December 2012 Archives

Clouds

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Today - with the massive amount of rain that's been pouring down lately - one would assume I'd be talking about the natural kind of clouds, but the title actually refers to storing data "in the could".

With people having more computers, laptops and smartdevices (not only phones) managing your data becomes increasingly challenging. You know the feeling you get when the one file, image or piece of data you need just isn't on the device you're using? Come on, it's happened to the best of us, hasn't it? I used to carry around a collection of usb sticks, but even so you need to keep those synchronized and updated.

Enter "the cloud". It's fluid, barely visible, yet never far away. Your data becomes sort of omnipresent, if you are hooked up to the internet that is. I've just started by opening a dropbox account which allows me to store up to 2GB in the cloud, for free.

I can access it from my desktop, laptop, even my smartphone. Pretty awesome if you ask me, however... one thing calls from some extra attention : your files are encrypted in the cloud, but the corporation running dropbox allows itself the right to :

"Collect and store the files you upload, download, or access with the Dropbox Service ("Files"). If you add a file to your Dropbox that has been previously uploaded by you or another user, we may associate all or a portion of the previous file with your account rather than storing a duplicate.

Log Data. When you use the Service, we automatically record information from your Device, its software, and your activity using the Services. This may include the Device's Internet Protocol ("IP") address, browser type, the web page visited before you came to our website, information you search for on our website, locale preferences, identification numbers associated with your Devices, your mobile carrier, date and time stamps associated with transactions, system configuration information, metadata concerning your Files, and other interactions with the Service. (full privacy policy here)

I suggest you read it before using it. I'll be looking into independent encryption so even if someone was to access the files on my dropbox account (legally or maliciously) they'd get nothing but garbled data. Not because I plan to store sensitive data in the cloud, but because it's a good precautionary measure to limit access to data that others may be interested in. BoxCryptor looks like a likely candidate to do what I need.

Interested in giving Dropbox a try to? Hit this referral link and instead of just the free 2GB, you'll get 2.5GB for free :)

Update : BoxCryptor proved to be a very easy install and way of encrypting data stored on my dropbox account. It's like I have my personal encrypted vault with me all the time now, yay!

Are you a "prepper"?

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I'm not a doomsday prepper as they are portraied on TV and truth be said, December 21th 2012 was a day like any other day to me. However, some of the topics and issues the people in these shows talk about do make sense. Even fools make sense sometimes, you know.

Now, let's get to the point of this post, which I'm writing on my laptop. (Is that important enough to mention? Please, give me a moment to get to it, will you?) A laptop opposed to a desktop has a battery, which if charged properly will allow you to continue working for a relatively short time if the power goes out. Which is exactly what has happened at home today. I know some people are already working on getting our street hooked up to the power net, so I suppose it won't take much longer, though one can never know for sure.

I was using electricy when it went out. I got up, grabbed my "emergency" toolkit and took out a small flashlight, a lighter and a couple of candles. I don't know if you have something alike at home - if you do, do you know where to find it when it's dark? After doing a quick check of the local fusebox - everything was alright - I gathered info from the immediate surroundings : is the power still on at the neighbors (no), are the street lights still on (yes), are the traffic lights still on (no). All that info made it clear it was a broader malfunction and not something I had to search for at home.

I lit a couple of candles and am now comfortable typing away :)

What have I learned from today's outage though :

- If you have three flashlights and two don't work, don't wait to check and/or replace batteries until you need them. (I already took them apart and figured out what the issue is, it'll be taken care of tomorrow).
- If you have a list of telephone numbers handy, it saves time looking for information. Especially if all your info is stored on... electronic devices that need power to operate. (I'll start assembling such a list in the next week).
- Double the amount of candles available. The 8 I have right now should keep me good for a while, but more could be handy and I got free space in my box anyway.
- Don't just rely on lighters to light those candles. Throw in some matches as well for backup. (done)
- Have a notebook or blank paper available, and some pens (or pencil) as well. I had the pens, but no paper to write on. It'll be fixed as well.

The power is back, as I finish this post, bringing the outage to just under 1.5 hours or so. It just shows how dependant we all are, doesn't it?

Temporarily out of reach

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If you're planning on being in touch with by mobile phone, please be advised that I may not be able to respond instantly or at all. I've just started the process to swap carriers and it is unclear how swift it'll be, or when exactly I'll lose signal on the old carrier and have to swap to the new one. Apart from that, the whole process proves to be rather easy and quick.

No news on the new phone yet, I don't think I'll be able to get my hands on it before x-mas rolls around :(

Cutting costs and improving performance

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I've got the habit of taking a closer look at different services I use and the cost of those at least once a year.

I've been using an HTC Hero for the past couple of years and while pretty pleased with it, it has aged and is lacking performance if you ask me. The touch screen often totally messes things up - especially when texting - and I've grown rather annoyed with that the last couple of months.

That combined with the fact that I'm paying €30,- a month to my provider for both voice, text and data services which I hardly use up, made me decide to do some comparisons. A couple of hours later I've found another provider that offers a plan better suited to my current needs - and those in the near future (always look ahead). In fact, I get more call time included, more text messages per month and a whopping 4 times more data allowance for exactly... half the price.

If I intend to stay on the new plan for roughly 2 years (24 months), I'd save €360,- over the course of the contract. Which is a pretty nice sum to use to get a new smartphone to replace the Hero I figure.

I do remember stating "I'll never buy a €500+ phone ever again" a couple of years back, and I'll stick to it. A phone to me is not a fashion accessory, not a statement, nor a toy. It is a tool which should allow me to connect, look up data, browse the web and most of all, perform under pretty much all conditions.

Currently I'm looking at phones in the €200 to €350 range, with the upper limit being caused mostly by my intention to get one running Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) which results in newer and more expensive phones being included. Why bother with updatability? Because it allows me to use the new phone for a longer time without getting stuck with a tool that can't keep up. I don't think getting a model that is known not to get an upgrade to jelly Bean of ICS (4.0) even would be a bad idea.

On the shortlist for now : Sony Xperia Go/ Sony Xperia P and some Samsung and HTC models.

Update : The Sony Xperia's are off the table, I've decided to get a Samsung S2 phone, which I hope to be able to pick up before the end of the year.

Mental hurdles

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The less time I spend at work, the more time I apparently am investing in my own house. I used to work a lot the past two years, and it resulted in me not getting anything done at all at home. I simply refused to believe the two were connected and attributed my lack of interest in doing anything at home to a general bound of laziness.

With what happened to me the past weeks, I've come to realize one can not do it all at the same time and if I want to spend time at one thing, something else has to give way, simple as that.

I had taken off a couple of days (Friday, yesterday and today) and guess what : I finally started painting in my living room (and actually finished it today) and I did spend quite a while with my GF and the kids as well. I'm about to head out now to do some grocery shopping, pick up some material I need to continue working in the bathroom, and then once the paint has dried, I'll put the curtains back up as well. It'll make this a less dark house for sure, which is good considering wintertime is around the corner.

Talking of winter, we've already had snow, and more is expected on Friday. I know many people like snow yet I'm still one that rather doesn't see it falling down. Snow is fun and all if you can pick when to go out in it, don't have to drive through it and don't have it disrupt operations at all. Hm... I'm not yet at a point where I can forget about work when I'm off, lol.

2013 will be different though. I've got plenty of overtime built up (over 150 hours so far) which should allow me to take it a bit easier. The fact that I'm even thinking about it makes it clear I've taken a mental hurdle, crossed a certain point where I come to realize that there are other things as well.

Off to kick start the economy now :)

Oh... weekend off with my girl in January, yay!

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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