Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 2:50am -- robbt

So, these last two weeks, two phones have captivated the attention of the tech media, and that is two phones built upon open-source software and both attempting to be ground-breaking in terms of their innovation.

Google's MotoX is in some ways very cool but like all things Google also very creepy, the creepy factor is that your phone will always be listening to you, constantly attempting to hear a command, and so they even developed a whole new set of low-power processors that handle this constant surveillance. This also means that your phone will always be listening to you, and most likely piping this information to google and thus whatever government agencies are able to tap into the stream between you and google. So no longer will a wiretap be required but instead your phone is constantly surveilling you. And in Android 4.3 even when you have wifi off, your phone will be waking up periodically to check in with your surroundings and see what wifi hotspots are around so that google can build its location database. These options are of course "optional" but imagine if there was a way to remotely turn this "recording" option on, or a back-door to make it happen without your consent, or if you leave it on, listening to it, well you get the picture. This phone while technically innovative will further the paradigm of privacy being a quaint notion of victorian sensibilities.

The Ubuntu Edge on the other hand, is seeking innovation through cool new hardware that nobody really uses yet. And it is in some ways seeking a market for the Ubuntu phone an attempt at turning the phone into a reality through seeking the confirmation from thousands of geeks around the world that they'd be willing to pool together 23 million dollars to make it happen. It's still stuck at 8.25 million, and was at 8 million something yesterday. So it's very unlikely that it will meet it's goal in time, but who has 700$ to chip in for a super-phone that will also be a computer. Not enough people. There isn't really anything extra creepy about Ubuntu and in some ways a phone that runs a real Linux distribution is kind of cool. The hybrid android/ubuntu feature is still unproven but my guess is that they figure they would figure it out if the $ was their to pay the developers. Canonical has suggested that they would be doing Android stuff for quite some time but it never seems to really work out. Having an actual 4gb machine that fits in your phone is a "cool" idea but until we replace screens with either projectors or headsets or simply neural interfaces it'll be unlikely that a lot of people will embrace the concept.

So what's the point. Do we really need new phones ? More social networks, more means of communicating, and are they really solving any problems anymore or are they simply fueled by technolust that tugs are our imagination to think that this shiny brighter thing is somehow essential as we toss out devices that were at one time the "cutting edge" because they only have a single core that was faster than all of the desktop computers that were out before.

No the real innovation that should be happening is with building ad-hoc secure and private mesh networks to avoid the centralization of surveillance. Projects like https://commotionwireless.net/ are key and they don't "require" new hardware but instead for us to figure out how to use hardware that we already have in smarter ways. We can build a future were more of our actions are surveilled and databased or we can be smart about how we use technology and leverage it to reach out to our neighbors and build smarter communities.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 - 11:07pm -- robbt

This post is basically a summary of knowledge and troubleshooting that might help someone who is attempting something similar in the future.

The HP DV-7 is a pretty big 17 inch laptop, me and my partner bought them a couple of years ago and I just recently upgraded her computer from Ubuntu 10.04 to 12.04 Precise Pangolin LTS and there were a few fixes that make it work properly.

The first is the graphic driver, you pretty much are forced to use the proprietary ATI Catalyst drivers with this laptop, otherwise it will overheat. This is because the primary fan of the laptop is tied to the graphic driver in the chipset and the open-source drivers aren't able to properly accomodate this. So while it might work with the open-source drivers you will soon finder your laptop battery being used more as a heat-source than a laptop. Also AMD/ATI has recently released new drivers that appear to work better than some in the past. This laptop although from 2010 's chipset is considered legacy. Here is the link to the instructions for how

http://wiki.cchtml.com/index.php/Ubuntu_Precise_Installation_Guide

You will want to do the manual method and using the following latest (as of 2-6-2013) driver. It works unlike the one included in Ubuntu at the moment.

Here is a link to the driver itself - [http://www2.ati.com/drivers/legacy/amd-driver-installer-catalyst-13.1-legacy-linux-x86.x86_64.zip]

Next you will notice something very annoying. Right click doesn't work. The touchpad is essentially a single click everywhere. This hasn't been fixed by Ubuntu yet but some people on the forum figured it out and came up with some instructions and a dkms file to patch the kernel to get things working. You can ignore the fact that the latest kernel is 3.2.35 the 3.2.30 patch worked just fine and made the touchpad functional. [http://ubuntuforums.org/showpost.php?s=fa01ca44d1c40f14f48a60b85fcd2fc2&p=12246443&postcount=124]

You will have to register for an account to download it but follow the instructions and your touchpad will be functional.

The rest of the laptop worked pretty well with 12.04, the broadcom wireless chipset was detected and didn't have any issues. Although you will have to add it via additional drivers if you are just installing.

The one feature that didn't work was suspend. The computer wouldn't turn back on when you suspended it and hibernate was grayed out and not available. It turns out that hibernate worked and there is another simple fix to get this working.

Paul wrote up this little tutorial [http://www.pauljoyceuk.com/codex/2012/howto-make-ubuntu-12-04-hibernate-successfully/] If you follow it your computer will successfully hibernate. You will also probably want to change the settings under Power to hibernate vs. suspend when you close your lid so that your computer doesn't constantly go into suspend without awaking. There might be a way of getting suspend to work. Hibernate is superior anyways. Update - While Hibernate worked initially it started to immediately come out of hibernate after entering the state thus not functioning. Will look into resolving this and post any fix found on here.

Now the fingerprint reader didn't work in Ubuntu and the laptop is still pretty heavy on the fan and heat generation compared to running Windows 7 that comes with it but everything else seems to work adequately enough.

The only other suggestion I'd make is that if you find Unity to be too laggy you try Cinnamon, you don't need to mess around with Mint to run cinnamon you can install it via the instructions on this PPA. [http://www.noobslab.com/2012/12/cinnamon-167-has-been-released-for.html]

Hope this is helpful if you stumble across this blog while searching for answers.

Monday, February 4, 2013 - 3:43pm -- robbt

So I've been using Drupal for at least 9 years now and I remember before Distributions even existed, where Drupal was in its core essentially a blogging profile. But this was back around the time of 4.5 to 4.7. Since then it has evolved into a very complex ecosystem of software modules that enable a site-builder to deploy an intensely powerful and complex website without even so much as touching PHP code. This has it's benefits but it also has a lot of significant drawbacks in terms of someone looking to set-up a simple blog based website. In this regard Wordpress has stayed ahead of Drupal and been much more widely used by people seeking to set-up a blog without all of the bells and whistles and complexity that Drupal can become in the hands of a novice. Think of the car that Homer designed in the Simpsons. Mainly it can create websites that are very busy, very heavy and very hard to maintain.

I like to peruse the Distributions list when installing a new site, mainly because I haven't found one that entirely fits the bill and it is probably the easiest way to leverage the work of another human towards accomplishing a goal. There are a lot of very interesting projects that people are working on but many of them are too heavy for my VPS. While installing Drupal Commons I crashed the database server twice and ran out of memory on my php script. I'm sure it's great but for the purposes of building a simple website its overkill.

Enter into the picture Open Blog. A project that aims to create a minimal drupal distribution for blogging. That is the software that I'm utilizing to develop this site and so far the experience has been pretty good. I obviously haven't really used it enough to figure out any clinks but I wanted to write about it just the same.

Installation The installation process wasn't too complex I ended up using Drush for the first time to install a site but I still had to download the tar ball off of drupal.org and expand it. So as far as I can tell it simply provided me with a command to avoid the install.php script. For a complete novice to drupal and web hosting the instructions would probably be pretty confusing. But with 6 registered sites using it this distribution evidently hasn't received a lot of attention yet.

Pros Open Blog provides a clean interface based upon a sub-theme of Omega. This theme is a pretty good basis for a drupal site based upon my knowledge. It integrates also @font-you-face and a number of other modules that are pretty useful.

The choice of modules and the creation of a single content type by default are pretty right on as far as blogging goes. When you start a blog the last thing you want to have to do is choose between various content types that mean the same thing. This avoids the dilemma of needing to make such choices as do I want to post a article or a blog...? That often plague someone building a website without clear direction.

The module selection seems somewhat appropriate with a number of features such as the Markdown input filter that I haven't had a chance to test. The honeypot is a potentially useful feature because Drupal sites are often plagued by spambots attempting to market knock off boots and other accessories. Whether it works as advertised or if as a result of the hoards of spambots attempting to breed like maggots I'll need to keep accounts closed remains to be seen.

Cons There are no real cons that I've seen so far. It seems like a pretty straightforward Blogging platform. I guess if I wasn't familiar with Drupal I might of been a little perturbed by the emptiness of it to begin with. I received an error that one of the sidebars didn't exist after installation and thus navigation and menu and the like were not placed anywhere in the blocks menu. This is probably a simple bug that could be fixed. Otherwise it appears to be a good starting point for a blog beyond simply Drupal core and without a lot of the memory intensity that goes along with distributions that incorporate panels and other wysiwyg to the nth degree features that make Drupal easy to build complexity but often times cause performance issues. Also I've noticed that blogs aren't published by default which seems a little odd, but I know enough Drupal to get past it. I'll continue to add on to this review as I get more involved with this site.

Monday, February 4, 2013 - 2:13pm -- admin

Hello, For some reason or another you find yourself here, most likely staring at a device capable of generating miniscule variations on light that your brain is capable of transforming into symbolic text and inferring a meaning to. That is unless you are a semi-sentient spam bot seeking to service the whims of your programmer or some far off future lifeform digesting this in a format outside of the technosphere internet. Regardless as you can tell my verbiage tends to be convoluted and self-referrential. This might or might not be your style but if you enjoy this kind of writing feel free to read on.

This current manifestation of this site is probably the 10th incarnation of Freevolt.org, every time up until this point I have abandoned my efforts thwarted by a list of factors I will save for a future blog post. The point is that I've often times attempted to develop this site from an idea into a functioning publishing point and I have failed. So instead of pretending that this will be succesful (whatever that means). I'd rather just use it as a place to dump text from my brain at the moment and hope that enough of it begins to contextualize itself to make it a place I'd like to return too. I certainly have enough thoughts and I find the various social medium platforms to have a number of faults that make them less than desireable.

Now let me get back to actually talking about this site in a way that attempts to provide you with some kind of understanding of my intentions as a creator of meaning. I originally conceived of Freevolt as a response to the 2004 election of George W. Bush, it was a concation of Freedom and Revolt with a number of synergistic elements that also connected it with free software, diy hacking, electronics and the like. At some point it was expanded to be inclusive of any attempt at free anything. This was tied to a political philosophy of revolt through living for free, that is an attempt to divorce ones self from the capitalist mechanism of consumer culture and live ones life without the usage of money and what not. This was combined with the notion that if everyone were to simply engage in this level of revolt it would be on par with a general strike and end up transforming society as people managed to find new ways to live. While this philosophy served me well as a psychological response to the sense of doom and failure that surrounded the activist mileu after the war-time president was re-elected in the midst of cries of voter fraud and certainly voter suppression. This site never manifested itself and the spirit of Freevolt as it was conceived then never manifested. The point of sharing this information is to release it, to attempt to escape from the past by telling it, especially when this is such a personal story. Plus this being the internet, me being a psuedo-anonymous author and you reading this luckily have no obligation to delve any deeper except for your curiousity.

Fast forward 8 years into the future. The world has changed and it has staid the same. The economic collapse that those of us against the consumer culture imagined might come arrived in 2008. Now 2012 has passed, the alleged point of new-age singularity and transformation. It is 2013, we are still alive, our planet is still being trashed and we have to ask ourselves what we are going to do about it.

So let me expand more upon the specific topics and reasoning for covering them, please excuse my verbosity I have spent the last month or so filling my brain with lectures with coursera.

Technology - the central theme of this site, technology is something often misunderstood, considered implicity tied to consumerism and gadgets, or associated entirely with machines, computers and a rationalistic humanistic view of the world as if we were all simply systems. But honestly technology is so much more than any of these things and we humans have adopted technology for years from the time that we taught each other how to skin dead animals with stones and transform them into drums to the latest ipad manufactured by ginormous factories of underpaid workers. The technology itself is simply about sharing instructions, plans and leveraging our interaction with each other and the material world through our mind. Technology is a tool used widely by those who seek to control others but it also can serve the purposes of connecting those who fight against control. The watchers can be watched and we as individuals can learn from each other how to do many things that if we were isolated would be next to impossible to figure out. Namely technology in the format of open-source, DiY electronics, seed sharing, cooperatives and the like are the focus of this blog. The sharing of information, ideas, recipes and gathering feedback for what works and what doesn't. These are all part of the human experience, the practical application of how-to and why, science and engineering liberated from the hands of specialists controlled by kings and corporations. We either learn how to use the tools or the tools will be used against us.

Energy - this is a multi-faceted concept as well, in the words of technocrats it refers to simply the material resources we can use with our machines to produce work and/or heat ala coal, gas, oil, and renewables. Namely energy is the tool that we humans use to power our technology, and at the moment we are using a lot of it from unrenewable resources and producing a lot of devastation to our environment because of it. Any user of technology that doesn't connect the dots between their energy usage and their technology usage and it's potential impact upon the rest of the world and pretends that technology as it is currently deployed is simply beneficial is hiding from the facts. That is simply one aspect of energy though. The other aspect is human energy, we as humans have energy, we produce it, it can be a form of subtle bio-electricity or simply a positive mood. We also have bad moods, bad energy, and even if it exists simply as a social concept it is impossible to ignore. We transmit and receive information in the form of energy. Often times this energy is called love when it is warm, inviting and connecting. How does this energy exist and what does it mean, I plan to explore this and share resources with others exploring this concept in this very blog.

Freedom - and here's the kicker, a word that has been abused, rebranded and transformed into a branding for a country that likes to "export" it in the form of a consumer culture ala McDonalds. But this isn't the freedom that I refer to, no freedom is an important concept because it underlies our individuality and ability to connect with others. It is the pivotal point of inference for whether or our energy or technology is beneficial or destructive. What do I mean ? I mean the freedom to exist, to connect, to love, to do countless things that many times others attempt to strip from others. Governments attempt to control their citizens, corporations attempt to influence and market to individuals to trick them into taking actions that aren't necessarily in the best interests of the consumers. Just to name a couple of instances. But even then freedom is a very vague and hard to quantify word, but for the purposes of this blog I am interested in it as a means of providing true choices, knowledge, understanding and respecting the individuals wishes. Freedom as a contrast towards slavery, knowing that we all exist in various shades of grey in this regard. There is no true freedom in absence of relations towards others and to some degrees many of our relationships that we might label coercive are voluntary to one degree or another. The concept of slavery when applied towards wages and labeled wage-slavery isn't the same as the slavery of individuals as property but not far off in some instances. But at the same to be hyperbolic we often feel that many of our actions are driven by external obligations, debts and social controls that make it so that we don't feel a true sense of freedom behind our actions. We do things not because we "want" to but because we "need" to. I think that my writing in this short explanation has gotten relatively convoluted and I am feeling hungry and my desire to consume items to make energy for my brain is overriding my desire to touch plastic keys to transform and transmit information to the interwebs.

TL:DR summary

This blog is about technology, energy and freedom and will be a place for me to share ideas, plans, howtos and more for the purpose of helping us all facilitate a more sustainable, liberatory, compassionate world.

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