Some pictures and thoughts, end of March 2024

Okay, only one picture of the cat this time, a black & white one again, with her sitting outside on our veranda:


Bella, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2023

This month I got into a cat fight again, for the second time, and also for the second time I’ve got some marks to show. The first time was in the beginning of this year when the neighbours’ cat bit me in the foot, this time it was Bella who was scared enough to really bite my hand. “Only a scratch” I thought after the bleeding stopped, but then the hand got swollen, and I had to see the doctor to get another tetanus shot (after 20+ years), and had to take antibiotics until yesterday. This is what my hand looked like after my second visit to the doc, taken with my mobile phone:

It’s much better already, but like my wife said, that should probably teach me a lesson… 😉

Other than that, I still walk and have my little step counter on while doing so. And Gadgetbridge gets better and better and with each version it supports the device a little more. I started playing around with the software in January, but since end of January I also set my goal to 10,000 steps a day, which I’ve kept since then. This is from two days ago:

Not a miss since 60 days, and a total of some 800,000 steps since I use this software, which with a step length of pretty much exactly 75cm translates to 600km until now.

Not as much as Andersen’s Knud (from his “Under the willow tree” or in German “Unter dem Weidenbaum”) who went from Kjöge (near Køge in Denmark) all the way to Nürnberg and Milano and half way back) but seeing a radius of 600km from our place still makes me kind of proud:

If there would be a straight way to walk, I would have reached Vienna by now (Aaahh, Vienna, that reminds me of Billy Joel’s famous song about it – read the story here or listen to the original here).

Or I would be short before Genova by now, or – if you’d grant me a ferry ride since I can’t yet walk on the water – London. Pretty cool thought. So I’ll keep walking (Billy Joel has more songs about cool places, how about “Zanzibar” for instance? And yes, I know that he probably didn’t mean the island in this song, but still) 😉

Anyway, in case you’re a Christian I wish you Happy Easter, and in case you’re Muslims then Happy Ramadan instead. For all others, like always, have fun, and thanks for dropping by and reading.

Some pictures and thoughts, end of February 2024

So it’s a leap year again, and today is the leap day. Cool for those who are born on that day, they don’t age that fast 😉 Anyway, here are some photos of our cat, in the order that I took them during the month:


In other news, this month was also my birthday. And I’ve got a nice surprise present: the latest novel from Haruki Murakami. Cool; many thanks again! It’s wonderful like most of his work.

And since I have more or less everything I need, I didn’t have a real wish list – but also got a Raspberry Pi 5 which I used to set up with a Pi-Hole DNS sink / ad blocker / tracker blocker and a Wireguard PiVPN for the family already. The load (like in top) with that software installed and running is still 0-0-0, which means the machine is just yawning about these tasks, let’s see what else we can do with it. Cool little machine, the CPU is an ARM one like in your typical mobile phone (but 4 cores instead of 8 or more).

Also got the latest updates of Gadgetbridge on my phone which keeps getting better and better together with Xiaomi’s Smart Band 8.

Anyway, and as always, thanks for reading and viewing.

And the best (and most secure) phone is…

No – this is no “best of” list like you find them everywhere, with 10 or more randomly chosen products and “affiliate links” to big online stores. This post is about security, because that’s what matters, not how great a product looks and feels in your hands, or how nice the photos are which can be made with their cameras, or all the new(ish) “AI” stuff built into them.

Since a few years now, arm – together with Google – are developing something they’ve called “Memory Tagging Extensions”, or short: MTE. That’s a mitigation against 0-day-exploits, and thus, important. The arm developers explain it on their blog, and you can also read their white paper about it in case you’d like to know what it is and how it works.

And now you can actually buy the first product which has that built in – and it’s:

The Google Pixel 8 (and The Pixel 8 Pro)

And no, it’s not enabled by default yet (except if you run GrapheneOS instead of Google’s own version of Android), but if you don’t mind your phone to being run in “developer mode”, you can read how to enable it yourself on Google’s “Project Zero” blog.

No silver bullet, that’s right. But both the arm and Google’s developers are to be complimented about that, even the DevOps from GrapheneOS (and also DivestOS) do that – and recommend the Pixel 8 (or 8 Pro) above all other handsets. Security better than that of an iPhone, as was reported elsewhere (but that’s another topic).

Even if you own a Pixel 8 (/Pro) and do nothing, I’m sure that Google’s team are testing it, and that they will activate the feature per default with one of their next (monthly) updates. GrapheneOS, like I wrote above, does use it already, so that’s my OS of choice even on my older Pixel 6a (which doesn’t have MTE built into it, but I’ll still use that as long as it’s supported (July ’27 according to Google, and GrapheneOS supports it until then as well – after that I’d have to change it to DivestOS)).

Oh, and re: support cycles – for the Pixel 8, that’s 7 years, so even if it costs a bit more, I’d most probably choose that one over a Pixel 7a. Let’s see if the next phones (8a and newer) will also be supported that long. So another thing to applaud, and we should avoid waste and that that into account (and no, the “Fairphone” can’t compete on any level, even if that’s theoretically supported a bit longer).

Like always, thanks for reading.

First look: Xiaomi Smart Band 8

Yesterday I bought a fitness tracker. My wife and daughter both have one since long, and I started counting my steps when I first got an iPhone from the company, and later the used Google Pixel 4a from my wife. And while counting steps with a phone is good, and all that most people would probably need, I still also wanted those steps when I do *not* carry my phone, plus having a look at some other statistics like sleep tracking and so on.

Both Mitchie and Zuleikha (or Aki, which she prefers) are using FitBit devices. Mitchie lost her Charge 4 last year and got the Charge 5 soon afterwards, Aki has her Inspire 2 since about that time (or a bit earlier). But I didn’t want to go the Google route, and here’s why. Mike Kuketz, a German security consultant once mentioned an open source tracker software which doesn’t send every measurement to the big clouds for their analysis, so I was interested in that program called “Gadgetbridge” since a while. The best supported devices are those from Huami (aka Amazfit) and Xiaomi which use Huami’s “Zepp” app, but since the last update to Gadgetbridge, even some newer devices which use different protocols are supported – see here.

So my initial plan was to get a Xiaomi Smart Band 7 or an Amazfit Band 7, both of which originally use that Zepp app, and both being able to be used with Gadgetbridge instead. However, at our local electronics chain store, only the newer Xiaomi Smart Band 8 was offered, so I took that one instead. And to make matters short (or TL;DR in “modern” speech): no, I haven’t got it running with Gadgetbridge yet (support *is* still experimental), but I’m still glad I got this one, even tho it feels a bit strange to have a secure system like GrapheneOS, and then to install Xiaomi’s Mi Fitness software onto it – but in the long run, this will most probably change.

So what is it like? Well it counts my steps (and less than the free and open source “Paseo” software on the phone before, but it’s said to be pretty accurate), it also tracks my sleep, counts my heart beats, blood oxygen, and all that stuff – what most of these devices do. The Xiaomi software is pretty colourful, as are the hundreds of watch faces you can install with a single click. Here are some screenshots of the software running on my phone:

In case you want a comparison of some of these devices, here is a German one from FitForFun, and the guys from Heise’s Techstage had an almost similar result. But of course they don’t even think about using said devices with free and open source software, so choose wisely. Of the older generation (compatible with Zepp apps and such with Gadgetbridge, except the Huawei device), there’s also a nice video, also in German, here.

I will report more later, since I have the device more or less since a single day only, and this is my first one (although I can compare it to those FitBits, and to be honest, Aki was a bit jealous about that Goose watchface you could choose for mine)… 😉

Like always, thanks for reading.

Update, later on the same day:

Got Gadgetbridge working by now on the Pixel 6a (had tried it on the 3a before). And I’m still exploring it of course, but here’s a first screenshot from the phone:

Gadgetbridge working with the Xiaomi Smart Band 8 on the Google Pixel 6a running GrapheneOS

So for the moment I’ll have deactivated Xiaomi’s app and this one active instead. Switched the battery usage from ‘Unrestricted’ to ‘Optimised’, because this doesn’t have to be active when I don’t want it to. So let’s see how this develops. But I’m glad that I’ve been successful.

And again, thanks for reading.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Recently a friend an I were talking about Haruki Murakami‘s books, and when we asked each other’s favourites, my friend’s answer was “Killing Commendatore”, while my first reaction and answer to this was “1Q84”.

And while both are brilliant, by re-reading first “Kafka On The Shore”, and after that, “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”, my mind has changed (at least for now; I began re-reading “Killing Commendatore” but after a few pages interrupted that to read the ones mentioned above first).

Like probably every author, Murakami has recurring themes, topics, and sometimes even characters – the “hollow man” being a figure in “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”, and “hollow men” being a concept in “Kafka On the Shore”, or Ushikawa being both present in “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”, but having a much more prominent role in the third book of “1Q84”.

I think now that “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” was probably the best I’ve read so far of Murakami’s, it’s also a very sad one at times, and the described cruelty (and the nonsense of war) is frightening. The most frightening figure of all is “Boris the manskinner”, a Russian who was elsewhere compared to Vladimir Putin, and let me cite from the English translation why I had the same thoughts:

My own country is hopeless. It was almost better under the czars. At least the czar didn’t have to strain his empty head over a lot of theory. Lenin took whatever he could understand of Marx’s theory and used it to his own advantage, and Stalin took whatever he could understand of Lenin’s theory (which wasn’t much) and used it to his own advantage. The narrower a man’s intellectual grasp, the more power he is able to grab in this country.

Brilliant, isn’t it? And to have “Boris the manskinner” aka Vlad being the ones who took whatever they could understand of Stalin (less than Lenin, much less than Marx), but both equally brutal, yes that seemed to fit. If you can stand it, read it.

More about Haruki Murakami here. And as always, thanks for reading.

One of the few reasons to start Windows…

… are updates when I read about them in online media. And today I’ve got their 23H2 version of Windows 11 (because I selected to not download and install as soon as possible):

As you can see, I’m using a local account, and that’s also the reason that their news aren’t personalised (and even if, they’re not that interesting anyway):

In fact, I mostly start Windows for these updates, and from time to time because I want to convert a raw photo from my camera with the OM System Workspace – and I probably should try that under Wine on Linux again. But OTOH, I also added another local account on my machine for our daughter, so she could try Genshin Impact on it. And although we only have the integrated graphics from our AMD Ryzen 7 5700G processors, seeing that on my Eizo Monitor with its 1920×1200 resolution is beautiful, and a much more immersive experience than having it on a phone, according to Zuleikha. So for the moment, Windows stays on my SSD, together with Debian (my main OS) and Arch Linux (for experiments).

Like always, thanks for reading.

P.S.: why I don’t download and install software as soon as it’s available? Because I like software when it’s ready, like the Debian Release team says: quando paratus est. For a rolling release and the latest and greatest, I have Arch, which I like a lot more than Fedora. (This article was written on it.)

Strategic (and thus, management) errors

I really like Asus, the Taiwanese manufacturer of fine mainboards. Although they’re too much intended for gamers in my humble opinion, and what I don’t like so much are the boot screens of my wife’s (µATX) mainboard with the “Tough Gaming” or mine with the “Republic of Gamers” hints – we’re not gamers at all, and using AMDs Ryzen 5700G processors, we instead built energy-efficient “work” machines.

But this is about phones, and the Asus Zenfone line could be the optimal Android phones – they’re small, very capable with their latest Qualcomm Snapdragon chips, and they even still have 3,5mm headset jacks, so bravo to all of that. Okay, starting at around the 800€ mark here in Europe, they’re a bit expensive, so they have to compete to Google’s newest Pixel 8 – and that fight, they lose on several points:

First, the Asus phones only have support for two years and Android version upgrades, while Google’s newest offer 7 years. Second, they lack the Titan M security chip of Google’s devices which even allow alternate boot ROMs to be re-locked and verified with cryptographic keys, and third, the latest Zenfone 9 and 10 (and now also 7) lines don’t even offer to unlock their bootloaders anymore, which means that after those meager two years of support, you’re left in the cold and rain – and those phones will go to landfills much too early.

Read this report at Android Authority, or the XDA Developers’ forae about this if you wish, or write to Asus if you really care (I did). But as a recommendation for good phones, read this one from Privacy Guides.

Also, in case you’re from Germany and read “best buy” lists like this one, please reconsider: I’ve got a Google Pixel 6a beginning of this year, when they were at 319€, and everything on Privacy Guides still applies for it. So I wrote to that author as well, mentioning that we still get monthly updates (from DivestOS) for ten year old Google Nexus tablets or their Pixel 3a. No e-waste, no landfills, still (with some restrictions) usable.

And like always, thanks for reading.

Nothing to Hide

If you’re reading this blog regularly, you might have asked yourselves why all the thoughts about security, privacy, freedom, and so on lately? And you might be one of those who say “I have nothing to hide”. Well…

This one is a must see. It helps if you understand English, French, and German at least a bit, but even if you don’t, watch it to the end:

This comes from the PeerTube, and it promotes those free and decentralised services, and for good reason as you will hear. So please do yourself and us all a favour and stop using Facebook, Whatsapp, and all of that – and replace it with something like Signal or even better, XMPP. We will all profit from it.

Oh, and in case you have an old Android phone which isn’t supported with regular updates anymore, try DivestOS. And if you have a new one from Google, try GrapheneOS (or else, DivestOS again). Sure you can’t live without that intrusive Play Store? Have a look at F-Droid instead. Or are you using Apple instead? Maybe think again… and please start encrypting. You can at least do that even if you stay with a standard Google or Samsung or Apple device.

As always, thanks for reading, and for viewing.

Qotd, from Bill Beebe

He wrote it yesterday according to his blog post entry date, but I’ve found it today. And because it’s just four lines in my browser, instead of citing him here, I’ll give you Bill’s link to what I consider the quote of the day for today…

Beautiful. Thanks Bill.