Showing posts from August, 2017

Free streaming video apps for non-TV addicts Part 1

In this day and age of digital piracy, exceptional TV shows, fibre broadband, and self-entitled, uneducated Millenials, it's easy to criticize free streaming video services and apps. YouTube, which has recently received a logo and UI facelift and still remains a great resource for educational and entertainment free videos, still has plenty of users who complain about misleading titles and video quality while swearing and making racist and disrespectful comments.

As someone who prefers reading old books from or on my Kobo Glo, or reading 70s comic books on my Kindle Fire HD 8, I hardly spend much time watching TV shows (or even movies). However, having been recently given access to a free and unrestricted Internet after several years working in the Middle Kingdom, I'm beginning to discover just how much free entertainment content is available via streaming apps.

This article uses a Kindle Fire HD 8, a Surface Pro 4, and Moto G4 Plus. Shows and content …

2 months with 2Degrees Data in Auckland Part 2

Continued from 2 months with 2Degrees Data in Auckland Part 1

On the downside, the 2Degrees network seems to be susceptible to Auckland's penchant for sudden thunder showers and drops in temperature.  I arrived in the city in winter, so I noticed that data throughput lapsed in accordance with the brief rainfall that occurs every now and then.

Another curious behaviour of the 2Degrees mobile data service is a fairly regular downtime period roughly around 10 pm every night. I can't confirm if this was a seasonal behaviour, or a result of my address, but every evening, mobile data is inaccessible at a specific time. The signal bar indicates a strong signal, but Internet access is nonexistent, and I'm fairly certain I could make calls and send SMS messages. However, apps will not be able to pull data, and web pages don't load. Service came back early morning however, or even after a few hours.

I quickly found myself spending more dollars for the prepaid data more than I ex…

2 months with 2Degrees Data in Auckland Part 1

Back in the day, you don't really need a mobile number or mobile data when staying in a different city for an extended amount of time. However, since most companies, utilities, schools, and companies now require a local number to identify you, getting a local SIM is pretty much mandatory.

After signing up for the 2Degrees Carryover Combo in Auckland, I immediately tested data access while walking around a fairly limited area in Auckland during the course of my first month. I especially checked data access during time spent in Eden Park, Kingsland, Ponsonby, Mt Albert, City Centre, Britomart, Newmarket, Sandringham, and the airport area.

Note: The 2Degrees data service was tested using a Moto G4 Plus.

The good news is that you actually don't have to enable data on your smartphone to track your location in Google Maps. As long as you enabled offline access in Google Maps for Auckland, most mapping needs are available to you (excluding local transport of course).

In addition, duri…

Tested: Full-screen Mode for Ubuntu Budgie (VirtualBox for macOS)

VirtualBox for macOS has some issues compared with the Windows version of the desktop virtualisation software. However, considering that manufacturers such as Acer and Lenovo have been restricting Linux installation on their products, using VirtualBox on a macOS device can be an option for users who require a running Linux system for minor productive tasks.

This article uses a MacBook Air (2015), Ubuntu Budgie 17.04 64-bit, and VirtualBox 5.1.22 for macOS.

One of the advantages of using Ubuntu with VirtualBox is support for most virtualisation features. In particular, it’s nice to see that Ubuntu Budgie on VirtualBox installed on a MacBook Air can support Full-screen mode.

Although I’m a Fedora 25 user and prefer Debian Jessie and openSUSE 42.x over Ubuntu in most machines, all three have issues with Full-screen mode on VirtualBox for macOS on a MacBook Air. In contrast, Ubuntu Budgie, and other official Ubuntu releases, support full-screen viewing on the MacBook Air perfectly, which …

2 months with Slingshot fibre in Auckland Part 2

Continued from 2 months with Slingshot fibre in Auckland Part 1

As mentioned in Part 1, the ordering process is all done online. However, I made the mistake of setting a specific date for fibre activation. Since I had already moved to the studio, I should have chosen the "As soon as possible" option in the checkout screen of Slingshot's order system, rather than a date two weeks later. I had assumed erroneously that they would still need to send an onsite technician to get clearance from the building manager, or enable the telco switch in the building cabinet to get fibre. As it turned out, I wasted 2 weeks and suffered needlessly, since all Slingshot needed to do was open up the lines for the service remotely.

Since I wasn't informed of any onsite tech visit, I called Slingshot's customer service on the scheduled day. The helpful gentleman who took the call quickly told me I didn't need to do anything other than power on the fibre ONU and connect the router …

2 months with Slingshot fibre in Auckland Part 1

As with most countries, the broadband and fibre network in Auckland and New Zealand are dominated by large telecommunication network companies. Just as in the US, where companies such as AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast have a hold on the infrastructure on which Internet services are built on, Auckland has the powerful Spark and Vodafone dotting the streets with their broadband ads and free Wi-Fi services.

However, as with most cities, there are smaller companies that resell fibre and network services which aren't the ILECs, but rather separate service providers. You'll occasionally receive fliers in your mailbox regarding VDSL/ADSL/Fibre plans from Freedom, Stuff, and MyReplubic, plus from the increasingly popular 2Degrees.

A young technical manager based in downtown Auckland told me that despite all the promotions and discounts advertised for fibre and ADSL services, the prices are still pretty high and consistent across providers even by Oceanic and European standar…

Unsolicited Question: VLC and Wayland on Fedora

Q: VLC and Videos video playback on Fedora 25 is choppy or won't play at all. I've installed all the codecs from RPM Fusion but videos still won't render. What gives?

On lower to mid-range hardware, VLC and Videos may struggle to render .avi, .flv., and .mp4 files if you're running Fedora 25 with Wayland, the default display server.

If you don't have any urgent requirements regarding running Wayland, you can switch to Gnome with Xorg from the login screen.

To log in to Gnome with the X display server:

1. On boot, select the user from the list.

2. Click the Settings icon, and then select Gnome on Xorg.

3. Enter the user password, and then click Sign In.

Note: If you selected Gnome on Xorg and logged in using a specific user, Gnome on Xorg is retained on reboot, unless you switch it to Gnome or Gnome Classic from the list of desktop environments manually.

As an alternative, you can also install video player frontends such as SMPlayer, which may have a lower overhead th…

Batch creation of CBZ files using ComicZipper (macOS)

ComicZipper is a free desktop utility for macOS for creating CBZ files from image folders.  The utility, which is available from the App Store, doesn’t require any other compression packages on macOS Sierra. Just drag folders with .jpg or .png into the ComicZipper window to create files. Although you can just use macOS Finder’s built-in compression options, ComicZipper allows you to compress several folders at a time.

Scans compressed using ComicZipper in this article are He-Man mini-comic books from the author’s own collection. The output files were viewed in Perfect Viewer for Android, Comics Manga Reader for Fire OS, Bookman for iOS, and Comics ++ for Windows 10.

You can exclude unnecessary metadata files and folders from Preferences > Exclude List in ComicZipper. To ensure compatibility with Android, Windows 10 Mobile, and iOS .cbz viewers, check that the folder only contains supported image formats such as JPEGs and PNGs. Remove .html or .txt files. In addition, it’s good idea…