Local non-governmental organisation (NGO) Grassroot is making use of technology to enable participatory democracy in SA

Date Published: Mon, 13 May 2019 20:53:08 +0200

#^Local non-governmental organisation (NGO) Grassroot is making use of technology to enable participatory democracy in SA

Grassroot's set of simple tools, available through any type of phone, allows community members to interact with government, organisations or even other stakeholders. This includes the arrangement of large-scale meetings, identification of volunteers and even taking community votes. The platform has over 300 000 users and a few thousand activities run through it per month with a team of three people.

"It also allowed people to participate in national conversations, access information and register their voice, in ways that otherwise they couldn't." Call and participate in votes to decide among priorities. It gives everyone with any phone a quick and anonymous say and sends the results back to them as soon as the poll closes.

"As one example, prior to Grassroot, if someone wanted to call a community gathering, they had to hire a guy to go around on a bakkie the whole morning with a megaphone telling people about the meeting. A WhatsApp group wouldn't work because still about half of people in informal settlements don't have smartphones, or are usually out of data, and WhatsApp groups have size limits. So either you exclude people, or you have to incur the costs of the bakkie and the fuel and so on, and still if someone isn't home when the bakkie drives past, they won't know about the meeting." With Grassroot, all of that is reduced to a 30-second menu flow on USSD, and thousands of people get notified.

Access is via plain USSD, and Android app or their website. But I'm not seeing any iOS app which is interesting.


#grassroot #southafrica #community


Google tests automatic car crash detection for the Pixels on Android Q

Date Published: Mon, 13 May 2019 10:20:01 +0200

#^Google tests automatic car crash detection for the Pixels on Android Q

While the strings hint towards automatic detection of a car crash, it is unclear how exactly such detection would be achieved. Google could resort to using data from the accelerometer and the microphone, but even this may not be fool-proof with its detection. The strings also do not reveal what happens once a crash is detected — we’re guessing the app could alert first responders or the listed emergency contacts on the phone.

Makes a lot of sense as Android already knows when you are in driving mode versus walking somewhere vs sitting at home. It does already have the emergency contacts all setup and ready.


#android #emergency


Comparing free and open source Kanboard and Wekan self-hosted alternatives to Trello for kanban functionality

Date Published: Mon, 13 May 2019 01:04:35 +0200

#^Comparing free and open source Kanboard and Wekan self-hosted alternatives to Trello for kanban functionality

Whilst the free version of Trello has some really nice features along with the slickest GUI on the desktop as well as mobile, what if you want a securely in-house hosted and scalable alternative? One thing you have to accept is you're not quite going to get that same interface especially when it comes to mobile, but there is still rich functionality to be found in alternative products.

The two strongest contenders I found based on similarity of looks and features, as well as ease of installation, were Wekan and Kanboard. KanbanFlow was a strong contender but is similar to Trello in terms of free/priced model and was not open source, and Rastyaboard was another strong contender but is more open core, and needs a request to get it. Both of these contenders had good mobile app support though.

But I was looking for freedom, ease of installation, and features such as mobile access/app, checklists/subtasks, horizontal swimlanes, filters, recurring/repeating tasks, relations between tasks, attachments, activity history, import from Trello and CSV/JSON, Gantt, group assignments, voting, and custom fields. I am looking for it to be used in an office and not for dedicated agile development etc (Taiga is better for that).

The long and short of it though is that Kanboard wins hands down on depth and breadth of functionality (IMHO). It has numerous extra plugins that extend its functionality even further (like adding instant chat, theming, voting, and notifications to external messaging services such as Telegram, Slack, Mattermost, Rocketchat, Zulip, Signal, and more). It has an Android app. Some other nice touches are optional RSS feeds and iCal feeds (latter for inclusion in a remote calendar) for projects and very powerful rules that can be set up (change card colours, notifications, roles, etc that can be triggered by card movements as well as time). It can even restrict a role to just creating and editing cards in a single column/list. Kanboard has way more functionality around due dates than Wekan has, and its notifications extend past just e-mail to Slack, Telegram, Signal and a few other services.

Kanboard has categories with colours (Wekan calls them labels) and columns (where Wekan calls them lists). Already when creating a card on Kanboard you'll notice extra features such as the ability to assign to a group, a priority, original estimate hours, time spent, complexity and a reference field. But on editing a card the standard click on a Kanboard card opens a new detailed page full of options for the card - if you want to do a high-level basic card edit without leaving the board you need to click on the top left of the card and then on the drop-down menu and click 'Edit the Task' (Wekan defaults to the easy edit option). In Kanboard you won't find checklists in the basic task edit screen and you'll need to go to the detailed card/task view. Kanboard only has subtasks (no checklists as well as subtasks) but each subtask can have its own owner, estimated time and due date set. A timer can run separately for each task, and they can optionally be migrated to their own card task. It also has an option to create an automatic re-occurrence (repeats) of a card (based on closure or movement to another column/list with basic rules to set a new action date).

Kanboard's linkages to another existing task (internal link) allow relationships such as relates to, is blocked by, duplicate of, child of, parent of, milestone of, is fixed by (and custom ones can be added). It will search for cards on the current board or other boards. Kanboard can sort cards by due date and also has an advanced filter (with an editable assumption for cards without a due date). It also has a pre-built list of typical queries around due dates (like overdue), tasks not assigned, as well as by person and category. Advanced search has a more informative help and can include parameters like creation date, completion date range, recently modified (useful to see who is updating or not), by tag, reference field, by colour, etc. Custom search filters can be created and shared with all project team members.

Kanboard's views are easily seen and selected from the horizontal menu above the tasks and choices are Overview, Board (columns), List (tabular list), Gantt, and Calendar.

For status updates, Kanboard has very nice functionality to e-mail task details straight out, or to convert a list of all open tasks with details to a PDF file. It also has an analytics view with charts showing task distribution, user repartition, cumulative flow diagram, burndown chart, lead and cycle time, and estimated vs actual time (of course you need to be actively using the timer functions then). There is also a plugin that shows a diagram view of task relationships but I'm seeing a blank image (as some others have reported) so need to sort that out.

With Wekan as the other option, the UI is really much slicker and on par with Trello. It has checklists (for some reason you can have multiple named checklists) as well as subtasks (creates separate cards for them but pulls through no progress status) per card. Wekan's multi-selection feature will filter by label, assignee or manual selection, and will carry out move or archiving actions. Wekan also has an advanced filter which you can enter conditions into but it is not easy for a novice and I could not even get it to filter on 'due date'.

Wekan's views will rotate through card list view, swimlanes, and calendar views. One odd thing about its calendar view is if a card has no end date it won't show in the calendar (so you may have to consider using end date as the due date otherwise it won't show there). Wekan has rules that will trigger on cards added to list/swimlane, moved to/from/archived, and on labels for added or removed, members added or removed, attachments added or removed, checklists added or removed or completed (even for specific items or named checklists). The actions that can be triggered include moving a card to top/bottom of a list, archiving a card, adding a swimlane, creating a new card in a list (could create a new duplicate as a conditional repeating task), add/removing a label, add/remove a member, set colour of card, add a checklist, check off all items on checklist, add checklist with defined items, send an e-mail.

Both allow named colour labels and the attachment of documents and images (latter can be chosen to appear in the card itself as a cover image, so an urgent image can be used as a sticker). Wekan will allow multiple labels per card (Kanboard only one but Kanboard could use groups) and can copy a named checklist to multiple other cards. Wekan also allows the whole card to easily have a colour set for its background. Both allow for markdown editing and the addition of multiple custom fields per card.

Regarding Trello imports, again Wekan is the slickest one with the option offered straight up as you create a new project. Wekan imported everything very well including task status updates, colours, dates, etc and even offered to map Trello team members to members in Wekan. With Kanboard there were two options one of which was an offline script with Trello API details etc required (it created a project with columns but I could not see any tasks), and the second easier option was a 3rd party plugin called TrelloJSON2Kanboard (to use it then go to My Dashboard view and top right of the menu bar is 'Import Trello JSON' which also did a good job but did not offer to map to existing members if I recall correctly).

The mobile side is a bit dismal... out of the two Kanboard has an Android app (crashes on my Android Q phone and on my tablet it only wanted an https address and I'd not set up SSL yet). Both render on mobile though but one worry with Wekan is that it is too easy when clicking to select the project that you click on "archive project" and it disappears, and when in the board view if you don't touch sharply on a column it tends to slide that columns order (not serious, but bit messy). That said Wekan does render the card view nicely and moving the card is fairly easy via the menu (neither supports drag-and-drop in mobile view but Wekan will let you drag a card up and down within the same list). Kanboard shows an "all columns" view of cards but moving a card is a bit trickier as Kanboard's complex menus make it a bit more difficult. It's basic card edit (via drop-down menu is OK but again not as good GUI as Wekan) and its full card edit is "busy"... Wekan definitely wins on a better mobile browser experience. I do need to test the Kanboard mobile app properly though and it looks like Wekan is working on publishing apps.

This overview does no real justice to either application but certainly, with Kanboard the depth of features boggles the mind. If you want something lighter and very Trello like then Wekan could be the option but if you are a data junky, want to ensure lots more detail and are not a fan of pretty material design then Kanboard could be your option. Neither are suited to heavy mobile app usage from what I can see - Wekan is reasonably usable, and Kanboard's Android app still needs to be tested by they have no iOS app.

I'll post screenshots and video screencasts at my photo site at…

There is a public view of my Kanboard at…
The Wekan board can be viewed at…
Kanboard plugins can be seen at

#kanban #kanboard #wekan


What Is The Best New Twist To Open Butterfly Razor? [Analysis]

Date Published: Sun, 12 May 2019 12:18:07 +0200

#^What Is The Best New Twist To Open Butterfly Razor? [Analysis]

Twist to open “butterfly” double edge razors are not only convenient to use but they also have a place in cultural history: ask a random person on the street to describe an “old fashioned safety razor” and the odds are they’ll say something like ‘oh, that razor where the top doors opened up to change a blade with.’ With the right kind of razor blade storage magazine, blade changing can be a completely hands-off process.

The twist to open butterfly (AKA silo missile doors) double edge razor was the “state of the art” just prior to the introduction of cartridge razors. Since then that technology seems to have taken a back seat to less convenient, but easier to manufacture technology. But maybe we need to re-visit the TTO razor. Are there any good “modern” TTO razors? The linked article below delves into a few modern ones including the Viking’s Blade made in Australia.


#traditionalshaving #wetshaving #shaving


Open source Graphical PDF manipulation tool PDF Arranger can merge, split, rotate and crop PDF documents and reorder their pages

Date Published: Sun, 12 May 2019 11:49:55 +0200

#^Open source Graphical PDF manipulation tool PDF Arranger can merge, split, rotate and crop PDF documents and reorder their pages

PDF Arranger is a free and open source application for manipulating PDF documents, that can be used to merge, split, rotate and crop PDF documents and reorder their pages, using an interactive user interface. It's a fork of PDF-Shuffler, which hasn't had a release since April, 2012, with Gtk3 and Python 3 support, and various minor new features and bug fixes.

This also marks the first PDF Arranger release for which the developer provides Microsoft Windows binaries for download, although installation on Windows looks a bit obscure to me.




Google warns that ADB backup and restore may be removed in a future Android release - I'm worrying Android is moving toward iOS lockdown and that was why I left iOS for Android...

Date Published: Fri, 10 May 2019 19:59:39 +0200

#^Google warns that ADB backup and restore may be removed in a future Android release - I'm worrying Android is moving toward iOS lockdown and that was why I left iOS for Android...

Setting up a new Android phone has gotten a lot easier over the years. Android Oreo‘s Autofill feature has made it much easier to sign in to all your apps, and some apps even carry over all your preferences too. Switching between phones from the same OEM is especially easy as most have their own backup and restore tools. However, the experience is not perfect and switching between phones from different OEMs can be a pain. That’s where ADB backup and restore comes in.

ADB backup and restore is a handy tool that allows you to do much more than the typical OEM backup options. You can save private data and installed applications without needing root. Unfortunately, it looks like ADB backup and restore may be going away. A commit in AOSP is titled “Add deprecation warning to adb backup/restore.”

With Android Q I'm seeing lost of warnings about background activities being depreciated in future. I'm just getting that niggling feeling now that Android is moving towards iOS in terms of locking down activities in the name of security, stability, etc. I wanted to use a screen recorder now to show off some of the new Google Maps AR functionality but every one I tried was blocking the video screen recording. I was hoping it was just a bug but I'm getting an uncomfortable feeling. I left iOS mainly because too many things were locked down and Android offered freedom and options.

It's not to say though that all is lost as there is LineageOS and other 3rd party Android ROMs that I would expect to honour freedoms and power users. But if all else fails I see Ubuntu Touch has had another update released. For now, we do still have developer options, rooted capability, etc but some restrictions are starting to intrude already in the guise of "protecting" us. But let's give Android Q a chance to mature and see where it goes.




iFixit teardown claims the Pixel 3a is the most repairable Google phone in years

Date Published: Fri, 10 May 2019 07:59:49 +0200

#^iFixit teardown claims the Pixel 3a is the most repairable Google phone in years

Just about every recent flagship phone is a nightmare to repair, from the Galaxy S10 to the Huawei P20 Pro. As it turns out, building phones out of unibody glass with lots of glue and solder doesn't make it easy to replace the battery. However, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL appear to be a nice change from pace, as iFixit's new teardown guides claim both phones aren't too daunting to fix.

iFixit tore down both phones, but only the 3a has a detailed text guide — the 3a XL just has a video. Unlike some previous generations of Pixels, both devices were manufactured by Google (using former HTC engineers), so the internal layout and repair steps are very similar. Popping open the device doesn't require any heat.

Quite good news and I imagine it is also partly due to the phones not being waterproof. Personally, I'd got for repairability (esp battery and screen) over waterproof ability. I had to buy a heat gun and toolkit to open my Nexus 6P to replace the battery.




How Chinese Spies Got the N.S.A.’s Hacking Tools, and Used Them for Attacks - We know all nations spy and cyber is no different from conventional war as far as reinventing ideas goes

Date Published: Thu, 9 May 2019 23:25:26 +0200

#^How Chinese Spies Got the N.S.A.’s Hacking Tools, and Used Them for Attacks - We know all nations spy and cyber is no different from conventional war as far as reinventing ideas goes

Chinese intelligence agents (not corporate Huawei) acquired National Security Agency hacking tools and repurposed them in 2016 to attack American allies and private companies in Europe and Asia, a leading cybersecurity firm has discovered. The episode is the latest evidence that the United States has lost control of key parts of its cybersecurity arsenal.

Based on the timing of the attacks and clues in the computer code, researchers with the firm Symantec believe the Chinese did not steal the code but captured it from an N.S.A. attack on their own computers — like a gunslinger who grabs an enemy’s rifle and starts blasting away.

The Chinese action shows how proliferating cyberconflict is creating a digital wild West with few rules or certainties, and how difficult it is for the United States to keep track of the malware it uses to break into foreign networks and attack adversaries’ infrastructure.

The losses have touched off a debate within the intelligence community over whether the United States should continue to develop some of the world’s most high-tech, stealthy cyberweapons if it is unable to keep them under lock and key.

My opinion is that no-one should think backdoors or encryption busting tools are going to stay undetected or unused by one's enemies or allies alike. If you design some weakness into a system it's going to get found out. We have to all accept that the Chinese, USA, Russia, North Koreans, Germans, etc are all spying on each other as well as their allies. There is no safe glass house from which to throw your stones at another nation, especially when it comes to spying. What is unique about cyber warfare and spying is that the playing fields are often levelled in that a small innovative nation can successfully tackle a superpower.

So that said, and knowing the US has been caught spying on their German allies, we are also not sure that the Chinese themselves actually perpetrated the spying. Many nation states employ their own third parties and spying is often about deception, and these cases don't end up in open courts... so who really knows who was caught spying on who.


#spying #cyberwarfare #security


Are these the clueless humans expressing opinions all over social media about climate change - Please tell me the fate of Earth is not in their hands! (Video)

Date Published: Thu, 9 May 2019 20:26:26 +0200

#^Are these the clueless humans expressing opinions all over social media about climate change - Please tell me the fate of Earth is not in their hands! (Video)

The U.N. released a big report this week that says among other things, that more than a million species of plants and animals are facing extinction. This is something Jimmy Kimmel Live needed to act on, so to raise awareness, they went out on the street to ask people if they were worried about one endangered species in particular - 'Homo Sapiens.' Homo Sapiens, of course, are humans. So they asked humans if they care about the extinction of humans, and this is what they got back.

If it were a less serious topic I'd be rolling around laughing but then I realise these are the same Homo Sapiens who vote in elections to decide policies about the future of Earth... it is seriously scary. Maybe they are right though we should let Homo Sapiens just go extinct as maybe then the Earth will be saved...

Watch at

#climatechange #environment

Google Pixel 3A hands-on: The only Pixel phone to buy - Google's cost-cutting down to US$399 doesn't hurt the plastic Pixel much

Date Published: Thu, 9 May 2019 20:09:47 +0200

#^Google Pixel 3A hands-on: The only Pixel phone to buy - Google's cost-cutting down to US$399 doesn't hurt the plastic Pixel much

Google finally took the wraps off the Pixel 3A at Google I/O this week. It's a cheaper, plastic version of the Pixel 3 with the same great camera and the same great Google software support.

There really isn't a ton to say about the Pixel 3A. The phone is so incredibly similar to the Pixel 3 that it can be hard to tell them apart from a distance. Both devices have the same design, but the 3A is just rendered in plastic and (in the case of the XL version) noticeably lighter. It feels a bit like one of those plastic demo phones you'll see in stores—a perfect copy, but lighter and cheaper.

The phone feels relatively speedy so far. You aren't getting flagship performance, but for, again, a $400 smartphone, it's really good. The Snapdragon 670 is an eight-core SoC, but instead of the usual four big cores and four little cores, you have two big 2Ghz "Kryo 360 Gold" cores and six little 1.7GHz "Kryo 360 Silver" cores. The SoC is built on a 10nm process, so it shouldn't be a power hog.

Besides the plastic back and the slower SoC, the 3A has undergone some other cost-cutting. You're missing wireless charging, water resistance, and the second wide-angle front camera. There are still stereo speakers (the earpiece and a bottom-firing speaker), but they don't sound as clear as the flagship device. Of course, if you don't like the speakers, you can easily plug in your 3.5mm headphones, since Google has decided to bring back the headphone jack on this cheaper device.

The one big surprise of Google's unveiling was the 3700mAh battery on the Pixel 3A XL. This is bigger than the rumors suggested and even bigger than the 3430mAh battery in the much more expensive Pixel 3 XL.

The big appeal of a Pixel phone is still getting all the latest software updates and patches as they are released. A more affordable Pixel (read mid-range pricing) is quite attractive. I'd already said to myself that although I really have loved my Pixel 2 XL I won't be splashing out $1,000 again on a phone. I was going to move to an alternative brand but with this new price-point, I'll certainly be reconsidering Pixel next time around.


#pixel3a #android


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