Archive for 2009

iTunes ‘remove duplicates’ feature – is it any use?

December 26th, 2009 2 comments

iTunesIconOn the face of it, the iTunes ‘remove duplicates’ feature sounds like a great idea as you may well have the same track on an artist’s album, a greatest hits album and a ‘various’ compilation album and this is needlessly taking up space on your hard drive. Unfortunately, the feature is rather crude as using it means that two of your albums will now be missing tracks when you come to listen to them as an album (yes people still do that sometimes).

A much more intelligent functionality (Apple please consider implementing this) would be for iTunes to discard two of the files (thereby saving space) but re-link the remaining file to all occurrences of that track in your library. Without this, the feature is next to useless.

Facebook privacy changes mean less privacy

December 10th, 2009 No comments

Facebook ProfileFacebook have made some long awaited changes to privacy settings, but while some are welcomed, they have completely dropped the ball on what they term Publicly available information. The EFF has more details here.

Profile pic no longer private

Whereas previously you could limit the visibility of both your profile picture and your friend list to your friends, this is no longer the case and anyone can see them. There doesn’t seem to be a workaround for the profile picture cock-up, so I have changed my facebook profile pic to the image shown on the right. Feel free to borrow it.

Friends List

While you can’t differentiate between friends and non-friends, you can change your profile not to show your friends list. Obviously this also removes this list for your friends. See this picture already posted by Phil VdG.

#friends #privacy on #facebook > #workaround to recent FB #se... on Twitpic

Printer Driver and Office Software

December 6th, 2009 No comments

hp_100As many will know, Snow Leopard changed the way printer drivers work in Mac OS X and Hewlett Packard decided to class several printers as obsolete, even though those involved are anything but. No doubt they’d rather you spend unnecessary money on a replacement HP printer; a strategy that may backfire if the sentiments in several forums is anything to go by.

Owning a perfectly serviceable Deskjet 995C, I found myself in this situation, however Apple had provided a fall-back in the shape of Gutenprint drivers, or so I thought. While the Gutenprint drivers are adequate, although slow, for printing letters or line-art, they are completely useless for photographs. The prints are washed out and no amount of tinkering with driver settings will fix it.

One step forward, two steps back

I had almost resigned myself to buying another printer when I decided to try the HPIJS drivers. You need to ensure you download and install all three packages (HPIJS, Foomatic-RIP and Ghostscript). Success, I could once again print photographs, but suddenly all my Microsoft Office v.X applications (Word, Excel and Powerpoint) crashed on startup.

officeI removed the new printer drivers but Office still crashed.
I checked for any Office updates and found I wasn’t quite running the latest version. Unfortunately, trying to run the updater resulted in a hung installer.
I tried using Time Machine to revert to a pre-HPIJS version of the Office folder but Office still crashed.
Even removing Office and re-installing from the original Office CD resulted in applications crashing.

I started to look at my options:
Microsoft have finally seen sense and realised that home users shouldn’t have to pay the ridiculous £400 for Office and have a Home/Student edition for around £70 but the latest version appears from the reviews to be unstable bloatware, so I have gone down three roads: I have downloaded and installed the free OpenOffice and I have also downloaded the one-month trial version of Apple’s iWork (around £60) and the one-month trial of Microsoft Office 2008.

The advantage of OpenOffice (apart from being free) is that it opens and saves MS Office documents directly whereas iWork has to ‘Save As’ in Office format for compatibility and still wants to save in iWork format; you don’t seem to be able to tell it to default to MS Office format; iWork on the other hand seems more intuitive but will involve a learning curve.

I think a new printer may have been cheaper and less hassle.

What Price Remembrance?

November 15th, 2009 No comments

Horwich War MemorialJust been reading this article in the Bolton News regarding the war memorial here in Horwich. The names engraved on the side are in danger of becoming illegible due to weather erosion. The cost to fix this could be £9,000.

One thing struck me – the memorial was originally funded by a subscription from employees at the Loco Works and there are currently around 20,000 residents in Horwich. I know many of that number will be children, but even if half the residents gave a pound this could be sorted. I know some will say “We’ve already paid our council tax, let them pay for it” but that’s not the point.

Lest we forget

Blackrod Station sidelined again

November 14th, 2009 No comments

Blackrod StationAccording to the Bolton News, six railway station in Bolton have been identified by Network Rail as those most in need of improvement. Not surprisingly, once again, Blackrod station is missing from that list. (Full National list here)

Can someone please explain why Lostock station, which has both a ticket office and live train information screens, is on the list of six stations earmarked for improvements, when Blackrod with neither of these basic facilities is not? I’m not saying Lostock should not receive investment (particularly in reinstating the Wigan platforms short-sightedly removed in the past) but surely Blackrod station is in more need.

Given the lack of respect Blackrod station is given on the timetabled service, the cynic in me would guess that secretly Network Rail will be thinking “Why spend money on a station we’re trying to close down by reducing the service?”.

Network Rail are running a survey about station improvements. If you feel Blackrod (or an other station) deserves better, go to and make your views known.

Blackpool Illuminations 2009

November 1st, 2009 No comments
Blackpool Illuminations - four seasons
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The effect of Man’s waste on Albatross Chicks

October 24th, 2009 No comments

Albatross Chicks (Chris Jordan)These photos on Chris Jordan’s website show the effect of man’s waste on birds over 2000 miles from any continent.

Horwich RMI Bonfire 2009

October 13th, 2009 No comments

fireworksAfter the rather early date last year, Horwich RMI Bonfire will be held this year on Sunday 8th November.

Classic Calculators

October 4th, 2009 No comments

Classic CalculatorsWhile going through some older photos, I came across this one that I had taken in the Science Museum of two calculators I remember from my childhood.

The Sinclair model on the left was the first calculator I ever saw as my Dad had one. It had an LED display and the buttons made a distinctive ‘click’. It had a while plastic hard case which flipped open. The other, the Casio FX-80, was ‘almost’ the calculator I used throughout secondary school (mine was an FX-81).

It certainly makes you feel older when you see things like this in a museum.

Why texting while driving is a bad idea

September 16th, 2009 No comments

Everyone who buys a mobile phone or drives a car should be made to watch this video.

I make no apologies about the graphic nature of the content – only when people see the consequences do we stand any chance of people changing their behaviour.