Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ads

Don't hate me. I have started to place adverts by Google on this here blog. Why you might ask? Well, I'll tell you.

First of all, you probably won't even notice them. I have pretty deep ad-blindness, and I rarely see adverts online anymore. This is actually a massive problem for advert based revenue websites. They can't make any money from click throughs as no one clicks through, and page impression adverts are really poorly compensated for because an impression is useless as a stat for how many people actually see the adverts.

Secondly, it is a free service. As this blog is hosted on Google's Blogger service, despite using my own URL, this is an easy thing to add to the blog. I don't pay anything for the blog to run, as it's hosted for free online by them, and I don't need to make money from the blog to survive as it's a hobby. So yeah, it doesn't cost anything to add to here.

Thirdly, my blog has been rocketing up the charts in terms of how many views. Since December 2013 I have had over 20k impressions, one half of the total impressions from the last six years of the blog running. Before, not many folk read it - but now, apparently, I have loads of readers (Hi!) and that means that it might make sense to maybe earn some coin from that. How much coin? No idea. Google won't tell me.

That actually leads on to my final point - I won't know if this will make me any money at all, and the only way to get an estimate was to sign up. So yeah, you'll see adverts for a while and I'll see how much it works, and if it works I'll keep them, and if they detract from the site then I'll get rid of them. You will find them under each post and one in the site bar on the right, and I'll be tweaking them the longer I have them on here.

So yeah, sorry about that if you dislike it - think of it as an experiment. Feedback is appreciated, however it'll be buried under the now 100 spam messages I get a day.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Repetition / Reboot

I started writing this blog back in February 2007 (and, technically, October 2006, but I have no record of that as it’s lost the vastness of early-internet time, pre-cloud storage days) which is a long long time ago. I was still at university, but now I have been working longer that I was at University and now, longer than I was at High School. This means that there is occasion when I start to write a blog post and realise that not only am I remembering something that maybe took place in the life of this blog, but also that I am writing something that I have already written – it turns out that repetition is something I am quite likely to do, repeating stories to Connie and telling them as if they are brand new, almost to the point of being patronisingly tentative now when starting what could have been a story I’ve told before, but I am unsure if I have.

Of course, the problem is when I consider that I started writing this blog back in February 2007 (and, technically, October 2006, but I have no record of that as it’s lost the vastness of early-internet time, pre-cloud storage days) which is a long long time ago. I was still at university, but now I have been working longer that I was at University and now, longer than I was at High School. This means that there is occasion when I start to write a blog post and realise that not only am I remembering something that maybe took place in the life of this blog, but also that I am writing something that I have already written – it turns out that repetition is something I am quite likely to do, repeating stories to Connie and telling them as if they are brand new, almost to the point of being patronisingly tentative now when starting what could have been a story I’ve told before, but I am unsure if I have.

Ahem.

It actually made me realise that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – partly because further hindsight might also give better insight (I like that phrase, just made it up) but also that a retelling could be done in a far more… verbose way. A better way. I am not saying I am a better writer now… but compared to some of the stories from back then I certainly can’t get any worse.

So maybe that’ll be how I do a bit of reworking of old stories. Retelling. Repetition. Reboot. But I will try to make sure I flag these up, if I do end up doing them, but sometimes, like earlier on yesterday when I started on the train writing a new post about that time I got 2/20 for a science report due to using Windows 95 and a printer rather than hand write it out… only to remember that I’d written about it before.




Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Google Has Broken Their Applications on iOS

Last year, after five years or so, I made the move from iOS toan Android phone, namely from my perma-failing iPhone 5 to a Nexus 4. The transition was bumpy, what with Google’s phones not being quite as good as Apple’s, and the differences in the OS being a fairly steep learning curve (I still don’t fully understand the “Phone” application on Android to be honest), it has been a very good move. Since I jumped Apple have gone an updated iOS too and turned it into an OS that I seriously don’t know how to use anymore. Without a back button, like my Nexus has, I honestly have no idea how to navigate around the new look iOS which amuses my wife a lot.

Speaking of Connie, she still has her iPhone 5, and it’s doing very well. Not plagued with any of the faults my five iPhones did, she is more than happy with the phone, and until week, so was I. That was until Google implemented a dreadful change, one that has broken her phone and made me very angry.

You see, Google has a wide range of services – that includes email, maps, cloud storage, and Google Music. I use them all and have multiple accounts across all the services. I have seven email address, I have a Youtube account, I listen to my music from Google daily. Connie too has her own email account, which makes sense, but she doesn’t have her own music account. Why? Well, we have a shared library of music. Her/my music is my/her music. The problem is that Google recently added a new “feature” to their apps – single sign-in across iOS.

What this means is that you sign in once in Gmail and you’re logged into Drive, Maps, Music, etc. If you log in to Music your account is added to Gmail. What this means is that to listen to our music on her phone, Connie must be signed in as me – fair enough. But that also signs her in to my emails, my Drive, my Youtube, my maps, my everything. I do not want this to happen. She doesn't want this to happen either.

The fact that they’ve implemented this is absolutely mental – does no one at Google have multiple accounts? I have read forums on line with people confused – their personal email accounts, accessed on work phones, now link that to their youtube accounts and map accounts that were once anonymous, and it doesn’t even tell you it is doing it!

This is a serious affront to privacy and removes any semblance of security my Google account has – I have two-step authentication on my account, and it’s needed as I base my entire online presence on Google’s services. Now it’s negated as I sign in once to my music to listen to it on Con’s phone and suddenly everything is opened up to her – and anyone else who opens my account on that phone. It’s batshit crazy, and a dreadful misstep.

Google, who are constantly asking me to use my gmail account for Youtube (no, never), sign up for Google+ to review things on the Play Store (fuck that) and even sign up for Google+ just to syn certain application files on my phone (no thanks, I’ll use Dropbox) are slowly turning into the worst company for this. And the fact that they’ve managed to do it on a system that was always in my mind quite powerful at keeping applications separate is astounding – so far my Android phone is letting me have different unlinked accounts, but I imagine it won’t be long.

This is so bad it must be a mistake, and I have no idea why it’s not getting more coverage.

Sources:

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Floodgates

I wrote a post a few days ago about CAPTCHA, and the perils of using it. I also commented on my own hypocrisy as this very blog was using it as a way to block spam comments. In an unintended series of events, but ones that I should've just predicted, the CAPTCHA on this blog hilariously managed to stop our own Jonathan from commenting. That is such a delicious irony it actually can be used as a topping on grilled burgers.

As an experiment, I removed the CAPTCHA to see what would happen. I added moderation: all comments on posts are now sent to my email for approval. The results were... insane.

Since opening up the comments this way I have had over 300 emails since the 16th March, the day I opened the posts up - over the eleven days from the 16th to the 27th, that works out as around 27 emails a day.

The reason for this is that recently my blog has started to be tracked by crawlers. Thanks to the viral post in December (see here too) my blog got the attention of spam crawlers, which means that each day there are around 300 to 400 "visits" or "impressions" on the blog, mostly on older posts. These old posts are also where the comments are centred, some being comments on posts from back in 2007. 

Now, I have no idea why these are crawling the blog. I don't have many real comments these days, if at all. That's not really my intention as a writer. But it is funny seeing the label in Gmail creep up. By the end of today, it will be around 25 new emails from Blogger asking for my moderation. I reset it pretty much every day, as I like my label-organised inbox (something that I spent hours and hours on one day a few years ago) to have no unread emails.

I find it amusing. I might reapply the CAPTCHA soon, just because. But for now, if you're commenting, please be patient - I'll find your real comment soon. And to the spammers?

Hi.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Racing

It is rare to come across a situation in my life these days that makes me consider something that I haven't already considered. What I mean is that I have already made up my mind about a lot of what makes me "me", and day to day very little I encounter acts as a change in view point. If I hear someone being homophobic, I will say something because I find it intolerable; if I hear someone being sexist, I'll say something; and when I see something happen that is transphobic, or anything else that I find bad, I'll say something.

These things have been formed over quite sometime, and I have found that these things can piss people off. I recently lost a friend when I pointed out that he was being homophobic, sexist, misogynistic, and racist. and that I found it offensive. He told me he wasn't being offensive, and that I shouldn't be worried about it anyway. To be honest, torching that friendship didn't hurt as much as I expected it would.

Recently though, contrary to the above, I've been made to consider my position ethically and morally on something that I haven't before, and that is racing - animal racing. Horses and dogs specifically. Several years ago I was asked to put a £1 bet on the Grand National, and I refused because it was a waste of money (betting is a whole other quandary that I don't get but don't have any objections to on principle, but I do have serious reservations about the culture of betting we have in the UK, but that's another post for another time). I didn't consider the welfare of the animals at all in my decision. It was last summer when, as a team building exercise, the department in work decided to go horse racing.

I told my wife this and she was intrigued - surely that wasn't an all-inclusive event? I started to think (really think) about the event, and what it meant, and the more I thought about it the more I realised I found it sickening - that these animals were raced and potentially hurt (and destroyed) during the race.

I don't like bull fighting. I reconcile with the concept of Zoos due to conservational and educational reasons, but they still worry me, and so horse racing was a natural extension. Horse racing is something that is culturally engrained in the UK, what with the Grand National, the Cheltenham Festival, and others taking place and getting massive press coverage. Jockeys are celebrities; horses are famous; owners are rich and well known.

I told this to my colleagues who were asking if I were going, and I explained my position. They understood and respected my opinion, and I respected theirs to want to go. I mean, at it's base function, the event was meant as a team building exercise more than a endorsement of racing.

This summer they are hosting another event, this time at the dog racing. This is another event I won't be going to because of several reasons, but mostly for similar ethical reasons above. Did you know that around 10,000 dogs are retired from racing a year, and only around 20% are rehomed? The rest go to shelters, or are simply destroyed. And that's just the dogs that are racing - there are many more puppies not "good enough" to race that are destroyed or left to be rehomed, unwanted by their trainers and teams.

It actually taps into a more interesting culture that I have noticed with work events (and not exclusive to this office or these colleagues, to which I mean no ill) that they are very much geared towards getting pished. I get that - I have been more drunk at work events than not drunk at work events, and for a time they were a great vehicle to getting smashed on the cheap. But as I have got older (and with more responsibility, natch) not only has that kind of binge-ing became lost on me, but that I've lost the part of me that enjoys it! If the 18 year old version of me could read this now...

I don't mind the idea of being left out of the events that build the team when it's my choice to do so (ethically or not), but when it's starting to be a pattern it is hard to not feel a little left out or put out.

So yeah. No horse racing or dog racing. Maybe just a meal and a bar next time?

NOTE: These are my personal opinions and as stated in the bottom part of this blog they do not reflect the opinions of the company I work for, or their clients.

Friday, March 14, 2014

I Can’t Read It, I Won’t Interact With It

When I was around 11 years old my English teach at the time, the indomitable Mrs Jeyes, struck the fear into me. I can only try to imagine her amusement to find that I write as a pastime I find not only fulfilling, but potentially one in-which I get the most enjoyment from.  Jeyes was a classic teacher – a lover of the craft of English and language, she not only wielded a certain level of anger at the students she was having to teach, but also a confusion as to why she couldn't instil the love and lust for language she had into her hordes of teenage students.

I can only imagine how that feels… I mean, I don’t struggle to get Scouts to get enjoyment out of ropework… ahem.

At my first parents evening Jeyes confronted my parents over two things that she’d noticed; the first being that I probably didn’t read enough. She suggested a few authors to start me on, with a selection of novels designed to put me on the right track when it came to reading, comprehension, and maybe what she expected or thought I might enjoy. One, Robert Westall’s The Scarecrows, is still the most terrifying thing I’ve ever read, watched, played or listened to, and I’ve played Doom 3 at night with headphones on. The second was that my spelling was fucking dreadful.

Attributed to just laziness rather than something dyslexic, I was told to work on it. Now a days, you don’t really have to worry about it – my phone auto-corrects, Word underlines each word, and if I want to check the spelling of a word, all I have to do is ALT-TAB to Google and search for it. I used to literally carry a dictionary around in my School bag to make sure I spelled words correctly. That will seem so antiquated to kids today. It sounds archaic to me now.

Of course, what this really means is that my spelling and grammar have actually worsened. I barely know the rules of English (in my defence they were never taught to me correctly). I can imagine someone who reads these posts who knows how to construct sentences correctly and the actual rules of the language must revile at it – I have no idea how to build a sentence correctly (or should that be “I have no idea how to correctly build a sentence”?).

BUT. 

That is not the point of this post (though, it seems like it might be). The point of this post is to complain about bloody fucking Captchas. Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart is that stupid scrambled letter thing that stops people from posting comments and shite on blogs. I have it enabled here on this blog, but that’s because the amount of shitty Spam I get on here without it is insane. The other option is that you need a Google+ account, but No. I hate Google+. 

The Turing Test is the thing that is designed to make sure that someone is a person. It is meant to not only be a benchmark for computers to check we are real people, but a goal for AI to be able to convince a human that the computer is a person. That is still on going.


It is a solution that is not effective and actually exclusive. And it is getting worse. Recently I’ve noticed Captchas that are too difficult to solve, which surely is beside the whole point! I don't think I have dyslexia, but I really struggle beyond the normal with the style of these checks, and I don't think I am alone in this. I will actually avoid doing them now, and send an email complaining to the site that is using them (I know, hypocrictical maybe, seeing as I use them... but who even comments on this blog any more? Jonathan? Maybe. Almost no one, bar the odd spammer that makes it through the test).

The reason is I liken it to placing a load of stairs on the entrance to a shop. Or a place you can only drive to. It blocks those who are partially sighted from interacting in the same way with sites that able-sighted people.

Just look at these fucking ones! There are 100% real ones that I came across on an unnamed site. Seriosuly. W.T.F.





Let me know if you can work out what they say in the comments... 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Data Accounting of Music Streaming

I stream music all day at work. I do this because I can’t work without music – and if I had to, I think I’d lose my mind. I am aware that this is a bit petty, but I know a few other people who are the same. If I can get into the zone, with an album or playlist that grabs me, I can work endlessly for hours and hours. Sometimes, it’s the only way I can work.

It got me thinking though; how much bandwidth am I eating through? I don’t stream on my phone, just through the computer. So, what’s the damage?

Let’s assume each song is 320kbps. That’s the highest bit rate that I can get on MP3s, and I am assuming that Spotify and Google Play stream at that (despite it probably not being as high as that). Another assumption: I play music for 5 hours a day. I did say 100% of my day, but with meetings and such, 30 hours a week seems a fair assumption.

As an aside, once you realise how much time you have available to listen to music, you realise that it’s finite – even if I tried, there is a limit as to how much music I can listen to in my life. Woah. Weird to think like that.

So, assuming that it is 320kbps, that is 40,000 bytes per second. 5 hours converted to seconds is 5 x 60 x 60 = 18,000 seconds. So, if I play music every day for 5 hours it is 720,000,000 bytes per day. This converts to 0.686Gb a day of data streamed.

We can scale it up too – assuming I work 5 days a week, with seven weeks off a year, we can take that 0.686Gb and scale it!

0.686Gb x 5 x (52 – 7) = 154495Mb, or 150.87Gb a year.


That’s quite a lot of data, eh?

UPDATE Thanks to Hyder for pointing out that I'd done the maths right, and converted the units right, but tripped up when actually putting the units down. I'd typed Mb rather than Gb for the data streamed in a day.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Wake Up

Not so long ago I had the perfect alarm clock – a dog that would piss his crate if I didn’t get out of bed. He’d lie there, in his crate, and whine from around 5am, crossing his legs hoping to be carried down stairs and walked outside, peeing freely, happily, and without worry. Frank had this unintended consequence for the first few months of his life with us, which helped me regulate a body clock perfectly. It happened no matter what time I’d got to bed the night before, what I was doing for the rest of the day, and especially if I wanted a lie in. He stopped needing to be taken out just before we moved out of the flat, able to hold his piss for longer than 6 hours, but he’d still whine loudly, taking aim at his people that he liked so much (who were sleeping soundly).

He has now grown out of this thankfully – there was a time when we’d let him whine and whine before getting up, an attempt to try and train him to realise that it wasn't the whining that was getting us out of bed. He'd managed to make the connection with my phone alarm and getting out for a walk, so when it would go off he'd start whining. I had to change my alarm three times during this point. These days he still whines if he can hear us pottering about upstairs, more of a “remember me?” now than the “REMEMBER ME!” of before. 

When thinking about it, it has been a long time since I didn't have one of these forced alarms. When living with Steve, for example, I normally aimed to be in and out of the shower before he needed it, which meant having to be ready for pre-8am, a forced alarm. In Texas the traffic was a good enough alarm, leaving for work prior to 7am most mornings (at first). In Aberdeen I didn't have a car to start with, and due to the really odd timings of the trains to Dyce, I had only three options in total to get to work on time. Still didn’t mean a 100% success rate mind you, but it was very effective.

Since coming back from the wedding, I’ve not had that. In fact, my time keeping has been getting a lot worse – in the first few weeks of February I was marking 9am starts almost every day.

I’ve decided to stop that and trick myself into getting up – a new forced alarm, and it comes in the shape of a QR Code:




This QR code links to this blog, so you can have that one for free. What is interesting is that now my alarm won’t switch off unless I scan this particular code, which I’ve strategically placed in the other bedroom, the one where my towel is, and the one I have to go to get ready for work. So, to stop the alarm I have to get up and go.

How is this going? Well, on Monday I did it and it woke me at 5.15am, because I’d set the alarm to wake me up at 5.30am – but it tries to monitor your sleep, and wake you when you’re in a waking cycle. Anyway, that was ridiculous. So I reset it for 6am wake up (earliest being 5.30am) and moved on. Even on Tuesday, which is set for 7am due to me not getting to bed at 1am on a Monday night worked perfectly – I made the 8am train and got into work for 8.30am. And on Wednesday I managed to wake at 5.30am, get up washed showered and Frank peed and then onto the 6.25am train, getting to work at 7am sharp, the earliest I’ve ever been since moving to Glasgow and the earliest I can be in – there’s no train before 6.25am.


I am also getting better sleeps too – the alarm thing might be a bit of a gimmick (the science is sound, I just don’t trust it’s method of recording my sleep patterns). 

And Frank gets to pee on my clock now.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Monday Graveyard Covers, Shows 8 to 14

Previously: The Monday Graveyard Covers, Shows 1 to 7

I have a radio show. I post that radio show online. I make artwork for the shows each week. In this series of posts I will, seven at a time, explain the thoughts, the photos, and the location of each of the covers.


Episode 8
This is a shot of my curtains and ceiling in my bedroom taken from the vantage point of my bed and my pillow. I was lying down one morning and thought it was a different type of photo. I don't know about it now, not sure it works. But it makes for a different type of photo and a different type of cover shot.

Episode 9
This show was taken on the West Highland Way just outside of Milngavie. I was walking back from a hillwalk up Dumgoyne and the rain and hail had stopped long enough to take a few photos. I had intended on the wide sweeping scapes of the hills to be the cover for this week, but the sky and the landscape called back to the original few landscape shots, so I decided to use this one.

Episode 10
This is a shot of Mogwai blowing the stage up during their performance at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow in January as part of the Celtic Connections Festival. That gig was one of my Gigs of the Week, and I later would play Mogwai, but I really only used this shot because it was green, I liked the alien look of it, and it was again different to what had went before.

This is a kind of cheat - a one off. I did a playlist of the first "10" End of Day Tracks for the show and made it on Spotify. To mark this I also made this cover - this is on Dumgoyne, looking back to the city of Glasgow from the peak. 

Episode 11
I took this on Wellshot Drive on the walk back from the train on my way home from work. The colours in this shot made me take it - it had this dampness in the air that really appealed to me. The walk back from work is pretty boring, but this road is one of my favourites in the city. It's tiny, barely two lanes, has only one pavement, and the houses that line is date from the early 1900s and are gorgeous. Back when houses were built to impress, not be easy to sell.

Episode 12
The deck at the station. I took this for a friend to show what the deck looked like, and this version felt like a good shot to use for the show. The desk is actually really quite basic and idiot-proof to be honest, but the red and green lights are pleasing to click on and off.  For those of you who care, the two faders to the far right are the ones for the jingles and are "off" always and come "on" automatically when the jingle is activated in the cart. That's why they are always very loud.

Episode 13
Taken on a long walk with the dog, this dilapidated bridge crosses the River Clyde in Cambuslang. It's on the Clyde Walkway, and appears to be an old road bridge, but it looks more like it would have been an old railway bridge. After doing a bit of research, it appears it was an old road bridge, dating from before 1895, and the pathway I am on was the old route of the railway. It was to support the Cambuslang Dye Works that existed in the town at the turn of the 20th Century. For more information, see here.

Episode 14
Another taken on the "epic walk" - this time of one of the pylons on the route. There are loads of pylons in this part of the city, and the only residents under them are industrial warehouses and factories. I felt that the motif of the wind turbine, which appears all over the blog, would be complimented with the pylon. I like the angles of the pylon and the angle of the photo I took. 

The Monday Graveyard is an electronic and ambient radio show that airs 11pm to midnight, Mondays, on Pulse 98.4 FM.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Keep it Canadian 2

Some Canadian music for you this afternoon - the sequel to my playlist from back in 2012. Features all new no repeated artists! Managed to find another 21 I really like. Features Feist, Metric, Land of Talk, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Loscil, Crystal Castles, Woodpigeon, Land of Talk and loads more.

Play it here:


Monday, February 24, 2014

Seven

On the 12th of February 2014 I missed the seventh birthday of this very blog. Whoops.

If you're just reading now, you might want to check out those embryonic first posts using the Archive selector to the right. My first foray into blogging was back when it was still fairly new.

It's amazing to think I have this online resource, a diary of sorts, that can be read back. Occasionally, I'll drop back into the world of 2008 Mark, or 2011 Mark, and reread what I had posted. It's a nice way to relive memories and reexaime thought processes. And seeing as I am on the cusp of something altogether new, it's even more interesting to think that this will live on as a live document of those times.

I think that cataloging and archiving are very important - I record a copy of my radio show each week for catch up yes, but also as a record. I am meticulous in keeping order - there is a spreadsheet with all the posts ever on this blog, chronologically sorted. All my music is perfectly tagged.

Here's to another seven years. See you in 2021.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sixtyniner

That tiny room at the beach was absolutely the perfect place for my first time. When we came together, I could feel the hairs growing on my chest. I saw my future. I saw my past. For a few minutes it was like being alive. They lived happily ever after. All my questions had been answered. All my fears disappeared. All that was left was a kiss. Every move we made was a kiss.

Sixtyniner by Boards of Canada from the Twoism EP and BoC Maxima.