Friday, 11 February 2011

Corrupted Podcasts on iPhone/iPod Touch

I’ve had a few times now when something has happened while I’ve been copying podcasts to my iPod Touch from iTunes and it’s got corrupted and doesn’t show up on the device.  Each time this has happened, I’ve spent ages trying to get it fixed, so this is a guide to myself for the next time it happens and to try and save anybody else pulling their hair out. Note: this only applies if you’re managing your podcasts and music manually.

  1. In iTunes, find the file in your Podcasts section that isn’t appearing on the device. Right-click it, select “Get Info” and select the Options tab.  Set the “Media Kind” to be “Music”
  2. The file will now move from the Podcasts section in iTunes to the Music section.  Find it again and drag it over the iPod/iPhone.  The file won’t be copied, but its meta-data should be updated
  3. Go to the Music section on your device and find the file (where it should now appear!) and delete it
  4. Back in iTunes, change the Media Kind back to Podcast, find the file in your Podcasts and drag it to your device.

With a bit of luck, that should have fixed it and the file should appear correctly under the right podcast.

Have I mentioned lately how much I hate iTunes and the whole locked Apple ecosystem?

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Forestry Privatisation Concerns

Whilst I share many of the concerns about the Government’s plan to sell or lease many of England’s forests to private companies and charities, there’s another question that’s been bouncing around in my head ever since I heard it and which I haven’t heard answered yet.  If forests are sold, leased or donated to private companies or charities, will this bring them within reach of Freedom of Information laws?  And if not, then how will they be accountable for managing a fairly major public asset, and one that protests have shown that the public seem awfully protective of?

It’s a truism to say that the (Tory part of the) current government is ideologically in favour of the State not actually doing very much and getting the private sector involved in everything, but they have never satisfactorily answered questions of accountability.  Public companies are accountable only to their shareholders, and their only goal is to enrich those shareholders with no obligation to wider society.  I find this deeply concerning, both in this instance and more generally.  The “Big Society” is all about getting private companies and charities involved in public work.  Once they are, how do we as a society hold them to account, and punish them if they are greedy, incompetent or malevolent?  Democracy might not be perfect, but we can at least, in theory, vote out people we don’t like.  What will we be able to do in the (admittedly unlikely) case that a private company starts cutting down the New Forest for toilet paper?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Officially a twit now

I’ve been pondering joining Twitter for some time now and now that I think that I’m starting to get an idea of what the heck it’s actually for, I’m finally taking the plunge.  Some git had already taken @lordofthemoon, so you can find me @1ordofthemoon.  Go ahead and follow me, and let me know if there’s someone that you think I should follow.  I may get bored of the whole thing and just give up, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway.

Also, does anyone use a particular desktop application for Twitter, or do you all use it exclusively from your smartphones?

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The meaningfulness of life

I’ve just finished reading this arc from the lovely and excellent Dresden Codak webcomic and it got me thinking.  The short version is that in the far future, the remnants of humanity live in a virtual paradise created for them by an AI that they no longer understand.  A group of these humans rebel because they are no longer relevant and their lives have no meaning, and war is inevitable.

Thinking of this, and all the other SF that has riffed off the same sort of idea, I find myself wondering how I would react if my life was completely irrelevant.  The thing is that I’m already an atheist and broadly believe that life has no meaning except that which we give it.  So to me, I don’t feel that there’s anything special about my being alive or that my life has any “higher purpose” (not that I want it to stop any time soon, mind you), so I’m half way there already.  If we create a new, artificial life form that is better than us, then I think I’ll be happy (so long as it doesn’t turn on us in a Terminator-esque rampage to destroy humanity) and not be dissatisfied with my life.  If our greatest achievement is in passing on the torch of intelligence then that’s wonderful!  I’ll retire to my virtual paradise a happy man, knowing that we have created something greater than ourselves.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Happy New Year

Happy new year everyone. My retrospective on 2010 is now up on my website.

Time’s tide flows on
May it bear you
Towards happiness
And away from sorrow

Happy new year

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Self-Discovery #001

I went to my local garden centre today to buy a winter house plant, and a conversation with the lady behind the counter when she asked me about something else that I had bought earlier this year1 made me think about my relationship with plants.  I think my knowledge of plants can be compared with my knowledge of Linux.  No, no, let me explain: in both cases I know just enough to be dangerous.  I don’t have the deep knowledge that lets me delve into the guts of the O/S when things go wrong or swap kernel modules or window managers, and similarly, although I seem to be quite good at keeping (indoor, at least) plants alive, I don’t know what to do when they start looking poorly.  Nor do I know how to take cuttings or trim them back.  The dark arts of What To Plant With What are a mystery to me.

In both cases, I suspect diving in is the only way to learn, in the first case by installing Linux on a computer that I regularly use, and in the second I think this has been a long and rambling way of saying that I think I’m going to have to start listening to Gardeners’ Question Time.

1 itself a good reason to support your local businesses

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Compassion and punishment

One of the many things that has come out of the mass of WikiLeaks documents released recently is that the UK Government was apparently worried about Libyan reaction if Abdelbaset al-Megrahi died in jail.  This led to a rekindling of interest in the case and the ‘revelation’ that al-Megrahi is still alive, leading to questions asked of the First Minister on the Today programme revisiting the decision.  Surely I can’t be the only who finds this vulture-like constant waiting for al-Megrahi to die somewhat macabre?

Even if his conviction was completely sound (and there are many grounds for believing otherwise, although that’s neither here nor there for this post) I would still have supported his release from prison on compassionate grounds as the Scottish government did.  I find it almost amusing that the fact he is still alive, despite his illness, is something that would have been lauded, maybe as a miracle, in any circumstance other than this one.  Indeed, if one were feeling mischievous one could maybe argue that that his continuing health is a sign from God…

However, that’s not the point that I want to make.  My point is this: that when Kenny MacAskill released al-Megrahi, he did so for the right reasons, on compassionate grounds for someone who all medical evidence suggested had only a few months left to live.  The immediate flurry of protest is something that I despised because that key fact was forgotten or ignored – that he’s almost certainly going to die soon enough anyway, probably in a fairly painful and slow way.  This decision was one that was made for all the right reasons and under a lot of pressure to the contrary, from both the media in this country and America, and the US Government.  It’s one of the few times that I’ve felt any pride in my elected representatives, and it made me proud to have adopted Scotland, a nation that still understands and values compassion, as my home.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Proud of the BBC

The BBC is a brilliant, diverse, and vital organisation.  I can’t imagine life in Britain without it.  It isn’t just a broadcaster, it’s an institution, part of our national fabric – there’s a reason we call it Auntie Beeb.  I’m not even going to attempt to list some of the amazing programmes, both on television and radio, that it’s produced over the years, we all have our favourites.  What constantly amazes me is the breadth of its ambition.  This is an organisation whose remit spreads from Strictly Come Dancing to the World Service, from Eastenders to Radio 4.  It can encompass tastes from the opera-going Radio 3 listener to the soap and reality TV watching viewer.

It doesn’t just have a glorious history, but it’s still making innovative television and radio today, and its enthusiastic embracing of new media has led to it producing one of the best websites in the world (although I’m not exactly convinced by their enthusiasm for DAB radio).  Its news gathering is the first place I turn to when I want both factual descriptions of what’s going on and decent analysis.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m proud of the BBC.  And I’m not the only one.  Mitch Benn is so proud of it that his next single is about shouting that very fact to the rooftops.  It expresses the same sentiments I would like to, but more eloquently and with a degree more panache.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

RIP Benoît Mandelbrot

It seems that Benoît Mandelbrot passed away on Thursday.  This hasn’t had a lot of attention in the media, but I think it deserves a moment to remember the man who coined the term ‘fractal’.  And I can’t think of a better tribute than Jonathan Coulton’s song Mandelbrot Set.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Electronic snooping by HR departments

This post on Bruce Schneier’s blog led me to this rather disturbing article.  I don’t know about anyone else but I find it rather creepy that what you said years ago, or an embarrassing picture, possibly put up by someone else, could be used to determine whether or not you get (or keep!) a job.  The use of fear to sell it is also insidious, suggesting that if companies don’t do it, they may be held liable.

Although I’m not on Facebook, Twitter or any of the other popular social networking sites, I do keep a public blog and I appreciate that I have to be careful what I write on it.  I avoid talking about my employer, except in the most general terms and these days I don’t write anything that I wouldn’t be able to defend.  But I’ve had this blog for a long time, and I can’t guarantee that I was always so circumspect.  And I’m certainly not adverse to putting political opinions here either.  If something like this became widespread, and I was in the job market, I’d give serious consideration to going through and removing possibly damaging posts (i.e. anything vaguely contentious) or even taking the blog down entirely and moving it behind a friend-wall.  In this way, the public sphere is weakened, and (self-)censorship gains another victory.

Another example: when IoWiki was first established, there was a debate about how we handle entries for members, something that led to a policy stating that inclusion is opt-in, and the whole wiki blocked to spiders to make it harder for companies like the one mentioned in the article to collect this sort of information.  I originally thought that some of the precautions we took were somewhat OTT, but with technology and companies like this emerging, I’m glad that some people back then had the foresight to insist that we did take those precautions.

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