Archive | July, 2011
July 28, 2011

Last.fm visualisation

Last.fm visualisation by blacknight
Last.fm visualisation, a photo by blacknight on Flickr.

One of the reasons I like Last.fm is that they have a lot of funky little tools that can generate graphics and other things based on what you have been listening to.

Via Flickr:
Shows which artists I've been listening to the most between January 2010 and now.

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July 28, 2011

Inside the Reactor – Juno Reactor

Juno Reactor

Cover of Juno Reactor

I took delivery of Juno Reactor's latest album today and it is truly fantastic.

This isn't an album of new material but instead it's remixes - one or two by Juno Reactor, but most by other artists.

It might not be to everybody's taste but I love it!

 

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July 26, 2011

My Love Hate Relationship With Air France

Avenue des Champs-Élysées

Avenue des Champs-ÉlyséesOver the last year or so I've been travelling quite a bit for work. One of the things you discover if you travel a lot for business is that it can make sense to stick to one or two carriers. In my case I chose Air France. They fly to most international destinations and are part of a group, so, for a number of reasons, they made quite a good choice. They also have a comfortable premium economy class, which makes a big difference if you're flying to Singapore or the US.

My relationship with Air France has become a bit of a "love / hate" one.

And this is all due to their rather silly policies.

Let me explain.

I recently went to Montenegro on holiday. Getting there involved multiple changes, so I was semi-expecting my bag to get lost along the way (it did), but I wasn't expecting to end up spending a night in Paris along the way.

In theory I had just under an hour to make my connection in Paris to Belgrade. However, as I discovered, that is impossible. When you fly in to Paris from Dublin with Air France (CityJet) you go in via Terminal 2E. However Terminal 2E is very very big and the physical distance from where your plane lands to its parking position is significant. You then have to transfer to a bus to take you to the terminal building, so it can easily take 30 minutes from when the plane lands before you even reach the main terminal building. My flight to Belgrade was leaving from a different terminal, so when I got to the transfer desk they knew there was no way that I could possibly make the connection.

At this point Air France truly impressed me with their customer service. They found me alternate flights and put me up in a hotel and fed me. (I know they're obliged to do some of that under law, but they were genuinely helpful and pleasant to deal with - I felt like they cared about me as a customer).

I won't go into the details about the rest of the trip..

In any case I had booked for my trip to WebFest in September a few weeks ago as well, as I prefer to get myself organised as far in advance as possible. I'd booked the exact same route and combination of flights, so based on my experience on the 13th of July I knew that I would have to change my flights as I knew I would have identical issues.

This is where things fell apart.

As I'd booked the flights via Expedia Air France politely told me that I would have to raise the issue with them. So I contacted Expedia who weren't overly helpful until I insisted that they deal with the issue. Queue me spending about an hour on the phone to them and having to listen to their hold music a lot .. After being passed through several levels of their customer service team Expedia told me that Air France were refusing to change the flights without charging me both a fee for the change as well as the difference between the flights. Why? Because as far as Air France's policies are concerned the connection in Paris was "legal". (Seemingly Air France consider any connection of 45 minutes or more to be feasible in CDG)

So I paid the fee to Expedia and now have the flights booked in a manner that I will actually be able to get to my destination ..

However I was not happy with how Air France handled the situation. While I could understand if I had been asking to make a change based on some personal preference or whim, as far as I'm concerned being able to get to my destination is pretty fundamental. Air France shouldn't be allowing people to book connections unless they're possible.

So again I ended up on the phone with Air France last week. Unfortunately the person I was speaking to couldn't assist me, but they assured me that they'd get their supervisor to call me back. That never happened, so I rang again this afternoon. While the lady I spoke to was very polite and helpful she couldn't help me and I've now been asked to submit a formal complaint to their customer service team.

I'm disappointed.

So tomorrow, or at some point this week, I'll submit my complaint to Air France, but I doubt they'll do much to help me this time.

Will I keep flying Air France? For the moment I probably will, but I know I won't be booking via 3rd party services ever again.

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July 26, 2011

My OSX Essential Apps in 2011

Apple 27" iMac

Apple 27" iMacAfter my issues with the Lion upgrade I ended up wiping the hard drive on my iMac and doing a completely fresh install.

I posted previously about a "spring clean" on a Mac and which applications I considered to be "essential" (and why)

That was almost two years ago, so while it's still a handy point of reference for me it's due an update.

So my essential software list in 2011 is probably not that different, but it's still slightly different:

  • Evernote - I use it for keeping track of my "todo" lists
  • DropBox - very handy for sharing files between multiple locations.
  • Quicksilver - while Lion's "Launchpad" goes some way towards providing this kind of functionality it's still not there yet as far as I'm concerned
  • Skype - I've been using this a lot over the last year or so to communicate with industry colleagues.
  • Microsoft Remote Desktop - for accessing Windows servers ..
  • Last.fm - I listen to music while working (and playing) so Last.fm is my tool of choice.
  • Tweetdeck / Seesmic - both are social network clients. Seesmic uses Microsoft Silverlight and hasn't been "happy" since I upgraded to Lion. Tweetdeck uses Adobe Air and seems to be more stable since the upgrade
  • Pixelmator - handy for editing screenshots, photos etc
  • Flickr - the Flickr desktop tool for uploading photos
  • Blip.tv - for video uploads
  • iShowUHD - for doing screencasts / tutorials
  • Video to Flash Converter - one of my hobbies involves films, so being able to convert .mov to .flv is handy for blogging ..
  • Ecto - desktop blog software.
  • Mac Update Desktop - very handy utility / service that keeps track of the software you have installed and lets you know when updates / upgrades are available. It also does a good job of managing the downloads and installs.
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July 24, 2011

Apple OSX Lion Turns My Desktop Into An Expensive Paperweight

OSX Lion

OSX LionI wrote the other day about my experiences upgrading two iMacs to run Apple's latest release - OSX Lion. At the time I hadn't had any major issues and was still in a "honeymoon period" with the new distro.

Unfortunately that all changed the next morning.

While the main machine at home, which I'm currently using, appears to not have any issues with the upgrade, it's a totally different story with my work desktop.

On arriving in the office on Friday morning I could not login. At first I thought that I'd simply mistyped my password. But I hadn't.

My login was refused.

After spending several minutes trying every possible password combination (very slowly and carefully) I thought I'd do a bit of online research to see if anyone else had been hit with this issue.

My suspicions were confirmed - there are multiple posts in various forums of other users having the same issue. Post-upgrade they couldn't login to their Macs either. There also seem to be several other issues related to logging in to other services post-upgrade which suggests that there may be an underlying issue related to how users and permissions were upgraded(?).

There are several potential fixes offered on the Mac user forums, though none of them have worked for me so far. I did, however, find another possible solution on the Thursby software site which suggests that AdmitMac might be causing my issue, though I won't be able to confirm this until tomorrow morning (fingers crossed!)

In any case, even if the issue is not directly related to AdmitMac in my case, that so many other users have had similar issues is quite worrying.

At the moment I have no plans to upgrade my other machines until I am 100% sure that Apple has resolved this specific issue, because I really don't need any more expensive paperweights!

So for now I am going to be working on my MacBook Pro ..

UPDATE - I followed the instructions on the Thursby site and it made no difference.

UPDATE 2: I did a reinstall (which took a really long time). I was able to login as one of my "new" users and tried to reset the password for the original user. Logged out in order to log back in and I now can't login at all again :(

So what are my options at this stage?

I'm beginning to think that a completely fresh install might be the only sane option ie. wipe the hard drive completely and start from scratch

UPDATE 3 - I wiped the hard drive and did a completely fresh install of Lion. I've no idea how useful the Time Machine backups are going to be, but I'll be looking at them tomorrow if I can. Due to the way I work most of the really important stuff isn't stored on the local hard drive anyway, so it's more of an inconvenience than a "disaster". On the plus side it means that it's a nice fresh, clutter free, install :)

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July 23, 2011

Houses – Budva, Montenegro

Houses - Budva, Montenegro by blacknight
Houses - Budva, Montenegro, a photo by blacknight on Flickr.

While wandering the streets of Budva I snapped a few shots of the houses, streets and other things that caught my attention.

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July 22, 2011

Apple OSX Lion Upgrade and First Impressions

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Apple's OSX Lion is now available and Mac users are all upgrading to it (or at least most of the ones I know are .. )

Before you can even attempt the upgrade you should run "software update" on your machine, as Apple has released several updates in the last few days that are essential. Once you've done that you can head over to the "App Store" and grab your copy. I've no idea what Apple have done with regard to licensing, but I'm seeing it as available to install on all my machines after purchasing a single license. (If anyone knows what Apple has done about licensing I'd love to know .. though I'm not going to wade through the thousands of blog posts on the new release to find out!)

As James points out, the installer file will automatically get deleted during the upgrade, so if you want to burn a copy to DVD (or create a bootable USB key) then you need to that before running the installer. (I found this out the hard way!) As a sidenote, seemingly it is possible to download it again onto a machine, but I couldn't get it to work for me ..

Regardless of how fast your machine might be it will take about an hour for the full install to run its course. Apple seems to have taken a leaf out of Microsoft's book with their own "special" interpretation of time ie. 17 minutes in Apple's space time continuum is much closer to 45 minutes in reality ..

Eventually your machine will reboot into a new install of Apple OSX Lion.. You'll either be greeted with the login prompt or your desktop (depending on how you're configured)

Unfortunately, however, your "shiny" install might not be that responsive at first, as its indexer (spotlight) will be running in overdrive as soon you boot!

The other thing that you'll probably discover, as I did, is that you'll need to run "Software Update" immediately in order to get a working version of iTunes (why they couldn't include the upgrade as part of the install process is beyond me .. ).

There are a few obvious and major changes to how things work in the new OSX. The biggest one for me is that mouse scrolling is backwards ie. it will now work well, backwards .. up is down, down is up .. Fortunately you can revert it to "sanity" via the Preferences panel:

Mouse preferences

Unchecking the box will make things work the way they used to ..

What else has changed?

Mail is a big one. Thomas covers some of the changes in his blog post. For me the big change is how the mailbox is displayed by default. It's going to take some tweaking of settings on my behalf to get it to "play nice" with my workflow. Font sizes also seem to have increased quite a bit, so I'm forced to scroll quite a bit more to see all my various folders. While there might be a relatively simple way to "fix" this I haven't found it yet.

The new search functions in Mail are very impressive and have already made my life that bit easier (I live out of my inbox .. )

The only major downside, which isn't even Apple's fault, is that several apps that I was using are currently broken badly, probably as the developers didn't update to account for changes. Hopefully they will sooner rather than later!

Like any OS upgrade I expect it will take me several days (or weeks) to discover the new features (and changes) that will impact how I use my machines. So far, however, I'm glad I upgraded.

UPDATE:

I may have spoken too soon :(

While my home desktop seems to be "happy" my desktop in the office is now an expensive paperweight. I tried to login this morning and couldn't. Seemingly quite a few Apple users have been hit with the same problem. There are several threads over on the various Apple forums with users complaining that they can't login to their desktops. There are several proposed solutions for resetting the login etc., but none of them worked for me. So I had to work from my MacBook Pro today .. I'm not impressed ..

 

 

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July 21, 2011

TopHill NightClub Budva (Video)

While I was in Budva I ended up in TopHill nightclub one night.

Here's some footage to give you an idea of the atmosphere:

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July 12, 2011

Tick Tock – Heading Off In Less Than 24 Hours

Budva weather forecast

I'll be flying out tomorrow morning early to Montenegro (via a few other places, but let's not focus too much on that!)

The weather for the area is pretty warm, so I'm hoping that I can work on my tan:

Budva weather forecast

Budva weather forecast

 

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July 11, 2011

A Couple of WordPress Plugins and Tips To Help With Migration

WordPress Logo

Image via Wikipedia

Moving from MovableType to WordPress involves a bit of fiddling about with redirects. How much fiddling you need to do will vary on your setup. In my case my MovableType URL structure was based loosely on a WordPress one, as I'd migrated from WordPress to MovableType previously.

Of course if things were that simple life would be a lot easier - and probably a bit more boring :)

I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say that "simply" redirecting a couple of things wasn't going to work for all posts .. ..

A couple of plugins that helped resolve this (assuming that it is actually resolved):

Redirection - a very powerful suite that logs 404s so that you can redirect on a per page / post / file basis or setup a solution to catch all the issues

Permalink redirect - handy if you need to update your permalink layout and don't want to lose traffic to the old links

For some reason, possibly the settings I had in my MT install, all comments were set to off on the imported posts. This post has a lot of handy tips on opening comments (or closing them) using MySQL ie. directly running queries on the database. A single SQL query is a lot faster than manually updating hundreds of posts!

WordPress SEO - helps with tweaking your WordPress powered site to maximise the SEO impact

WP Super Cache - One of the things I love about MovableType is that you can set it up to write static files so that no matter how much traffic you're getting Apache can do the heavy-lifting and MySQL only gets involved from time to time. Donncha's plugin suite brings sane caching to WordPress and helps make your site a lot more responsive

Subscribe to Comments Reloaded - while a lot of people seem to like offloading this kind of thing onto a 3rd party service I'm more comfortable running the comment subscriptions directly from my own server.

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