Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Taking the iPod Touch Upgrade Plunge

iPod Touch Upgrade, originally uploaded by Me (?).

I took the plunge last week and opted to pay the £12.99 ($20) that Apple are asking to upgrade the iPod Touch to the new software.

I was initially frustrated by the charge but in the end figured that £13 these days is not a huge amount of money so went for it anyway.

So what do I think....?

FeatureCommentAny good?
Movable iconsHolding your finger down on one of the icons on the home page allows you to move icons around and also move them onto additional pages that are accessed by swiping the home page.Handy but not a killer app
Web bookmark iconsIn safari you can now save links to web pages as new home page icons. If the site is iPod/iPhone aware then they will have created a nice icon for you otherwise you get a mini screen shot of the web page.Handy but not a killer app
Weather WidgetNeeds Wifi. You can set up the weather widget to show the 5 day weather report for a number of different cities. you can have multiple cities that are accessed via a swipe to the left or right.Handy but not a killer app
Stock WidgetNeeds Wifi. You can set up the stock widget to show the latest stock price and history graph for any number of stocks.Handy but not a killer app
NotesA small application that lets you type some notes which you can read or email (see below). for some reason it only works in portrait orientation so I find it hard to type on.Handy but not a killer app
Mail ClientNeeds Wifi. A full on mail client. It works with all major internet mail providers (I have mine hooked up to gmail) and works really well. You can set it up to auto sync periodically so even when the iPod is in sleep mode it still seems to replicate my mail. Also you can sent emails offline and it seems to auto send the email the next time the iPod happens to be in range of a Wifi hotspot it is registered for.

Apple have also upgraded the Safari and YouTube apps to allow the emailing of links to webpages and YouTube videos. Also notes written in the Notes application can also send emails. Like the Notes application it only works in portrait mode and therefore long email messages for me are too much of a faff.
The #1 reason that this is worth the £13 for me
Google MapsNeeds Wifi. A full Google Maps client just like the iPhone version. I have been having a play and the interface is really useful. I can see it being more use on the iPhone because (a) you tend to always have your phone and (b) the iPhone gets free Wifi or EDGE access - neither that the iPod Touch can take advantage of.

I really like the feature where you can type a business type (e.g. "cafe") and it detects that you are not searching for an address and puts pins on the map view that you are currently looking at.

There is also the "Location Finder" feature. The app partners with Skyhook Wireless to try and work out your location based on the Skyhook database. Coverage is not in my area yet but they seem to be expanding very quickly.
The #2 reason that this is worth the £13 for me

Now I have all this Wifi capability I am tempted to sign up for TheCloud's £4 a month unlimited Wifi offer. I'll wait and see on that one.

So all in, is it worth £13? It is silly that you have to pay but then you could argue that it is a software upgrade. Mail is the killer app for me, Google maps would be useful if I had a Wifi subscription so I could use it outside the house.

However £13 is nowt these days when two drinks in a Guildford pub comes to £9 :-)

Of course the other reason to upgrade is that the iPhone/iPod SDK is released next month and I assumed you needed the SW Update to make use of the 3rd party apps. I am looking forward to an official version of the iPod Guitar Simulator!

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Infinite Monkeys 2008

The other day I used the "Infinite Monkeys with Typewriter" analogy and it got me thinking...

If we *had* to implement the experiment today and assuming we could clone a limitlessness supply of primates what would we do. Typewriters are obsolete these days and the complete works of Shakespeare is actually a bit of a low aim in the modern world of data that grows in volume as quickly as it does today.

Fortunately I managed to find someone who could supply me with a limitless supply of primates and I have housed them in a secret location. My monkeys have been given Apple Macbooks each (they are trendy monkeys) and I am patiently waiting for one of them to write every book ever printed. Then I will never have to buy a book again. Mwahahahahahaha!

Here is a photo of them in action that I took this morning:

Infinite Monkeys 2008, originally uploaded by Me (?).

Slight problem, with inifinite monkeys who can't read English I am going to struggle to spot the one Monkey who manages to write the book I want to read. Plus I am now worrying how I am going to feed my abundant apes and am trying to find somewhere that can sell me an infinite amount of bananas....

Oi Cheetah#4623432! Stop swinging on that fan and get back to the laptop or you won't get a peanut!

This is harder than I thought. Maybe I should have stuck with Amazon...

Wednesday, 23 January 2008


Greasemonkey, originally uploaded by Me (?).

Today I finally got round to rewriting my one and only Greasemonkey script for Flickr. The script generates the HTML that the "Blog This" button on Flickr will do. I prefer to write my blog directly in blogger rather than use the Flickr page as I can edit and see previews with blogger.

I originally wrote a script last year but that only worked on your own photos. This new version works for any photo that allows you access to the "All Sizes" page.

The script is useful if you want to blog more than one photo or choose different size pictures. It includes the photo credit caption and links back to the original page.


Greasemonkey, originally uploaded by Me (?).

Greasemonkey, originally uploaded by Me (?).

Greasemonkey, originally uploaded by Me (?).

And I can now blog other people's photos. Here is one from my favourites:

big laugh, originally uploaded by blissintothedarkofme (?).

The script requires Firefox with the Greasemonkey addon. My script can be found at UserScripts.org.

*Edit* Here is a screen shot of what the script does. It adds the final block of text that starts 'To link to this photo from your blog...' and the edit box containing the code to copy. See screenshot to the right.

Friday, 11 January 2008

2007 Photo Summary

2007 Summary, originally uploaded by xrrr.

Here are some of my favourite photos of 2007. Not necessarily the best pictures but the photos that I like or remind me of something I did in 2007. Roll on 2008 :-)

1. Drip Dry, 2. Bournemouth Pier, 3. Cube-a-rific!, 4. Happy Halloween!, 5. Cow, 6. Going Deeper Underground, 7. Postman has been, 8. Golden Bonanza!, 9. Copenhagen by Night, 10. Copenhagen, 11. 2007 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG, 12. Roller, 13. Joseph Cyril Bamford, 14. Apple Store, 15. Climate Criminal gets New Charges, 16. The grass is always greener, 17. Pattern of 'P's, 18. Champagne Region, 19. Rosengarten - looking down, 20. The Dolomites, 21. Lake Garda, 22. Church near Bellagio, 23. 2007 Porsche Cayenne S, 24. 2007 Lamborghini Murcielago LP640, 25. 2007 Subaru Impreza WRC, 26. The Matrix, 27. The Oxo Tower, 28. Thirty Three Points?, 29. 1952, 30. Now Wash Your Hands, 31. The Mothership, 32. Great with chips, 33. Brooklyn Bridge, 34. IBM Yorktown Heights, 35. Untitled, 36. He can do anything a spider can

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Making Excel Charts Look Cool

Ray of Light, originally uploaded by xrrr (?).

After being annoyed with Excel XP making rubbish charts for a report I did a bit of Googling for a better option. Juice Analytics has an excellent site that gives you the low down on making those default charts look better. I tried it out and it gets great results. However...

As well as a PC I also own a Macbook. On the Macbook I tried the free trial of Apple's iWork08 software, a cheaper version of Microsoft Office that is good enough for 90% of your Word, Excel and Powerpoint needs. Amongst other things iWork08 has great looking charts. Though I could have imported my Excel workbook into iWork08 I decided it would be much better to get Excel to replicate the Apple generated graphs. Based on the info from Juice Analytics and a bit of RTFM it turned out to be quite easy. These tips apply to Office XP version of Excel but I am sure the Vista charts will need some help too.

This how to will show you how to turn the default Excel charts:

Into something a whole lot more Apple Cool:

Step 1: Change the Colours
The most basic change is to use some more modern colours than the default Excel ones. I chose to use the default colours that Apple uses as they are bright and have good contrast. I used to think that Excel had a limited colour palette and those were the only colours you can use. Turns out I was wrong.

Go to "Tools", "Options" on the menu and chose the "Color" tab. This opens the colour palette for the worksheet. Charts are drawn using the colours in the "Chart Fills" and "Chart Lines" starting from the left. You can modify these colours to a new set by clicking the "Modify..." button and then the "Custom" tab. I used the Apple colours that have the following RGB values:
1: 59,107,157
2: 110,163,90
3: 237,175,76
4: 202,65,61
5: 131,81,139
6: 142, 145, 144
If you need more than 6 colours then repeat from the top but lighten each up a bit by moving the slider on the colour chooser a little bit upwards. I also set one of the colours in the "Standard Colors" block to RGB 184,184,184 to use for grid lines.

Step 2: Remove the Junk
For some bizarre reason, the default chart settings include a whole bunch of stuff that most of us don't want. So lets turn it all off.

Chart Area
Right click in any white space within the chart but outside of where the chart is drawn. Choose "Format Chart Area".

Patterns Tab
Set "Border" to "None"
If you are pasting into Powerpoint and want a transparent background set "Area" to "None"

Plot Area
This step does not apply to all chart types (e.g. Pie). Right click in the grey area behind the chart. Choose "Format Plot Area".

Patterns Tab
Set "Border" to "None"
Set "Area" to "None"

Grid Lines
This step does not apply to all chart types (e.g. Pie). Right click on the grid lines. Choose "Format Gridlines".

Patterns Tab
Set "Color" to the grey you set above to 184,184,184
Set "Weight" to the third weight down

This step does not apply to all chart types (e.g. Pie). Right click on one of the axes. Choose "Format Axis".

Patterns Tab
Set "Lines" to "None" - This should only be done on one of the 2 axes. Leave the line alone for the axis that bars are columns originate from.
Set "Major tick mark type" to "None"

Data Series
For each series in the chart (bar, column, pie segment, etc) right click. Choose "Format Data Series".

Patterns Tab
Set "Border" to "None"

Options Tab
For bar and column charts change the "Gap Width" to "50" to make the bars thicker.

Right click on the legend. Choose "Format Legend".

Patterns Tab
Set "Border" to "None"

Placement Tab
Set "Placement" to "Top"

That's it! Sit back and admire your much cooler, easier to read, more professional looking chart!

Step 3: Save it
Now you have gone to all that effort you can save your new format to apply to future graphs.

Right click on your new chart and select "Chart Type".
Select the "Custom Types" tab.
Near the bottom click "User-Defined".
Click the "Add" button that has just appeared.
Give it a name and description.

The next time you create a chart click to "Custom Types" and "User-defined" and you will see your cool format chart in the list. Unfortunately it does not store the "Chart Area" settings but those are easy to fix.

Colours are stored with the worksheet so creating a new Excel file will reset the colours. You can import colours from other open Excel files by selecting the file with your new colour theme in the "Copy colors from" drop down.

Have fun!