Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Recommending wearables based only on media exposure

This was inspired by a post in Google+ that was reshared by a person I follow.

The post was titled "Top reasons people stop using wearable technologies", and listed a bar chart with said reasons. At URL.


Most likely, the market for wearables is still starting out, and hasn't yet found its footing. There is also no standard or common/dominant design, such as Windows in PCs, and Android/iOS on mobile phones.

Since I don't have any wearables, then my knowledge is based on actual media exposure (=article titles) of practical benefits. This has boiled down to two very different brands.

Fitbit
• Much more affordable from the outset;
• Its charge can last a week;
• Works as advertised;
• Its health tracking functions can be used to determine better diagnoses related to heart disease and a number of other ailments, where health logging becomes important;
• Can save lives.

Conclusion: Fitbit doesn't do everything, but it does well the things it's meant to do.

Apple Watch &#mdash;
• Expensive (aka "Worth its price");
• Short battery life (requires recharging each forthnight);
• Creeping featuritis — not enough useful features vs. too many useless features, therefore no direction.
• Water-resistant, but not waterproof.
• Difficult and expensive to fix, if gets broken.

• The advantages are integration with iOS and Siri. Of course, health improvements, too.
• Apple Pay (if you forget your wallet home), but that's only in the U.S.
Can save lives.
Can run Windows 95. But that means other operating systems, too...?

Conclusion: Differing functions, no special use-case. Has app ecosystem.

Footnote: Given that wearables log information about a user, they can also be very useful in forensic investigations, such as evidence-gathering or coroner's reports in determining the exact time of death (that is, if the device clock is correct) or another potentially life-harming event that needs to be investigated.

But this also requires, that wearables data must per user reques be stored (encrypted, hashed, and salted) in such a way that it couldn't be tampered with. I speculate, that current implementations might not meet such strict storage regulations, and their data can thus be used on the basis of assuming good faith.

So, at this time, logs of wearables can be used as supporting material when building a case. Whether wearables data can be used in courts of law, is a matter to be resolved by the legal profession.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Useful apps exclusive to Android

This is a copy of a comment I wrote in a YouTube discussion to someone who recommended that "[I] get an iPhone".

I've formatted and edited the comment with some additions into this blogpost. While it does harken back to a previous post I wrote about reducing one's Android's resource usage, then this one is more about some of the useful apps I use that are exclusive to Android.

An iPhone or any new smartphone is beyond my means, and I wouldn't be able to run some specific apps only available on Android, such as:
  • Adblock Plus for Android. Works only on Wi-Fi, but blocks in-app ads;
     
  • Firefox for Android. It's got Reader Mode, which saves an article, only keeps relevant article content, and allows white-on-black reading.

    Firefox extensions, which only run on Firefox-based mobile browsers:
    • NoScript Anywhere — blocks scripts and trackers run by scripts, and thus reduces browser resource usage. Its whitelist allows running scripts on sites I whitelist through the NoScript menu in Firefox;
    • Privacy Settings — allows users to switch off a number of default Firefox settings to make the browser less resource-hungry and more secure;
    • Stylish — allows users to locally change the appearance of webpages displayed in a browser (make them dark, etc. to save battery life). People can download or make their own userstyles.
    • Save Link Menus — allows saving links or webpages from Firefox to the local file system.

  • Vim Touch — a very advanced text editor. This adds to productivity (I can create and edit content);
  • Hacker's Keyboard — I need this to use VimTouch, to easily navigate in text, and to quickly switch between languages without going to settings every time. This keyboard app is very lightweight compared to most native virtual keyboards;
  • Unicode Map — to search for, view, and copy Unicode characters;
  • VLC Media Player. 'Nuff said;
  • Arity — a scientific calculator, but I sometimes use it to calculate expenses when shopping for multiple things with a limited budget.
There some other apps with functionality not particularly unique to any mobile ecosystem:
  • Sparse RSS — to subscribe to podcasts;
  • Units — a very nice unit converter;
  • MuPDF — a lightweight viewer for PDF, OpenXPS and CBZ files;
The above apps are all Free / Open Source Software (FOSS), and available at the F-Droid app repository.
    Stock app —
  • FM Radio. I can listen to plain FM radio and listen to great music for free and without ads. Estonia's public broadcaster ERR is just that awesome. They even provide small "what's playing" pages, so I can check out the artist and song.

    FM radio functionality is not on most iPhone models, and not on most Windows phones either. My phone even supports RDS.

  • Some proprietary apps:
  • TeamViewer — I sometimes do computer support for friends and relatives;
  • The local weather widget.

This post is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Pisut kriitikat "Postimehe" uue "mobiilielamuse" aadressil ja paar lahendust aeglastele nutitelefonidele

Kiirelt kirjutet ja sõnakas postitus, nii et kes loeb, on hoiatatud.
    Tingimused:
  • Vanem nutitelefon, operatsioonisüsteemiks Android 2.3 Gingerbread.
    Igal Androidil on vaikimisi lehitseja, mille kokkuleppeline nimi on "Android Browser"; kasutajaliideses lihtsalt "Internet".

    Android 2.3-ga kaasas käiv lehitseja on tehnoloogiliselt ja moraalselt vananenud, ning ei esita modernseid lehekülgi enam õigesti.
  • Sellest johtuvalt on kaasaegsete mobiililehtede vaatamiseks peale pandud Firefox Androidile. Et see vanemal seadmel enam-vähem kasutatav oleks, on Firefoxi lehitsejas suurem osa ressursinõudlikke funktsioone välja lülitatud, samuti on peal laiendus NoScript Anywhere (edaspidi NoScript), mis blokeerib vaikimisi skriptid kõikidelt tundmatutelt saitidelt ja lubab käitada vaid kasutaja poolt hallatava valge nimekirja kaudu lubatud skripte. Väga mugav.
Kuni selle aasta märtsi mingi kuupäevani oli "Postimehe" (edaspidi PMO) mobiiliversioon enam-vähem kasutatav, ning selle ajani kehtinud PMO mobiili jaoks sobiva ja kasutatava disaini küljendajatele tuleb jagada ohtralt kiitust. Sest see Disain töötas hästi.

Kui anonüümne kommenteerimine oli võimalik, sai ka kommenteerida, ning artikleid sai samuti segamatult lugeda.

Siis tuli 2016.a. märtsi keskpaik ja natuke peale seda, kui PMO lugemiseks avaldati üks ressursimahukas äpp (õieti mobiiliversiooni uus wrapper), avaldati paar päeva hiljem ka sellele ekstra küljendatud spetsiaalne m.postimees.ee.

Lihtne oleks ju öelda, et juhe jooksis kokku.

Valesti läks see, et PMO uus versioon tehti automaatseks, mis uuendab sisu ise, mis omakorda on oma loomult päris ressursimahukas tegevus.

Tõepoolest — silmailu on, aga selle saavutamiseks on ohverdatud kasutatavust.

Tuleb nentida, et kasutatavuse huvides ei oleks mina m.postimees.ee varianti mobiilseadmete jaoks üldse käiku lasknud, sest u. 2016.a. märtsi teise pooleni üleval olnud ise-mitte-uuesti-laadiv lahendus töötas mobiili-Firefoxis hästi.

Niigi lülitati 2015. aastal välja Postimehe WAP/WML-versioon, mis oli ülikiire ja -mugav viis uudiste lugemiseks. Ma tõesti ei tea, mis WAP-versooni väljalülitamise põhjuseks võis olla, kuid kahtustan, et sellega oli võimalik lugeda ka selliseid artkleid, mis käisid tavapäraselt "Postimees Pluss" alla. Jaa, WAP (WML) eelised jõudsid kohale alles 10-15 aastat hiljem.

Lahendus

Erinevalt töölaua-Firefoxis olevast NoScriptist ei ole Androidi-Firefoxis võimalik NoScripti valget nimekirja detailselt toimetada. Samuti ei võimalda mobiilse NoScripti kasutajaliides konkreetselt alamdomeenide lubamist/mittelubamist.
26.04.2016: ^ Veidi täpsustatud sõnastust.
Niisiis: Firefoxis on about:config seadetest extensions.nsa.policy alt võimalik kopeerida JSON formaadis olevat valget/musta nimekirja, mida on küll võimalik teksti kujul toimetada, aga koodi iseärasuse tõttu saab seda teha ainult tekstiredaktoris.
(Firefoxile mõeldud NoScript-i ametlik nimetus on NoScript Anywhere, ehk NSA...)
Jama on selles, et see JSON-rida on pikk üherealine tekstijoru. (Õnneks on JSON formaat suhteliselt lihtsalt loetav.)

Selle toimetamiseks on niisiis vaja tekstiredaktorit; isiklikult soovitan kahte äppi:
  • VIM Touch-nimelist tekstiredaktorit, mis on väike, võimas, ja algajale suhteliselt keeruline selgeks saada. A kui selge on, on lihtsam.
  • Hacker's Keyboard, mis annab Samsung Keyboard vms asemel täieliku sõrmistiku kõigi vajalike nuppudega.

VIM-i tundjad tõenäoliselt teavad, mida selle JSON-joruga edasi teha; praegu pikemalt ei seleta kui vaid niipalju, et JSON rida tuli kopeerida ja asetada VIM-i, siis iga domeeen käsuga :s/\,/&^M/g eri reale, siis sorteerida, ning siis toimetada ja lisada domeeni järele 1 või 0; 1 vastavalt lubab, 0 keelab. Komad lõppu ka, v.a. kõigeviimane domeen. Ärge unustage tegemast varukoopiat.

Supp seisneb selles, et PMO uudiste normaalseks lugemiseks tuli mul blokeerida ära http://m.postimees.ee ja lubada http://www.postimees.ee .
Varem arvasin, et alamdomeene võis lubada ainult http:// prefiksiga ja et ilma polnud võimalik; kuid vähemalt alates NoScript versioonist 3.5a11 sai seegi lõpuks võimalikuks.

Siiski jäin endise praktika juurde, ning turvalised domeenid on vajadusel alati https:// prefiksiga: näiteks kõik Google'i domeenid.
m.postimees.ee tuli blokeerida selleks, et uudiseid vaid lugeda; www ja kõik teised alamdomeenid lubasin selleks, et uudiseid kommenteerida (teoreetiline võimalus on olemas ju), ning mis põhiline — et kommentaare saaks reitida (lisada + või – ).

pmo.ee teise taseme domen on vaikimisi lubatud, teised reklaami- ja muud domeenid mitte. Blokeeritud oli eraldi http://ads.postimees.ee . Sest akut peab säästma.

PMO temaatilised alamdomeenid on kontseptuaalselt iseenesest hea, kuid kuna neid on palju, siis NoScripti valge nimekirja toimetamisel on nende käsitsi lisamine ebamugav. Vähemalt pole edaspidi vaja neid lubada/blokeerida.

Reklaam ja reklaamiblokeerijad

Tõepoolest, "Postimees" elatub osaliselt ka reklaamirahast, kuid erinevalt kaasaegsetest PC-arvutitest on vanemate arvutite ja mobiilidega tihtipeale see lugu, et vähese võimsusega on ka sama vähe mõtet reklaame vaadata ja lugeda. Mobiil-interneti puhul tuleb arvestada ka sellega, et inimesed reklaamide tõmbamise eest tegelikult väga maksta ei taha.
Miks mitte lisada PMO tellimus telefoniarvele näiteks?
Võib ju väita, et vähevõimas nutitelefon on oma omaniku peegelpilt, aga niisuguseid inimesi on ka, ehk "üksteist peab hoidma," nagu ühes armsas laulus sõnat'.

Hästivarustatud tavakasutaja koos uusima nutimudeli ja põhimõtteliselt piiramatu mobiilsidega selliste asjade pärast eriti muretsema ei pea.

Kvaliteetväljaandena on Postimees Online on siiski üks väheseid, kus on huvitavaid ja informeerivaid reklaame, ning neile klikitakse/toksatakse vajadusel peale küll. Teadlik reklaamitarbija tõepoolest mõistab iga kliki/toksamise väärtust.

Tõsi küll, võimalik on kasutada ERR-i kui tasuta uudistekanalit.

Infoallikatena on PMO ja ERR mitmes mõttes asendamatud. Delfi kui uudisteallika väärtuse kohta 'ei kommentaari,' kuigi nene mobiilse veebi jaoks mõeldud lahendus paistab (pea) kõigist oma lugejaist hoolivat... või noh, oma lugejate mobiiltelefonidest... :>

Lõpuks töötasin välja parima lahenduse võimalikest. Aga sellest juba tulevases postituses.
Uuendatud 26.04.2016.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Firefox for Android on slow phones. Some practical advice.

This one was supposed to be a quick post; I might update it later on. And then I got carried away, and spent about four to six hours writing the post's content and refining its wording.

* That Firefox for Android can render better than the aged native browser on Android 2.3, is great, but at the moment, I won't go into detail about that.
* This post is not about desktop Firefox. I might write about issues current in desktop Firefox in a future post.

Contents

* What happened
* My phone is slow now.
* What to do. Extensions to speed up Firefox

Until today, I have avoided that "What I Use" post, but every once in a while comes a time, when I am not afraid to write about what I use. Even if it's not the newest kit.

Why I downgraded

After Firefox 45.0 was released, one early and now resolved issue was connection misbehavior with Firefox 45.0 and NoScript 3.5a10. Very soon, NoScript 3.5a11 was released, which fixed the issue.

Then, after upgrading, I also discovered, that Firefox 45.0 turned to using the Firefox-native toolkit for its main menu, which is slower than the natively formatted main menu in Firefox 44.0.2 and earlier.

For this and then-the earlier issue, I decided to downgrade back to Firefox 44.0.2 from version 45.0. The slow and inefficient main menu became cause not to upgrade any further on my device—except for testing.
Note, that when upgrading or downgrading apps in Android, use the overwrite method when installing; Do not uninstall the existing app version to then install a different version, or this action will forever delete all your user data for the app.

Backround

Thus, it slowly dawned on me, that my phone is showing its age. It's a Samsung Galaxy Mini 2, which model was released four years ago,[as of March 2016] but I got it in late 2013 as a pass-me-down, after it had two nearly grave misadventures with its previous owner.

* The Galaxy Mini 2 has an 800 MHz Snapdragon S1 CPU (specifically, MSM7227A), which is on the lower end of processors built on the ARMv7-A architecture, and uses the ARM Cortex A5 processor core.
* The phone runs Android 2.3.6 "Gingerbread", and won't be upgraded to a newer offical Android version.
* The device has just enough minimum required RAM memory to run Firefox for Android.

This soup of specifications essentially shows what the minimum for running a very modern version of Firefox for Android can be.

That major apps — such as Facebook and games — are not present, is a given. I've also excised other apps that I did not deem necessary anymore: BBC, ERR, Postimees, and a local service provider's player app.

What to do

In Firefox settings, disable telemetry and plugins. The Privacy Settings extension will make it simple to turn off other stuff.

Extensions to speed up Firefox

The following details two extensions that I use in Firefox for Android to have a reasonably passable browsing experience.

NoScript Anywhere.
In my phone, NoScript Anywhere ("NSA") makes browsing with Firefox a usable experience:
NoScript blocks scripts and plugins from running, and users can use the NoScript menu item to create an internal domain-based whitelist of sites which won't work without scripts. With this, NoScript not only blocks scripts, but also advertisements generated by scripts.
Another thing that shows the phone's age, is that the local daily "Postimees" launched a redesign of their mobile experience this month, and now their site redirects to their brand-new mobile site, which, if JavaScript-enabled, updates every ten minutes with AJAX, and that slows down the experience and the phone, and presumably eats away at the battery, too.

The obvious solution was to forbid postimees.ee from running scripts, thus removing it from the allowed sites list. This mangled the design somewhat, but at least the site will display reasonably responsively. Yes, it's a simplistic workaround, but it makes it possible to read news there, even if the site is not functional. The functional part was the possibility to rate comments, but "Postimees" removed the ostensibly anonymous commenting functinality. Most people just don't care to create a burner account on social media, and neither do they care risking their primary social media/e-mail accounts.

Privacy Settings
Another Firefox extension that reduces resource usage, is Privacy Settings. It's available at the Mozilla Add-ons site. With Privacy Settings, it's possible to switch off components that I don't have any need for. There are some settings that I have kept on, as switching all things to 'secure' may break rendering or accessing places like Instagram. While Privacy Settings won't work on older Firefox versions that can still run on Android 2.2 or earlier, or on ARMv6 CPUs, the extension's website has a breakdown of some of the about:config settings that one can modify manually.

I'm also considering the Policy Control extension, as it would reduce resource usage even further, and introduce more fine-grained control over which website can use which resources.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

How to prevent gwx.exe from running

This affects Windows 7, Windows 8.x, and this post is only about the "Get Windows 10" nag message seen in the taskbar notification area.
04.04.2016 Update: Before even of this post, there have been more sophisticated efforts to keep Windows 10 from automatically installing itself on computers with Windows 7 and 8.x. Never10 is the latest effort. Computerworld article here.
  • This post assumes, that the user already knows how to change file permissions and attributes.
  • I wrote it from memory, because I used the below method on someone else's computer that had Windows 7 in it.
I won't vouch, that following the below steps will prevent drive-by installs of Windows 10, but in a computer I worked on, the nagging stopped.

There are also several updates that should be hidden, and which one would be smart not to install. Or, if they're there, to uninstall. Upon returning the computer, I instructed the user only to install critical updates from Windows Update, but not recommended updates.

* As Administrator or a user with admin rights, go to the location where gwx.exe is at;
* Go to its file properties and take ownership of the file. The default owner is TRUSTEDINSTALLER
* After that, change file permissions for all users so, that only you or the administrator can only read it.
* Repeat that with other executables in the same folder.


Writing to the file(s) should thus be forbidden, and also deleting it (them).

You or a designated administrator account should be the only ones who can change the file's attributes. I don't know, if prohibiting file attribute changes also affects changing whether rights to the file can be modified in the future.

In total, this should mean, that the file can't be executed and its attributes can't be changed by other users.

I also remember doing some changes at Windows Scheduler as to whether gwx.exe should run, and I remember disabling some of these items, too.

And then restart the computer. After that, the "Get Windows 10" notification did not appear anymore. #worksforme

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Before there were computers in Estonians' homes

This article concentrates on the availability of writing equipment in people's homes in Estonia before Estonia's reindependence.

Until Estonia regained independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union, after which computers gradually began taking a foothold, most people relied on pen and paper, even in organisations. Everyone (if not most people) didn't even have a typewriter.

During the Soviet era, Latin-lettered typewriters were harder to get than typewriters with Cyrillic characters, and students at universities had to submit their works in Russian (at least major works).

And all photocopiers (Xerox and like machines found only in organisations) had to be accounted for to avoid widespread dissemination of 'dangerous' information.

And then there was Samizdat (lit. 'self-publishing' or 'Self-publishing House'), wherein people would retype and carbon-copy banned literature.

One of my schoolteachers told our class, that when she studied at school/university in the 1970s, then ballpoint pens were very fancy; everyone wanted and had to have at least one, and there were even special ballpoint ink vending places, where people would queue up for refills.

Fountain pens and cheap ink pens were widespread, and these were mostly used in schools by students. Specialized simpler fountain pens were used at school to train penmanship.

Rotary-dial telephones were very widespread well into the 1990s.

Usage share of writing equipment in Soviet Estonia. This is a rough estimate with no numbers, and covers the time period of 1980s – early 1990s. (Estonia regained independence in 1991.) As it was, unauthorised copying of software was rampant.
  1. Pencils. — Well, these were everywhere. KOH-I-NOOR from Hungary was the definitive trademark for a plain "HB" (aka No2) pencil. No Soviet-/Eastern Bloc-manufactured pencil ever had an eraser on it.
  2. Fountain pens (primary school level);
  3. Ballpoint pens;
  4. Cyrillic typewriters (always cheaper);
  5. Latin typewriters — because these were harder to get and more expensive. Possibly because they were mostly manufactured in East Germany (DDR). "Erika" comes to mind.
  6. Electric typewriters. Organisations of certain importance and up. I remember at least two in a specialised cabinet of a children's hospital. Very few people had these at home.
  7. Photocopiers. Organisations only. All had to be accounted for.
  8. Home computers (often DYI, 8-bit). Not particularly cheap. Printers were not sold, AFAIK.
  9. General-purpose and school computers. Only 8-bit, and only in selected (favoured) schools. Prohibitively expensive for home use. The Soviet Agat and Estonian-made Juku come to mind. ELORG (a Soviet export organisation) put a $10,000 price sticker for just one "Agat" in 1984. (Oh wait, stickers were not widespread.)
  10. Even some higher institutions of education and research used 8-bit computers, such as Pravetz (Bulgaria) and Robotron (DDR), but not limited to just these. I remember typing in WordStar 3.2 on a Robotron computer at father's workplace. Dot matrix printers were certainly there.
  11. Anything above 8-bit was certainly found in universities and large organisations of importance, such as ministries.

Friday, January 22, 2016

File attachments in Android 2.3 and GMail


This post is about how to add attachments in GMail in Android 2.3.x from the file system.

Granted, many people are stuck with Android 2.3.x, so the post is specific to that branch of Android.

GMail app

This happened to me with the GMail app version 2.3.6 in Android 2.3.6 on a lower-end Samsung phone.

A few days ago (that was around 17.05.2015) I was trying to send two crash log files of a different app to its developer via Android's GMail app, and for some reason, sending the e-mail didn't work. I don't quite know why, and I lost the e-mail. One attachment was relatively small, and another was around 860 Kb (a bit large in some respects). I haven't investigated this issue online.

A day later, putting attachments in an e-mail in the Android GMail app and seeing that same letter as a draft in GMail on the web did work:
• If you insert attachments first in the GMail app, then do write some text into the message area, which unblocks the save-as-draft button; save the letter as draft and sync.

I haven't investigated how to do that in a browser in GMail, given that the GMail app method worked out for me.