September 11, 2017 brianradio2016

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This story, “44% off Anker SoundBuds Bluetooth and Sweatproof Sport Headphones – Deal Alert” was originally published by TechConnect.

September 11, 2017 brianradio2016

About four years ago (Nov 2013) I bought a used, refurbished Lenovo T400 laptop computer and docking station. It was already about four years old at that time (most of the original product announcements and hands-on reviews I can find are from 2009), and another four years have gone by now, so I think it would be useful to have another look at it and see how it is holding up.

First, a quick review of the hardware:

  • Core2 Duo P8400 2.26GHz CPU
  • 4GB memory
  • 160GB disk
  • Wired Gigabit and wireless AGN networking
  • Bluetooth
  • DVD RW drive
  • Docking station: 4 USB ports, DVI & VGA video

I originally installed the following Linux distributions:

  • openSUSE 12.3
  • Fedora 19
  • Debian 7.0
  • Linux Mint 15
  • Ubuntu 13.0

Those who are familiar with Linux will probably chuckle over some of those versions. They seem so old now. Most if not all of those could be updated to their current release, but I am interested in seeing how the latest installers work on it, so I am simply going to start over and install each of those and more from scratch.

Just a quick reminder — this is a Legacy Boot (MBR) system with DOS (not GPT) disk partitioning.

I am going to start with openSUSE Leap 42.3, on the assumption that if you were still trying to use a laptop as old as this, your primary interest would be stability, and you can’t get more stable than openSUSE Leap. I could choose one of the lightweight desktops for this older system, but I want to see how it holds up if I make a completely ‘normal’ installation, so I will try KDE Plasma first.



openSUSE leap 42.3 KDE Plasma / Lenovo Thinkpad T400

Image: J.A. Watson

The entire Leap installation process took less than 20 minutes, from the time that I booted the USB stick to the time that it rebooted to the installed system. I accepted the defaults in all of the installation screens; the only things I actually had to choose were the keyboard layout (because mine isn’t US Ascii), and my user account information.



The installed system works perfectly. A quick check of the hardware looks like almost everything is working — with the exception of Bluetooth. I’m not sure what the problem there might be, it just says that Bluetooth is “disabled”, but it won’t let me enable it. I’m going to keep an eye on this and check it with the other distributions before getting too involved in it.

The built-in display came up at the correct resolution (1280X800), and when I put the T400 on the docking station and connected an external DVI display, it was automatically recognized and configured at its maximum resolution (1920×1080), and the two displays were laid out as an extended desktop.

Next up is Fedora 26 Workstation. Fedora is pretty much the ‘flagship’ for Gnome 3, so I will install that version.

Again, the installation worked perfectly, and this time took less than 15 minutes to complete. Rebooting to the installed system brought up the standard Fedora Gnome 3 desktop:



Fedora 26 Gnome 3 / Lenovo Thinkpad T400

Image: J.A. Watson

I am impressed by the response of this old laptop, especially with these first two rather heavy-duty desktops. Boot time is a bit slow, of course, but once it is up and running everything seems quite normal and comfortable, applications and utilities launch quickly, and running programs are very snappy.



Again, a quick check of the hardware showed that everything seemed to be working properly. In fact, after booting with the laptop in the docking station, but with the external display not connected, when I then plugged in the display Fedora recognized it, and added it as an extended desktop without any fuss — and without a reboot.



This time Bluetooth came up with no problem, and I was able to connect a Logitech V470 Bluetooth Laser Travel Mouse. This leads me to believe that the problem with openSUSE Leap is just that it is using a much older Linux kernel (4.4.84 vs. 4.12.9). In further investigating this, I did find another small problem — my newer Logitech m590 and m720 mice do not show up in the Bluetooth device selection dialog. This is a hardware problem, though, not a software/driver issue, because the newer mice are Bluetooth 4.x devices, and this very old laptop isn’t compatible with that new Bluetooth standard.

The next installation is Debian GNU/Linux 9.0 (stretch). Debian also uses Gnome 3 by default, but it would be pretty boring to do the same as I did with Fedora. So I will take this opportunity to install the MATE desktop.



Debian GNU/Linux 9.1 (stretch) / Lenovo Thinkpad T400

Image: J.A. Watson

Installation was easy and uneventful, as usual. I simply selected MATE rather than Gnome in the software packages section. Because I was using the Debian net install ISO, it had to download all of the necessary packages for installation. The installation took about 30 minutes because of the download time, but the advantage of this is that once the installation is complete, you already have the latest version of everything so there is no need to run updates right away.

I absent-mindedly performed this installation with the Thinkpad still in the dock, and the external monitor connected. That didn’t cause any problem with the installation, the dialog still ran on the laptop display normally, and when I booted the installed system it identified and configured the external display automatically.

The one thing that wasn’t working after rebooting was wireless networking. Wired worked normally, of course, but no wireless networks were detected. Because this Thinkpad uses an Intel Wi-Fi adapter which requires a non-FOSS driver, and Debian is quite strict about FOSS software, after the installation was complete I had to add the “non-free” repositories to the apt sources.list file, and then I had to install the iwlwifi firmware package. Once that was done the wireless networking worked normally.

My current favorite distribution, Manjaro, just came out with a new roll-up release, so I will install that next. Manjaro offers both Xfce and KDE versions, but they seem to favor Xfce, and I already have KDE installed with openSUSE, so Xfce it is.



Manjaro 17.0.3 Xfce / Lenovo Thinkpad T400

Image: J.A. Watson

How boring is it for me to say “installation worked with no problem”, followed by “after booting to the installed system, everything appears to work”, including Bluetooth and multiple displays using the docking station.



I noticed one curious thing with this installation. When I connected the external display (while the system was running, of course), it was recognized and configured — but as a mirror of the laptop display, rather than as an extended desktop.

This wasn’t difficult to change, of course. I just went into the Display utility and un-checked the Mirror displays box. When the displays were changed to an extended desktop, it had different wallpaper for each of them as well.

Whoops, I can’t forget everyone else’s favorite, Linux Mint 18.2. Mint has two of their own desktop versions to choose from — Cinnamon and MATE. The ‘preferred’ desktop is Cinnamon, so I will install it now.

Ho-hum once again — installation was fast and simple, taking only about 10 minutes.



Linux Mint 18.2 Cinnamon / Lenovo Thinkpad T400

Image: J.A. Watson

This time I remembered to remove the T400 from the dock before installing, so I initially had only the built-in display and ports. I then put it into the dock, still powered up and running, and all of the new hardware was recognized and configured automatically.



The external monitor came up at its highest resolution, and configured with an extended desktop across the two monitors.



Bluetooth works just fine again. Cinnamon has its own Bluetooth control applet, so it looks different than the others I have shown above. The result is the same, though — the Logitech Bluetooth travel Mouse connected and works nicely.

I could go on with this exercise, and install a variety of other Linux distributions, but I think the bottom line is clear by now. This is an eight-plus year old notebook computer which has basically been abandoned by Windows, but I can install pretty much any current Linux release with very little effort.

The performance when running these Linux distribution is quite good, too. I still have Windows 7 running on it (there was never a Windows 8/8.1/10 for it), and using it with Linux is much faster and more comfortable than with Windows 7.

Of course salvaging old computers is not the only thing Linux is good at, but it is one of the many things that it does very, very well.

September 11, 2017 brianradio2016

Elasticsearch is an open source, cross-platform, highly scalable distributed search and analytics engine based on Apache Lucene. Lucene is a popular Java-based, full-text search engine that can be used to query large sets of data efficiently. In this article, we’ll discuss the capabilities of Elasticsearch and how we can work with it in .Net using the popular .Net client for Elasticsearch called NEST. 

Elasticsearch gives you web-friendly REST APIs that exchange data in JSON format. Thus you can take advantage of Elasticsearch from your .Net application to store, search, and analyze large volumes of data in real time. Because Elasticsearch is customizable, you can use it to build our own custom search engine quite easily. There are plenty of plug-ins available to help you do this.

Unlike relational databases, Elasticsearch doesn’t store data in separate tables, but as JSON documents. Elasticsearch provides a query language called Query DSL that enables you to build and execute custom queries easily. Elasticsearch will perform better than your traditional relational database if you have a huge amount of data that must be searchable.

Elasticsearch basics

In this section we will examine the basic concepts related to Elasticsearch that will help us to get acquainted with Elasticsearch quickly. These include clusters, nodes, index, shards, and replicas.

September 11, 2017 brianradio2016

Is Microsoft “the only [company] doing serious innovating with Linux?” That’s Jessie Frazelle’s contention. Frazelle, who rose to prominence in the developer community with Docker and later Google Cloud, made the bold claim to justify her departure to Microsoft. On its face it seems silly, an over-exuberant claim to justify a career move.

And yet it does suggest a very possible future where Microsoft doesn’t merely accept a peaceful coexistence with Linux, but instead enthusiastically embraces it as a key to its future.

No, I’m not talking about making things like SQL Server run on Linux. That’s table stakes for serving the polyglot reality of enterprise computing. Rather, Microsoft must make a real commitment to Linux, one that has it as an active, visible contributor thereto.

Fortunately, there are signs that this is starting to happen.

September 11, 2017 brianradio2016

Details of Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone have been leaked ahead of Apple’s launch event on Tuesday.

The name of the new phone, confirmed in the leaks as being “iPhone X”, was reported by two news sites that were given access to an alleged unreleased version of the iOS operating system.

The leak was also said to refer to an iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus as the two LCD devices in addition to the 10th anniversary OLED iPhone X — previously thought to be called the iPhone7s, iPhone 7s Plus, and iPhone 8, respectively.

The BBC claims to have confirmed that an anonymous source was behind the leak to Apple-based publications 9to5Mac and MacRumors.

“An anonymous source provided the publications with links to iOS 11’s gold master (GM) code that downloaded the software from Apple’s own computer servers,” the BBC reported.

“Someone within Apple leaked the list of URLs to 9to5Mac and MacRumors. I’m nearly certain this wasn’t a mistake, but rather a deliberate malicious act by a rogue Apple employee,” blogger John Gruber said.

“More surprises were spoiled by this leak than any leak in Apple history,” he added.

Other discoveries in the leak include images of a new Apple Watch and AirPod headphones, a set-up process for Face ID, and the introduction of Animoji — animated emoji characters that reflect the user’s facial expressions.

The so-called iPhone X is expected to feature a higher-resolution OLED display, improved touchscreen technology, and wireless charging. The OLED display looks to be the single most expensive component in the new flagship, reportedly pushing the retail price of the handset to $1,000.

Apple will remove the Touch ID and Home button for the new phone in favour of new gesture controls, according to Bloomberg. The Touch ID sensor may instead be embedded into the display, it said.

Bloomberg added that design changes present in the new iPhone would mean users would have to relearn how to interact with the iPhone.

“With a crisper screen that takes up nearly the entire front, Apple has tested the complete removal of the home button — even a digital one — in favor of new gesture controls for tasks like going to the main app grid and opening multitasking.”

According to OnLeaks, the back features twin cameras in a vertical orientation for better depth sensing for AR; facial recognition and iris scanning; IP68 water resistance; an 18.5:9 aspect ratio display, similar to that found on the Samsung Galaxy S8; and rear glass panel to support wireless charging.

The placement of the physical buttons such as the mute switch, the volume controls, and power button are similar to that of the iPhone 7, said OnLeaks.

A report from The Wall Street Journal last week said that unspecified production glitches pushed back the manufacturing process of Apple’s new flagship by about a month. The report added that should shortfalls last beyond the initial sales period, analysts could lower estimates for the holiday period.

Apple is banking on a strong launch for the iPhone X and expects a solid fourth quarter on the back of strong sales, including revenue of between $49 billion and $52 billion.

Apple will livestream the unveiling event on September 12 from 1pm EST. Also expected to be revealed is an updated Apple TV.

ZDNet will have full coverage of the announcements on the day.

With AAP

September 10, 2017 brianradio2016

The way tech writer Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times sees it, Equifax had “one job”—to protect the mountains of sensitive financial data it has collected on Americans. As news of the recent mammoth breach made clear, the company failed at that one job, and the consequences could…

September 10, 2017 brianradio2016

We have a reasonably good idea of what’s likely to be on show at Apple’s event at its new Apple Park headquarters this week.

Rumours strongly suggest that there will be an iPhone 8 (or maybe X, or 10, or Pro or something else) — a new flagship model with a new look, whatever the branding is.

The home button might relocate on-screen, with Touch ID possibly replaced by facial recognition; wireless charging might finally make its debut; and the handset will come wrapped in a stainless steel and glass body. We’ll likely see a couple of other new iPhones — updated 7s and 7s Plus models — as well.

Apple’s iPhone remains a revenue juggernaut, and the new flagship iPhone will doubtless be huge — even with a rumoured price tag of around a thousand dollars. For one thing, a fair few loyal customers will have been holding onto older handsets for longer than they might otherwise have done, in order to buy the new 10-year-anniversary device when it arrives.

Having said that, the smartphone is now a pretty well-defined device, and it’s hard to add new functions without compromising things like weight and battery life. And given that several of the aforementioned innovations are already available on Android phones, it’s increasingly difficult to foresee Apple pushing the smartphone envelope.

Beyond the iPhone

So while the new flagship iPhone will generate most of the headlines, what’s more interesting to me are some of the other devices and updates that are likely to show up this week.

There have been rumours about an Apple Watch 3 with LTE connectivity, which would allow the device to act far more independently of an iPhone. At first the LTE connectivity would likely be used for data rather than voice calls. But this would still be a significant step towards the Apple Watch becoming a standalone device. Of course, there are plenty of obstacles still to overcome — notably the tiny screen and diminutive battery — but it’s a sign that the smartphone is no longer the only game in town.

Apple’s HomePod might be a completely different device, but the strategy behind it is the same: to move Apple away from its reliance on the smartphone as the only access point to its services. Tech companies have long tried to figure out which device would be the one to control the smart home. Some thought it would be the thermostat, others the smartphone. It turns out that smart speakers may be the answer. Apple is playing catch-up to Amazon and Google here, but again there will be significant demand for Apple’s take on the smart home.

Much is also being made of Apple’s augmented reality offering, ARKit, which will arrive with iOS 11. I’ve tried out a few AR and VR devices, and I remain to be convinced that the smartphone is the best form factor for AR to flourish. Really you’re going to need smart glasses or something similar before it takes off. Again there have been rumours of Apple working on such a project. If that’s still the case, getting AR right will be key.

The iPhone — and smartphones generally — aren’t going anywhere soon. But some of the products that Apple is working on show how it’s positioning itself for a world where the phone is just one device among many.

Previously on Monday Morning Opener:

September 9, 2017 brianradio2016


The Dell Wireless Dock uses Intel’s WiGig technology.

It looks like you can add WiGig wireless docking to Intel’s dustbin (along with IoT products axed earlier this summer), as the company has discontinued existing products using the 802.11ad wireless standard, according to Anandtech.

WiGig was developed several years ago with faster speeds than then-current Wi-Fi standards, but because it relied on the 60GHz channel, its high throughput could only travel over short distances. As a result, it eventually became marketed as a feature for wireless laptop docking stations, and while it received some support from enterprise laptop manufactures like Dell and Lenovo, the technology didn’t make a big dent against standard wired laptop docks.

While Intel had big plans for a cordless desktop environment built on WiGig, the popularity of Bluetooth keyboards and mice meant that the wires that would most likely bother the user could be out of the way. The clutter-free cubicle may have been more of a marketing vision than something that actually impacted workers and their employers — at least enough to plunk down $200+ dollars on something like the Dell Wireless Dock.

The wireless cards and antennas will officially end shipping on December 29, but the technology hasn’t been completely eliminated from Intel’s plans. The chip giant will pivot WiGig towards VR headsets, as its speeds and low latency may find a more suitable niche cutting wires in virtual reality hardware. Intel has already demonstrated WiGig in an HTC Vive headset at Computex a few months ago, and competitors are testing similar wireless technologies on rival headsets.

September 9, 2017 brianradio2016

My Passport Wireless Pro gives photographers and videographers up to 4TB of portable storage to easily offload, edit and stream photos or high-definition videos in the field. Designed to work seamlessly with mobile devices, and an SD card reader built-in, you get an all-in-one drive to streamline your workflow.

If features built with 802.11ac technology, SD 3.0 card reader, and a 10-hour battery life.

Price: From $150 | More information

September 8, 2017 brianradio2016

After exposing the names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and more of 143 million Americans in a massive data breach , Equifax is now facing a potentially billion-dollar class-action lawsuit. USA Today reports a lawsuit was filed against the credit monitoring company Thursday in Oregon on behalf of customers Mary McHill…