And off we go straight into part two of my summary of things that moved me in 2018!:
Raising My Shields – Year 5
Ever since the Snowden revelations in 2013 I’ve been moving more and more services I use into my own domain and made sure as much of my Internet traffic as possible is encrypted. In 2018, I’ve made a number of significant improvements. First and foremost, Nextcloud Talk has become available and I’ve been using it since its launch for end to end encrypted and self-hosted voice and video calling. While it still continues to evolve for a more ubiquitous use from mobile devices, I used it a lot for voice and video calling from PCs in 2018.
Another weak point in my communication infrastructure has been internal email. While I made sure communication encrypted between clients and the external server, emails were obviously unencrypted while on the external server. So this year I took some time to finally put an email server in place at home for family internal emails that contain things that really shouldn’t be stored outside our domain of influence.
Internet in the Sky – And Elsewhere
Again, I’ve been traveling quite a lot overseas and 2018 was the year in which Internet service was available on the majority of long distance flights I took. Not everything was well, however, as I noticed a significant slow down of the connection on some flights to the point of the system becoming almost unusable. The end of the year showed some improvement, however, as Delta Airlines showed how things can be done better. Also Internet access on board European flights started to become available and I also had a positive experience with Internet access on board a ship that took me from Sweden to Germany.
The History Track
This year, my interest in computing history had me alternating between the very small and the very big. In the last 12 months I had the fortune to be close enough to Cambridge twice to visit the Centre for Computing History and also to walk through the city to see where the British microcomputer revolution of the 1980s happened with Sinclair, Acorn and ARM. After reading a number of books about assembler programming in the 1960s, punch cards, Fortran and paper tape, I came across a book about how the Lyons teahouse company developed the ‘Leo’ computers in the 1950s and 60s. An unbelievable story. Bigger still is the story about Seymor Cray and supercomputing. After reading ‘The Supermen‘ I found out that the Living Computer Museum in Seattle has the first supercomputer, a CDC 6500, still running and allows anyone with an interest to log in remotely via SSH to see how supercomputing started in the 1960s.
A lot has been written about the history of Silicon Valley and Leslie Berlin’s book ‘The Troublemakers‘ tells the story from an angle of people how made a difference but are less well known today by the general public. The origin of the Internet has also been a topic for me in the past and I continued to find more interesting information about the last 20 years here and from a German perspective here. And finally, I gave my first talk about computing history this year at the Vintage Computer Festival in Berlin about mobile computing in the past 30 years and wireless network evolution during that time. In addition to that I’ve put together a list of the mobile devices I owned since I last wrote about this topic so many years ago in 2009.
A New Smartphone With LineageOS
One thing that deserves a section of its own is that I could finally move to a new smartphone. As I like my privacy and detest being exploited and tracked by Google and others, I ran CyanogenMod and later LineageOS on my Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5 for quite a number of years. But the devices were aging and I was elated when LineageOS became available for the Samsung S9, the latest of the Galaxy series in 2018. Better than ever, I also discovered that I didn’t have to install a single Google app.
And finally there have been many smaller tidbits that should also not be forgotten. While I’ve gotten rid of Windows in my household entirely some years ago, I do have to work with the OS from time to time. However, the Windows Subsystem for Linux I explored this year (see here and here) will offer interesting new possibilities in the future for remote administration, support and backup. Speaking about administration, a talk during this year’s ‘Gulaschprogrammiernacht’ in Karlsruhe made me explore tmux for the first time. By now I am sure there’s not a single hour when I sit in front of my notebook I don’t make good use of its functionalities to multplex shell sessions in a single window. And last, but not least I discovered ‘Mastodon‘ that I like a lot more than Twitter and I’ve moved my source code from Github to Gitlab after the former was bought by Microsoft.
Again a year full of twists and turns and I’m very much looking forward to what 2019 will bring! Happy new year, ya’ all!