David Artiss

Author: David (page 46 of 111)

Still busy…

Due to updates, over time, that have been made to the site and the age of this article, this post may not display correctly. In particular images may be missing or product reviews display incorrectly.

If this is the case and you'd particularly like me to fix it, then please reach out to me on Twitter.

A paint brush, yesterday

A week ago I mentioned how I’m rather quiet, mainly working on a massive update to my YouTube Embed plugin.

Well, my original excuse of looking at moving house is still valid – mine goes on the market this week, so I’m busy painting, cleaning and anything else I can think of (oh, how my knees hurt!). And it’s my birthday this weekend, so there’s some preparation around that (lots of people coming to the house for a day-long party). Of course, once that’s over I’ll be ordering my PS3 and be engrossed in that. However, I hope normality will return soon afterwards.

The YouTube Embed changes are bigger than I thought – simply modifying the original code has become far too unwieldy so I’m going to be looking at completely re-writing the “back end”, as well as trying to come up with creative solutions to keep the code easier to maintain.

Update 14/04/2011

After a review of YouTube Embed on the Yoast website, I now have even more work to do! Joost has provided me with lots of suggestions for improvement. BTW, only 3.5 out of 5 stars but the best YouTube plugin he’s reviewed so far ūüėČ

Oh, and after a house evaluation it would appear my painting of the kitchen was a success – the house price has gone up ¬£5k since it was valued last year and they said it “looked like new” ūüėÄ

How to make Windows 7 look a little more like Windows 8

Due to updates, over time, that have been made to the site and the age of this article, this post may not display correctly. In particular images may be missing or product reviews display incorrectly.

If this is the case and you'd particularly like me to fix it, then please reach out to me on Twitter.

Early preview versions of Windows 8 have been available to select people and, as per usual, details have leaked out – mainly a few screenshots and details of some of the added functionality.

And that means some people have already been busy creating ways of getting that functionality on existing Windows 7 builds.

First up, courtesy of Windows 8 Center, you can download the Windows 8 wallpaper.

Secondly, if you look at the screenshot carefully, you’ll notice a user tile in the bottom right of the screen. This will, in Windows 8, connect to live accounts, etc. Meantime, a version for Windows 7 is available, called Taskbar UserTile,¬† that uses an icon of your choice and adds a few quick options, including shutdown.

Last up, Windows 8 modifies the colours of your windows to adapt to the current wallpaper (in Windows 7 it’s just the taskbar that does this). Get the same effect with Aura.

Windows 8 Wallpaper

Download Taskbar UserTile

Download Aura

Nintendo 3DS, Windows 7 Mobile and Microsoft Surface

Due to updates, over time, that have been made to the site and the age of this article, this post may not display correctly. In particular images may be missing or product reviews display incorrectly.

If this is the case and you'd particularly like me to fix it, then please reach out to me on Twitter.

It’s been a week of trying out tech, with a recent visit from Microsoft promoting their business “goodies” particularly giving me a chance to try some new products out!

Microsoft surface

The highlight, for me, was trying out Microsoft Surface, the tabletop multi-gesture surface (or, probably more accurately, it’s a smoked glass touch sensitive coffee table). The one I tried was their original ¬£10 model but with Samsung now manufacturing these the price has already come down to ¬£5k. Once it hits around ¬£1k they think the home user may be interested.

But this isn’t just a large table-top tablet. The abilities of the Microsoft Surface are really quite amazing, which it’s able to implement using IR sensors below the table top to detect levels of heat.

Two demonstrations of what it could do stood out. First, a transparent pass card was placed on the surface. Embedded in the card, but not visible to the eye, were the user credentials. Upon seeing this the Surface, below where the pass card was placed, showed a keypad and allowed the user to enter their password. This means the card itself became the pin pad.

The other demonstration used a combination of physics and graphics. Balls dropped down the screen to settle on one side. You were then able to pick a number of disks and place on the surface, each performing different tasks – one could adjust the gravity, another would be seen as a solid object, etc, etc. So the gravity one, when turned, would cause the balls to realistically tumble around the table depending on where you’d pointed it. A simple demo but powerfully showed what the table was capable of.

I’d say the only thing about Surface that I wasn’t keen on was the slightly matt finish of it – I’m guessing to reduce finger prints, etc.

Windows Phone 7

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve not tried out Windows Phone 7 before and, thanks to a nice man from Microsoft, I was able to try out his personal HTC phone (which I believe was an HTC Mozart). As a die-hard Android fan, I have to say that I was quite impressed. The interface looks very nice and is very smooth in use.

I’m still not sold, however, due to various shortcomings of the OS (lack of apps, 3rd party apps can’t fully multi-task, etc).

I’m told that at my place of work, who currently use Blackberries, will shortly also be offering managers the option to use Windows Phone 7 instead. I’d go for the Microsoft option.

Nintendo 3DS

Also, a few days ago, I had my first opportunity to try out the Nintendo 3DS running Pilotwings. It was only a brief try-out, concentrating on the game and the 3D camera.

The 3D is, it has to be said, impressive – it has a real feeling of depth. It takes a second or so to adjust your eyes to it, though, and there is my main issue – after playing for a few minutes my eyes struggled to adjust back to normal. A colleague of mine started to get a headache.

Ignore all the tat in the papers at the moment about massive returns as that’s not the case. However, BBC’s Click programme recently reviewed the 3DS and said that pretty much everyone that tried it in their office switched off the 3D after a few minutes. If the 3D is all you’re buying it for – try first!

If, though, you’re happy to turn off the 3D then you’ll instead have a powerful games console. The graphics are vastly improved and the improved controls are easy to use.

Moving External Scripts

Due to updates, over time, that have been made to the site and the age of this article, this post may not display correctly. In particular images may be missing or product reviews display incorrectly.

If this is the case and you'd particularly like me to fix it, then please reach out to me on Twitter.

One of the problems with having external scripts on your site is that you have little control over them – caching and the like are out of your hands.

The solution I’m using, via cPanel, is a weekly cron job that copies external scripts to a folder on my own server. And it will only do this if the script has only changed, as well.

I’m no Linux expert (or probably even amateur, if I’m honest) so it took a while to find the right code to use, but here is the result…

wget -N  --directory-prefix=[local folder] [script location]

Simply change [local folder] to where you wish the script to be copied to and [script location] to where the external script is held (including script name). If you wish to perform multiple copies you can append them together with &&.

So an example may be…

wget -N  --directory-prefix=public_html/wp-content/themes/artiss  http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js

This would copy the AdSense code show_ads.js to a theme folder named “artiss”.

It's, oh, so quiet

Due to updates, over time, that have been made to the site and the age of this article, this post may not display correctly. In particular images may be missing or product reviews display incorrectly.

If this is the case and you'd particularly like me to fix it, then please reach out to me on Twitter.

I know there’s been a lack of content recently. However, this is due to a number of factors…

  1. I’m very busy on version 2 of my YouTube Embed plugin – a huge change and my most complex plugin yet – this is taking a big chunk of my time.
  2. I’m using the excellent new Google Page Speed Online to look at various improvements to site speed. I’ve also been, and will continue to, making changes to this site.
  3. Spent far too much time trying to sort out a technical issue with Streamline. It’s still not resolved and I’m sure, at the rate they’re going, a rant post is imminent.
  4. I get a lot of this work done at home in the evening. However, I’m looking at moving house so apart from traipsing around various properties, I’m also getting lots of DIY done as well.

I’m also expending a bit of time preparing for my birthday in a couple of weeks time. It’s a, erm, “special” birthday and I’ve asked for money or Amazon gift vouchers – I’ll then be the proud owner of a Playstation 3! I should add that all the preparation is deciding what games and accessories to buy ūüėČ

However, I do have a couple of articles to publish so, when I find time, I’ll try and get those completed.

 

Designing WordPress & How to Build a Better Blog

Due to updates, over time, that have been made to the site and the age of this article, this post may not display correctly. In particular images may be missing or product reviews display incorrectly.

If this is the case and you'd particularly like me to fix it, then please reach out to me on Twitter.

I recently came across John O’Nolan, a UK based core member of WordPress specialising in the UI, because of a plugin that he’s released, named UI Labs. This offers experimental WordPress admin UI features and is a great way for John to try out and get feedback for his ideas. I have it installed and am already benefiting from coloured tabs on my post and page screens, easily indicating the post types.

If you’re a WP developer I’d recommend following his Twitter feed.

Available on SlideShare are a couple of excellent presentations of his – again, if you’re “into” WordPress, these are excellent (and non-techie).

The first is titled “Designing WordPress” and was given at Heart & Sole 2011. Heart & Sole is a UK event in which professionals working in Web design and development get together to to interact, share experiences and learn together.

And there’s a matching video of the presentation, courtesy of Vimeo

The second (and most recent) presentation is titled “Taking Control of WordPress: How to Build a Better Blog” and was given at TBU 11, another UK event but this time for travel bloggers.

Creative ZiiO Android 2.2 Update

Due to updates, over time, that have been made to the site and the age of this article, this post may not display correctly. In particular images may be missing or product reviews display incorrectly.

If this is the case and you'd particularly like me to fix it, then please reach out to me on Twitter.

The day has finally arrived and Android 2.2 (Froyo) is now available for download for the Creative ZiiO 7″!

Downloadable from the Creative website, it’s a 119MB file which is installed like any other app – this download includes both the Android update plus ZiiO firmware updates. Download links are at the bottom of this post.

According to Creative the changes are as follows…

  • Upgrades the OS¬†from Android 2.1 (Eclair) to¬†Android 2.2 (Froyo).
  • Adds support for Text-To-Speech.
  • Adds the new¬†Recovery mode.
  • Adds¬†the new Amazon Kindle application (for US region only).
  • Updates the¬†ZiiAcademy and ZiiStore applications¬†to the latest versions.
  • In the Browser application, you can now set User Agent to Desktop or Mobile.
  • Allows application data to be¬†moved from the system storage to the device¬†media storage if the application supports it.
  • Updates the User Guide to reflect new features.
  • Adds¬†eight additional language translations¬†(Danish, Greek, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Swedish, and Turkish) for the User Guide.

Nothing particularly stand-out, other than being able to installs apps on media storage. However, a quick look at the Froyo upgrade list also shows that we should be looking forward to a faster, more optimised, experience and the ability to run Flash.

Before installation, be aware of the following…

  • After installing this firmware, you will not be able to downgrade back to the previous firmware.
  • If you are currently using a live wallpaper, it will be reset after installing this firmware. Shortcuts and widgets on the Home panel will also be reset. You will need to reselect the wallpaper and add the items and widgets back to the Home panel.
  • Before you install this firmware:
    1. Back up the tablet contents.
    2. Delete current widgets on the Home panel so that the upgraded widgets can take effect.
    3. Ensure that¬†your ZiiO’s battery¬†level¬†is at 25% or higher.
    4. Use Task Manager to close all applications.

I have to say, the upgrade process is really smooth – everything is explained on-screen as you go through it and it took less time for the upgrade to install (about 5 minutes) than it took to download it!

Once complete, I was presented with a reset Home screen. Next to the X-fi bar is now a Task Manager widget, which shows the number of running apps and a shortcut to the Task Manager app. But that’s about it – the ZiiO is already quite nippy so I haven’t, as yet, noticed any speed improvements.

Amazon Kindle has been installed (I wonder how much Creative were paid for that one – especially as the ZiiO comes with its own book reading app!).

I then installed Flash Player 10.2 (a 4.2 MB download) and headed off to YouTube – works great. The recent launched iPlayer app only works with Android 2.2 but is a little harder to find without the Android Marketplace. However, I did, and that too works too – unfortunately I’m on a slow wi-fi right now so can’t test it properly.

All-in-all, a nice and easy upgrade process which I’m sure over time will be beneficial – nothing too obvious to see right now, but that’s probably a good thing!

Downloads

There are separate download depending on your current ZiiO firmware level. You can check the firmware version by tapping Settings > About. The firmware version is displayed under Build Number.

Download Android 2.2 (for firmware versions 1.00.27 and 1.00.28)

Download Android 2.2 (for firmware versions 1.00.13)

Download Flash

Download BBC iPlayer App

Sony Ericsson Elm

Due to updates, over time, that have been made to the site and the age of this article, this post may not display correctly. In particular images may be missing or product reviews display incorrectly.

If this is the case and you'd particularly like me to fix it, then please reach out to me on Twitter.

It’s been a good few years now since I bought my Sony Ericsson K800i. It really was an excellent phone – easy to use, basic functionality and a superb camera – and when it came to give it up (for my Nokia N95), I chose to give it to my wife. And, believe it or not, it was only until recently that she has decided to upgrade – she too liked the simple functionality (she’s not a smartphone or touchscreen fan) and the camera. That decision was made easier by my youngest daughter smashing a chunk out of the corner of it!

And, after much searching, she settled on the Sony Ericsson Elm.

Looking remarkably like the K800i, this is a much slimmer version with the latest Sony Ericsson operating system and an improved camera. This phone is part of the GreenHeart range which uses reduced packaging and recycled parts on.

Packaging wise, the phone comes in a simple cloth sleeve within a small box. The box also contains a simple charger (Sony Ericsson continue to use their own connection format – however the charger that came with the K800i had a “through port” allowing other peripherals to be plugged in at the same time. The Elm charger doesn’t have this), earphones (with microphone) and a small paper safety manual. And that’s it. The full manual is installed on the phone.

Features wise, it’s actually quite good, including GPS, wi-fi, 5MP camera with Xenon flash and various installed apps (including Facebook and SatNav). Many of the apps will display directly onto the home screen as well as in standby (allowing you to read your Facebook updates without having to unlock the phone).

Battery life was always good with the K800i but with wi-fi and the Facebook app switched on the Elm my wife  found it only lasted a day. Switching these off extended it to a more acceptable week.

The Elm uses Micro SD cards rather than the Memory Stick Micro that the K800i did.

The clear screen is a simple 240 x 320 resolution and the rear of the phone sports a 5 MP camera with flash. The pictures are excellent – I’ve always like the cameras, and the camera software, on Sony Ericsson phone and this is no exception.

As I said before, it has various built in apps and more are downloadable (many at quite a hefty price though). Text messaging and surfing the internet is quick and easy and, well, it’s simplicity itself to use.

My wife got this free on a £15 a month contract but you can buy it, unlocked, from Amazon for £118.

[review]If you’re not after an all-singing and dancing smartphone and don’t get on with touch-screens this is an ideal phone at an ideal price. It’s good to know that phones like this are still being made, and at a reasonable price.[/review]

 

Soluto

Due to updates, over time, that have been made to the site and the age of this article, this post may not display correctly. In particular images may be missing or product reviews display incorrectly.

If this is the case and you'd particularly like me to fix it, then please reach out to me on Twitter.

Soluto calls itself “anti-frustration software”. A free program for Windows, and still in Beta, Soluto analyses your PC’s startup process and recommends solutions.

It’s been out for a few months now and I’ve been trying it on a number of computers, running XP and Windows 7 64-bit. All work without an issue.

You install it and it runs during each boot up, timing it and looking at the various startup processes. Simply go into the software for a breakdown of those processes. They are divided into 3 sections – “no-brainer”, “potentially removable” and “cannot be removed.” The latter category mainly includes system software (and Soluto itself). The other 2 you can do something about – either delay (make the program start later, when the computer is idle) or pause (switch off) each. In all cases you can view each program in turn, viewing what information Soluto knows about it, and make the decision yourself as to what you wish to do with it.

In the case of my home PC, running Windows 7 64-bit, my boot currently takes 1:58. Without being overly aggressive, I have reduced this by 3.3. Unfortunately, running Soluto adds 3 seconds so I’ve hardly gained anything.

To be honest, as an “expert user” I know exactly which processed need removing and how to do it and I can often remove more than Soluto can. However, for the amateur “dabbler” this is an ideal solution as it provides all the help you could ask for, including details on what other people did and even allowing you to edit program descriptions.

Lastly, there’s a flashy history screen showing how your boot times have changed over time along with key changes that were made.

[review]A good quality product that really can help the amateur PC owner. However, for the geeks amongst us this may be a frustrating solution and, as the saying goes, results may vary. For a free product, there’s no excuse to not at least try it![/review]

Promotional Video

Screenshots

Dell UltraSharp U2311H monitor

Due to updates, over time, that have been made to the site and the age of this article, this post may not display correctly. In particular images may be missing or product reviews display incorrectly.

If this is the case and you'd particularly like me to fix it, then please reach out to me on Twitter.

For a while I’ve been after a new monitor – my 17″ Viewsonic may have been a PC Pro a-listed cutting-edge monitor back in 2005 (when it cost me ¬£187.22!) but now it’s a little small and the colours aren’t quite as vibrant as they were 6 years ago.

Now, I was happy to spend a bit more to getter a higher quality monitor and there were¬† certain things I wanted (in no particular order)…

  • (Ideally) a zero dead pixel guarantee
  • 23″ – 24″ screen size
  • Not bothered about speakers
  • A USB hub would be nice
  • Good general output quality and a lack of external light bleeding
  • HDMI or DVI input
  • Adjustable stand

After much searching I settled on the Dell UltraSharp U2311H – reviews gave me all the above at a price of around ¬£260. Ordering was easy and the delivery quick – I couldn’t be around for the drop-off so I arranged to pick it up from my local UPS office.

Inside the unassuming brown box was the monitor, various leaflets, a CD, power cable, VGA cable and DVI cable. I needed neither of the connection cables as I was going to use my existing HDMI to DVI cable [1]and for those who read my previous post about the problems I was having watching Blu-Ray movies… yes, this monitor does resolve the issue!.

The monitor is not sexy but it’s not ugly either. It’s more functional – matt black plastic with menu buttons integrated into the side of the display. The stand is highly adjustable and can rotate around for portrait display. It has DVI, VGA and DisplayPort inputs, as well as a side-mounted 2 port USB hub, with a further 2 USB ports mounted on the back near to the video connections [2]note that the USB hub powers off when you switch off the monitor’s power via the corner power button – I therefore use the rear ports for my wireless mouse receiver and a webcam. The stand connects via a standard VESA mount, so the monitor is also wall-mountable. It uses a standard power connection and the PSU is built-in. As you can probably guess this isn’t, unlike the LG, a slimline stunner at 18.4 cm deep but neither is it overtly large.

Cables are routed through a hole in the top of the stand but, unlike some of their other monitors, I find this to be a little too low (especially if you have the stand at full height) so the cables are still visible. It doesn’t come with built-in speakers but you can buy a separate “sound bar” to attach to provide this functionality, if required.

I had some initial problems with the included CD, as the software didn’t want to launch under Windows 7 64-bit. Sadly, it’s a real struggle to find downloads on the Dell website without a Service Tag, and these aren’t provided on monitors under 27″. A google search found no official download link from Dell either. However, Microsoft Update automatically picked up on the new hardware and supplied the appropriate software for download.

The CD also contains the manual and, thankfully, that is available from the Dell website.

PC Pro, when recently reviewing the monitor, had the following to say about the image…

After installing the monitor driver supplied by Dell, we weren`t entirely impressed by the image quality. Colours appeared wildly oversaturated, and in gradient tests we noticed obvious banding artefacts.

However, changing the monitor to its Custom (RGB) setting, leaving the individual Red, Green and Blue controls set to maximum and uninstalling Dell’s driver swiftly improved matters. Our test images and Blu-ray discs now looked amazing, and the gradient test showed a smooth transtition [sic] from black to white with no banding.

However, I couldn’t see a difference when I changed the RGB settings. Running the Windows 7 calibration tests, it showed that gamma was a little low – increasing this and re-running cleartype adjustments made a huge difference to the image quality. The end results, and probably all thanks to the IPS (In-Plane Switching) panel being used, are stunning.

Shunning an LCD backlight it means the Dell does draw more power but, as a result, has an impressive level of brightness. Having said that, with no USB devices in use it does still only use 33W (and less than 1W in standby).

Does it have any downsides? Not that I can find.

However, and this isn’t aimed at this monitor in particular, I’m not overly impressed by the aspect ratio of these monitors. The width is good, but the height is barely any more than my old 17″ Viewsonic. For those not wanting to watch films regularly the current ratios don’t work for normal PC usage. When, say, I’m in a code editor and all the code is “butted” up against the left hand side of the monitor, that’s a lot of lost real estate. Like most people I sit centre of the monitor, but just end up spending a lot of time twisting around to look at the left hand side. I’d much rather loose horizontal resolution to gain more vertical (and, no, turning the monitor into portrait mode isn’t a solution – that’s too far the other way!). Bring back the 4:3 ratio monitors!

[review]An excellent monitor with features galore. It’s a little pricey but you get what you pay for, especially in terms of image quality. And if that quality is important to you, then the Dell is an essential purchase. [/review]

References   [ + ]

1. and for those who read my previous post about the problems I was having watching Blu-Ray movies… yes, this monitor does resolve the issue!
2. note that the USB hub powers off when you switch off the monitor’s power via the corner power button – I therefore use the rear ports for my wireless mouse receiver and a webcam
Olderposts Newerposts

Copyright © 2016 David Artiss

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Scroll Up