Inkjet Blues

I love my inkjet. It’s a Canon 5300 and it’s been a great buy. Good photo’s, fast and can print to cd’s as well. In just under two years it hasn’t failed me once. There is however one problem.

It’s an inkjet.

Which means there comes a time when you really need to print something and you run out of ink. Grrrrrrrrr. No problem though. Pop down to PC World and pick up the cartridge required. Except it costs quite a bit of money to replace the cartridges. The best price I could find for genuine cartridges was £51 (to replace all the cartridges). Ouch. A new Canon printer that offers better print quality, a couple of new features and a slightly sleeker design could be had for £80. What a waste though. However I was really tempted to order the new printer rather than pay through the nose for the ink cartridges. It was then I decided to do something different, for me anyway.

I’ve ordered a set of third party cartridges that have picked up great reviews online for only £16. According to the reviews which I always take with a pinch of salt as there is no way of verifying them, the quality of output is indistinguishable from the genuine ink that Canon supplies at over three times the price. They should arrive this week and I’m hopefully they will be ok. It’s the worst aspect of inkjets – the price of ink is a damned disgrace. Anyway, I’ll be sure to pass on results of the printing this week and also the supplier of the ink – good or bad!

Tweetie for Mac

Tweetie for the iPhone has been my favourite Twitter client since it launched. Fast, clean and full of great functionality. I’ve never quite managed to find as good a client on the Mac though. Twitterific was the first good Mac client but it felt slow and lacking in features especially compared to TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop. However both of those clients were Adobe Air based clients and always felt a wee bit sluggish, memory intensive and to be honest over featured for what I need. Thank goodness for Tweetie for Mac which launched today.

Tweetie Conversations

It’s a client written specifically for the Mac and it shows. Great design, fast and clean with a great deal of functionality for a v1.0 release. Things I like? Images open not in a browser but in their own pop-up within Tweetie. Conversations are viewed in an iChat style like the image above. Search is quick and trends are easily available via the search bar. You can also create a new window to hold an individual search – keeps the screen clean and free of clutter but means you can see more if you really want to. Much prefer this over TweetDeck’s way of working which can feel really clumsy but there’s no doubting it’s power for major Twitter users.

Shortcomings are really again only for power users. No easy way to group other Twitter users together apart form creating another Twitter account and using it to follow certain users. It’s a solution but not an elegant one. I’m sure future versions will offer some grouping support. I’ve set-up cmd+T as a new tweet shortcut so I can easily post from any app without finding Tweetie. I’ve also added a bookmarklet to Firefox which will create a new Twitter post via Tweetie of the current site your browsing. I used this bookmarklet instead of the one mentioned on the official site as it also posted the site title. One thing that did trip me up – cmd+return saves and send tweet and not return. Be nice if that was documented somewhere.

Even after just a night of use I’m delighted with Tweetie so far. Good looking, quick and low on resource requirements. It costs $19.95 ($14.95 until May 4th) or is free with ad support. The ad’s are very unobtrusive although once my credit card is back in action I’ll be making a purchase. It’s app’s like this that remind me why I switched to Mac.

Busy Busy Busy

I’ve had quite a bit on over the past few weeks. So much so that I’m taking a week off work starting this Friday. It will be good to take a break from the day to day’s at work and focus elsewhere. Lot’s of bit’s and piece’s around the house to take care off. I also want to put in some quality time on Cocoa and iPhone development. I’ve a simple app that I hope to build over the week I’m off. More on that later.

This weekend has been mostly cleaning up around the house and also on the computers. Freed up around 40GB on the iMac in 10 minutes – just been lazy recently keeping my disks tidy. Also got Delicious Library 2 syncing well between desktop and laptop via Dropbox. I moved the Delicious Library file from /Library/Application Support/Delicious Library 2/ to my Dropbox, creating an alias in the original directory to the file in my Dropbox folder. Works a treat. Just make sure the alias is the same name as the original file. I also updated my library with my latest purchases and also published the library on rather than on MobileMe. You can see the library here.

Dropbox has been working so well for me. So much so that I won’t be renewing MobileMe this year unless it goes through a serious upgrade which I just can’t see. Dropbox is a far superior file syncing tool – and quicker. I use Busysync to keep calendars in sync. I can sync contacts via Google for free. That leaves…and e-mail address that I don’t really use? I’ve turned off push on the iPhone to save on battery life and my calendar and contacts don’t change enough to justify over the air updating. I just don’t need it. If you are interested in Dropbox this is my referral link which gets me extra disk space if you sign up.

Anyway, back on topic. One of the reasons I’ve been busy is I’ve been helping set-up a website for a friend. So if your in need of a personal trainer in the Glasgow area I highly recommend Tangerine13. I’ve spent a few years working with Caroline but she’s moving on to pursue life as a full time personal trainer so hopefully Tangerine13 will work out for her. Eagle eyed readers (i.e. those that can be arsed to visit the site) will notice a small link at the bottom of Tangerine13 to That was the name I was going to use if/when I release iPhone app’s. Long way off but thought it was worthwhile linking to it in case the web site design goes anywhere. Not something I intend to pursue but you never know.

One other thing form the weekend that really pissed me off. Some dirty swine was trying to rip off my credit card. Again. Just over two years since my bank account was emptied, this time Egg were onto it straight away. No money lost, card stopped. Attempt to use my card was in London – trying to buy some Cellnet pre-pay card. I just don’t understand where they get the details from. I do use the card a lot online but make sure it’s always a secure purchase. Then again, there’s nothing to stop a site passing on card details. Or some back room staff doing the dirty I guess. Bloody annoying and it’s put me on edge again about my finances.

Anyway. iPhone app. I’ve a few idea’s for app’s actually. The problem is so do lot’s of other people. Already two of my idea’s, which 4 weeks ago were original and didn’t exist in the app store now do. Time moves fast unlike me at the moment. Too busy. Or busy doing the wrong things. So for my first app, screen’s have been mocked up. Usage has been thought through. Functionality has been locked down to a minimum. Keeping things simple. Just need to start coding. Should be fun. If I find the time.

Pirate Bay

Only one real story in tech today – Pirate Bay founders have been found guilty in their court case, jailed for a year each and ordered to pay around £1 million each. Ouch. It’s a headline grabbing verdict but only the first decision in what will will probably be a long and drawn out trial.

For me it’s a symbolic victory over The Pirate Bay four rather than anything meaningful. The site won’t shut down unlike Oink which was shut down and the owner and some members charged in the UK. As of yet no one has done any jail time following the Oink arrests although some of the uploaders did receive a community service sentence and had to pay back court fee’s. The site admin of Oink has still to be tried.

The biggest thing for the music and film industry bodies will be the hope that this will dissuade joe public from using torrent sites as it has ‘been proven’ to be illegal and you can be prosecuted. From what I can read today however the win does not mean the closing of the site or indeed will ever lead to the site being shut down. Pirate Bay have always been pretty open about what the do and also confident that their site cannot, and will not be shut down. Indeed, the charges that were finally proven were those of assisting in making copyright content available. Originally they were being tried of assisting copyright infringement. Very different and lesser charges.

But what does assisting in making copyright content available actually mean? Where does the assistance stop? Are ISP’s assisting by providing bandwidth to those that upload and download torrents? Is Google assisting by providing torrent’s in it’s index? If so that means every search engine provider is – that’s some very big names. The Pirate Bay is a search engine with results returned of links to files held elsewhere. Is there a difference especially when I can find the same torrents on Google as I can on Pirate Bay?

One impact will be not immediately, but over the next few months, we’ll see a shrinking of torrent sites. Some of the smaller sites will be shut down with ease. The ruling will have repercussions for those that aren’t set up as well as Pirate Bay or the other well known sites. I also think there will be an increase in usage at the Bay. Being THE headline on BBC News will bring the site to the attention of a lot more people. People that will be curious. Curious to see what’s there. Curious enough to visit the site. Curious enough to click on a torrent link for the first time.

One final thought. Would we be using iPlayer, Hulu, Skype, Spotify and many other services if Kazza or bittorrent sites hadn’t been so popular over the last few years? Most of these are in response or based on file sharing technology. One other final thought. Would we be seeing broadband speeds of 50-100Mb now if it wasn’t for torrenting? Would we need those speeds? Last final thought. Thank goodness for newsgroups. For now.

Sky HD EPG Update

It’s been a couple of weeks since the long awaited new Sky HD EPG made it’s way onto my box. Considering all the fanfare about it I’ve been fairly ambivalent about it, so much so I couldn’t be bothered even posting about it. A tweet tonight about ITV HD has nudged me along though.

The ability to watch ITV HD on Sky is the biggest new feature for me. Before the update, ITV HD was available only on FreeSat and only via the red button service – it’s not an actual channel which when you realise how little is broadcast in HD is understandable. To watch it on Sky (new EPG only) you need to do the following:

  • Press services button > System set up > Add channels
  • Change the Freq to 11427
  • Change polarisation to H
  • Leave symbol rate @ 27.5
  • Leave FEC at 2/3
  • Press select to find channel
  • New channels will appear , TV and radio , scroll to the one marked Channel 10510
  • Press yellow to store it , press select , press select press back up , press back up.
  • Scroll down to other channels , highlight 10510 and press select to view.

Not easy and it’s a few button presses to access the channel each time. Then again, Champions League in HD tonight and FA Cup semi-finals in HD this weekend. Nice. Quality is excellent too which makes a big difference compared to the pixelated mess that ITV usually is on Sky.

Other important changes – the EPG is now in HD and much clearer than the old one. It’s also added a mini display. However it cuts off half the display if enabled and also plays the sound from the currently selected channel. This has caught me out already – last weeks Apprentice was recording while I watched the football. Went into the EPG to select it and start watching and I see the three boys sitting in the boardroom. Even worse, disabling the mini tv doesn’t sound the TV channel sound off so you can still hear spoilers. Bit daft on Sky’s part.

Your series recordings are now displayed in stacks in the EPG. Makes sense for me but another daft feature is that the stack isn’t just per series but per series and channel. Miss a recording on BBC1 and record on BBC3 instead will see two different stacks for the same series. Can’t see this affecting me as I don’t build up a lot of recordings but it is a real pain for some which could have been avoided.

HD programs can now be highlighted in the EPG – handy when browsing what’s on. Speaking of which, now and next is a lot better on the new EPG with full info on each program without going in to the EPG. About time.

Despite these additions though the downside is that it feels a bit slower in use and that’s on my box with not much recorded. Some reports in forums from users with lot’s recorded say it is way slower than before. I’m also convinced that to watch recordings it takes more button presses than before. If it doesn’t it certainly feels that way. Considering it’s been in development for so long it’s a shame that usability seems to have suffered. Overall it’s a benefit having the new EPG but still feels like a missed opportunity.

Free Dr Who Episode

A quick post to let Dr Who fans, and those that like freebies, that there is a free episode of Dr Who available in iTunes. From the new issue of The Radio Times (which I still get although I hate the font’s they’ve now moved to using – horrible!) if you visit:

you can download ‘Last of the Timelords’ for free. No need to buy Radio Times or fill in any codes etc. Click on the link and download the episode in iTunes. Easy. It’s not too bad an episode either.


Tidying up the blog recently has meant my Tumblr site for pulling all my feeds together was redundant. To be honest I never really used it anyway but I really like Tumblr and also it’s new free iPhone app. So what to do with the site?

I’ve seen quite a few good examples of using Tumblr as a scrapbook. Interesting. I’ve wiped my Tumblr account and set it up again as a scrapbook. A place where I can throw ‘the stuff’ that I stumble across online and want to collect but doesn’t fit in the blog, Google Reader or even LittleSnapper.

Time will tell whether it will fit into my work cycle and I find it useful over the long term but I can see it being quite useful.

Ben Vorlich

Took advantage of a holiday on Good Friday to tackle my third walk. We weren’t sure whether to head further up North but we decided on something closer to home, and something a bit bigger. So we headed to the top of Loch Lomond to tackle Ben Vorlich. This would be my biggest walk so far and also my first munro – Ben Vorlich is 943m, so just over the magic 3000ft mark. It also turned out to be far more difficult than expected.

We started around 9AM and according to the guide books it should have taken around five hours. We took just over seven. Partly this was down to taking plenty stops as it was hard going. Partly it was down to never finding a path up or down Ben Vorlich which made it far more tiring.

Ben Vorlich

The weather started off a bit wet and we couldn’t see the summit due to the low cloud. We could still see snow though at the top. We hoped the low cloud would lift but unfortunately it didn’t so views were limited which is a shame when you look at some of the views we could have got. The ground was very heavy – boggy, muddy and it made most of the trip up quite a slog. Thankfully the rain lifted though and the cloud lifted a bit but as we neared the summit we lost quite a bit of visibility.

Danny in Low Cloud

The other problem with the low visibility was the false hope that we were near the summit. Quite a few times we thought we were nearly there…but we weren’t. However the feeling when we finally got there was great.

Danny, Jim and Ian at Ben Vorlich summit

After finding some shelter from the cold wind and having a well deserved lunch we found and followed a path that should take us west and down. However we lost the path again and after descending quite quickly came to a stop – a ridge with a fairly steep drop. So it was double back time. We ended up cutting across and following the route back down as at least we knew where we had come from. However even then we took a couple of odd routes which added a wee bit to the trek.

Ben Vorlich Runkeeper

Yet again RunKeeper worked really well. It tracked the route apart from the first 1/2 mile which was my fault for not starting the app. Oops. I’ve also just realised that the route can be exported into Google Earth so you can truly see what route you took in stunning 3D. Speaking off Google Earth, this kmz file will load locations and details of all 284 Munros.

This walk taught me a few things. Firstly, the next walk will need a bit more preparation. We didn’t follow the route, didn’t research it enough and made the walk far harder as a result. It would be also wiser to try and organise the walks for clearer days but this isn’t always possible and you just need to make the best of weather sometimes. Just a shame yesterday wasn’t a bit clearer. It also made me appreciate carrying cold weather gear just in case. At ground level yesterday it was quite mild. At the summit it was around zero degree’s and pretty windy.

Fitness is also an issue. It was a hard slog up yesterday but my legs, particularly my thighs, are really sore today. It’s not so much the fitness on the day but my recovery that is poor. Hopefully that improves with further walks through the year.

The aspect I liked most was the isolation. We were the only three on Ben Vorlich yesterday which made it all the more special. It was great to drive for just an hour and spend the day without seeing anyone else. The feeling on reaching the top was also good. A real sense of achievement. Full set of photo’s are now up on Flickr. Hopefully next months walk will have less cloud!