“I’m old, I don’t know computers”

toolbars

My anecdotal experience is the stereotype of older people not able to use technology is well and true. Far too often, we hear: “I’m old, I don’t know computers.” They don’t seem to have either the ability or desire to become familiar with tech related stuff. Random examples:

  • confusing chrome with google
  • can’t tell the difference between browser, url, and email address
  • thinking the on/off button on the monitor turns the computer on/off
  • getting flustered and in a panic when they can’t remember their username and password (how about clicking the ‘forget password’ link)
  • trying to explain their computer problem to you over the phone and expecting that you have Superman’s eyesight
  • no concept of memory, RAM, bandwidth, speed, wifi vs mobile data–no, a couple of whatsapp messages won’t eat into you 3GB monthly allowance
  • long email subject line as the content of the email
  • forwarding jokes/memes/health tips/multi-level marketing scam
  • can’t upload files, only now discovering facebook albums, not deleting duplicate or crappy pictures so their phone memory is full
  • on the one hand is paranoid about sending personal information online; on the other hand clicks on links without checking the url
  • wondering why the computer is so slow, and there are 10 installed toolbars

There are studies and articles about why people who didn’t grow up with technology find it difficult to learn. Small setbacks, like touchscreen sensitivity or small fonts, erode confidence and add fear. The elderly are definitely not unintelligent, there simply seems to be some sort of mental or psychological block, or it could be that learning agility slows with age. There’s an ELI5 explanation that uses language as analogy:

Imagine that you’ve made it through into your adult life using English. Then one day, you hear someone speaking LangX, a totally new language that they claim is going to change the world. For the next decade, only a few people speak it, and no one you know has ever really used it. Another decade later, and its catching on. You’ve heard kids using it, and its starting to gain traction, but it hasn’t really been important for you to learn it. You retire from work just as your workplace gets its first expert in LangX.

So you cruise into retirement, content knowing that you’ve worked your ass off, and now get to enjoy the simpler things in life. All of a sudden, everyone uses LangX, and no one speaks English any more. You go the the grocery store, or to the bank, and the employees get mad at you for using English. Your grandkids refuse to translate things for you anymore. Your kids keep buying you books written in LangX, thinking that that will help you learn the language.

I know a lot of people who are in the middle-age and senior age range who are very good at technology. They may or may not have a scientific or technical background; seems to me that they made the effort to learn and ask the right question. Computers are not new. Consoles like atari, commodore and sinclair were available by the early 1980s, the IBM PC with the 8088 processor was introduced in 1981, the original Mac appeared in 1984. By the 1990s, home computers were fairly common and relatively affordable–the first iMac, Dell, Compaq, all these names were familiar late 20th century brands.

All that happened 20 years ago.

Isn’t “I’m old, I don’t know computers” getting, well, old? Isn’t it one of the many excuses for mediocrity? Just like it’s not okay to use age as an excuse to be rude or entitled or misogynistic/racist/homophobic; it’s not okay to use it as an excuse to be lazy or complacent or negative. I’m not saying become a php expert or start writing apps, I’m saying learn how to google, learn what is a browser, learn how to swipe on a smartphone. Computers and devices are very user-friendly nowadays. A few weeks ago my aunt called mum via whatsapp, mum got in a panic and shoved the phone at me. The screen said swipe up to answer, so I swiped up to answer. What was so difficult about it?

Another day, she asked me to write an email reply, a simple thank you to someone. In the past I would have written it for her, just like I swiped her phone to answer the call for her. This time I said to do it herself but do it in front of me. She hit reply on her ipad, typed it all out and hit send. She missed a full stop but I didn’t correct her. She can do it herself, she just needs to stop automatically expecting that I’d do it just because she doesn’t want to.

We need to stop feeding the beast by giving in and doing it for them because it’ll be 100 times quicker and involve less hair-pulling attempts at explanation. It’s better in the long run.

@watty_io came first in a competition

wattyio

Last October I got a bunch of congratulatory tweets meant for a Swedish internet of things startup. I noticed that they have gotten some good reviews and attention for their product.

Seems like they won something again. My twitter notifications blew up that they came first in something at the annual Sthlm Tech Fest that was held in Stockholm over the past few days. It’s described as the biggest tech startup event in Sweden where

[e]very startup founder, investor, designer, developer, and journalist comes together to share, be inspired and meet the whole startup ecosystem, and welcome visitors from 20+ countries.

I congratulated them and they tweeted me back that they love my handle, hahaha. So I DMed them to ask what actually they won and their response was that it was “a flic button competition or something like that.” Interesting. So it seems that flic is a smart bluetooth button that can be used to control all sorts of devices and apps. Wow, the more I delve into these startups the more impressed I am. I’m glad that through a shared name error, I’m learning so much and can watch so many cool products develop peripherically.

At least I’m not the regular person behind famous twitter handles like @coke or @bmw.

you must be offline to read this

offline

A thoughtful bit of cleverness from Chris Bolin, you must go offline to view this page (or click on the image).

So I did as asked, went to offline mode. Short article; I agree with everything he said. We suffer through so much external distractions that we have begun to internally distract ourselves too. Try this experiment, imagine having to be still for a few hours, a few minutes, and simply focus on doing ONE analogue thing–read a book, bake a cake, file paperwork. How long will it be before we reach out to our phones and check for a non-existent new text, glance at an inbox with no new emails, or refresh fb only to see the same political article shared by half a dozen people.

There has been plenty of articles about the benefits of unplugging and examples of people saying how great their life is when they go offline for extended periods of time. Many people announce that they deleted twitter, or facebook, or snapchat. I shrug at those announcements, because they will usually come running back in a few weeks.

What I’ve found works for me is, instead of deleting those apps (and of course dramatically announcing the act), simply engage less. There is no need to read every single post of every single person I follow. I read my close friends and family and people whose posts I found valuable in the past. My approach to social media is that it’s a place for me to curate the things and experiences I find interesting. Not to mindlessly, constantly, share. Curating implies putting more thought into each post. I know that I am still learning and I have a long way to go. My weakness is way too many poorly photographed food pics on instagram and after almost 15 years I’m probably still not doing this blogging thing right. But at least I’m aware.

I’m not techy enough to know how the page was coded, a script I think. When I went to see page source firefox tells me it can’t because I’m in offline mode. Snerk.

I’m still offline, so I went back to read the post again. How often does a second reading point us to something we missed upon first reading? Or we see more depth in the words? Here’s parting thoughts on the inevitable complaints that going offline doesn’t work:

I don’t care. Make time. I bet the thing that makes you valuable is not your ability to Google something but your ability to synthesize information. Do your research online; create offline.

≺/offline≻

less facebook; more reddit

As I become more and more disenfranchised about facebook (constant switch to top stories, ‘helpful’ posts I may like / friends I may want to add, same old posts I’m only marginally interested in), I only open it once a day. I think I’ve spent a total of 20mins during the past week, and most of that time was refreshing to get most recent, get rid of annoying stuff on the right column, hiding posts. Actual reading and commenting, hardly any time spent.

And as they announce that they will be adding stories to the desktop, I don’t forsee me adding it back to my browser home.

I’m back spending more time on reddit. Inc. quoted Obi-Wan when talking about how reddit isn’t as bad as everyone thinks:

“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”

But like the patrons inside the cantina in ep 4 or Maz Kanata’s tavern in ep 7, there is much good hidden underneath the scum and villainy. Isn’t that one of the takeaways of Star Wars? Recently, I read about good stealth trolls, who

hijack or preemptively create pernicious subreddits and turn them benign

Here’s where the term trolling means something wider on reddit. On a site like twitter, trolls are toxic. They abuse and doxx anyone they don’t like, if they think they are SJWs or simply by being a professor of classics at Cambridge. On reddit, the act of trolling is still undermining or derailing. But on alt-right, white supremist subs, trolling means taking over as a moderator and turning a hate-filled sub into one that, well, isn’t. An example is r/whites which used to be full of white supremist mumblings. After a white hat (pun intended) moderator took over, it now has posts entitled WHITE POWER showing a power generator that is white and a link to how white light can treat winter depression.

sf057paint

Here’s my contribution, a guy on the street of san francisco in a white shirt painting the outside of a house white.

new router

router

One of the errands last week was to go to the internet company and ask about better wifi. The long and short of it is, we have a new router. It’s supposed to give us better range. The technician moved it to the living room and I’m able to get 2 bars wifi in my room. It also means there’s wifi in the living and dining rooms.

Unfortunately he disconnected the cable for the tv and I don’t have a LAN cable long enough. The whole setup is now back on my desk so we can watch tv. I’ll have to go get a longer cable then start again with everything outside.

Our building is old and the infrastructure simply isn’t there to get better internet. The cables from the street are limited and there are no spare outlets to use the home wiring system. The 8Mbps speed is the max we can get; speedtest pings give me 6Mbps. We can’t even opt for HD channels because it’ll take up too much bandwidth. Sigh.

tech accessories

extbattery

Went to the computer area to sort out electronics and accessories for the trip.

The primary target was an external battery. My current one is around 2 years old, 6000mAh and doesn’t charge very well. My baseline is an anker 10000mAh for US$34.99 on amazon, although sometimes it gets discounted below $30. The branded batteries at the computer centre were around that price, or even more. But the trick is to explore the side streets and electronics street nearby. The small shops had 10000mAh batteries for $10-20. These are not branded, and do not come with warranties. But at 1/3rd the price, they’re worth trying. The new one (on the right) is one of those $10 ones, 10000mAh and surprisingly, weighs the same as the old one.

I also got a replacement cover for the ipad and keyboard cover for the mba. I don’t need sim cards, I have the 30 day one and the 360 day one. I did see that Three has new cards, 30 days 9GB (12GB in UK) for £30.

which big tech to drop first

tech5

NYT asked which of the 5 tech giants would we drop.

If an evil monarch forced you to choose, in what order would you give up these inescapable giants of tech?

My choices are in a different order than a typical American, I suppose. Here’s my order, with explanations:

  1. amazon — I order from amazon once a year, when I go to the US. I’m not a prime member, I don’t read using a kindle, I have no intention of getting an echo and I don’t use any of the services owned by amazon like goodreads, audible, zappos. So it’s a no-brainer to drop amazon first
  2. microsoft — the NYT warns that dropping microsoft means no windows and I’m like, I don’t care. Not having ms office is a pain but there are alternatives. I skype with Carleen almost weekly, but we can switch to another service
  3. facebook — not because of facebook itself but because of whatsapp and, to a certain extent, instagram. Whatsapp is how almost everyone in my RL communicate with each other, so we’ll have to switch to something like line–and have to educate mum
  4. alphabet — obviously losing google, google maps and gmail is a big deal so I’ll try to keep google products as long as I can, the alternatives aren’t up to scratch
  5. apple — on my desk within easy reach: mba, ipad, 2 iphones. It’s not just the hardware, it’s ibooks, which is how I read

Poor yahoo, not in the cool 5 club. Which is a saviour in this exercise, because it means I still have yahoo mail and flickr.

pointless tech

We keep hearing that the age of the internet of things is coming. Wifi-enabled fridges, smart TVs that spies on us, buttons that orders replacement detergent with one single press.

But are these really useful?

juicero

Here’s the Guardian on five most pointless tech solutions to non-problems, inspired by the recent juicero fiasco. To recap, a ickstarter campaign raised US$120m brought its users a $399 machine that dispenses DRM-ed (think Keurig coffee pods) juice at $5-8 a cup. Supposedly it’ll text you when you’re running low of juice packs. And then someone discovered it’s just as easy to squeeze the juice by hand.

In other words, “entrepreneurs” making us spend our hard-earned money on over-priced products that have no meaningful justification for their existence.

The list includes a startup that sends its customers a bag of 80 quarters ($20-worth) to be used at the laundrette for $27; a £130 plant pot that regulates the amount of water for houseplants and texts you when you’re running low on water; food startups like blue apron and solyent.

I’ve written about the iphone case that is an andoid phone before. TIL I learned the product has been named the Eye.

The most hilarious pointless tech solution in the article is the space pen, a $35 pen that can write under any angle, zero gravity, under water, at any temperature. Originally developed for astronauts to overcome the difficulty of ink not flowing under gravity, which is how ball point pens work.

The Russians used a pencil.

random reddit

I’m bored so I’m clicking the random button on reddit, which brings me to, well, random subreddits. Yes, reddit has a bad reputation and there are some cesspool subs that shouldn’t exist. But mostly, it’s people getting together because they have a common interest. I’ve come across subs on games, tv shows, anime, sports teams, cities/countries, tech etc. Sometimes the topic is a complete mystery to me.

No wonder certain newspapers steal–um, borrow–content from reddit. A celebrity does an AMA and an article is written as if they gave an interview. Sometimes there are nice human interest stories. There’s one recently, on r/talesfromtechsupport about a tech support person fixing a simple skype issue so an elderly hard-of-hearing person can video call his wife, who is deaf and abroad for a 2 year temporary work assignment:

I looked up and there was Pete, crying while waving to his wife through Skype. Pete called her and she picked up! He introduced me to her and told me that it’d been 3-weeks since they’d heard from each other.

Anyway here are the most recent 5 random subs and some random posts.


r/minimalism

A place where people gather to talk about simplicity. I have now subscribed to it. Posts about people’s experiences like a post on decluttering using the one in, two out method. Most of us have heard of one in, one out but throwing or donating two out will definitely declutter. The OP says,

it makes me want to replace and upgrade the things I already have, rather than buying entirely new things

which sounds like a solid reason to try the program.

lv225sky

Many image posts of minimalist pictures. The was one with blue sky and a part of a slanted roof. I can do better, here’s one I took ages ago in Las Vegas.


r/dbz

dragonballz

I know very little about dragonball z, even though it’s been around for ages and ages and ages. The subreddit has discussion posts on all sorts of topics including specific episodes. What is dragonball z:

it follows a boy named Son Goku from childhood to adulthood, as he trains himself in martial arts with the goal of growing stronger. Throughout his adventures, he and his friends search for seven magical Dragon Balls that, when gathered together, can grant a single wish

There are posts with titles like What would happen if Dai Kaioshin was removed from Majin Buu? which are meaningless to me. Lots of fanart and I can see the effort that has gone into it. Not surprised that fans are gathered on this sub, this is exactly what the site is about.


r/cactus

Hahaha, a subreddit dedicated to cactus. Mostly pics of people’s plants, identification requests and posts with questions on caring for their cacti. Again, I love that there is a space online that people with similar interests can gather.

hkcchau020cactus

My contribution. We saw this whilst walking around one of the islands a few years ago. I’m loving the flickr search function.


r/historywhatif

Wow, I hadn’t realised there are whole subreddits on history whatif, future whatif, time travel whatif, even magic whatif. Very interesting, if one is interested in history. The top post is entitled Republican Spain wins the Spanish Civil War?

So lets assume that by means of less army defections or more international support or any combination of factors leads the Republicans to oust the fascists from Spain by April 1939(The end of the OTL civil war).

Not a historian, but food for thought. I started clicking on the other whatif subs and now I can see why whole hours, days, weeks, can be wasted.


r/submechanophobia

Okay, I was like, huh? This sub, which has almost 40k subscribers, is all about:

the fear of partially or fully submerged man-made objects

Ah okay. The banner pic is a cruise ship half sunk in the water and most posts are pics of submerged objects like ships, WW2 fighters, cars, submarines. One thread is entitled I will never become a Navy SEAL.

The best thing, I learned a new word.

one year on wordpress

cpuminutes201612

When my old website conked out because it became incompatible with Movable Type, I was forced to switch to WordPress. Exactly one year ago, I finished moving all 4,000 posts to WP. It was a massive copy and paste exercise that took a few weeks. I took the opportunity to put static pages to the travel and food sections, and the new look website went live.

So how has it been, one year on WP? Truth be told, I don’t feel comfortable using it. I can’t put my finger on it. There’s nothing wrong with the interface, it’s easy and straightforward to add a post. But still, it’s not MT. For some unknown reason it’s using up a lot of CPU minutes and try as I might, I can’t figure out how to reduce the usage. Googling hasn’t helped. My ISP says it may be due to the dashboard being open and I’ve gotten so paranoid that I’m writing posts on textedit and copying them over. It’s NOT how I want to operate. It’s gotten better recently though but again I cannot explain why and I hate being in the dark.

Posts take forever to save, tags need to be separated by commas, categories have to be selected via a long scroll in a tiny window, I can’t get the RSS to feed full post: these are all negatives in my book. Small things, but they add up to a not quite happy experience. I know there are plenty of add-ons and themes and stuff like that but I don’t feel like tinkering is intuitive. I still don’t know how and where I should be editing files.

There seems to be always someone trying to hack into the website. So much so that my ISP had to add a password to the admin files and it’s screwed up other files too. Annoying.

I know i can’t go back to MT and I’m stuck with WP. Story of my life, being stuck in a situation with no way out. Hate.

iphone 10th anniversary

iphone3gs

Ten years ago, 9 January 2007, Steve Jobs revealed the iPhone. To say it was revolutionary, that it would change the world, is not an exaggeration. Before that, I had a series of Nokias and I was super happy with them. I didn’t get the original iPhone when it came out because it was US and Europe only initially. I also had to wait till I had an address in Chicago before I finally managed to get my first one, the 3GS in 2009. Aside from that S model, my progression so far has been the even numbered versions: 4 when I moved to London and 6 when it got water damage and I had to get a new phone.

There’s a brilliant 10 year anniversary in pictures that gives a nice description of all the models. It’s also interesting to look back at what the original reactions were. Have to laugh at NPR:

It’s a cell phone, it’s a music player, it’s a camera, it’s a Web-enabled device, and much more. Ask yourself if you really need all that high-tech bling

Naysayers included Steve Ballmer at Microsoft (duh), my favourite Guardian and Techcrunch, with such a confident headline:

We Predict the iPhone Will Bomb

Others were more positive, taking a long view that even if this particular device failed, it would pave the way for a changed tech landscape. CNET:

this is about more than Apple. Even if it’s a flop–perhaps even more so if it’s a flop–the iPhone will change the way mobile devices are designed

And of course, it won Time’s 2007 invention of the year, because it took computing and platforms and design and usability to the next level:

computing doesn’t belong just in cyberspace, it needs to happen here, in the real world, where actual stuff happens

So, looking forward. I’m excited about the rumours that iphone 8 may be made from forged stainless steel. Drool.

remote control wand

kymera

Drat, Christmas is over. But my birthday is in 4 months…

Here’s a gadget that will even break through the grumpiest, most curmudgeony anti-gadget luddite. Spotted via bb is the kymera wand, aka the coolest universal remote ever. It enables the user to program 13 gestures for remote control devices. So flick the wand up and down to change volume on the tv, or pull it back to open the dvd player, or swish to change the temperature on the dyson heater, anything that uses infra-red as control.

It’s currently selling for a ridiculous $256 on amazon and out of stock at amazon.co.uk. Possibly due to the boingboing article. There is a similar product, the harry potter remote control wand, for $58.95. Looks like a similar product.

anz data sim

Past cruises I got by with whatever free wifi I was able to find while onshore. There was one time a hop-on-hop-off bus was parked next to the ship and I was able to tap into the network sitting at the side directly over it. For the upcoming Australia and NZ cuise I wanted to see what options are available at the stops.

threedatasim

Pocket wifi for 19 days is very expensive, especially to destinations like ANZ. Data roaming on my iphone is even more exorbitant. I can get local cards when we arrive, but I don’t want to spend the time traipsing around trying to find a shop. There are a variety of international data sim cards available. The one that caught my eye was one for US, UK, Europe, Australia and NZ offered by Three. It’s actually part of the feel at home roaming package for UK customers. Three extends this to both contractual and pay-as-you-go customers, which means anyone can use this service and roam to 42 countries.

I found an online shop that sells the 30 day 1GB card for local $138, but I thought I’d go to the computer street to check if I can find alternatives. Turns out, this is the only card available, but the street seller was selling it for $60 (that’s £6 at current rates). No brainer, really.

The seller says speeds up to 4G, but reviews say 3G at most in ANZ. That said, the partners are Telstra, Optus and Vodafone in Australia and Spark and Two Degrees in New Zealand. Coverage should be okay. There’s uncertainty about whether tethering is possible. Again, the seller said yes and some reviewers said no. We’ll see. It’s so cheap that even if it doesn’t work and I have to get local cards it’s worth the experiment.

I looked at the back of the card when I got home and I actually get a UK number. Calls and texts to the UK are free, just like if I were using the card in the UK. That’s one benefit.

Aside from the 30 day card, they also have a 90 day 3GB and a 360 day 12GB card. If I’m happy about the set up, speeed and ease of usage whilst in ANZ I may get the 360 day card to cover the summer US trip and possible UK/Europe trip next year.

wifi mesh networking

wifimesh

The wifi at home is atrocious. I have the router sitting on my desk and sometimes my ipad has issues connecting. Poor mum has to sit in the dining room to get a signal sometimes since it doesn’t extend to the living room. Where the tv is, there is zero signal.

In my flat I use a devolo powerline that extends wifi using the electrical wires. Here it’s not possible because there are not enough sockets. The powerline must be plugged into a socket and not an extension cord. I tried buying a second router and extending but couldn’t figure out how to set it up.

Something worth keeping an eye on is the development of wifi mesh networks. Mesh networks allow

different types of devices to piggyback off each other as nodes in a network, each node spreading the radio signal a little further than the last

The newest offering is from eero, with a kit at USD500 that includes 3 nodes. Plug one into the modem and place 2 strategically around to get maximum coverage. Everything can be managed using an app. Sounds really good, except for the price tag. Hopefully it’ll go down soon and I can think about getting one. It’d be great to watch netflix or get an apple tv.

p.s. as an aside to how atrocious our wifi is, I finished reading the lifehacker article and was about to save it to instapaper when the entire connection went down, including tv which mum was watching. Took about 5-10mins for it to come back on and I had to restart the modem. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to restart the modem. Seems quite appropriate, just as I was reading about mesh networking.

i am a swedish startup

startup

Checked twitter and saw a notification of someone congratulating @watty. I get a lot of wrong tags for people wanting @wattpad, sometimes in other languages. I usually ignore. But this one had a link to a magazine article about European internet of things startups. All the way at the bottom of the page is watty.io from Sweden, whose product collects and analyses energy data:

to disclose the big power users in the household, like stoves or washing machines. Data is anonymized to hide the identity of the user. The system enables energy providers to develop new, intelligent services for conserving energy

Sounds innovative and something I would never have thought of. The world is strange, the things that come into our lives unexpectedly. I’ve started following them @watty_io although they haven’t replied. Wishing them luck.

mouse-less

exthdmouse

I noticed my mouse needed a battery change after only a few weeks, even though I don’t use it a lot. That’s not good, because batteries are expensive.

So I’ve been mouse-less for a month or two now. I still would prefer to have one, but it’s okay to use the trackpad.

bbmm computer and dinner

Went with mm after work to the computer centre to get her mbp repaired. Her hard disk is almost dead and last time at the genius bar it was taken out of the body completely. So the aim was to a) get the HD into an ext casing and see if it still works; b) install a new HD into the mbp. Got quotes from a couple of places and went to the first one. The technician was very helpful and knowledgeable, we wandered around the mall for an hour whilst they did the repair. I bought a new screencover for the iphone, the old cover had cracked.

As usual, mm had a million questions but the technician was very patient. Almost 8pm when we left. I was pretty tired and hungry by then.

thaidinner20160922

Went to a nearby building and first looked at a korean restaurant then decided to go to the thai place one floor down. Had beer, chicken wings, grilled squid, whole grey mullet, cabbage greens and roti. The squid, greens and roti were good, the chicken wings and fish less so.

Walked to a nearby gym and got our golds. Didn’t even know there is a park at that location.

organise stuff

Most of the day was spent organising ebooks and backing up the mba. I decided i had too many folders for ebooks so streamlined a little.

Inadvertently deleted the iphotos folder(!). Luckily I’d just backed it up to one of the ext HDs. Took a few hours of copying back and forth.

do as zuck does

mbatapecamera

A story about instagram getting 500 users turned into something more interesting.

People noticed that Zuckerberg put a piece of tape over his webcam and loudspeakers at what looks like his desk at work. Seems like this is something people do regularly to prevent unauthorised / accidental access. It’s probably overly paranoid but no harm in doing it. I can’t remember the last time I used the camera, probably to skype when I was still in London.

Anyway, put a tape over your camera, cover your hand when typing in atm pin, lock your doors, check your windows at night. It’s all good practice.

mbp recovery

macrecovery

Went to the apple store with mm, her mbp won’t startup. The genius booted it up using a recovery startup disk and it seems her hard disk is damaged. Ouch! To make matters worse: a) she doesn’t have a backup for her files and b) most of her files are not organised, she just dumps them on her desktop.

Luckily using the recovery startup we were able to access them. I’d bought an external HD for her in case we had to copy files. We had to do it folder by folder to avoid spending time copynig her huge movies and other unnecessary files. Still took a couple of hours at the genius bar.

The biggest problem was the damaged bits included her 2 biggest files: itunes library and iphotos. The genius told us the only solution was to remove the HD, put it in a casing and copy it to another machine. Then it’s a matter of replacing the HD.

At least there’s a plan of action. We decided to go away and think about it first. She has her lenovo to use for school work, that’ll be the focus for the next 2-3 weeks.

printer needs new cartridge

printerink

Been using the printer more recently, lots of documents to photocopy and print.

Time to change the black cartridge. I bought some that isn’t HP branded, the colour ink ones work fine but the new black one–the printer refuses to use it. I tried cleaning the printer head but nope.

It’s either one of two known issues. Certain HP printers tend to suddenly stop printing black. But it’s more likely due to the chip: HP doing all they can to make people use their own cartridge.

When I replaced the non-branded one with the HP branded one, hey presto! Works again. Now I have a non-working but full ink cartridge, if only I can move the ink from one to the other.

The combined cost of getting one set of replacement cartridges is about the same price as a new printer. This is what printer manufacturers rely on, isn’t. It’s a known closed garden tactic.

no doc, go

I really don’t like it when plans get pushed out of the window. I had my repeat doctor’s appointment in the morning then was going to take pizza or sushi to sis’ place. Got a call that doc is unavailable so the appointment is cancelled. Didn’t feel like traipsing all the way over to sis’. It was almost 11am and I didn’t feel like rummaging through the freezer so I took more clothes for recycling and then a minibus to the halal restaurant for lamb curry noodles.

Windy and cold, the 8km run in the afternoon was done partly against a strong headwind but the low temperatures meant a good pace.

A news article that caught my eye today was google’s AI vs human Go champion. I know the principles of the game go, and my dad played it. I was never very good at games like chess–never good at any games really.

alphago

Quite fascinated to watch the devs at google deepmind talk about their AI, called alphago. Clever programming approach. Instead of having the AI go through the

1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible positions

it combines a smaller search tree method with machine learning. The devs first had alphago learn the 30 million moves from games played by human experts then it played thousands of games against itself, to learn new strategies.

Alphago has already beaten the European champion and this week goes up against World champion Lee Sedol for a US$1m prize. So far it’s 2-0. The games are long, game 1 was almost 4hrs and game 2 almost 6hrs.

Some of the biggest advantages of an AI vs human is that the AI never gets tired or emotional. In these areas, humans always lose.

external hard disk

All of a sudden the mba stopped recognising the external hard disk. The connection had been loose for a while: I had to fiddle with the cable but I thought I’d be all right for a while.

I took it to the computer repair shop. The lady there was very efficient, she took one look and gave it to one of the technicians to test. If it’s just the power supply / casing, then they will change it for me. If the hard disk itself is corrupted, then it’s a lot more expensive to recover data. Overall more expensive than I thought. Changing the casing is local $500 (USD65), data recovery starts at local $2000 (USD250). And recovery isn’t guaranteed.

The hard disk itself didn’t sound like it’s corrupted so at the back of my mind, it needs a new power supply. Confirmed by the technician, who took it out of the casing and was able to read it on one of their macs.

Now the question was, do I pay for a new casing or abandon the drive? Is the data inside very important? Arguable. With one exception, original files are easily accessed elsewhere:

  • personal documents, letters: backup from mba
  • photos: mba and flickr
  • writing & design: that’s the bulk of the most important stuff, already in mba and backed up in dropbox, google docs and flashdrive
  • ebook purchases: mba, dropbox and obviously ipad
  • website: worst case scenario can restore from ISP, they take backups every 12 or 24hrs
  • travel notes and expenses: backup from mba, recent notes in evernote

The only files that aren’t in the mba and not backed up anywhere else are itunes files. I have over 10,000 songs, plus some videos and podcasts. I’m not worried about videos and podcasts, it’s the music that is the issue. Like most early ipod owners the music library was initially built by ripping CDs. I have about 90% of those CDs but can’t imagine ripping them again, especially since I’ll either have to use the old mbp or buy an external DVD drive. Later music were from limewire (hangs head) then amazon or legitimate free sites like noisetrade.

Anyway, tl;dr: too much effort to rebuild music library. So I opted to pay for the casing.

exthd2016

I went and got another external hard disk immediately afterwards. The ironic thing is, a new 1TB drive cost 20% less than a new casing for the old drive. Spent a few hours copying files back and forth. Now I have a backup and a backup of the backup.

WP theme, donation begging

sosimpletheme

I grudgingly make the concession that one of the best things about WP is that I can change themes with just a few clicks. I found one called SoSimple that is, well, so simple. I tweaked it a little, disabled the forced uppercase and changed the link colour. I still need to increase the padding on main entries, but other than that, it’s clean, sharp and uncluttered.

The only problem is that every time I go to the dashboard there is a donation begging notice from the developer.

sosimpledonation

It’s a bit small on the image, it says:

Hi! This is Fernando, developer of the SoSimple theme :).
I am doing my best to make SoSImple [sic] the perfect free theme for you. If you think it helped you in any way to build a better web presence, please support its continued development and updates with a donation of $20, $50,…

I understand that the dev has put in a lot of time and effort to create the free theme. Same with devs working on plugins and everything else available on the web for free. But forcing a begging notice on users is not the way to go. It’s tacky. Like authors who are constantly posting “buy my book” on social media; the good intention becomes a turn off.

A little digging reveals the begging button and text are in the file admin.php. I thought deleting the file would solve the problem, but it wasn’t so simple (pun not intended). There change needs to be in functions.php that calls admin.php. I commented the whole section out:

/**
* Add admin notices

add_action ( ‘current_screen’, ‘thisScreen’ );
function thisScreen () {
$currentScreen = get_current_screen();
if( $currentScreen->id === “dashboard” ) {
add_action ( ‘admin_notices’, ‘donation_notice’ );
add_action ( ‘admin_head’, ‘donation_style’ );
}
}

function donation_notice () {
require get_template_directory () . ‘/lib/admin.php’;
}

function donation_style () {
wp_enqueue_style ( ‘don-style’, get_template_directory_uri () . ‘/lib/admin-style.css’, array (), ” );
}

*/

I don’t have any qualms about doing this. The whole philosophy behind WP is that it’s free. If a dev wants to make money, make a premium version, or offer support for a subscription. Anyway, looking at the code, it’s obvious that the dev intends for the begging to continue regardless of whether the user has donated or not. Every time I navigate to the dashboard, I’d get the notice which I then have to dismiss. Again, tacky.

#websiterebuild recipes menu

Took an easier approach with the recipes section. As I only have around 120 recipe posts in total and I’m not bothered about putting them in any sort of order within their corresponding category, I used the functionality that converts a custom page to a menu item.

If I wanted the recipe for chocolate truffles, I can click on the FOOD menu and select DESSERT. In fact, clicking FOOD calls all posts tagged with recipe.

websitefood

I like looking at recipes, especially ones with pictures. So I don’t mind scrolling down till I see chocolate truffles.

websitechoctruffle

I just have to make sure I tag a recipe post using one of the menu items. I can also change the menu items quickly, as long as I have a tag for it. The other advantage is I can tag, say, vegetarian lasagne both main and vegetable and it shows up under both menus. Honestly, I could have done this with the travel section, but it’s more important trips are listed in an orderly manner.

In terms of website rebuild, this is 95% of everything I want to do. Personal 25 square pages remain, and I have to figure out the best way to display them that doesn’t involve faffing around with css. Otherwise, switching to maintenance mode.

#websiterebuild travel menu

All the individual trip reports have been merged to the main section and identified by categories/tags. So what used to be in MT terms its own blog, is now incorporated into the site proper.

I could just leave it at that. If I want read about, say, that time we went to Alsace for wine tasting, I could simply do a search for travel,alsace and scroll through the results. Except I hadn’t tagged properly and that post wasn’t included in the results.

With a little effort, I consolidated all the trip reports and listed them out neatly by region. So the same search for the Alsace trip will start at the TRAVEL menu at the top.

travelmenu1

The EUROPE page lists trips in chronological order. I can scroll down, or do ⌘-f and search for alsace. Hey presto!

travelmenu2

It took a lot of copying and pasting, and now I can type out ul, li and <a href in my sleep. But it’s all setup effort, adding new trips won’t take long. Yes, it’s a manual process, but I don’t mind doing it because I like the result. If I’m really OCD about it, I’ll list out all trips by year on a single page. Or not.

Next task, do the same for recipes.

#websiterebuild 4000 posts

4000posts

All posts that I want to move over, have been imported. All of the main, technical, travel and recipe sections, with the exception of a few useless posts (IFTTT tests, for example). Other sections will not be moved. They won’t be deleted, just not visible from the homepage.

Posts in what used to be the travel and recipe sections are merged into the main section and tagged. Now I just need to build corresponding main menu pages for them. That’s a lot of copy-pasting. Tedious work that will take another day or two.

#websiterebuild 3000 posts

website3000posts

It’s taken 2 weeks to import 1000 posts; just finished jan-2008 today. Been fixing flickr and youtube embeds to html5 so they can be viewed without flash.

Funny to skim through the old posts to see how quickly some topics become out-of-date. These are all from jan-2008:

Then again, some things never change:

including what Jason Kottke calls the editorial direction of the website:

The best posts from jan-2008: paid off my mortgage and watched layer tennis:

layertennis
layertennis

Just over 4 years to go, to backtrack to sep-2003. Beyond late 2007, it’s not one post a day, so hopefully I can push through the months quicker.

#websiterebuild 2000 posts

website2000posts

#websiterebuild is up to 2,000 posts. Going back in time, I just finished importing sep-2010. Importing around 1,000 posts from the last milestone took just under 2 weeks. Plus of course new posts and I’m counting the drafts that will be scheduled.

It’s quite interesting to read through some of the old posts, like looking at old photos or movies. Moving to London, then leaving. In 2010 I was just about to leave Chicago. My first marathon in 2010. How much more cooking I used to do when I had ingredients I liked. Still lots of travelling. How I saw mm more often when we were living on different continents than this year, when we’re less than an hour away.

Halfway.

twitter lists

twitterlists

Seriously, it’s taken me this long to get round to sorting out people I follow on twitter. Normally I just let the feed scroll. If I miss a tweet, I miss a tweet. No big deal.

Then suddenly for no good reason I feel like getting organised. Argh, the list function on twitter is rubbish. Slow, slow, slow and who invents a list function and then not let people sort alphabetically? Stupid.

The best I can do, with almost 800 people I need to add, is to use a rudimentary list manager. Marginally quicker than twitter, and better visualisation.

It’s pretty neat, to have a dedicated column in tweetdeck so I can check on actual friends instead of random people I follow. I wonder if there is a function where I can add multiple lists to one column. Doesn’t seem like it. No big deal.

#websiterebuild 1032 posts

wp1032posts

#websiterebuild continues. The last 2 weeks has been spent importing old posts from MT to WP. As I can’t access the MT dashboard to export the DB; and am uncomfortable working with mysql and myphpadmin, it’s a labourious process using a html import plugin. It takes

well-formed

static html files from a directory within the same server and imports them to WP as posts or pages. There is limited customisation, the most important being I can specify the tags containing the content I want to import. I know that the actual post content is inside the <div class=asset-body> tag, so it strips out the header, tabs and sidebar of a single post.

The imported post isn’t perfect, the <div> container tags are included, and stupid WP adds <p> tags all over the place. Other manual adjustments: date (everything gets imported with 21-sep-2015 for some reason), categories and tags. Every post has to be opened and edited, no bulk editing available.

I’ve been slowly importing month by month, working backwards in time. I’m now at apr-2013 and have reached 1000+ posts. Only about 3000 to go on the main page. Then I have to tackle the old travel and food sections. May be even the old technical section, although that was mainly how to install MT. Hidden doors will likely not be imported.

Working with WP on a daily basis is like going on an immersion course. Do I like it more now? No. I’m tolerating it. It still feels like a shotgun marriage, where I had no choice. Perhaps the resentment will fade in time and I accept it more. The biggest complaint is the editor. I don’t like the editor font, I hate that it adds stupid <p> tags and ignores my <br /> tags. There’s a lot of scrolling up and down to select categories. Month is a dropdown, why can’t I just type it in a box? After 12 years writing in the MT editor it’s an awkward transition. And I’m talking about the text editor, not the visual editor. Oh, I know there are plugins to fix all that–I read the plugins’ reviews and am not keen to install them.

I’ve also noticed that people (or more likely, bots) are trying to login and attack my website. WP sites are notoriously vulnerable because of its popularity and that it’s open sourced. A bit like PCs back in the day. I installed jetpack and wordfence, which seem to offer good defences. It’s just disconcerting, watching the number of blocked malicious login attempts go up every day. Never had that problem with MT.

So what’s good? It’s quite simple to use, almost too simple. The scheduled post function works. There’s a decent sized support community and codex. If I have a problem, chances are someone has encountered it before.

test ifttt (3)

with excerpt, no image.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec a diam lectus. Sed sit amet ipsum mauris. Maecenas congue ligula ac quam viverra nec consectetur ante hendrerit. Donec et mollis dolor. Praesent et diam eget libero egestas mattis sit amet vitae augue. Nam tincidunt congue enim, ut porta lorem lacinia consectetur. Donec ut libero sed arcu vehicula ultricies a non tortor. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aenean ut gravida lorem. Ut turpis felis, pulvinar a semper sed, adipiscing id dolor. Pellentesque auctor nisi id magna consequat sagittis. Curabitur dapibus enim sit amet elit pharetra tincidunt feugiat nisl imperdiet. Ut convallis libero in urna ultrices accumsan. Donec sed odio eros. Donec viverra mi quis quam pulvinar at malesuada arcu rhoncus. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. In rutrum accumsan ultricies. Mauris vitae nisi at sem facilisis semper ac in est.

Vivamus fermentum semper porta. Nunc diam velit, adipiscing ut tristique vitae, sagittis vel odio. Maecenas convallis ullamcorper ultricies. Curabitur ornare, ligula semper consectetur sagittis, nisi diam iaculis velit, id fringilla sem nunc vel mi. Nam dictum, odio nec pretium volutpat, arcu ante placerat erat, non tristique elit urna et turpis. Quisque mi metus, ornare sit amet fermentum et, tincidunt et orci. Fusce eget orci a orci congue vestibulum. Ut dolor diam, elementum et vestibulum eu, porttitor vel elit. Curabitur venenatis pulvinar tellus gravida ornare. Sed et erat faucibus nunc euismod ultricies ut id justo. Nullam cursus suscipit nisi, et ultrices justo sodales nec. Fusce venenatis facilisis lectus ac semper. Aliquam at massa ipsum. Quisque bibendum purus convallis nulla ultrices ultricies. Nullam aliquam, mi eu aliquam tincidunt, purus velit laoreet tortor, viverra pretium nisi quam vitae mi. Fusce vel volutpat elit. Nam sagittis nisi dui.

test ifttt (2)

pyo004tabletop

two images. 1 = strawberries.

cwall193padice

2 = ice cream van. See which one the feed picks.

No excerpt. How many words will it post?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec a diam lectus. Sed sit amet ipsum mauris. Maecenas congue ligula ac quam viverra nec consectetur ante hendrerit. Donec et mollis dolor. Praesent et diam eget libero egestas mattis sit amet vitae augue. Nam tincidunt congue enim, ut porta lorem lacinia consectetur. Donec ut libero sed arcu vehicula ultricies a non tortor. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aenean ut gravida lorem. Ut turpis felis, pulvinar a semper sed, adipiscing id dolor. Pellentesque auctor nisi id magna consequat sagittis. Curabitur dapibus enim sit amet elit pharetra tincidunt feugiat nisl imperdiet. Ut convallis libero in urna ultrices accumsan. Donec sed odio eros. Donec viverra mi quis quam pulvinar at malesuada arcu rhoncus. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. In rutrum accumsan ultricies. Mauris vitae nisi at sem facilisis semper ac in est.

Vivamus fermentum semper porta. Nunc diam velit, adipiscing ut tristique vitae, sagittis vel odio. Maecenas convallis ullamcorper ultricies. Curabitur ornare, ligula semper consectetur sagittis, nisi diam iaculis velit, id fringilla sem nunc vel mi. Nam dictum, odio nec pretium volutpat, arcu ante placerat erat, non tristique elit urna et turpis. Quisque mi metus, ornare sit amet fermentum et, tincidunt et orci. Fusce eget orci a orci congue vestibulum. Ut dolor diam, elementum et vestibulum eu, porttitor vel elit. Curabitur venenatis pulvinar tellus gravida ornare. Sed et erat faucibus nunc euismod ultricies ut id justo. Nullam cursus suscipit nisi, et ultrices justo sodales nec. Fusce venenatis facilisis lectus ac semper. Aliquam at massa ipsum. Quisque bibendum purus convallis nulla ultrices ultricies. Nullam aliquam, mi eu aliquam tincidunt, purus velit laoreet tortor, viverra pretium nisi quam vitae mi. Fusce vel volutpat elit. Nam sagittis nisi dui.

#website rebuild: xmlprc

Continuing to work on the WP installation. Internally, I’m copying over old posts. November and October 2015 were done manually (as in, copy-and-pasting each post individually) before I discoverd html-import plugin. The posts still need cleaning up after import, but it’s much more time efficient.

jetpackerror

I was also trying to install the popular jetpack plugin. With over 1 million installs (wordpress.com and hosted) it seems to offer a lot of useful modules. Installation wasn’t successful, I got a site inaccessible error.

iftttwperror

So I thought I’d leave it and go do the next thing on my list, set up in IFTTT. Argh. More errors. I have never had trouble activating any channel on IFTTT before.

A lot of googling show tons of similar errors and pleas for help with both errors. Most of the answers were unclear and didn’t offer much in the way of practical solutions. I tried all but the technical suggestions:

  • lame: use www, don’t use www, use http://, don’t use http://
  • somewhat makes sense: disable other plugins, point to wp install directory vs site url, disable two-factor authentication
  • way too technical: DNS/CNAME issue, enable non-https

Turns out, both errors relate to the xmlprc.php file. People are advised to check with their ISP whether this file is restricted. I could see it in cpanel but I got a “Page not Found” error when I tried to access it on my browser.

A little more googling and I found someone with the exact same error who is also an icdsoft customer. So I emailed suresupport and I got my reply in under 10mins (I love suresupport):

Blocking access to the xmlrpc.php file has been implemented as an additional security measure, because xmlrpc.php is a common target for hackers who scan for outdated and flawed versions of WordPress.

Support gave me some code to add to htaccess in the wp directory (not the root htaccess) and that worked. Jetpack installed and configured. I only activated a few of the available options, primarily mobile site and security.

IFTTT channel activated after I figured out the url is domain.com/wp rather than just domain.com. The issue is that IFTTT doesn’t trigger with a test post I added. Seems to be more complicated than it needs to be. What I’m not liking about WP is that there doesn’t seem to be an actual page generated per post. The permalink isn’t html or php–it’s an entry in the database. Same with rss links, I’m used to them being atom.xml or such like, and again there isn’t a actual url. All the stuff I’m having to learn and get used to.

As of right now, my verdict on WP is I’m tolerating it because I have no choice. Yes, the straightfoward stuff is fairly easy to figure out. It’s too easy sometimes, there’s not enough flexibility to tinker and fiddle around.

Oh, I got rid of the slider on the homepage, it was driving me crazy.

 

playing with themes

websitetheme20151126

Played around with themes. Initially found one that was like the modern magazine, with boxes for posts. Looks good but I didn’t like just excerpts on the homepage.

Found another clean looking one that shows full posts but, argh, anyone can see it’s a wordpress theme with their eyes closed. Nothing wrong with the classic look…I’m looking for something a little different.

This is the ifeature theme. At the top is a slider where I can place 3 images. Underneath are 3 pinned boxes. For me, a great place to feature various flickr sets. Full posts with right sidebar and space in the footer for more links.

While I was at it, I copied over the About pages and put them in the nav menu. The 101.1001 challenges are also on the top menu.

wp installation

ara202bamboo

Long story short, I haven’t updated MT since 2007. ICDSoft upgraded their server software causing massive errors to MT and I can’t access the dashboard. MT now costs $499 which, SixApart are you serious?

Options to continue include wordpress, tumblr, medium. Since moving to WP has always been on my mind, WP it is. Played around the free site (wordpress.com). Saw that you can buy a domain name and point it there, so I emailed ICDSoft support on the feasibility. No, no, no. If I point invisiblecompany.com at wordpress.com, it’s for the ENTIRE site. I’ll lose my cpanel and control over all pages and files.

So hosted WP it is. But there is a silver lining, it’s a software included in my domain name. It takes a few clicks and a little tinkering with html and htaccess and it’s done.

Installed a theme, configured footer, added some plugins. Not too bad.

Now comes the hard part. Since I can’t access the MT dashboard, I can’t export the database. It means copying over all 12 years’ worth of posts. I’ll do it slowly, it’s a good opportunity to clean up links and images anyway.

ad blocking ios9

When apple announced the features of iOS9 attention immediately went to how safari will be able to block ads. Joyous response from users and tales of doom from publishers.

I’ve blocked ads for a long long time on the web. My browsers are locked down with ABP and ghostery. Publishers who whine and cry about lost revenue have no sympathy from me, because they only have themselves to blame. Pop-ups, pop-overs, flashing banners, autoplay videos, lightboxes, the list goes on. The system is broken. Everyone is trying to pass the buck. And they wonder why users are so put off by advertising they take a sledgehammer approach and refuse to engage at all.

Here’s an example, a video capture of a user trying to read a NYT article, ironically on reactions to ad blocking in iOS9, and not able to because a huge banner ad at the top of the page refuses to move and refuses to let him scroll down to read the article.

Someone else did a very comprehensive and technical study that shows that video ads and large jpg files were called but not served to the mobile browser. In other words, the publisher was charged for the advertising, the user’s phone data was used and yet nothing happened beyond an enormous delay on pageload. So who is the victim here?

Publishers must know what is going on on their website. I found 3 trackers on my own website, when I don’t even have advertising. I got rid of the sitemeter tracker but the other two—yahoo and doubleclick—come from youtube and flickr links so I can’t get rid of them. For my readers, please install Ghostery to block these trackers.

Because trackers are the worst offenders. As Ben Brooks pointed out in his meticulous series on mobile adblocking,

While advertising is visually ugly, it is rather harmless. Trackers on the other hand are invisible and are privacy nightmares.

His analogy for trackers throw all those whining of publishers and advertisers out of the window,

I’ll look at a shitty, innocent, picture of a product on your site, but in no universe does me reading your story give you the right to follow me around for the rest of the day.

Put another way: just because I showed up for your free book reading, doesn’t mean you get to come to dinner with me to tell me more about your awesome book. I came, I saw your book, it sucked, I left, our interaction is over.

As soon as iOS9 was available, ad blocker apps came online. I was too late to download Peace so I’ve been looking at Crystal and Purify. The problem is that none of the blockers work all the time, and news is emerging that crystal is allowing in advertisers who paid a whitelist fee. This is simply not acceptable. There are other options and perhaps 1Blocker is worth considering.

abpbrowser

In the absence of anything better, I’ve now switched to ABP browser instead of safari. Sledgehammer approach? Absolutely. Until and unless publishers and advertisers start listening to users and consumers, I have no choice if I want to protect my browsing experience.

 

the $220 calculator and the $329 smartphone with no apps

I’m by no means a Luddite, nor do I buy the newest gadgets as soon as they come out. Of course there are gadgets I covet, and who won’t want a new iphone, ipad, macbook pro, apple watch, go pro, fitbit, pebble, xbox, camera, printer…the list goes on. Some gadgets are simply ridiculous for the price they are sold for. Remember the $999 I am Rich app that did nothing but put an icon that said “I am rich” on the loser user’s iphone?

casios100

One that has me scratching my head lately is the newest casio calculator. I remember the first calculator I had at school was a casio scientific calculator, I still have it. But this luxury S100 costs $220. For a calculator. It has no wifi, no apps, no camera, not even the more advanced scientific functions. Only 5000 will be released to mark the 50th anniversary of casio’s first calculator with memory. I’m guessing the limited edition aspect will appeal to

consumers who seek the highest quality in the daily products they use

In other words, people who don’t need a calculator to, like, calculate anything. Just as a piece of expensive sculpture to show off on their pristine, mahogany desk.

punktphone

Another piece of pretty but expensive technology is the punkt mp01 smartphone. Swiss designed, so we know it’s made from the highest quality materials using the highest quality craftsmanship. It follows the footsteps of the vertu in style over substance. What are its functionalities?

  • make and receive phone calls
  • make and receive texts
  • calendar
  • alarm clock
  • store 3000 contacts
  • write reminder notes
  • change ringtone
  • switch bluetooth on and off

That’s it. I wonder about the $329 price tag. I still use my nokia 6300, from 2007, which has a pre-paid number I give out to the public (utility companies, bank, cable, maintenance people). The phone probably has depreciated to zero value now, and the pre-paid sim card costs me $12 a year. It has all the functions of the punkt, and more. I have a few mp3s there, and don’t forget snake the game!

The one function the punkt has is that the sim card can be twinned with an existing number, making it a second phone for use when we want to switch off from our iphone and android obsessed smartphone world and just have a device someone can call us in an emergency. Um, I can forward calls on the iphone to the nokia. And just because someone sends me a text or fb message or whatsapp or email doesn’t mean I need to read and respond to it right now.

I can see the reason behind why they made this phone. It’s for people who can’t switch off from their smartphones. The idea is to physically disable the smartphone (eg by not bringing it with you on holiday) so you’re forced to switch off. If you need to make a call or a text, there are none of the usual notifications distraction you. Pfffft I don’t need an expensive device to force me to switch off, I have enough discipline to do it myself.

 

 

I May Need To Upgrade Soon

macbookproair

I bought the mba in 2010, just before I left Chicago. By the time I fully switched over, the previous mbp was 4 years old. So the mba is 5 years old and I use it nearly every day. The apps are getting long in the tooth now, people send me xlsx, docx, pptx and I have to use openoffice to convert before I can use my office 2003. I use photoshop cs2, and other old software. I’m still on snow leopard.

Recently I’ve noticed it to be struggling in some tasks. Firefox gobbles huge amount of memory and the fan goes crazy. If I have to temporarily reinstall flash for whatever reasons the fan goes supercrazy. Things came to a head over the weekend when I had to run a webex meeting. It’s another service, not webex, but similar. I simply could not get the meeting controls to work, it kept teling me I had to pick an application to open the controls, then it crashes. Digging through the help documentation, I found out that the minimum requirement is 10.7, although to use all functionalities I need 10.8 or newer.

So annoyed. I had to borrow mm’s mbp, albeit at 10.7 it’s only marginally newer. She was working in the uni library and wasn’t getting home till 8pm and I had to get home by 9pm. It was a rush, to meet up with her, test the mbp briefly and I had to get a taxi home. Expensive way of running that meeting.

The seeds of thought are germinating. Sooner or later all computers become obsolete. Possibly time to start thinking about replacing the mba. Another mba or the macbook. I’d love to get the mbp, it’ll be great for speed and power but too heavy. May be by next summer, see what 2016 refreshes are like.

 

change atom feed to excerpt

The atom RSS feed is full post plus excerpt. I prefer reading full posts in my feed so I don’t limit it. I also use IFTTT to crosspost to fb. Before, it only allowed the entry title, URL and image. Now it allows entry content. I want to change the atom feed so fb shows title, URL, excerpt and image.

A post from 2005 from LMT saves the day.

Find the following code in your Atom Index:

<$MTEntryBody encode_xml="1"$> <$MTEntryMore encode_xml="1"$>

Delete the $MTEntryMore line for just main body, not extended. Replace with both lines with

<$MTEntryExcerpt encode_xml="1"$>

for excerpt. Actually, just insert the entryexcerpt field from the dropdown. It works. Now I have to worry about writing good excerpts as opposed to copying the title.

animating chopin using harmonic colouring

Spotted via digg, a graphical visual representation of Chopin’s Etude opus 10 no 12 in C minor. There are so many others in the same youtube channel, not only Chopin but Bach, Brahms and even Beethoven symphonies.

The project and software is harmonic colouring, a method for assigning colours to musical pitches. They use 2 methods to assign colours. The first is the simple scale that starts with C:

C, C-sharp, D, D-sharp, E, F, F-sharp, G, G-sharp, A, A-sharp, B, back to C

The second is called the circle of fifths is based on frequency of pitch classes where the frequency ratio is approximately 3:2:

F, C, G, D, A, E, B, F-sharp, C-sharp, G-sharp, D-sharp, A-sharp, back to F

harmoniccolouringwheel

I understand the first method but not as familiar with the second method. Anyway, using these methods, a wheel of colours is determined. Then it’s just a matter of assigning colours to a score. They use a software called music animation machine. It’s really fascinating. This is Brahms’ piano quartet op 60 in C minor:

harmonicbrahms

Talk about a symphony of senses.

geeky light switch

chi2015054switch

More errands today, including picking up dry cleaning, getting the car washed (and then it started raining, naturally) and shopping for bits and pieces. Made pound cake too. I’m mostly packed. Taking just one suitcase to New Orleans, and filling the other with shopping. I’m taking all my clothes, and hoping there are laundry facilities at the hotel. I’m glad I’m coming back in October, because I won’t be able to take all shopping with me this time.

So for a totally irrelevant pic, when we visited our friend J the other day, I spotted this video game controller on the wall that is a light switch. I just had to play with it.

A video posted by invisiblecompany (@mal088) on

flickr 4.0

flickr401photostream

As I was uploading trip pics I noticed yahoo rolled out yet another new look for flickr. The main photostream page still isn’t as good as the original layout, but better than the horrible 3.0. Less cluttered with sharper, cleaner lines. Can sort by date taken or different permission views. The set (sigh, album) page looks cleaner too, although I’m still not a big fan of infinite scrolling.

The two major new features are auto uploading and auto-tagging for a more powerful search.

At 1TB, flickr offers more storage than dropbox, icloud and many other storage sites. Free. I’m not even at 10% of my capacity with 27k images so there’s no danger of running out (nor any desire to renew my pro account). The new uploadr, plus the 1TB storage, lets people dump all their images into flickr automatically from computer and smartphone. No need for there to be pics stored here, there and everywhere. We can still use instagram or vine or fb, but now flickr can act as central repository for all our image files.

Will I use uploadr like that? Yes on mobile, no for computer. I already use flickr as my image repository, but I go through the process of sorting and organising before uploading. Imagine uploadr taking all 3267 trip pics and uploading into one album for me to organise—-no, no, no. I want to control how and where my pics are uploaded, even though it takes me longer.

It’s a different picture for mobile. I’m pretty good at sorting my iphone camera roll, I review and delete pics that are duplicate, poor quality or temporary. Currently, I use dropbox to transfer to the mba (yes, I know I should be using pushbullet) then manually upload to flickr. If I can skip the dropbox step it will be a time-saver. It took the app a few hours to process my iphone camera roll, but going forward it will be quicker. Liking the app too, used to be clunky and non-user friendly, now I may start using it more.

asi778chimney

The other major new feature is a powerful search engine using image recognition algorithms that sees the content of an image. As an example, I had basic tags to this pic of an Assisi chimney, the flickrbots are smart enough to add building, architecture, roof and outdoor tags:

flickr402tags

Some users are up in arms about this, because they want control over their tags. I’m fine with the concept.

flickr404search

Another example: this week’s photofriday challenge is “detail” and when I plug that in as a search term, I get fairly interesting results, and advanced options to drill down into colours, dates etc. Before the update, I’d get an error or a no result page because I haven’t tagged any pic using the term detail. This is an improvement.

flickr405magic

Where all the new features come together is the camera roll. I can set it to display by the traditional, boring method of date taken. Or I can use the new magic view which sorts my pics into, well, tags. Magic view shows my pics under common criteria, when I select pattern from the sidebar, it shows patterned pics (although I wouldn’t necessarily include the pic of the space needle). I can’t stop playing around in magic view, it really is magical.

Another new feature is bulk processing: bulk download, bulk sharing, bulk editing, bulk delete. The downloading feature is one that has been requested for a long time, it’s not relevant to me but may be for people who use flickr as triage.

Not everything is positive in the update. Thumbnails are too large. For a time all my pics defaulted to family & friends instead of public. All my sets in organizr are called auto upload. My biggest complaint is that getting the html link involves a popup lightbox as opposed to a simple hover menu before. I can’t get the html code for videos. Notes have been discontinued. They are moving in the right direction for a change. The Verge has a good summary of the new design:

What’s impressive is what it’s doing for free: backing up a terabyte of photos from your main computer and your mobile devices, then making them easily searchable in the cloud. The rest of Flickr is still there: you can still follow great photographers, browse beautiful photos, and showcase your own. But among the solutions for backing up your photos online, Flickr has moved from the back of the pack to the front.

mum’s new tech toys, ice cream

icecream5scoops

Spent most of the day setting up mum’s new ipad. Her old ipad (my original gen 1 ipad) didn’t have that many apps on it, so I thought it’s simpler to download new apps fresh from the app store. Ended up getting her new apps like bbc news, travel, tv guide, games, dictionary and the new flickr app. Since she uses yahoo, I got her the yahoo mail app instead of the native mail app. And since she thinks the google.com page is a browser (and I’ve given up trying to explain the difference between browser and webpage) I replaced safari with google app.

After setup, we went to the computer place to get a cover and screen protector. She took a liking to the girl who sold us the screen protector and after browsing around other stores, went back to the girl’s shop to get a cover.

While we were at it, I got her a mifit step/sleep tracker, it’s now even cheaper, more like USD15. I set up the mifit app for her on her phone, and told her to wear the band to bed. Let’s see how it tracks her sleep.

One good thing about all this setting up, I’m a little bit more familiar with android than before.

We met up with my dad at the food court near the computer place for dinner. For all my efforts today, I thought I deserved a little reward. There’s this ice cream stall that sells 5 scoops of ice cream for USD1.50, so the 3 of us got 5 scoops to share. Chocolate, chocolate banana, mint choc chip, tofu, sesame. The scoops are small, which we liked. In terms of taste not stunning but not bad either. Definitely good value and worth trying again.

iphone6

iphone4and6

It finally happened. The touchscreen on the iphone, or rather the left hand corner of the touchscreen, stopped working. I can’t type the letters e, s and merely touching a gives me a bunch of letters in the vicinity. Apps kept opening by themselves. The keypad doesn’t register, so at times I can’t unlock the phone. I left it overnight and it worked for about 1 minute before going haywire again.

It’s time to get a new iphone. I wasn’t planning on getting it this cycle, was hoping for another year or two. C’est la vie. I guess 4 years of constant use, being dropped multiple times and exposure to the elements are factors that led to the failure.

Debated between 6 or 6 plus. The 6 plus was too big to fit comfortably in pockets so 6 it is. I’m struck by the comparison in size between the 4 and 6.

Went to the messy computer mall to get screen protector and case. App and data transfer was easy, just restored from icloud. For some reason the camera roll didn’t transfer so I took the opportunity to clean it up by selectively restoring from dropbox. Spent 3 hours on software update though, a combination of slow internet and slow itunes.