A little spring cleaning

This is why you need to open up your PC occasionally and give it a bit of TLC. The pile of grubby dust above is just six months worth from our always on media server.

I got into the habit of cleaning it out regularly after it started (unsurprisingly) to become pretty noisy and given that it is in our lounge that became an issue. It is amazing the difference that a really good clean makes.

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One important thing is that you MUST NOT use your normal hoover to suck out the dirt. This is a bad idea as it certainly take up the dust but most of the delicate components too. Get yourself one of the above, a cheap USB vacuum cleaner. There are plenty available on Amazon.

I’m hoping that doing this on a regular basis also increases the life of the machine as, while it is all backed up, it would be (will be?) a real pain when it finally gives up the ghost.

Have you considered opening up your machine to clean it? Do you have any tips on how to keep your PC in tip-top condition? Let us know!

A (Very) Simple File Manager in PHP

A while back I decided that I didn’t require my iPad any more so I sold it. On the whole I haven’t missed it until this week when I needed to do some testing for a project at work. Given that this was such a short term requirement buying an iPad just wasn’t sensible but I decided sitting in the local Apple store and spending half an hour doing the testing there was! However, part of what I needed to do was to save some screenshots and get them back to my work machine, something that the restrictions on the Apple store iPads make difficult.

The solution? I decided to write a simple web app that allowed me to upload and manage images from an iOS device (actually it works for pretty much any device mobile or otherwise). To begin with all I did was allowed the upload of files and then I extended this to list the uploaded files, view and delete them and finally, to download all files as a zip.

This all sits behind a password protected page on my web server and as a quick hack works pretty well, this is what it looks like:

neilatwork_co_uk_upload_

The server side code makes use of a number of PHP’s file handling capabilities and so I thought that others might also find this useful to see.

I have taken this as an opportunity to make my first commit to GitHub where you can see the code here. It is only there to serve as a sample, rather than a shining example of best coding practice. Hopefully it will be of some use to you.

 

The dio Naked Reversible USB cables

Reversible USB cables are, it seems, a lot like buses – you don’t see any for ages and then two come along in quick succession. Just last month I wrote about the Belaycord and now here is the dio Naked from moopti.

Like Belaycord this is also being offered through a Kickstarter campaign and as of writing there are just over two days before that closes. Rather than have to wait for mine to arrive (I have backed the project) moopti kindly sent me a sample to review which arrived today.

The first thing you notice is how well the dio Naked is made with metal caps at both ends and a strong braided nylon cable. However, the most striking thing is the USB plug has no boxed cover, it is just the plug itself, making it look very much like a bigger lightning plug.

Of course the advantage of this is that the cable inserts first time, every time, as you can see from the short video below:

Untitled

So no more hunting under the desk or in dark corners wondering if the cable is the right way round (how is it that it NEVER is?). Now it will always be right first time. My only disappointment is that we have had to wait so long for someone to work this out.

There isn’t much else one can say about a cable other than it does what is expected of it and, in this case, saves a whole load of frustration while it’s at it. What’s not to like?

Back the project over at Kickstarter and you could have yours before the end of June.

Crapware, courtesy of Oracle Corp.

I thought that the practice of forcing useless software onto users as part of an installation had died out but apparently not by the looks of this Java installer.

That this is being foisted upon us by Oracle, who clearly don’t need the little money they must be making from this, is a surprised as I thought this practice was restricted to smaller outfits but clearly not.

If you want to help stop this practice you can sign a petition at change.org here.

Thoughts on Apple Watch Battery Life

I have been wrestling with the idea of an Apple Watch for a while and admit that it is beautifully made but what is really putting me off is the need to charge the thing every single day.

On reflection I can see that could be considered a positive thing. My existing Pebble has what can only be described as a variable battery life ranging from about 2 to 5 days. I have never been able to work out what makes it drain quicker sometimes more than others but it does mean that I need to keep an eye on the battery to make sure that I have enough charge for the day ahead.

Apple Watch owners will not suffer from this affliction knowing that they will get a days battery life and then it will need charging so, for now, there is that element of certainty there. However, in my experience Apple products tend to start off at the stated battery life and quickly that diminishes. I do wonder how it will be before people are finding that it is no longer a days batter life but considerably less than that. And that is why I am, for now, sticking with the Pebble.

Photo: Yasunobu Ikeda via Flickr

Casting a Presentation to Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV

The last few years has seen the emergence of small devices that plug into the HDMI port of a TV, connect to your wifi, and allow you to stream from online services such as Netflix and Amazon.

What you also can do is “cast” content from a mobile device to the stick, content that includes movies, photos and music.

What isn’t currently possible is to cast documents to the stick and onto the screen which is a shame as it would be good to do so in situations where you might not have your laptop but do have the stick and a HDMI enabled screen. However, with a bit of foresight it is actually possible and I will show you how.

The following method is, I admit, a bit convoluted but it does work and involves converting a PowerPoint presentation to either a series of images or a video.

As a video

Choose Export from the File menu (where this appears depends slightly on the version):

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Select Create a Video:

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Choose the options – the defaults are probably fine.

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Now copy the exported file to your device (I did this via Dropbox).

For the actual casting I used Allcast which is available for both Android and iOS. Here is the app with the presentation running as a movie:

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And on the TV:

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If you have an Amazon Fire TV you will find that you can stop and start the video as needed.

As a series of images

Choose Save As from the File menu:

Screenshot_2015-05-09_14_42_38

Choose where you want the exported files to go and choose “PNG Portable Network Graphics” from the “Save As Type” drop down list.

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When asked choose to export all slides rather than just the current slide:

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Confirm the export:

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As before transfer the older of images to your device and cast through AllCast:

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Neither of these methods is perfect but they do serve a purpose until casting is added to native applications.

Too Much Apple Watch

I woke up this morning to find that Apple’s App Store has been overtaken by apps offering Apple Watch support. Nothing greatly surprising in that as it was officially launched today.

But does it really have to take up so much precious screen real estate? In fact given that I don’t have a watch and nor am I likely to be getting one anytime soon (due to this) can’t I make it go away altogether?

No, of course I can’t. That’s not allowed.

Opening Links in Evernote Client rather than Web

Despite all it’s foibles Evernote remains one of my most used apps and being able to link to it from elsewhere, such the task app I use, adds enormous benefit.

At one point you used to be able to generate links that when clicked would open up in the desktop app, these started evernote://. At some point these were lost and the link generator in the client only returned http:// links meaning that the request opened in the web site app. Problem with this is that it is slower and I usually have to authenticate again to get access.

I discovered last week that it is still possible to generate the old style links – what Evernote calls a “Classic Note Link” and I call a “Useful Note Link”. To get this link right click on the note in the note list and then hold down the Alt/Option button and you will see the label change from “Copy Note Link” to “Copy Classic Note Link”. Select and bingo you have an old style evernote:// link which opens in the desktop app.

Belaycords Reversible USB Lightning Cable

My Belaycords Reversible USB Lightning Cable arrived this morning and I’m pretty impressed and also left with the question why hasn’t this been done much, much sooner.

USB connectors have had one major problem (until the USB C arrived) in that they had to be inserted the right way round and when you were most likely to be doing that round the back of a PC in a dark corner it was bound to lead to frustration. It seemed that you had a 50/50 chance of getting it right but ended up always 100% wrong!

The Belaycord overcomes that shortcoming by making the connector reversible and it works. Again, why has nobody done this earlier?

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The cable is really well made with metal caps at both ends and a woven cable which seems incredibly long although it is only supposed to be four foot.

There’s not much more I can say about a cable other than great idea, why has it taken so long?!

Resolving “Error 1 – Operation not permitted.”

Trying to unpack a zip file this afternoon I kept coming across the error message “Error 1 – Operation not permitted.”. When I have had this before I have just switched from the default Archive app to Keka or Stuffit Expander and all has been good but for some reason that wasn’t working on this zip file.

Then I cam across the following tip on Stack Exchange. Drop into a terminal session, change to the directory with the zip file and run this command:

jar xvf <zip file name>

It worked a treat. Give it a go next time you get “Error 1 – Operation not permitted.” it might be just what you are looking for.