Pulling the Plug (again)

I noticed this when I was reading the Guardian website today:


I’ll bet it was triggered by some algorithm that knows I am Manx.

I suspect it’s high time that I deleted my Facebook account (again). And to be clear, I loathe and detest Facebook, but I needed an account because of my community work. Everybody else insisted that using a Facebook group was the only way to coordinate. Bollocks, said I, but everyone else seems to have drunk the kool-aid…

The invasion of the body snatchers has long since come to pass…

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From Wet String to Glass

If you’ve been following the saga of trying to get broadband internet here, you’ll know that last November a campaign started to persuade householders in our area to sign up for a new fibre optic network. We needed a minimum of 50% of the households in the area to sign up; so 2,800 addresses out of the total catchment area of 5,600 addresses.

The campaign came to an end on the 19th February, and I’m very pleased to say that 69.4% of the households signed up.

The detailed engineering plan for the network is now being worked on, and the expectation is that work will begin on laying the network in the 3rd quarter this year. The first households are expected to be connected by the end of the year, and everyone should be on the network by mid-2019.

We’ve been fighting for a decent broadband connection here since the end of 2014, so it’s a bit of a relief that at last we seem to be in sight of getting the dream realised.

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QUAD Artera Link – Rare Bird or Lame Duck?

The audio manufacturer QUAD introduced the Artera line of products back in 2015. At the 2016 Sound and Vision show in Bristol, QUAD previewed two additional models in the range: an all-in-one player and amplifier (the Artera One) and a player and streamer (the Artera Link). A full year went by without these models appearing on the market, and they ended up being re-announced at the 2017 show, and production began.

I managed to purchase an Artera Link in February 2017, and it’s been a key component in our HiFi system during the past year.

Yet something odd happened; apart from a passing mention in the Artera product page at QUAD’s web site, the Artera One and the Artera Link models were rarer than hen’s teeth, and not found on QUAD’s dealer price lists. Then, a week ago, QUAD suddenly announced the Artera Solus – to all intents and purposes, exactly the same model as the Artera One (a player and amplifier), and all references to the Artera One and the Artera Link were expunged from QUAD’s web site. It is said that a second version of the Artera Solus will become available later this year, which will add streamer capabilities. This seems to suggest that a pure player/streamer model (i.e. equivalent to the Artera Link) is not part of QUAD’s plans.

So I seem to have ended up with one of the few Artera Links that have been produced. And with zero chance that it will become a Roon-Certified network player. That’s a pity.

Quad Artera Link

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You Gotta Believe

Nina Paley has been working on Seder-Masochism, the follow-up to her wonderful Sita Sings The Blues, for a while now. Here’s a snippet, visuals courtesy Nina, song courtesy The Pointer Sisters. Fabulous (in all meanings of the word)!

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RIP Ursula

Damn. Ursula Le Guin has died. One of the greats who you would wish to go on forever. That task has now passed to her work. So that settles it, she will be read, and re-read for a very long time to come. She will be missed, but her memory, ideas, characters and philosophies will live on.

Now, if you will excuse me, I will put aside my re-reading of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and pick up, once more, Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, before continuing with the other thirty-one books of hers in my library…

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Microsoft Photos – Still a Disaster After All These Years

Our local village community organisation – Heelwegs Belang – is holding its annual New Year’s Reception today. I thought that I would make a slide presentation to run continuously during the reception and be displayed on a screen in the village hall.

I thought about what tool I would use to make the presentation; would it be PowerPoint, or something else? Initially, I thought I would try using Microsoft’s new presentation tool Sway. It seemed promising, but I quickly discovered that it requires a permanent connection to the internet to work. Since there is no WiFi in the village hall at the moment, that ruled out Sway from consideration.

Then I realised that the much-maligned (by me and others) Microsoft Photos app now has a so-called “video creation” mode, which can be used to assemble slide presentations, and even put music to them. So I fired up Photos and set about assembling my presentation.

Photos 01

Dear lord, but what a painful experience that proved to be. The Photos app is slow as molasses in this mode, and crashes frequently. The workflow involved in assembling a presentation is primitive – for example, you must apply effects one at a time to each slide; you can’t select a group of slides and apply an effect or effects to the group. So if you want to change the default display time of 3 seconds to, say, 5 seconds – you have to plod through the presentation and change each slide timing individually. Given that “plodding” is the order of the day with the Photos app, I felt I was fighting the app every damn step of the way. Add to that the frequent crashes, and losing the last few minutes of work each time, I was ready to put my fist through the screen at several points.

Frankly, next time, it will be back to PowerPoint. It may be old-school, but at least it works, and does what it says on the tin.

Posted in Computers and Internet, Photography | Tagged | 2 Comments

Facepalm Time Again

I see that Microsoft has at last introduced a much-requested feature into their Photos app for Windows 10. Unfortunately, this being Microsoft, the feature is half-baked and not useful. Let me explain.

With the Fall Creators Update, the Photos app started to be able to recognise faces in photos. There was no way to add names to the faces, or to group photos of the same face together under one name, as we could do in Microsoft’s Windows Photo Gallery 2012, but at least it appeared as though Microsoft was starting down the road to make the Photos app more useful by adding People Tags.

There’s now at last a build (2017.39101.16720.0) of the Photos app released to Windows Insiders that allows you to assign names to faces. However, the names are local to the PC on which they are done, so they reside in the local database of the Photos app, rather than being written back to the file as metadata. That means that the information does not travel with the file. If the file is held in OneDrive, and accessed from another device, the People Tags are not available to that device. The experience is broken. If you want the People Tags to be available on the new device, you have to go through the manual process of adding names to faces again (and again and again on each new device that the files are copied to).

What is truly depressing is that Microsoft helped define a metadata standard for tagging faces in the Metadata Working Group – and that standard has been available since 2010. It’s been implemented in products such as Adobe Lightroom, Photo Supreme and Google’s Picasa, so People tags created in any one of these products travel with the file, and can be read in any of the others.

Here we are in 2018, and Microsoft still hasn’t learned how to build a seamless experience for People Tagging.

And to add insult to injury, the Search facility for descriptive tags is also still broken.

Posted in Computers and Internet, Photography | Tagged | 10 Comments