Goodreads (for book lovers)

Goodreads is a social media website that allows you to search its database of books, annotations, quotes, and reviews. You can sign up and register books to generate library shelves and reading lists. You can also create your own groups of book suggestions, surveys, polls, blogs, and discussions.

I’ve joined Goodreads since retirement to keep a record all my books (since July 2020) and to keep in touch with friends. I’ll be pleased to link up with my friends and contacts to share our reading. The links above take you to my profile or you can click here. Apps for smartphones and other devices are available.

Humans (TV Series)

I recently posted on Facebook and Twitter: We’ve watched two episodes of HUMANS on Netflix, but we’re not totally hooked. Convince us to keep watching…

We received a variety of responses, mainly ones that suggested we give up, with some only managing one or two episodes. Equally, there were those who were very positive and urged us to keep going.

We actually gave up and watched another series, but came back to HUMANS, and we’re glad we did. From the third episode we were hooked and we’re currently on the second season.

Like all good science fiction drama and writing, it asks deep questions about life, and in this case what it means to be truly human. The series explores the themes of artificial intelligence and robotics, focusing on the social, cultural, and psychological impact of the invention of anthropomorphic robots called ‘synths’.

Without giving too much away, some of these synths become fully sentient and experience consciousness, a truly difficult concept to get your head around. As I write this, I know that I am a sentient being, but I have absolutely no way of proving that you have a similar experience, I simply have to make the assumption that you do.

So, if you like drama that asks difficult questions, then this is for you. If, like us, you nearly gave up on it, you might like to give it another try.

Update 10/11/20: We watched the final episode and were pleased we did. The whole series raises so many ethical and philosophical issues that are totally relevant to life today, brilliant and thought-provoking. Be prepared to invest in it and you will be amply repaid.

Maintaining your Smartphone

You don’t need the latest smartphone! Let me repeat that, you don’t need the latest smartphone! There, I’ve said it! My current smartphone is four years old today (Wednesday 14 October 2020) and it’s still going strong, so why change it?

When your contract comes up for renewal, you can just walk away. You can simply exchange your expiring contract for a SIM only one. I’ve written about it here.

It still does everything it did when it first came to life; it still takes great photos, music still sounds great through quality earphones or headphones, and it continues to enable me to share ‘dad jokes’ on Facebook – but for half the monthly cost of the first two years!

There’s some simple steps you can take to help ensure your smartphone lasts a long time:

  • Don’t let the battery become completely exhausted.
  • Switch off and on again at least once a day.
  • Use the power-saver feature.
  • Don’t have too many apps running in the background.
  • Limit the notifications to the ones you really need.
  • Only install apps that you actually use.
  • Always have plenty of free memory space.
  • Delete unwanted photos, videos and downloads regularly.
  • Close, rather than minimise, apps after use.
  • Use a cleaning utility app like CCleaner regularly.
  • Use the built-in [Optimise] app or widget regularly.
  • Make sure you have a tempered glass protector on the screen.

Finally, and most important for the long-term well-being of your smartphone, don’t drop it down the toilet!

Note: If you find my blog posts helpful, especially if they save you money, you might like to make a donation towards my running costs. You can find out more information here.

Delete Tweets with Semiphemeral

Semiphemeral protects your privacy by making it easy for you to automatically delete years of old tweets while giving you control over exactly which tweets you want to make sure you keep.

For example, you can set it to automatically delete tweets that are older than 30 days unless they have at least 20 retweets or at least 20 likes (all these numbers are configurable). You can also:

  • Keep all tweets that are part of the same thread as a tweet that meets those RT and like thresholds
  • Search through all of your tweets and pick which ones to exclude from automatic deletion, so that Semiphemeral will never delete them
  • Unretweet tweets after a number of days
  • Unlike tweets after a number of days
  • Automatically delete your old direct messages

Note: Semiphemeral is the source of above text.

My First Pablo (by Buffer)

We all love a motivational quote with a nice background on social media, we share them with relish, and glory in the subsequent likes and dopamine highs.

Often we have no idea where they’ve come from, and we modify them to suit ourselves. Now they’re even easier to create and share using Pablo. You can create them in your browser or with a browser extension.

Above is my first Pablo created within the popular Google Chrome browser. I can’t remember where the quote came from, one which I’ve changed and already shared on social media.

LibreOffice: A Free Office Suite

The best free office suite just got even better as LibreOffice 7 was released recently. It’s the nearest you’ll get to Microsoft Office without having to pay a penny, and the latest version is even more compatible to it than previous versions.

LibreOffice includes several applications that make it the most versatile Free and Open Source office suite on the market: Writer (word processing), Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentations), Draw (vector graphics and flowcharts), Base (databases), and Math (formula editing). Source.

So, if you don’t want to pay for Microsoft Office and like to use software installed on your computer (rather than in the cloud) this might be for you. There’s also a portable version that you can run directly from a USB flash drive, and you can even install it on your Chromebook.

Note: I currently use both LibreOffice and Microsoft 365 (as Microsoft Office is now called) because a subscription to the latter includes OneDrive cloud storage.

77 Million Paintings (Brian Eno)

During the five years I lived in Wallsend I was looking for this, but could never find it. I finally found it after moving to Norton in July this year following my retirement. What is it, you ask?

Brian Eno is one of my heroes. He’s a creative, a musician, a thinker, an innovator, an artist, a music producer – someone with a finger in many pies, who always produces something new and meaningful.

What I was looking for was 77 Million Paintings (released in 2006) – a book, a digital art computer program and a DVD. It was an evolutionary work in Brian Eno’s exploration into light as an artist’s medium and the aesthetic possibilities of generative software. This piece utilises the computer’s unique capacity as a generating processor to produce original visual compounds out of a large quantity of hand-painted elements, along with similarly produced music. I’m pleased I finally found it.

The release consists of two discs, one containing the software that creates the randomised music and images that emulate a single screen of one of Eno’s video installation pieces. The other is a DVD containing interviews with the artist. The title is derived from the possible number of combinations of video and music which can be generated by the software, effectively ensuring that the same image/soundscape is never played twice. Wikipedia.

Down for Everyone or Just Me?

We’ve all been there. When you click on a website and nothing happens.

Is it me? Is it my wi-fi? Is the site down?

It happened today when I wanted to track the status of an envelope of important documents with Royal Mail.

What do you do? Ask your friends on Facebook? Check Twitter to see if it’s down for everyone?

Well, as it happens, there’s a website for this problem.

It has one job, and it does what it says on the tin, is it down for everyone or just me? It’s a really useful site.

So, was Royal Mail down for everyone or just me? It was just me, nothing personal I hope.