Monthly Archives: September 2013

Site back up – after a fashion

OK, after the hiatus whilst I tried to get to the bottom of the problem, the site’s is back up. I reverted to the earlier Silesia theme while I played with the Headway 2 theme using the Theme Test Drive plugin.

I couldn’t get to the bottom of the problem so I replaced the Headway theme with one from another site; which is broadly similar. Unfortunately, it seems that something deeper was broken with Headway because this approach didn’t work.

To cut a long story short, I deleted Headway 2 and installed fresh Headway 3 Base. Again, I customised this in Theme Test Drive so that the live site wasn’t affected by me building a new theme in the background.

Headway 3 is significantly different to Headway 2, so it took a bit longer. It’s not right, but it’s close to where it was: enough to go live anyway.

I’ll tweek it over the next few days.

Site problem – somebody nicked the layout theme :-(

Sorry about this, but the site’s just experienced a hiccup and all the theme customisations have been lost. Rather than just restore from last night’s backup; which would lose today’s content, I want to get to the bottom of the problem.

Normal service will be resumed ASAP.

Gareth

Updated – Playlists of podcasts on IOS 7 is possible

You too can listen to a playlist of podcasts on IOS 7; it just needs a bit of sneakiness

listening-to-ios-7-podcast

Background

In a previous post on “IOS 7 is designed to cause car crashes”, I highlighted that IOS 7 has split podcasts from music for some, as yet unknown, reason, and how I thought this was a road safety issue. I also indicated that I had found a way around this limitation, but I didn’t give the details. This post remedies this.

Update 19th October 2013

After using this approach for a few days I realised that there was a problem. Because I had reclassified the downloaded podcasts as media type Music rather than Podcast iTunes, in its bread-dead stupidity, dowloaded the podcasts again, which then meant multiple copies of the same podcast. Doh!

So, I had to amend the procedure a bit. The playlists stay the same but there is an extra step.

Caveat

This approach only works if you are continuing to sync music and podcasts to your iDevice via iTunes. If you have chosen to take advantage of over-the-air syncing, as provided by IOS 7, then this will not work for you. If you know otherwise, let me know in the comments

How to listen to podcasts via a playlist on IOS 7

The approach involves setting up two Smart Playlists in iTunes and then doing a bit of manual processing.

In essence, what we are going to do is to:

  • use playlist 1 to highlight new podcasts that have been downloaded by iTunes;
  • change their media type from “podcast” to “music”; and then;
  • use playlist 2 to play those converted podcasts on the iDevice. Playlist 2 is sync’d to the iDevice using selective syncing in iTunes.

Create Playlist 1

Screenshot 1 is an shot from iTunes running on my Macbook Air. It shows two smart playlists: “_1. Podcasts unconv to Music”; and “_2. Podcasts unplayed”

Screenshot 1

Screenshot 1

The contents of “_1. Podcasts unconv to Music” is shown in Screenshot 2.

Screenshot 2

Screenshot 2

As you can see, it selects all tracks where the media type is “podcast”; the track exists on the local machine; and it has never been played. The reason for the second clause is to prevent displaying episodes you have chosen not to download.

Process the episodes shown by playlist 1

Screenshot 3 shows an extract from this playlist on my MBA.

Screenshot 3

Screenshot 3

To convert them:

  • Select all the tracks
  • Copy the tracks to preserve them in their original state (Edit/Copy or the appropriate shortcut)
  • Elect to display Info for the selected tracks
  • On the first Tab, check that the genre is set to “podcast” (See Screenshot 4)
  • On the last tab, you will see that Media Type is set to “Podcast” (See Screenshot 5)
  • Change this to “Music” as per Screenshot 6 and click “OK”
Screenshot 4

Screenshot 4

Screenshot 5

Screenshot 5

Screenshot 6

Screenshot 6

All the tracks should disappear from the list.

Now (extra step)

  • Paste the originally selected tracks back into the view
  • Keeping them selected right-click and “Mark as played” so that they disappear again.

It is this last bit that prevents iTunes downloading the podcasts again.

You now have a a number of new music tracks that need to be sync’d to the iDevice. For this we need another playlist

Create Playlist 2

Screenshot 7 shows the contents of “_2.Podcasts unplayed” (Note this is different from that originally setup)

Playlist 2 _Podcasts Unplayed

Screenshot 7 – playlist _Podcasts Unplayed

It selects all music tracks of genre “podcast” which have never been played.

An extract is shown in Screenshot 8. Note that the list is sorted by “Date Added”. It is this which causes them to be played oldest first on the iDevice.

Screenshot 8

Screenshot 8

Sync the playlist to the iDevice

The last step is to ensure that this second playlist, along with whatever you wish to sync, appears on the iDevice.

Screenshot 9 shows the Music Sync tab for my iPhone 4S. I have elected to download only a subset of tracks using a set of smart playlists which I have set up over time. Note that “_2. Podcasts unplayed” appears on the screen and is selected. Note also that “_1. Podcasts unconv to music” doesn’t even appear: proof that iTunes no longer thinks of podcasts as music.

Screenshot 9

Screenshot 9

Screenshot 10 shows that I no longer sync podcasts to my iPhone: there’s no point.

Screenshot 10

Screenshot 10

Conclusion

Finding that IOS 7 had divorced podcasts and music was a major source of annoyance. However, with these simple measure I have managed to restore equilibrium. After having made these changes, I spent over eight hours driving over Friday and Saturday and was able to simply kick off the podcast playlist and ignore the iPhone thereafter, other than when I stopped of course. Result!

IOS 7 is designed to cause car crashes

Apple_iOS_7_Logo

Splitting podcasts away from music means more manual interaction needed

I appreciate that it’s an incendiary headline but it’s there to express quite how strongly I feel about this.

I’ve had various grumbles about IOS 7 but none of them have been major; until now. Most have been learning issues on my part: changed functionality, upgraded apps and the like. This change, however, is different.

Background

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I listen to them in the car mainly. To reduce the amount of interaction required by me during a journey, I created an iTunes smart playlist containing all unplayed podcasts in date order. That way, I can simply call up the playlist in Music before I set off and ignore it because there are several hours of podcasts waiting to be listened to. Not any more.

What’s happened?

The first warning sign was when I sync’d my iPhone after the O/S upgrade. I got a warning to say that the Podcast app was not installed and I would therefore not be able to play my podcasts. Huh?

A bit of delving revealed that Apple has completely split podcasts from music and the Music app will not now play podcasts. Don’t ask me why they’ve done this but I doubt it was done for our benefit.

OK, I installed the Podcast app. Unfortunately, this has no playlist capability: you have to play individual podcasts. If there is more than one episode in a podcast, then they get played successively, but the player stops at the end.

And this is where accidents will get caused.

We are attached to our smart devices and we do pay attention when they alert us. Even when we are driving. If the phone has been happily playing podcasts for maybe 60-70 minutes and then stops, I will be motivated to get it playing more. This will require several manual interactions with the phone, including unlocking it, and this is a safety issue.

I know I should exercise self-control and pull over (not on a motorway), or wait until it’s convenient to stop. Hopefully, I will; but how many won’t?

I’m serious: this is a retrograde step that will cause accidents

Workaround

OK, there is a workaround, but it’s a hassle. To revert to the previous behaviour you can go into the podcast episodes in iTunes:

  • change their media type to music rather than podcast; and
  • set their genre to podcast

You can then amend the smart playlist to select all music with genre podcast and playcount = 0.

It works, but it is a hassle because you have the make the changes every time iTunes downloads new podcasts. Oh, and of course it won’t work if you sync over the air. That’s not a problem for me because I won’t do that anyway due to the way it would eat up my data allowance.

iPhone 5S? – No thanks

It’s time to get off the continual upgrade treadmill for a while

iPhone

For as long as I’ve had a mobile phone, I’ve always been on a contract. In the past this has been great as it meant that I’ve been entitled to a regular upgrade. However, this entitlement has come at a cost and I’ve now decided to change behaviour.

The contract that has just expired was an iPhone 4S from Vodafone for 12 months at a cost of £36 per month. When I last upgraded, from an iPhone 4, I was able to sell the ‘4’ for more than I needed to put up front for the 4S, but it still locked me into paying £36 per month. That’s £432 per year.

I know there’s been the iPhone 5 out for some time, and now there’s the ‘5S’ but do you know what? My ‘4S’ is all that I need. So, I’ve decided to let the contract lapse and move on to a SIM-only contract at £9 per month: a saving of £324 over the year. Even if I only do this for a year and then go back on a contract, or buy a new phone outright, I’ll still be better off given the likely resale value of the ‘4S’.

The only current unknown is being able to tether with a SIM-only contract. Advice is varied on this. Vodafone CS says no, but forum.vodafone.co.uk says yes. We’ll see.

update

The upgrade has completed and was completely invisible. I thought I’d need a new SIM, but apparently not. Also, tethering worked without me needing to do anything other than enable it on the phone. I used it to prove it did work. That’s removed the sole remaining reason for jailbreaking the phone now.

Image courtesy of blakeburris and Wikimedia Commons

FAQ: How the end of support for Windows XP will affect your business

Small businesses need to act now to avoid problems after XP support is withdrawn next April

Windows XP Logo

Headline

XP support ends on 8th April 2014. So does that for Office 2003.

You need to start taking action now!

Introduction

Something big is going to happen on 8/4/2014 that will affect a large number of businesses in the UK; particularly small ones. Unless you are a very big company and prepared to pay loads-o-money, Microsoft is ending all support for Windows XP and Office 2003. It’s important that all those responsible for IT Support in businesses are aware of this and start to take appropriate action now!

I’ve chosen to represent this information in the form of an FAQ in the hope that it will make it easier to consume and understand. Please feel free to distribute this information as widely as you can so that nobody gets caught out.

If there are questions I’ve missed and that you’d like answered, please respond in the comments and I’ll update the main post.

(more…)

Nokomis Day Twelve

Irthlingborough to Wollaston

This was to be our last day on Nokomis so wanted it to be a good one. Luckily, the day proved to be sunny and warm so we made the most of it by cruising slowly up the river.

We stopped off at Wellingborough to empty the chemical toilet, dispose of the rubbish and refill the water tank. Once again, there were swans a-plenty.

You recall the dead sheep I mentioned back on Day One? Well, two of them were still there at Wellingborough Upper lock. We had told the Fire and Rescue people, another boater we spoke to had told the Environment Agency, but they were still there nearly two weeks later.

We got back to Wollaston and tidied the boat up before shutting everything down. We also had to lug back all the stuff we had taken with us. Nearly everything got used, apart from the BBQ, so we did need it all. There was just so much of it though.

Nokomis Day Eleven

Waddenhoe to Irthlingborough

The weather was pretty foul when we woke up so we took it slowly, in the hope that it would improve. It didn’t! There was a mixture of drizzle and driving rain during most of the journey. It finally let up as we approached Irthlingborough, but by that time we’d had enough. It was also cold.

Early in in the journey, we decided to light the stove so that at least we could warm up when we arrived. Of course, by the time we did, the weather had perked up and it was like a sauna in the saloon. Typical British weather.

Not needing to do anything, and having visited Irthlingborough on the way down river, we sat in the sunshine and had a few drinks whilst chatting to the skipper of the boat moored next to us. They had been away since early May and were on their way back to their winter mooring at Peterborough. During the summer, they’d been down to London, across to Bristol, up the Severn and across into Staffordshire, then up to Liverpool and finally back down the Grand Union and on to the Nene. Quite a journey.

Makes our little jaunt sound very puny. We’ve really enjoyed it though.

Tomorrow we head back to Wollaston via Wellingborough, and thus will end our first foray on a narrow boat. It won’t be the last, I’m sure of that.

Nokomis Day Ten

Oundle to Waddenhoe – four miles and three locks

20130919-211706.jpg

We decided on a short day today as we really wanted to visit Waddenhoe; particularly The Kings Head. Thus, we had a leisurely breakfast and set off about 10.

Just as we were setting off, we were passed by a boat being delivered up to Sheffield. Apparently, the new owner had slipped and broken his ankle, so he had to have the boat delivered to its new moorings: a trip of about two weeks. We stayed together to the first lock but then parted as we wanted to fill up with water.

The river was more busy today and we saw several other boats before we reached Waddenhoe. We also passed some very novice single scullers on the river. We gave them a very wide, and slow, berth.

You moor at the bottom of the garden of the Kings Head at Waddenhoe, the only requirement being to use the pubs bars. No problem there!

We arrived about lunchtime and headed up the slope to the pub. There was a very friendly greeting and a very nice pint of Brewster’s Hopshackle available. That was followed by a pint of Nene Valley NVB.

We decided to have lunch and opted for the special Club Sandwich with hand cut chips and a salad. It was enormous! Even I couldn’t eat all of it and I had to restrict myself to 2-3 chips. Varina managed to finish hers but she did look a bit green at the end.

In hindsight, we should have orderd one between us.

To walk this off, we toured the unspoilt village. It really is lovely. I think it is mainly the property of the Waddenhoe Trust and they’ve done a great job of preserving the best features of a traditional Northamptonshire village. The church was very interesting as well.

Tomorrow, we’re going to head back to Irthlingborough.

The one downside of Waddenhoe, and in fact much of the Nene Valley is rubbish Vodafone coverage so I’m not sure when this will get posted.

Nokomis Day Nine

Fotheringhay to Oundle

As we were pressed for time on our way down river, we missed out a couple of places we wanted to see. The first was Oundle, the second was Waddenhoe. As we had broken the back of our journey back up river, we had time time to visit both. Today was a visit to Oundle.

The weather was variable, but we didn’t actually get wet during the cruise. We got to Oundle just after lunchtime and originally planned to moor up in the marina. Sadly, this was not to be as there were no free berths. We ended up mooring on the river at the Oundle Cruising Club moorings. This was fine. There was nobody else there and we had the place to ourselves.

After tidying up,and buying a replacement lock winder in the marina’s chandlery, we set off into Oundle. It was at this point that it started to rain!

The road into Oundle crosses a backwater via a very narrow bridge. The width limit is 2.1m but even with several warning signs there was ample evidence of people mis-judging the width. One of the limit bollards had a very deep dent in it and all were bare of paint on the inside edge.

We have previously passed through Oundle on the road and were looking forward to visiting what appeared to be quite an interesting little town. Close examination didn’t back this view up unfortunately. There was quite a lot of interesting architecture, but no information available. No plaques, no guides or signs, nothing.

We did get a very nice lunch in one of the coffee shops, but after that we were left with little to do. Naturally, we did visit Nene Valley Brewery and purchase a 4-pint takeout of DXB for consumption on the boat. We then hi-tailed back to the boat and settled down.

Not a particularly exciting day, but relaxing all the same.