Choosing a VPN – Why should you?

Imagine that you do all of your shopping in a five block shopping district in your city. There’s a Whole Foods Grocery and a Kroger, a Nike Outlet and an Adidas shoe store, an AMC movie theater and an Imax, various service store fronts like a post office, a FedEx branch, and a bar and a strip club.

Now let’s say you have a driver that takes you on your errands, all of which you do in this shopping district. The driver has complete control over where you go and what you do. If he sees you go to the grocery, he’ll post ads about sale items. That might be helpful. But let’s say the driver has a deal with Nike and if he sees you go into the Adidas store, he can slow your trip to the store the next time or even refuse to take you there. If you shop at the “wrong store”, he may even refuse to take you shopping at all. The Driver decides what the “wrong store is”.

When the Internet was first conceived in the 40’s as a decentralized network, no one really could foresee the implications. It was supposed to be a decentralized network that could take a nuke or two and people would still be able to chat. Now, it’s where we live. In the 90’s, we fought back regulation. During the Obama administration, the people were allowed to dictate to the FCC our desires that regulation be limited. As of this week, the FCC was given full authorization to “privatize” the Internet. Now the FCC would like to tell you there is competition between service providers and that prices will go down and he might not be wrong in the short term. The problems lie with communities like Shreveport, Louisiana that only has one option for actual high speed Internet. Sure, you’ve got AT&T for DSL, but there is NO comparison in speed with cable and there’s just the one provider… Comcast.

With the new regulations, your ISP…. the driver… will be able to slow down when they don’t like where you’re going or cut you off when they feel like it. Netflix? What if they prefer Hulu? Amazon? What if they prefer Overstock.com? You should be able to go where you want at full speed whenever you want. The only way to hide your traffic from your ISP is with a Virtual Private Network or VPN. There are many services out there and we’re going with Nord VPN for the speed, security, and performance, but there are many to choose from. I will be setting up a VPN wireless gateway at home so anyone coming to the house can use it and be secure while you’re there. The easiest way to use a VPN is just choose one, sign up, and download their client. The client will sit in your system tray and when you want to be private, just open it up and click connect. They all work about the same.

Don’t let your ISP throttle you for using the Internet the way you want. The Internet belongs to everyone. It is vast and there is plenty of room for competing businesses and services and the providers of the access to those services should not have a say in where I go online. Your car can’t tell you which store to go to.

Inktober is here.

October is here and I’m participating this year in an annual event called “Inktober”. Started as a personal exercise to learn to use a new art implement he’d gotten, Inktober began with Jake Parker, an artist and You tube personality. In most cases, it’s all about ink. Using a brush, brush pen, dip pen, or micron style felt tip is pretty common and you post your image to twitter with the hashtags #Inktober and #Inktober2017. My wife is doing her version of Inktober… Artober…. and will be doing one piece of art per day and not taking the medium into account. I think it will be good for both of us.

My first effort for today’s prompt – Swift

New machine…. time to upgrade?

This post is really more me thinking out loud than it will be informative.

Again and again I am seeing the names in Gaming laptops are Sager, Gigabyte, MSI, Asus, Acer, and Dell’s Alienware. On most forums you’ll see these names over and over again. Which one, though, is the best option for a traveling gamer like me? I will use my rig for MUCH more than games. I’ll be doing some 3d animation from time to time. I might edit an HD video or two. I will hook up a digital pad and paint some. Over all of this, it’s my conduit for communication with the wife. It’s a life line.

The first part of the search is answering the question “what will I use it for?” but that isn’t the end all question. I’ve been rocking along with a 6 year old Dell XPS L701X with a first gen i7 740QM at 1.73 GHz, 8 gigs of DDR3 ram on two chips of 4 each, and an Nvidia GeForce GT 445 3 gig graphics card. Let me tell you, it’s a pain to see specs like these…. I know, not the best but still pretty dang good… fall victim to heat failure. Both of the hard drives (yep, it has two 500 gig hard drives) are cooked to the point of producing errors and the graphics ship is starting to glitch out. It’s always been a warm machine, but over the years it has just gone up and up and up.

The thing has been a tank and traveled from one end of the country to the other. Sure, it’s been a pain lugging around an almost 9 pound laptop and it’s not like I can bust it out in an airport…. o.k…. I have… but it wasn’t easy. The form factor was just what I need in a laptop. The thing of it is, I will be getting way more machine than I have no matter what I get but I want to make sure it’s future proof…. at least as much as this one was; Which leads me back to brands.

Dell as an option again? Well, on one hand, Dell has been a good brand to me and the XPS line still exists but the hardware is stunted. Alienware is their gaming line and while I might not need a gaming computer, much of the gaming hardware lends it’s self to performance. On the other hand, for the hardware, Alienware is just too expensive and I feel like you’re paying for a name. On the other other hand, Inspiron (which was my first Dell laptop) Does have the specs I’m looking for mostly, but the Ram is not as upgradeable as I would like and the graphics card is GTX 940 with 2 gigs of ram…. kind of a downgrade almost; better processor but less ram.

So if not dell, what are my other options. During the course of my research, I’ve notices MSI, Asus ROG line, and Sager pop up again and again. I didn’t know much about Sager and, while I’d heard of MSI before, I didn’t really know anything about them either. Asus I’ve heard of and I have heard good things so I looked there first.

Asus ROG line is paring down at Xotic PC. The one I had configured is no longer available in the configuration I chose. The MSI seems to be more rugged, but the ram configures in odd ways and the max ram I would like to be supported, 64 gigs (for upgrade), is not available on their models in my price range. That kind of leaves me at Sager and Gigabyte as options.

The Sager NP8176 seems, by all accounts, to be a descent machine (linked one not configured). I have not found many reviews but Sager seems to be a respected brand amongst gamers on Toms Hardware. The Gigabyte P57WV7 has some rave reviews at New Egg (linked version not configured yet) and Amazon, but the max supported Ram is 32 gigs and, my wife will not like this, the keyboard does not have the rainbow lights of the Sager. To her, I’m sure that will be enough to decide. I’m leaning more towards the Sager, but the lack of reviews of this specific model (others review well) makes me a little nervous.

In a nut shell, I am one of those people who plans not to have to replace something in two years, but takes care of what they have and will probably upgrade memory, hard drive, and generally baby my machine until it completely falls apart. Which ever one I go with, has to be able to last at least as long as my last one. 6 years isn’t too much to ask, is it?

Pi not on a plate

I have been following the progress made on the Raspberry Pi for a while now and it’s reached a level of capability that I find very intriguing. Built in wifi opens up a lot of doors on the Raspberry Pi 3 as well as the built in blue tooth capabilities so you don’t waste a usb slot on a blue tooth dongle is pretty big. II initially thought about getting a 1 as a take-along desktop option since I travel almost constantly, but it wasn’t full featured enough. The 3 has a quad core processor, able to run ARM versions of Linux at speed. I now have something that is pretty serviceable! I mean, it won’t play Minecraft, or most other video games, but it’s a really nice start.

I say it won’t play most other video games, but that’s a little misleading. For instance, here’s Lindsay last night playing the old Nintendo classic “Jaws” on RetroPie, one of the three OSes I’ve installed. Aside from this, I’m running Ubuntu Mate and a Kodi variant called Open Elec making this a fully portable and functional home entertainment computer. Wow…. all that four a base of 35 plus a few bucks for a case and an SD card I already had.

Is it for everyone? No. Not by a long shot. It’s fun to play with and Berryboot,a boot loder / installer, made installing the OSes very easy…. unlike another I tried called Multiboot Pi. I loaded Berryboot, plugged in the card, and installed the first OS, Ubunt Mate, then added the others as I wanted them. Adding Games was easy-ish too. This is not a hardcore gaming rig and it’s not a video production machine, two of my on again off again pursuits. As a purely for entertainment toy or as a word processor / email getter/web surfer…. Absolutely.