Sep 29 2021

Laptop Travel Accessories

Category: Hardware,ReviewsTeknovis @ 22:09

I recently travelled by air for the first time in 18 months. I was not travelling for work, but I was working while I was abroad, so I had to bring my laptop with me. The experience taught me that I needed to buy some new accessories!

All Accessories
All Accessories

Bluetooth Keyboard

I already own an Arteck Bluetooth keyboard, and I use it with my phone a lot. I think that it is extremely useful, and I love it. However, I needed to buy a new one for travelling. So I bought the Arteck HB220B. I also bought the Arteck HC220 Protection Case.

Bluetooth Keyboard Boxed
Bluetooth Keyboard Boxed
Bluetooth Keyboard Unboxed
Bluetooth Keyboard Unboxed
Bluetooth Keyboard with Cover
Bluetooth Keyboard with Cover

Both the keyboard and the cover are excellent. There are two features of the keyboard that are especially useful to me:

  • It is backlight, so it is very easy to use in low-light locations (e.g., a room at night, on a plane). There are seven backlight colours to choose from!
  • The keyboard can be used with three devices at the same time, and you simply switch device by pressing one of the bright blue buttons on the top right of the keyboard.

The keyboard and cover were the only accessories that I bought from Amazon UK. I was concerned that if I bought them from Amazon DE (Germany) then the layout of the keys would be slightly different. (I know that the functionality of the keys can be changed in the operating system, but the stickers on the keys would still be wrong.)

Screen Cleaner

I am extremely fussy about keeping my laptop and phone screens clean, and I really hate streaks or specs on either. So I bought this Mistify Natural Screen Cleaner Set that includes clothes and solution.

Screen Cleaner Boxed
Screen Cleaner Boxed
Screen Cleaner Unboxed
Screen Cleaner Unboxed

This is working well, and I have no streaks on my screens!

Carabiners

You can never have enough carabiners in my opinion! I think that they are extremely useful for connecting things to the outside of a laptop bag, and even to a trouser belt. A typical use for me would be clipping my headphone case to my trouser belt before boarding a plane so that I have easy access to them during the flight without having to open the overhead bin and opening my bag!

Unfortunately the exact pair of locking carabiners that I bought does not seem to be available any more, but these ones are similar: GnarCore Carabiner Set.

Locking Carabiner Boxed
Locking Carabiner Boxed
Locking Carabiner Unboxed
Locking Carabiner Unboxed

I also got a box set of cheaper non-locking carabiners: MyIdeaz Carabiner.

Carabiner Set Boxed
Carabiner Set Boxed
Carabiner Set Unboxed
Carabiner Set Unboxed

I love the colours, but I thought that individually wrapping each carabiner was a waste of packaging.

Carabiner
Carabiner

Combination Locks

On two separate occasions I have had people try to pickpocket my backpack while I was wearing it, so I bought Amazon Basics AB-PL108 Luggage Locks to prevent this.

There were many other brands to choose from, and some of the other locks definitely looked more secure. I wanted combination locks, but I did not want locks that could be opened using a TSA key.

Combination Locks Packaged
Combination Locks Packaged

I did not realise that there were two locks in the packet until I opened it!

Combination Lock
Combination Lock

The locks are very light, and they are unlikely to offer any resistance against a tool.

USB-C Cables

Finally, I bought some USB-C to USB-C Cables. My laptop has only USB-C ports, and my phone is USB-C, so it is very convenient being able to connect them together without any adaptors.

USB-C Cables
USB-C Cables

I liked this set because it contains three cables of very different lengths. I am probably using the shortest one the most when my phone is on a table beside the laptop.

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Apr 18 2021

XMind 2020

Category: Reviews,WindowsTeknovis @ 20:10

I have been using mindmaps for years, and I think that they are great! I was using FreeMind, but recently I found it stale and dated looking. Its successor (Freeplane) did not look much better.

I asked some colleagues what they were using, and XMind was the dominant answer. I liked the look of it, so I decided to give it a try.

Initially I was confused about the differences between XMind 2020 and XMind 8. I found two pages that summarise the differences:

However, I still found the differences confusing. Luckily you can can download them both and try them both – which is exactly what I did (in my Windows Sandbox)!

My conclusion is that XMind 2020 is a better tool for pure mindmapping, whereas XMind 8 contains a broader range of functionality, but less functionality for pure mindmapping.

Hence I decided to use XMind 2020. The main things that I like about it (beyond the fact that it is great mindmapping software) are:

  • There is a light mode and a dark mode.
  • It renders well on 4k screens.
  • The built-in styles look very elegant and fresh.
  • There is a good choice of graphic decorations (e.g., Markers and Stickers).

Unfortunately it is not perfect, and the following aspects annoy me:

  • There is a lot of wasted space on the toolbars, and there is no ability to add more icons (e.g., it would be nice to have a “Save” button there).
  • It supports multiple tabs, but I struggle to open an existing mindmap in a new tab. Instead, the second mindmap opens in a new window – which I hate! Luckily there is a workaround (How to open existing map in new tab?).
  • Panning using the mouse wheel is horrible (but at least you can use the right mouse button instead).

At the moment I am using the trial version, but I will probably move to the full version. The differences are explained here: What are the differences between XMind 2020 trial version and full version?

It is available for Android, but I do not see myself trying to work with mindmaps on my phone.

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Nov 03 2020

Dell XPS 17

Category: Hardware,ReviewsTeknovis @ 23:12

I recently bought a new Dell XPS 17 laptop. It has been years since I last blogged, so I thought that this would be a good time to post something new!

Unboxing

My unboxing experience with Dell has been very positive in recent years, and this was no exception. Having said that, I am not too fussed about the unboxing experience!

A courier delivered my laptop in a normal brown cardboard box. I opened this, and I took out the XPS 17 box.

Dell XPS 17 Box
Dell XPS 17 Box

I assume that the clear plastic wrap was to protect the black box from scruff marks, but I thought that it was an unnecessary use of plastic. Also, the black box looked much better without the plastic wrap.

Dell XPS 17 Box
Dell XPS 17 Box

The box itself is very nice. It is kept closed by a magnet in the flap. I have keep the box for some other (as yet unknown) purpose! The laptop is within this box.

Dell XPS 17 in Box
Dell XPS 17 in Box

The laptop is also wrapped in clear plastic, but this is probably more worthwhile then the outer plastic wrap on the box.

The charger and supplied adapter (Thunderbolt to USB and HDMI) are underneath the laptop.

Empty Dell XPS 17 Box
Empty Dell XPS 17 Box

I was actually surprised that so little of the box is used. I think that it probably could be less than half of its height.

Perhaps the best thing about the unboxing experience is that the plastic is 100% recycled, and some of it has been salvaged from the sea! Well done Dell!

Accessories

I also bought a new mouse and a wired network adapter.

The mouse is a Microsoft Surface Mobile Mouse. The most confusing thing about buying this mouse was its name, and the difference between it and the Microsoft Surface Mouse!

I generally like Microsoft mice, but this one was a bit a gamble because it is so slim in the vertical direction. Luckily I find that it is very comfortable, and I love that I do not need to use a dongle in my laptop because it is a Bluetooth mouse!

Microsoft Surface Mobile Mouse
Microsoft Surface Mobile Mouse

The wired network adaptor is from a brand that was not previously known to me. I use a wireless connection most of the time, but there are occasions when I need to upload/download gigabytes from my local network (e.g., raw photos for post-processing). I will use this adaptor on these occasions.

Wired Network Adapter
Wired Network Adapter

The only difficulty that I had when buying this adaptor was trying to understand the differences between a Thunderbolt adaptor and a USB-C adaptor.

I bought both the mouse and the wired network adaptor from Amazon Germany.

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May 28 2017

Ryanair Recommendations

Category: Aviation,eShoppingTeknovis @ 15:04

It really has been a long time since I blogged! I was booking flights with Ryanair during the week, and I noticed this recommendation:

Ryanair Recommendations

Ryanair Recommendations

In general I think that Ryanair’s website is excellent. However, its recommendations are really bad for the following reasons:

  • I have not flown to or from Gatwick ever with Ryanair, so it should not show me flights from Gatwick.
  • The vast majority of my Ryanair flights are return flights from Dublin, so it should not suggest that I visit Dublin.
  • All my profile details indicate that I live in Ireland, so it is highly unlikely that I will ever fly to Belfast, Shannon, or Cork.
  • I am not sure why Alicante is there!

It really seems that Ryanair’s recommendation system is worse than a random suggestion engine!

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Jul 16 2016

Null Island

Category: Humour,Location Based ServicesTeknovis @ 17:46

Wow! I realise that it is a long time since I blogged…

Anyway, a friend recently told me about Null Island! It sounds like a great place!

Unfortunately, it is difficult to actually get there, according to If You Can’t Follow Directions, You’ll End Up on Null Island.


Mar 26 2016

Mobile World Congress 2016

Category: Events,Mobile Computing,TelecomsTeknovis @ 19:19

I have been threatening for ages to write-up some thoughts on Mobile World Congress, but at this stage I am writing less than I originally planed, and much later than originally planed! However, it is better late than never!

Mobile World Congress

Mobile World Congress

The major themes this year (based upon walking around) appeared to be:

  • Virtual Reality: This was probably the biggest new area, and there were many impressive demonstrations!
  • Phone Cameras: Lots of advancements here, and I think that the smart phone manufacturers are finding new ways to differentiate themselves (e.g., dual lenses, dual pixels)
  • Wearables: Nothing here really impressed me!
  • Connected Vehicles: Every large stand had some sort of vehicle present, although very few actually needed them present!
  • 5G: There was very little about 5G, which was a surprise to me!

Perhaps the show has peaked in technical terms, and it is becoming more focused on consumer products!

Some other non-technical thoughts that struck me were:

  • I did not see a single booth babe!
  • I think that there were less local university students than in previous years promoting products that they did not understand!
  • Local model makers probably did good business!

Mobile World Congress Models

Mobile World Congress Models

I live tweeted photos and thoughts during the event, and you can view these on my Twitter feed.

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Nov 28 2015

Irish Incomes

Category: Economy,MoneyTeknovis @ 17:33

I am always interested in statistics relating to Irish incomes, and I often get asked about this while travelling, so I thought the the following statistics from Plans to slash the USC are rash and dangerous – here’s why were very interesting:

  • 70% of earners have an income greater than 12,000€ per annum
  • 50% of earners have an income greater than 27,000€ per annum
  • 22% of earners have an income greater than 50,000€ per annum
  • 16% of earners have an income greater than 60,000€ per annum

These figures relate to earned income, so they do not include non-earned income.

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Nov 17 2015

Ripping DVDs

Category: Android,Digital Imaging,SoftwareTeknovis @ 21:15

I have a small (or perhaps average) collection of DVDs. Some are old, some are new, and there are many that I have not yet watched. There are also some that I have seen several times. They are a mix of films and series.

The way that people consume media has changed dramatically over recent years, and I am no exception to this phenomenon! So it has been a while since I last looked at a DVD. There are probably two significant reasons for this:

  • I no longer have a laptop with a DVD player
  • I use my phone for accessing online content

However, I would like to watch some of my DVDs. So I decided that it was time I learned how to rip them!

Unfortunately the process turned-out to be slightly more cumbersome to get started than I expected. I was told by colleagues to use HandBrake. It is a neat application, and it is easy to get it running. However, the videos that it produced were stuttering and pixelated. I spent a while playing with settings, and browsing the web site to no avail :(

I then came across this very useful and up-to-date article: How to Rip a DVD to Your Computer. It transpired that my problems were being caused by not having libdvdcss installed! So I installed the latest 64bit version (rather than the version linked to in the article), and everything worked smoothly!

The “normal” preset plays back perfectly on both my computer (using VLC media player) and my mobile phone!

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Sep 26 2015

Secure Instant Messaging App Selection

Category: Mobile Computing,SecurityTeknovis @ 07:23

I was searching for a new secure instant messaging app, and I previously described my requirements in Secure Instant Messaging App Requirements. My search has finished, and I have a winner :) Let me explain how I got to this point :)

There are lots of messaging apps available that claim to be secure. Indeed, they may well be depending on what is meant by secure. My requirements were very clear, so it was relatively easy to reduce the field to an initial short list of four (in alphabetical order):

All of these apps are covered in the Secure Messaging Scorecard by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I found that was a very useful resource.

Surespot was the first to be eliminated. This was an easy decision, because there are rumours that it has been compromised. I am not sure that I believe all of these rumours, but they are enough to scare me away! See any of the following:

Telegram was next to be eliminated. It has several good and bad features, and the main ones of interest to me are summarised in the table below.

Good Bad
Available for desktops Founded by, and run by, Russians
Provides end-to-end encryption, but only for secret chats Group chats do not use end-to-end encryption
Scored 4/7 in normal use, and 7/7 for secret chats Uses phone numbers
Available for both Android and iOS There are some concerns over its use of a very custom protocol

It was fairly to easy to eliminate Telegram, because I do not like the way that it only provides end-to-end encryption in the secure chat mode. It would be too difficult for me to educate my target audience in the differences between the various types of chats.

This left Open Whisper Systems and Threema, and I spent the most time studying both of these. Obviously I looked at their respective web sites, and I also found the following two resources very useful:

The main good and bad features of Open Whisper Systems in my opinion are summarised in the table below.

Good Bad
Open source Based in the US
Includes voice support Funded by the US government
Great endorsements (Bruce Schneier, Edward Snowden) Previous links with Twitter, and current vague links with Whatsapp/Facebook
Scored 7/7 Linked to the device’s SIM
Provides end-to-end encryption (using elliptic curves) Integrates with the native messaging app
Provides end-to-end forward secrecy
Includes identity verification
Available for both Android and iOS

Similarly, the main good and bad features of Threema in my opinion are summarised in the table below.

Good Bad
Provides end-to-end encryption (using elliptic curves) Does not include voice support
Provides end-to-end encryption for group chats No desktop version
Cryptography provided using a respected library (NaCl) Not free
Scored 5/7 Does not provide end-to-end forward secrecy
Not linked to the device’s SIM, so it can be used on devices without SIMs
Hosted in Switzerland
Standalone app
Includes identity verification
Available for both Android and iOS

Of course I realise that some of my opinions are very subjective (such as the nationalities of the people behind them). I am also aware that I must have a certain amount of trust in the app provider, and that no secure app in the world can compensate for a compromised operating system!

So what app did I ultimately select? Threema :) So far I have been extremely happy with my choice!

However, I have been impressed by Open Whisper Systems, and I am considering using it for work purposes. (I like to keep my personal apps separate from my work apps.)

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Sep 20 2015

The Billion Dollar Startup Club

Category: Business,InfographicTeknovis @ 12:40

A very nice interactive infographic: The Billion Dollar Startup Club


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