Oct 22, 2017

Dancers are the athletes of God - Albert Einstein

Not a Fan of Apple, iPhone or iphoneunlockuk.com

For background see my earlier post on upgrading my original iPhone to version 2 software:

Since then I have become steadily more disenchanted by my iPhone and where Apple seem to have landed us…

  • the slowness of the device to switch applications
  • the browser crashes – just when you get to an interesting page the browser self extinquishes. Where were you? how did you get there. This is corrosive of using the device to browse for useful info
  • browser annoyances like inability to quickly get to the bottom of a page, waiting for rendering when trying to move swiftly through a document, double tapping to magnify an area but catching a link during the page load (when everything is rendered tiny and thus easily done) and it interpreting the first tap as an instruction to go get the other page – immensely annoying.
  • Apple coming out with bug fix releases but not saying what they fix. 2.01 and 2.02 don’t reliably seem to have done much.
  • Mapping locate me function still not working
  • All the general crap around running a jail broken iPhone – why can’t Apple just allow users to go with the network they want rather then trying to screw more money out of it all by limiting what can they do. It’s not an atractive business model.
  • Having to go into a Phone mode to call out – my Nokia home page just allows dialling really easily.

All up I continue to hold to the view that Apple have released the V2 update too soon and after insufficient testing.

The upside of the device remains the large screen and some aspects of the usability. But it’s not enough.

I have given up on the iPhone as a phone for now and put the Sim back in a reliable Nokia E61. It’s also smaller and lighter and has a longer battery life. It is 3G full bluetooth and the screen is good enough.

I have though just updated the iPhone to 2.02 – it still works on T-Mobile but the jail broken apps are gone, but I wasn’t really relaying on anything there so no problem and I can add that back latter should I need. The locate me now mapping is still not working in 2.02.

Finally about iphoneunlockuk.com…
About two weeks ago I added a comment to their blog as follow:
I’ve been living with an original iPhone (which runs on T-Mobile UK) upgraded for about a week now and on balance wish I had not upgraded to v2.0.

Apple don’t seem to have tested it as much as they should and GPS/locate me does not work and the machine can often hang for a few seconds after switching application. Safari (browser) also doesn’t seem as robust as it used to be and just self extinguishes on some sites. None of this renders the machine unusable but had I been aware of the problems I would have held off upgrading an otherwise reliable machine until Apple have got 2.01 or 2.1 out.

Comments don’t get added but wait in a moderation queue. Disappointingly by comment was moderated out. Many comments are of the ‘Thank you so much for such a brilliant service…’ variety though occasionally more interesting tit-bits emerge. I guess my ‘think twice about upgrading’ contribution was out of kilter with encouraging people to spend money at the site. I think this is a shame. If anybody has had a similar experience do say. New blog entries have now been created by iphoneunlockuk for 2.01 and 2.02 releases and when I have a bit of experience of 2.02 I will try adding another contribution to the site.

Vodafone Mobile Broadband via USB Modem Stick

In an ideal world your mobile phone would act as a broadband modem for your PC. And as part of your package you would get a lot of internet use built in regardless of if you used the net on your phone or were doing things on your portable PC. This is possible but things conspire against it. You need the mobile to have Bluetooth to link to the portable – which rules out the iPhone for example. You also need a provider that doesn’t differentiate between phone and modem use – you have to dig around a lot to see what is possible but some only seem to do deals giving cheap prices for phone surfing.

And then there is what happens when you go abroad when you get stuffed at £6+ for a MB of data to a phone and your bill can rocket into hundreds. A trip to Majorca with my iPhone and T-Mobile sunsequently calculated I owed them £700+ and this when I have Web and Walk access that allows me ‘free’ net use in the UK. The bill was reduced to less than £100, for which I am grateful, but it also underlines that the price in the first place is based on silly money rather than actual real costs to provide the service. In Majorca, and anytime I am on the road, I really want good comms at a cheap price.

If you use a mobile as a modem then you also have battery life problems potentially. Putting it all into one I decided that I would shell out £15 a month on one of the USB modem packages that most mobile providers are doing now. And for a 2 year deal Vodafone currently chuck in their highest speed USB Modem – the E172. The call it a USB Modem Stick and it can do speeds up to 7.2Mbps (twice ‘normal’ speed). They are rolling out the higher speed across the country but all you need to know is that it’s fast enough already really. For the £15 you get 3GB of monthly use and £15/GB if you go over – not the end of the world but not something you want to do. More details here:

The reason I went with Vodafone is that they are always said to have the fullest network in the UK and sometime I go up to the Outer Hebrides where mobile connections can be very hard to find at times. But the clincher was that in Europe and (currently) USA, Australia and a few other destinations, you get mobile for £10/day – up to 50MB anway. That’s not a lot of data but it is enough. I’m not aware of any other provider offering such a deal. So my 2 weeks in Majorca would have cost £140 rather then £750 (and for much, much, more data too).

Vodafone USB modem in use.
It’s nominally easy to use – plug in and it bursts into life running Vodafone Mobile Light which is held on the modem itself. There are some gotchas

1) It doesn’t seem to like being plugged into some USB hubs and either doesn’t work or locks up. I can only currently get it to work by plugging into the one USB(1) connection I have.

2) Using the Light software all the images presented on web pages are sent in a highly compressed form and look terrible. If you need to show clients pages, it is not good. It’s a shame you can’t configure the standard software another way.

3) To get decent pictures you have to download the full version of Vodafone Mobile onto your computer. You then plug in the Modem – it fires up the Light version and then you run the full version which after a while, displaces the Light. But I’ve occasionally had problems when it does not and there seems to be a tussle wbtween the two for conrol of teh hardware. It’s not as slick as it should be really.

Checking How much Data you are using
Given the costs of going over I want a rock solid way of measuring how much I am using. The Vodafone Mobile software tracks this but how well I don’t know. However while its nice to have a good local way of monitoring use the thing that ultimately matters is Vodafones servers and how much they think I have used. So it makes sense to register with the website and get access to definitive information on use. Sadly this is not at all slick.

Registering with Vodafone and checking data use
Registration problems.
As part of registration Vodafone send a message to the mobile you are using and you type that message immediately into a box to complete registration. But I don’t have a mobile so can’t do this!

I rang up support and got a nice lady who took a long time to realise she didn’t have a clue and I got put through to somebody technical who was very on the ball. And it turns out to be a problem they know about but don’t have a decent solution for. The proposal was that you plug the data Sim into a mobile phone in order to see the registration message they send. I pointed out to the man that most phones were locked to the mobile comms supplier and I was not with Vodafone… But there was no other advice and definite ‘not possible’ when I asked if teh account could be manualy setup by them. 4 phones later I found one I could use and manged to register. How rubbish is that I ask you.

Seeing Data Use
What you want is something like this:

Account Plan:     3000MB/Month
Used to Date (*): 40.6Mb
Estimated Use for month: 2345MB
(*)up to midnight last night.

You obviously want to know where you are, what your allowance is and if you carry on as you are what you are likely  to use in the month.

What you get is tens and hundreds of line entries of what data connections were made. This is nice info but what you need is a total of all these entries and you don’t get it. You can though download all the data in a form to run through Excel but even that is a pain because each data item comes tagged ‘109.085 KB’, so you have to get rid of all the ‘ KB”s from the column before you can sum it up to get the big number. I assume Vodafone make this difficult so you are more likely to go over limit and incur extra costs.

I guess what I will do is compare what the Modem tells me on use and what Vodafone servers say and hopefully after finding full agreement will just use the Modem numbers.

Asus EEE 900 Linux and Vodafone USB Modem Stick
I have one of these and I plugged the Vodafone modem in and it worked. I have no idea if optimal drivers are being used but it seems to be as fast as on Windows and I think its brilliant of Asus to arrange this – deeply impressed that I don’t have to do anything. That said Vodafone also have a Research group site and one of the things they seem to have is software for a variety of devices in the pipeline (and it was another reason I plumped for Vodafone in the first place):

Current Conclusion
It works fine – but as with much technology it’s not actually as slick to setup, end to end, as I had hoped.

Upgrading Original iPhone to Version 2 Software – not yet I think

Well I held off a while but last night decided to upgrade my original 8GB iPhone to version 2. My phone is actually jail-broken and used on T-Mobile in the UK. No objection to O2 at all but I have a contract that is still running and which I can’t get out of.

The website I used to unlock the iPhone is: www.iphoneunlockuk.com

I suspect they just package up a solution developed by others, but money changes hands and support telephone lines are there if needed. I’ve never had to use these so how good they might be I don’t know. The website is a bit confused having grown in a topsy turvy way, but the instructions for the upgrade to 2 looked full enough and initial teething problems (with the instructions) were sorted. Some banners on the site might lead you to believe it is a one click process – this is most certainly not the case. However above all that I didn’t do what I should have done – a good net search for problems around upgrading original iPhones. Had I done this I don’t think I would have done the upgrade yet. The upgrade itself seemed to go fine however but here are the issues I have encountered and where I am now in having a great working iPhone or not…

iPhone 2.0 – Calendar Syncing problems with Outlook 2003/2007
First thing I do with any upgrade like this is give syncing of appointments a good shake – if it doesn’t work and you don’t have access to a solid diary you really are left looking like a banana head.

By problems I mean that if I create an entry on the iPhone it did not seem to sync across to the PC (Windows XP, Outlook 2003) and visa versa. Also using the Calender on the iPhone it suddenly started talking about 2 Calendars and Itunes 7.7 had created a new Calendar in Outlook called ‘Home’. A couple of entries were in it, picked from the one calendar I have always run. Where on earth all this has come from I don’t know! There must be some logic to it but goodness knows what it is. Search net and this discussion on the Apple site helped solve the issue: discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1595598&tstart=0

Essentially it seems to come down to recurring entries not being handled properly and you need to delete them all, Sync, and then recreate them. In the thread is a way you can use export and import to help the process. I also deleted the newly created home Calender on Outlook (Go > Folder List > right click on ‘Home’ Calendar and delete ). I then checked it all, creating and modifying appointments on both sides of the sync. Getting rid of the Home stuff also means I’m back to just one Calender in both places and which everything goes in – easiest.

So I seem to be sorted but no marks to Apple for the pain and poor approach to a central need that should be rock solid.

iPhone 2.0 – Can’t locate me in Google Maps
If you go into Maps and touch the little icon at the bottom left of the screen it is supposed to bring up a map of where you are. On first generation iPhones, like mine, it does this using knowledge of where mobile phone masts and public wifi connections are. This always used to work for me with 1.1.4 software. It now doesn’t and just seems to go off into infinity thinking about where it is. More on this problem here: discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1596432&tstart=15

UK phones seems to be particularly afflicted, whether on O2 or not, but its seems to be early days still in seeing just how big a problem this is across the population.

It’s a big issue in Version 2 because some of the applications (like Camera) are GeoTag capable and it would be nice to use the facility (even if less than 100% accurate on original iPhones because of the approximate way they establish where you are).

iPhone – General Sluggish Feel
As I move around from application to application it seems to me that each application thinks a bit longer before putting up its initial screen. And sometimes it seems to think about whether to accept the menu selection you are trying to make. It’s not cripplingly bad, but does not inspire so much confidence.

iPhone 2.0 – So whats better?
I’ve not used the iPhone store to see what applications I can download – I’ve spent too much time picking up pieces from the upgrade… Hopefully it will please me at some point.

No Copy and Paste still – which seems perverse. And no ability to read email in Landscape mode, which I’ve always wanted. In fact why isn’t the ability to work in Portrait or Landscape just generic across all applications?

All up at the moment I’ve very much underwhelmed by the upgrade and if I had my hours again I wouldn’t bother. On the other hand upgrading when Apple bring out 2.01 or 2.1 software should be easier from here and could be more difficult from where I was. All up though I get the feeling of a rushed release by Apple.

Showing the Date in the Windows System Tray

Somehow I keep wanting to know the date when I’m on the computer (running Windows XP) and its annoying to hover over the time in the system tray to get it – sometimes the hover doesn’t work even, adding more annoyance. Of course when I want to know the time I look at my watch so it would have been nice if Microsoft had made this bit of XP configurable. Alas not.

You can make the Taskbar deeper and then the date gets displayed along with the time. But you seem to be wasting valuable screen real estate then. Of course you can auto hide it (so no screen real-estate loss) but I’ve never got on well with that way of working.  So I did a search that came up with a little app called ‘DateInTray‘. I then did a search on that and Lifehacker to see if it had been recommended by them. That does two things – adds some degree of confidence to a selection and also in the discussion on Lifehacker other similar apps are thrown up that may be better.

DateInTray looked good, so I downloaded it. Well it does what it says – puts the date in the tray  but it doesn’t put it next to the existing Windows time display over on the right. At start-up it could appear anywhere and while its distinctive I really don’t want to hunt for it amidst 10-20 other little icons. So I went back to Lifehacker and LClock seemed to get good comments for its configurability.

LClock works well and replaces the existing Windows time display and with a bit of ticking of boxes duly puts up date along with the time – just what I need. Here is what it looks like on my machine – the time is 7:38 on the 8th day of the month:

LClock - showing Time and Date

Get LClock here:

The page on Lifehacker about DateInTray, LClock and other apps:

Badgers, TB and Cattle

In the UK farmers want to cull badgers because they say it will stop their cattle getting TB. It’s been a bitter fought battle with little agreement on the science and it raises emotions like fox hunting did.

In Wales it looks like they are going to do such badger culls and I think it wretched regardless of if the science says it will work or not. We don’t grow wheat at the top of hills because you can’t get the harvest machinery in. The Fins don’t have an indigenous coconut industry either, and all because nature is against it. I feel the same re cattle – what’s the point in doing things with cattle in areas where nature is against it? It will be argued that agriculture is always about Man modifying his environment for best economic effect, but we have to draw limits somewhere and eradicating a species in some areas seems wholly and totally wrong and a price not worth paying.

The bonkers thing is that farmers get state money when they are hit by TB. I can’t think of any other industry that relies on the state all the time to insure and underwrite misfortune like this. Industry is constantly adapting to new realities but agriculture seems trapped and inflexible and surrounded by subsidies that are routinely denounced as not enough anyway. Nobody seems happy and the spending of money really seems a waste.

The furor around badgers has been going on for many years and you just wish that the government scientists had really got stuck into an accelerated programme that would enable cattle to be inoculated against TB. But while we are where we are, any state money given for TB problems should be coupled to encouraging the farmers to do something else with their land.

Hard Disk Problems Part 2 and GMail annoyance

Part 1 of this.

I ended up with a 250Gb Western Digital Disk which is the largest IDE drive I could readily find – newer portable PCs all use SATA of course. I used Casper XP to take a whole dick copy of the original drive and all was great. In fact performance in Explorer when looking at long directories was notably much quicker and it was a reminder that unfragmented disks are nice to live with.

Sadly Yesterday my portable wouldn’t boot – The BIOS did its initial checks but when it went to the hard disk, it just hung waiting. Putting in a (Casper XP created) whole disk backup from 3 days back, worked fine. So I ordered a new disk – this time an Hitachi 160GB unit with 11ms access time rather than the 12.5ms of the Western Digital (which I confess I had not spotted in the wish to get the largest I could!). Not sure what I will do with the Western Digital yet- I might try using it again and just accept that it was solar flair activity or one-off act of God.

Getting everything going again, based on the 3 day old backup is not so bad, but could be easier. Critical website updates can be pulled back from Ballet.co and all my email goes through GMail so I can get the inbound stuff – which is important because of material coming in from authors and loads of pictures arriving too. The only problem with GMail is that I can’t figure out how to change an email to ‘un-picked up by an email client like Outlook’ when it has earlier been picked up. I’m talking about 100 emails or so and it would have been nice to do this and the next time Outlook collected email it scooped up these emails again. What I was left with was forwarding each one – which is annoying and slow – there seems to be no way of saying forward all these selected mails. So I forward each one which goes out and then comes back in to the same GMail account but with the bits set to be scooped up by Outlook. The final twist of course is that all this email comes flagged as sent by me rather than the original author. BUT nothing is lost in this setup and that is perhaps the main thing to note. Rejoice even!

The only thing I don’t have are emails sent out and I probably ought to do soemthing about that. Probably stick a blind copy (to ?????sent@ballet.co.uk) on to outgoing stuff  and run that into GMail and use a filter to Label and archive them?

Lets see how I get on with the Hitachi drive…

Hard Disk – Impending Doom

I had a couple of innocent notes in doing whole disk backup copies of my computers hard disk. I use Casper XP (which sometime I must write about because it’s rather good) and it was not able to copy all the info in some outlook archive files… which is a bit worrying. Casper Tech Support asked for some dumps and then said I needed to run chkdsk because it looked like my hard disk has a problem…

1) Open My Computer and select Lauren C drive (C:)
2) On the File menu, click Properties.
3) Click the Tools tab.
4) In the Error-checking box, click Check Now.
5) In Check disk options, check the Automatically fix file system errors and Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors check boxes.
6) Click Start.

It actually runs next time you boot and it takes a long time – 2 hours in my case. And in the doing it reported:
“Windows replaced bad clusters in files…” 5 times.

My immediate question was “Have I lost anything or not”. and of course it turns out the cluster data is in all probability lost so there is junk in the middle of the files now I guess. Doing some net research seems to show that drives are v intelligent these days and many will look to try and cover bad clusters themselves but if you actually get one escape into the big Windows world then it probably means the drive is on the way out and needs to be replaced. Hard drives are not a thing to economise on think. So its 1 AM and I’ve just placed an order for a new drive for 24 hour delivery. £80 damn-it but hopefully some peace of mind. And having ‘cleaned’ the drive with chkdisk I’m now doing a backup which will hopefully no throw up any warnings and act as cover if something horrendous happens before the new disk arrives.

The following forum thread has a great description of how hard drives work in this area – worth a read.

Cheap 320GB 2.5 inch Toshiba USB Mini Hard Drive

I was just looking around for a cheap hard disk for backup. I have some 3.5inch USB drives, some with ESATA but they are such a pain to use because they all have external psu’s – getting them out of storage, set-up and then packing them away after, with all the cables, is all hassle. ESATA should be wonderful and fast but I’ve leaned that hot swapping Esata doesn’t work for me and I can’t be rebooting just to stick in a faster drive for 30 minutes.

On the other hand 2.5 inch drives are small and don’t need external power – worse case just access to 2 x USB ports. I have a small draw with 3 x 2.5in disks in and loads of other odds and ends. Handy, handy, handy and when you are in a rush just what you want. Just before I leave my PC to go out I always think that I should leave it doing a backup – but I’m running late of course and so to actually do it everything needs to be quick and simple. Plug drive in, click icon on desktop, return to find screen saying all is done = nirvanna and peace of mind.

Anyway I thought I’d treat myself to a new 2.5 inch drive to backup my new PC. Now that only has a 150GB drive in (thought it is a supremely fast Western Digital Raptor!) but I thought it would be be prudent and last longer to get something bigger.

I’ve been eying up the new 500GB 2.5 inch drives that have just been announced, but they are not really available yet and the all up cost of one is going to be well over £200 for some while I think. Rather too much of a premium over 3.5 inch drives.

PC Pro recently did a survey of external hard drives (3.5inch and 2.5inch) and concluded the 250GB Toshiba was a bargain at £94 incl VAT.

Well at Ebyer you can get that 250GB drive now for £74.99 incl free P&P.

However I was gobsmacked to find the 320GB drive for £94.99 including free P&P – thogh that was with an additional £5 off for some unstated reason. GB for GB that’s *not* a premium over the 250GB drive and that being the case it’s what I’ve gone with. Details here:

Will write more when it arrives…

Whitespace WordPress Theme Left Sidebar tidy

As delivered the words in the left sidebar don’t line up with the text in the header and the footer – they are more to the left and it tends to gove a bulging feeling rather then the neatness and order which I think the design is all about.

I fixed this as follows…

In WordPress Admin you need to edit style.css. Go into Presentation/Theme Editor and click on Stylesheet. Scroll down and in the Left Sidebar section find:

#l_sidebar {
float: left;
width: 180px;
margin: 0px;
padding: 0px 20px 20px 0px;
line-height: 17px;
display: inline;

and replace with

#l_sidebar {
float: left;
width: 172px;
margin: 0px;
padding: 0px 20px 20px 8px;
line-height: 17px;
display: inline;

I’ve put the modifed lines in bold.

Whitespace WordPress Theme and Title Image Replacement

With a new title font selected I created the graphic I needed in Photoshop as a gif:

Blog Title in Sphinx RR Inline

But how to use in the theme? I like the idea of image replacement – where you have the title specified as text – great for search engines and for people who surf without images on, but I have never used the technique. Here is how I got things sorted here – i don’t claim any of its optimal, but it seems to work well enough I think.

MezzoBlue has a page called Revised Image Replacement and it goes through a number of ways of doing it. Based on that I went for the Gilder/Levin solution….

1. Put the new graphic in your wp-content/themes/whitespace/images directory using ftp

2 In WordPress Admin you need to edit style.css. Go into Presentation/Theme Editor and click on Stylesheet. Scroll down and in the header section find:

#headerleft {
width: 465px;
height: 90px;
float: left;
margin: 0px;
padding: 20px 0px 0px 0px;

Change this to

#headerleft {width: 465px;
height: 90px;
float: left;
margin: 0px;
padding: 20px 0px 0px 0px;
position: relative;

#headerleft span {
background: url(images/brucemarriottcom_logo.gif) no-repeat;
background-position: -3px 24px;
position: absolute;
top: 0px; left: 0px;
width: 100%;
height: 100%;

There is one new line in #headerleft – the position: relative; This is really important and without it I was seeing most of the pages wrecked and one big link. For an explanation of why the position relative is needed see this discussion on DigitalPoint.

Also a brand new #headerleft span definition is added in. The background-position: -3px 24px; will probably be different for you – its what I need to make my new title graphic end up in just the right place.

With the changes done click the Update File button

3) In WordPress Admin you need to edit the Header. Go into Presentation/Theme Editor and click on Header.

Search for
<div id=”headerleft”>
<a href=”<?php echo get_settings(‘home’); ?>/”><?php bloginfo(‘name’); ?></a><br />
<?php bloginfo(‘description’); ?>

and change to:
<div id=”headerleft”>
<a href=”<?php echo get_settings(‘home’); ?>/”><span></span><?php bloginfo(‘name’); ?></a><br />
<?php bloginfo(‘description’); ?>

With the changes done click the Update File button

4) Now go look at your weblog and you should see the new title replace the old text. Just tweak background position coordinates until it sits where you want.

Browser Checks
I tried this on Firefox 2, IE7 and Safari 3 on a PC and it works fine. However on IE7 the hot link curser does not show up when you role over the graphic (it does on Firefox and Safari), however clicking on the graphic has the desired effect and all browsers take you back to the Home page. Those 3 browsers are good enough for me. However for an exhaustive look at these techniques across all try this piece at Ryznardesign. I have to say though that its really above me in its exhaustive detail. Read more

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