Author Archives: daniel

iPhone – directions in Google/Apple Maps not being announced

I was trying to figure out why my iPhone driving directions weren’t being announced – in both Google Maps and Apple Maps.

All the relevant options seemed to be on – within the apps and in Settings.

As is sometimes the case, the typical internet help articles weren’t any help at all. They made various suggestions for settings I’d already found, along with restarts, reinstalls, and factory resets which I didn’t fancy doing as I had no confidence they’d help.

It took finding this Apple Community discussion to solve it. Bluetooth was the problem.

The phone was sending the audio via Bluetooth, but unless the car was on the BT Audio setting, it wouldn’t hear it and repeat it. I do use Bluetooth occasionally in the car for podcasts, but usually it’s on the radio.

The Apple Community discussion mentioned a setting for audio output. I haven’t actually found that yet, but turning off Bluetooth on the phone works just as well.

EDIT: I’ve also found that Google Maps on iPhone won’t announce directions when the screen is turned off to conserve battery. Apple Maps will continue to announce directions. Apparently Google Maps on Android will do it.

Why are streaming apps so dodgy?

Why are commercial streaming apps so dodgy?

In the past few weeks I’ve seen two that I use develop major issues with Chromecast (I think it’s a 1st generation model) from iPad (iPadOS 15.7), which I’d have thought is a very common use case.

Britbox, at the moment, flat out doesn’t work for me. You try to start the stream apart from a big logo, nothing happens. And I’m not the only one:

Disney Plus works, but has more subtle problems.

  • Audio cuts in and out during the credits at the start and end of the program
  • The subtitles turn themselves on every single time I start watching something – they have to be repeatedly turned off.
  • Rating and content information only appears at the end of the program
  • The ”buffering” spinner keeps appearing during the stream, perhaps for half-a-second or so every few minutes – even though the internet connection is strong and fast. Thankfully the audio and video doesn’t drop out.

I’ve also tried on a newer Chromecast. Some of these problems don’t occur on a third generation model, but on the older unit, even switching Disney Plus to the low bandwidth option doesn’t help.

Playing streaming video is meant to be the core business of these companies.

All the others I’ve used recently (apps from all the Australian TV networks – ABC, SBS, 7, 9, 10, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Apple TV Plus*) are okay – how is it Britbox and Disney Plus are so bad?

And why did they work a few months ago, but now they’re broken?

*Apple TV Plus doesn’t work with Chromecast – I use it with an old Lightning to HDMI adapter that I’ve got.

On a Zoom/Teams call? Turn off your sounds

I think a few people need to know this:

If your computer is set up with audible alerts for email and other events, unless you’re on mute, sounds will blast out for everybody else on a group Zoom or Teams call with you.

This will block out your voice (and anybody else’s) and is very jarring.

The easiest way to avoid this is to turn off these system sounds.

Windows:

  • Search for “Change System Sounds” – or go via Control Panel to Sounds
  • Select the Sound Scheme: “No Sounds”

I’m not a Mac OSX user, but it looks like the option is in System Preferences / Sounds – you need to turn “Play user interface sound effects” off.

These settings will let media and audio calls play as normal, but otherwise the computer should shut up when a calendar reminder pops up, or an email or Slack message arrives.

Making text and lines bolder in Paint.Net

I use Paint.Net quite a lot for mostly minor editing of pictures, including scans.

Scans of text and diagrams tend to come off the scanner with very thin text/lines, so I was wondering how to make them bolder. Thanks to this forum discussion I found a quick one-step way of doing it, without requiring any 3rd party plugins.

From the Effects menu, choose Noise > Median

Set the Percentile to 0, and the Radius to a low value such as 1 or 2. Depending on the file, a slightly larger value might work too.

That’s it. You can adjust the Brightness and Contrast too, but the Median tool makes a huge difference to readability of these scans.

WordPress’s autosave freezes up

I’m glad it’s not just me: WordPress’s Gutenberg editor is very nice, but it has an autosave feature which gets stuck regularly.

Very annoying. If you browse away, you lose changes. You can’t do a conventional Save Draft while the autosave is stuck.

It’s not constant, so I’m not really sure how to fix it. But there are a couple of workarounds.

1. Noted on this thread: add this to wp.config:

define(‘AUTOSAVE_INTERVAL’, 86400);

(that’s a full day, so it should rarely be a problem then)

2. This method seems to work for me:

  • Press Ctrl-A twice, to highlight the entire post text
  • Ctrl-C to copy it to the clipboard
  • Paste it into a text editor. You’ll see the WordPress markup, which shows <!– wp:paragraph –> at the start of each paragraph.
  • Jump out of the draft. Ignore the warning about losing your work
  • Go back into it. If it’s like what happens with mine, anything since the previously successful draft save will have been lost
  • Ctrl-A twice to highlight the entire post text, then Delete it all
  • Then Paste from your copy in the text editor. The entire post should be back, including references to articles

Okay that’s a lot of steps, but for an occasional problem, seems like a reasonable workaround, especially if fiddling with the wp.config isn’t your thing.

Sonos memory capacity

There’s an excellent chart on Reddit (and a slightly different one on Sonos’s forum) plotting the amount of memory each Sonos device has built into it. This has increased over the years.

I thought I’d do a table with this info, but also with the year of release, and the new crop of devices just released.

And I’ve also added a column noting if each device supports voice commands (which take more memory) and is compatible with the new Sonos operating system S2 (introduced August 2020), or whether users of these are stuck on S1.

(There are a few gaps which hopefully I’ll fill over time. And I’ve deliberately excluded non-playing accessories such as the Bridge and Controllers. For now I also haven’t included the Sub, which is not a standalone player.)

DeviceYears soldMemoryStorageVoice S2Replaced by
ZonePlayer 1002005-08??NoNoZonePlayer 120
ZonePlayer 802006-08??NoNoZonePlayer 90
ZonePlayer 120
aka Connect:AMP
2008-153232NoNoConnect:AMP (gen 2)
ZonePlayer 90
aka Connect
2008-153232NoNoConnect (gen 2)
Play:52009-153232NoNoPlay:5 (gen 2)
Play:32011-186464NoYes
Playbar2013-20128128NoYesArc
Play:12013-1712864NoYesOne
Play:5 (gen 2)2015-20256256NoYesFive
Playbase2017-20256256NoYesArc
Connect (gen 2)2015-19256256NoYesPort
Connect:AMP (Gen 2)2015-19??NoYesAmp
One2017-1910241024YesYesOne (gen 2) / One SL
Beam2018-2110241024YesYesBeam (gen 2)
Amp2019-10241024NoYes
One (gen 2)2019-10241024YesYes
Symfonisk Lamp2019-512256NoYes
Symfonisk Bookshelf2019-512256NoYes
Port2019-512512NoYes
Move2019-10241024YesYes
One SL2019-512512NoYes
Arc2020-10244096YesYes
Five2020-512512NoYes
Roam2021-10244096YesYes
Beam (gen2)2021-10244096YesYes
Roam SL2022-10244096NoYes
Ray2022-10244096NoYes

There’s certainly a pattern there.

Devices with at least 64Mb storage and 64Mb memory can support S2, but others can’t.

Voice command support appears to require at least 1024 Mb of storage and the same of memory.

S2 was the first big move in the 15 years since the first devices were released that they left behind some legacy devices on an older version. (Though in 2018 they did do an update which dropped support for their CR100 controller, sold from 2005-09, and long replaced for most users by iPads and smartphones.)

S1 will continue to get security and bug fixes – but not new features. And those users can get a 30% voucher for upgrades (and still use the older devices if they want – initially Sonos’s unwise idea was to brick them, but they changed that scheme).

S2 has only been out for a few weeks, so it’s unclear how quickly new features will be added. And from a software development perspective, under the hood there may have been a great culling of legacy code, which might be good for performance and stability (not that either have been a big issue in my use of Sonos).

Hopefully it’s another decade or more before they decide to exclude more older devices from the latest and greatest.

Updates: Updated with Beam gen 2, Roam SL, Ray.

Micro Men

For those with nostalgia for the early 80s microcomputer scene, “Micro Men”, a dramatisation of the competitive environment around Cambridge between Acorn and Spectrum is terrific.

Turns out this was broadcast more than ten years ago now!

Sadly I don’t think it was ever broadcast outside the UK, and it never made it onto home video.

The Centre For Computing History marked this anniversary by getting some of the real people into a room to watch the program and comment on it:

You can also listen to a recent podcast with the screenwriter, Tony Saint – this was very enjoyable.

And another one with Steve Furber, who worked for Acorn at the time and was one of the designers of the BBC Micro. He talks about the project, with a fair bit of technical detail, and touches on the realism of the dramatisation.

Upgrading Win7 to Win10 with a non-standard Profiles location

Windows 7 has come out of mainstream support, so it’s definitely time to upgrade.

I’d held off because I like Windows Media Center, which isn’t available on Win10, though there is an unofficial method. More about that later.

The machine in question is an old Mac Pro 2008 that I got some years ago.

Apparently some Macs this old have problems with Boot Camp not allowing versions of Windows later than 7. This didn’t affect me (and others have had no issues), but it can be worked around by changing the Boot Camp config file.

From there it should have been like any other Windows 7 machine – use the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool and choose “Upgrade this computer”. (Despite the free upgrade offer having finished years ago, just about everyone finds this still works and the resultant upgrade is fully licenced – assuming the old version of Windows had a proper licence.)

But there was a hiccup. It failed midway through with an error:

0x80070011 – 0x2000D
The installation failed in the SAFE_OS phase with an error during MIGRATE_DATA operation

If you Google around, you’ll find lots of generic advice on forums suggesting to scan your drives, turn off your virus scanner, even try it again in Safe Mode (which doesn’t work – you can’t start an upgrade in Safe Mode).

Only this tip seemed relevant to me:

0x80070011 indicates that the system was trying to move data to another disk drive

0x2000D indicates that there was a problem during the data migration.

It would seem that you have data on another disk drive that the system is trying to migrate and it fails. With your current Win 7 have you moved data about and changed the location of system folders such as programs, users, etc. If so, you should try and get everything back to default locations and try the upgrade again.

Thank you to that person who actually looked into what the error means!

This rang alarm bells for me because some years ago I moved Windows to an SSD (drive C) and put the user directories onto drive D, using SYSPREP so Windows would figure out what was meant to be where.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I now realise Microsoft warns this is not supported for Windows upgrades. Damn.

In my case, the SSD is too small to hold all the users’ documents/photos/videos, but should be okay with most other files.

How to fix it

I’ve worked through this (it took several attempts).

Here is my solution, assuming that like me, your user and ProgramData directories are on D: drive and Windows needs to be convinced they’re on C: drive:

  1. If you’re short of disk space, you might want to clean up each user’s D:\users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\Temp directory – eg delete everything older than today.
    (Be warned, this could cause some minor issues with some applications, so if in doubt, don’t delete.)
  2. Disk Cleanup to remove all the unused temp files and empty all the Recycle Bins and free up any other possible space on C:
  3. Copy all the D:\users\USERNAME directories (except the ones that are likely to be big, and can still be located on D: drive: Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music, Downloads) to c:\users
  4. The tricky bit: we need empty Pictures, Videos, Music, Downloads directories, as these don’t get created automatically once the user profile is moved in step 5. I found it was easiest to start copying these one by one, but cancel, then remove all the files in the c: copy, so each was empty – for step 7. We’re using Copy instead of just creating them new to hopefully avoid any permissions problems.
  5. Edit the Registry: Under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList change each user’s ProfileImagePath to the new drive
  6. Log on as each user and check everything looks okay. If it refuses to log you in, you know something’s gone wrong with the C: drive directories or their permissions.
  7. As each user, open Windows Explorer or the Start Menu and browse to My Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music, Downloads, for each of these go into Properties and Move the location back to D:\Users\USERNAME\Whatever. When asked if you want to move files, choose No (since at step 3 you didn’t copy them). (You can do this after upgrading to Win10 if you prefer)
  8. You can then delete the directories you DID copy in step 3 from d:\users\USERNAME – since these are no longer used
  9. Also the ProgramData directory needs to be on C: if it isn’t already. There’s probably no need to copy it back, as applications should re-create what they need. Check and change if required the ProgramData setting in the Registry: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList to point to C: drive or %SystemDrive%
  10. Verify Win7 is still working okay for each user, then do another Disk Cleanup to clear out the Recycle Bins again. (Clearing old Windows Update files is also possible, but takes ages.)

After all that I found it was okay to go install the Win10 upgrade.

After the upgrade, Public Documents/Pictures/Videos also didn’t show up by default for the users, but these can be added by browsing to the old D:\Users\Public directory and right-clicking each one and choosing Pin To Quick Access.

Other stuff

  • To my surprise, Microsoft Security Essentials wasn’t removed by the Win10 upgrade, at least not the time it worked. The normal MSE uninstall is buggy – you have to jump through some hoops. Running its SETUP.EXE worked for me, but note you have to set the compatibility for ALL users if your normal user it not an Administrator.
  • I briefly tried the claimed method of installing Windows Media Center, which didn’t work for me. I tried Kodi, which needs NextPVR to watch and record broadcast TV… then I discovered that NextPVR can do that on its own – so I removed Kodi again, since I don’t need it!
  • NextPVR did need the LAV decoders, but other than that, it seems to have worked fine with my old EyeTV Diversity USB tuner.

Good luck!

YahooGroups sails into the sunset – export your data now

YahooGroups is mostly shutting down.

This official notice tries to describe what’s being removed and what isn’t, but succeeds in being a bit confusing: emails to groups will keep working, but “Conversations” and “Email updates” won’t.

My reading is you’ll still be able to send emails and they’ll be distributed – but nothing else will work.

But I’d also assume this is not a business they want to be in anymore, so even emails will probably be discontinued before too long.

There’s an option to download all your data: it’s accessible via this link: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/getmydata

It took a week for it to be ready.

Then it took 5 goes for the download to actually work. It repeatedly conked out part way through.

When it finally worked, the result (for me) is a 1.6 Gb zip file with everything from (it appears) every group I’m in, including messages, files and everything else.

Inside the subdirectories for each group is:

  • files.zip
  • links.zip
  • medias.json – this seems to be metadata for the photos and attachments, below
  • messages.zip – looks to be mbox files with the entire archive of messages
  • photos_and_attachments.zip

I can’t see some of the more esoteric data from YG, such as Databases, Polls and Events. Export of those might have to be a manual process.

If you’re interested in getting your data, I’d get onto it now. It’s all scheduled to be wiped in mid-December, and the process may become even slower than a week.

2020-01-16: The deadline was extended to the end of January 2020.

Comment numbering on WordPress

One thing I find quite handy on my blog is comment numbering.

I had it for a little while ages ago, and people liked to be able to say they were responding to Comment Number Whatever.

Alas, whatever mechanism I had been using stopped working.

If you Google for it, you’ll find any number of hints and tips pages from about 2013 which refer you to Greg’s Threaded Comment Numbering plug-in… which is no longer maintained, and no longer works with new versions of WordPress.

Thankfully I found a way that works – and it’s actually simpler.

The new ability to add custom CSS into Themes means you can add this:

li.depth-1 {
    list-style-type: decimal;
}

There are further tweaks you can do if you’re using threaded comments, but the above works for me.

One catch: On some templates, a comment by the blog author is highlighted. This may suppress the numbering for that comment (so it misses out). It’s doing that on my personal blog template, but not here on geekrant. I’ll look for a fix for that.

How to block notification requests in Chrome

Oh the irony.

Anyway, the steps:

  1. Go to Chrome Preferences
  2. Advanced
  3. Site settings (or “Content settings”)
  4. Notifications
  5. Click the “Ask before sending (recommended)” switch off. It should then say “Blocked”

Yeah it’s a counter-intuitive caption on that button. It implies that switching it off will just drown you in a sea of unwanted notifications without asking you.

But it seems to work.

If you use Firefox or Safari, this How To Geek article covers those. The article notes that Edge doesn’t currently have an option to turn them off for good.

New used laptop: Thinkpad T430

I meant to post this ages ago: in early 2018 I got my first Thinkpad – an old T430. Very nice.

I had been looking for my first Thinkpad; an upgrade off a slow Lenovo (non-Thinkpad) laptop, and I thought I might splash out on a new one.

But then I discovered my sister had an ex-work T430 she didn’t want. Sold it to me for what she got it for: AUD $100.

Specs: i5-3320M (2.6 GHz), 4 Gb RAM, 1600 x 900 display, SSD. With a dock (that I’m not sure I’ll ever use)

Some scuffing on the case, but overall it’s in very nice condition. Not sure how old it is, but this model was first sold in 2012.

And I found I could still upgrade it from Win7 to Win10 for free, using the Media Creation Tool.

I added another 4 Gb of RAM.

The keyboard is lovely, but I never did get used to the Fn/Ctrl key locations being backwards from most layouts, so I ended up swapping them in the BIOS.

Problems

One oddity after upgrading to Win10: Microsoft Edge was extremely slow to respond to clicks. The solution was a clean Win10 install – via the “reset your PC” feature.

I also found that under Win10, the trackpad would sometimes freeze up for a few seconds, particularly after two-finger scrolling:

  • This turns out to be an issue with the Lenovo trackpad “palm check” feature. Set this to the minimum setting (or turn it off) and it seems to go away. The same problem occurs for some other Lenovo laptops.
  • This can also occur if Trackpad Tapping is disabled – I’d prefer it was disabled to avoid false positive clicks when I’m just trying to move the pointer, but oh well.

Modding

More reading for myself when I get the chance: Modding guide

But I hope this old laptop will keep me going for a while for my on-the-go computing needs.