Archive for July, 2013

Accounts with passwords are a standard way for securing access to your own data and tools, but passwords aren’t always as safe as we would like them to be. Password stores get hacked sometimes, but what’s worse: the time needed to extract a plaintext password from its encrypted state is getting shorter and shorter every day. What’s a person to do?

Ars Technica put the question to five security experts: “How do you manage your passwords?” You can find their answers here: “How elite security ninjas choose and safeguard their passwords“. Don’t skimp over the answers provided: there’s a lot of good advice in that text, but you’ll have to compose your own solution for it to be comfortable enough for daily use.

In case you care: I’m using Keepass (in various forms on Android, Ubuntu and Mac OS X), while FolderSync synchronises the encrypted file with a Google Drive account between two Android devices…

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DIY Photography wants to know: “Can You Spot The Lego Elements?“. On a really hot evening, you better visit the “In Pieces” exhibition website: the pictures are larger, and the title tells you what to look for. Less puzzling, I agree, but I am certain your admiration for the Lego artist and the photographer will increase.

Nathan Sawaya - Dog, In Pieces 2012, Plastic Bricks, 22.0 x 15.0 x 43.0 inches

Nathan Sawaya – Dog, In Pieces 2012, Plastic Bricks, 22.0 x 15.0 x 43.0 inches

Too bad New York is so far away; I would love to see the exhibition in the flesh!

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Am I A Good Guy Or A Bad Guy?

The PRISM-related news of the last month hasn’t scared you yet?

Let Ars Technica add a few numbers and hard facts to your current knowledge: “You may already be a winner in NSA’s “three-degrees” surveillance sweepstakes!“. In short:  National Security Agency Deputy Director Chris Inglis testified that the NSA’s probing of data in search of terrorist activity extended “two to three hops” away from suspected terrorists; Ars then calculates that “three hops could encompass as much as 50 percent of the Internet-using population of the world” -and that’s either you or me!

The worst part, of course, is that intelligent terrorists and criminals are NOT using the Internet to discuss their plans…

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It’s official: “The AHS Sikorsky Prize has been won by AeroVelo!“.

More information about this remarkable breakthrough can be found in an article on the Popular Mechanics website: “Finally! A Human-Powered Helicopter Wins the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize“.

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Forty-four years ago, a long way from home, “Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon” (The Guardian).

Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon

Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon (Apic/Getty)

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From the Technology Review website: “A Chocolate Maker’s Big Innovation“:

[Tcho] provides growers with all the tools they need to have chocolate tastings during harvesting and processing, the crucial period that determines the price a cacao farmer’s crop will command. Tcho combines coffee roasters, spice grinders, and modified hair dryers to equip “sample labs”—pilot plants that produce tiny lots of chocolate right where cacao is grown.

Cacao beans and processed chocolate (image found at library.thinkquest.org)

Cacao beans and processed chocolate
(image found at library.thinkquest.org)

The way Tcho works reminds me of a famous slogan: “The quality goes in before the name goes on“. And quality starts at the beginning of the process, in the kitchen, in IT or in industrial production processes.

How could I not love better chocolate? Now where can I find Tcho chocolate here in my neighbourhood?

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My Mac Pro is getting older, and Apple consistently fails to provide PowerPC upgrades for Mac OS X since version 10.5. So much for buying decent (and expensive) hardware.

On the other hand I like the EeePC with Ubuntu for daily use, i.e. websurfing and email. But handling my photos is a bit too much for the slow processor in that small machine. So how about buying a portable that already has Linux installed (preferably Ubuntu, but I’m ready to experiment) rather than …?

The “buy a Linux PC” option isn’t that simple here in the Low Countries. I did find a few links to retailers that are supposed to sell Linux portables, but most (all?) of them have stopped their activities. I conclude that I will probably have to look at German shops like ixsoft if I want to go this route. It might take an American firm like ZaReason a bit too long for me to come to Europe ;-)

So, yes: buying a Linux portable in a regular shop is hard. I guess we’ll have to wait for Canonical to deliver on its promise of the new Ubuntu: that new version will turn your smartphone or tablet into a Linux PC when you connect a monitor and a keyboard.

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From “More Than Honey: A New Documentary Offers Spectacular Close-Ups of Bees Mid-Flight and Perspective on the Worldwide Honeybee Crisis” (Scientific American):

Perhaps the most fundamental problem is our attitude toward the bees. We want our bees to be vigorous, resilient and productive, but we breed them for complacence. We design an agricultural system that is both dependent on honey bees and killing them at the same time. We know that letting sick and healthy bees routinely rub bristles only makes things worse, but we keep doing it anyways. As a people, we ask so much of the bees and give them so little respect…

I hope the movie gets a place in Belgian movie theatres: the preview shows images that I would love to see on a big screen, and not just on my TV or monitor. And don’t forget to try and help the bees: without them, our agriculture might well collapse.

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I’m just testing the screen of my Samsung tablet on the sunny platform of the train station in Mechelen (Belgium). Must be the sun, rather than a freezing cold, that’s causing trouble on the rails!

[Edit] In summary: the tablet works well, or I could not have started publishing this post. Unfortunately, the network failed when I completed this sentence ;-)

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I bought books – the real, paper things – written by Coy Doctorow after reading some of his works for free on the Web. Ars Technica’s “Why DRM-free comic books are a big deal, even if you don’t read comics” explains why I did that, and why you should do the same. Especially when the publishers publish books without some kind of Digital Rights Management (DRM) lock.

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This picture says it all: great weather and a great graphical setting…

Next to the dyke in Terneuzen (NL)

Next to the dyke in Terneuzen (NL)

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The Ubuntu Incident” blog mentions this error as well: “GLib-CRITICAL **: g_slice_set_config: assertion `sys_page_size == 0' failed“. But that’s in the context of starting Firefox; however, I’m starting the 8.5 beta of Komodo Edit and I still see the same message in my Ubuntu Terminal session… Is there a link somewhere between Firefox code and Komodo code?

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This is a sentence I never expected to read: “In a kind of bizarre, capitalist love triangle of tear gas, popular uprising and government repression, Turkey and Brazil have never been closer” – but Wired always manages to surprise me, whether on paper or on the Web. The source of that sentence is a blog post about a gas grenade called the Dancer and its ‘random walk’, and about crowds and crowd dynamics. I wonder if part two will cover the capitalism and the repression, and whether it will have to add Cairo to the equation…

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Wired reports: “Crew Rides Across the U.S. in 3 Days — On an Electric Motorcycle“. That’s fast, if you ask me. It’s clear they were doing it to prove that you can do it on batteries, not to enjoy the ride and the scenery. Too bad, when you’re driving a bike that is essentially a 1966 Norton Featherbed…

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For over a week now I have been comparing the gReader and RssDemon apps on my Samsung Tab 2, in view of the closing of Google reader today. Both these apps offer what Feedly and many other RSS readers are currently missing: the ability to store feeds locally on your device. And that is something I appreciate a lot, because it allows me to read the news, even when there is no data connection while I’m commuting to work by train. Both apps connect to the Feedly Cloud, which will store your feed collection in a way similar to Google Reader and make it available for other apps.

I’m deleting RssDemon, however. Not that it’s a bad app; it’s a bit different from gReader, but I could get used to it… To get used to it, I would have to change my habits, and changing habits is only worthwhile, in my view at least, if there are benefits. In this case, I would lose something I use occasionally: RssDemon does not allow you to copy text from the feed to the clipboard. So I’ll stick to gReader, which has served me well for over a year… until a better app shows up ;-)

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