Back in 2016, I wrote a blog piece about modular mobile devices. Sadly, pretty much all of the projects I mentioned at the time got canned. Those that survive tend to be the least modular, like the Fairphone, which is repairable, but but not modular in the sense that Project ARA was intended to be. When I attended the 2018 Platform Cooperative conference in Hong Kong, there was a lot of talk about ways of making computer hardware more available to smaller companies, allowing them to develop their own devices. I still like the idea of allowing the end user to pop components in and out of their devides like lego blocks, for all the reasons I mentioned in that 2016 piece. Maybe cooperatively owned device makers could be the way to make it happen?

In the meantime, if there’s anyone out there looking for an open hardware project, here’s a mobile device design you’d have at least one customer for. The basic idea is a tablet mainly used for offline media consumption - reading books, listening to podcasts - but can also be used for casual communication, when there is a WiFi connection available. All components would ideally use chipsets that can run with only free code software.

Hardware:

  • E-Ink touchscreen, the size of a small-to-medium tablet
  • replaceable SDcard for the OS
  • separate SDcard expansion slot for added storage
  • full size USB port (or smaller port with dongle) for connecting USB sticks/drives
  • WiFi (with hardware switch)
  • Bluetooth for wireless headphones, keyboards etc and for file transfer (with hardware switch)
  • standard headphone jack
  • camera and microphone for communications (with hardware switches)

Software

  • Free code touchscreen OS that is compatible with the e-ink screen and can run F-Droid and Android apps (Replicant OS?)
Filed June 29th, 2019 under open hardware, Makers

It seems I have a ghost profile on FarceBook. I didn’t set this up and I don’t control it. I finally got into my old account a few days ago and realized I’d set it up using another pseudonym, so it wasn’t the one that kept coming up in web searches, with a picture of me as the profile picture. Someone must have scraped a picture of me from the web (maybe from the Disintermedia wiki?) and set this up for spam purposes. I wonder if I can prove I’m me and get it shut down?

I first tried to delete my account as part of an organized Quit FaceBook Day back back in 2010. I put quite a bit of effort into researching how to do it and, as far as I knew, it was gone for good. However, I started to read rumours that even “deleted” accounts could be reactivated if you just logged into them, so I tested the theory. Sure enough, my account was back. I couldn’t see the point in going through all the deletion theatre again, so having already emptied it of all the personal information I could, I just abandoned it.

Recently, I had thought about turning it into a portal that gave some information about why I don’t and won’t use FB, with links to the federated social media services I am currently using. But since the account attached to my Disintermedia email address is under another name, it’s not really much use for that. I can’t change the display name without giving FB my cell phone number and a bunch of other personal information, which I have no intention of doing. So I’ve deleted it again and I’m hoping, given the new requirements about the “rightsto be forgotten” in the European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations), that this time, it’s for good. Watch this space …

Filed June 12th, 2019 under open social networks

Sunday 09 June, 8:00 UTC

Candidate: Riot.im (Matrix client)

VOICE (VOICE Organized Investigation of Chat Engines) is an informal app testing group, trialing free code apps to see how well they handle voice chat, especially with groups. We aim to have a group chat testing session at least once a month, on a Sunday, starting at 8:00 UTC, with the first Sunday of the month as the default. We are currently using a Matrix room to confirm the timing of testing sessions, as well as for discussion about available apps and related topics: #voicechat:matrix.org

For our first scheduled testing session, we tried the voice/ video chat integrated with Riot, a client for the federated chat protocol Matrix. Riot can do voice/video group chat, using a “widget” (add-on) that connects a Matrix chat room to a hosted instance of Jitsi Meet (see also the demo at meet.jit.si). All three participants were using Riot, so no idea if this works for Matrix clients other than Riot.

I initially tried to join in using the Android version of Riot. After a bit of trouble connecting to the chat, I was able to connect and talk to the other two participants for a while. The sound quality was good and there was very little delay. The other two participants carried on a discussion for a couple of hours, with no problems. I however, got booted from the chat after a few minutes and wasn’t able to reconnect. I tried again with the web version of Riot on my laptop, and with the Electron version, but wasn’t able to connect to the voice chat with either.

My mobile device is running Android 4.4.4 and I’m behind the Great Firewall of China. So any problems I have are not necessarily a reflection on the app being tested. In this case, I suspect jitsi.riot.im – the URL for Riot’s instance of Jitsi – is being blocked by the GFC. Although that doesn’t explain why I was able to connect with the Android app for a while. Maybe it has a different way of connecting to the Jitsi chat than the web app? But if so, it’s still odd that it worked and then stopped.

The Riot client warns users that the chat feature is experimental. As long as you’re using an up-to-date OS and not in China, it seems like a good option for an informal group chat. In future, if they can get it really stable, it could be a great supplement to the team chat features of Matrix.

Originally published using write.as

Filed June 10th, 2019 under free software
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