Category Archives: Latest News

Miscellaneous posts regarding what I have been up to, what I’m reading about and current projects .

The Worst has Happened

I’ve had a proper ‘First World Problem’ this week. My Mac Book has broken ! Remember that TV advert for the first ever Macintosh ?

 

MBP_GPU_logo

 

You never realise how much you rely on your technology until it lets you down. I once went for a group interview with Garmin electronics as a support rep. I asked how mobile Apps were competing with their dedicated products and got a bit of an ear full. They were telling us how their customers love and rely on their GPS gear to such an extent that they often consider it a life or death matter. People train for marathons with their wrist monitors and guide their boats at night etc etc.

 

Back at the Ranch

Any way thanks mainly, so it would seem, to some over zealous American lawyers and a class action law suit, I might just get a new mainboard !

I was some what relieved and suprised  to find  an Apple repair programme for a known issue with Mac Book Pro 2011 displays. The problem seems related to lead free solder used on the AMD GPU. Around 2011 was the time when they started using non leaded solder apparently and it’s not as good as the real stuff, at least for reliability so it would seem. I’ve also got a 2009 iMac that won’t run with out fan control software due to a graphics issue, not good really for ‘premium’ products.

 

Luckily I keep backups using Apples built in Time Machine, but I’ve never tested a restore so don’t want to rely on it really. The support rep. catagorically said that I should not remove the hard drive.  Basically I now have to sort out how to get a blank install of OSX into a machine that can not boot past the single user console.

They seriously expect me to send in my laptop with all my Emails for ten years, all my passwords and files to them as is ?

 

Solutions

…consist mainly of trying various start up modes:

  1. Boot to console mode and move the ATI drivers to force use of the integrated Intel graphics  Does not work since can not modify files under /System due to new security features in OSX
  2. Boot to recovery and turn off security  machine will not boot to any thing other than hardware test or single user mode console ( I never even knew the latter even existed)
  3. Use firewire/thunderbolt  cable and target disk mode to backup / format I’d trust a disk image backup, however I don’t have either of these cables, they cost £30 ! ( old camcorder firewire is not the same, I managed to short out my Macbook trying it Yikes!) Also a MiniDisplay port is NOT a thunderbolt cable!
  4. install OSX on an old 120GB SATA laptop drive using a USB enclosure.  This seems to be a good way forward, I’m currently trying to download OSX install App on working machine and then can remove the ATI/AMD drivers and see if the laptop will  boot with it connected externally 🙂

Next I will put the 120Gb disk in and then I have to go to the Mac store in Southampton and plead my case ! They wouldn’t send me a postage paid box, maybe I was pushing my luck, although that is what the official page offers !  🙂

 

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My Head hurts…

I’ve come across a few  web sites this week that were mentioned in job adverts. Web development is a cruel discipline as is IT in general. If you learn how to be a plumber or drive an HGV then that is a fairly stable skill. The thing with IT is that technology is advancing so fast though.

Take sage WordPress starter theme for example. Once you have got a grasp of HTML, CSS and Javascript and PHP WordPress theme development… Phew ! Why not bend your mind around WebPack, BrowserSynch, node.js, gulp and composer? It’s the state of the art!

If it all gets a bit too much have a look on stackshare a site which might give you a better picture. The site shows how various Web sites are built. The company with the job has included a link to their ‘stackshare profile’ which shows all the libraries, tools etc they use. Neat !

Also another advert said they use Polymer a library that makes use of Web components. Hmm I think I’ve heard about those a while back… here is a neat tutorial !

What I find interesting is that at the end of the day it’s often down to personal preference or opinion / judgement which technologies you choose to invest time in learning and using.

There seems to be a never ending circle of standardisation and innovation. Standardisation only seems to come about when people with money get together to discuss stuff!  I guess that’s what development is all about really, finding new ways to do things quicker either by copying and using what other people have shared or developing your own solutions.

The other way to view it is that companies are trying to attract talent by waving all these flashy new things about. I guess developers need to keep up with the latest trends.

P.S. the spider is photoshop practice in case you were fooled !

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The Science of Information. Also …

 

Well, I’m sat here trolling the job pages and loving my UJM tweeks. Must admit it’s a bit of a roller coaster with the weather as Summer comes to an end. It goes from beach worthy glorious sunshine to sultry humidity to grey and downright miserable as it is today !

I’m on my second listening of a great course.

The Science of Information: From Language to Black Holes

I can’t say I understand half of the maths involved but it’s certainly mind expanding and inspiring me to keep pushing the limits of my knowledge. The course covers a lot of ground to say the least and I’m not even going to try to start to describe it. Go have a look 🙂

Meanwhile I’m still available for any WordPress/ Web Development roles that might be about.

Following on from my post regarding design skills, I found another fantastic book for getting into design mode,  I’d highly recommend it. It’s called ‘Basics of Design, layout and typography‘ by Lisa Graham.

As you can see, I’ve also been enjoying the beach weather so it’s no all bad.Indeed I’m surprised to see so many visitors to the New Forest area this year. It’s strange to see Wilverly Plain car park full up, I’ve lived in New Milton for almost 20 years now and the only other time I’ve seen it full was once when a bunch of running clubs held a massive race event there. ( strange really, you’d think some of them would be able to run from one of the other car parks !)

I’m hoping for a few more beach days next week and then going to get even more /serious/ about job hunting! I’m constantly discovering new Digital agencies in the local area, it’s amazing how vibrant the digital industry has become around the South coast, but it seems that getting the required toe in the door experience is remaining a challenge for me.

I guess the cool thing about Web development is that you could in theory work from the beach. The picture above could literally be me finishing my day at the office 🙂

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Fixing UJM

UJM is the Governments preferred and recommended job search site for people claiming JSA. The trouble is it sucks and is also pretty slow.

I’ve been trying to fix some of the worst parts, using tampermonkey extension for Safari.

To try out these scripts install tamper monkey, click on the ‘add script’ in the tampermonkey toolbar menu  and  then copy/paste over the entire script using scripts from below.

I’ve created a GitHub repo and I’ll upload each file in its own branch.

Useless Home Page

When you login you are taken to a homepage that is pretty useless. Normally what I want to do is to add some activity logs to record my job search which I do mainly on indeed. What’s the solution ?  Redirect to the activity log but provide a button to cancel.

Additionally the only really useful thing on the home page is ‘my saved searches’ which are diligently  placed right at the bottom. They should be at the top, so see first script below !

Login timeout

If any one from DWP ever applied for a job before they joined the public purses gravy chain they would know that it can some times take more than 10 minutes to complete an application. Hence the login timeout on UJM is to say the least unfriendly. (the usernames are  10 digit numbers, I kid you not) Solution ? A script to automatically login ( assumes that safari has saved the login and password). See second script.

Jobs link

Oh look a nice link to show me some jobs, oh hang on it’s showing me 1.2Million jobs through out the UK, how come since I went through the trouble of adding my details ie. postcode, skills ? Solution… script to add postcode to search form and reload the page. Third script!

Tedium

I have not actually spoken to a jobcenter adviser who can be bothered to login to my UJM account to view my activity log for a while now. They used to love grabbing the paper forms, but hey, logging in requires finding my email address that is scrawled on my paper docs. some place and then it hardly ever works any way.

Sooner or later though I know I will meet some jobs-worth or newby adviser, or some one flown in from another office.

Also you need to show that you are doing what you have agreed to do and that you are logging in every day. Solution; fourth script to add a couple of buttons to add required logs to show that you have logged in and done your job searching. Button one simply records that you searched on UJM and the other one finds a suitable job search related activity for you. I also added a select control, that lets you use your list to remind you what activities you need to do. You should add to the script to add activities from your own job search routine.

I’ve also added some new styling and a visual warning that lets you know if you are trying to update a note when your session is likely to have expired, or you have too many characters. I’ve been caught out by this a number of times, you type in a note only to be redirected to a link to register. You loose your note and you don’t even get re-directed to the correct ( login) page !

Take home message

These scripts can round off a the worst sharp edges of UJM and  I hope they help some one. Happy job searching ☺

  1. Auto login if you click on a bookmark and you have saved un/pw
  2. redirect to activity log on login unless click ‘stay here’
  3. post button adds a ‘i was ere’ activity log or the contents of the textarea if it has been changed either manually or via script
  4. rnd button selects a random job search activity from the logs array and updates the texarea, you can keep clicking
  5. when you click the select element the selected item is then applied to the textarea
  6. The jobs link sets your post code as starters, you will need to change this of course, unless you live next door to me 🙂

1) Re-direct from Useless home page or move saved searches to top

// ==UserScript==
// @name UJM home redirect
// @namespace http://tampermonkey.net/
// @version 0.1
// @description redirect from useless UJM home page to activity log
// @author You
// @match https://jobsearch.direct.gov.uk/Home.aspx
// @grant GM_addStyle
// ==/UserScript==

(function() {
 'use strict';

 // Your code here...
 //https://jobsearch.direct.gov.uk/Account/ActivityHistory.aspx
 
 
 var zNode = document.createElement ('div');
zNode.innerHTML = '<button id="myButton" type="button">' + 'Stay Here</button>';
zNode.setAttribute ('id', 'myContainer');
document.body.appendChild (zNode);

//--- Activate the newly added button.
document.getElementById ("myButton").addEventListener (
 "click", ButtonClickAction, false
);

 var tOut = setTimeout( stop, 3000);

 
function ButtonClickAction (zEvent) {
 /*--- For our dummy action, we'll just add a line of text to the top
 of the screen.
 */
clearTimeout(tOut);
 zNode.style.display="none";
 // move saved searches to top
 document.querySelector(".content_section").insertBefore(document.querySelector(".content_section:last-child"));

}

//--- Style our newly added elements using CSS.
GM_addStyle ( multilineStr ( function () {/*!
 #myContainer {
 position: absolute;
 top: 0;
 left: 300px;
 font-size: 20px;
 background: orange;
 border: 3px outset black;
 margin: 5px;
 opacity: 0.9;
 z-index: 222;
 padding: 5px 20px;
 }
 #myButton {
 cursor: pointer;
 }
 #myContainer p {
 color: red;
 background: white;
 }
*/} ) );

function multilineStr (dummyFunc) {
 var str = dummyFunc.toString ();
 str = str.replace (/^[^\/]+\/\*!?/, '') // Strip function () { /*!
 .replace (/\s*\*\/\s*\}\s*$/, '') // Strip */ }
 .replace (/\/\/.+$/gm, '') // Double-slash comments wreck CSS. Strip them.
 ;
 return str;
}
 function stop () {
 window.location.assign("https://jobsearch.direct.gov.uk/Account/ActivityHistory.aspx");}
})();

2) One Click login, via favourites bar

// ==UserScript==
// @name UJM auto login from bookmarked login URL
// @namespace hwhap.com
// @version 0.1
// @description one click UJM login
// @author You
// @match https://authenticate.gateway.gov.uk/sidp/SignIn.ashx?gwv=1.0&gwrealm=urn%3aTransformingLabourMarketServices&gwtheme=directgov&gwcategory=Ind
// @grant none
// ==/UserScript==

(function() {
 'use strict';

 // Your code here...
 console.log("simon");
 var login=document.getElementsByName("ctl00$fixedContent$Username$loginButton")[0];
 setTimeout(function(){ console.log("logging in");login.onclick.apply(login);}, 1000);
})();

3) Fix the Retarded Jobs link

// ==UserScript==
// @name UJM set jobs search area
// @namespace http://tampermonkey.net/
// @version 0.1
// @description try to take over the world!
// @author You
// @match https://jobsearch.direct.gov.uk/Jobsearch/PowerSearch.aspx
// @grant none
// ==/UserScript==

(function() {
 'use strict';

 var searchArea=document.getElementsByName("MasterPage1:HeaderContent:Header_Default:searchControlsSwitcher:_ctl0:_tbWhere")[0];
 console.log(searchArea.value);
 if (searchArea.value=="Postcode or location") 
 {
 searchArea.value= "bh255un";
 document.getElementById("MasterPage1_HeaderContent_Header_Default_searchControlsSwitcher__ctl0_btnSearch").click(); }

})();

4) Auto Beef up buttons for Activity Log, now allows you to select from a list

// ==UserScript==
// @name ujm buttons to add a log
// @namespace http://tampermonkey.net/
// @version 0.1
// @description try to take over the world!
// @author You
// @match https://jobsearch.direct.gov.uk/Account/ActivityHistory.aspx
// @grant GM_addStyle
// ==/UserScript==

(function() {
 'use strict';



var zNode = document.createElement ('div');
zNode.innerHTML = '<button id="myButton" type="button">'
 + 'post</button>'
 + '<button id="randomLog" type="button">'
 + 'Rnd</button>'
 ;
zNode.setAttribute ('id', 'myContainer');
document.body.appendChild (zNode);

//--- Activate the newly added button.
document.getElementById ("myButton").addEventListener (
 "click", ButtonClickAction, false);
 document.getElementById ("randomLog").addEventListener (
 "click", addRandomLog, false);

 var logs = ['Looked on Tesco and LIDL web sites',
 'Went around local shops looking for signs',
 'edit script to add as many as  you like'
 
 
 ];
 addInput(zNode);


 function addInput(divName) {
 var newDiv = document.createElement('div');
 var selectHTML = "";
 selectHTML='<select id="noteSelect" >';
 for(var i = 0; i < logs.length; i = i + 1) {
 selectHTML += "<option value='" + logs[i] + "'>" + logs[i] + "</option>";
 }
 selectHTML += "</select>";
 newDiv.innerHTML = selectHTML;
 //document.getElementById(divName).appendChild(newDiv);
 divName.appendChild(newDiv);
document.getElementById("noteSelect").addEventListener("change", function(){ document.getElementsByName("MasterPage1:RightColumnContent:InsertJobSearchNote:NoteTextArea")[0].value=document.getElementById("noteSelect").value; });

}
 
 
 function addRandomLog () {


//alert(logs[3]);
 //alert (logs[Math.floor(Math.random()*logs.length)]);
 document.getElementsByName("MasterPage1:RightColumnContent:InsertJobSearchNote:NoteTextArea")[0].value=logs[Math.floor(Math.random()*logs.length)];
 //doUjLog ();

}
function doUjLog () {
 WebForm_DoPostBackWithOptions(new WebForm_PostBackOptions("MasterPage1:RightColumnContent:InsertJobSearchNote:lnkbReference", "", true, "", "", false, true));

}
function ButtonClickAction (zEvent) {
 /*--- For our dummy action, we'll just add a line of text to the top
 of the screen.
 */
 /* var zNode = document.createElement ('p');
 zNode.innerHTML = 'The button was clicked.';
 document.getElementById ("myContainer").appendChild (zNode);*/
 if (document.getElementsByName("MasterPage1:RightColumnContent:InsertJobSearchNote:NoteTextArea")[0].value=="For example, enter details about following up on a job referral or calling about a job advertised in the newspaper.")
 {//add a default message
 var dailyLog=['logged onto UJM and searched jobs',
 'searched UJM and indeed',
 'performed search on UJM',
 'log onto UJM and indeed',
 'checked Universal Job Match for new jobs',
 'went onto UJM online and checked jobs',
 'went through new jobs on indeed and jobmatch', 'logged on to UJM to search jobs', ];
 
 document.getElementsByName("MasterPage1:RightColumnContent:InsertJobSearchNote:NoteTextArea")[0].value=dailyLog[Math.floor(Math.random()*dailyLog.length)];
 }
 //WebForm_DoPostBackWithOptions(new WebForm_PostBackOptions("MasterPage1:RightColumnContent:InsertJobSearchNote:lnkbReference", "", true, "", "", false, true));
 doUjLog ();
}
 
 GM_addStyle ( multilineStr ( function () {/*!
 #myContainer {
 position: absolute;
 top: 170px;
 left: 300px;
 font-size: 20px;
 background: orange;
 border: 3px outset black;
 margin: 5px;
 opacity: 0.9;
 z-index: 222;
 padding: 5px 20px;
 }
 #myButton {
 cursor: pointer;
 }
 #myContainer p {
 color: red;
 background: white;
 }
*/} ) );

function multilineStr (dummyFunc) {
 var str = dummyFunc.toString ();
 str = str.replace (/^[^\/]+\/\*!?/, '') // Strip function () { /*!
 .replace (/\s*\*\/\s*\}\s*$/, '') // Strip */ }
 .replace (/\/\/.+$/gm, '') // Double-slash comments wreck CSS. Strip them.
 ;
 return str;
}
 function update () {
 document.getElementsByName("MasterPage1:RightColumnContent:InsertJobSearchNote:NoteTextArea")[0].value=document.getElementById("noteSelect").value;
 } 
})();
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Annoyed with Adblock warnings ?

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 17.17.41

I’m retaliating against the growing number of sites that complain when you use Adblock.

I’ve just spent a while getting my head around greasemonkey which lets you add javascript to sites in Firefox.

The Bournemouth Echo is relatively lenient, in that you just get an annoying overlay that takes up the bottom of the window. This script does the trick, and I will have to add to it as more annoyances come to light !

Now to  find the equivalent Safari add-on and I’ll be happy 🙂

// ==UserScript==
// @name ad pane hider
// @namespace hwhap
// @description hide echo adblock pane
// @include http*://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/*
// @version 1
// @grant none

// ==/UserScript==
console.log("simon");


 var x = document.getElementsByClassName("ad-blocker-warning");
 var i;
 for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) {
 x[i].style.display = "none";}
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the real debate for decent people ( :-) )

These are my thoughts:

YMMV

  1. the EU was only meant to get us cheap  milk and pork products (?)
  2. Blair v Gordon Brown  was arguably our biggest GOOGF moment ever over the  euro
  3. .com boom sent  labour a bit wild, but it was pretty cool
  4. globalism needs big thinking
  5. Focused but Flexible, the UK system is the best to help us and our EU buddies
  6. manage the real issue. We can not longer tolerate the status Quo, we will have to think things through
  7. next billions, we need to tap into the upcoming markets
  8. the UK people have spoken, we will not disestablish our selves from our roots
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Investigating Design Skills

..but I’m not the designer type ?

 

So I’m fairly well read up on the coding and technology side of web development and mobile. Arguably a more useful skill, so it would seem is to be able to solve  business  and organisations marketing goals by designing Web Sites and apps that people love to use. Or perhaps sites or apps that I can produce to show off my skills.

It seems that employers expect to see sample work in a portfolio these days as well (as the  all important Github account to show off your pristine code to the world) . A portfolio ? Me ? No I’m an engineer, a  born and bread logical thinker. So any way the voyage of discovery never ends and I’m at least starting to see that good web design is not perhaps such an esoteric skill .

As you might expect a search for ‘Graphic design’  brings up plenty of useful resources. I’ve been looking at a Udacity course called ‘Introduction to the design of Everyday things” ( I don’t really recommend it by the way, the lessons are all < 120 seconds long which is really frustrating) I’m reading the book by the same name, on which the course is based.

I particularly like the discussion relating to ‘knowledge in the head ‘ vs. ‘knowledge in the world’. It’s a very interesting observation that most of the time our decisions are constrained by the fact that there are limited options for actions we can take in the real world. I have just noticed an example of this whilst out for my walk. A lady was walking along the path and was obviously lost, looking for the railway bridge. She had no memory in her head where the bridge was. I’m guessing that ‘information in the world’ would seem to predict the presence of such a path that lead over a bridge. Good design should not require users to know in advance how to do something. As ‘knowledge in the world’ is increasingly transferred to screen based smart devices clever ways will be needed to keep it accessible at the time it is needed.

I’ve also studied various other books such as the seminal ‘Meggs History of Graphic Design’ as well as some which are more directly related to Web design.  Web design seems to have a lot or conventions built in to it that constrain design. Sites must primarily  be useable really, why re-invent the wheel when everybody already knows how to use a drop down menu or ‘burger’ icon. This I guess is the reason why CSS frameworks such as Bootstrap are so popular. That’s not to say there is no room to make sites visually appealing…

My favourite course on the subject that I’ve found so far is ‘Design Aesthetics for Web Design with Sue Jenkins’ on Lynda.com. This is worth watching a few times since there is  a lot of detail. It covers the elements and principles that designers are taught.

The elements of graphic design,

  • type
  • line
  • point
  • form
  • colour mood
  • colour value
  • space
  • texture and depth
  • repetition of shapes

The principles are rules that should be considered:

  • contrast
  • emphasis
  • balance
  • unity
  • pattern
  • movement
  • rhythm and repetition
  • proportion
  • simplicity
  • gradation

So the real skill is applying principles and elements of design in a way that visually complement the content. Good layout shows that care and attention and thought has been used in constructing the page. The information has been pre-digested and presented as a coherent message. Colours can be selected that relate to the particular industry or organisation. Typography styles speaks volumes about what sort of site it is. It’s about appealing to multiple sensory modalities, creating a good first impression etc

 

 

 

 

 

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Placing faith in IPTV

I’m feeling pretty excited  at the moment, having recently had  BT TV installed. It’s £13 a month compared to the £38 that Sky were asking for. The thing is though, I can still get the Discovery and Nat. Geo. channels; the ones that I actually watch!

BT also sent out an engineer to install a new 1TB box ( which is included) BT TV is an internet based system so it ‘streams’ the premium TV channels  over the broadband line, hence BT also insist of installing a UTP cable for you, which his no bad thing really. The box is pleasingly diminutive next to it’s Sky+ grand daddy. It’s not as slick as Sky of course, but it’s perfectly functional. Every thing is there really, a usable App. that allows sending record requests and a decent EPG with series record and instant access to catch up services. The HD picture quality seems fine too, I’ve had both Sky and BT TV for a few weeks now to compare.

Being a bit of a Home Cinema buff, I was sceptical about the quality of streaming video ( give me a BluRay any day). That changed last summer, when I laid hands on a Google Chromecast and a Netflix account 🙂   Broadband is no longer a luxury now so relying on it for TV is no big deal really. BT were apparently the first to show 4K live and the box also lets you stream paid for content like Netflix etc. which all works quite well. BT will  charge £24 for a season of Modern Family though, if that gives you an idea…

1364030378214
BT UHD Box (Humax/ YouView) 1TB 2.5″ drive

I’ve also ‘negotiated’ a 12 month deal on my BT Infinity Broadband. At £10 a month I am really quite impressed with it. BT recently upped the maximum speed available and I now measure a healthy 51M/17bps which is ‘all you can eat’.

I first had Infinity back in 2013 but have had to endure various speed and usage restrictions up until a year or so ago. BT are also in the process of giving all their Infinity 1 customers 50GB of cloud storage, which is a welcome upgrade over the stingy 5GB they currently include.

I’ve been reminiscing on how we have got from sub 56Kbs modems to 100Mb+ WIFI enabled routers that can stream 3 HD channels at a time. Broadband speed seems to have become a national obsession. My Dad  can’t order FTTC because he’s already too close to the exchange. The last leg of the connection to the house still uses the same copper cables that have been in the ground for 40 years. BT Infinity however uses an optimised  transmission method that enables the higher speeds over short cable runs.

There has been talk online that the speed will drop as more people are added to the fibre cabinets, due to interference. I think our cabinet here is good for 300 odd connections which does not seem like a lot of capacity. Having said that the other side of the road from the cabinet is green belt land, so not many customers there I guess! Google maps says that I am 300 Meters from the cabinet which is pretty close I think.

Do I need faster than 51Mbs ?

 

I’m not currently sure why any one would currently need faster broadband that this ?I could get Infinity 2 which would perhaps see me even faster, up to 80Mbps. If you think about it Web pages often contain resources that come from all over the place and which can be downloaded in parallel. However Web Servers are shared resources so I’m not convinced that they all transmit at 50Mbs. I live on my own so I have the whole 51Mbps to myself.

The BT box is capable of recording two HD channels whilst watching a non live programme  at the same time. Each HD channel seems to use about 6.5Mbs.The UHD Sky Sport channel needs 15Mbps though, as proven by the fact that when the BT engineer connected the box up to my old 10Mb switch it would not work!  I did find a tutorial on checking you are using the fastest DNS using a utility from Google called Namebench, but the BT DNS servers seem to be a pretty fast these days.

Bye Bye Sky ( for now)

Sky have a neat way of fighting back against people leaving them. Last night during Helicopter ER on Sky 1 I saw an advert offering 35% off for customer who ‘stay with Sky’. This blatant money saving offer seemed pretty bizarre to me but a bit of digging reveals that Sky can target adverts to specific audiences with their Adsmart service. It’s a shame they can’t use that technology to help save wasting so much disk space on all those ads. though !

According to the forums Sky will give you 50% off any package if you ask nicely, it’s too late though since I’m hooked on IPTV now 🙂  Now I must get back to catching up on unwatched Sky stuff, I’m all set for the big switch off later this week !

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What is Visual Composer ?

I’ve been through a neat tutorial on using Visual Composer, which is a WordPress plugin. As its name implies it allows you to make Web sites in a kind of WYSIWYG fashion.

This tutorial uses a basic theme and shows how to create a one page scrolling web site. Here is my effort ( work in progress !)

So anyway, here are my thoughts on Visual Composer so far:

 

Pros:

  • Rapid development, once you get the hang of it.
  • No need for CSS/HTML skills ( in theory at least)
  • Good for inspiration, trying out ideas etc kind of like the ultimate mock up tool ?
  • Comes with loads of neat ‘building blocks’
  • It’s actually quite fun to use once you get going with it

Cons:

  • Very messy HTML code with inline CSS settings all over the place. This matters when it comes to trouble shooting and maintenance.
  • ‘Vendor Lockin’ … if you /ever/ disable the plugin your site will stop working.
  • Endless clicking and dragging and reloading( works best with two monitors)
  • Documentation is not great, there are mainly  just a load of YouTube videos with annoying music !
  • Relies  on the WordPress short code API ( Don’t believe me ?… have a look at the raw text content of a page or post) This could be slow, although cache plugins would help. The bigger issue  is perhaps that short codes are just that; code not content. Mixing code and content, goes against the whole point of using a CMS
  • Does not fully  integrate with WordPress development ethos , e.g.    PHP template replaced  with   custom queries .
  • Inevitably when building sites for other people, they will eventually ask for something that Visual Composer can’t do… then what ? Best dig out that CSS book 🙂

Visual Composer does come with some advanced features such as custom query building and templates. If you were coding a theme you would use the appropriately named template file and build the page using PHP, which would infact be a lot easier!

 

Screen Shot of Visual composer in action
Drag and Drop components in Visual Composer page editor

 

There is obviously a market for this sort of plugin. I think its main strength is that developers can integrate it into their themes and allow their end user greater flexibility.

Personally I find it an interesting thing to play about with, but I’m not sure it’s a perfect solution.  I’d rather be honing my  HTML/CSS/JavaScript skills than learning how to make Visual Composer behave. i.e. it seems to raise as many problems as it sets out to solve.

The funny thing  is that the sort of user who would be attracted to a WYSIWYG Web development system is the sort of user who is bound to run into problems or limitations and not know how to fix them !  This is another area where developers can try to make money, by charging for support services I guess.

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Safe Walking in the New Forest

 

My Leg in a cast
Ouch!

 

I slipped and dislocated my knee cap in the New Forest on Monday. I thought I’d write a blog to say thanks to all those involved in my rescue and also to remind fellow walkers of sensible precautions to take.

 

 

It’ll never happen to me…

I’ve been in to walking since I joined an outdoor pursuits club decades ago. I actually did a weekend course on map reading and being safe in the outdoors. We used to go on group walks to Wales and sleep on concrete floors in ‘camping barns’ I’ve done a lot of hill walking in the Lakes more recently and have climbed nearly every Wainwright now I think.

I’ve got quite a bit less fit in recent times but I still do a lot of walking in the New Forest. Well this is where I was on Monday when I slipped over in mud and dislocated my knee cap. I do believe I may have been distracted by my phone but all I really remember is the extreme pain and shock of seeing  my foot slide away from under me as I tumbled to the ground. I realised instantly that this was no ordinary embarrassing slip up. My knee felt like it was locked solid and I could see that it was horribly distorted. So far as I was concerned I was not going any where ! Just the thought of moving that knee was the worst pain I’ve ever felt. I knew instantly that I needed help.

Shock

For a moment I thought I would not be able to get a phone signal since I knew that the area where I’d fallen is one of the few places where there is no service. Magically on the second attempt at dialing 999 the cell system must have detected an emergency call and boosted the power or something since I managed to get through.

I explained what had happened and managed to put the operator lady on speaker phone and start up my ViewRanger app. It came up with a reference for the last know position which I read out. She queried if I was on a road… After a few minutes  I got the correct fix and read out the numbers quickly so they would be recorded. Not bad really, a 10 figure grid reference and stated GPS accuracy of 26m. I also described where I was in relation to features on the 50K Landranger map that I have installed under Viewranger. Phew !

Not long after I’d called 999 a lady and her husband came by. It turns out that she is a nurse and I am very thankful to them for staying with me and directing the paramedics.  It was a bit of a surreal conversation but very, very pleased to have been found. It was by no means certain that any one would have come across me, there are not that many people about this time of year and I just happened to be on a path at the time. ( The New Forest is generally completely open access and you do not always have to stick to paths when walking )

Dangers

So there I am, lying in agony in a muddy puddle in about 5C temperature. I was acutely aware of the dangers, the thoughts that rush through your mind in such situations. What if I can’t get through to 999 ? What if no one finds me ? I did have a good warm coat on and a fleece hat and it was sunny. I had some water and coffee and food. What I never  realised is how easy it is to go into shock in a situation like this.  I guess I was waiting there for less than an hour but I’d already started to get quite cold, despite having had an extra coat put over me and being propped up with logs to keep me out of the mud ! What a sad sight I must have been.

Essential safety Items

It’s amazing the total feeling of helplessness and despair you feel when you realise what just happened. I knew something was seriously wrong and I had no doubt that I had to get help.

  • Good clothes, layers of wicking fabric ( not cotton since it holds on to water, which in turn destroys insulation) hat, waterproofs and extras( Check the weather forecast!)
  • Phone, with charged battery. Make that two phones from now on.
  • Map ( hardly any one I meet asking for directions seems to have a proper map  and no one has a compass)
  • GPS device/ or Smartphone app and knowledge of how to use it !
  • Torch, (head torch) good for signalling to be found and navigation
  • Whistle ( you can shout all you like but a whistle is 100X better for summoning attention.)
  • Pain Killers. If I had not been able to get assistance I might have had to straighten my leg my self or some how crawl to find help.
  •  Shoes, I must admit my trail running shoes maybe fall down a bit ( no pun intended) They do have reasonably chunky soles, but are generally in a bit of a sorry state.  Most people you see in the New Forest seem to manage pretty well with Wellies for shorter dog walking trips. I think I might go back to ‘proper’ boots !
  • Extra food/ water/flask. In summer you can pinch extra water from the camp sites 🙂 When I go cycling I take a JetBoil with me.
  • I usually have a small foam sit mat, with me. That would have been great insulation in this case, since you loose by far the most heat into wet mud !
  • A pen to write down coordinates, it would have been a good idea to get the grid refs. before calling 999 perhaps. Luckily I had quite a bit of battery left. My Moto G is still serving me well!

I’ve got a waterproof stuff sack to keep  electronic stuff in, it needn’t be very big or heavy really. In fact I’m really a bit of a fair weather walker these days any way 🙂

I know the area quite well and I guess I would have been able to describe how to find my location, in relation to a nearby car park if necessary.

My Rescuers

Here is a link with a picture or  the 6 wheel drive buggy that came to my ultimate rescue:

I was actually lifted out of the muddy puddle in which I had landed by the Southern Ambulance Services HART team. They arrived with pain killers, a self heating blanket  and a  6 wheel drive buggy Ambulance. I think they were surprised to find me first of all since they were still debating whether to cut the chain on the gate for some reason!

Unfortunately for me and despite multiple attempts, the paramedics could not get a canular in to give IV morphine, but they did provide ‘ gas and air’ and other pain killers. The next thing I knew really  I was laying in a nice warm ambulance  waiting to get going to Hospital.

Southampton Hospital

The ambulance had me in A&E in no time, where it took three people including an extremely busy doctor to straighten my leg out. Despite more Morphine ( this time up the nose !) the procedure was agony and I was screaming, much to the politly  supressed amusement of the staff. Maybe I deserved that !

Surprisingly once my knee was back in place the pain went away and I was even able to walk later! I was in fact X-rayed and sorted out with plaster cast and crutches and shoved out the door pretty promptly. Actually I was on the gas and air so maybe I lost track of time a bit, that stuff doesn’t really do much for knee pain though, if I’m honest. One bizarre coincidence was that my Mum and Step Father were actually already at the hospital for another reason, and I had a visit in A&E !

Putting the heating on

So as I sit here and ponder events, with the heating cranked up and a nice cup of tea I hope my story helps others to remember to be safe out there!

I’d really like to thank all those involved in our wonderful NHS and  my family for picking me up and sorting out my car etc. I’ve managed to have my Tesco shopping delivered for £1 yesterday, it’s amazing how grateful you are for a service like this when you suddenly become immobile.

I hope to have the plaster off next week and am already walking around the block a bit faster every day.  See you out there.

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