Going Paid

Yes, I know, first world problems and all that, shut up…

With the news that Instagram can now start selling my photos, something I didn’t agree to when I signed up, I’ve been looking at what services I use the most and wondering if I might be better to switch all my online/digital actions to only use paid for options.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for companies to make money and that offering services for free isn’t ever going to be properly scalable until you reach a critical mass (think Facebook and Google). What really irks me about the Instagram change is that I don’t have an option other than to stop using it and delete my profile. If they’d given me the option, I’d likely have paid for it.

That got me thinking, could I switch to only using apps and services I’ve paid for?

I use Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for most of my ‘social’ activities. I’ve recently gotten back into FourSquare (as I pull the data into the journalling app Day One) but it’s not really something I’m using socially, it’s purely a tool to make up for my own, shockingly bad, memory! I use several Google services, Mail, Docs, Calendar for my personal information management.

I do not pay for any of these services.

I use Evernote to capture incidental data, notes and links, and the wonderful Dropbox (try it!!) to sync files between all of my devices (personal and work laptops, iPhone and iPad). I have an iTunes Match account to host my music in iCloud.

I pay for all of these services.

So I guess the question is, can I replace Twitter, Facebook, Google and Instagram with paid for options?

For many years I’ve paid for a Flickr Pro account. It was one of the first services I used that even offered a ‘paid’ option (I was still using Blogger at the time) and thankfully, it seems to be going under a bit of a revival. I looked at alternatives (500px) but with such an investment in time, I’m happy to stick with Flickr. The Flickr app seems pretty good, and I’ve also got the Camera+ app on my iPhone which has allows me to upload photos to Flickr. That takes care of Instagram.

When it was announced, I paid for access to App.net, a pseudo-replacement for Twitter. Whilst I’ve not really gotten into it, perhaps all I need is a bit of a push (and for more of my friends to be using it). I’m not ruling out Twitter just yet but as it continues to look to lock down it’s system, I’ve no doubt there will come a tipping point which pushes me to ditch it.

So what of Facebook and Google?

I can replace the latter for the most part, a combination of Dropbox for documents, my own mail server (part of the hosting account I pay for as part of this blog) and the calendar is already driven from my work Exchange server (it just syncs to Google). I’m not inclined to leave Google though, their ecosystem works well.

That leaves Facebook. I’ve pondered deactivating my account there before. I get some value from it, as I have friends and some work colleagues on there, not to mention my family. What value does it have? Well that largely comes about because ‘everyone’ uses it. Organising a get together or a trip is pretty easy if everyone has a Facebook account. The problem with only me closing my Facebook account is that my friends would still use it and I’d likely miss out on news and events in my social circle (well, one of them at least). Sure I could try and convince them to use Google+ (which is definitely improving) but that’s not gonna be easy.

Other than Instagram, I’m not making any decisions right now. I can see a time when I delete my Facebook account, but as someone said, I’ve not yet accounted for the next cool new service to come along (although they are increasingly looking more like aggregators than anything ‘new’). Time will tell but at least it’s good to know there are options out there for when a company pulls a fast one and leaves you with little choice but to seek alternatives.

There is a couple of weeks before I need to close my Instagram account though, and whilst there is still time for them to back track and for it all to be deemed a big mistake, the fact this was allowed to happen at all is what leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Bye bye Instagram.


UPDATE: Instagram have published a clarifying post, stating that there intention isn’t to sell photos and that the wording wasn’t great in their original T&C update. I disagree, I think the wording was very clear (I’m not alone in this) and so whilst the words may have changed, the intention to monetise Instagram is clear and understandable. For me, it’s not a question of them being ‘bad’ for trying to make money, it’s the lack of options for me, the user. If anything, whilst I probably could keep using Instagram, the whole affair has given me a bit of a kick. It’s very easy to ‘rely’ on a free service then grumble when it changes.

ISTC West of Scotland Area Group meeting

The next ISTC West of Scotland area group meeting in Glasgow will take place on Thursday 16th February 2012, from 7.30 pm onwards. Come along to talk about latest news and trends in communication, or just to meet other communication professionals.

The event is free and open to anyone interested in technical communication, such as technical authors, information architects, internal communication professionals, report writers, marketing writers, web content writers and graphic designers.

Venue: Waxy O’Connors pub, 44 West George Street, Glasgow, G2 1DH. Please make your way to McTurk’s Room on the middle level.

If you plan to attend, please sign up for the event at http://www.eventbrite.com/event/2743613221 to help us anticipate attendance numbers.

Please forward this message on to your colleagues or anyone else who may be interested. For more information, contact westscotland_areagroup@istc.org.uk.


UPDATE: MadCap have provided a licence of MadPak, worth USD 1499, to be raffled amongst event attendees. For more information, see http://www.madcapsoftware.com/products/madpak/overview.aspx

How to embed linked images in Word 2007

Using Author-it to produce Word documents is easy. The tricky bit is distributing them.

Without running any post publishing macros, the Word document that is generated will be using linked images. So everytime you need to distribute the document you’ll also need to remember to include the images as well.

I frequently forget this, hence why I’m posting this, so, if all else fails, I can at least search my own blog to find the solution. If you look at a document with linked images, you’ll see that the filesize for the document is quite small, and there will be a number of images in the same folder (although this works fine if your images are linked from another folder).

UPDATE: You can also do this automatically after publishing using an afterPublish Word macro, the Author-it Knowledge Centre has the details, thanks to Derek Tomes for pointing it out. Read on for the manual method.

You can quickly and easily convert linked images to embedded images in Word 2007. Here’s how:

  1. With your Word document open, click the Office button*, top-left of the window.
  2. Select Prepare > Edit Links to Files.
  3. Select and highlight the images you want to convert from the list.
  4. Select the option to Save picture in document.
  5. Click the Break Link button.
  6. Click Yes to confirm.

The links are removed, and the images are now embedded in your Word document. A quick check of the filesize of the Word document should show a marked increase and you can now distribute the Word document, and the Word document only, safe in the knowledge that the images are embedded.

Things can only get better


Kitchen fitters turn up.

Kitchen fitters check the electrics.

Kitchen fitters say we’ll need to get them upgraded.

Kitchen fitters also say that the worktop for the sink area is wrong size, we have 600, should 700.

Kitchen fitters phone warehouse to order new worktop. Earliest it MIGHT be with us is in one week.

Surveyor should’ve checked all this! Louise and Gordon are annoyed.

Gordon will be writing a letter of complaint.

But work still needs done so…

Louise phones electricians.

Electrician comes, looks at job, agrees price and says he’ll turn up tomorrow.

Electrician also says we need to buy more fused switches, one per major appliance due to regulations introduced last year.

Louise and Gordon dash to B&Q to get more switches to match the ones they’ve already bought.

Today (so far):

Gordon went to bank before work to lift cash to pay electrician.

Electrician didn’t turn up.

Gordon can’t write long sentences.

Short sentences are the only way to stop him going ARSEHOLE FUCK BANDIT WANKERS!!!! over and over and over…


Ahem. Sorry.

Electrician can’t make it. Has rescheduled to next week.

And the worst thing? I’m on antibiotics I can’t even have a bloody drink!!!!

Guilty Pleasures (take 2)

We all have our dark secrets, our personal foibles and weaknesses of which we aren’t proud. I’ve mentioned one of mine before and, driving to work this morning, I realised I have another.

Backtrack to last Friday night, Louise is packing her bags and I’m sitting at the computer. Thankfully she’s only packing to go away for one night, to Newcastle, with her sister, cousins, nieces and (not yet) sister-in-law. It’s a girly weekend away with shopping high on the agenda, presuming they can still read it after copious amounts of wine.

Louise volunteered to be one of the drivers and asked me to dig out an MP3 CD I compiled a couple of years ago, entitled Ladies Night. Full of divas and disco, Justin and Kylie, with just a dash of Cyndi Lauper and dose of those old stalwarts of the girls night out, The Weather Girls.

As it was a couple of years out-of-date I was spending a little time updating it, adding a track here, moving a track there, and deleting some of the rather more bewildering choices.

With the playlist updated, the MP3 CD burnt and ready for the car, I thought little of it again until this morning. Having dropped Louise at the station, and sick of the rambling nonsense offered on the radio, I switched over to the CD, forgetting that it wasn’t one of the usual ones.

Sidenote here: Louise and I have fairly different tastes in music, so a middle ground is found which isn’t TOO far into chart pop and 80s stuff whilst remaining equally distant from my “weird” stuff although quite frequently my “weird” stuff becomes her catchy tune after time (that whistling track by Peter Bjorn and John, like others I’ve had that on the playlist since March).

Back to the car, and it took me a track or two to realise I was listening to the Ladies Night mix. I quite enjoy a bit of Aretha, and can tolerate the odd Abba track or two so it was only when S Club Seven started singing Don’t Stop Movin’ that I realised not only what I was listening to, but that I really should confess to this guilty pleasure.

My more astute readers (if they are both reading) can probably already see where this is heading so I’ll get the confession out of the road right now. Yes, I sang along at the top of my voice. Yes, I may even have head-boogied a little in the car. Yes, I quite like that track and have danced to it on more than one occasion.

That, however, is not the guilty pleasure to which I must confess.

That honour goes to a disco classic which, like so many of the songs I love, features a narrative and to which I know all the words. Every single one.

Whilst I would also like to pretend that I haven’t, it is also true that I’ve danced along to this track many many times, usually whilst singing at the top of my voice and… well I can’t deny it any longer… I also throw some actions in as well. Ohh yes, this is no foot shuffling Dad dance, this is a full-on display of high campery!

The main reason I can’t deny that I dance like an idiot when this track comes on is that there is (non-digital, thankfully!) video footage of me performing said actions, whilst singing loudly at the top of my voice. I THINK there were all of 6 of us dancing at that point. I may have had alcohol.

The song is a story of heartache, a story of a broken woman vowing to fight on. A disco diva at the top of her form and, allegedly who had a broken foot during the shooting of the video hence why you only ever see her from the knees up.

No prizes for guessing, but let’s see who is first to name my guilty pleasure.

Certain people are excluded from voting, namely my wife, our friend Susan, or Ian’s Mum. All of whom were at the wedding where my performance (that’s what us dancers call it, you know!) and have seen the damning (damn?) video evidence.

OK. I’ve fessed up so now it’s your turn, what’s YOUR musical guilty pleasure?

UPDATE: You know, given the lack of confessions I’m tempted not to tell you which track is my guilty(est) pleasure. But yeah, Lyle guessed right, although I’m not sure how to take his comment: “He’s more Gloria Gaynor than Birley Shassey.”

I (somehow) originally mis-typed the title of this post as Quilty Pleasures. Interesting thought but a different post entirely.


I think I’m safe, for now. Wherever I go it isn’t long before they find me.

It seems The Mezin are connected to every aspect of humanity, from culture and religion to our most advanced technology

I have to be more careful contacting all of you. When I began I thought I could safely speak about his writings and perhaps save us all…

but now it seems I will have to find a more subtle way to share his visions.

If this is the first message you have received from me do not give up hope! There are others that have gone before you, the way has been found, you only need to search and you will find the answers you seek. We will all have a role to play. We are getting stronger, our voices will be heard!

I have more of Haas’s writings, once I find a secure way to transmit them I will leave you clues to find them.

The more I read the more I realize Haas was right………

Ethan Haas Was Right.


Read More

Something I said?

This blog has always been a little up and down, stats are never constant with spikes and .. um… the opposite of spikes… ohh yes, troughs, littering my reports.

However I guess I need to rethink things a little as comments have been very light the past few weeks. I know I know you are all very busy and have better blogs to read but, more as a little experiment than any form of ego-stroking… honest… I’m issuing a call to everyone who reads this post.


Even if it’s just “Hi”, or “Bog off you self-absorbed wanker”, or “Twins? Twins that love pink? Ohh my worlds, Big Brother has gone mental this time”. I’ll leave the comment up to you.


(I’d threaten to quit if I didn’t get more than 20 different people commenting but… well I don’t want to quit, and I’m not THAT melodramatic)

UPDATE: Gosh, what a response. I am truly humbled, including those of you who decided to email instead of commenting (you know who you are, and those emails were appreciated as well). As most have rightly pointed out, a lot of people will be on holidays and these days it can be a case of too many blogs, not enough time.

If I’d actually planned this I might have been able to have a stab at how many people are reading via RSS but, roughly speaking, my daily hit count almost doubled yesterday… not sure how that translates but it’s interesting.

How to fix iTunes stutter

UPDATE – 13th Sept. 2009: I’m glad this post is still of use, if you do find a different solution, please add it to the comments. Mostly I think that the iTunes stutter is only a manifestation of other issues (drivers out of sync or whatever), but glad that this is helping people fix their issue.

Since updating iTunes to version 7 (.02) I’ve been plagued on and off by this issue. Googling brought some success but I’ve seen a few different suggestions of how to fix this, all from different sources with different setups. I finally managed to cure MY system so thought I’d collate everything I’ve found in the hope that others find it beneficial.

So, if you’ve been experiencing the now infamous “iTunes Stutter”, and like me it hasn’t been happening consistently, how do you fix it?
Read More

(WIN) Music to run by

UPDATE: Great stuff so far, I’ve started pulling the playlist together so thanks to everyone for the suggestions. Keep them coming though, there is still time to win!

With everything that’s going on at the moment I have to admit that the jogging thing is keeping me focussed and reasonably sane, but then that’s part of the point of doing it. Alongside the whole “get fit/lose weight” thang there is another factor which I’m looking forward to gaining, the “mental release” that regular exercise brings. Those who do it will know what I mean, those who don’t, or haven’t, won’t. And for those who are confused, don’t worry. I am too.

Thankfully, despite the heat, I still have the motivation to go along to the class tonight and I’m hoping to get to Achilles Heel soon to get my gait assessed so I can buy a proper pair of shoes. The classes run for the next 9 weeks, and I’ll see how I’m doing after that. If things are going well I might even shell out for the new Nike+ system (it’s only £19 as you don’t NEED to buy the trainers and I already have an iPod Nano). I mean I can’t start a new hobby and NOT buy a gadget to go with it… er… aside from my new watch of course (which I got for around £20 on eBay, yay!).

So, with my current determination to ‘be a runner’ still intact —hell, I’m *this* close to subscribing to Runner’s World magazine (and that’s their choice of apostrophe… with good reason!)— I thought I may as well take it as read that I’ll be getting the Nike+ system in which case, obviously, I’ll need a good “running” playlist!

And, as ever (hey, this is the internet!) I can’t be bothered thinking it ALL up myself so it’s over to you guys. What? You want some pointers? Sheesh, do I have to do EVERYTHING around here?? Ohhh, alright then…

Pace wise the tracks can’t be too slow or laidback. I’d much rather have music than any spoken word stuff (podcasts, audio books, radio etc). The first few bands/tracks that have popped into my head are either dance music (Chemical Brothers) or rock (AC/DC, Muse). Basically it needs to be loud, not too subtle and provide some ‘energy’ when used. Music type and era isn’t an issue, availability is. If I can’t get it from iTunes or some other method then don’t suggest it.

AND, to spice things up a little, how about a little competition.

The Nike+ system includes the ability to set a “Power Song” which you can play at the push of a button, so whoever offers the best suggestion* for a “Power Song” will win a copy of the final “Running Wild” playlist (on MP3 CD probably).

So, I’ll need the track title, the artist and whether it’s a general “running” track or a “Power Song“.

Entries close on this coming Saturday (22nd July). Multiple entries allowed. The decision of the judge (me) is final. All other rules, that I’ve not yet considered, apply.

It’s the first ever competition on this site, so make the most of it!

* I’d love to give criteria for how this will be judged – it’ll mainly be down to which track I get the best ‘buzz’ from so be as wild and wacky as you like.

25 lines

Inspired by Lisa and Rob, I’ve got a little quiz for you.

It’s simple enough, 25 lyrics, guess the song and artist. I’ve used the “Party Shuffle” mode of iTunes to pull 25 random tracks from my library, so don’t blame me… entirely..

Ohh and it’s not always the first line of the song, some were a little to obvious for that.

UPDATE: DEADLINE passed, here are the answers to all… er… 26 tracks

  1. I want your tender charms, cause I’m lonely and blue
    Rescue Me by Fontella BassPB Curtis
  2. Spread out the oil, the gasoline. I walk smooth, ride in a mean, mean machine
    Start me up by The Rolling Stones
  3. From the torn or taffeta, You’re frozen in the contemplation of a win
    4 pounds in 2 days by Lambchop
  4. Go hug your sister, Go love your sister, Go hug your sister, One and the same<
    Pistol of fire by Kings of Loen/li>
  5. You can hear, dear Mother Nature murmuring low “Let yourself go”
    It’s De-Lovely by Cole Porter (sung by Jeri Southern) – Cheerful One
  6. And her hunky funky junky, Of a boyfriend, Got her on late nights, With her skirt tight
    High Times by Jamiroquai
  7. With all the will in the world, Diving for dear life
    Shipbuilding by Elvis CostelloRullsenberg
  8. Put your hair back, we get to leave, Eleven gallows on your sleeve
    Perfect Circle by R.E.M.David
  9. Inside you’re pretending, Crimes have been swept aside, Somewhere where they can forget
    Mysterions by Portishead
  10. Seven out a twenty one knocked down now only fourteen left to go
    Out of nowhere by Athlete
  11. There is nothin’ fair in this world, There is nothin’ safe in this world
    White Wedding by Billy IdolJoanna
  12. I got a faulty parachute, I got a stranger’s friend, An exciting change in, My butchers blend
    Losing Hope by Jack Johnson
  13. I have a choice between the bat or the belt, each time I hear about the hand you’ve been dealt
    Wind Up by Foo Fighters
  14. Petrified for the millionth time. Slowly my soul evaporates, No parachutes no dismal clouds, Just this fucking space
    I’m not working by the Manic Street PreachersLyle
  15. Fear me you lord and lady preachers, I descend upon your earth from the skies
    Seven Seas of Rhye by QueenTom
  16. L.A. proved too much for the man, So he’s leavin’ the life he’s come to know
    Midnight train to Georgia by Gladys Knightrobin
  17. You stay the night at his house, With no ride to work, And I’m the one who tells you, He’s another jerk
    You by Aimee Mannpootlecat
  18. We dive into a dark doorway, Hiding from the clouds of grey, Oh babe, I don’t mind it at all
    Scottish Rain by The Silencers
  19. May God bless and keep you always, May your wishes all come true, May you always do for others, And let others do for you.
    Forever young by Bob Dylan – Canute
  20. Yeah but nobody searches, And nobody cares somehow, When the loving that you’ve wasted, Comes raining from a hapless cloud
    Slow Hands by Interpol
  21. I dont have to sell my soul, Hes already in me
    I Wanna be adored by The Stone RosesRullsenberg
  22. Hold up, hold on, don’t be scared, You’ll never change what’s been and gone
    Stop crying your heart out by Oasis
  23. And into the sea goes pretty England and me, Around the Bay of Biscay and back for tea
    This is a Low by BlurKerron
  24. A year ago, last Thursday, I was strolling in the zoo, when I met a man who thought he knew the lot
    I’m a Gnu by Flanders and SwannZ
  25. Viktor was born in the spring of ’44, And never saw his father anymore, A child of sacrifice, a child of war
    Leningrad by Billy JoelBlue Witch
  26. Lost in a lullaby, Side of the road, Melt in a memory, Slide in a solitude
    Fugitive Motel by Elbow

Honourable mentions: Adrian McEwen.

Right. Have at it people! I’ll update correct guesses when I can over the weekend. Ohh and we all KNOW it’d be easy to just Google for the answers but what’s the point in that?