All posts by Alex Boschmans

Just updated to WordPress 3.8

I just updated to WordPress 3.8 – phew !! Sure are a handful of changes. Not too sure about the newest template, I’ll leave it activated for now, but it’s not how I want my site to look…

For example I have put all my widget elements in the right side container, so my blog posts can have a bit more space. Apparently this is not possible by default, as the text just stays centered in the middle instead of taking up all the space as intended. The theme as-is also seems not to be fully responsive, as it does not expand past a certain size… hmmm. Needs some investigation.

Sonos Play:1 is marvelous !

Sonos Play:1 speaker
Sonos Play:1 speaker : great sound for a (relatively) small price

I just bought 2 Sonos Play:1 speakers for my living room, with the free bridge included (the offer lasts till the end of 2013, so you people who want to start with collecting Sonos speakers should hurry). Sonos speakers have been on my wish list for quite some time, ever since Vowe mentioned them on his blog, but they were always too expensive. Till now, with the Play:1 speaker coming out for a relatively cheap price of 199 euros. Still ‘ouch’ but it’s doable.

I was originally going to start out with one speaker, but due to circumstances I ended up with 2…

One speaker I originally bought from MediaMarkt.be, but at that moment they were out of stock. So I reserved one and paid an advance, hoping it would soon turn up. After 2 weeks they still didn’t have new stock, so I got a bit unhinged and in a fit I ordered from an online shop : bol.com and promptly got it delivered the next evening ! Kudos to Bol.com for their shopping experience and followup !

Then the same week I went back to MediaMarkt on other shopping needs, and guess what I found : a delivery just arrived from sonos, so I caved in and bought another one :-)
(Two Play:1 speakers can be grouped as a stereo pair)

I had a hard time believing all the sonos hype about the setup and usage, but in my case it was all true : plug the Bridge in, plug the speakers in, install the app, follow the instructions on the app to link everything, and I was playing music in about 10 minutes (unwrapping included) !!!

A further 10 minutes I had my iTunes library linked to it (it should have been 5 minutes, but apparently you can’t have an apostrophe in your mac’s name for sonos to link up your library, and I had to look it up and rename my mac – no biggie).

You can really hear the difference to my other bog-standard Pioneer DVD 5.1 surround system when playing Jazz – when listening to Dianne Krall I could -for the first time- hear the individual sounds, even the champaign popping sound she makes !

I’m pretty happy with my Sonos setup, and I’ll guess I’ll start saving up for some other speakers in the future…

Kindle on Android: learning your reading speed… and how to turn it off

[I added an update at the end of this post so you can read the solution - kudos to Karl Buehrens !]

I just had a Kindle software update on my Samsung Galaxy Note II Android 4.2 device that has a added a new feature : “reading speed”.

Now whenever I’m reading there is this grey text that is appearing on the bottom of my screen and it is annoying me with it’s info and constantly changing text. And there is currently no way to turn it off.

Learning reading speed” … “8 minutes left till end of Chapter”… 36% read.

WTF ? Who thought that this would be informative and useful to show this all the time ?

Why would I want to know how many minutes I still have to read to the end of the chapter ? Am I doing forced reading ? No. I read for my enjoyment, and it bugs me a lot to see that grey text. It detracts from the story that I’m reading and delivers nothing extra.

It’s almost feels like I should take my stopwatch out and see if I can read it faster and beat my reading speed.

Amazon, please add a disable function to the settings so that people like me who just want to read their story won’t get so annoyed with this grey line of text. Your app was fine as it was.
Update: a commenter on this post found the solution : you need to click on the message, and after several clicks, it will turn off and disappear !!! Non-intuitive, I kept searching in the settings menu.

Devolo Support Sucks.

There. I’ve said it and I mean it.

Their products, when they work, do work fine. But when something goes wrong, you can’t count on support. So I’m steering clear of their devices AND their support, and I’m sharing my feelings in this on my blog.

 

Here’s the rant (quite a long read, got a lot to get out of my system) :

Devolo support seems to consist entirely of first-level support people that only know how to provide support by sending you a pdf with ‘things you can try’. At no stage did I feel that I reached second-level support or that I talked with someone that actually *read* my emails and asked me further technical info based on previous emails.

The overall feeling I got from the emails was that they wanted to get rid of me, but didn’t know how or that they were obliged to follow the rules, i.e. always respond to a customer request, even if it is to resend the same pdf with the same info you sent previously.

As you can read in my other blog posts, last year, about 7 months ago I needed a solution for routing my ethernet signal to my new work room on the first floor. Having used Devolo Dlan Duo devices before without any problem whatsoever I went out and bought 3 Devolo DLAN AV500 devices : 2 with just one ethernet port, 1 with 3 ethernet ports for the various devices (even my TV now has an ethernet port).

From the start, something went wrong with the device that was connected to the router. Every so often it would hang and I would need to go downstairs and unplug and replug it. Then it would work again. Later I found out that it’s actually the ethernet port itself that shuts down, it can still be reached via the power connection so you can actually do a reset from the DLAN cockpit software without needing to unplug it.

So to restate the fact :

  1. The device works, and works fast, no slowdowns, no short dropouts, it just works
  2. Suddenly it stops working, usually when transferring a large amount of data
  3. You ‘reboot’ it and it works again, just as fast as before
  4. It will -days or hours- later suddenly stop working again
  5. See 3…

This didn’t look to me as a typical hardware problem : it’s solved when you restart the device or reset it to factory settings. To me, it looks like a software problem, one or other counter is going haywire and a reset is needed.

So I contacted Devolo support via email in October 2012, and began a very long email back-and-from conversation that lasted until last month June 2013. To be honest, there were usually a few weeks between the answers what with work and family, so not every day a mail was sent.

I also wrote 2 blog posts about this problem that got quite a bit of reaction from other people who are having a similar problem. At the moment I’m writing this, at least 20 people have expressed that they are having the same problem. There have been 1172 visits to that particular blog post already, and unless they do something to fix their product it will only go up.

In the end, after numerous tests (update of the firmware to the latest dev build then, plugging 2 devolo’s in one extension cord to see if they have a good connection, having to confirm and reconfirm and then again reconfirm that no there is no slowdown AT ALL, switching one device in for the other) Devolo software support decided  that my device had a hardware fault, based on the fact that when it crashed, there is no visible indication that it has done so. And then it told me to sort it out myself by going back to the shop and asking for an exchange.

Tell me how YOU can explain to a shop attendant that you want to exchange the device because it is faulty when it shows NO VISIBLE indication that it is faulty ? I don’t know about shop attendants in your country, but the ones I know in Belgium are quite aloof and suspicious when you want to return hardware after 7 months of use.

I have several times told Devolo support that I am not the only one with the problem, please see my blog and read the comments. At no time did they respond to this. Probably because then they might have to actually investigate it, spending time and resources to actually solve the problem for everybody affected.

In the end I bought a new device to replace the Devolo DLAN 500AV+ but this time a Powerline device from D-LINK. Since both the devices use the same common “Homeplug” standard, they just recognise each other and start working together immediately together.

Problem solved, at my expense of course. But at the expense in the long run of Devolo as well. I’m no longer a customer of theirs, will buy other devices than Devolo, and I am making the world know of this so other people know what happened.

Fun Project : visualisation of all the flemish schools

I’ve had a bit of fun recently with visualising some open data from onderwijs.vlaanderen.be where I downloaded the address list of flemish schools for kindergarten and “lower” schools.

  • imported the csv list via “base” in an sqlite database
  • added longitude and latitude fields to the db
  • wrote a small script that used geopy to query google for each address and add the coordinates to the db
  • then created another small script using pygmaps to create a custom html file which includes the necessary coordinates for each point on the google map.

The result is that I never knew how many schools there were in Vlaanderen !

Schools in Flemish Belgium

You can read more in the original post (in Flemish) that I made on the dataconnect website, where I advertise for my web site design and consultancy. For the full map, click on the above image to go there.