Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Cloudconvert and plumbers

I used cloudconvert a lot when I was working, usually to convert notes in markdown to pdf for circulation - I used to do this on my Chromebook at home while half watching the news, hence the use of web applications rather than using something like pandoc, but since I retired almost not at all - a few check lists for real estate agents when we were looking for our new house, and that's about it.

However we're about halfway through a major extension/renovation saga when we hit a snag - part of our major works involves putting an extra toilet and shower at the end of where the kitchen used to be. (The kitchen has moved to the new open plan living area).

As it's only really an extra for guests the whole toilet/shower area is only around a 3.5x1m space, which means a pretty small slimline basin. In case you're interested, the rest of the old kitchen becomes a laundry and storage area that you walk through to the new toilet.

Now the basin proved problematical, as the installation guide wasn't online and the plumber had a panic about the location of the tapwork for such a small basin (tolerances etc).

While the installation guide wasn't online, the CAD drawings were. Of course, I don't have AutoCAD at home, but Cloudconvert saved the day by allowing me to convert the drawings to a pdf, and the plumber, who knew the overall size of the unit to measure off the location of the bolts which solved the immediate problem, and giving me time to email the manufacturers to have them send me the 'proper' install guide, which indeed they did ...

Monday, 5 December 2016


we've all done it - fed a twenty page document through the scanner the wrong way and ended up with an upside down document on a fileshare.

Fixing the problem should be easy, but a number of pdf viewers out there (including Adobe's) don't let you save the rotated image, as you're supposed to use the edit addon. You could of course feed the document through the auto feeder the right way round this time, but when it's a bound document that's distinctly painful.

Very irritating.

Up to now, my solution has been to use either Preview on the Mac or gsview on linux.

But of course, one day, I found myself using windows and couldn't be bothered powering up a second machine just to deal with my stupidity.

That's when I happened across, which basically does that for you. The site appears to be located in the Netherlands and looks reasonably legit. Certainly works well and works for me ...

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Novabench on my elderly mac book air

Just for fun, after I upgraded my five (nearly six) year old Air to Sierra, I ran NovaBench on it and got a score of 296 - a bit better than the score I obtained on my old iMac, but not remarkably so.

Which of course brings me back to one of my old hobby horses, just how much computing is needed for day to day computer use ?

Sunday, 13 November 2016

MacBook Airs and the opposition

I like Macs. They're nice machines and well made, so much so that when I retired I bought myself a refurbished MacBook Air to take travelling.

And I'm pretty pleased with it, a good lightweight machine, but other than Textwrangler, there's no application that I use regularly that is Mac only - Chrome, Libre Office, Thunderbird and Focuswriter are all available for windows and work well.

And, since I upgraded to Windows 10, I've had a pretty positive experience with windows. But there's also been the clunk factor - ever since netbooks went out of style windows laptops have tended to be a bit bigger and clunkier than their Mac equivalents.

So, when I caught the train earlier this week, and saw the guys on the train working on small Dell ultrabooks, I got to thinking, would a small windows machine make a viable alternative?

So I did a little bit of research on the usual suspects' (Dell, HP, Lenovo) websites. I couldn't identify the model of Dell ultrabook I saw being used on the train, but you could certainly put together a nicely specified Dell Inspiron for travel for around half the cost of a new MacBook Air, and also get a couple of USB ports and an SDcard slot as well.

Perhaps not quite as sleek or stylish, but definitely practicable. There is of course the option of  two in one device if that suits you better.

I'm certainly not planning on replacing my Air anytime soon, but if I had to, it might not be with a fruit themed device ....

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Google maps goes social

Part of my role in life now I'm retired is to be a misanthropic curmudgeon complaining about how things have changed.

Well instead of Windows 10 upgrades, I've a new peeve - Google maps and it's social aspects.

Like just about everyone on the planet I use Google maps to find things and find how to get to things, especially as my elderly Subaru doesn't have a GPS and while I've got $50 Chinese no name add on unit I don't always turn it on.

Anyway, last week I was at Protester's Falls in the Nightcap national park, and the falls were impressive enough to merit a picture or two on my phone. And up pops Google asking me to add a picture to the location.

I was so amazed at getting a signal in a goanna infested rainforest I clicked yes. And obviously this put me on the list of people to nag

- can you contribute a picture of the motel you stayed in in Armidale?
- can you do a review of this Indian restaurant you ate in?
- can you review this coffee shop ?

and the answer is no. maps is a tool, and I don't appreciate screens asking me to do a review when I'm trying to find somewhere specific. Soliciting reviews is fine but nagging that gets in the way of what I'm trying to do is not ...

Ipads as point of sales device

I guess we're all used to the fact that cash tills are all software based these days - pc in kiosk mode with a touch screen running the sales application and a second slave display showing your purchases as they go through the checkout. There's also these customised tablets distributed by the Commonwealth bank that cafes love to total up your tab and take your card, and there's been some similar generic iPad applications around for sometime, but I was in my local wholefoods store yesterday and I saw an implementation I hadn't seen before:

An iPad as the cash register, but hooked up to an iPad mini as a slave display on a stand to show you how much you'd spent, and on what.

The hardware clearly costs more than a generic pc, but it's small, light and flexible. Being a wholefoods store I'm guessing cost will be an issue for them, so despite the comparatively high cost of the hardware involved the cost of the whole package (software+hardware+maintenance) must be competitive ...

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Windows 10 - the irritation of upgrades

I was feeling quite positive about Windows 10 until the latest major update - now I just feel irritated.

Nothing bad happened, yes it lost my lock screen picture and my desktop background but everything stayed working, but irritatingly the upgrade changed some of the defaults, most irritatingly the default browser, which was switched back to Microsoft edge.

Now, edge might be a fine browser, but besides a Windows laptop I use a couple of macs, a linux machine, an android tablet and a chromebook on a regular basis, which means that I prefer a browser that is both common and syncs across all platforms.

If it wasn't for the chromebook I could use firefox, but it has to be chrome for me.

So Microsoft, I don't care how good edge is, it doesn't work for me (incidentally the same goes for Apple and the new Safari, but at least Apple don't change my defaults.)

Now, I'm an extreme case in my use of multiple platforms, but given that Windows has singularly failed to conquer the tablet space, I'm sure that there's a lot of Windows desktop users who use an ipad or an android tablet and want a common browser, all of who are going to be irritated by a forced change of default browser.

By all means ask, but don't force changes on people, it's not good marketing ...

[update 30 Sept]

... and they've changed the default for viewing pdf's from Acrobat to edge. Adobe interactive forms people. Ok I can fix it, but I've been around computers forty plus years. What does someone to whom it's really just an appliance do ?