PocketC.H.I.P. – First Impressions

PocketC.H.I.P.
The new PocketC.H.I.P. by “Next Thing Co.”

FEATURES

  • 4.3″ Resistive touch screen.
  • Full QWERTY keyboard.
  • Removable enclosure and bezel.
  • 3.7-volt LiPo Battery.
  • GPIO Access.
  • WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity.

APPLICATIONS

  • PICO-8 – Play games, change games, and make games with PICO-8!
  • SunVox – The SunVox tracker is a fully featured music production studio.
  • Linux Terminal – A place to type commands directly to the computer for execution and evaluation by the operating system.
  • Write – Write is a minimalist text editor.
  • File Browser – The File Browser provides a visual representation of the files on your PocketC.H.I.P. using icons.
  • Help – A copy of the documentation from the GetChip Website

I received my backer PocketC.H.I.P. today. My apologies, I was much too excited about it after having used my C.H.I.P. received late last year, to bother with any video of unboxing. Those of you that need unboxing therapy, look elsewhere.

It arrived in a beautifully illustrated cardboard box, shrinkwrapped with my VDA and HDMI adapters, as well as a spare battery. As you can see above, the final version is much nicer than beta versions (change not included, placement to illustrate scale only). As expected, it was running an ARM version of Debian. So naturally, I did the apt-get update & upgrade & dist-upgrade. Then I set about to playing with it.

It shipped with only six programmes (noticeable programmes, that is), and after being briefly entertained by them, I set out to creating the server remote that I intended it to be. I installed putty, filezilla and a few other select monitoring programmes for remoting in to my various servers for Who Inc. so that I could pretend that I had a necessary, real world application for this baby.

To be honest, it’s a bit clunkier than I would like. Though the website has various illustrations of the machine in use, nothing really prepares you for its size, or for its weight. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, it just is unexpected. It’s a kind of hybrid between a phone and a tablet, but with the benefit of being a full Linux operating system. All of the commands that you have come to know and love function. If you’re used to Debian, Ubuntu, Mint etc. you’ll feel right at home with one of these. One of the biggest downers is size of available space, but again, as this is full Linux, that’s a simple matter of sticking a low profile thumb drive into the available USB and creating /home2.

To do this:

  • /sbin/fdisk -l  This tells you your available storage devices with detailed info so you can determine which drive is which by /dev
  • sbin/fdisk /dev/sda This allows you to create a partition on /dev/sda (most likely the secondary thumb device as the primary drive appears to be hidden by the system) after which you will enter the following at the prompt: “n” for new partion, “p” for primary partition, “1” for the first partition (it may tell you that 1 is not available, and give you options beginning with 2), “Enter” for the first AND last cylinders (to make this partition use the entire disk) and finally “w” to save your changes. That has created and saved new partition and it will be called /dev/sda1 (first partition on /dev/sda). The next step is to format it.
  • ext4/4 /dev/sda1 – Choose either ext3 or ext4 – this does the basic format of your thumb drive.
  • Finally, to make it an extension of your /home that came installed on the C.H.I.P., mkdir /home2 followed by mount /dev/sda1 /home2. To make sure that this device will auto mount when you start up your PocketC.H.I.P., use mount -a.

Now that this step is complete, you are able to save files as large as your external storage can handle, as well as install a great deal more programmes, which for me, was an absolute necessity.

My biggest complaint about the PocketC.H.I.P. was not the large size or unexpected weight however; as they did a great job with the contour and counterbalance with the shape of the casing… no, my biggest complaint is the keyboard. I am operating, of course, with the understanding that this is essentially a baseline keyboard which is provided as a bonus for what is essentially a builder computer like the Raspberry Pi. But the keyboard, while nicely configured and familiar, lacked responsiveness. I found myself going back several times to press harder to get a letter to take, or backspacing for a letter that received multiple input though only pressed once. If you can live with that, and I can, then this will be an amazing and useful piece of tech for you to have.

Regardless of its size, it still fits comfortably into a standard back pocket. Its extra features such as a touch screen make it much more enjoyable to use. The screen is sharp and bright. All in all, I’m extremely satisfied with the outcome, and both happy and proud to have backed this fantastic innovation.

P.S. – If you do get one, it does NOT come with a web browser. This is simple to remedy. If you like text browsers, use sudo apt-get install lynx. If you prefer a modern browser, use sudo apt-get install iceweasel. Neither Firefox nor Chrome have a release that will install on this unit out of the box, and Chromium gives the “no release candidate available” reply. Iceweasel is clunky on this device to say the least, and you absolutely MUST use a stylus to get anything done with it. But for the power of a full Linux in the pocket, I’m not complaining. I also highly recommend installing aptitude (sudo apt-get install aptitude) and using it in place of apt-get for automatic resolution of dependencies when installing software.

Popular Chat and Photo Sharing Applications

First of all, your children will hate me for this post. What are Instagram, Keek, Kik, SnapChat, and Vine, and are they safe for use by young children? The short answer is, they are texting and file sharing applications, and absolutely not. There is simply no method by which the usage of these applications may be properly monitored, and these applications all expose your child to potential predators, and an overwhelming amount of highly inappropriate content. Almost all of them offer geo location (a geographical tag that contains the child’s latitude and longitude, and allows fairly precise location within five to ten feet) and location tagging, which make it extremely easy for predators to locate children. Coupled with the fact that these are generally selfies (images of themselves taken by your child), It offers would be predators a sort of digital smorgasbord down to location, name and friends faces and names. It is highly recommended that they not be allowed at all. It is worth noting, that of all of the listed applications, Instagram is the safest. Their moderation is higher than the others, and content of an inappropriate nature requires creative searching to locate. It can also be flagged, and is almost always removed if truly objectionable. But as detailed below, its cross posting on other sites make it dangerous as well. As always, the choice is yours as a parent, but when the stakes are so high and the consequences potentially disasterous, why would you?

insta

Instagram: A public photo sharing application for Android, iOS and Windows devices which enables the user to upload photos from their mobile devices camera. Files are by default, shared publicly on Instagram, and may also be located/cross-posted on other social networks such as Pictacular which enables you to search “nearby”. Using the search, I quickly located four young girls from my church, two of which had geo location on their photo, and all of which had “tagged” their location. There are privacy settings available within Instagram, but it limits your privacy to followers that are approved. While this is better than nothing, it requires you as a parent to manually approve each and every follower that requests to follow your child. For most children, this “breaks the usability” and often leads to dishonesty in which they create a separate account that they log into away from home, and log into the “dummy” account when at home. If you are going to allow your child to use this application, it is highly recommended that you require them to turn off geo location as well as insist that they not tag their location at any time. This application does not require a working SIM card. It runs on Wifi. It is advisable that parents review ConnectSafely’s PDF on Instagram Safety.

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Keek: A public video sharing application for Android, iOS and Windows devices which enables users to upload videos from their mobile devices video camera. It is possible to block other users, and turn off comments. The problem is that anyone can subscribe to your child’s updates, view all of their posted content ,and find out where they live using the built in Geo Location. There are presently no privacy settings available and there is no method by which adult content may be blocked. This app does not offer any parental controls. There is a great deal of pornography available (as I discovered within moments of signing up and browsing the application) on the application with no way to block it. Additionally, multiple studies indicate that the greater percentage of posters 16 and below are subscribed to by adult males over the age of thirty. DO NOT allow your child to use this application. This application does not require a working SIM card. It runs on Wifi.

kik

Kik: An instant messaging application for Android, iOS and Windows devices which children use in place of SMS/Text Messaging. It has the same capabilities as SMS/Text Messaging, enabling users to share photos and text messages with other users. The application scans the physical devices address book and finds other individuals using the application. It has no parental controls, and no privacy settings. There is also a great deal of inappropriate content (Within moments of signing up and signing in, I received multiple spam messages, several of which were sexually explicit) sent in chat messages, whether you ask for it or not. It would be best to prevent your child from using this application. This application does not require a working SIM card. It runs on Wifi.

Snapchat

SnapChat: An instant messaging / photo sharing application for Android, iOS and Windows devices which claims to have auto destruct capabilities. In theory, an image is taken and then after the set amount of time (up to ten seconds) the image becomes inaccessible. The application is being used for sexting (trading of sexually explicit photos). The photos however, do not self destruct as they are supposed to. They are saved in a folder on the users phone, which can be hacked and the photos retrieved.  This is done on a fairly regular basis, and the photos of hacked SnapChat accounts are often posted online for all the world to see.  Additionally, it is extremely easy for users who receive photos to take screenshots before they become inaccessible, and then share these “private”, “self destructing” photos online. Make no mistake, it only takes one screenshot to destroy your child’s prospects for certain jobs, colleges etc., and for bullying to start at school. It has and continues to be a cause of suicide in teens. Lastly, there are multiple websites and Facebook groups that allow your child to share their SnapChat username to get more “friends”. The problem is that most of the registered subscribers to these sites and groups are adult males. There are NO privacy settings, and NO parental controls. It is strongly advised that you not allow your child to make use of this application. This application does not require a working SIM card. It runs on Wifi. If you insist on allowing your child to use this application, see ConnectSafely’s PDF safety guide for Snapchat.

vine

Vine: A public video sharing application for Android, iOS and Windows devices using the mobile devices camera. A short video may be taken, then shared to vine servers, and shared on Facebook. There are no parental controls available, nor are there privacy controls. Posters using iOS devices may be tracked easily using built in Geo Location. There are no methods to filter. There is a great deal of pornography available on the application with no way to block it. As with all of the above apps, parental attempts to control usage leads to dishonesty in which the children will create a separate account that they log into away from home, and log into the “dummy” account when at home. Again, an overwhelming percentage of older adult males are the primary subscribers to both young boys, and young girls.  DO NOT allow your child to use this application. The over availability of pornographic material is beyond parental control. This application does not require a working SIM card. It runs on Wifi.

 

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Whisper/Secret: If your child has an application called Whisper or Secret, REMOVE it and DO NOT allow them to continue using it. Check for it frequently, and check their app store install history. Both applications are used to broadcast “secrets” such as crushes or bad things that your child may have done. The entire purpose of the applications are to broadcast secrets, and children may be tempted to fabricate very bad things in order to get “hearts”. Law enforcement is known to monitor these apps because of their nature, and your child may get more attention than they bargain for. They are supposedly anonymous, but they are NOT SECURE and they are NOT PRIVATE. They also have chat functions which predators use to convince younger children to meet up, pretending to be young and the same sex, or using photos of young opposite sex to lure children. These apps are NOT safe. The images are public and can contain secure location information. They are known to be used by child predators. Children are also able to find drug dealers using this app, as well as being exposed to absolute filth and pornography. There is no option on either of these apps which allows for safe use whatsoever. JUST DON’T.

If you have any questions regarding these applications, or how to change your child’s device settings to prevent geo location, feel free to email me using the “contact me” link. Be sure to include the device model and operating system. Also remember, that no matter how hard you try to protect your children, there is no failsafe. They will find a way around your guards and blocks to do what their friends are doing. The best thing that you can do is to stay involved, and actively keep an eye on what they are doing on their phones. Be sure to check out ConnectSafely’s guide to Children and Mobile Phones.

Goboxi: A More Productive Inbox?

Goboxi is the next generation of applications for email which takes time management, social management and inbox management to the next level. Integrating multiple common tasks into a single, attractive, clutter free interface, everything is presented in an intuitive and user friendly format. There is no real learning curve so far, as everything is very easy to figure out at a single glance. One of my favourite points about the software is their email filtration. Somewhat simpler than Google’s new “Inbox” application, the algorythms simply sort what is important from what isn’t, and rather than labeling things into finance, friends etc, it simply places them in a “Read Later” folder. This puts more of the power in your hands as to how you would like to categorize.

Upon login, you are presented with three columns. Important Inbox, Tasks and Calendar. Each column is responsive, and adding items or reviewing items in any of the columns is very simple. Overall, it’s a super start to an ever demanding set of utilities. While the programme itself is in its early iteration, functionality is high and it is usable as is in a production environment. I would comfortably replace the Microsoft Outlook Desktop Application with this webpage. There are still many features that we would like to see, such as syncing with other apps from Google (keep, calendar, contacts etc.), Microsoft (calendar, outlook etc.) and the likes, but Project, Basecamp, Asana and Wunderlist support is listed as “coming soon”. What it presently lacks in features, Goboxi more than makes up for with the interface and simplicity of use. I personally can’t wait to see what else they do. This is definately a company to keep your eyes on!

Say hello to a moreproductive you

Clutter-free Emal, To-dos, Calendar

With everything important in one location, you can now focus on getting work done and have more time for what matters.