Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Because There Are No Cars In The World of Pokemon...

Why not build a new city where there are no cars at all? That way, people like me can have fun with Pokemon GO while making sure to pay attention while walking around. You can freely cross the streets and you don't have to watch for traffic. Build a car-free city where people can live in. There would be no parking spaces for grocery stores and shopping centers, so a car-free city would be very compact. Plus, people can socialize in streets. If you need to go somewhere that requires traveling long distances in a compact, car-free city, a monorail can be built so that people can go to work and get back home. Gas stations and convenience stores are unnecessary, including restaurants with drive-through.

With all that done, people can have lots of fun with Pokemon GO because a world of Pokemon in games such as Pokemon Yellow or Pokemon Platinum do not have cars, but they do have bicycles! And people with smartphones still have to pay attention while walking! :)

But in a world of cars, I don't bother playing Pokemon GO. It's an accident waiting to happen if you do not pay attention.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How To Stop PCWorld's How To Videos From Autoplaying?

If you are using AdBlock in either Google Chrome/Chromium or Mozilla Firefox, add the filter to AdBlock. This is the filter that you need to add:


The .js at the end is JavaScript. The code gets executed by the web browser to play the video automatically.

Note: I only cover instructions for Google Chrome, Chromium, and Mozilla Firefox in Linux. Debian users who have Iceweasel should follow instructions made for Firefox users. Iceweasel is Firefox but without any trademark/artwork from Mozilla, but Debian will distribute Firefox, which will be in Debian 9, codenamed Stretch, by early next year.

To add a filter, follow the steps for Google Chrome/Chromium users:

  1. Open the menu containing three lines and go to Settings.
  2. From the Extensions page (above Settings and below History links), open the Options page for AdBlock.
  3. Go to the Customize page, and next to the Manually edit your filters section is an Edit button. This will allow you to edit the filters.
  4. If the filter list is empty, simply add the filter. If there are list of filters (one filter per line), each filter is in its own line. If that's the case, go to the end of the line, hit Enter to create a new line, and add a filter from there.
  5. Save the filter you have added, and close the tab. You are done.
For Firefox:
  1. Open the menu containing three lines and go to Add-ons.
  2. From the Extension page, open up the Preferences page for AdBlock Plus.
  3. Go to the Custom Filters tab.
  4. Add filter group by entering the filter name (such as Simple Filter List), open the Actions menu and choose to show/hide filters.
  5. Add filter
  6. Close the AdBlock Plus Filters dialog, and close the tab.
Now, whenever you go to PCWorld articles such as Stop videos from autoplaying in your browser, the how-to video should stop autoplaying.

Thanks go out to Oron Feinerman for posting a URL for adding a filter in the article dealing with autoplaying HTML5 videos. With an exception of YouTube and Vimeo, videos in websites should not autoplay if I want to read an article first. That simply steals my bandwidth and I am strongly against it.

I hope I can be of help.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Site Telling Me To Update Flash With No Way Out

While doing a search for a mini-NAS case (don't care for hot-swapping), I came across the website about whether a 2.5" NAS is for me or not and surprisingly, I came across this:

This screenshot shows a Chromium web browser showing a web page with a mandatory flash update over a bright overlay.
This screenshot shows a Chromium web browser showing a web page with a mandatory flash update over a bright overlay.

I was shocked. I kid you to try and find a close button in the screenshot with a mandatory Adobe Flash update; there are none. Did you just look? I mean, there is no way out!

"AdBlock to the rescue!" I right-click in the web page, went to AdBlock, choose to "block this ad" (even though it's not an ad), slid the slider to the right, and viola! It works.

Goodbye, Flash overlay! Hello, "Block this ad!" This image shows a dialog which contains a slider. Sliding a slider to the right makes the bright overlay with mandatory Flash update disappear.
Goodbye, Flash overlay! Hello, "Block this ad!" This image shows a dialog which contains a slider. Sliding a slider to the right makes the bright overlay with mandatory Flash update disappear.

As it turns out with disabling and re-enabling an AdBlock extension in Chromium, an open-source version of Google Chrome, it turns out to be an Ad that shows an overlay. While an adblocker is disabled, I tried to get the web page to show the overlay again, but I couldn't. I can say one thing for sure, that the overlay with a Flash updater is a fake, that for someone who is cautious as I am, I do not click in them. Besides, if I come across websites that require Adobe Flash, I use Google Chrome just for that purpose. I use Chromium for my Flash-free browsing experience.

As malvertising is in the rise, so are adblockers. Yes, there is no such thing as free lunch, but publishers and website owners cannot blame people with adblockers for as a means of protection against malvertising. If you tell your readers to disable an ad-blocker extension, your readers could fall into a ransomware trap if a bad ad is encountered. That's why, to me, AdBlock is my first line of defense. Anti-malware and anti-virus is only a last line of defense for me, including Anti-Exploit and Anti-Ransomware from MalwareBytes. This is even with a good backup of all of my files.

That's why I use AdBlock, so I don't have to take my time to reinstall my operating system of choice. I run Arch Linux even though I don't get malware at all. And that's the reason why I prefer safety over revenue and it also saves bandwidth, especially when it comes to mobile network.

Be safe everyone and don't click in a Flash update as shown above.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Connected Appliances And Smart Home Devices

Sears want to join the smart home/connected appliances market which I've read over at PCWorld.com and I'm grateful for that, but if there's one requirement that matters the most, it's local API access.

Type Meaning
Local API No need to communicate over the Internet and back to my home network in order to talk to smart home devices.
Cloud API Smart home devices and home automation software (such as Home Assistant) need Internet access. Without it, communication between smart home devices is impossible.

The home automation software I am using is Home Assistant. So what I read in the PCWorld article is about the water heater and water leak. I for one can set this up myself by buying a water leak sensor and fish the wire through a crawlspace or an attic so that it can be connected to my server. Here are my two scenarios:

  • If a water leak is detected and I'm home watching a movie or using my computer, for example, Home Assistant could notify me through text to speech via in-ceiling speakers and LG WebOS TV through a Notify compoenent that a water leak is detected and the lights can flash orange and yellow in the hallway.
  • If I'm away from home, Home Assistant can contact me via PushBullet and contact my relatives as well.
Actually, I could have the water heater turned off during the day when I'm at work in order to save electricity. Plus, if a washer machine and dryer is done, Home Assistant can let me know. I can also tell Home Assistant to set a timer for an hour when my food in the oven is done, thereby notifying me via my smartphone, speakers, and TV. Take a minute to browse through the list of components.

So referring back to Sears that want to get into connected home, if the devices and appliances can only be communicated through the Internet and back to my network without communicating through Home Assistant, I will send them back to the store. And I will say one thing: I am serious about open source home automation and I cannot accept vendor lock-in. Put it simply, data belongs to me and not stored in someone else's servers. Connected devices need to fail gracefully if Internet connection is spotty.

It is time for everyone to stand up and be a part of the Home Assistant community. I would like to see manufacturers embrace local API access in which the community can get together and develop components that talk to smart home appliances and devices. Home Assistant is open source. I'm serious about open source. I want home automation devices to communicate to each other openly, even over a secure connection via HTTPS REST API.

However, I must confess that it is easier said that done. Not all manufacturers care about open source home automation enthusiasts like me and the Home Assistant/OpenHAB community. OpenHAB has a steep learning curve compared to Home Assistant and the web interface resembles an iPhone user interface which iPhone/iPad users might appreciate.

Anyway, take a look at the Feature Request forum over at the Home Assistant Community. What caught my interest since two months is integration with DSC control panel via Envisalink, an IP Security Interface for DSC and Honeywell control panels. And yes, there has been a talk about getting Honeywell integrated with Home Assistant as well, although DSC and Honeywell has two totally different application programmable interfaces that if I recall in the DSC thread, has already been abstracted and is ready to be added to Home Assistant as an Envisalink component.

I want to see something more like what community members have made it possible for integrating DSC and Honeywell security systems into Home Assistant! I want to see manufacturers and the whole open source home automation community get together and make Home Assistant better and easier for everyone.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Technologies Community in Google+: No Thanks; Too Spammy

While in the Google+ home page, I was browsing through posts to read that interests me and I noticed there is a section called "Communities you might like" and I saw "Technology." I clicked in the community and I saw spammy posts that do not interest me at all, so I pass. A couple of months ago, Google thought I might be interested in Future Technologies community as well. There may be some topics that interest me, but they can be spammy sometimes and may not have any relevance to the topic of future technologies, so I tend to control information overload in my stream as much as I can. Plus, communities such as Technology and Future Technologies cover a wide variety of subjects. That is information overload.

I'm interested in future home automation technologies such as Google Home and Nest. Actually, I'm more interested in open source home automation technologies. Not with soldering wires together to connect different hardware components, but something that is plug-and-play and ready for me to code to get components to work together. Something with local API access (Application Programmable Interface).

Have a look at Home Assistant website for example. If you browse through the list of components, one example is Interlogix NX-8E (NetworX) Control Panel that has RS232 interface built-in. Another component would be a Radio Thermostat CT80. Home Assistant will be the brain of my entire house that I plan to build.

Okay, so picture this: It is 05:30 this morning and it's time to wake up, so Home Assistant turns on the lights for my living room, hallway, and the bathroom. I took a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and get ready to leave for work. By 07:00, I set my security system to arm in away mode and Home Assistant will get a push notification that I'm leaving my house for work, so Home Assistant tells Radio Thermostat CT80 to turn off the air conditioner if during the summer or heater if it's winter. When I get back home, once Home Assistant notices that I have disarmed my security system, it can turn on my lights. I then arm my system in stay mode, which turns on the thermostat, living room lights, my home theater system, and my LG WebOS television. If Home Assistant notices that I turn on my TV and forgot to arm my system in stay mode, Home Assistant will send a notification to my television, letting me know that I need to arm my system for protection in case the burglar tries to force their way in and the alarm will go off instantly. During the night, once I arm the system in "stay night" mode, the lights will turn off in about 5 minutes and leave the hallway dimly lit in red.

And that is the beauty of home assistant. I'm not interested in Apple's HomeKit that only works with iPhone and iPad. I did not buy Philips Hue Gen 2 to replace the first generation just because it has HomeKit built-in.

Beyond home automation, I'm interested in the future of televisions, home theater, kitchen appliances, computers (non-Windows), and what about transportation systems involving transit systems and bicycles (I'm oblivious to cars; I'd rather walk in the streets instead of sidewalks), health-related technologies, and even robotics. I'm talking about technologies between now and in the future, but social networking users do post stuff that is related to the past. And when I talk about spammy posts, I meant junk.

Anyway, why not join Google+ and follow Home Assistant and get involved in the community forum?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Harrison Consoles Mixbus 32C: $150 for Mixbus Owners

I currently use Mixbus for my two songs (check in the Music page for my two songs) and I spent $40 to upgrade from Mixbus 2 (ordered three years ago -- Jan 16th) to Mixbus 3 (Jan 16th of this year) and I'm very satisfied with the digital audio workstation.

From time to time, I get emails from Harrison Console to buy Mixbus 32C for $150 and that's only for existing Mixbus owners. That's quite a steal since the list price is $300. It's got a fourth-gen digital signal processor with 4-band EQ, and a high/low pass filter that's built right into the console, no plugin needed. even if I take $150 out of my savings account, I cannot afford it and I'm due for an overpayment from Social Security Administration for only a single year of work experience at Georgia Industries for the Blind. So to Harrison Consoles, that's a no from me because I already have what I wanted. This is even if Harrison Consoles could convince me that the new DSP with 4-band EQ could sound significantly better than the existing 3-band EQ which would depend on the source. Plus, I have a cheap 1920x1080 27" monitor that is working well for my vision.

Yes, my monitor is able to hold still for a very long time, thanks for a $500 Studio RTA Producer desk. I spent that kind of money out of my tax money. And this is called "limit your options." Keep whatever DAW you have in your system and do not upgrade unless you need to. If the new version enhances your music productivity, great. If not, don't upgrade your DAW. It's the same for an audio interface, your microphones, headphones, studio monitors, and so on and so forth. Plus, there is a difference between a "need" and a "want." If you're a reader of TheRecordingRevolution.com, Graham talks a lot about limiting options. He also talks about using stock plugins instead of SSL ow Waves plugins, but any plugin in Linux can be a stock plugin. Oh, and do join a mailing list. You will get content that is exclusive for subscribers.

And what's running in my computer? Nope. It's not Windows; neither is a Mac. It's Linux. Arch Linux.

So thanks, but no thanks.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bretagne Passed Away At Age 16

Bretagne (pronounced Brit-nee) is a very special dog. He searched for survivors of the fallen World Trade Center (now Ground Zero) and cared for young and old people alike during difficult times. Bretagne has a warm and gentle heart and I am very proud of the dog.

God bless you Bretagne and may you rest in peace.