Attention Span

Yesterday, there was a bundle of news coverage about Apple’s supposedly-upcoming “Cinema Mode” for iPhones and iPads as part of the next iOS release.

This will (again, supposedly) allow people in cinemas – and other darkened environments, one assumes – to check their phones without disturbing those around them, mainly through use of a ‘dark’ colour-scheme, so the display doesn’t glow like a lighthouse.

In fairness, this annoys me on a regular basis at the cinema – there’s always some fuckknuckle who wants to check stuff while ‘watching’ a film, leaving their phone’s volume up, or some other piece of vacuous self-centred idiocy. But really, a phone mode to cater for that?

It irritates me that so many people now seem to be utterly incapable of sitting for a couple of hours and watching a film. There’ve been a couple of films I’ve seen recently where it seemed like everyone else was eating popcorn (or sweets, or both) from rustling paper bags throughout the film, and/or then sodding off out to the toilet and whatever else.

As has been noted before, I really don’t understand people. I don’t get why someone would pay to see a film, spend even more on food and drink, then either not be able to sit through the film without breaks, or without checking their phones. If you’re going to do all that, why not wait til it comes out on disc/download/TV and watch at home, where you can pause, rewind etc., and not worry about missing bits while you go to drain your microscopic bladder?

Mind you, I also don’t understand why cinemas insist on putting all their food/refreshments in noisy paper bags. Surely there must be another option by now? A fabric version or similar? Or larger bags/tubs that allow hands in and out without touching the sides?


ReKindled (Again)

Just to top off a pretty expensive fortnight, while I was away over the weekend the Kindle broke. As with previous ones, the screen film cracked, so half of it is working and the other half isn’t. In short, fucked.

As it turns out though, I can’t be too annoyed (annoyed, sure, but not too annoyed) as it turns out I’ve had this one just short of three years. Considering that before that I had a spate of broken screens in less than a year, it could’ve lasted a lot less time.

Yes, I’d rather these things were more resilient, were designed to last longer than 18 months.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how things have progressed with Kindles, and whether they’ve improved the ways to reload content onto a new device. It was horrific three years ago, so I’m hoping for improvements, it’s fair to say. (And if that doesn’t happen, I’ve got a backup from the old device – so maybe I’ll just be able to roll that onto the new one.)

We’ll see.


EE’s broken payments

As I wrote yesterday, I ended up having some major issues with the cottage’s already-installed 3G Dongle through EE.

Basically, it’s either not been used for a while, or the previous people ran the account into the ground – there’s absolutely no credit or data available on it.  That’s OK, you can connect to EE still and add a credit.  Or at least you should be able to.

Basically, the device is set up so that it can still connect to ee.co.uk , and that doesn’t come out of the data allowance. All’s well and good. But. Ah, but.

The thing is, when it comes to processing payments, the processing isn’t all done on ee.co.uk.  It also goes off to get the 3D secure (also known as “Verified by Visa” or “Mastercard [something]“) from the relevant bank.  Only that’s from a different (and thus not-allowed) domain outside of EE, and because there’s no data allowance, the connection is refused, and the credit transaction fails.

All you get to see on screen is “An error occurred” with “Try again”.  Which is… unhelpful.

What’s more unhelpful is that EE’s transaction system has pre-authorised the amount you’ve topped up by. So the funds are then locked by your bank. They’ll be released when the transaction doesn’t complete – but it can take two to three working weeks for that to happen, because banks are paranoid and slow and shit.  And EE are just shit, because their failed transaction doesn’t release those funds.

Even better, you can’t then offer feedback or contact EE. Because – yes! – all the online feedback is done through a third party, and goes off to a different domain.

So you’re basically left with no data, no top-up, locked funds, and no way to contact EE to tell them so.

Even worse, I suspect it’s only because I’m a techie that I understand it this much – for Joe Public it’d just be “it’s broken, and EE are shit”.  (Which isn’t something I could argue with either, but at least I can understand why it’s broken!)  It’s a simple scenario, but one I’m willing to bet they’ve never tested, going on the assumption that people would top up before they ran out completely, etc. etc.

I’ve written to them to explain the same situation, so it’ll be interesting to see what they come back with (if anything)


Mobile and Connected

This weekend, I’m away in Dorset, hoping to spend some time relaxing and writing, getting some of the stuff out of my head that’s been resident for way too long.

I’ve been to the particular place I’m staying before, and knew they had a semblance of internet connection (albeit through a 3G Dongle thingy) but when I got here, I found it’s not working properly. (It’s on EE, and because they’re shitheads, there are mega-issues when there’s no remaining data on the device. That’s a post for another day)

So anyway, while I’m wanting quiet, I do still need connection for a range of things. As a result, I went into the nearest town, and bought a MiFi device of my own which turns out to be working pretty well. Considering the location (in a valley, with next-to-sod-all anywhere nearby) I’ve got enough of a 3G signal (blipping up and down to a single bar of 4G) to keep things connected and fine.

It’s meant that as well as doing some writing, I’ve also been able to do some outstanding work stuff that needed completing, and all that usual stuff.

Indeed, it’s doing well enough here that I’ll continue using it, and be interested to see how it works in other places I go to over the next few months. Ain’t progress/technology interesting?


D4D Performance

This year, D4D’s performance as a site hasn’t been that great. I’d noticed a lot of times when pages timed out, or seemed to get lost along the way, but couldn’t find what was causing it, despite looking hard on several occasions.

Last week, I finally found what the problem was – and it wasn’t in something I’d done, which was nice. More importantly, it also wasn’t something that was showing up in code or settings – because it was a plugin that wasn’t doing what it had been told to, for whatever reason.

I’ve got a security plugin on D4D that’s supposed to take automatic backups, to add some safety and recovery to the site. That was set to take a backup every week, and to only store three backups, then overwriting the oldest.

Except that wasn’t what was happening. Somewhere along the line, something had gone wrong, and it turned out that it was taking a full database backup (with a different filename each time, so no over-writing etc.)  every fifteen minutes. Then storing them in a folder that was hidden away in a non-obvious location, with a non-helpful filename.

Even on a server that says it’s got unlimited space, that was taking the piss. It was making the server work extra-hard for no good reason, and causing a whole load of problems.

I finally found it all, and ended up both deleting the old files, as well as killing off the backup task completely. (I’ve written my own automated job now which is working fine, and not causing any problems. The moral of the story? Don’t trust other people’s code.)

Since doing that, I haven’t seen the site crash. I’m hoping that the problems are now fixed, the stability will improve, and that 2016 will be a much better year for D4D™

Fingers crossed.


Re-tyred

Over the last month, the car has had a complete set of new tyres (admittedly, bought two at a time) as it was definitely That Time Of Year when it’s a good plan., with the onset of winter with added rain, snow and ice. It’s been at least a year since the front ones were changed, and longer since I did the rears, and while they’re still well within the legal limits, I know they were nowhere near as good as they could/should be.

The front ones got changed a couple of weeks back – something I was really pleased about while I was driving last weekend. At that point, the road conditions were vile – heavy rain, standing water, and one particular section of motorway surface that could best be described as interesting – and the car stayed solid on the road, which is something that some others certainly weren’t.

I avoided using eTyres this time – partly because I’m not convinced of their services etc., but also because they didn’t stock the tyres I’d decided I wanted to try out.

Having looked around, I opted this time for Michelin Cross-Climate tyres, which seem to be a good option for going across the full range of road/weather conditions I’m likely to hit in the coming months. I’ve also never had a full set of the same tyres on a car, so it seems like it should be interesting.

The rears got changed today, and the change has been significant, even in the short time I’ve driven on them today. I’m pretty sure it’s not just a psychosomatic thing, the whole vehicle felt more rooted to the road, more stable.

We’ll see how things go. This morning was also the first serious frost of the year – I was driving through snow on the M1 yesterday –  and I’m pretty sure we’ll have a few more days like it in the coming weeks. I’ve got the best part of a thousand miles to cover over the next couple of weekends (not including the usual weekly travel) so by the end of that, I’ll know a lot more about how the car feels with the new setup.


Going (More) Digital

Over the last month, I’ve upgraded and/or invested in a couple of new bits of hardware for media, and it’s been an interesting journey so far.

The first bit happened once I’d bought the new TV, and has been the addition of an AppleTV – which gives me far better access to various streaming services etc., and lets me watch them on a decent screen instead of on the laptop or phone. So far I’m pretty impressed with it – although the initial setup was a pain in the bits, until I’d finally figured out one thing that wasn’t mentioned anywhere except on the first screen.  If you’re on that first screen – or if you’ve reset the bloody thing so you can see that screen again – you can touch an iPhone to the AppleTV and it gets all the settings across automatically. Wifi details, iTunes account details, etc. – which makes things very easy indeed.

There hadn’t been any real point in getting the AppleTV ’til I’d got the new TV screen – the previous one wasn’t that great, and once it had been knackered, I was more interested in replacing it, rather than in showing AppleTV/Streaming stuff on a knackered screen.  But it’s good now.

I’ll write more about it at some point, as my use of it gets more advanced and more noteworthy.

The second thing is more for the office than for home (although as and when I give up the office, it’ll come home and be used there instead) and that’s a digital radio. Yes, I could’ve just bought a normal radio for less, but I was actually interested in the channels that are digital-only (including BBC Radio 6 etc.) as well as the ‘normal’ ones.  And yes, I can listen to those stations via t’internet and streaming, but it still takes up bandwidth, and means the laptop is working harder, with less decent sound quality.

I’ve only used the radio for a couple of days so far, but I can’t deny, I like it. Set-up was an absolute doddle – turn it on, let it scan, job done. I’ve set up some favourite stations and so on, but in general it’s just a decent bit of kit with better sound quality, and it’s nice to use. And it’s good to have some music to work to, as well.  Sure, I’ll probably also set it up so I can play stuff from phone/laptop into it, but for now it’s good just to have the radio going.

 

Bloody hell, I’m entering the 21st century…