Sunday, 24 November 2013

Leopard Hills Safari Adventure

In August I went on a Safari in South Africa at the fantastic Leopard Hills Private Game Reserve.

Day 1

Our Leopard Hills experience started when we were greeted by Hugo, our ranger, at the air strip. My wife Sarah and I had flown in on the small Fed Air plane along with Sandy, a Canadian woman, and her son Trevor. We didn’t know quite what was in store for us at this stage or that we would be spending a lot of the next few days with Hugo and fellow air passengers.

On arriving at Leopard Hills we were greeted by the friendly staff, who made us feel most welcome. We were given drinks and then shown to our suite. We had seen photos of the suites prior to our arrival, but in reality they exceeded our expectations and the views were breathtaking.

Leopard Hills Room

After settling in we headed back to the main building to meeting up and set off on for our first game drive. Hugo, and Eric our tracker, took us out for the evening drive and so our adventure began. Hugo asked us whether there was anything in particular we wanted to see and they went to work finding us something interesting. Luck was upon us and it wasn’t long before we were given the chance to see two leopards mating within a few feet of our Land Rover. It was a surreal experience being so close to these magnificent creatures. 

Sabi Leopard

Mating Leopards

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Facebook photo sharing frustrations

Wow, how difficult could it be? Very difficult!

I posted a photo shoot of some bands to a Facebook 'group' for the record company. Now, it seems unlike every other kind of post, photo or photo album in Facebook, ones in groups, even public groups, cannot be shared. Next to the 'like' and 'comment' links there is no 'share' link at all. Looked around for all kinds of other ways and nothing.

One of the bands then asked me to post the photos to their 'page' - note that this is a 'page' not a 'group' (although I don't really know why Facebook has these two separate concepts). So although I didn't really want two copies of the photos on Facebook, I uploaded them again to an album on my own personal page. Titled and re-tagged them all and thought I was almost done...

So, I clicked on one of the photos of this band, yes, I get a 'share' link, phew. The share dialog box comes up, defaulting to 'On your own timeline', I click on that to drop down the other options.. and what do you get? Two more choices, 'On a friend's timeline' and 'In a group'. But wait, what about sharing to a 'page', nope, you cannot do that!

This isn't about permissions, you can post a photo to the page if I upload a new copy, but you can't share an existing photo to the page.

I wish Facebook would sort out this stuff.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

AirDrop and Apple IDs - it's meant to be simple!

AirDrop is a feature added on Mac OS X Lion. Before lion, if I wanted to send a file to another computer, for example my wife sitting next to me, there were a number of options - AirDrop was brought in to make this simple!

The simplest way for your average user is probably sending an email attachment. It works, but it's a bit much.. it clogs up your email, you have a number of steps too.

Another way is to do some kind of network sharing - this usually works too, but needs a bit of setup.

So when I heard about AirDrop I thought it sounded good, simple, 'it just works' etc. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work!

If my wife is sending to me, she will get an error about an invalid certificate. If I am sending to her, I get a message about it being declined - even though no message appears on her MacBook.

Apparently, even though AirDrop uses some kind of adhoc local wifi, it uses Apple IDs to help identify people. The thing that fixes the problems above is to go into my user account in System Preferences, remove the Apple ID from my account and add it back in, exactly the same as it was. Since I have only used AirDrop a few times I don't know if this always happened or when it started.

Now, to come on to Apple IDs. Recently I had to change my password on my Apple ID. I think I ended up having to change it in 4 places on my iPhone and 3 places on my MacBook. I can understand having to enter the new password on both devices, and I understand that there are multiple applications or features that use Apple IDs, and they support you using different IDs in each - However, 99% of users will be using the same Apple ID for all these applications/features - so come up with something better please Apple. You managed to do it for Twitter accounts, but not for your own accounts!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Why does iMessage suck so much?

I travel home from work on the London underground, the Metropolitan line to be precise, which not underground all the way, there are various points along the way where you can get phone reception. Quite often I am using my phone to let my wife know how far from home I am. Sometimes she is also on the same journey home, so at any one time either or both of us could be underground.

We used to use SMS messages to communicate, but if you don't have reception when the other person sends you a message, you don't get the message as soon as you get reception. The impression I get is the network provider attempts to resend the message, but often on a fairly long interval. As you can imagine, that is pretty useless.

Next we moved to using email, which actually works quite well. The sender knows it is sent, and the receiver can get the message as soon as they have reception. This seems good, but there are two relatively minor downsides. Firstly, email is a bit heavy weight for a short conversation - the iPhone Messages app gives you a nice conversation view, but with email you are building up a message that gets bigger each time due to the quoted text. Secondly, I don't usually have 'push' email on due to battery life.

So, when iMessage first came along I thought it would have the best of both SMS and Email worlds. Sadly it is actually worse than both. It seems to me that when you send an iMessage the communication is between the two iPhones rather than going via a server. Obviously it goes via a server in terms of network, but that is more routing than anything else - it doesn't seem to go to the equivalent of a mail server. This means both iPhones have to have reception at the same time. There's a fallback to sending an SMS, which seems to kick in sometimes, a bit randomly. It wouldn't be so bad if the device let you know what was happening - but what actually happens is not really that deterministic. It lets you think you have sent a message, when it hasn't, if you are lucky you might get a failure 20 minutes later. Sometimes sending a new message will flush through the previous 3 that you didn't know hadn't been successful. Sometimes you will never get a failure, but the recipient never gets it. When I get home I can check my wife's iPhone and it can look like a totally different conversation, messages missed, different order. It really is totally unreliable.

I conclude that Email is still the best form of communication for this kind of scenario - the sender and receiver are completely decoupled and the message immediately available (push or pull) to the recipient when they have reception.

So, Apple, why does iMessage suck so much?

Monday, 3 May 2010

Duckworth Lewis doesn't work for 20/20!

Ok, I am talking Cricket, if you didn't know that then you should probably just move along.

England just lost to the West Indies in a rain affected 20/20 match. Every time I see a reduced 20/20 match, the target for the second innings just seems way too easy.

The duckworth lewis system was designed for 50 over matches, which have a minimum of 20 overs when reduced. However, 20/20 games are often reduced to just 5 overs. When the first innings is completed and the second innings reduced, duckworth lewis will set a target that is usually a bit higher than the run rate equivalent, to account for the fact that the last overs are usually higher scoring. When you are talking about a 50 over game reduced to 30 overs, this makes some sense. For a 20/20 match reduced to 5 overs a team with 10 wickets has almost zero risk and can just throw the bat at it.

England scored a pretty decent 191 in their 20 overs. 9.55 runs/over. West Indies target for the 6 overs was 60 (thats 10 runs/over, but if you're still reading this i'm sure you could work that out). Where's the risk in that? 10 wickets to score just slightly higher run rate for 6 overs only? I was surprised it went as close as it did!

Ronnie Irani suggested on Twitter that maybe your wickets should be reduced. So you have to score 60, but with only 5 wickets, which puts the risk back into the chase.

I think a combination of reducing wickets and just adjusting the duckworth lewis formula a bit to be more appropriate to such short matches would lead to much better, and fairer, 20/20 games.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Getting Things Done - Cross Platform GTD

GTD is something I have been aware of for a number of years and only really toyed with it until recently, never really getting over that hurdle. Maybe the hurdle was higher due to the tools I tried or maybe I just didn't put enough effort into setting it up well and using it properly.

Back to today. I use a Mac at home, and Linux and Windows at work (side by side), truely cross platform. I also have an iPhone. I'm going to blog more about general cross platform things at a later date, but here I am concentrating on GTD.

For the last few months I have been using Evernote for GTD. Evernote is not strictly a GTD application, but using its notebooks and tags you can use it for GTD without too much trouble. The best thing about Evernote is it runs on Mac, Windows and iPhone, and syncs to the cloud. Unfortunately I recently decided that the generic features of Evernote don't work well enough for me for GTD. I blogged about hierarchical tagging recently with an example of how Evernote doesn't cut it for what I was using it for.

So I have been looking at other tools. I had heard about Omnifocus and gave the free trial a go. Omnifocus is Mac and iPhone only. With no Mac at work I knew this wouldn't be the solution for me, but wanted to check it out. Omnifocus seems to do everything right and is built for the job, unlike Evernote. Contexts have hierarchies which work just how I want them, you can click on a parent and see all tasks with the child contexts. It also has folders for projects, which also work the same, so useful for projects with sub-projects, or having top level items such as 'Work' and 'Personal'. Another feature of Omnifocus which seems good is the parallel or sequential project types which determine which tasks are actionable. Tasks can have sub tasks, useful if you need to break something down further. Omnifocus doesn't just have the feature set, it has the UX - navigating around the app is great and data entry intuitive. If there was a windows version, or an online version, I would be all over this.

Another Mac only app that gets lots of attention is Things, but for the same reasons it's not for me.

When you run three different operating systems you often end up using web based cloud solutions. There are dozens of Task and GTD based web apps out there. I'll skip through a few I tried for only a few minutes:

  • SimpleGTD - as the name suggests, simple, too simple.
  • TODOIST - still too simple, it has hierachy but it doesn't do anything but indent.
  • Remember the Milk - not a nice UI, not really GTD.
  • Toodledo - Tons of features, horrible to use though.

So I finally ended up at Nirvana, literally, well close anyway. Nirvana is great and appears to be actively developed with new features on the way. It seems designed well for GTD, great looking UI and really nice to use. I am sticking with this for a while. However there are some things that I would like it to do and hopefully the guys will implement them soon.

  • Project hierarchies, like Omnifocus does it. They are working on something along these lines called Areas of Focus.
  • Context hierachies, like Omnifocus does it - this seems less likely based on how it currently works.
  • Actionable tasks - there is the concept of 'Next' but only for non project tasks.
  • Contexts and Projects to show how many items there are in them - I want to see, at a glance, that I have some things to get done at the shops.
  • Project tags - Projects can have tags, but it's only useful for filtering the list of projects, they should work on all the tasks within the project too.

Looks like Nirvana will work for me and hopefully some of the features above will come along soon.

So have I missed anything? Would something else tick all my boxes better than Nirvana?

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Gmail labels - on mails or conversations?

I make use of Gmail labels (tags) to categorise my email and I like the way Gmail keeps all emails from a thread in a single conversation. However, I have never been able to work out exactly how they have implemented it..

From the interface, a label is on a conversation - either in the list of conversations, or when you open up a conversation and get the labels at the top (not on each email). This seems fine, it is how I would expect it to work since conversations are a major part of Gmail.

The problem is, i'm not sure it is really implemented as it would seem. If you label a conversation, then send a reply to that conversation what happens? Is your reply really labelled? Try this - send two separate emails and label them both from your Sent Mail. Now go into the first one and reply to it. Now click on the label and your'll see both your conversations - but what order are they in? It's the order of the original two mails, the reply didn't affect the order. It might not matter in this case, but what if you replied to an older mail in a label that has lots of conversations in it - I have often got confused looking for a conversation that I knew I had replied to on a particular day but it was actually in the list a lot further back, maybe not even on the first page.

However, if you send those two separate emails, reply to the first one and THEN label them, you get the expected order.

Maybe this is deliberate, but I cannot see a scenario where this makes sense - everything about the UI and operation of Gmail indicates that a label is on a conversation not an individual mail, but it just doesn't seem to be implemented like that!