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The Conversation: Technical Support

Posted in 104, bad ideas, cloud, cloud computing, mobile, n900, nokia, randomness, ranting, smartphones, technology, wireless on December 15th, 2010 by Hannibal Tabu
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Previously on The Conversation …

What’s happening this time? On my way to some technical solutions, Jere and I chat about … well, you’ll see …

HT: Wait one second with that Iomega drive. “The first year of remote access is free – and it’s only $9.95 per year after. Custom domain names, such as www.yourfamilyname.com, are also available for additional charges. Remote access services are provided by TZO, the trusted name in Dynamic DNS Services.”
HT: I think I’m calling shenanigans on that
JK: blech.
HT: Pogoplug doesn’t try to tack on an extra fee. This is the same basic problem. That price point keeps sticking it to me one way or another …
JK: might check out this.
HT: I looked hard at the 2TB
HT: I was worried about heat
HT: I considered this but I was worried about a big heat-generating box in the closed closet of the baby’s room. Or worse, on the bookshelf.
JK: the other thing, is the airport extreme can share hard drives over the internet too
HT: … go on …
JK: well, it’s expensive though
JK: but theoretically, i could put a hard drive on my Airport Extreme and share over the internet
JK: I could even just put up a test drive for you to play with if you want
HT: “theoretically?”
JK: haven’t done it since I’ve got a small pipe
HT: Lemme walk through this, just so I understand.
JK: Apple Hard Drive Sharing
JK: says something about mobile me
HT: I’m out
JK: checking my config now
JK: yeah, i think i can do that without mobileme
JK: just share disk over wan
HT: So, lemme grok this, lemme walk through it for my own clarity.
HT: Take any USB2 HD, plug into airport extreme. Do some internet magic with just typing. Get in car. Drive to work. Type in address. Browse MP3s and video files on said USB2 HD at home. Is that right?
JK: yup
HT: No memberships, no other companies involved?
JK: let me see if I can prove it works
HT: Please do
HT: One port — I’d have to get a USB hub on that bad boy. Probably a powered one …
JK: brb
HT: K

Insert whole lot of technical babble and server madness trying to get it to work, but failing … look, you’d prefer I cut that part, it was boring even to us

JK: gotta use cifs to mount the network drive
JK: anyway, once you do that, should work
HT: I don’t understand what you just typed
JK: must do hyper ninja linux stuff on N900 to make it see a networked drive
HT: ooh
JK: now, for read only access to stuff, if you just wanted to *publish* your hard drive on the internet, you just need to run apache on a box at home, setup a directory to serve up, put some security on it, and port forward to it
HT: wait, what?
HT: I have to have a real computer running Apache, all the time?
JK: that’s the simplest thing to do if you just want read only
HT: That’s the *simplest* thing?
HT: *Hannibal goes back to pogoplug intellectually*
HT: Also, this made me furious
HT: right philosophy, no real roadmap
JK: anyway, yeah, that’s the *simplest* – run yourself some standard software, and don’t get complicated with different accounts on different services
HT: Okay, how about this: one machine. I’m willing to go up to (for argument’s sake) $300 in cost. I plug it in. I type some stuff into an interface that doesn’t require a command line. It shows up on the internet. I load stuff — even if it’s just at home, cabled up — to this machine, and that stuff appears on the internet. Does such a magical unicorn exist?
HT: Either it has a hard drive or I can connect hard drives to it
HT: No third parties, no wackiness. A pipe dream?
JK: well, you have to put a step in there for “computer geek comes over and configures it for me”
JK: but otherwise, sure
HT: That’s not what I want.
HT: I want to have maybe ten minutes between “open the box” and “browse files on my phone” without anybody else being involved.
JK: yeah, quickest way for that is to find some ISP that will let you upload all your shit to their servers
HT: I don’t want the machine to be outside of my house.
JK: well, your magical unicorn doesn’t exist
HT: *Hannibal bursts into tears*
HT: DAMN YOU, BEAUTIFUL UNICORN! WHY DO YOU DENY ME???
JK: but now I know what to get you for your birthday :)
HT: If you say “something I won’t use,” I’ll scream bloody murder.
HT: If you’re looking for a birthday plan, maybe you can solve an *older* tech problem I’ve been pondering.
HT: I have all the music I listen to regularly on a handheld device. N900, iPod, whatever. I’m used to the controls, I have my playlists, I like it.
HT: Is there something I can get to send a signal to a receiver — not put the files somewhere else — so I can hear the music from a stereo?
HT: or will this glorious unicorn deny me as well?
JK: I believe that’s called an Airport Express with Airtunes
JK: in fact, I do believe I have a spare Airport Express somewhere
HT: lemme read here …
HT: “AirTunes takes the music from the iTunes library on your computer”
HT: That’s not right
HT: “If you have an iPhone or iPod touch, you can use it to control your iTunes library from any room in your home.”
JK: well, iTunes on your iphone, iPod Touch, or iPad, or Mac, and *WHAM*, unicorn appears and plays to your stereo
HT: That’s not right at all.
HT: It says that a computer iTunes needs to be involved
HT: That’s completely wrong.
JK: well, so it’s a unicorn with a blemish or two, but still, magical unicorn!
HT: That’s a donkey with a paper towel spool taped to its head!
JK: but it’s a nice paper towel spool!
HT: I DON’T WANT A PAPER TOWEL SPOOL!
HT: *Hannibal bursts into tears*
JK: :)

Watching (Hulu): 30 Rock, “College”

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An Announcement for Bastille Day 2010

Posted in 104, awesomeness, buy pile, comics, effectiveness, freedom, inspiration, mobile, n900, phones, science, smartphones, technology, wireless on July 14th, 2010 by Hannibal Tabu
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I’ve got something to tell you. Parts of it will be sprinkled all along this blog, but the stuff that may get people really talking about might be at the end. Just FYI.

For the last two years, I’ve had something on my mind that I want to share, and the date I pick is normally around the holiday known in some parts of the world as Bastille Day. The funny part is that I don’t even celebrate Bastille Day.

I’ve made no secret of my belief that Great Britain is probably the most vile nation to ever wipe its poo-caked hands across the earth, largely through their colonial sequel. There’s plenty of reasons to hate the French — ask the people of Senegal or Cote d’Ivoire, let alone any World War 2 enthusiast — but I don’t have any particular antipathy towards them over and above my general distaste for Earths imperial nations.

Still, the whole “storming the Bastille” idea always spoke to me, kind of like Guy Fawkes Day. Whether you win or not really isn’t the issue — you want your kids and their kids and their kids’ kids to know you didn’t bend over, relax your muscles and take it willingly. For years, my brain always perked up around July 14th or November 5th, like I should be doing more to try to take over the world.

So, when I was planning to launch the first version of The Hundred and Four, I chose Bastille Day because it was near SDCC (when lots of people would be reading my reviews column at CBR) and because I’d been working on it for a few months.

Not enough months by any stretch of the imagination, because within a year my ambitious little “online literary symposium and journal” fell to disrepair and neglect. Four grown men just couldn’t find the time, and that’s fine.

My second Bastille Day was a much less ambitious project — do a blog about stuff that wasn’t me. That didn’t seem so hard — most things aren’t me. I reviewed smartphones, I blathered about music and movies, I generally had a blast. However, in the end, the issues of syndication and dividing the very limited attention of whoever is willing to read my work seemed to make it a needless appendage, like a seventh toe. I’ve often used “simplify” as a motto, so I rolled the “brand” of the Hundred and Four into my main blog (as you see from the header above) and left the website as a random digital playpen for my own amusement that’s not seen by most of mankind.

I’m always working on a ton of projects. I have something in the works I’d have loved to make my Bastille Day announcement this year (as it did feel like something should happen), but the ink hasn’t even hit the paper, let alone had time to dry. There’s other things in the hamper — I’m also three quarters of the way done with my third novel, I’m reading poetry at the Fifth Annual Power of Art celebration, August 14th at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center (better announcement to come). There’s a million things that happen every day as a father and a husband that I could crow about, amazing accomplishments my wife or my daughters make.

Today, however, is something else.

Anyone who’s read my rantings regularly over the past year or two knows that I am superbly interested in mobile computing. I’ve spent a lot of mental energy (and actually a lot of money, when you look at my smartphone budget for 2010 alone) getting into the idea of the mobile experience. I’ve said often “apps are traps” and I don’t wanna spend the majority of my focus working on one platform (iOS, Android, Symbian, WebOS, et cetera) only to ignore the rest — the marketplace is too big for that. I like “thin clients” — mobile enabled websites that work just as well on virtually any web-enabled phone in the world.

So I built one.

The Operative Network: Mobile Edition

Coming at you through your smartphone now ...

With great pride and humility, I present to you The Mobile Edition of The Operative Network, which should work on anything from a Palm Treo or old-model Blackberry to the most powerful phones on the market. You can use the number keys on your phone to navigate. You can get a sampling of what you’d find on the “big” website (I hesitate to call it the “real” website, because the mobile site isn’t “fake” … stupid English language, another thing you can pin on Great Britain and their “the sun never sets on the British Empire” shtick), including poetry, fiction, my resume and even some mobile-exclusive stuff.

Remember what I said about stuff that might get people talking? Here we go.

In the blog section, not only can you get my world-watching “what fascinates me” linkroll (updated infrequently and incessantly, depending on when you look), but you can see the first 2,000 characters of the latest blog posted right here. Why not just do the whole thing? Couldn’t find an RSS reader that would work, or an easier way to syndicate to mobile. That could change.

Anyway, aside from all that, the crown jewel is the Tumblr-powered “Greatest Hits” page, which will spotlight/syndicate the best of all the areas of my interests — linkroll, Twitter (when I get back to it … oh, you didn’t know? I took ), blog … and it’ll feature “as-they-happen” sneak previews of my Buy Pile column. Between the hours of 5:30PM-9PM on Wednesdays, I’ll post quickie comments about how the comics are going, what looks likely, what looks terrible, what zaniness is happening in the shop like the epic Namor McKenzie vs. Comics Ink case, which remains some of the finest comics scholarship I’ve ever seen) and so on. That will not happen anywhere else. The “Greatest Hits” is a different experience than the Soapbox (“Didn’t you try that with the Hundred and Four and it didn’t work?” “Shut up, this is different, this time the Soapbox will help feed it … stop interrupting me!”) that will be exclusive to mobile visitors.

Why am I doing this? Well, I wanna start this as … hang on, almost let the cat out of the bag. Too soon. Suffice it to say, I’d like this to be a vanguard for more content from me, proliferated in more ways. I’ll take stuff from my Fictionaut page and repackage it there (particularly The Messenger). More poetry. More … Hannibal. I think that’s a good thing.

As with all things, your mileage may vary.

So that’s the news for this Bastille Day — Hannibal launched a mobile site. Thanks for reading and riding this far with me.

Playing (Music): “I’m Feeling Myself” by Nipsey Hu$$le feat. Lloyd

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Technophilia: Libox Blurs The Lines

Posted in 104, awesomeness, cloud, cloud computing, computers, mobile, movies, music, n900, technology, wireless on June 23rd, 2010 by Hannibal Tabu
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I think I’ve accidentally developed a super power …

First, some background: on Tuesday, I was at a business meeting in Oakland. For reasons that are less than important right now, I was asked something like, “what kind of mobile app would I come up with if I had unlimited resources and unlimited control?”

Now, I’d woken up at 4:45 to make my 7AM flight to Oakland. I’d fallen asleep around 1ish. I was frazzled by the deodorized claustrophobia of airport security, I was uncomfortable at a conference room table where every seat would have my back to the door, and I was anxious without any signal to my phone (the place was like an underground bunker) or connectivity for my laptop (which was intentional on the meeting organizer’s part). Suffice it to say, sleepy and disconnected, I was not at my best.

In any case, I let my brain go and I thought about stuff I need. MP3s on my huge hard drive at home that I don’t carry on my iPod or my phone. Photos on my phone that I want to save on my MacBook Pro (the one sitting on the awesome new desk my wife got me for Father’s Day). I envisioned a “media and indexing manager” as I wrote, one where I could have a complete list of all my photos, videos, MP3s and so on, being able to view everything via a secure connection solely existing on my machines (not via a web interface).

Wednesday, I showed up at work, bleary eyed and sleep deprived, another chafing button shirt embracing my form as I sat under brash lights (as I’ve aged, I’ve realized I hate most lights from over my head, preferring lamps and lighting fixtures at eye level or below) and saw this link pop up in my Google Reader feed (yes, I recognize that Google is becoming more evil every day, but I can’t resist the usability of their core business, which is search and information aggregation — everything else they need to back away from). To whit …

A smart way to organize media files launched yesterday; Libox, a portmanteau of library and inbox, is a free, all-in-one media storage solution that allows users to sync, share and access files like music, photos, or videos on any computer or smartphone with or without the Internet.

Note that they’re not talking about cloud computing. They’re not saying “trust your material to some server you don’t own and can’t control.” It says “use your machines, your connection, your files, your way.”

In the immortal words of Keanu, “Whoa.” Installation started Wednesday, but the week’s busy (as is this weekend), so I’ll update when I can.

UPDATE: The apps for mobile devices aren’t done yet. Predictably, they’re working on iOS and Android first. Maemo? Unlikely, but if they create a Linux version, I should be able to use my Debian install to join the party. Wow, I’ve become a huge AV Club-style geek since 2003. Now back to the regularly scheduled blog …

This kind of determinist prescience has happened to me before. When I was looking for a replacement for my beloved Treo 680, I dreamed up the things I needed and looked around fruitlessly before my homeboy Jamie Fishback dropped a bug in my ear that sent me researching the N900, which I now love unabashedly. It was like I literally dreamed this smartphone up and it sent a message back in time to Finland, giving them the specs for the project.

My newfound super power seems limited to technology, so I have to figure out how to dream up an app that’ll legally deposit a billion dollars into my bank account all at once, right before the compound interest hits at the end of the year, every year, then withdraw it all again after the new money hits. Or maybe I’ll envision an app that can predict lottery numbers for Black guys wearing glasses who use N900s and happen to have two daughters and a smoking hot wife.

I’ll also keep looking forward to make the future more interesting for us all. As I had one of my characters say, my goal is to make science fiction seem quaint and antiquated.

Playing (Music): “The Opposite of Adults” by Chitty Bang

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