FOSS for Android

12 August 2012

In my previous post I complained about the absence of open source software for Android. Thinking about it, the answer came in a tweet and blogpost from the FSFE on how to free your Android phone…

Immediately I surfed to f-droid.org and installed the repository. Here you can find a lot of free developed software. Instructions are on the site.

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Android is Linux…

29 July 2012

Most of the time I adapt to new technologies in a very early stage, but not for tablets. I really dislike greasy fingers on screens and when keyboards are sold as a ‘must have’ extra, something is wrong with the design. That was until I realized that a tablet — in its smallest form — could be the ultimate pocket computer device.

I really like things digital. Looking up information, keeping works for reference and making small notes or calculations. A few years ago I bought the Acer Aspire One netbook with Linux and 8Gb SSD. It really is a marvel doing things remote, but there is no way taking a netbook with you without a small rucksack. Tablet users do, probably only iPadders to expose themselves as happy-upper-avangard fruit lovers. I’d like to keep my hands free…

This summer Samsung introduced the Galaxy S 4.2 WiFi. In fact it is a smartphone without the phone. After playing with the thing and weighing alternatives I bought the box.

Galaxy S 4.2 WiFi

For me the Galaxy 4.2 is the ultimate pocket size computer. It is small but the screen is large enough to use it well. Making notes, reading things and even booking a flight with a free wifi access point goes very well. With an extra 16Gb mini SD I’m able to take my reference books and funnies with me.

Apps, apps…

Apps are everywhere. In fact there are so many that it is hard to make out which one suits best. I managed to find some very useful and well coded software: K-9 Mail, Jota Text Editor, Explorer for file management, MapDroyd and SkEye Planetarium. Only finding a good spreadsheed keeps me busy.

MapDroyd and SkEye are real marvels. MapDroyd has downloadable maps in a compressed OpenStreetMap format. Activating the GPS shows your actual location quite well. All without the need for a wifi connection as opposed to Andriod/Google Maps. SkEye shows the names of stars and constellations while holding your box against the sky. When turned the heavens on the screen turn in pace, so side by side you can explore the stars. Great Fun!

It is remarkable how all these small programs have such functionality. The essential pieces of software are just a few megabyte, the complete map of the Netherlands takes just 263Mb on my 5Gb SD card.

Android also has its downsides. It comes with a bundle of pre installed software that is not removable for the average user. IMO this is a waste of disk space and freedom. I’m used to the freedom of choice with my Linux Fedora box at home, what I don’t need goes in the bin. Now my Galaxy is bloated with Email, Gmail, Maps, ChatON, Google+, QuickOffice and a football game i’ll never use. If this software is really free, why did Google lock it? If Samsung gives me the football and racing game for free, why didn’t they put it in a Galaxy-user-only repository so I have my own choice?

The second thing is that the Android market is cluttered with limited-use and advertized apps. Really, a spreadsheet with only 10 rows is of no use. Apparently a lot of people want to make a buck. Where is the fun of coding as it is in all the repos with the desktop Linux distributions? Off course people have to earn a living and when coding is your thing why not selling your software. My sole discovery is that really free and opensource software is a missing dimension in the Android world. Opposed to the vast Linux repos and Linux base of Android this is a strange thing to me. I really wonder how other tablet users get their productivity software — or are these things only Just for Fun?

After all I’m very pleased with my Galaxy pocket computer. Finally I can take my digital stuff that does not fit in my brain with me. But the Android world IMO has too much of a Windows behaviour powered by a Linux kernel…

Old Lady with new legs

8 May 2011

Before I even knew of biketrial I once in a while rode and ride my Montesa Cota 311 — see one of my first posts. This Old Lady is from 1992 and has just seen a mere 1554 kilometres. But some things wear over time and not over kliks. So I brought both front legs to a nearby repearshop to have them well done. New fork seals and fresh oil. Because the old seals leaked the brake pads were oiled all over. Luckily a nearby mopped dealer had some of the same pads. Great that some things don’t change over time — exept that the brakes on my Montesa back then were something very innovative compared to the drum brakes used before, and are now standard equipment of 50cc supermotard moppeds.

Anyway, my Montesa was ready for a sorty! Here just standing on the nearby banks of the river Meuse.

Biketrial Six Days style

13 April 2011

When I started trial riding on my Montesa I surfed the web for nice pictures. That’s when I encountered the Scottish Six Days Trial event SSDT. Six days riding though the open field with natural obstacles to challenge riding skills. Unfortunately here in the Netherlands I don’t have these surroundings nearby…

Last september I went to the Belgian Ardennes to the village of Stavelot — one of my all time favourite campsites. Rough terrain, out-season very quiet and allowance to make a campfire. That beside. But I took my Monty biketrial to play around with. The brook that borders the campsite provided a wonderful trial zone! Slippery and rolling rocks hiding under shallow streaming waters and refreshing splashes to cool my sore legs and arms — I still practice still too less!

The result was superb! The Eau Rouge maybe is not the World tour Zone but suits me fine. My girlfriend took some nice pictures and one of them made it to the Picture of the Month on the Monty site (week 57).

Six Days style in the Ardennes

I asked around if this way of biketrial riding is still common these days but it isn’t. Great for the exposure our sport are man made Zones so that spectators can watch close by. However… on the Monty site I found a video of Dani Comas practicing in the Catalan Pyrenees riding upstream though a mountain stream. Great! It still exists! Enjoy the vid!

Don’t be evil…

18 December 2010

These days this phrase is all over the place. Originally stated by one of the largest search engines, the warning in this motto seems to be true all over the Net and not only for these web-searchers…

First of all Leaking — I won’t use the W-word — is really hot. Recent Leaking issues IMHO show the real face of people and instances we have to deal with in everyday life. Of course some hidden agenda can be useful to reach your goals but when following such agenda makes you do things you say you want to fight there is something terribly wrong. Freedom seems to be a strange commodity…

One of the other evils of today is companies fighting each other. Especially on the mobile scene the big ones claim their rights in large numbers trying to obstruct competition in stead of making something useful and flashy. In this case large numbers points to the large numbers of companies as well as to the many things they claim to be theirs. Takeover and pull the plug without reason is also something strange under the Sun. Why do some have to be number one when they are already the biggest?

The last one for now — I don’t want to be grumpy — concerns the office that uses the above motto  most. Can it be trustworthy when one single company gathers all there is on the Net just to serve you? Can we trust someone who claims to take pictures of our streets but ‘accidentally’ collects our mails and passwords? And does it again? Maybe I should restate the motto to ‘don’t be Stupid’ to make you (yes, YOU) aware that this world has all too many experience with firms and larger bodies that know all about you and use it eventually for their purposes.

So my humble advice is Don’t be evil!

  • Share your ideas to build a better world together — if this is too hard you can start building good software this way;
  • Act responsible, be respectful to people with different thoughts — in fact they might enrich yours!
  • Don’t stay silent when things go wrong, help each other to improve this world.

EULA what?

23 November 2010

EULA, a word I never heard before and a meaning I’ll never understand. I’m talking XP here.

Five years ago I bought a brand new Acer laptop. Being unaware then I switched from my old Mac system 8.5 to windows XP that came with the laptop. XP made it possible for me to work ad home and use corporate software, so the transition in OSses had its benefits. Until the laptop broke down after five years.

Around the Fedora 10 era — the beginning of 2009 for normal human beings — I made the big step to Linux. The XP was only second boot option as mentioned in one of my earlier posts. Now the laptop is dead and I’d like to reuse XP on a different machine, preferably in a virtual environment. Unfortunately I only had the official OEM recovery CD which has some limitations.

First it has no .iso file on it for the OS so it is impossible to install XP in a new virtual setting.

Second the recovery CD is somehow for restricted use on that particular laptop only. Any other computer is unable to use it.

Third, there is something absurd like the EULA which explicitly declares that ‘the software’ may only be used on ‘the hardware’. In normal human language: this particular copy of XP may only be used on the Acer laptop with serial number LXA86xxxxxEEM00.

Being deliberately naive I sent emails to Acer and Microsoft explaining my problem and asking for an .iso copy of XP. After all I paid for my copy of XP that came with the laptop. The guys at Acer didn’t quite understand my question and replied I could get a new recovery CD for €60. That was not what I asked for and besides I already had a recovery CD. Microsoft came with a more clear answer: it was not allowed to install the pre installed OEM version on a different computer. Indeed, that is what the EULA told me, I’m NOT ALLOWED. So far my attempts to recycle some software I paid for.

The EULA on XP is a strange thing. It feels like wrecking my car and losing my drivers license altogether.

Does anyone wonder? Does anyone make complaints because they have to buy the software to get the machine running without being allowed to reuse the operating system? Does anyone make complaints because they have to buy the very same software again to run a new machine? Does anyone complain because they cannot buy a new computer without?

I do!

And that is why I write this post. I think this policy is absurd! I think the EULA is not about protecting software copyrights but about making large sums of money. People have to pay over and over again for something they already bought. Every computer our employers replace costs an extra 50 to 100 bucks on useless not reusable software. How many employers does your company have? Because I don’t stop wondering I became and will remain advocate for the use of Free Software. Be free, switch to Linux!

I wonder if some judge or mrs. Neelie Smit Kroes EU Commissioner for Competition knows about the kind of one way agreement large numbers of computer users, governments and companies are bound to…

Biketrial Harderwijk

22 November 2010

On the 4th of September 2010 NoDabs — the one and only biktetrial store in the Netherlands — organised a six zone trials match. Location Harderwijk NL on a sports demonstration event. Remembered the event too late, being busy with other things or just haven’t practised enough I decided to participate as an official. Taking a close look at each participant and sticking my hand in the air is also a good way to take part in the event. Just a month earlier I in Antwerp I saw how this job was done…

The great thing being an official is that I now know nearly all the biketrial riders in the Netherlands. I watched all participants from benjamin to elite, from blue to yellow zones. After the match I tried some parts myself. However I must confess that even for the blue benjamin zones I really have to work on my skills…

Fedora wallpaper for Blackberry 2

5 October 2010

It started just for fun — my home made Fedora advocacy Blackberry wallpaper. However within a month or two about 850 people viewed my post on the Fedora forum. That I never expected and I presume lots of them downloaded the wallpaper.

Last August I got used to my wallpaper and decided to make a new one. This time I used the Fedora 13 GNOME wallpaper but lightened it somewhat. Behind the Fedora logo in the centre I put some Supernova radiation from the GIMP menu. Within a month and a half more than 300 visits again! Thanks!

Fedora 13 wallpaper for Blackberry, 2nd version

If you like feel free to use this second Fedora wallpaper for your Blackberry!

Quite different from usual Fedora routines there is no standard release schedule for this part ;-)

UCI World Cup Biketrial Antwerp

4 October 2010

On Sunday 1st of August I went to the biketrial world series with my son Joris. Antwerp is only an hour drive and besides this event a great city to be. Last June Joris tried my Monty Alp on the camp site and became an instant biketrial enthusiast. For his birthday he got an Onza Rip and is practising since. No doubt we went together…

The six trail zones were set out on the Grote Markt, central market square in the inner city. Great promotion for our sport and the city of Antwerp. When we arrived the 26″ just started. Differences between the competitors were amazing. Coustelier — gravity is something he doesn’t have to cope with — finished after two rounds with only one point!

Me and Joris are both 20″ riders so after some ice tea and a Konink our favourites took off. Again huge differences between the riders. Benito Ros from Spain had a wonderful easy style and passed the two times six zones with only three points. The number two and three — our national biketrial hero Rick Koekoek — took respectively 30 and 38 points. You’ll have to know that in biketrial the one with the lesser points wins…

It was amazing how close you could get to the zones. It was easy to get the whole picture standing on some rim of the city hall, or to be practically inside the zone having competitors nearly jump over you like Benito Ros on this picture.

Benito Ros (ES) jumping over our heads

After the match I spoke shortly with Kenny Belaey the top Belgian rider on 26″. It’s nice to see that these top riders still take some time to chat with someone enthusiastic to their sport.

For some great pictures you can search the web or just look here…

The Trial-Inside is one of my favourite biketrial photo sites…

Fedora wallpaper for Blackberry

26 June 2010

About half a year ago I got a Blackberry from my boss. Where I gave back the HP iPad within a month years earlier, the BB really is my thing. IMO it is the ultimate connection tool with mail, sms, web, LinkedIn and Yammer right at hand. And oh, I nearly forgot — the BB is also useful using as a mobile phone ;-)

With that much use the default wallpapers rapidly became dull. First I replaced it with a great picture of one of the world best biketrial riders. I just scale down a nice picture to 480 x 360 and uploaded it to the device. Being a Fedora enthusiast I came up with a better idea: my own Fedora Wallpaper.

I combined the Fedora 12 GNOME wallpaper with the official Fedora brand logo, just with minor colour changes to make the whole thing look nice. The F12 wallpaper suited better because the wallpaper is rather clear, making a nice contrast to the otherwise dark Blackberry OS.

For me my new wallpaper is a hit. It makes my smile every time I take my ultra-mobile out of its cover. Others just wonder what the heck Fedora might be — time for some Linux and Fedora advocacy. Posted on the fedora forum within a week worldwide over 300 people viewed my post. I hope this small contribution to Fedora Advocacy spreads the wor(l)d!

If you like it please feel free to use the wallpaper and drop me a line with your reaction!

If you are curious about what Linux might offer you for your home computing you can also contact me.