The Smartwatch Hunt.

My Pebble Steel smartwatch is quickly heading for retirement. Is there a proper replacement out there?

The watch has been with me for about three years now. It’s starting to show signs of wear. The battery life is slowly decreasing, and just last week, the screen began to suffer from static lines and artifacts. The latter problem is something that has troubled quite a few Pebble owners.

When I first bought the Pebble, I was sure I’d use it for a lot of different thing. But in the end, I’ve mainly used it for viewing notifications, checking my calendar, and – surprise, surprise – as an actual clock. Notifications are a massive time saver when the phone is in my bag, pocket, or stowed away somewhere else. The calendar extremely convenient whenever I’m on my way to a meeting, my phone is at my desk, and I can’t remember in what room the meeting is. And that happens surprisingly often. The battery life is also excellent, at least compared to your average smart phone, and most other smartwatches. Fresh out of the box, the Pebble Steel managed a good 7 days on one charge. Now it’s down to 5, which is still more than most other smartwatches.

Lately, I’ve also been looking at getting an activity tracker. It’s not features that I really need, but I’m a sucker for statistics and graphs. And let’s be honest: I don’t need a smart phone in the first place, either.

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Esoteric Programming Languages: Brainfuck.

“B” is for Brainfuck.

In early February, Stack Overflow data scientist Julia Silge published an article titled “What Programming Languages Are Used Most on Weekends?“. The data used to deduce what’s hot and what’s not among our fellow nerds during the weekend, is what tags are used on Stack Overflow questions.

Haskell, a function programming language, saw most questions during the weekend. Now, a high number of questions on Stack Overflow doesn’t necessarily mean that a language is immensely popular. It might just mean that Haskell programmers are dumb. Oh, I kid, I kid. I’m sure Haskell programmers are quite intelligent – and I’m hoping they have a sense of humor.

Anyway. What the data from Stack Overflow do show, is that programmers are focusing on very different things during our workweek than we do during the weekend. While a workweek is filed with cringe worthy topics like SharePoint, TSQL, and (gasp!) VBA, the weekend tend to be for experimenting with new things.

Let’s have a brief look at an esoteric programming language that might be of interest for your next weekend of experimenting: Brainfuck.

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John Wick: Chapter 2.

What is this? A review of a movie that’s actually somewhat topical, and not just one that was released a long time ago1? Scandalous! Earlier this week, me and Hans Olav had some Indian food, and went to see John Wick: Chapter 2.

As the “Chapter 2” part of the movie title implies, this is a sequel. The first John Wick movie premiered in 2014, and it saw generally favorable reviews across the board. If you haven’t watched the first movie, fear not. That’s not important to be able to understand the plot in Chapter 2. There is no deep meta-story anywhere that you need to be aware of to enjoy this second chapter. Here’s all you need to know: John Wick is a hitman with a reputation for getting his mark. He wanted to retire, but a bad man forced him back into the game. Now that bad man has to die.

Aaand, action! Lots and lots of it. If you need to watch something that won’t challenge you intellectually on any level, John Wick: Chapter 2 is absolutely perfect. You’ll get 122 minutes of pretty much non-stop action, and very, very little chit-chat. This makes the movie perfect for Keanu Reeves, who has the acting skills of a log. But he is absolutely superb as John Wick. Screenwriter Derek Kolstad has written a part that fits Reeves like a glove, and his lines are rarely longer than five words.

Interestingly, though, the scene where Reeves manages to sound reasonable believable, is during the longest verbal exchange of the movie. So maybe Reeves is actually an acting genius that my feeble mind doesn’t understand? Not unlikely.

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Defeating PoisonTap (and Other Dirty Tricks) with Beamgun.

Late last year, a neat little device called PoisonTap surfaced. With it, anyone can easily steal passwords, credit card numbers and other sensitive data from any computer – even when it’s locked. But hot on the heels of PoisonTap came its antidote: Beamgun.

PoisonTap takes advantage of Windows’ and OS X’ inherit trust in devices connecting to USB and Thunderbolt ports. A lot of different devices can be connected to these ports. Keyboards, mice, printers, scanners, storage devices, and network cards. Just to name a few. Both Windows and OS X will happily activate whatever device is connected without asking the user if it’s OK. Even if the computer is locked. Because if someone has physical access to the computer, they always have good intentions. Right? Wrong. It’s a terrible assumption to make, and one PosionTap takes advantage of. A better assumption is that everyone who has access to a computer has malicious intentions.

When connected to a USB or Thunderbolt port, PoisonTap quickly registers itself as a network card, and effectively becomes a man-in-the-middle (MitM) on the computer. As a MitM, PosionTap can intercept all inbound and outbound network traffic.

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“Animal Farm” by George Orwell.

The animals of Manor Farm are tired of living under the tyranny of the farm’s owner, Mr. Jones. One evening, the boar Old Major summons the animals of the farm to a meeting. He tells them the story of a wonderful world where farms are run by the animals themselves. Old Major also teaches them a revolutionary song called “Beasts of England“. With hope for a better life for all the animals, they revolt, and drive Mr. Jones away from the farm. From that day onward, the farm is known as “Animal Farm”. It will be run by the animals, which will all be considered equal.

George Orwell wrote Animal Farm during World War II. Being a not-so-subtle satire about the Russian revolution, the Soviet Union, and Stalin’s expulsion of Trotsky, Orwell had a hard time getting it published. Since the Soviet Union sided with the Allied powers during the war, the manuscript was initially rejected by a number of British and American publishers. It was not until 1945, only weeks before the war was officially over, that the book was published. It then became a commercial success, partly to changing international relations, and the Cold War.

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