Facebook Really?

re. Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

Really folks? You never thought that by using FB creds for other sites it meant they had you by your digital kahonas? And that if one day the company died or became an evil empire, that you would lose tons of your personal info? Or maybe that someone else could “steal” your information? You gave them your birthday, your friends, where you live, work, and the (filtered, fun, likeable) things you do every day, for “FREE”! I got off that creepy awesome ad platform many years ago and off this one too but came back here. Now with this “it’s not a data breach” FB situation I am tempted to to leave LinkedIn, ahem Microsoft, again.</rant>

Ok I am off to buy that log home in the woods and sure hope that it has cell coverage just in case FOMO hits ūüôā

What information does LinkedIn keep on you?

I’m a bit of a digital hoarder and, on the flip side, a freak regarding my personal privacy. I am also passionate about social networking. The other day I was checking my LinkedIn personal settings and wanted to know what information LinkedIn is keeping on me. If you don’t remember, LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft as of Jun 2016.

If you haven’t gone into the Privacy settings, I recommend that you check each of the Privacy settings to make sure you’re comfortable with who sees what information about you. They put a cute heading on the page which made me smile:

Bernie, you’re the boss of your account.

When I shutdown my Facebook profile years ago, I exported the data and I was surprised at how little information I could get out of Facebook. At the time I couldn’t even get the email addresses of the 100s of “Friends”! LinkedIn is the opposite. When you export your LinkedIn data, they seem to provide “everything”.

Here’s how to run the export in 5 easy steps, start [ here ]

After you run those steps, you’ll need to wait a bit. Interestingly, they send you an initial email with a subset of the data and then within 24 hours you get the larger ZIP file. Here’s the files inside the ZIP file:

I was super impressed on not only the level of my personal information I was able to get out but also the format, with each data set in a CSV file. You you can easily import these files into Excel or Google Sheets. I was also scared at the level of history that LinkedIn stores on me. Not surprised, just scared. Here’s the positive and creepy data that was exported. In the example data, I’ve removed my private information of course!

Positive / Useful

  1. Articles.csv – all of the contents of each of the 8 LinkedIn articles that I wrote
  2. Media Files.csv – all of the 74 images and PDFs I shared with my connections
  3. Comments.csv – the 70 comments and shares with the URLs
    "Comment Date" "Comment Content Type" "Comment Content Title" "Comment Content Url" "Comment Message"
    "2017/11/17 02:44:26 UTC" "Share" "" "https://www.linkedin.com/nhome/updates?activity=activity%3A6336741747246264320" "Congrats Francois, huge accomplishment!"
    "2017/11/15 11:33:58 UTC" "Share" "LG V30 review: Samsung Galaxy S8 better watch out" "https://www.linkedin.com/nhome/updates?activity=activity%3A6336351407045693440" "Handy comparison site https://www.phonearena.com/phones/compare/LG-V30,Google-Pixel-2-XL,Apple-iPhone-X/phones/10577,10568,10414"
  4. Connections.csv – the most useful file in the export and includes my 1,090¬† LinkedIn connections’ names, email addresses, job titles and when I connected. This is useful for me since there may be contacts in here that are missing from my person contacts “HAL” database
    First Name,Last Name,Email Address,Company,Position,Connected On,Tags
  5. Endorsements.csv – who endorsed me for what skill, when and whether it is shown on my profile or not
    "Endorsement Date" "Skill Name" "Endorser First Name" "Endorser Last Name" "Endorsement Status" "Display Status"
    "2017/08/28 08:35:45 UTC" "Project Delivery" "Sponge" "Bob" "Accepted" "Show"
  6. Group Posts.csv – the 68 posts I’ve made in LinkedIn Groups
    "Time" "Subject" "Post Text" "Content Url"
    "2017/07/07 01:58:24 UTC" "FINALLY! Introducing ""The Interactive Iot Map -- TAKE 3""" "I am super excited to announce an exclusive preview to members of this group, I've put an early beta of my third iteration of the <snip>"
  7. Invitations.csv – list of connection requests, only shows 157 requests for me, back 9 months ago. Shows who I requested connections (OUTGOING) to or vice versa (INCOMING)
    From,To,Sent At,Message,Direction
    Bob Bobson,Bernie J,"12/5/17, 4:56 PM",,INCOMING
    Jane Janeson,Bernie J.,"11/14/17, 2:24 PM","Let's connect our networks",OUTGOING
  8. Logins.csv – list of the times I logged in and the type of browser (which can indicate which device I was using at the time), the IP address (which can be used to infer from where I logged in), and whether I was using a third party or the LinkedIn Web (“Website Login”). This could be useful if you wanted to see if others were logging into your account. In my case the data goes back 2 years and shows 94 logins which seems extremely low
    "Login Date" "IP Address" "User Agent" "Login Type"
    "2017/12/04 10:23:56 UTC" "22.333.444.555" "LIAuthLibrary:0.0.3 com.linkedin.android:4.0.89 motorola_XT1032:android_5.1" "Third Party Login"
  9. Messages.csv – the 1,729 messages that I have sent or received since I re-joined LinkedIn. This could also fall under the Creepy list. Shows the person, date and time and direction of the message (INCOMING or OUTGOING)
    From,To,Date,Subject,Content,Direction,Folder
    Ahmed Bobby,Bernie J.,"12/6/17, 4:17 PM",,Thanks,INCOMING,INBOX
  10. Mobile Applications.csv – list of mobile apps and devices used to access my account. Could be useful to see if someone else is accessing your account, i.e. if you don’t recognize the device make / model
    "Time Registered" "Application Id" "Mobile Device Type" "Mobile Model"
    "2015/11/30 11:40:11 UTC" "com.linkedin.android" "android" "motorola_XT1563"
  11. Name Changes.csv – this one was the fun one for me personally. I suppose others would only have one entry
    "Name Change Date" "Old Name" "New Name" "Locale"
    "2017/02/25 03:14:16 UTC" "The Pointy-Haired-Manager" "Bernie J" "en_US"
    "2017/01/10 12:31:59 UTC" "The PHM" "The Pointy-Haired-Manager" "en_US"
  12. Patents.csv – list of the patents I authored/co-authored
  13. Recommendations Received.csv – list of recommendations from within my network, the “feel good” file
  14. Videos.csv – interesing, for this content you need to go to another URL
    Description,Link
    Video content can be downloaded at,https://www.linkedin.com/psettings/member-data/videos

Creepy

  1. Ad Targetting.csv – a set of 244 keywords, likely the words used to target ads at me
  2. Ads Clicked.csv – list of ads that I clicked, when I clicked them (no I was not at work!). I clicked on 30 ads in the past 2 year. A couple of examples from my file.
    "Ad Click Date" "Ad Title"
    "2017/10/28 10:40:56 UTC" "Sponsored Update: Download our latest eBook to learn how to build meaningful relationships with social interactions.https://lnkd.in/daEM-nz"
    "2017/07/29 10:25:28 UTC" "Sponsored Update: Attention Toronto: Join us for a free Kubernetes 101 training on Aug 8th! Register for early access today: https://goo.gl/NN9y1v"
  3. Imported Contacts.csv – OK this is a very¬†creepy file for me personally. It’s all of my 5,407 contacts with their name, company, title, email address, phone numbers. I have no idea how to remove these from LinkedIn. If you do, please comment on this post!
    First Name,Last Name,Companies,Title,Email Address,Phone Numbers,Created At
    Alisha,"Fred, (PMP)",Flipp,Scrum Master/Agile PM,alisha.blah@blah.com,248-555-1212,"9/8/15, 10:26 PM"
  4. Positions.csv – each of the job positions I have held and entered into LinkedIn profile. Creepy but also obviously useful on this service
    Company Name,Title,Description,Location,Started On,Finished On
    Disney,"Director, Actors",In charge of hiring Mickey Mouse,May 2014,Dec 2017
  5. Profile.csv – also super creepy with my name, address, birth date, marital status, Location oh my!
    First Name,Last Name,Maiden Name,Address,Birth Date,Contact Instructions,Marital Status,Headline,Summary,Industry,Country,Zip Code,Geo Location,Twitter Handles,Websites,Instant Messengers
    Bernie,J.,,,,,,I love inventing and creating products,"An enthusiastic, hands on, and continuously improving leader with demonstrated experience in all aspects of software product development.
  6. Search Queries.csv – OK also up there on the creepy scale, each of the 2,783 searches I made in LinkedIn over the past 2 years
    "Time" "Search Query"
    "2017/12/01 04:16:51 UTC" "IoT CEO"

Not so Useful

  1. Account Status History.csv – just the date created. I was on LinkedIn from when they started until 2012 and then deleted everything and created a new account
    "Time" "Event"
    "2012/07/13 02:47:36 UTC" "Account Created"
  2. Group Likes.csv – the 2 comments on group posts that I liked. I guess I am not good in groups (joke)
  3. Group Comments.csv – the 137 comments that I have made on Group posts, when I made them and on what post (URL)
    "Time" "Comment Text" "Subject Of Discussion" "Text Commented On" "Content Url"
    "2017/08/01 11:15:52 UTC" "Great article, a must read for Product Managers. A Kanban board is a simple and effective way to visualize intangible WIP." "Is Your IoT Project Being Held Back by these Myths?" "Sometimes we have beliefs that we just accept as true; don’t really think about them, just take them for granted. This landmark HBR study looks at some commonly held beliefs about product development. Have a look: snip.ly/5cuh0FinishLinePDS" "https://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&gid=73311&type=member&item=6298083550562385922"
  4. Education.csv – self-explanatory
  5. Certifications.csv – simple list of my certifications
  6. Email Addresses.csv – my email addresses
    Email Address,Confirmed,Primary,Updated On
    blah@blah.net,Yes,Yes,"9/10/17, 6:30 AM"
  7. Honors.csv – volunteer experience
    Title,Description,Issuer,Issue Date
    Volunteer of the Year,,YMCA,2007
  8. Languages.csv
    Name,Proficiency
    English,Native or bilingual proficiency
    ASL,Elementary proficiency
  9. Likes.csv – the 227 shares / posts that I “liked”
    "Like Date" "Like Content Type" "Liked Content Title" "Liked Content Message" "Liked Content Url"
    "2017/11/18 08:53:40 UTC" "Share" "" "One of the simplest, easiest, and best ways I've seen for gathering customer feedback.3 simple options, easy to understand, and a quick way for customers to rate a service., Click a button. Done in seconds.Let this inspire you if you gather customer feedback on your services (and you should, if you are not!)Any other good ways you have seen?" "https://www.linkedin.com/nhome/updates?activity=activity%3A6337350866357481472"
  10. Registration.csv – when I create my LinkedIn account
    Registration Date,Registration IP Address,Invited by (First Name),Invited by (Last Name),Subscription Types
    "7/12/12, 7:47 PM",24.226.33.214,,,
  11. Security Challenges.csv – this could be useful but looks like I was only challenged once from (embarassingly) a Windows 10 machine back in February in some “Unknown” country
    "Challenge Date" "IP Address" "User Agent" "Country" "Challenge Type"
    "2017/02/19 09:01:50 UTC" "" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; WOW64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/56.0.2924.87 Safari/537.36" "Unknown" "Captcha"
  12. Shares.csv – this could also be useful, but not for me. A list of the 147 shares I made since Nov 2014, where I made them (Homepage) and whether they were Public or Private (Visibility)
    "Date" "Share Title" "Share Description" "Share Link" "Share Commentary" "Shared URL" "Media URL" "Type" "Visibility"
    "2017/12/09 01:44:38 UTC" "Android 8.1 feature spotlight: Speed labels for open Wi-Fi networks are now displayed in settings" "While open Wi-Fi networks are nice to find, they can sometimes be so slow that you'd prefer to just use your precious mobile data. Google seems to agree wi... by Richard Gao in Android OS, Google, News, Oreo 8.0/8.1" "https://www.linkedin.com/nhome/updates?activity=activity%3A6345075471444692992" "All I want for XMAS is not to be on Google's naughty (Wi-Fi) list..." "http://www.androidpolice.com/2017/12/08/android-8-1-feature-spotlight-speed-labels-open-wi-fi-networks-now-displayed-settings/" "https://media.licdn.com/media-proxy/ext?w=728&h=412&f=n&hash=2f8nCzOTgqmFe3LCz92Tk7r0cl8%3D&ora=1%2CaFBCTXdkRmpGL2lvQUFBPQ%2CxAVta9Er0Ua9hFUbzBgz76eFvUC87URCC4HTDy_mGzj5pYvENSmtZoKfJe3w8B4JeiwAlxszffD2FXikUZHvft-AHo8z3sK7OfO8aRNLO0xn0iQevpxrYVQlodn3S7-pLnofn9x1ICrsZui7MAdmXH1krr3dYNCKcUVFiATCXdbm" "Homepage" "Public"
  13. Skills.csv – just a list of my 35 skills, doesn’t include the number of times people up-voted them but that’s not extremely useful anyhow
    Name
    Leadership
    Agile Methodologies
    Software Development
    <snip>

So, after all of that I am both thankful to LinkedIn (ahem, Microsoft) for allowing me to get my private data out of the service and equally creeped out by how much private information they have on me.

Amazon (un)limited storage

I’ve tried a few backup companies over the years and even was a re-seller of a cloud backup solution at one point. I moved from DropBox to Google Drive and then when I began feeling like a product for Google, I switched to SpiderOak in 2014. Last May 2016 I switched from an $124/yr unlimited storage plan on SpiderOak to unlimited storage with Amazon for $60/yr and was pretty happy with it.

All good things must come to an end and, as such, this morning I received this email from Amazon announcing the end of their unlimited storage plan (for non-photo files):

I logged into my “Manage Storage” page to see how much I would have to be paying and it’s $125 CAD / yr so I am right back to where I was a year ago.

In comparison (prices in $CAD)

  1. Google 1TB is $140 / yr
  2. DropBox 2TB is $210 / yr
  3. Box 5TB for $240 / yr
  4. Microsoft Office 365 Personal (1 PC) with 1TB is $79 / yr

I suppose the good news is I saved $64 CAD for one year.

Which service do you use and how do you like it?

My LIFX-perience

Even though I read a lot about IoT and home automation, I have yet to automate anything significant in our home. A few weeks ago I went to Best Buy on Thanksgiving looking for something to spend my Best Buy Rewards $ on. I know, what a first-world problem! The thing is, there are very few items at Best Buy that cost $90 which is the amount of rewards I had.

I thought I might as well buy a home automation item. I almost bought a TPLink LED, then considered Hue. There were two versions of Hue bulbs, both 1st gen and 2nd gen but very little way to distinguish between them (the newer ones have Apple HomeKit support). Then I saw the LIFX light bulbs and recall reading good things about their products.

There were a few LIFX hub-less Wi-Fi bulbs and a light strip. Two of the bulbs are traditional A19 sockets for a lamp, one cost $75 and the other $100. Again, it was difficult to see the difference between them. I asked a Sales Rep and he didn’t know so then he went to grab the “expert” who also didn’t know. Great, the four people who kept asking if I needed help while I was walking around the store couldn’t help me now that I needed help.

With a bit of Google’ng I figured out the more expensive bulb has infrared light so when you turn the light off, it’s not actually off but instead shining infrared light. Why would you want that? To help illuminate the room so your infrared security camera sees things better.

  

I bought the $90 bulb with infrared support even though I don’t have security cameras, just because I thought it was cool and who knows, maybe someday I will get a camera. Remember, I live in the first world. The pics above show the nice packaging of the bulb. Very Apple-ish feel to make you feel like you’re getting something of value.

When I got home my wife was preparing for Thanksgiving dinner and the in-laws were on the way over. Of course I had to try out the Wi-Fi LED light bulb! It is quite simple to use, all you need is the LIFX app which then connects to the bulb and configures it’s Wi-Fi settings. By default, even if you don’t configure the light bulb, it will come on (white) when you turn on the light. That makes sense.

The app looks pretty to start but it could use some work. The first couple of screens are colorful and walk you through how to use the app. Once those are done, you get a black screen and the standard dialog asking if you’ll allow LIFX to check your device location.

  

Once you finish the initial setup, things get weird, well they did for me. I got this screen on the far left which was completely black with a “+” sign and no text telling me what to do next. If you click “+”, the app then goes off to find a light bulb. Once you’re connected to the light bulb (middle screenshot), you then have to configure it so it knows how to connect to your Wi-Fi network (far right screenshot).

  

I couldn’t get the bulb to connect to the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi but it did connect to the 5GHz. You can also name the bulb and assign it to a group of bulbs, handy if you have more than one in a room. The light upgraded and rebooted at least once. That sounds so bizarre to write that my light bulb did a software upgrade and then rebooted!

Once it’s all setup you’ll see the screen on the far left where you can select your bulb. The screenshot on the far right shows the color pallet you use to change the color. The middle screen lists all of the integrations. That’s one good thing about this bulb is that it integrates with a lot of other systems including Nest, SmartThings, Google Assistant, and IFTTT.¬†The bulb was quite response to turning on and off and changing colors via the app.

   

Now, finally here are some photos of what our Family Room looked like during Thanksgiving Dinner. My wife and the in-laws were not extremely impressed with the technology but I sure had fun with it. I returned the bulb a week later as it’s tough to justify $100 to color a room.

Google Allo, creepy or useful?

I’ve been trying to get away from using Google for a few years and, as you can imagine, it’s hard.

Last week I installed Allo which of course comes with the @Google Assistant bot. It was entertaining to play with but I was taken aback when it analyzed my pics and suggested responses. Below is an example a pic I took of a gorgeous car in downtown Toronto and sent to a friend in Allo. You can see the responses that Allo suggested to him.

In another example, Allo wasn’t as smart. During a crazy storm with 80 Km winds, the same friend had one of his trees broken in half. Google suggested “Nice flowers” and “Beautiful!” as responses to the pic he sent me.

With the new Pixel 2 phones and the “secret” 8-core image processing chip that is not yet enabled, things will get even more interesting / creepy.

After reading the article linked below I uninstalled Allo.

“Google’s advantage is that Assistant can draw on the wealth of information the company has gleaned about you from your search history, Gmail account, and more, and that Assistant can stitch all that information together better than any of its competitors”

Google built a new Trojan Horse to get inside every aspect of your life

U.S. address and shipping for cross-border shopping

Here are some of my notes on US to Canada shipping and repacking services for cross border shopping. Bottom line for me is they are expensive so not useful for small low-cost product purchases.

borderlinx.com
– based in Belgium
– virtual US and UK address https://www.borderlinx.com/en/member/register
– ship from the US or the UK to Canada
– when packages arrive at its shipping hub, they calculate international shipping costs, taxes, and duties
– http://www.borderlinx.com/CA/en/pages/shipping-to-canada
– 24/7 customer support

www.viabox.com
– no membership fee
– $19.95/lb to Canada
– free photos of boxes that arrive at your suite
– free Assisted Purchase: Merchant won’t accept your non-US credit card? No problem! Let us buy your items for you at NO additional charge.
– free 180 Day Storage: Customer can store each package for free for a period of 180 days from the date of delivery.
– free Package Consolidation: Select to combine multiple boxes in one box & save up to 85% on shipping cost, at NO additional charge.
– free Repackaging

www.MyUS.com
– based in Florida
– $7/mo membership fee
– $32.28/lb for FedEx Economy (5 to 10 days), $19.99/lb for Budget Economy (7 to 14 days), $36.07/lb for DHL Express (1 to 4 days)

www.borderfree.com
– from Pitney Bowes
– free signup
– 200+ UK and US brands including Nordstrom, Lands’End, J.Crew, Harrods, Neimen Marcus, Barneys New York, Gilt, RebeccaMinkoff, Harvey Nichols, Target, Fossil, Soludos, Williams Sonoma, BCBG Maxazria, Brand Outlet, Tony Bianco, R.M. Williams, Hacket, Dune, Pepe Jeans
– shop and pay with local currency, prepaid duties and import taxes, multiple international shippers, often for discounted rates
– order status

www.shipito.com
– forwarding service
– free membership: your own U.S. or E.U. Address, 3 free photos of each package, save up to 80% on shipping, storage up to 90 days, multiple shipping options for each country
– premium membership: $10/mo with free features plus Tax-free shipping in the U.S., combine packages for more savings, multi-package shipments
– shipping costs $2 USD + the shipping rate (https://www.shipito.com/en/shipping-calculator)
– for me from Oregon it’s $34.46/lb for DHL Express (2 to 4 business days), $62.74/lb for USPS Express Mail (5 to 6 business days), $41.54/lb for FedEx Priority (2 to 4 days), Airmail Economy (20 to 45 days) $9.59 + $3 insurance, $50.18 + $3 insurance for USPS Priority Mail (6 to 10 business days), $39.18 including insurance for FedEx Economy (3 to 6 days), $21.42 USPS First Class International Parcel (slow)

Stocking up on electronic supplies

I’ve always been interested in electronics although I focused all my attention towards software and services. I had a bit of exposure to electronics in high school and was always intrigued, just was not extremely interested in building hardware. This changed when I heard “Pin”, a good friend and co-worker, describe what he was building for home automation.

Pin was buying ESP8266 microcontrollers manufactured by Espressif Systems in China that sell for a few dollars! They have built-in Wi-Fi and can be programmed like any Arduino based controllers. They will even run a small-footprint version of Python called MicroPython.

This piqued my interest so I bought the book “Make: Electronics: Learning Through Discovery” and I started buying a number of tools and parts listed in the book. I looked around for electronics hobbyists in the area and was very surprised that there are no Maker Labs close by our home.¬†I briefly had an idea to start a self-organized Maker Lab for me to network and learn. I thought it would also be a great place to keep teens in my community occupied instead of getting into trouble after school. I did some initial high level planning and decided not to pursue the idea, another good friend mentioned local schools were having challenges getting students to attend maker / robotics teams.

I did however continue buying tools and parts. To Pin’s surprise, I have yet to build something significant, i.e. real Internet-connected “things” from scratch. I want to learn the basics about electronics first and I know that once I delve into it, I will be consumed.

I figure this hobby will tie nicely into my passion around Internet of Things (IoT) research, that’s where I have been focusing my personal time, see www.iotmap.ca

One “thing” / actuator I would like to build is a physical Uber-button for home / work that I can push to order a ride. It would have an LED display that shows the countdown timer to the driver’s arrival and maybe a red, yellow, green LED for progress. How cool would it be to push a button and see a car arrive!

I’ve been ordering components and tools online mostly. The convenience of online shopping is great, plus the local electronics store (Sayal) is quite expensive.¬†Since I’m not in a rush to receive the parts, I buy quite a few on AliExpress.com.¬†If you are not aware of that site, it’s the complete opposite of Amazon’s almost-instant-gratification.

When you buy a number of items on AliExpress, you receive an email confirmation from each manufacturer/supplier, then another email for shipment noticed, and yet another for feedback. The volume of emails can be a bit annoying.

Another big difference between AliExpress and Amazon or other online electronic stores is the delivery times. Orders can take up to 60 days to receive but it’s fun to receive these little parts in the mailbox from Asia periodically and at random-ish times. A couple of times when I received a package, it was a bit of a surprise since I forgot that I ordered it. Here’s a set of 3mm and 5mm LEDs in a variety of colors.

AliExpress stocks a lot of electronics and a lot of weird stuff too so if you plan to purchase from them, use your Web-browser’s incognito mode or you’ll be getting ads for questionable products later.

I’ve been tracking every order and here are the durations for 15 different orders I placed “recently” via AliExpress. As you can see, using this service requires extreme patience. So far, I have received every item that I purchased so it’s quite reliable.

I also buy a number of items on Amazon.ca and Digi-Key, the buying experience on both is mind-boggling. One evening at 10pm I ordered some Grove Relays from Digi-Key while sitting on the front porch and they arrived the next morning at 10am. I know it’s going to get even faster. Some folks in the city will soon be getting 1 hour deliveries, pushing their Amazon Dash buttons to get dishwasher soap and having it arrive before they finish dinner!

Here’s where I’ve been spending my $ online since last year. I include links to the sites below.

If you have a favorite online store, please let me know.

OK, i am going back to my other hobby now!

Connected my high school speakers to the Internet

I have always loved music and I fondly remember the first Marantz amplifier that I bought from the priest. I thought that he likely had never pushed the volume to eleven. The next big purchase was the cassette player so i could record my brother’s albums from his amazing turntable.

In high school I saved up enough cash to to buy a Harmon Kardon amp and receiver and lastly my beloved Rega speakers. That combo was not a high-end audio system but, for me, it was awesome and it got me through high school, university, and well into our early married years.

Of course, along came the Internet. I bought some Bose speaker systems for the PC and the TV, never really got into home theater systems besides my Bose 3-2-1 system. So, the Rega speakers sat in the bowels of our basement under a bunch of Rubbermaid boxes for at least 17 years until last week.

I was on vacation last week and finally spent time doing something I had been thinking about for a while. I wondered how I could stream music to those old speakers. There must be some wireless amplifiers for streaming Spotify etc. so I went to Best Buy but all they have are home theater receivers that cost between $300 and $900 or products like the SONOS CONNECT:AMP that cost $600.

There had to be a cheaper way to get reasonably good quality sound wirelessly in a small amp without having to spend that much money. I then remembered a product I had seen during research for my Interactive IoT Map¬†called¬†HiFiBerry. It’s an add-on (aka “hat”) for a Raspberry Pi that adds high quality digital-to-analog (DAC) conversion and has a built in amplifier! ¬†The amp is only 25W but that’s enough for me. I did some additional Web searching and although there are other products out there, I decided on the HiFiBerry

The HiFiBerry Amp+ cost me $99.29 CAD at Elmwood Electronics in Toronto. I got the 18V Power Supply for $24.95 and HighPi Raspberry Pi Case for $12.95 from BuyAPi in Ottawa. I already had a couple of spare Pis which cost about $45. So, total cost was $183

Next, I needed the software. I did some searching and found several packages out there. A number of these allow you to burn an image onto a SD card which is then inserted into the Raspberry Pi and bingo, you have an Internet-connected amplifier!

I ended up choosing Volumio to start, but will likely try Max2Play. The¬†Volumio client on Android initially looks pretty but it hasn’t been that great. There’s quite a lag inbetween when I change the volume level on the Android app and when the device actually responds. At one point the volume kept going up and down on it’s own. Once I got used to the UI I can at least stream my MP3s, YouTube music, and Spotify.

So, my $183 solution sounds incredible, better than the Sonos or Bose wireless speakers. My beloved Rega speakers have a new life, have been promoted from the basement to the main floor. It was a fun little project.

https://volumio.org

Volumio is a free and Open Source Linux Distribution, runs on a variety of devices “By flashing (installing) Volumio on any of this platforms, it will then become an headless Audiophile Music Player. Headless means that the only way to control it will be with another Mobile phone, computer or tablet. This is made possible by Volumio‚Äôs UI: a web application that runs on any device with a browser, and that allows an easy and intuitive control of your playback sessions. All communications between the webapp and Volumio will happen through your home network.”

  • “has a Spotify plugin” [4]
  • focused on audio “DAP” (Digital Audio Player): MP3, FLAC, WAV, AAC, ALAC, DSD, UPNP\DLNA, Airplay, Spotify and Web-Radios all in one place
  • USB, Network Storage support
  • use it with a Web browser on PC, Mac, Android, iOS
  • github: https://github.com/volumio (1,719 contributions in the last year)
  • “can cast YouTube audio to volumio from my phone [using] Bubble Upnp on Android. Find a YouTube video and tap the share button and choose Bubble Upnp. The first time you do that it’ll ask you to get VidLinks, you need to do that only once [4]

https://www.max2play.com

“Max2Play allows for simple and comfortable control and configuration of single board computers like the Raspberry Pi directly via any local internet browser (using laptop, PC or smartphone). This makes the connection of a mouse, keyboard or screen obsolete. Please note, some advanced functions need a software license key which can be bought through the Max2Play website.”

  • active support forums and live support
  • primary player is Squeezebox, also Shairport (Airplay), gmediarender (DLNA)
  • mount filesystems using SAMBA or NFS, external USB drives
  • controlled via a Web interface on PC, Mac, Tablet or Smartphone
  • installs and sets up Kodi
  • supports plugins, about 40 to date on their site
  • premium license costs ‚ā¨3.57 for 1 month or ‚ā¨29.99 5 years
  • premium license gets you Wi-Fi, VNC server, Jivelite, SD-Card-Protection on power loss, beta program access, additional plugins
  • github: https://github.com/max2play
  • “Use our image instead; its has MPD, like Volumio, but also supports other Audioplayers for AirPlay, DLNA and Squeezebox multiroom. The images are free downloads and all run from first boot natively on the Zero. you can access the web interface from any device in your local network with a browser by just typing “max2play/” in the URL bar” [4]

REFERENCES

1. HiFiBerry’s “Software Selection”
https://www.hifiberry.com/build/software-selection

2. Raspberry Pi Disk Images ‚Äď Definitive List, marshalleq, Jan 17, 2017
https://www.tech-knowhow.com/2017/01/raspberry-pi-disk-images-definitive-list

3. https://karusisemus.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/runeaudio-volumio-and-moode, karusisemus, Oct 23, 2016
“do omit Volumio and especially Runeaudio and do start straight with Mo0de”

4. pi musicbox vs volumio vs rune, harumphfrog  https://www.reddit.com/r/raspberry_pi/comments/57xwaz/pi_musicbox_vs_volumio_vs_rune/?st=j4vxyxuq&sh=588daae7

RULED OUT

http://openelec.tv
why? more of an overall media player (photos, video, music, TV show …)
Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center (OpenELEC) is a small Linux based Just Enough Operating System (JeOS) built from scratch as a platform to turn your computer into a Kodi media center.
– github: https://github.com/OpenELEC/OpenELEC.tv
– 450,000 regular users, 65 Current Developers and People contributed over the last 12 months to OpenELEC
– “openelec and kodi for my headless music player because it was super easy and already had remote functioality throught 3rd party apps like yaste” [4]

https://osmc.tv
why? full media center, I only need audio
OSMC (Open Source Media Center) is a free and open source media player based on Linux. Founded in 2014, OSMC lets you play back media from your local network, attached storage and the Internet. OSMC is the leading media center in terms of feature set and community and is based on the Kodi project.

http://www.pimusicbox.com
why? not listed on HiFiBerry site, last updated Apr 2015
– streaming radio and services like Spotify

https://libreelec.tv
why? there are too many and I needed to drop 1 ūüôā
LibreELEC is ‚ÄėJust enough OS‚Äô for Kodi, a Linux distribution built to run Kodi on current and popular mediacentre hardware. We are an evolution of the popular OpenELEC project. LibreELEC software will be familiar to OpenELEC users, but the project follows its own path.

https://roonlabs.com
why? $119/yr or $499/lifetime
ROON LABS The music player for music lovers. Forget everything you know about music players. Music is an experience, and Roon reconnects you with it. Please note, to use this software a Roon Core needs to be installed and a Roon subscription is needed. Please find their price model on their webpage. To use the Raspberry Pi with our audio boards as a Roon player, please install our Roon image.

http://moodeaudio.org
why? didn’t like their Web site
Moode Audio is an audio player which shares some roots with Volumio and RuneAudio, but due to its fast ongoing development it supports very quickly new hardware and adds new features all the time.

http://www.runeaudio.com
why? “Rune Audio works well, and has been updated for the Pi 3, but there hasn’t been much activity other than that” [4]
RuneAudio is a free and open source software with one specific objective: to transform an embedded platform (a cheap, silent and low-consumption mini-PC) into an Hi-Fi digital music player. It offers a lot of features and aims to be easy to use, flexible and future-proof.
github: https://github.com/RuneAudio (last updated Sep 25, 2015)

https://sites.google.com/site/picoreplayer/home
why? need a running Logitech Media Server (LMS)
piCorePlayer is a very small system (piCore Linux) which is running in RAM and not writing to the SD card. It is very robust and will not corrupt your SD card, therefore you can simply cut the power without any risk of corruption of the system. piCorePlayer can be used in three ways:

ROBLOX, not Robolax

Most Easters, my wife¬†puts together a beautiful dinner and gets little treats for the children. The children are mostly adults now though the tradition continues. There’s often last minute running around, here’s the text I received this afternoon…

When I first read it, I thought it was a medication “Robolax”? As I entered the store, I saw the manager walking towards me who I know personally. I asked if she has “Robolax” and she was about to point me to an aisle when I clarified that I think it’s an online game. Luckily she knew what it was. Turns out the game is called ROBLOX.

When I got home with the gift card I made sure to show my wife the spelling. Turns out it was her sister that gave her the spelling! Shortly after we received a phone call asking if two other children could come to the dinner. My wife asked me to go back to Shoppers and get them gift cards. Turns out one of the children also plays ROBLOX so I went back and bought another gift card.

Of course this made me curious so I had to go check out the company/game. Turns out it’s a big thing. ROBLOX is a Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that was created by David Baszucki¬†(CEO) and Erik Cassel in 2004. Erik passed away in 2013¬†and there’s a beautiful memorial page describing him on their site. The first beta release was in 2005 and the public release was in 2006. It’s already 12 years old! ROBLOX has¬†180 employees at their San Mateo HQ.

“ROBLOX is powered by a growing community of 1.7 million creators who produce their own 3D multiplayer experiences using Roblox Studio, our intuitive desktop design tool” based on Lua. It has “over 13 million newcomers sign up on Roblox every month purely through viral word of mouth” and “During peak times, we host over 1,100,000 participants simultaneously. Hundreds of elite creators make substantial revenues from their creations – top creators make well over a quarter of a million dollars a year”

Kids can play ROBLOX with their friends regardless of what device they use: iOS or Android tablet, Xbox, Mac, Windows 10 PC, Oculus Rift, Amazon Devices, and HTC Vive. A PS4 version is in development.

Here’s some stats from their site

And just last month they raise some serious cash: Roblox Has Raised $92 Million To Expand Its Gaming Platform Alex Knapp, Forbes, Mar 14 2017

Now you know as much as I do about ROBLOX, not Robolax!

Interactive Map of IoT Organizations — TAKE 2


UPDATE! I have a dedicated Web site for the map

www.iotmap.ca or www.iotmap.ca/blog

Interactive Map of IoT Organizations — TAKE 2


I am very excited to re-launch my Interactive Map of IoT Organizations. The first version launched a couple of months ago and received a lot of great feedback and some constructive feedback too.

mape-take-2-dec-4-2016-just-map

Here are the material changes from the first version:

  1. Each organization now has their specific address instead of being city-based
    I went¬†back to every organization’s site to find their address. Some organizations are hard to find in the physical world, especially many of the small ones. For global organizations with no headquarters like Open Source organizations such as MicroPython, I look for the top contributor on GitHub and used the City they are from (not their home address!)
  2. “Knock knock, who’s there?” – I enjoy learning about each company and how they started so I can live vicariously through them. Where I had time and could find the information, I now include the Founder(s) of the organization and a link to more information about them. This is in addition to the “Founded” year which was in the first version
    argotics
  3. Category cleanup in Aisle 2″ – I played with the categories and I am still not happy with them. I’ve been researching how the IoT research companies categorize companies. Yes, I know, it sounds redundant to research research companies! I will publish a post on my findings and wil be revising my taxonomy as well. Folks are still trying to determine what it means to be an IoT Platform. For me, it’s most important to focus on standards and integration of systems as there will be organizations that specialize in one aspect of an IoT platform whether it’s the analytics, rules engine, device management, workflow, or visualization functions.
    categories-dec-4-2016
  4. More soup please” – The initial launch of the map had 246 organizations, this new map has 759 organizations. Thanks to many people on LinkedIn and through blog comments for suggesting their companies which accounted for 180 additional organizations. The other 330+ organizations I have been finding on my own by trolling news, Twitter, IoT conference Web sites, “Partners” sections of each organization.

I set up a Twitter account @EyeOhTee and although I still need to tweet more, you may see some interesting news on there and feel free to tweet out this post, plug plug!

Besides the basic data shown on the map, I also track many more attributes of each product within areas below. I will publish additional findings and analysis on this blog and LinkedIn.

  • Platform Features (Real-time Analytics, Device Management…)
  • Security (SSL, TLS…) & Authentication (OAuth, SAML, RADIUS…)
  • Integrations (to other products)
  • Application (Web, iOS, Android)
  • Notifications (SMS, email, Push…)
  • Local Storage
  • Hardware Platform
  • Operating System
  • Programming Languages
  • Wired Interface (ENET, GPIO, USB, RTU…)
  • Wireless Interface (BLE, Wi-Fi, 2G/3G, LPWAN…)
  • Location Interface (GPS, GNSS…)

I love to travel although it has been a while so, for each company, I have fun going to Google Street View to see where the company is based and what is around them. It’s surprising to see where the Internet of Things is growing. This is one of my favorites, not only growing Pumpkins but also a hardware platform.

amica-bergen

I hope you find the map useful and I would love to hear if, and how, it has helped you. Whether you located a company in your area to collaborate or a supplier for a problem you are trying to solve or just learning like me it will have made it worth the time I spend on this.

Without further ado, here is the [ map ]

Please excuse the Google ads as they help show my wife that I can generate a few $ to compensate and cover my DigiKey purchases!

Finally, thanks to David Oro for the additional exposure on IoT Central.