I usually don’t write about books of which I did not quite enjoy and thus I would not have written about ‘Only Human‘ by Sylvain Neuvel if I had not written about the two earlier books of the trilogy ‘Sleeping Giants‘ and ‘Waking Gods‘ before. I already noted in the first blog entry on the trilogy, I don’t very much enjoy dystopian science fiction. After reading the first book, things were still o.k., the story line about discovering a huge robot from another world and making it work again was incredibly good science fiction. Things already changed in the second part as more robots appear and things got much less peaceful but I was hoping for some more utopia rather than dystopia in the final part of the trilogy.
In this day and age it rarely happens that I’m in libraries with poor Internet access. In most cases, library officials have recognized the signs of the times and installed a usable Eduroam Wifi network on their premises. The University of Vienna is a good example. But there are unfortunate exceptions as well. One of those is the Library in the Centre Georges Pompidou. It’s a great place to study in the center of Paris, used by thousands of people at any time. They have a great selection of books as well as video and audio content, no doubt about it. When it comes to Internet access for online research, however, it’s rather a place not to be unless you have a trick or two up your sleeve.
Taking overhead pictures of documents and books with a smartphone or camera is often much faster than using a scanner. One of the downsides is, however, that the orientation sensor often gets confused by holding the camera horizontally and saves random orientation information in the Exif part of output file. Once imported to the PC, the orientation of individual images differs and one has to correct for this manually. In many cases, some images are still not properly oriented even after manually rotating them. Let’s fix this.
I gave up complaining about Internet coverage in the Paris metro back in 2013 and just despaired. There was a plan to get LTE into the metro by 2016 but there was nothing to be seen then as well. Millions of people use the metro every day and it really makes one wonder why there was no large scale outcry about this massive public administration failure and some more action on the side of mobile network operators and the public metro operator. GSM has been in the metro for a long time, so the hardest thing, i.e. cables and antennas were not the problem. Yes, perhaps they had to have been replaced but space was there all along. Must have been something else. A disgrace. But finally, finally, things are moving!
In many documentaries, the The Altair 8800 is portrayed as the computer that started the microcomputer revolution in 1975. And that’s a fair assessment as it was the first, and for its time, affordable computer that could be bought as a kit or fully assembled. As such it became immensely popular with hobbyist enthusiasts. Wikipedia has the details. But I was always wondering what came before the Altair by which Ed Roberts of MITS might have been inspired!?
Over the past decades a lot of interesting books have been written about computing history. Some of them are still in print despite having been written a decade or two or three ago, but many of them are not. And then there are quite a bunch that never made it over the Atlantic so they are impossible to get from a second hand book store in Europe. One can of course order them in the US and have them shipped, but that usually costs more than the book itself and takes a long time. And in addition, I prefer electronic copies as I find them more convenient to read. But now I found a source that fixes all of this!
A couple of years ago I bought a fast 32 GB USB3 Flash stick so I could quickly transfer really large files of several GB. The investment was well worth it, the stick was much faster than anything I had before. Another thing I do quite often is to create bootable micro-SD cards, e.g. as system volume for Raspberry Pis or as boot disks to install Ubuntu on notebooks. This was often a tedious exercise as the micro-SD cards I used so far could only be written to with speeds of less than 20 MB/s. However, manufacturers claim that there are much faster micro-SD cards on the market so I recently bought myself a new USB3 UHS-1 capable micro-SD card reader and somewhat more expensive (but still cheap) micro-SD cards to see if those small cards could really reach higher speeds.
Sometimes I am quite amazed what one can learn from glancing over log files every now and then. Did you know for example that Wifi Access points can instruct mobile devices to limit their transmission power?
I don’t have a dedicated TV at home and use a 10 year old 17″ PC for most of my media consumption. So far, I’ve been running it on Ubuntu 14.04 and I didn’t really see any reason to update it. Well, actually, over the years, software ‘enhancements’ have brought some ‘display shear’ when things in a DRM protected video in Firefox moved fast. Also, Ubuntu 14.04 didn’t have some codecs to play back some video files with VNC or the bulit-in video player. It has been a bit of a nuisance, but not enough to throw out the PC and to get something new.
However, support of Ubuntu 14.04 is now rapidly coming to an end so I decided to upgrade to the latest long term support version. From 14.04 that would have meant going to 16.04 first and then to 18.04 afterward. A bit too much hassle, so I decided to just wipe the partition and do a clean install to save time.
To my great surprise, the user interface is as smooth as ever despite the PC with a Core 2 Duo processor being 10 years old. And, to my even bigger surprise, the display shear issue has not become worse but has subjectively even decreased a bit when streaming DRM protected (yes, it’s bad, I know) content in Firefox. I would have expected quite the contrary. So if you also have a 10 year old PC at home and are afraid to update Linux on it to something more recent, your worries are probably unfounded!