Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Friday, August 20, 2010

iPhone: Getting back to 3

I’ve always kept my iPhone pretty much up to date with Apple software. After all, upgrades are free, and they often deliver exciting new stuff. Over the two years I’ve had my iPhone 3G, it has got more and more capable due to improving software.

Then Apple pushed iPhone OS 4 – or iOS4, as it’s now called – and the trouble began. Programs on my phone kept crashing, the sound kept getting interrupted and it became glacially slow. My phone went from being a thing of beauty and a joy to use to being a clunky machine to be endured and cursed. Using Wellington’s helpful text-to-park feature became nearly impossible because the parking machine would time out in the time it took me to send it a text message. And, in what was the last straw, it started ignoring incoming calls and going straight to voicemail.

This is the story of how I fixed all that by going back to iPhone OS 3.

posted by colin at 1:29 pm  

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hitting the target

You’ve seen the ‘Target’ word puzzle that runs in most daily newspapers. It looks like a 3×3 square of letters with the central letter highlighted. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to make as many dictionary words as possible out of the letters in the puzzle, and including the central highlighted letter. There’s always one nine-letter word.

I quite enjoy looking at the puzzle and trying to get the long word, but I lack the patience to list out all the others. A couple of years ago I decided to try to automate doing the puzzle – yes, I know it’s cheating – and here are the results. Read on for some geeky Python stuff.

posted by colin at 9:19 pm  

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A little programming project

As you know, I post my radio speaking notes as blog entries. At Miraz’s suggestion, I load these entries in advance and set them to publish automagically while I am on air. WordPress is clever like that.

Sometime after that, Radio New Zealand puts my radio slot online as sound files in ogg and mp3. Thanks, guys. But, I don’t know in advance what the file names are going to be so I can’t link them directly from my post. In practice I generally link to the download page for the whole of Nine to Noon and leave it at that.

Recently, Hamish wrote to me and suggested that I link my sound files directly from my post. I told him that I was far too lazy, but it has set me thinking – surely I can get a computer to do this.

This is the first in an ongoing series of posts about a little programming project I’ve started to automate the process of adding links to the sound files as they become available. I’ll collect the program together in a page on the site.

If you have any interest, read on and see just how easy free and open source tools make it to throw together something like this.

posted by colin at 10:00 pm  

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bad dog, IE6. Bad dog!

I try to make this blog work for everyone – that’s why I have the font-size changer in the right hand column, so that everyone can read it despite my somewhat outrĂ© choice of white on black. And that’s why I was disturbed to find that Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 doesn’t render it properly.

On the right is what this blog looks like in IE6. Two things are wrong. The white background around the green Adium logo shouldn’t be there – that background is set as transparent. IE6’s forerunner, IE5, gets that one wrong as well. It’s ugly, but I can live with that problem.

The really, really annoying thing as far as I’m concerned is that the right hand column displays below the main column, so most people will never see it. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It’s telling that only IE6 of the 50-odd browsers I tested using got this wrong. IE6 is old, and home users will probably have upgraded by now (hint), but many are stuck with IE6 at their workplaces, where IT departments like to control desktop configurations and need a very good reason to change versions. And the statistics for this blog show that IE6 makes up only about 2.5% of visitors, but that might be because the site is barely usable in IE6.

This must be an example of IE not following standards. Lots of websites have separate code – effectively separate web pages – for IE browsers so that their pages render the same way on IE as they do on other browsers.

I’m left wondering why IE was so non-compliant for so long. I’d like to find an explanation besides incompetence or hubris in assuming it could ignore standards and force the web to its bidding. To its credit, Microsoft realises it has a problem in this area and the latest IE8 beta makes a real effort to be more standards-compliant. That leads to other problems for sites with IE-specific code, but let’s not go there now.

In the meantime, I’m faced with trying to debug this thing for an old browser on a platform I don’t own, or just giving in and accepting that some people won’t be able to read it even if they want to. Sigh.

posted by colin at 8:24 am  

Friday, September 12, 2008

iTunes 8 crashes Vista & more…

Apparently it’s true – if you upgrade your iTunes to the latest version 8 on your Vista machine, the whole machine will crash when you connect an iPod.

That’s a shame, because the Genius facility on iTunes 8 is rather good – it suggests things you might like and haven’t already heard, and it will build you a playlist of things you already own based on a song you select. Cool. I can see I’m going to use this a lot.

But for now, it’s no good to you if you are running Vista. No doubt Apple will fix this, but in the meantime, hold off on upgrading to iTunes 8 if you are on Vista.

Update: This has now been fixed. It’s now safe to update your iTunes to version 8 even if you have Vista. If you have Vista and an “old” copy of iTunes 8, you may need to remove iTunes and reinstall. Happy downloading!

Further update:The latest whizzy iPod touches won’t work on WPA-secured WiFi networks. This is a biggie – you’d be nuts to “secure” your network using anything else. Don’t Apple test things any more? I suppose we’ll see an update pushed to squash this bug, as well.

posted by colin at 10:15 am  

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Staying connected – Adium 1.3 and Skype

I use instant messaging (IM) from time to time, but I really can’t be fished with the half a dozen or so different IM clients you are supposed to install to cover the different IM services. That’s why I love Adium.Adium Logo

Adium is a very nice open source Mac IM client. It does far more different IM services than iChat, which Apple provides. Adium does nearly every services out there, presenting all your contacts and chats through the same interface, with the exception of (and this is a biggie) Skype IM. Helpful New Zealander Eion Robb fixed that for everyone some time ago with his Skype plugin for Adium, and that made Adium cover every IM service I was interested in. Bravo.

Recently, Adium has moved to version 1.3, and a fine version upgrade it seems as well, giving you access to Facebook chat among other things. The problem is that the upgrade breaks the Skype plugin, so someone upgrading Adium in the normal course of things loses connectivity to their Skype-only contacts.

Happily, this is easy to fix. You need to:

  1. download the latest plugin
  2. double-click the zip file it arrives in (you get a plugin file)
  3. right-click the plugin file and select “Show Package Contents”
  4. a Finder instance opens showing what’s inside, open the “Contents” folder
  5. open the

    file by double-clicking, then open the section marked “root” by clicking the triangle

  6. You can now see a list of “properties” and their values. We’re going to edit a couple. You need the value of

    to read 1.3. Double-click the number and retype as necessary.

  7. You also need to add a new value. Click the CFBundleversion property then press the button “New Sibling”. Then change its proerty to read

    and set the value to 1.3

  8. Now just quit out of the Property Editor (red jellybean, you know the drill), close the Finder, then double-click on the SkypePlugin to install. (NB – stop Adium and Skype before you do this.) Works for me!

Thanks to the good folks at adiumxtras for this.

posted by colin at 10:32 am  

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Travelling with a laptop

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about travelling with a laptop.

Many of us have laptops that we take with us when we travel for business, and sometimes when we travel for pleasure as well. What other stuff do we take? Over the page, I’m listing the contents of my travel kitbag. Feel free to add your own in the comments. (more…)

posted by colin at 11:52 am  

Thursday, March 6, 2008

How computers store information…

…and why you ought to be backing up your computer.

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about how computers store things – what is a hard drive, anyway – and, I hope, convinced you that you need to backup your data regularly. It’s not that hard. Read on… (more…)

posted by colin at 10:56 am  

Friday, November 9, 2007

Internet service providers – the good, the bad and the ugly

Earlier this week Consumer released its annual ISP survey. The big news on this, sadly, wasn’t the good, or even the excellent, but the ugly.

For the third year running, Xtra has come bottom. And not just bottom, but 42% – a massive slump from their abysmal 55% last year. On just about every dimension of customer satisfaction Consumer measure, Xtra gets a black mark.


posted by colin at 8:02 am  

Thursday, November 1, 2007

How to load your CDs onto your ipod

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about how you go about turning you CD collection into a music library you can listen to on your iPod or other portable music player. There’s some concrete advice in there, do read it if you are interested in having a go yourself.

Just one point before going ahead, though. As the law in New Zealand is currently, loading your CDs into your computer or iPod is illegal. That’s right, against the law. It’s perfectly legal in most other countries, of course. The government has shown us a draft law which is supposed to make it legal to use your iPod, but the last time anyone saw that, it still had big holes in. New Zealand badly needs the government to make iPods unconditionally legal as they are everywhere else.

Read on for the speaking notes, and some links at the end.


posted by colin at 10:50 am  
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