Alexa in my car…

car

Only the other day I was thinking how useful it would be to have Alexa in the car…

I use an Alexa device at home for timers, news, music, questions, and podcasts.

When driving, well before I start driving, I set up my phone via Bluetooth and then listen to music or podcasts through the car speakers. However if I want to skip a track or listen to another podcast, I either don’t skip, or I have to stop the car, park and then adjust the app to whatever I want to listen to.

It’s nice at home to say “Alexa, skip” or similar when listening to stuff.

Siri can do some stuff, but I find she isn’t as good as Alexa for some things. She’s great for sending texts for example via voice, but not quite as good as doing the music stuff, well I don’t subscribe to Apple Music is part of the issue, however I do have Amazon Prime.

So I was wondering if I could get Alexa for my car, but I generally think this whilst I am driving, so couldn’t search the web to find out.

However this week I saw Echo Auto on the Amazon website (well Alexa must have been listening).

What it does is it connects to the Alexa app on the phone and then plays through the car speakers.

Something else that looks useful is Waze integration, and I found this link on how to do that.

This looks like just what I was wanting…

However as we are still in lockdown and I haven’t actually filled my car with petrol since the middle of March. I am not driving long distances these days, which is when it would come in handy. Additionally, I am not doing too many short drives either.

I think it’s something I will add to my wish list and buy at a later date, once I start doing longer drives, which looks like it might be a few months away now, or even next year.

How are we using gas overnight with our new smart meter?

kettles on the boil
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

When we moved recently to a new tariff for our electricity and gas we had to have a smart meter installed. I was happy with the old system, but cheaper energy meant we had to go smart!

It has been interesting to see how much energy we are using and how that compares day to day.

Having moved the smart meter remote display to the kitchen, I started to notice that we seemed to be using a fair amount of gas and electricity overnight! This made no sense, as we didn’t have the heating on, no hot water was running and the only electrical device running was the fridge!

Observing over the week, I started to think, did we have a gas leak? Was something wrong with our smart meter? Was the smart meter display dodgy?

I thought I better contact our energy supplier. However first I decided to search the web to see if other people were having the same issue.

Well as it happens, they were.

Was something dodgy going on?

No.

What the “usage” was showing was the fixed daily  standing charge for the gas and electricity, which is added to the “bill” before any actual usage is added.

So it looks like first thing in the morning you have spent a lot on gas and electricity, whereas the reality its you haven’t, you’ve merely paid a charge to enable you to use gas and electricity.

Well that makes sense…

Though I wish something had been said about this when the whole thing was set up earlier this year.

I can now go and worry about something else now!

No more old Twitter

Back in August 2019 I wrote a blog post about how to use Chrome or Firefox extensions to use the “old” Twitter web interface instead of the new Twitter interface.

So you don’t like the new Twitter?

Well you can revert back to the old one in a couple of ways.

If you are running Chrome or Firefox then there is an extension you can install which forces your browser to use the old Twitter interface.

Alas, as of the 1st June, changes at Twitter has meant these extensions no longer work and you are now forced to use the new Twitter! When you attempt to use them you get this error message.

I am now looking for a Twitter client for my Mac which looks like the old Twitter…

I want the old Twitter back....

Harry Potter Teams and Zoom Backgrounds




The first time I went to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour was in 2015, just after they had added the Hogwarts Express and Kings Cross set to the tour. At the end of November 2019 we made a return visit, mainly to see how different it was dressed for Christmas and with snow.

I took a fair few photographs and have posted them to my other blog.

Some of my photographs I thought might make excellent Teams and Zoom backgrounds.

Right click the images to download the images for your personal use only.

Hogwarts Castle

The Great Hall

Diagon Alley

Gryffindor Dorm

Gringotts Bank

The Burrow

Dumbledore’s Office

The Potions Classroom

Yule Ball Ice Sculpture

The Leaky Cauldron

Hogwarts Express

4 Privet Drive

BBC Zoom and Teams Backgrounds




The amazing BBC Archive have posted a series of images of empty BBC Television sets across the years to be used as Zoom or Teams backgrounds.

You can visit the page select the background you want and then save to your computer.

Of course there are some classic (and modern) TARDIS backgrounds.

TARDIS

I also like the fact I could be self-isolating with Del and Rodney, well maybe not.

Then I could be in Tom and Barbara’s kitchen in the Good Life.

Or sitting at the back of a Grange Hill classroom.

Plenty to choose from.

Getting my printer replaced

One of the reasons I have this blog is for my personal benefit, so I can remember when I purchased items of kit, when they broke down and what I replaced them with.

After my current printer, an Epson XP-8500 started having problems, I realised I hadn’t blogged about getting that printer back in September 2018.

I bought the Epson as a replacement for a Canon printer I had, which itself had been a replacement for a wonderful Canon printer, the MP600R, that had lasted ten years….

I bought the Canon MP600R back in 2006. This was a somewhat expensive printer, but it had separate ink cartridges, a scanner, memory card slots (remember those) and could print printable CDs and DVDs.

The scanner was pretty decent, and it could print some excellent colour prints, if you used Canon paper and Canon inks. Compared to modern printers it was quite slow, but speed wasn’t always a key issue for me, picture quality was. I didn’t like the fact that you had to use Canon paper, but it was quite easy to get hold of, at local stationers and Amazon.

I was saddened when the print head failed  in May 2016.  The cost of repairing the MP600R was prohibitive, I would have been happy to replace the print head, but the cost of a replacement was around £150 and even then I wasn’t sure if it would have fixed the issue. So I recycled the Canon printer and replaced it with the Canon MG7752. I thought at the time that was an excellent replacement for the MP600R and hoped it would last as long as the printer it replaced.

Canon MG7752

Alas it wasn’t going to be and the MG7752 failed after two years in 2018 (just out of the two year guarantee period). Though I was happy to buy another Canon, in the end we went with the Epson XP-8500 in September 2018, which we got from John Lewis as they offered a two year guarantee and a good price.

Perfect for photography enthusiasts looking for exceptional photo printing and great all-round performance, the Epson Expression Photo XP-8500 will print, scan and copy to a high standard. The XP-8500 uses six individual inks for high quality colour prints, and features a large LCD touch screen and wireless printing functionality for easy use throughout your home. This compact and stylish printer has a small footprint so it’ll fit neatly into your set up.

I much prefer separate inks, as I think they are more economical than purchasing a combined colour ink cartridge. I wanted to print photographs, and also wanted to scan stuff as well. I also liked the fact it was wireless so I could Airprint from the iPad or the iPhone.

I was impressed with the photo printing which was quite fast, yet still excellent quality.

There were a few issues that I didn’t like. Now and again the printer would get lost on the network and you had to go through a process of power cycling the printer, cancelling the print job and printing again.

Over the last few months, I started to have issues with the photo paper feed, so much so that within the last month it stopped working altogether. I followed all the troubleshooting guides, but to no avail. As it was in lockdown, and we still needed to print, I decided to wait, though I did check it was still within the two year guarantee period.

I have been scanning a few photographs and other documents, and noticed that the quality in some areas was quite poor and blurry. It wasn’t the whole image which was blurred, just part of it.

So having a little time I phoned the John Lewis technical support line.

The end result was that due to the age of the printer, I could either have a replacement or a refund. At the time of calling there was very small range of printers in stock. So I initially decided to wait until later, as we could still print to A4, but I wasn’t sure how long that was going to last. In addition if I had refund, we would have to return the printer, so we wouldn’t be able to print. Also I had just forked out for a complete set of replacement inks which was about £90… 

Later that day I checked the printer range at John Lewis and was pleasantly surprised to see they must have had new stock come in.

They had the Epson Expression Photo XP-8605 which used the same cartridges as the XP-8500 and looked to be an upgraded version of the printer we had, but in white…

Perfect for photography enthusiasts looking for exceptional photo printing and great all-round performance, the Epson Expression Photo XP-8605 will print, scan and copy to a high standard. The XP-8605 uses six individual inks for high quality colour prints, and features a large LCD touch screen and wireless printing functionality for easy use throughout the home. This compact and stylish printer has a small footprint so it’ll fit neatly into your set up. You can print double-sided onto A4, and with dual paper trays you can feed A4 paper and photo paper at the same time.

To be honest the description and functionality was almost identical.

So I ordered the printer and phoned John Lewis back, who were really helpful. I could drop off the old printer at our local Waitrose and at the same time pick up our new printer.

I was slightly sceptical about ordering virtually the same model, but I wasn’t too sure that if I ordered a Canon, whether I would have the same issues I had with the MG7752.

I think I really miss the reliability of the MP600R.  In a similar story, I had in 2011 bought the HP PhotoSmart B110a in the main so I could print direct from my iPad using AirPrint, this was to complement the Canon. However just over a year after purchase and as I replaced the inks, the print head failed.

So here’s hoping that I get some decent life out fo the XP-8605.

Changing hosts…

Image by Colossus Cloud from Pixabay
Image by Colossus Cloud from Pixabay

I recently changed hosting for my WordPress blogs. My main reasons for changing were, my host was unable to update the version of PHP which would result in being unable to update to the most recent version of WordPress. They did offer me a new hosting contract, but I would then have to migrate my blogs across, so I decided that if I needed to do that I might as well review new hosts. I had had reliability issues with my existing host. I was also concerned about upgrading to SSL (https). Both Chrome and Safari were marking non-https sites as “non-secure”.

It’s not as though I was doing e-commerce on my blogs, but it looked like Google would drop non-https sites down in their search results. I also thought the “non-secure” identification might worry people.

There were a few challenges, mainly as I took the opportunity to move a couple of my blogs to a domain of their own. I say opportunity I wasn’t sure I could recreate the same setup with the new host that I had with the old one.

Wordpress
Image by Werner Moser from Pixabay

Decided to record and log what I had done, just in case I needed to do this again. Continue reading “Changing hosts…”

I want the old Twitter back….

Update

Alas, as of the 1st June, changes at Twitter has meant these extensions no longer work and you are now forced to use the new Twitter! Links have been removed to the extensions.

So you don’t like the new Twitter?

Well you can revert back to the old one in a couple of ways.

If you are running Chrome or Firefox then there is an extension you can install which forces your browser to use the old Twitter interface.

GoodTwitter for Chrome

GoodTwitter for Firefox

Install the extensions and your browser forces Twitter to use the old interface!

I want the old Twitter back....

There is another way without installing an extension which is as follows.

Click More

Click Settings and Privacy

Click About Twitter

Click Directory

Click Home (sometimes you click Notifications first)

You should then have old Twitter back.

So there is a lack of persistence, but there is also a quicker method is to use the URL

https://twitter.com/i/directory/profiles

which I’ve added to my bookmarks for quick access.

I can’t get this method to work on Safari and persist though.

They’re not deleted…

Flickr

In a recent blog post I reflected on if I should renew my Fickr Pro subscription.

I said

“I think the time has come, after eleven years to leave Flickr.”

So I decided not initially to renew my Pro subscription and look for alternatives to host my photographs online.

After some thought I realised I appreciated the way in which I used my Flickr account to not just store photogaphs, but also access them for images for blog posts and Twitter updates. However I still didn’t think $50 subscription was value for money.

So I was still going back and forth between do I subscribe or do I let it lapse.

However a decision by Flickr to retain all CC licensed photographs, has allowed me to defer my decision, as all my photographs are CC licensed, they haven’t been deleted.

At the time of writing, I am still thinking about paying the subscription, but I think I am learning towards yes.

Top Ten Blog Posts 2018

Over the last twelve months I have published 19 posts.

The post at number ten was from ten years ago, and contained a (now deleted) YouTube video on the new Skyfire browser for your Windows smartphone or PDA. Skyfire discontinued its Skyfire Web Browser in 2014.

The post at nine was now a rather dated post from ten years ago about how Scrabble’s owners were going to sue Scrabulous.

The eight most popular post was another ten year old post which was about when Apple was offering some free TV shows on iTunes.

The seventh post was from 2012 when my HP Photosmart printer died. My printer is dead! was a sorry tale about how replacing the ink cartridges on the HP B110a resulted it in destroying the print head.

The post at number six was Comic Book Fonts which was about the amazing comic book fonts from Comic Book Fonts.

The post at number five was wondering Where are my Comic Life Styles? I found them.

The fourth most popular post was about the free wifi (or lack of) on my holiday, Haven no wifi.

Polaroid Pogo printer

The post at three was about Dusting off the Pogo my old Polaroid Bluetooth pocket printer. Still going strong.

The second post was about when my iMac Fusion Drive Failed and had to have it replaced.

So the most popular post on the blog was my post about QR codes on chocolate bars, Cadbury QR Coding and Twirling was published in 2015 and was one of many posts I published on the use of QR codes back then.

Cadbury Twirl Bites QR Code