Going back in time for Windows

I quite enjoyed the tweets this week from Microsoft celebrating the 1985 initial release of Windows.

My first experience of Windows was some time later with Windows 3.0 and remembering the big advance that Windows 3.1 brought to computing. It was probably Windows 3.1 that really made me appreciate the affordances that technology could bring to teaching.

I remember the huge fanfare that was Windows 95 and what a step change it was from 3.1. We even had video now on Windows, though it was quite small.

I never really moved to Windows 98 and moved straight to Windows 2000 when I started a new job in 2001. Well the laptop I was provided with did use Windows Me, but I soon moved over to 2000. I liked Windows XP and thought it was a huge improvement over previous versions of Windows.

After that I was more of a Mac person and rarely used Windows. I did have to use Windows 7 for a while, but found it confusing as I hadn’t used Windows for a long time. Today I have been known to use Windows 10, but my main computing platform these days is still OS X.

No more Flixter

I have never been a fan of the Ultraviolet process for the digital copies of films.

I blogged in 2013 about my dissatisfaction with the Ultraviolet process for getting hold of the digital copies of the films I had bought.

You didn’t even use Ultraviolet to watch the films, you needed to use a different service, in the UK that meant using Flixter.

I never liked the Flixter app for watching films, it crashed way too often. It never remembered where you got into a film, so you had to either start watching it again, or try and fast forward to where you had left off. In theory you could download and watch the film offline, but I found that even then the app would try and authenticate online.

In January 2018 I blogged about how I was expecting to use Ultraviolet to access the digital copy, but was pleasantly surprised to find that I got an iTunes digital copy.

I got e-mails in early 2019 informing me that the Ultraviloet service was going to shut down in July 2019. I didn’t think that would be too much on an issue as it was indicated that I would still be able to access my movie collection through Flixter regardless of the demise of Ultraviolet.

Now it would appear that with the demise of Ultraviolet that Flixter has also decided to shut up shop.

In theory I won’t lose my digital films as they will be transferred to Google Play.

I am slightly disappointed I didn’t have any choice in which service they will be transferred to, as I usually either use iTunes or Amazon Video. I have a few films on Google Play, but I usually don’t use it. Looks like I will be using it more now.

Re-tuning the EyeTV

Every few years you often need to re-tune your Freeview TV as the way the channels are organised and broadcast changes. Sometimes my TV lets me know, sometimes it’s a broadcaster that says something on air (which I usually miss) and more usually I find a load of channels missing and wonder what happened. This was certainly the case when my children mentioned missing channels on our Sony KDL48W605. So a quick check of the Freeview website and it was apparent that a re-tune was needed of the TV.

If the TV needed doing, I guessed that EyeTV on my Mac would also need to do it too. The mechanism for doing this is, is not entirely intuitive. What you have to do, is to use the EyeTV Setup Assistant.

EyeTV setup assistant

Go through the screens until you reach Auto-Tune TV Channels and then click the Auto-Tune button.

auto tune screen

So I let the EyeTV software do its job and all my channels were back to how they should be.

EyeTV EPG Problems

I can’t quite believe I have been using EyeTV 410 for over fifteen  years now and that the original Firewire based hardware is still working, though the software has gone through a few upgrades.

The EyeTV 410 has a DVB-T digital TV tuner that allows you to both watch Freeview TV on your Mac, but also record it. You can then export it to watch on mobile devices. It’s also possible to stream live TV and recorded programmes to mobile devices, not just on the local network, but it’s also possible do that over the internet.

As with Digital TVs, the EyeTV uses the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) that is transmitted alongside the video.  

I was having a few issues with the EPG as it was picking up any information from the BBC channels. I could view the channels, but no channel information was available, which meant I couldn’t (easily) set recordings, though with iPlayer I do that less and less now.

I checked for software updates, no the software was up to date.

I tried to Update the DVB Programme Guide, but that didn’t work.

Update DVB Programme Guide

I then cleared the EPG database.

Clear EPG database

That didn’t work either.

I then went through the setup assistant which is accessed through the EyeTV menu.

I then went through the setup assistant which is accessed through the EyeTV menu.

You usually use the assistant when setting up the device, but now and again I find it useful to “reset” the EyeTV settings, or when Freeview require a re-tune.

EyeTV setup assistant

Going to the Auto-Tune TV Channels screen of the assistant, I clicked Auto-Tune and let the assistant do its job.

auto tune screen

This worked and I could see the channel information for the BBC channels in the EPG.

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

Yay, unlimited tethering

iphone 6s plus Photo credit: Yanki01 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

I can’t quite believe it, but I can now use all of my data allowance for tethering on my Three mobile phone contract. There was a 4GB monthly limit before, but now I can use all of my data allowance for tethering, and as I have an unlimited data contract, that means I have unlimited tethering.

Yay!

I was very pleased when I moved to Three in 2015 having been with EE and before that T-Mobile for many (many) years. There were quite a few reasons I moved to Three, the first was that for the previous few years we had been living in broadband hell with a terrible 1Mb/s ADSL pipe. My contact with EE was only 3G and I had had it for a fair while, but even then I reached my 2GB fair use limit quite often. The main challenge though was EE coverage at our house which was fine for phone calls, but 3G only worked when the phone was in certain places in the house!

So with all those reasons I decided to move mobile phone providers to Three. My main requirements were, 4G connectivity and unlimited data.

3G was fine for e-mail and general browsing, but for streaming video, and steady HD video at that a 4G connection was preferable.

Though I don’t mind data limits, I do think having a limit constrains how you use data on a device, turning off updates, 

So I managed to get a SIM only unlimited data contract with Three for just £17 per month, which I thought was very good value for money. The constraint at the time was a 4GB limit for tethering.

I use tethering when travelling, but I also used it at home when I needed some bandwidth, as back then I had a slow ADSL connection, less than 1Mb/s.

I reflected on the arrival of 4G earlier, in 2012 when it was launched in the UK. Back then, the tariffs from EE were quite expensive, £36 per month would get you just 500MB of data. That was one of the key reasons I didn’t upgrade my EE account to 4G (and I didn’t have a 4G device).

So £17 for unlimited 4G data for me seemed like a good deal. After having the phone and contract for a while and running out of data on the odd month, I did decide to get a data booster which gave me an additional 6GB personal hotspot, which at the time cost me an additional £6 per month (now £8 per month). I did that for a few months, before cancelling, as though it was useful, I didn’t think it was value for money.

A couple of years ago, Three changed their unlimited data deal to include 30GB of tethering, I was tempted, but it was a lot more expensive than the £17 per month I was paying. I didn’t think that was worth it for the odd month when I needed more than 4Gb of tethering. I was also on the edge of getting a fibre connection at home, so that was negate the need to tether at home.

Once I had FTTC, streaming video at home became much easier, so less need to use my mobile data contract for streaming. The same was said for the bandwidth for other things such as Skype.

Since I got FTTC I have only run out of tethering a few times, and one of those times it was a mistake. 

Having a limit on tethering meant that when tethering I would try and avoid high bandwidth activities on the laptop and switch to the phone. So now having unlimited tethering means I don’t need to worry anymore.

Yay!

Check out Three mobile contracts.

Is it time to go?

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

Back in the middle of the 2000s we saw an explosion of social media sites, we saw the birth of YouTube in 2005, Twitter hopped onto the web in 2006. Flickr was launched as a social photography site in 2004.

I joined Flickr in April 2007, a month after I had joined the Twitter. I think the reason I joined was that many of my professional peers were either members, or were joining at the same time.

The first photograph I uploaded was of Admiralty Arch having just emerged from the Strand Tube station. The photo was taken on March 30th 2007 with a Nokia N73 mobile phone.

Admiralty Arch

I went Pro in July 2007 and have then since paid every year for the professional account. I have at the time of writing 14,280 photographs on Flickr.

I like to think that this is my top photograph, it’s of a zebra at the West Midland Safari Park.

zebra

The reality is that it’s a classroom in Gloucestershire College.

a classroom in Gloucestershire College

I use Flickr partly as a place to store photographs, but mainly to collate photographs into “albums” so I can find them easily when I need images for presentations, to share images on Flickr, or to use images on my blogs.

An example workflow, is to take a photograph of some nice food, edit and post to Instagram, then use IFTTT to upload that resulting image not just to Twitter, but also to Flickr. I can then download the image from Flickr and upload to the blog. I use to occasionally embed straight from Flickr, then that stopped working for a while, so I stopped using it.

However I think the time has come to cull my Flickr account. I don’t think it’s worth $50 per year. The value is there, but I am not sure if that value is $50. I am a little disappointed that existing Pro subscribers are not only not grandfathered in, on their old pro rate, but that they don’t even get the introductory discount of 40% that new subscribers get.

I still have a little time to reflect on this, but I think the time has come to say goodbye to Flickr.

I’m sorry I can’t play that music….

I have been messing about with a few voice assistant hub including the Amazon Echo.

One feature of these devices is the ability to ask them to play music, either an individual track, an album, an artist, a playlist or even just a genre or decade.

If I ask Alexa to play a particular song, she delves not just into my personal music collection on the Amazon Music app but also what is available through my Prime subscription. If the song isn’t available I could either subscribe to Amazon Music streaming service, or purchase the song. The Alexa ecosystem is built around my Amazon account and the services available to me as a Prime subscriber.

What Alexa doesn’t know that I have quite a large music collection on iTunes. She can’t see it, access it or play it.

With Google Home I have connected a free Spotify account to it. This is one of the key features of these devices that you can connect services you already subscribe to, so you can control them via voice. Of course the reason I have a free Spotify account is that Google Home would much prefer I was connected to Google Music, and it certainly won’t let me connect to either my home iTunes library (where virtually all my music is) nor to Amazon Music. So when I ask Google Home to play a particular music track, she gets annoyed and says that she can’t as that is only available on Spotify Premium. Now Amazon Echo can play from Spotify, so some overlap there.

This is one of the challenges of these devices that they are quite reliant on subscriptions to other services. Apple’s HomePod only really works if you have an Apple Music subscription. You can stream Spotify to the Homepod using AirPlay, but you couldn’t use voice control to say “Hey Siri, play my favourite Spotify playlist”. That wouldn’t work.

So at the moment my main focus is on the Amazon Echo and linking it into Amazon Music through my Prime subscription.

I like the concept of voice control and for many features these devices work well, but they do tie you into their ecosystems.