Archive for October, 2012

AppleCare

Sunday, October 21st, 2012 | Tech

One of the problems with the new AirPort Utility, 6.0+, is that it doesn’t have a DHCP clients table. This is obviously ridiculous, as anything claiming to be a router that can act as a DHCP server needs to have one, so I phoned AppleCare to sort it out.

They first asked me for the product’s serial number. But the problem is, this is genuinely invisible.

It’s below all those big symbols. Can you read that? I certainly can’t. No matter how close I move my face (human optics lacking a zoom function after all) and my eyesight is pretty good. Luckily, I managed to find it via AirPort Utility.

After some digging with first line, and some more with the senior I was passed through to, they eventually sorted it out for me – fair play to them as they basically spent twenty minutes talking me through how to bypass all of Apple’s security lockdowns to get the old software installed that does have the functionality.

Unfortunately by this point I had been on the call almost an hour, at a cost of £10 to myself, but they did at least solve the problem.

Leeds City College

Saturday, October 20th, 2012 | Photos

A week later, this photo had gone.

Humanism season

Friday, October 19th, 2012 | Humanism

This week saw the first meeting of the Humanist Society of West Yorkshire for this academic year. We run in academic years due to our venue following an academic calendar (it being an education centre and all, though with it being an adult one, that still seems a little strange).

It was rather manic with me having taken over as treasurer. Lots of people wanting to pay and I’m still not clear on everyone’s name in the society, so we ran out of time in the end and I’ll need to hand some of the membership cards out next meeting. All in all, lots of money collected though, which is the important thing.

The talk was interesting, Dr Bruce Turnbull talking about synthetic biology, but I had heard it before, as he had already given the talk at Leeds Skeptics earlier this year.

PHPNW12

Thursday, October 18th, 2012 | Events, Life, Programming

As part of my push to attend more conferences this year, and get out into the real world, I recently attended PHPNW12, a PHP developer conference that took place in Manchester.

I arrived on the Friday night and checked into the hotel across the road from the conference, the Britannia. With it’s sweeping balconied staircases it felt like I was in a 70s horror movie. The floors creaked and the light in the corridor outside my room flickered on and off constantly – indeed, it rather ruined the mood when they fixed it.

The Friday night featured a hackathon, though not feeling too well due to the tail end of a cold, I spent about 20 minutes hacking, then ate my pizza while I checked my emails for an hour and headed to bed, not to emerge until 12 noon the next day when I felt a bit better.

The talks were on the whole good – there was a real range in there, some had really interesting topics but due to their lack of experience presenting talks, where rather dull. Others were confident and entertaining speakers who despite presenting quite dull topics (caching is not going to be mega interesting) presented brilliant talks. On balance, I would certainly prefer them to focus more on speaker quality over topics next year.

On the Saturday night there was a social including dinner, at which I spent quite a bit of time getting to know some of the other people at Sky – I didn’t realise they were going as I hadn’t gone with Sky, but it was great to see some familiar faces there.

Overall, I found I learned a lot from it. If I can bring back just a few ideas to my own business then it will have been worth the expense.

Staircases in the hotel. I also tried the new panorama function on iOS6, on it’s side:

Apple TV

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 | Reviews, Tech

I’ve started using a spare computer monitor as a TV in my bedroom so that I could hook it up to my laptop and stream programmes onto a bigger screen when I wanted to.

However, it’s irritating having to cable everything up, so I purchased an Apple TV to stream directly to it. So far my experience has been on the whole positive, with a few drawbacks.

Set up was reasonably easy, and now I have it up and running, on both my laptop and my iPad I am able to select AirPlay mirroring and begin mirroring my screen onto my TV; it also sends the sound.

That said, not everything works perfectly. Here is how it looks so far:

  • Videos in iTunes mirror though there doesn’t seem to be a volume control I can activate from the iPad
  • TVCatchUp mirrors but without any volume control
  • BBC iPlayer mirrors from my iPad, and lets me control the volume with the iPad volume control
  • 4od blocks mirroring from my iPad
  • NFL GamePass mirrors from my iPad and lets me control the volume
  • Sky Go blocks mirroring from my iPad

It is worth noting that even though Sky think they’re being clever by blocking AirPlay mirroring on the iPad, I can just open up the video stream in a browser on my desktop, full screen it and AirPlay mirror my entire laptop screen.

The built app apps for Apple TV are pretty useless though. They don’t have any apps for iPlayer, 4od, GamePass or Sky Go (and even if they did, I can only have two devices on Sky Go anyway), so I can’t imagine I’ll be doing much with my Apple TV than mirroring a different device to it.

It would certainly be nice if I could use it as a standalone box to watch things on, but until they open it up for third party apps, I can’t see me getting much use out of it that way.

MacBook Pro with Retina: First Impressions

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012 | Reviews, Tech

Last week, I replaced my aging 13″ MacBook Pro with a new MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Here are my impressions so far…

I went for the 15″ rather than the 13″ because a) they didn’t do the Retina Display in a 13″, but more importantly, b) the new 15″ is the same weight as the 13″, so it’s just as portable and gives me a bigger screen to work on, as the 13″ was starting to grate on me a little. It is reasonably light, though the bigger size means it won’t fit in my current sleeve.

The screen looks amazing!

Getting started was easy – but only because I paid for the ethernet adapter. I simply backed up my current laptop to my Time Capsule (you do have a Time Capsule, right?), then turned it off, connected my new laptop to the Time Capsule and restored the entire system.

This worked for most things, but not quite everything – for example, I had to copy over my hosts file from a backup, as well as my system paths, and most applications needed me to login again and some thought it was a different device (well, I guess it is, but others didn’t notice a difference). All my files and applications came back and I just logged in as normal though, very smooth.

In general, I was expecting it to be faster. It has a faster processor, and SSD hard drive and more memory, so I was hoping things would open lightning quick. They open quicker than on my old laptop, but it’s not instant like the stripped down, no crap on the system demo laptops you find in the Apple Store.

The wake up time is a lot slower than my old laptop. I used to just open the lid and was able to log in, this one there is a distinct few seconds wait while it wakes up.

There is no light or battery indicator on the case. My old one had a light on the front which told me when it had actually gone to sleep, and a button I could press on the side to activate a series of five LEDs telling me how much charge was left. This one has neither.

It’s very, very thin!

I’ll reporting back after I’ve been using it a while.

Full Tilt is back

Monday, October 15th, 2012 | Distractions

Last year, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission suspended and then revoked the gambling license of Full Tilt Poker, one of the biggest poker sites on the internet.

Since then everything has been quite, but earlier this month, Poker Stars (the biggest poker site on the internet) announced it had acquired Full Tilt and would be re-launching it in early November.

It’s going to be maintained as a separate product from PokerStars.com and players will have access to their existing accounts and balances. This is good times as Full Tilt was my favourite site (especially for when you’re bored and want to play a bit of rush poker 😉 ).

Life at the BBC

Sunday, October 14th, 2012 | Tech, Thoughts

Having heard another talk about the BBC’s technology side on Sunday, I’ve come to the conclusion that it must be a pretty awesome place to work.

While they don’t perhaps have the funds that private sector organisations do, I guess I assumed that being a public institution that would be large and lumbering, risk adverse and slow to react.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

For example, they use Scrum. Scrum is an agile methodology used for developing software in the real world (ie, a world where the client is always changing their mind). But they don’t just use it for software – they use it for managing projects right across the business.

Secondly, they’re really up on technology. The speaker on Sunday was telling me about how they had developed an open source project for parsing Gherkin – a lot of software developers might not even know what Gherkin is!

They’ve also previously developed their own JavaScript library, which was a contender alongside jQuery and Prototype (you know, before everyone accepted jQuery was the best, but then everyone realised you could actually just use selectors and not load any library at all).

Not to mention the pioneering work with iPlayer. They launched iPlayer in 2007 – that is five years ago! I can’t really remember a time before iPlayer now, but I don’t think there was many other people doing it at the time. Not to mention that they also have iOS and Android apps available for it too.

In reality, the BBC is no lumbering institution at all – it’s an fast moving, agile, technology-savvy organisation that must be amazing to work at.

Ryder Cup

Saturday, October 13th, 2012 | Distractions

Almost every sport, even the dullest and boring, has one event that enjoys such a good atmosphere, that it makes the sport, at least for a brief period, actually watchable.

For American football, it’s the Super Bowl, for athletics it is the Olympics and for cricket, it is the IPL.

For golf, it’s the Ryder Cup.

A competition that takes place every two years, the Ryder Cup differs from normal golf tournaments in that instead of each golfer playing for themselves, it is a competition between two teams – Team USA and Team Europe.

So unlike regular golf that is dull and boring, in the Ryder Cup you are given the chance to cheer on your team as players work together to further their team and defeat their opponents. And the crowd really do cheer – it becomes something akin to a scene out of Happy Gilmore as the crowd scream for their side, even as the golfers play their strokes.

Team Europe having emerged victorious two years ago in Cardiff, they now went to Chicago (the venue alternates each time) to try and defend their title.

After day one is wasn’t looking too good – Team USA had a 5-3 lead and by the end of day two the lead had increased to 8-4, and only stemmed at that because of a magnificent finish by Ian Poulter who managed consecutive birdies on the last five holes!

So it came down to the final day, 12 points available meaning that without taking into account draws, we could only lose 4 matches and needed to win the other 8 to draw things 14-14 – thus allowing us to retain the Ryder Cup as the current champions.

Again, everything hung on Ian Poulter who was the only early starter to be trailing his opponent. If he could pull it back, there would still be hope for Team Europe to make their greatest comeback ever, but if he lost it would be all over.

By this point, the NFL had kicked off with the 49ers via the Jets, so my live blog of the game includes updates from both the NFL game and the Ryder Cup.

19:01:39

Poulter needs to win his game if Team Europe is to have a chance. Meanwhile, the @49ers will start from the half way line.

Somehow, Poulter did pull it back, gaining the valuable point for Team Europe, and our other golfers put in a magnificent performance too to bring things all level.

It all game down to the final two games, Kaymer v Striker and Molinari v Woods. On the last hole Kaymer managed to clinch the victory, ensuring we had at least equal points to Team USA, meaning that they wouldn’t take the trophy away from us!

As it happens Tiger Woods went on to miss a put that allowed Molinari to tie the game, and thereby give us a one point lead! This was bad news for the bookies who ended up losing a huge amount of money (money they wouldn’t have lost if it had ended 14-14).

Cameron’s speech

Friday, October 12th, 2012 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

David Cameron recently addressed the Conservatives at their party conference, which has never been his strong point, but he make some points that really hit the zeitgeist.

The two phrases I think are notable are that he wanted to “get behind people who want to get on in life” and that he did not have a “hard luck story” but said that “I am not here to defend privilege, I’m here to spread it”.

This has been a topic of much debate in recent times, given the rise of the victim mentality that plagues increasingly more people as they define themselves by the disadvantages that we demand should automatically entitle their opinion to credence.

This is a strange concept – the idea that you can solve privilege by granting yourself the privilege to hold opinion while refusing to grant others such a privilege, but it never the less one that has been widely adopted and as a result, caused a strong backlash.

It also potentially opens up an avenue for the Tories to try and position themselves as the new workers party. With Labour being a sad joke and the Lib Dems being the sniveling sell-outs that we currently are, I don’t think we should rule out the possibility that people will be sold on this message (I also grow tired of fellow Lib Dems constantly tweeting about what the Tories are doing – it’s our fault their in government!).

Cameron knows his audience, and it isn’t us, so he isn’t trying to appeal to us. He knows who he can win votes from and he is going after them aggressively. So maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t a particularly bad speech after all.