Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Clouds, Dust and Sweeping Up

A few random thoughts here.

Clouds - I was wondering just how many Cloud services I use, and actually which services might qualify or not - so what are the criteria?

Dust - I recently dusted off and powered on my old Nokia N800 NIT (Nokia Internet Tablet).

Sweeping Up - I recently wrote myself a web scraper in Python which is available here on github:

Clouds - SaaS

Just a thought.
As I checked in my latest code into github I was wondering how many cloud services I use and which ones would count?

What makes a Cloud service a cloud service?
Well, probably the flexible infrastructure behind it but as an end user what matters is having something easy to use, reliable that doesn't depend just on local compute and storage capabilities.

As an end user I don't know what's behind github.
I hope it's reliable.
I don't care what protocols' it uses, though I do want it to be secure.

What other services do I use
- Dropbox: who doesn't?
     As much as I'd like to leave for something more secure, that free 8Gby ... ops no, 9.25GBy since a couple of days ago is hard to ignore.  It's a very reliable service and the price is spiffing!
     I just wish they'd encrypt stuff on their server side and generally not claim they own my stuff!

     Possible contenders for replacement are ownCloud (open source but requires a minimum of investment to set up) and 4sync (not sure yet).

     ownCloud has the advantage of working on ARM architectures, even on arm6 ... whence the Raspberry Pi!  OpenSource is a definite advantage here.

- GMail: of course

- Facebook: well I almost left but ... just do a lot less on Facebook these days out of lack of trust.
   I still consider it extremely useful for keeping tabs on family and old Friends

- Twitter: for when I'm bored ...

- LinkedIn: Lot's of useful groups with useful info here, useful job opportunities for the day when I need it.  I really like it just for keeping tabs on ex colleagues

That's just a few but there are probably lots more that I use ...

Dust - Nokia N800

I was recently having a big throw out and almost threw out my old NSLU2's (http://www.nslu2.org) and old LinkSys mini-NAS which runs Linux and has many alternative firmwares provided by the hacker community, and also my old Nokia N800 and ARM (arm6) Internet Tablet from the pre-iPhone days.

I powered it on not sure if it would even work.
It did so I decided to reinstall a clean system and see what it could do.
I'm impressed by this little computer.
It can play MP3, it has internet *and* FM radio, it can play video and in it's time had a very active community hoping that it's Linux "Maemo", which became "MeeGo" and then no more ... would be the next big thing.

Well even 4-5 years later the battery life is reasonable, it has a very practical integrated kickback stand, the screen is a resistive touch screen for which there's a stylus.  It works pretty well.
On the one hand the choice and flexibility of the software is a bit limited, on the otther hand it has it's
own Application Manager - did someone say App Store (of course not you'd get sued ... except that this is prior art of course).

A really neat feature is that it uses the earphones leads as an antenna for the FM Radio.
Even better you can select to have the speakers playing with the earphones plugged in.

Earlier today I wanted to use rsync to backup some scripts from the machine, but I was surprised that rsync wasn't there ... I'm getting spoilt by this thing.
So I dropped down to command-line and 'apt-get install rsync' did the trick, I then backed up those scripts from a remote machine using rsync (over ssh).

Lovely stuff.
It's such a shame to see Nokia going down the tubes today, they did some really nice hardware.
Of course they're still doing really nice hardware, it's just a shame they gambled the company on Windows Phone.  That's great for Microsoft, we'll have to see what it means for Nokia.

Sweeping Up - Scraper

I recently created a new github project, actually my first.  I really should do more of this even if these are just scripts, generally written to scratch an itch.  They could be useful to someone and they're certainly a good learning opportunity for me.

In this case, this was surely a case of reinventing the wheel but I wanted 2 things

  • A decent project to get me launched on Python.  I'm trying to be less dependent on Perl.  Perl's great and I won't abandon it ... I've been writing Perl, PHP, Python and even a little Ruby this year.  My big dislike is the "there's more than one way to do it" attitude of Perl.  Well this is a strength of course, but the downside is I feel everyone has their own syntax and it's too easy to write unreadable code in Perl.  On the other hand I hate the indentation of Python but figured I just had to take the plunge.
  • I had specific needs for a Web-Scraper, a tool to go search for changes in web pages and then notify of changes by e-mail, even sending me the changes by e-mail.  For a long time I used changedetection.com a free service which I highly recommend.  It's a great service *but* of course they can't send you the content, only a link to the content.  I want content direct to my letter box, not promises ...
Maybe I could have reused an existing project like Scrapy, but I wouldn't have been forced to learn Python, I wouldn't have had the tailor made solution I wanted.  It's also a good opportunity to host my own project on github.

Scraper is located here:

There's a README on that page which should be enough to get you started, enjoy.

I've been running Scraper on my Raspberry Pi for about a month now.

Let me know of any problems you encounter or enhancements you'd like to see.

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