Using a fingerprint-reader on Thinkpad with Linux

I had the problem that just using fprintd on my system as an authentication-method lead me to a state where I always had to input my fingerprint or fail three times until I could finally type my password.
In the pam.d-config-files not fprintd should be used but fingerprint-gui. That works then also for the TTYs and when you have registered several fingers, you can use them all and not only your right index-finger for authentication.
There is an Arch-How To for this: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Fingerprint-gui

flattr this!

Apples Lock-In

As you maybe know I switched recently to Linux and Android and lived before that the Apple-Lifestyle. I had a 2011 MacBook Air, an iPhone 4S and an iPad1. So I really could see what Jobs meant with his e-mail when he wrote”tie all of our products together, so we further lock customers into our ecosystem”.

This is only a critique about Apples way locking someone in. That doesn’t say others do not try the same. Google tries to get you into their eco-systems or Amazon wants you to lock you into the Kindle-ecosystem. Therefore Google can show you more ads and Amazon can sell you more Kindle-books etc. But their lockin-strategy involve to be ubiquitous thus I can at least change the manufacturer of my laptop or my phone. Yes, I know Apple is in the hardware-selling business but not being able to change hardware and operating systems is in my experience worse than having several apps for reading ebooks on my device.

So, let’s start.

iCloud

I’ve seen more and more applications adopting iCloud as a medium to share documents between devices. Usually you need the same applicaiton on all your devices. Like iA Writer on the iPhone and iA Write on the Mac and the iPad to get to those documents. So if you saved your documents to iCloud, you won’t be able to get them onto another operating system.

Contacts and Calendars

Apple uses Caldav and Carddav, standards, to synchronize calendars and contacts between devices. It should be easy to get read/write-acces to them, right? Right? Nope. You can share a caldav-URL easily but that is read-only. If you want to give someone write-access, you can do this only easily when they are also in the Apple-ecosphere. And I cannot remember having something similar available for Contacts at all. Sure you can export all the data and get ics-files for your calendars and vcs-files for your contacts but I cannot use iCloud easily. And I need to use iCloud for syncing because I am doing stuff together with people and we are all accustomed to use the the Apple-service.

Fortunately some other people wrote software to get those URLs2 but you have to find that first.

iTunes

iTunes won’t let you sync music to other devices than iOS-devices and iPods, everybody knows that. And getting your music collection onto those devices iTunes is the only way to use. Btw. I know several people who switched away from iOS-devices or wouldn’t get one because they dislike iTunes or cannot use it for some reason like using Linux.

And iTunes Match is only usable with iTunes and iOS-devices. It’s nice to have but when I thought about switching, I didn’t want to give up that functionality. Contenders have at least software for iOS and Android to make that possible.

And then there is the DRM. It is not necessarily Apples fault but the content industry that wants DRM. But if I do not have iTunes available, I cannot legally watch the video-content I aquired licenses for. Yep, I am into buying DVDs3 again.

Podcasts.app

I checked it today and couldn’t find any way to export podcasts. To be honest it is the only podcast-app on iOS that I know that doesn’t allow exporting subscriptions as opml. But afaik it works great together with all the other Apple-products.

Update: You can export your list of podcasts from iTunes and you can sync the app with iTunes. But you cannot export a list of podcasts right from the podcast-app on the iPhone.

Apple TV

Nice device, if you are living the Apple-lifestyle. Step away from the path and it becomes pretty useless afaik.

Facetime and Messages

Oh, you want to use Messages or facetime with someone who doesn’t have an Apple-device? That’s your problem. All the people you know have iOS-devices, but you don’t? Well you can’t use what they might be accustomed to.

Apps

This is actually a problem of all operating systems and ecosystems. But this was a reason for years for not even thinking about switching to another mobile OS. I just spent too much money on apps, that I won’t be able to use anymore. This was really hard to overcome in my mind.

The Future

Thinking about upcoming releases and the lock in, Continuity comes to mind. The feature in which you can start working on something on your computer and seemlessly continue to work on it on your iOS-device. Sounds great, but moving away from Apple and that feature will be lost.

Conclusion

Using only Apple-products is great. Everything works pretty much seamlessly together but moving away one step and a lot of things just break. Thus Apple really tries to get you to use their new features, so you integrate them into your workflows. And when you use only Apples products and some of their third-party-developers like Omni, you are becoming dependent on them and cannot switch easily to anything else. After all you have to rethink how you get things done at the end of the day. With using those features you gain some utility but also loose a bit of freedom of choice in the future.

I don’t have a grudge against Apple that they are doing what they are doing. It is an important strategy to get more sales. But I see often complains about other companies that try to lock you in, but Apple mastered it imho.


  1. which I still have and use

  2. A solution for desktop-computers is here. For syncing iCloud-calendars on Android you need iCloud Sync for Android and for syncing contacts you need Sync for iCloud Contacts. Or if you have already the URLs you can probably, just use apps for adding caldav- and carddav-support to Android which makes it a more general approach.

  3. And maybe sometime in the future Bluerays but HD doesn’t give me enough bang for the buck that I will start using Blueray in the near future.

flattr this!

Installing Oracle JDK in Mint

When I installed the Android Developer Studio and started it, I got the message that OpenJDK has performance issues and that one should install the JDK/JRE by Oracle. Oracle offers only tar-balls and rpms, thus I needed to find a way to install it. Thanks to Google the solution wasn’t far away but for making it easier findable for me, I post the way I did it in the end here as well in a more generalized way.

Download the JDK from Oracle, then start by removing OpenJDK:

sudo apt-get update && apt-get remove "openjdk"

Then go to your downloads-directory and untar the tar.gz (tar -xzvf jdk-$version)

Create a folder in /opt for the jdk:

sudo mkdir -p /opt/java

Move the JDK to the folder:

sudo mv ~/Downloads/jdk$version /opt/java/

Make the JRE and JDK the default
sudo update-alternatives --install "/usr/bin/java" "java" "/opt/java/jdk$version/bin/java" 1

sudo update-alternatives --set java /opt/java/jdk§version/bin/java

sudo update-alternatives --install "/usr/bin/javac" "javac" "/opt/java/jdk$version/bin/javac" 1

sudo update-alternatives --set javac /opt/java/jdk§version/bin/javac

flattr this!

Switching from OS X to Linux

After my switch from iOS to Android, I switched now from OS X to Linux. I wrote already about my reasons for switching. I switched in 2004 from Linux to OS X because my laptop got stolen and I needed a new one. My requirements were a unix-style operating system where I have nothing to do to make it work and a small laptop with great battery runtime. The iBook 4G 12″ was the best in that regard back then. Last year I tried my luck with running Linux for 30 days and talked about it in some podcast-episodes of mine. The short version: running Linux from a USB-stick on a MacBook Air is not a very bright idea to get to know if Linux is any good. It works somehow, but not well.

But in the last couple of months or maybe it is a process which went already for a year or longer, I moved more and more of my workflow to open source-tools that are also available on Linux. The last things that were a problem were my iPhone, OmniFocus and 1Password. Since I switched now to Android, the iPhone is no problem anymore. Because the OmniFocus-client I tried on Android wasn’t good enough, but the todotxt-client (Cloudless) was really good, I switched my todo-workflow over to todo.txt. So the next hurdle was gone. And then I found out that you can run 1Password 4 in wine with working browser-extensions. So somehow the most important parts should work. I thought several times about switching to Linux but thought that I actually like my MacBook Air and have no real issues with OS X, so there is no good enough reason for it. But then one of the laptops in our household is on the verge of dying and a new Apple-computer is just too expensive right now. So I decided to go for a used Thinkpad X201. I added a 250GB SSD, got me a docking station and will get a 9-cell-battery in the near future. That is still cheaper than a used MacBook Air and far cheaper than a new laptop.

This blog post is about my experiences with getting the laptop up and running to a state that I want to and can work with. You will find some advice, links and nice software I found.

Installing Linux and first software

I started out with installing Mint 17. Why Mint? Well it is partly the fault of @tante. I asked him what I sould use: Ubuntu, Mint, Arch or Gentoo and his anser was Mint. Arch and Gentoo are closer to the bleeding edge and need more maintenance and Ubuntu is often a bad fork according to him. And what I read in the past it seems that Ubuntu goes more and more its own ways and therefore might get shunned from the community. The latter one is just my own concern. Installing Mint on the X201 was a breeze. It installed and every piece of hardware in the laptop worked out of the box. When I put the laptop into the docking station, everything continued to work and even using a secondary display over the display port worked. My secondary display is an old TFT-TV which I got only correctly to work with OS X with the help of SwitchResX and fiddling around. With Mint, it worked out of the box. So far so good.

Installing software was mainly no problem. Steam was installed fast and it didn’t need long until I could play my first games of VVVVVV, Super Hexagon, Super Meat Boy and Shadowrun Returns on my Linux-machine. In comparison to the past, I could suddenly play the games I want to play problem free on Linux. What a blast.

The version of vim is something like 300 patches behind in the repositories of Mint, so I had to compile it by myself. That was rather easy by following a guide called Building Vim from Source.

Let the fun begin

And then I started with the not so easy stuff. I wanted carddav-sync for syncing my contacts between my phone, my laptop and owncloud. I needed caldav-sync with calendars from iCloud, I wanted emulation of retro-console- and arcade games, I need Japanese input, I want to use mutt instead of a GUI-mail client, I need 1Password etc.

Syncing Carddav with owncloud

There are two ways I got cardday-syncing to work. But first you need the correct URL from Owncloud. I got the working one from logging into my owncloud, going to contacts and then push in the lower left corner the button for the Carddav-Link (a small globe). Mine looks like:

https://owncloud.foo.bar/remote.php/carddav/addressbooks/user/kontakte

And after getting that, which was actually the hard part because I couldn’t find it and googled which led to lots of wrong results, it was easy to get it working.

Number one is Evolution. There you can add a new addressbook with your credentials and the link and then it just worked for me.
Number two is pycarddav. That worked as well, but I have no idea yet, how to get stuff into it. But at least I can pull my addressbook. I have a cronjob that runs it every 10 minutes. And with pycarddav I have an easy way to get completions for addresses in mutt.

I cannot recommend Thunderbird for syncing with carddav because Thunderbirds sync can only pull one e-mail-address from a carddav-addressbook per user. And if there are multiple addresses, it will choose one randomly.

Syncing calendars from iCloud

My wife is still all Apple and we need shared calendars, so I haven’t have a look yet how owncloud works with multiple users, calendar sharing and I remember only that it wasn’t that easy to get it to sync with OS X and iOS. So we still use iCloud for our calendars. The problematic part was again finding out the right URLs. I used a software from http://icloud.niftyside.com/ which I installed on my Uberspace. It was just unpacking it into a directory of the webserver and visiting the site. Then entering my credentials and I got all the URLs. There is even a URL for carddav, so you might even be able to sync your contacts with iCloud.

I am using again Evolution to sync my calendars. It works fine.

mutt and offlineimap

I had already settings which worked quite well but needed a bit of fixing up. I followed mainly The Ultimate Guide to Mutt to get everything to work. The only real problem I had in the end was getting offlineimap working as a cronjob. I ended up putting my passwords into the .offlineimaprc because I just couldn’t get Gnome Keyring to work with a cronjob and only the pure offlineimap-command worked in a cronjob. When I used for example “offlineimap -q -f INBOX -u quiet”, it didn’t work. Only “offlineimap -u quiet” (or whatever interface you want) works for whatever reason. I added hooks for Mairix in offlineimap and added a keybinding in mutt for doing a fast-sync of the inboxes, when I see on my phone that mail arrived and I am too curious.

Emulation

In the beginning it looked a bit desperate in terms of emulation. I only found command line emulators and had problems getting everything to work. But then I found solutions.
a) Nintendo-consoles (NES, SNES, GBC, GBA): Higan which is in the repos of Mint 17.
b) Sega-consoles (Master System, Game Gear, Mega Drive/Genesis + CD + 32X): Kega Fusion which I needed to install from the site

For arcade games you can search for MAME and for the rest you might have to use a command line-client.

If you use an XBox360-pad there is a better driver than the built-in one which is called xboxdrv. If you need to map your joypad to keyboard-buttons there is the tool QJoyPad which does it. It is a bit weird to use, but it works.

The rest

The easiest way to get Japanese input working was ibus with anthy. As dictionary software I am using gjiten and installed additionally the wadoku in the edict-format.

For syncing I am using Bittorrent-Sync which has nowadays a nice GUI-tool in Linux as well: Linux Desktop Gui Unofficial Packages For Bittorrent Sync.

I am accustomed to have escape and control on my caps-lock-key. Control for key-combinations, escape when I just press it. This is great when you use vim a lot. For getting this mapping to work, I use xcape. This works only in X, but on my private laptoop I am most of the time in the GUI anyways.

For getting 1Password to work, I have a blog-post for you. If you are a YNAB-user, it works fine in Linux with wine as well.

After testing out several Twitter-clients in Linux, I ended up using the Chrome-app of Tweetdeck which works quite well. For App.net there is Cauldron which works as good as on Windows and OS X.

For music I am using Google Music All-Access in combination with the Nuvola Player. With that player I get native integration into the desktop with Google Music, at least as native as it gets with Flash in the app. I get notifications for song changes and can use the media keys of my keyboard.

My GUI-client for todo.txt is DayTasks which is better than the other clients I tested. It is quite nice, when I do not want to use the command line interface of todo.txt.

The only thing which I did not figured out yet is a workflow for creating screencasts for Let’s Plays. There is ScreenStudio but this didn’t really work in an initial test. And from time to time Cinnamon just freezes – everything freezes except the cursor. Restarting X helps but this is not really satisfying. I did not yet find out what the reason might be.

Conclusion

So far I am positively surprised. The hardware worked out of the box and the laptop is really neat. If I wouldn’t have certain demands, I could have started to work directly after the installation of the system. The system is really fast, the fans are not too loud, when I am running tons of stuff, it seems to have lower RAM-needs than OS X and all in all it works and is pleasant to use. I enjoy having the docking station which makes live easier since I do not have to unplug my external HDDs and controllers when I take my laptop with me, but just remove the laptop from the docking station. I wonder if I stay as satisfied with this system, as I do with my Android-phone right now. Would you have told me a couple of months ago that I go from all OS X and iOS to Linux and Android, I would have laughed. But right now, everything works and is fun to use. I wonder what I will think in a couple of months once the novelty has worn off.

flattr this!

Nie wieder Packstation

Ich habe seit kurzem eine schöne goldene Karte von DHL damit ich u.a. Packstationen verwenden kann. Also dachte ich mir, dass ich zwei Bestellungen dahin liefern lasse. Was soll schon schief gehen?

Eine Menge. Hier eine Beschwerdemail, die ich gerade an DHL geschickt habe und den Verlauf mehr oder minder dokumentiert.

Beschwerde bei DHL

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

langsam glaube ich, dass das Konzept Packstation von Schildbürgern entwickelt wurde.
Lieferung FOO ging aufgrund eines Softwarefehlers bei Amazon ohne Postnummer raus. Mal abgesehen davon, dass ich nicht verstehe, dass das Annahmesystem bei dem Ziel Packstation Zustellungen ohne Postnummern zulässt, läuft es weniger als rund. Das Paket wurde in eine Packstation eingeliefert, dann wieder entnommen. Laut einer Mail, die ich von ihrem Social Media-Team habe, weil die Postnummer fehlt. Da ich den Inhalt langsam aber sicher dringend benötige, habe ich direkt bei Amazon eine neue Bestellung losgetreten und kulanterweise eine Expresszulieferung eingetragen bekommen.
Ihr Paketzentrum allerdings schickt das Paket ohne Postnummer wieder los zur Auslieferung.

Also rief ich bei DHL an und versuchte eine Erklärung zu bekommen. Zugegebenermaßen war ich recht aufbrausend (sie werden gleich verstehen warum), aber als ich am Ende des Gesprächs nach dem Namen der Call-Center-Agentin fragte, sagte sie Auf Wiederhören und legte auf. Das Gespräch fand am 11.07. gegen 16:20 Uhr statt. Evtl. steht ja ein Name im Log zu dieser Sendung. Ich würde mich wegen des Auflegens gerne über die Dame hiermit beschweren.

Meine zweite Lieferung (Sendungsnr. BAR) ging mit einer unvollständigen Postnummer raus. Wieder ein Fehler des Absenders, wieder verstehe ich nicht wie so ein Paket überhaupt angenommen werden kann. Ich vermute doch, dass Postnummern Mindestlängen haben und ohne Postnummer scheint eine Einlieferung in eine Packstation ja nicht möglich. Dieses Paket befindet sich seit gestern 10:55 Uhr in der Auslieferung. Laut ihrem Social Media-Team und ihres Callcenters könnte es eventuell vielleicht möglicherweise doch ankommen. Nichts genaues wusste niemand. Ja, diese Wortwahl ist sarkastisch gemeint. Die Dame im Callcenter bei meinem Anruf heute Mittag war sehr freundlich und erklärte mir, dass ich bis morgen warten solle, ob das Paket eingeliefert wird und falls nicht, soll ich mich am Montag noch einmal melden. Auf Twitter würde meine Kurznachricht zu diesem Thema “Srsly? WTF?!” lauten.

Fassen wir zusammen (oder auch TL;DR): Zwei Sendungen gehen raus ohne bzw. mit verkürzter Postnummer an Packstationen. Beide werden von DHL angenommen. Beide kommen vielleicht oder auch nicht an, vermutlich eher nicht. Aber die Erkenntnis zu erreichen beim Auslieferer kann bis zu drei Tage dauern. “Srsly? WTF?!”

Das waren meine ersten beiden Bestellungen an eine Packstation. Nie wieder.
Übrigens eine Bestellung, die am Mittwoch losgeschickt wurden, die auch über DHL lief aber zu mir nach Hause geliefert wurde, war am Donnerstag da. Diese Bestellungen wurden beide am Dienstag losgeschickt.

Ich wäre sehr dankbar für eine Antwort, die mir erklärt warum das alles so schief läuft.

Ich werde diese Mail und auch ihre Antwort auf meinem Blog veröffentlichen unter http://niels.kobschaetzki.net/blog/2014/07/11/nie-wieder-packstation/ ‎

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Niels Kobschätzki

flattr this!

1Password 4 in Linux

First: huge thanks to @thatswinnie and @PhilippeLM . Winnie for pointing me to Philippe and Philippe for pointing me to the right forum-entries and his helpful posts to get it to work in Linux with 1Password 4 and Firefox. Supposedly it works with the Chrome-extension, too.

Please take note that this solution is not officially supported by AgileBits and can probably break with any update. But let’s hope that it doesn’t.

So 1Password is a pretty popular password-manager for OS X and there is also a version available for Windows. In addition there are great companion apps for iOS and Android1. Since I have licenses for all the versions, I wanted to continue to use it on Linux. But how?

First you have to install Wine. There should be a package for it in the package manager of your distribtion. Then start Wine once, so it can configure itself.

Next up, download 1Password for Windows and open the downloaded exe. It should be opened by Wine and start the installer. Just let it do its thing. Then you have to edit the following file ~/.wine/user.reg2 for disabling browser validation.
Search for [Software\AgileBits\1Password 4] and add beneath it a new entry:

“VerifyCodeSignature”=dword:00000000

Save the file, open 1Password and restart the 1Password Helper. This option is in 1Password in Help – Restart 1Password Helper.

Then you have to download and install the Browser-Add On/extension from AgileBits. Restart your browser and it should work. I had to restart the 1Password Helper once more and after that it worked flawlessly for me.

Update: I have now my real machine and couldn’t get it to work even with this manual. To get the 1Password-extension working I had to open the preferences of 1Password, had to go to the Browsers-tab and check “Unlock on Secure Desktop”. After a restart of Firefox, it worked.


  1. I am syncing the different installations with the help of Bittorrent Sync. OTA-sync with my own infrastructure. The iOS-version gets synced via iTunes.

  2. The reg-files are representations of parts of the windows-registry for Wine.

flattr this!

About my switch to Linux

Yesterday I had to make the hard decision to switch from OS X to Linux. The reason is mainly of financial nature. One of the laptops in the household broke down and we just cannot afford a laptop by Apple right now. And I do not trust Apple-hardware enough that I would buy it used and therefore with no or nearly no warranty. I am using now Apple-computers for 10 years and had two iBook G4s, one iMac, two MacBook Airs and brought Apple-computers also to my extended family and have seen there in addition a MacBook Pro, a MacBook and two iMacs. The first iBook G4 needed to be repaired like five or six times until I got the second iBook G4 which needed some repair as well and died not long after the three-year warranty. My iMac died once after a firmware-update and the technician said to me that he wouldn’t have believed me the story if he wouldn’t have seen my dead computer with his own eyes. I broke it more or less when I installed an SSD. After that the fans went bonkers. My first MacBook Air was the most terrible Mac I’ve ever had because the HDD was just too slow. And it died at some point because of a RAM-error. The day I got really cautious about Apples strategy to integrate laptops more and more. Usually fixing a RAM-error depends only on the price of RAM. And since the computer was from 2008 and had only 2GB it would have been probably a 20€-fix. But I just could say to my wife: “It’s dead Jim”. The best computer I’ve ever owned though is the machine I am typing this blog post right now. A MacBook Air from 2011. And it is the only Mac I know in my extended family that didn’t have any problems so far1. The MacBook Pro of my wife had always battery problems and Apples service-partners could never really fix it and between slacking and the reoccurence of the problem the warranty was gone without having a final fix. Since then it just won’t work on battery power. And this MacBook Pro is now steadily declining. So my wife gets now this MacBook Air and I will get the computer with Linux since I have less problems with fixing problems and working with it than if my wife would have to.

And those are just the stories of the Macs I owned2. I’ve seen in my extended family broken cases, power supplies and dead logic boards. Except my iPhones and iPod Touches nearly everything had to be repaired at some point incl. some iPods that broke. I also know a lot of people who had trouble with their iPhones, especially with the home buttons. And yes, I know that there are people with totally different experiences but To be honest, those do not matter to me.

Until I got my current MacBook Air I always said that I would buy immediately a ThinkPad if OS X would officially run on them. I do not know why but I like the black edged design, the keyboard is great and they are really good servicable. I had to remove tons of screws to exchange hard disks with some of my Macs. Yes I know that there were some series were it was easy to change the HDD but current models are moving more and more into being nearly unserviceable. If the SSD in my MBA dies I need a special SSD and it is expensive. 250GB are around 240€. I gave up thinking about exchanging the 128GB-SSD for a 256GB one. It is just too expensive. For the one I just ordered I paid €110 and from my job where I use the 120GB-model I know that they are fast3, at least fast enough for me.

But let’s go back to the serviceable Thinkpad. I could easily find a 300 page-service manual where they explain how to exchange pretty much everything. And I know that even the spare parts are not that expensive. If something breaks with a used Apple-laptop and I have no warranty, I am not afraid of not being able to fix it by myself even though there are the iFixit-guides. And the spare parts are usually not that cheap in my experience. When I am out of warranty with a Mac-laptop from the last couple of years, I have with most parts a big problem – hard to exchange, expensive parts etc. In addition even used prices are pretty high. But that X201 from 2010 or 20114 with a Core i5 with 2.53GHz was less than €300 from a dealer and I even have a couple of months of warranty by the dealer.

So now you know my financial reasoning for not buying a Mac. And on the software side most of the stuff I use has equivalents if it is not even the same on Linux. For all my writing I use vim and if it needs to be printed I use XeTeX. When I write correspondence any word processor works for me, so Open Office is fine. My music gets nowadays into Google Play Music where I have an All Access-subscription. Since I switched to Android and Quantus Tasks underdelivered I switched to a todo.txt-based setup. And it works pretty well and has the advantage that I can even use it at work where I have to use Windows. My browsers of choice are Firefox and Chrome and I watch movies with VLC or MPlayer. And the list goes on. I noticed already several months ago that I am in a state where I could switch to Linux because it pretty much didn’t matter anymore. But I always said to me that I actually like OS X and that there is no good enough reason to switch when I am using a MacBook Air. I do not have yet a solution for everything – mainly for doing Let’s Plays like I record them recently but I am confident that I will find a solution. Yes, it will be some work to get every gear running like I want it to but while I said in the past I am willing to pay more, so that it just works my preferences changed and I am more ready to pay in time. In addition I am in a mood in the recent months in which I want to be able to fiddle with my system. I was actually always in the mood and with Linux this works even better. In exchange I won’t have access to software from the OmniGroup or software like Screenflow. But I guess I will survive, there are worse things. And maybe the time comes back when I can afford a Mac without thinking too much about the costs, but right now this is not the time5.

Be prepared for some blog posts or even one or more podcast-episode about how the switch is working out. If you are an active Linux-user I am happy to get some software-recommendations or general hints via ADN, Twitter or e-mail6


  1. except one other iMac but I do not want to jinx it.

  2. My first iBook had like three logic boards and two or three Super Drives

  3. Before you ask: Samsung Evo 840.

  4. I am not sure.

  5. And when I am honest this is also one of the reasons why I like retrogames so much. If I wanted to play on a current gen-console I would need a new TV and a new console. And just for being able to play games I would have to pay a high 3-digits or even 4-digits amount of money. And there are so many good games I already own or that I never played which I can get now for cheap that I do not see that much of a reason to get pay that much money.

  6. My GPG-key is here

flattr this!

Android – three weeks later

I am using now an Android-phone for three weeks and have now a clearer opinion than in my post from two weeks ago.

Even though I run into some problems with Android which are very annoying, I am still all in all happy with my Moto X. The phone feels great in the hand, has some very interesting features, apps are very good, I still like the customizability etc. I still do not look back at having an iPhone.

The good

If you are into encrypting all the stuff™ Android is probably your way to go on a mobile device. Thanks to The Guardian Project and some other stuff, encrypting mails etc is not that hard.

For mail I use APG with K-91 which delivers a very good GPG-experience. Far better than anything on iOS and actually even better than most of the stuff, I’ve seen on desktop operating systems.

For chatting/texting I use several apps. One is Threema because I used it already with several people on iOS and it is there far more reliable than Jabber-based solutions. In addition I use ChatSecure as a Jabber- and Hangouts-client2 because it allows OTR. If you are coming from iOS then you are in for a surprise. ChatSecure on Android looks and works far better than on iOS. For SMS I use TextSecure but I think I know only one other user of it, so no encrypted SMS so far. But at lest there is the possibility for it.

As a browser I use the mobile Firefox with https everywhere and some proxy-plug in I cannot remember right now to interface with Orbot if I want to. What is Orbot? Orbot is a Tor-client on Android and it can run in the background. And when apps have settings for a proxy, you can let them work together even though, you did not root your device. Thus I can easily start Tor if I want to and when using it for example with ChatSecure it will try to use an hidden tor service3 for the jabber-server you are connecting to.

I even had already an encrypted phone call with RedPhone.

The whole crypto-stuff is so easy, that I used more encrypted communication in the last couple of weeks than in several years before. After all most of my communication nowadays works through my smartphone.

I tried now also multiple keyboards and found several good ones. It is nice to try them but trying out keyboards is always a risk as well, since they can read everything you type. But it is nice to have an alternative, and there are some pretty great ones.

I also tried out some launchers and I am actually still in a phase of trying stuff out. Right now I have Terrain Home installed which is nice. The one with the best theming-capabilities and nicest themes but not working for the way I use my smartphone was Themer which I can really recommend to try out for seeing what can be possible. And for most of the time I used Nova Launcher.

The twitter-client I am using is pretty good. Looks good, works well. No Tweetbot 3 but close in my opinion.

There is a Dropbox-client which allows syncing directly with folders of the internal storages called Dropsync and this is pretty cool. Far better than having Dropbox-integration in each app. And if you don’t like Dropbox you can use Bittorrent-Sync. And since 1Password allows for syncing via a local folder, you can sync 1Password outside of Dropbox over the air with BT sync.

Last but not least a comment about Active Display. This is a feature which is only available on the Moto X and it is awesome. You take your phone out of your pocket and you get to see the current time and if there is a notification of an app in a minimalistic style. And only the white pixels are lightened, everything else of the display is switched off. When tapping the notification button, you see on top the current notification and can swipe up to it, to open the app. On the bottom you see the last couple of notifications and can swipe down to unlock the phone. Swiping right dismisses the notification. It works and looks great, saves battery and somehow I think that this is the way notifications should work. But well, as soon as I go the step to a custom rom because updates do not come out any more I probably loose this great feature. I know that there are now alternatives but they do not switch off the black parts of the display afaik.

I think I touched now all the good stuff, maybe there is more4 but that’s what comes to my mind.

The mediocre

Quantus Tasks didn’t work out for me so far. Thus I switched to todo.txt and use SimpleTask which is better than the official todo.txt-client and there is even a cloudless version available. For reminders I am using Bzzz because it has a persistent notification for easily adding reminders.

I found a client with natural language input for calendar events which is called Quick Add. It works good for English but I didn’t try German yet. It is not as good as Fantastical in terms of design and language parsing but it works.

The bad

I have a phone that is pretty much stock Android and is getting updates to the newest version of Android (4.4.3) in several countries. For whatever reason Motorola decided that Europe shouldn’t get the update yet. I have no idea why. They only write in their blogpost about the US but actually they mention the US only for the Moto G. And their link to the software upgrade page doesn’t tell me anything about when the update will be available in Germany, only that it isn’t available. As if I wouldn’t know that already. And for fun: Motorola just updated the boot-loader-animation today to a worldcup-related theme. Seriously? These are real priorities.

But why is it only in the bad-section? Well, core apps like Google Play are nowadays not part of the OS, so Google updates them outside of the Android-update cycle. It would be nice, if Apple would do that for all the apps on the iPhone as well.

Still when there are security holes, it could take some time until they are fixed. Still the problem is not that ugly to me. I know people with iOS-devices who didn’t update to latest dot-releases because their device doesn’t have sufficient space right now and they don’t know what to delete.

One last bad thing: There are some ok-ish apps for learning Kanji but they are far from fun and design compared to iKanji Touch. At least AnkiDroid looks better than Anki on iOS but it is a little bit worse when using it.

The ugly

Let’s start with the literally ugly: Emojis. The font that is used for emojis is just plain ugly. I hope the designer at Google who is responsible for these crappy looking emojis is wearing sackcloth and ashes for these fugly icons.

Next up: no system-wide undo for text-fields. There is an app5 that will help you out getting deleted text back and there is a third-party-keyboard that has an undo-functionality. Luckily the keyboard is pretty good and it might replace SwiftKey for me.
But seriously, no system-wide undo for text-fields? It reminds me a bit on the situation when everybody laughed about iOS that it has no copy+paste.

And then there is the problem of space for apps I constantly run into the last days. It seems that Android-devices have several partitions. One for apps, one for all the other data. I have still a gigabyte of data on my device available and get all the time the notification that there is not sufficient space to install some updates. So I have to delete apps, I do not really use to update apps, even so there is more than sufficient space. The genius at Google who had that idea, should get hit hard with a newspaper on his or her head. Maybe someone could tell me a good reason in the comments why this partitioning still exists. Maybe there was a reason in the past, but I do not see one nowadays.

Update: Apparently the problem with the partitioning for apps is vendor-specific. The Nexus-devices do not have the problem but devices from a lot of vendors. It seems that they think that for working seemlessly with SD-cards it is necessary to have those partitions. With HTC-devices you usually get 1GB of space for apps and it doesn’t matter how much space your device has. And the partition map problem sits deep enough that installing a custom ROM doesn’t help. According to the infos I have so far it might be possible to change the partition map when using custom ROMs but whether unified storage is possible like with the Nexus-devices is possible, I do not know.

Update 2: I might even have unified storage and the problems I am encountering are of a different nature. I am just not understanding it and will have to have another look at it :/


  1. Just install APG before K-9, otherwise you will have to re-install K-9

  2. As long as Hangouts supports XMPP for IM

  3. I hope I use here the right terminology

  4. the better AppStore comes to mind but I already wrote about that in my last post which is linked above

  5. not tested

flattr this!

My reasons for switching from iOS to Android

The obligatory blog post. When one switches operating systems, especially on smartphones, it seems that one has to write a blog post about it. I just moved from iOS to Android on my smartphone. I handed over my iPhone 4S to someone whose iPhone 3G was totally broken down and got myself a Moto X.

Before I made the switch I could borrow a Samsung Galaxy SIII Mini1. The phone was ok but especially the screen was bad. Low resolution pen-tile AMOLED-display which was too bright in the night and too dim in sunlight. But the operating system was fun to use and far from the horrors I heard so far from people who are accustomed to iOS and tried Android. In addition, I didn’t see any stuttering when browsing the web or scrolling or whatever. It’s a phone more on the low-end side and neither in the stock Samsung-taste of Android 4.1 nor on Cyanogenmod 11 (Android 4.4.2) I’ve seen performances issues.

So it didn’t took me long to decide that my next phone won’t be by Apple but some other vendor.

So what are the reasons?

Reasons

Price

When I think about it, then this is probably the main reason. Apple devices are expensive. They are good devices, are probably produced in the most humane way capitalism allows right now but are always pretty much on the high-end side of the spectrum. And the low end-phones aren’t very reasonable priced in my opinion. So usually only the newest phone is a viable choice with Apple. And then you have to pay even for a 16GB-model something like €700. This is a lot of money. And they won’t get cheaper after a couple of months. The whole year the product is the newest available it will cost €700. And buying them used isn’t really cheaper as well. Yes, I know the argument that this is actually a good thing because I can buy an Apple device, sell it a year later and then buy a new one for “cheap”. But I keep my device until they break down or I get a new one and give my old ones away to people who need one2.

I bought now a Moto X with 16GB of internal storage. According to benchmarks and that’s the only way to compare Android-phones somehow to iOS-phones it is somewhere between the iPhone 5 and 5S. And I paid €379 for it3. I am buying my devices usually by paying in installements. With my dealer of choice I have to pay €30/month for an iPhone 5S with 16GB and €15 for the Moto X. It is only €15 per month but that’s already noticeable. And I had already once the case that my iPhone got stolen and I paid for two and then it really hurt4.

And I just bought some Micro-USB-cables. After the cable-tax of Apple where I have to pay €19 per Lightning-cable when switching away from having a dock-connector device, I paid €7,20 for the three cables (€2,40/cable) I wanted to have5.

So after the whole price-argument I come to the parts that I actually like better in Android. Thankfully to the iOS8-announcement I can shorten this a bit because it seems that 80% of the announcement was about stuff they copied from Android and maybe other mobile OSs.

I am talking about the Android-version the Moto X ships with. This is a stock Android 4.4.2 (Kitkat) with some nice additions but nothing like the modified HTC- or Samsung-devices which seems to have some hefty modifications.

Customizability

I like that I can set a different default browser, mail-client and what not. And that browsers can actually be browsers and not yet another wrapper for iOS-webkit. My default browser for example is Firefox because it supports plug-ins like https everywhere and I use usually Firefox on my desktop operating systems these days as well. In addition I can change a lot of stuff. The share sheet which allows me to send stuff from one app to another got replaced by Andmade Share because that allows me to change the order of the apps that appear in the share sheet since I want to share 90% of the time to Instapaper anyways. I can also hide apps from the share sheet. By the way I hope the share sheet in iOS8 works equally well. Each time I tried an app that supports sharing to Instapaper I had to enter my credentials. That can be really annoying. With Android I entered them once and since then I can just share from my browser, my ADN-apps, my twitter-apps etc. I replaced also the launcher (the Springboard) with something else which had some extra functionality I like. An example would be definable gestures like swiping up will open my preferred ADN-client with a window for writing new posts. The stock-stuff works and is nice but being able to replace them is great.

Downloading from the desktop browser and the Play Store

A thing I missed more or less immediately when using Android and having a look again at iOS is the ability to buy on the desktop Play Store and it will immediately download to a device. And I do not need to have iTunes installed for buying apps. I just go there, click install or buy, select my device and it will directly download to my phone. It’s not that it will download to my computer and in addition to my phone. And when an app is free I do not have to enter my google-credentials. Something I do not understand until today why I have to enter my Apple-credentials for free apps.

And since we are on the topic of buying apps, the Play Store beats the App Store hands down. Sorry Apple but except a bit of a refresh on the design side (mainly for the worse imho), the AppStore didn’t change since iOS 2. The Play Store has videos (for all developers), an imho better overview of reviews, developers can respond directly to reviews etc. The whole experience of buying stuff is a lot better. Please Apple: Learn from Google and give at least developers a way to upload a video-demo of their app and let them respond to reviews.

Apropos buying stuff. Every time I listen to podcasts from iOS-users who talk about the Play Store and that everything is free there, I have to say that they are wrong. There are lots of free apps but many of them are trials or offer in-app-purchases. Yes, you read that right: trials. The Play Store has them. Swift Key Free for example works for one month like the normal app and then ceases to work. But you can buy the full app to get it. Other apps have limited functionality and then use some app that I guess work like a plug-in to extend the Pro-functionality. Or the apps are ad-supported and you can pay for removing the apps. Most of the good stuff costs money, like on iOS. Interestingly apps seem to be cheaper though even though there are trials. SquareEnix-games are as expensive like on iOS but the rest feels in general a bit cheaper. Another reason could be that the Play Store doesn’t seem to work in the tier-scheme like iOS but that developers set one price for one region and other prices get directly converted to the local currency and setting prices for all regions is optional. But I guess trials aren’t necessarily the solution to get reasonable prices for software again.

Apps

Because my iPhone did some weird things, I reinstalled it a couple of weeks ago and did a clean install without using my backup. Thus I installed apps when I really needed them. And found out that there aren’t that many apps that I actually use. So I got curious what the Play Store had to offer in that regard and I found out that pretty much everything was there. The only thing missing was OmniFocus but with Quantus Tasks there is an app available that will sync with OmniFocus. It doesn’t have the same functionality as the iOS-app but it is a neat companion-app that works quite well. Otherwise everything is available in some form or another for Android. A client for Anki, a client Instapaper, a client for Fever, the next 1Password-app is in Beta and now a full-fledged 1Password-client, the Kindle-app is available and better because it allows buying directly from the app etc. Even newer games like Monument Valley or Threes are available. And in regards to games I had to find out that thanks to the Humble Bundle I have already a lot of games for Android.

Because the Play Store allows more type of apps, there is even some stuff, that I won’t get on iOS. Like an SFTP-client that allows me to copy stuff from my computer to my phone which can be used in apps, without the need of iTunes or some companion app on the Mac. I can get Dropbox-free because I can just use Owncloud or Bittorrent-Sync since apps usually can access the file system and for example Bittorrent-Sync can do its magic in the background. I have a very good e-mail-client called K-9 which works together with another app to directly provide GPG-support. If you are into encrypting your stuff you are probably better off on Android anyways thanks to the Guardian Project. Even apps that are also available on the iPhone like ChatSecure just work better on Android. Or there is Tasker which allows me to automate my phone by location, events, dates whatever. When I put in my headphones, a pop-up comes up that shows me my main media-player apps and when I leave home Wifi gets disabled and when I reach my workplace it gets automatically enabled again and some other stuff gets turned off automatically.

One comment about the design quality of the apps. Apps are usually equally good designed on Android as on iOS. But on iOS there are some apps which are outstandingly designed and those I have not yet seen so far on Android. So the average might be worse but if you cut off the 5% of best/worst designed apps, Android and iOS are probably on the same level. And if apps are using the default design of Android which is called Holo, then they look usually equally good to apps that use mainly the default design of iOS 7.

Emulators

It should be known by now that I have a thing for retrogames. Even though touch controls aren’t that great, it is awesome that I can officially install emulators from the Play Store. Being able to play some Lucas Arts-adventures on the go or having turn-based strategy games of the big consoles or handheld-consoles without having to carrying around all the time my handhelds with me is nice. Since controllers for Android seem to be quite cheap it might even be a nice replacement for my PSP. But this will have to wait probably a month or two.

Notifications

iOS has the notification center but notifications on Android are better. You can have multiple audio-players in your notifications, you can have persistent notifications, notifications can have buttons so that you can reply immediately to an ADN-message etc. They are plain better. Apple just did enough that it could count as just enough but there is still some work to do.
And on the Moto X with Active Display they are even better. When my phone vibrates I can get it from my pocket, hit the lock-symbol and it will show me the newest notification in detail on top and older non-acknowledged notifications on the bottom. Thanks to the AMOLED-display only the text and the graphics are using battery, everything else is black. I read it already in several reviews of the phone but this is the way notifications should work for a locked phone. If only design-wise because not every phone has an AMOLED-display which has some disadvantages to an LCD-display.

After getting into all the advantages without the stuff I like but you will probably see in iOS 8 as well, I will now talk a bit about the disadvantages.

Problems

Backups

On iOS backups are no problem, either you back up your device to iTunes or iCloud. On Android, well not so much. There is backup to Google which apparently backs up settings but that’s it. And then there are some apps on the Play Store that should help but the apparently best app called Helium says that it has problems with Motorola-phones. The settings-part didn’t work so well when I switched from the S3 Mini with Cyanogenmod 11 to the Moto X. So, no backups it seems. Thankfully most of my data is synced nowadays, contacts are in my owncloud, calendars on iCloud6, 1Password is synced, Anki is synced, podcast-states are synced because of PocketCasts, photos get uploaded to Flickr automatically and so on. Not a lot of data I would loose except maybe how far I am in some games but because of my gaming habits that doesn’t hurt that much. And setting up the settings didn’t took long. The one thing that got saved was which apps are installed on my phone and as soon as I entered my google-credentials all the apps that were installed before got downloaded to the phone.

OmniFocus

As written above Quantus Tasks is nice but it is no OmniFocus 2 like on the iPhone. But I am thinking about switching to Todo.txt or some other plain text-solution plus an app for reminders for my todo-needs. The reason is that I am not sure if I want to pay the $40-upgrade fee and I can’t use OmniFocus with my computer at work. And there are some nice apps for Todo.txt now available and in the end at least the shell script and the file itself will always work. And on Android there is Simpletask available which is a great todo.txt-client. Looks better, has more features and works better than the official todo.txt-app. And there is even a cloudless-version that I can sync via local storage which means I can sync it via Bittorrent Sync.

Gestures

Modern iOS-apps are heavily gestures-based. In Android pushing buttons is usually the way to go. While using gestures might be faster and sometimes more comfortable, they have also the problem that you have to learn them and that developers have to put a tutorial into the app. I like gesture-based interfaces that’s why I put this part into the disadvantage-section but you could also argue that interfaces that need a tutorial are majorly flawed.

No Spotlight

In iOS I often used Spotlight to open my apps. Pull the springboard down, start typing the app-name, tap it, start. It is simple search and it doesn’t seem to exist in the Android-universe. Seriously? The layer were all installed apps are presented are sorted by alphabet, so one finds an app reasonably fast but it is still way slower than Spotlight. I really miss it.

I was wrong. There is a way to search for apps. Thanks @evs.

So, these are the main disadvantages I have seen so far. Otherwise I honestly found no problems. Nothing in the consistency-department, even the by iOS-users often dreaded back-button was a thing I grew accustomed to. It took a couple of days until my finger accepted that there is no back-gesture but a back-button. And unlike from what I heard so far its behavior is usually not inconsistent. In my scenarios it worked always as I was thinking of it and only when I really tried to get it to behave inconsistently, I broke it. Yes even that shouldn’t be the case but in general it works. Just an example:

Navigation-steps:

  • I open my twitter-client
  • from there I open the details of a tweet
  • tap a link and get moved Firefox
  • and navigate there one page.


Using the back-button:

  • Back 1: one page back in Firefox
  • Back 2: back to the details-view in the twitter-app
  • Back 3: back to my main timeline
  • Back 4: back to the homescreen
  • Back 5: nothing happens

I know that I will never see Carcassonne by The Coding Monkeys or Omni-products but I am not sure if the overall price difference is it worth. After all I change my phone every two to three years7 and getting a €700-€800-device is really a lot of money.

After I bought the phone I had a short while a tiny bit of buyer’s remorse, and while I am writing this I am thinking whether I am a case of post-purchase rationalization because the whole thing just works too good for me. Especially when I am thinking about what loads of other iOS-users who have used an Android-phone told me about their experience. But maybe it is just good enough for me and the advantages8 weigh heavier than the disadvantages. All in all I am happy with the phone I am having now and that’s good. I don’t know if I want to switch back, right now I think that iOS8 got some real neat features but Apple would still have to release a far cheaper phone that I would consider buying one again. And then I wouldn’t have stuff like emulators, tasker or the customizability. But like I explained to an Android-user who would never use iOS because he thinks that it puts you under tutelage, you pay Apple for making decisions for you and for that you get a cleaner looking, probably more secure OS that lets you make less errors. But that’s not for everyone. And sometimes it is nice to have to think a bit less by having less choice in some areas. Right now, I prefer the way of having more choice and having to pay less.


  1. Somehow the phone-names by Samsung remind me on names of games for the Street Fighter 2-series. Super Street Fighter II X Turbo Revival-style.

  2. Like this time. My iPhone 3G was in use until the person who had it got now my 4S because the 3G was just unusable anymore because it had a broken power button, problems with making and receiving calls etc

  3. Yes, this is more expensive than a Nexus 5 which has better stats but I wanted the smaller device, the active display and be able to pay in installements

  4. Even so I got a bit of cushion thanks to awesome people who gave me a bit of money, so I was able to buy a new one

  5. 1 for the charger at the bed, 1 for my laptop, 1 for the computer at work and then I have the one that came already with my phone which is for the bag

  6. I will switch to Owncloud for that porbably soon

  7. Maybe I should change this habit as well since I am using a prepaid-card anyway but this is really hard like I noticed this year with the iPhone 4S.

  8. Yeah, a real Terminal without jailbreaking the device for stuff like pings and ssh

flattr this!