sufficiently powerful to stay relevant with the release and its a beautiful handset all on its own.

Since Android is a “never done” experience much like Linux, everything evolves as the OS evolves. That’s the way it is.

And I love it being that way.

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Netflix and Linux – A Match made in…

Its been only recently that Netflix would work on Linux without installing additional software. Then we had a relatively minor step which was masking the user agent in Chrome on Linux. Now we have full compatibility by simply using the beta version of Chrome. Others have reported no need to even do that and I was reading that a person is able to use the stable version of Chrome as long as a certain patch level of the libNSS is installed. This is a huge thing for Linux users everywhere. It had felt for years like we were some kind of sub-standard citizens and many folks maintained a second real system or ran a VM in VirtualBox to do these kinds of things.

Now its finally happened and on my Debian Linux testing laptop, I can start Netflix and watch movies or TV shows with no skulduggery at all. Simple and straightforward and the way it should have been all along. I will never understand why they simply block things for Linux users. If you want a dedicated group that will pay for premium services, I believe Linux users are that group. Just because we use open source software does not mean that we do not pay for things we desire that cost something. Or at least that’s what it means to me. Linux is about freedom but its also about choice. We choose to use a thing because of a certain set of core values like,

  • Freedom from the proprietary hooks that Windows puts us through. We all want to be able to own the computer and the OS we use. Its not a rental or a lease. We should not be stuck with firmware or other things which preclude us from using or limit us.
  • Choice to use the computer the way we want. We should be able to install multiple physical OS’es on the system if we so desire. We should be able to choose the software stack and applications that take us to the tools.
  • Open standards versus walled gardens mean we can expect to use sets of applications which are supported by the wider audience. The core tools we use to communicate, exchange, move our data should not be hampered by a walled garden approach where we pay to play.
  • Wider community support means we can access fora, groups, and communities that all express a common interest and value in extending the use of the tools. Linux has been and will always be this type of community.

If there were a manifesto of mine it would be that our choices of what we use are tempered with what we need to get done. You will not use a hacksaw to hammer a nail in. The expectation is though with an open source and standard you can see the source and not suffer a lock-in. My manifesto says that to get better at a thing you must first use a thing that’s suitable for the job at hand. Finally, my manifesto says that the OS you are using should not preclude or limit you from the task at hand due to some restriction or limit. I am paying for the entire thing not a lease of a particular component.

That’s what turns me off of Apple gear most of all. I never felt ownership of all that music on iTunes. I don’t feel that an iPhone is mine. I cannot break the warranty if I so choose to do so. I cannot use the device in a manner in which I want.

Perhaps my manifesto of being a good habilis is not for you and that’s okay. We all excel at our paths and choose what we choose to use. Not having a choice is making a choice. If you live in a walled garden, you can still see the flowers. You may not be able to reach them though due to the limits of your choice.

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Integration Points

I’ve used Google Voice for quite some time to do intelligent call forwarding, managing voice mails. Now we have the Hangouts integration with Voice and the whole thing has moved forward a few paces for me.

Now having a Google Voice number means I can use one number for just about everything. For work, people dial that number and my office phone rings thanks to the Obitalk 200 device. I can now make and receive calls if I desire from my Nexus 7, get SMS messages there, get missed call notifications. What this really means is when I go to Seattle in a few weeks, I can just take a tablet with me and no cell phone at all. I will be able to call my daughter from the Nexus 7, receive calls and also do regular chatting.

This is ideal for the person with a converged home office system like me. I only want a single device and number bothering me but I want the flexibility to move around to different devices but have the same integration point. Now there is a new Chrome app for my chromebook which extends this to sets of discussion chat bubbles and also integrates the whole Voice experience onto the chromebook. Very cool!

This blurs the distinction of a locked landline phone with only one way to answer very effectively. There is more work to be done though with how the Voice integration happens and how we can do dialing and see missed calls. Everyone thought that Google Voice was in some soon to be retired capacity. Now with Hangouts integration, Google Voice has become so much more for a home worker like me. Since I spend about 90% of my time either on my Acer chromebook or on a android tablet, the integration of services means not having to worry about missing a call or SMS. When I go on vacation in three weeks I’ll pack only my Nexus 7 tablet and a wifi hotspot and I’m in business.

I don’t know of a free solution which does all this and then extends it across all my platforms excluding my Linux laptop for now. That will come too though I think. If not though, that’s okay. I boot the laptop only to mount up and use ADB and Fastboot and I enjoy watching Netflix on it and seeing the warning sign before I change the user agent that its incompatible.

End Game

I believe in the end we want integration of things. We don’t want to carry around 5 devices that each do a thing if we can get one that gives us the 80% or more of integration points. One day we will be able to add our Android phone numbers and verify them and choose to get those calls forwarded or managed at those times when we don’t have the phone available. Sending a SMS from hangouts using my cell phone provider would be a great next step and one I would use to limit what I take on trips.

I also would like my Android phone to be a trusted node and unlock my chromebook instead of futzing with passwords. Maybe that will also come. I’ve heard of a thing like this already in the non stable channels.

Here is the big thing. Android and Linux are fun. Fun to use, to explore with, to modify, to hack on. Perhaps its my mindset or my desire to make the phone mine much like my laptop. I don’t want some OS telling me what I can do or not do. If the garden is walled, I will always look for a way over the wall.

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Back to the New Thing

Last few weeks been waiting patiently for the official announcement from IBM about my new project. Today I got it. I guess I am exceedingly lucky as the project runs through next September at this point. That locks me in to a year of work which is what I asked for basically. I didn’t want to have numerous little projects. Now I am in my second year with Global Technology Services and I’m thankful. I’m also spoiled at this point working at home and cannot imagine not sitting here in the mornings with PJs on doing conference calls with my home setup. The most useful thing for me has to be Google Voice and how it now integrates with Hangouts. I also purchased an Obitalk 200 which allows me to place and receive calls from the Google Voice number and my Nexus 7 tablet can pick up calls if I so desire plus making calls from the voice number. This really extends the idea of “home office” to places I may end up going where I want phone service.

Some day I may write a tale about my work from home endeavors and how I made this a comfortable and persistent condition. Now I’ll just sit here with my morning French Press coffee and take a morning off from work and dwell on the basics.

Android Basics

Its an interesting voyage since I first got a Android handset in India back in 2009. That HTC Magic had no Google apps on it and Airtel had locked it down completely. Very frustrating but finally figured out how to unlock it, root it, and get a ported HTC Hero ROM installed. My HTC Magic started going down as my time in India was ending so I picked up a HTC Hero with its major jaw in Singapore at one of the Duty Free electronics shops. I rooted it and installed a new ROM on it soon after.

Now the phones bear little resemblance to those phones of yore. My OnePlus One is a classy thing but seems unfinished in some ways. It has glitches here and there but Android is one of those things much Linux that is never finished and I think people forget when they buy into the ecosystem that’s the way it is. I believe one must also accept upgrading handsets every so often as new technologies are factored in. When I first started with Linux back in 1998, we had support for a handful of things like network and sound cards. The servers, desktops, and laptops of today could not hope to run those kernels successfully. Linux is on the move! Same with Android. If you want locked down, take a bite of the fruit instead. In the end, its your choice. I choose the unfinished one because the path to “getting done” moves forever forward as the days go on.

Life Basics

At some point after moving out, after the divorce, after finding myself again; I realized that life was more basic in nature. I had this bubble of a room again like in Chennai but the internet is a bit faster. I enhanced the basics with my own comcastic cable internet which turned things nicely. I do the things in life which make me happy now. I travel again and this year will have done three vacation by year’s end. I realize now how much my indomitable spirit suffered before. Its okay though. When I go out and walk every day, I re-invent and invigorate and find again.

Getting back to life basics is fun too.

Finally basic…

I found new friends but I have also realized that friendship is this bartering thing. I knew this for a long time but after moving to Al’s home; it became even more obvious. If someone gives more than he gets, its not friendship.

Now I will leave for donuts and some introspection or perhaps Starbucks and some Latte.

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Getting Darker Earlier

The time of the seasons is changing. Soon the clock will flip back in its senseless backpedaling. It reminds us we are the slaves of time. Walking will become an earlier in the day habit starting soon. This last Friday, the runtastic Android app told me I walked almost 1 hour and 40 minutes for almost 5 miles of distance. I left around 540 and it was dark by the time I got back. Tonight the sky was just changing it hues and the sunset started kicking in as I got around 10 minutes from the house.

I’m about to change my work assignment I think and go back to the Petroleum company I started at a year ago. Almost the same time too. They are sending emails out now requesting me to come back sooner rather than later; but I also have  vacation planned out for three days in early November and I really feel the need to take it. I’m a bit burned out and need to hit the streets up in Seattle and get back some sensation back.

I also heard my friend AFT is heading back from the Philippines. I worked at a company he started way back when that Linux in the enterprise and before that we all met at the GAP. A bunch of us moved over in 1998 to this start-up and had a rather fun and funky time at the start but after some years it got bad. I ended up going back to the spin down side of it years later and lasted a year before the same CFO severed me in the same month. I remember telling him he should be happy he got to sever me from the same company twice in about 5 years.

Now here I sit at IBM for another year. A new project for me finally and not one that is in trouble with clients that are pissed off already.

The sun sets on so many things I remember. My trips to Singapore and India. The side trips to Japan every so often. The sun rises on the new me though. The me that can take vacations as I want with money I earn to places I want to see. Train trips await me too. I still want that trip across the United States on Amtrak.

I have some other goals or desires. I guess a desire is a goal with no planning. So perhaps I will do some planning and let them graduate.


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Enter Friday here

Well, folks, Friday almost is here. I don’t have lots of stuff pending for this weekend. I do have a job interview this evening and IBM has extended me for another year. I’ve given a lot of thought lately to the whole Smartphone thing. I own two Android phones now. I have the Tmobile LG G3 and the OnePlus One. Both are fine phones. I switch the sim card between them. I enjoy the OnePlus One a bit more because its more AOSPy and I like the G3 more because the UI is not terrible and its very stable. I would prefer it to be AOSP and it may be that way soon given progress on a build I am seeing on XDA.

I think the big news will be the Nexus 9. I will always buy the Nexus line to support Google and the Nexus brand. Its the reference design for Android L so if I want to see the “L” release in its glory; I need the Nexus line. The Nexus 6 sounds like a big phone but it also sounds rather fun and funky and disruptive of the whole “how big can a smartphone be” doctrine.

I have this feeling we will see the new Nexus lines in a few weeks. The releases and leaks grow each day with photo’s and stories and renders. Its all building up to a new reference release for the Nexus line. Very exciting! I will probably continue to use the Nexus 7 as a chromecast streamer. It has Qi charging and the form factor is excellent for that purpose. I’ll be interested to see how the Nexus 9 folds in. For my personal use, a tablet is a multi-use device and I cannot wait to see the new one. I’ve enjoyed the Nexus 7 2013 model completely. Its the best there is for me. I could never use a 10.1 inch tablet again.

So, the times will spin for work for me and Android will re-invent itself with a new reference platform. Developers will gather, make it better, make it Nexus. I’ll undoubtedly do “fastboot oem unlock” and whack that warranty. I cannot abide by the phone rental idea. I want my stuff to be mine.

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Choices are Choices

It appears that my current work assignment will dwindle down to nothingness in about three weeks. On October 31st, my so-called seat expires and I head back to my original account. I cannot lie. It will be very nice to leave the current gig far behind. I never like the failure feeling and I get that from the current work. Its also my year anniversary at IBM coming up in three days. Its interesting to look back at the year and see what I gained, what I lost, what the momentum is.

I’ve come away with the feeling that work sometimes is just work. Boring, plodding, full of moments that are not defining or even necessary. In those less than suitable times, work does not become something that sustains or challenges. It drops to a lower pole on the ladder. Mere survial. Much like some darwinian work evolution where even successful species seem to be lethargic and middle of the road folks may be caught in some evolutionary backwash called “work furlough”. People often don’t come back from that and they cannot evolve further. No being successful. No building new things. Its a misery compounded buy a lack of direction and focus. But the fact remains. We need it until we find the next thing. Then perhaps the next thing is a challenge and funky and fun until it isn’t any longer. That’s probably why I prefer contracts over full-time these days. If I don’t like something or something does not like me, I can go leave and find another something.

I’ve realized in this game for the 20 or so years of doing it; that Project Management is not supposed to be fun. You are not supposed to get up in the morning and say,

another great day of excelling at managing people and process!

Nope. I never say that particular thing doing this particular thing. Instead when the situation is bad, I grimly adopt and adapt.

Choices are choices and I cannot stand where Simba and Mufasa did and look at all the places that are mine except for that project graveyard. That shadowy places where the skulls of former scope, and the ghost of un-managed change and the dismal spirits of scope creep all come to haunt and make faces and remind me.

Remind me that we live by our choices. Not making a choice is still making a choice. I’ve thought a few times of simply leaving. Like a Alexander Supertramp; drive until the car cannot go any further. Find my essence along Route 66. Locate the missing quadrant of my life along US Highway 40. Drive an empty expanse on the Loneliest Highway of them all through Nevada. They all beckon but they also remind me that I have to earn those things. I cannot just leave this for that.

Choices, choices. And choices against choices. We make up each moment from the moment we just left.

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The W items

Often in the writing of this blog and the previous one which had about 5 years or more of drivel in it, I’ve come across the W items so to speak. Maybe a H item too.

A few folks still read this blog perhaps from India and Singapore and when I quit writing or take the blog down for a bit, I get the W questions. W is not so much H but does have a bearing on stuff. Its what, when, who, where, why. The five things which a lot of people ask.

  1. What is this blog about?
  2. When do you start writing it?
  3. Who in heaven’s are you?
  4. Where are you from and where are you going?
  5. Why do you persist in this exercise?

Then there this is the ever-popular H question.

How are you stories and posts generated?

Somehow, people think I must have answers for the pressing questions of the first 5. There must be some reason to continue to write this after the whole hoohaa has left blogging behind. Do I still read blogs? Who would I read and why? What do I model my blog content after? Why so much personal stuff and diatribes?

I do still read blogs but I prefer visiting the blog itself that I read. I read Jonas’ blog and I read Doc Searls blog and I read my friend Setuid’s blog. I read these people because I love their works. They each publish on different topics and catching up with them still is a passion. Perhaps every so often they read this clumsy attempt at a blog too. I don’t write this though to garner that appreciation and that’s why the content varies from Linux to Anthropology to Android to personal reflections. I write these things because these are the things I live or have lived. I’ve lived through a few things which have left their mark so the personal reflection or diatribe part of things is just as much a part of me as my stories of anthropology and archeology and how these things can relate to our technology, social and intellectual life, and culture. I have never surrendered being an anthropologist. I may only sit in a chair and do it but in the far flung past I did more. I walked those pathways and studied prehistoric cultures and came up with a few ideas. I still believe how people organized themselves and used their living spaces and by careful analysis we could derive answers to bigger questions.

So, the personal stuff combines with the android and Linux and anthropology into a cocktail of memories and places I have worked, vacationed. The travel category on the old blog had years of me visiting places. The new blog has seen me to go a few.

If you read this, I don’t really expect you to. I don’t do this for you or for any kind of “bump”. I don’t link to things because I think you can find them just as easily as I have fi you are so inclined.

Blogging as a Lifeway

There is a certain thing I have noticed with the passage of time. People will start a blog with the purest of intentions and with ideas of updating or writing or posting or chronicling their lives. Soon enough though these blogs are filled only with the original wordpress post and a few chance words. What works for a person to continue and what stops a person from creating is interesting. I remember seeing prehistoric rock art and some of the art seemed unfinished or incomplete. I’ve always thought these paintings were meant as a marker of some kind. Perhaps a fantasy marker or a life marker or a road or calendar marker. Perhaps some of the same reasons we write these things.

I’ve overall enjoyed the time spent writing. If I write personal stuff on occasion remember who pays the rent for this thing. I probably should update this post every so often to remind myself why I do this. Time gets by me and life changes at a pace which is hard sometimes to keep up with. Friends are off across international boundaries. I have felt that the blog often allows them to reach out across the miles and let me know they are okay. I still remember my friend the DaveR and his ending stories. Cancer claimed him way back when and I still miss his cutting edge humor and his gentle sledgehammer of a way of living. I have this rather fond memory of going to Gordon Biersch with him and drinking a beer. Give his blog a read and remember it started as an anonymous mile marker.

Its Thursday here. Make it a good day.

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