A satisfying and pleasant end to a trying day.

You’ve got to hand it to Apple. They do look after their customers well – at least this one they do!
You may remember I’d been having trouble with the boot-up of my 2013 iMac – yes, it’s at least 5 years old. It’s a powerful machine which I bought to do photo work and it’s been a delight, but the problems reported here …
I’ve now had an introduction to the SBOD
… had come back this month. After a couple of attempts to fix the problem myself, which I had assumed to be software problems, which involved me re-installing the operating system on a completely clean disk (ie I had to re-install all my data and applications from backup which was painless and automatic, but took a bit of time), I contacted their support via online chat, and after Traci had exhausted everything she could remotely, I was referred to the Genius Bar in the local Apple Store for an appointment that same day (actually 18:45 in the evening). A very competent and pleasant hardware technician (David) did “triage” on the machine and announced that the Fusion Drive was in fact faulty – it was a hardware problem.
And … they offered to replace and repair it at no cost to myself as I’d bought it from Apple, not elsewhere.
That’s the way to create brand loyalty. Thanks David. Thanks Apple Store, Cardiff.

Wikipedia … oh dear!

I’ve known for a long time – in fact ever since my Librarian colleagues brought it to my attention and advised me to use it with great care – that Wikipedia was, and is, not a reliable source for information. Along with the myth of “just google it” to get information on almost anything … and then not subsequently and consciously make a decision on whether the search results returned were reliable, or even the best, the other myth has been “just look it up on wikipedia”.
I’ve subscribed to this myth – quite literally – donating regularly when asked, thinking that a collective is, and was, a good way to collect and curate information – harnessing the power, enthusiasm and knowledge of the crowd to plant, weed and publish articles. Whilst I realised that it could NEVER be an authoritative reference source, I accepted it as a good, quick and easy way of looking things up. My online dictionary/encyclopedia. Not any more.
I’ve written about why this came to my attention on my other blog – “Just thoughts …” in this article – “Well this is fascinating, and very disturbing …” but I thought it important to bring it to your attention on this blog as well. The issue is that reputable professionals are being targeted by anonymous “editors” on Wikipedia and having entries about them taken down.
As I understand it – and please add to my knowledge if incomplete or incorrect – the way Wikipedia works is that once you’ve established the right to create an entry – a page – that article can be modified through voting up or down proposed changes. Beyond that however it would appear that if you have a privileged position – obtained it would seem solely by virtue of the amount of your activity – you can propose deletion of any other entry, and then it’s up to others to vote to keep an article, or indeed support the deletion. It is therefore very easy to co-ordinate an attack on a Wikipedia page to have it removed. In the case of an individual, if they didn’t create the page for themselves, no reference will be made to the person targeted, they do not have any rights to object, they may not even know the page written about them is under discussion for deletion. They can cease to exist on Wikipedia!!!
So we have an extension to our world of fake news; that is the deletion of truth. What is the world coming to!
 

Is it time to move to more paid subscription services?

I have to admit, the events of the past few weeks have made me look much more seriously at paying more for the IT services that I’ve taken for free up until now. Of course they’ve never been free, I’ve had to put up with the adverts and the email messages I don’t really want – alerting me to this deal, or that deal, and I’ve willingly put up with that as a price worth paying for the service I’ve been receiving. But two events have changed my mind, and moreover I feel the IT world is actually changing slowly as a consequence of the mistakes (to be exceptionally generous) of Facebook and Google; and the decision of Apple to switch more attention to Services, targeting this as their  main income stream for the future, and not relying on Hardware alone.
So what were the earth-shaking events in the Harrison-IT-world? Well the first was Google’s announcement that having hidden the news of a potential security weakness in an API, for several months (presumably to secure their stock-market price at the time Facebook was struggling, and presumably also after ensuring that the potential breach was secured) they used this as an excuse to kill-off (sorry “sunset”) Google+ next August. Now this service was not the success Google hoped it to be, and most definitely has not generated the revenue they hoped it might, but for me, my family and for many communities (particularly of photographers – because of the close linkage to Google Photos) – it was a hugely valuable tool. Now, we have to look for another social media platform. It could be Google Photos – Google may have plans to “enhance” it to take on features from Google+, or it could be another platform, but it’s just a pain in the neck having to move off something we’re used to! Google have real history with “sunsetting” tools that people get used to using [Thanks to @MrSimonWood for this link.]
The second was Flickr’s announcement that they were going to limit their Free account to 1000 imagesexcluding those that were licensed under Creative Commons, which a lot of mine are. They are encouraging users to take out a Pro subscription to remove restrictions and allow more and larger images to be uploaded. This didn’t meet with the same “horror” feeling. I immediately felt that this was a decision that would secure the future long-term of the service under the new owners – SmugMug. [A feeling that I didn’t have when 500px made changes to their platform which led me to delete my account.] So I immediately subscribed and took advantage of the first-year discount price (still available for a few more days I believe).
So what am I saying. I’m saying that if there’s a service that I really want, and I really need some feeling that it’s going to be around for a while, I should pay for it. I wasn’t given that option by Google – shame on them; it appears I’ll never be given that opportunity by Facebook. Both of them are essentially marketing and advertising platforms. I don’t see either of them being able to develop a hybrid model as Flickr has been able to do.
This all makes Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photography Plan and Microsofts’ Office 365 seem so much more sensible. I’ll continue with the former, but decline the latter as my roots are now firmly planted in the Apple world where I look to see how they will develop their Service offerings in Music, TV, Home and Car fields.
Interesting times.

Creating your own online magazine

I am a creature of routine. I used to listen to Today on Radio 4 when I got up in the morning; now because I can’t stand the egos being pushed into my ears, I have a much more peaceful and indeed useful start to the day – after I’ve scanned The Guardian (online), BBC News (online) and Wales Online websites, and checked my email and other social media such as Google+ (alas – soon to be no more), WhatsApp, Twitter and less frequently than I used to – Facebook.
I’ll start at the beginning and describe what I do to curate my interests, my daily internet workflow. The jumping-off point is to check my RSS Feeds using Feedly. What is an RSS Feed I hear some of you say? Well it’s a signal from a website that new content has been posted on a website. So if there are a number of sites that you are interested in, you can get an alert with an extract of content sent to you by what is called a RSS Feed, which you can then pick-up and read in full using a RSS Reader. Now the favoured Reader for a long-time was Reader (from Google) – but as is their wont, Google “sunsetted” it. That is they killed it off. Fortunately a really good alternative came to the rescue in Feedly. Every time I come across a website I want to follow, I add it to my Feedly and, as long as a RSS Feed can be setup for the site, place it in a category for the feed (eg photography, or IT) so that my stream of reading is organised to some level. I could stop there, after all I’ve got the link to the webpage, it’s stored in a category and I can go back and read it anytime I’m online. However, what if I just want to scan quickly the content, and go back to it later, or what if I want to read it online? That’s where Pocket comes in.
If I see an article in Feedly that I want to read later, or even archive, I add it to my Pocket, giving it some tags to help me find it later. I do both of these tasks on a smartphone, or tablet, it’s much easier than using a desktop/laptop as there are good apps which work together for both Feedly and Pocket. Once in Pocket, the article, stripped of everything that is irrelevant, can be read offline – once it’s sync’d the content from the web to your device – or alternatively you can click on a button to read the original article online.
But then occasionally, I come across some content that I want to share more widely – to the Thought grazing community for instance; and for this I use Flipboard which is a really easy way of creating an online magazine; made up of articles (perhaps with comments added) which you found interesting. From my Pocket app, I just click on the Share button and select <Share via …> and chose Flipboard. On Flipboard I’ve created a couple of “magazines”, so I chose which one I want to “publish” the article to, and perhaps write a comment about the article; and then Post it. That’s all there is to it, but what do you need to do to replicate my workflow and produce something like this …
View my Flipboard Magazine.

Curating the web
Step 1 – create a Feedly account, and download the app if you’re going to use a smartphone, or tablet
Step 2 – select websites you want to get an RSS feed from [see above, or read What is an RSS feed?]
Step 3 – check periodically to see what has “popped-up” in your feed reader.
Saving for another day, or for off-line reading (bookmarking+)
Step 1 – create a Pocket account, and download the app if you’re going to use a smartphone, or tablet
Step 2 – save to Pocket from your browser (perhaps using a browser extension), or from a sharing icon in Feedly
Step 3 – tag your articles, and read at your leisure, or when you want to
Creating a magazine to share with others
Step 1 – create a Flipboard account, and download the app if you’re going to use a smartphone, or tablet
Step 2 – create a Magazine within your Flipboard account, and decide whether to make it Private or Public
Step 3 – add articles to your magazine from your Pocket app (as described above) , or from your web browser
Good luck!

iPhone Battery Replacement

I was in conversation the other day with someone who was complaining about the short battery life of their iPhone. I remembered that I’d put an alert in my calendar for later this year to take my 6s, and Jenny’s SE down to the Apple Store to get a battery replacement under their “special offer” scheme.
This came about as a result of them changing the way the operating system (iOS) worked on older models – slowing them down – to retain battery life. This caused a bit of a stink at the time, and so Apple responded with a replacement programme that means a replacement battery would cost £25, as opposed to £79, through 2018.
Apple also issued an advisory note to tell users a little bit more about how batteries would cease to work at full performance in this note which also explained how you could manage performance – which is of course what they should have done before they implemented it in the background without telling anyone. This article tells you how you can monitor and manage your battery health.
So … if you have one of the affected models (iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus) you should consider taking advantage of the Battery Replacement Offer, but for a few people with a 6S, it could be a free replacement.
The Apple Store calls …