Monday, 27 June 2011

Finally got round to trying Ubuntu 11.04

The "trying" in the title is correct. I often reinstall my computer to try out different operating systems. From Ubuntu, Aros, Mac OSX and BeOS. I like to try them out I hate using windows it just feels clunky and every once in a while I put Vista back on the machine. So the latest Ubuntu came out in April but i just haven't tried it yet. So today I backed up all the content on my machine to an external HD. I'm running a pretty old machine 3yrs with 4GB ram , quad core CPU, 3x 500Gb in raid giving me 1.5Tb of disk space, 2 Radeon 2600HD GFX cards connected to 3 Monitors (currently only 2 working).

So I downloaded the latest ubuntu from the website the 64bit version and installed it. I was highly surprised when the install finally picked up that I had 3 hard drives linked in a raid and supplied it as a single drive rather that 3 separate drives that it normally does. So with a big grin on my face I deleted all of the partitions and told it to install the OS to a 500GB partition a 10GB swap space and the /home mounted on the other 1TB partition.

The installation went perfectly and very fast up to the point where it tried to write the grub boot loader. I got an error about the fact that it could not write to the drive. Let me explain as I explained above I like to install Operating systems one of which was Mandrake. I've installed RedHat and Ubuntu before but not Mandrake I think it was the spring 2010 version but when I tried to uninstall that and put windows back on I had problems with the fact that I couldn't get rid of its boot loader. It took me ages to fix I had to install windows and mess about with the command line to try and do an "fdisk /mbr". I think that this previous issue is stopping me from installing grub on the partition table.

So I guess thats what I'll be doing from tomorrow on. I did like what I've seen so far with ubuntu and am looking forward to playing with it when i get it installed. Any tips on how to fix this would be verify welcome.



Wednesday, 22 June 2011

DuckDuckGo Search engine

Yesterday I heard of a new search engine called DuckDuckGo i've had a little go on the site and must admit I do like it. So I clicked on the ipad link on the site which took me to the iPad app on itunes. Could this be a new google? At least they wont have the problem of loosing their trademark because it becomes a verb as your not going to say "Just DuckDuckGo it" more than likely it will be just "Quack it" Think I should trademark that?

You can check it out at http:\\ I like that on the ipad I don't have to hit next page it just adds more on bottom. Though this has the problem of a large amount of scrolling when you want to get to the top.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

I got a case for my iPad today

Today I received a new case for my iPad. The reason for getting the case is that I dropped my iPad on saturday afternoon and while I didn't break it i did put a small dent into the side of the device. So i went online and started looking for a case, not a cover as I don't think that the covers give any protection to the device.

This is the case I bought and it is amazing the way that having a keyboard with an iPad changes how you write stuff on it. It seems very relaxing way to type. The keyboard is rubber keys but they react like a normal keyboard with no missed keys while typing.

I do like the angle of the iPad while typing and it is adjustable as well but the best bit is the price. so how much for a keyboard and case for an iPad2 would £100 be a reasonable price? Well the first cover I looked at was £50 on and i went right through the purchase order until the last part where they told me i had to install Flash. I don't even have flash installed on my home computer. So I started looking again thinking that I would end up paying approx £100 for it. While searching i found an entry for the above device on eBay for £20 plus £5 postage, so now thinking that I was going to have to bid on a case I nearly didn't open the link. I was therefore very pleasantly surprised. When the auction was buy now for £20.

There of course is the issue that you always have with a new keyboard where the keys aren't where you have trained your fingers to look for them. Though I do believe that given time this will not be an issue. So my current rating for this device is 4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

IPad - Pages app review

I've recently downloaded pages for the iPad to work on a word document on the go and while it's a lovely program it does have some flaws which with a text editor are really seriously missing features.

FIrstly we have the problem that while there is an option for replacing text it doesn't work. What happens is that you highlight a section that you want to replace throughout the document, select the more.. option from the popup bubble then select the replace option and it just keeps saying 'no replacement found'. Doesn't bother to ask you what you want to replace it with it just says in the words of 'Little Britian'; "Computer says no!!". If they changed the message to Apple does not know what to replace the text with.

Second we have document headings. It won't let you change their styles across the document. Since the document I imported had really bad header styles I wanted to up date them. This is a manual process for the user because if you select a heading type it applies the heading in the document style. Which for this document was all messed up the header one style was smaller than the header two style and header three, etc..

Now for the nice things it does, the ability to highlight a document and put it into multiple columns, the ability to format tables is quick and straight forward but the cell outline options does not seem to have an option for no borders, image handling is brilliant take an image and make the background transparent and the text will flow against the image.

If I was to rate the app then 4/5 stars even with the flaws I stated it's a great app.

Monday, 13 June 2011

How to stream a PDF and open at a specific page.

Today I need to open a streamed PDF to a user from a website and open it on a specified page. The website is written in PHP with the binary files stored in a non accessible directory so they need to be streamed to a user upon request.  This also allows for the website to check if you have access to a file and keep it private to the users in question.  So to open a PDF at a specific page you use a url like "http://domain/test.pdf#page=2" but since we are looking to stream a file you use a url like "http://domain/stream.php?id=<number>" which after checking you have access to the file runs something like

header("Content-Type: ". $ContentType);
$sStreamFilePath = STREAM_CACHE . "/file_".$DocumentId.".binaryFile";
header('Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="'.$filename.'"');

So to open a PDF on a specific page we need to update the url to have "#page=<page>" on it "http://domain/stream.php?id=<number>#page=<page>"

Now your problem is that the hash part is not sent to the server so the stream.php never gets it. So you need to also pass it as a parameter like "http://domain/stream.php?id=<number>&page=<page>#page=<page>" this will send the page to the server which PHP will be able to access and add to the $iPageToOpenAt variable in the example below.

header("Content-Type: ". $ContentType);
$sStreamFilePath = STREAM_CACHE . "/file_".$DocumentId.".binaryFile";
 if($iPageToOpenAt != NOT_FOUND){
  header('Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="'.$filename.'#page='.$iPageToOpenAt.'"');
 } else {
  header('Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="'.$filename.'"');
} else {
 header('Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="'.$filename.'"');

What is actually happening is that we need to force both the browser and Acrobat Reader to see the page parameter.

Monday, 6 June 2011

The glass is half full.

Why is the glass always half full with Apple, and by that I mean that there always seems to be something left out. Let's talk about iCloud and it's syncing. Joy of joys I hear you say but let's look at it. What they have said is that every device will automatically sync. Well let's hope that doesn't happen.

Lets say you were at a wedding or some such event where you might take a hundred photo easily. Now let's say that that is 200MB of data for this example and let's say that they were taken on your iPhone. now they are going to sync to your home PC, your laptop, your iPad and your iPod touch.

That's 1GB of data 200Mb up and 800MB down we will ignore the 24mb let's over.

I assumed correctly that Apple would have thought about the amount of time and bandwidth it takes to upload your iTunes music library but they seem to have missed the plot about the way that photos should be dealt with.

I hope that each device has the ability to choose what way it syncs. I for one would prefer to download scaled versions of photos to my devices with the option per photo to download the original. That way people can choose to download the originals to the big PC at the back of the house but to download iPod touch size thumbnails on to the iPod touch as the default with of course the ability to download the original as the default for that device. I ask you honestly how regularly do you pinch and zoom on photos compared to how many times to you just flick between photos. I would also like the albums to come as a notification so that I can choose the sync option like "Don't sync to this device". Or "sync when on wifi". Or better yet "Ask when I go on wifi" so I can choose to sync everything while having coffee in Starbucks. Also the ability to sync with other devices with out going to the cloud is a must. just look at how distributed version control works i.e. Mercurial.

I'm very happy with the thought of wifi syncing my device while at home. just not sure if I want to have it downloading to every device. This would mean that every time I took a phot on my 32GB iPad that my wife's iPod touch 8GB would receive a copy. Not that I have anything to hide I just don't think she has much space on her iPod. I'm also sure that the 50-60 books that I have bought and read since Christmas would be of interest to her.

I'll leave you with this thought "It would be nice to be able to control the syncing of all my devices from any device"

I'm wondering if the iPod nano will be mentioned

Last september Apple released the new iPod nano. I'm wondering just how the nano did in the last 9 months and if we will hear of a refresh of the device. Or if we will have to wait until September for more information on it. I will admit that I'm very curious about how well it sold. I love the fact that it could be made into a watch.

Some rumours going around are about a possible iPhone nano coming out and if it did then I think that the size would definitely have to increase, because if you have ever seen some one trying to have a phone conversation with their wrist then you will know how stupid they look.

What I'm looking for from Apple today.

My main hopes are two fold I'm hoping for more functionality with photos like iPhoto on the Mac plus syncing and sharing options and of course wifi syncing of my iPad.

For photography I would like to see the ability to create and manage albums on the iPad I don't sync that often and prefer to use my iPad for as much as possible. I would like the ability to create albums on the iPad and to have those sync to the cloud and for it to be easy to allow others to have access to the albums that I want to grant them access to. So if I log in to my iClound account form any computer I can see all the albums that my friends have shared. With automatic thumbnails and small screen sized photos for viewing. With larger originals available for download just so I don't have to download 4.3MB files all the time. I would like to see the functionality of iPhoto on my iPad so that it could suggest people from my contacts and have the ability to link to my contacts to see all photos of that person. I would also like to be able to set up a new album and have photos go directly there.

For syncing I would hope that there would be the ability to sync to the iCloud service as well as to a server at home and all wifi based. I don't think that the iCloud service is going to be just for music. I would like to see it syncing all my apps, selected albums, music, books, etc... I have approx (as of about 3 months ago) 360GB of stuff in my iTunes folder on my machine. the big things are the movies that I have downloaded but I have about 100GB of photos that I've taken as well. I'm hoping that the music folder is fully synced to iCloud for off line access though I really need to clean it up as I ripped every CD I had and most of them I never listen too.

One rumour that I heard is that you might be able to log in to any computer with your iTunes details and use your stuff. This is very similar to what I was discussing with an Apple employee pre Christmas. I was explaining that I had gotten rid of my mobile and was using two iTouch 4th Gen iPods to video chat with my wife. I was explaining that I could envision a time when you would walk up to a booth and log in with your iTunes account and make a video call to someone or send an email. Of course the booth would charge 10 pence per minute to your iTunes account. while if I picked up a friends iPad I could log in and call some one for free.

Anything else will be a bonus. Any way today is going to be interesting.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Are so many Android devices a good idea

As a consumer more options are supposed to be a good idea.  We've got some nice OS's with iOS, Android, WebOs, and what ever the RIM OS is called.

So Apple and Rim are producing their own devices while Google is allowing their OS on other manufacturers devices and lastly HP with WebOS who have stated that they would be open to talking with people about them using WebOS.

But as a consumer who doesn't like to follow hardware specs for every device that is coming out or is planned for the future.  I'm starting to get confused about which Android device is the newest.  So my thinking goes something like

"Mmmm which device should I go for?"

"I could get an Android but wait will these devices run 'Honeycomb' when it comes out when ever that is?"

"I can wait till September and get the next iPad or go for the Playbook from RIM when its available."

Since Apple and RIM are producing their own devices they are responsible for backward compatibility for future OS updates. With Android unless you buy your device outright I believe (and I could be wrong) that you have to wait for the teleco to allow you to have the latest OS update.  Lets be honest the telecommunication companies want you to buy a new device not upgrade the current one. I had a Apple 3G for nearly 2 years before I got rid of my mobile.  I was always getting my phone upgraded every year which was tying me to the company for another year and it was the first mobile that I didn't want to upgrade and that was because the manufacture was updating the OS and giving me effectively a new mobile on each upgrade "Oh shiny (slightly scratched) new toy"

The bottom line is that with Apple and RIM as a consumer I'll know that I have the latest device from them with Android its like the PC market "Which is better? screw it I'll go with a brand its all the same shit anyway!"

I played with the Blackberry Playbook today

Note:: I only got to play with it for ten minutes

Its a nice looking device and I do like the layout my main problem is that due to the fact that there are no buttons I couldn't figure out how to exit some programs and had to be shown.  So minus one point there for not being more straight forward and simple to use.  Once I was shown how to go back (slide finger from outside the screen onto the screen) to the dashboard or what ever they are calling it.  I started to play with it so I loaded the racing game that was on it then accidentally moved my finger from the black area onto the screen and it shrunk it to 50% (nice feature I thought so plus one point) then instead of clicking on the game screen that was still playing I slide my finger up and it disappeared behind some UI on me (so minus 1 point) then I slide my finger the other way and got something else instead.  I played with the camera and it seemed very good much better than my iPad but that's not really hard now is it.

The fact that there is no email client on it is also a negative aspect I just can't understand the point in having a tablet and not being able to access my email on its nice screen.  I liked the weight and the feel of the device and after some playing with it I did like it.  I think that they have done a really nice job on it the UI just needs to be gotten used to and I'm sure that if I had it for a full day I would have gotten used to it quick enough.

I honestly thought that the device would have been bigger I haven't followed the spec's of it but I was definitely thinking of a larger device when the word book was used more along the lines of a large hardback book rather than a smaller paper back.  RIM definitely have a nice product and I do hope that they get enough developers to produce applications for it.  I see this as being a more acceptable to businesses because they are using Blackberries for the company mobiles that they will also go with the Playbook.  I will be very interested to see how it evolves.

The bottom line is that if someone gave me one I would happily take it and I do think that its got a life in corporations.  I feel that it will be easier to get this device from your company rather than an iPad or Android Tablet.