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When small is too small.

Apple have just released a new iPod Shuffle. My immediate reaction? Not good.

3rd gen ipod shuffles

This 3rd generation Shuffle is truly tiny, being just half the size of the last version. This is fine and dandy, except that Apple seem to have deemed it’s body too small to host any controls, bar the now-familiar off-sequential-shuffle slider switch. The volume and skip controls are now on a very dinky and neat remote control on the headphone cable. It all looks perfectly fine but, as i see it, the controls being remote bring three problems to the shuffle:

1) You lose the ability to use 3rd party headphones. You’re tied to Apple’s headphones – whether you’re replacing them because you think others sound better or because the originals have bust.

2) You lose the ability to play your music through hifis, car stereos and other external speakers. Yes, ok, this is essentially the same point as 1 but i’m counting it as a seperate problem. Why? Because while some folk may be happy using Apple’s headphones they might not be so happy at losing this functionality.

3) The now feature-less body of the shuffle looks shit. It’s just a boring little block. The ring of control buttons give the 1st and 2nd gen devices a point of interest. The 3rd gen is bland by comparison.

The sad thing is these things could have been so easily avoided. Adding a 3.5mm socket on the top of the remote control would’ve solved the first two and moving the laser-engraved Apple emblem from the clip to the front might well have solved the third.

Of course, leaving the controls on the Shuffle’s body would’ve been better still. And the new Voice Over feature and capacity increases could’ve still gone ahead. Why mess with perfection, eh?1

  1. Thankfully, the 1GB 2nd gen Shuffles are still available. For now. 

Problems with Stats.

After seeing how simple it was to install the spam-blocking Akismet plugin (which is working very well thanks – about 100 spam comments blocked in 5 days) on here, i thought i’d give the Stats plugin a try too since it appeared to offer an equally painless setup. Which it was. It couldn’t really get any simpler. Sadly, my positive first impressions were marred by the fact it didn’t appear to be working properly.

The plugin adds a widget to your WordPress dashboard and a new “Blog Stats” page accessible from the Dashboard menu. I could see from the widget that statistics were being collected…

wp stats on dashboard

…but when everytime i attempted to complete the login (Stats are linked to the account with the API Key you used during installation of the plugin) it just brought back the login screen. No errors. No feedback of any sort. Just a refresh of the login prompt. Ad nauseum. The same thing happened on the Blog Stats page too. I wondered if it was just a problem with Firefox, so i launched Chrome and tried that… to no avail. I had a google or two about the problem and found several other instances of people suffering with the same issue but no-one able to give a solution. So i cut out the middlemen and emailed the plugin’s author, Andy Skelton of Automattic, to see if he could offer any pearls of wisdom. Here’s what he had to say:

“Thanks for the report. I have never seen this problem in real life, though I’ve heard of it. The technology we use to embed the login is standard web stuff. We don’t have anything out of the ordinary there. I can only assume your browser is doing something strange, such as following a security setting that prevents cookies from being set by the embedded site.

This is one of those unhappy responses about me being unable to do anything about it. I’d really have to have your computer in front of me. So the best I can say is this: mess around with your browser settings, try different browsers, and if you learn anything please post the results where others will benefit. I wish I could have done more.”

Not the response i’d really been hoping for but it was good to receive a reasonably prompt, personal reply to what was essentially a whingey support request. Anyway, buoyed by the news that there was nothing complicated going on, i took Andy’s suggestion of trying some other browsers. Firefox and Chrome on the PC had failed but i still had Firefox, Safari, Camino and Opera to try on the Mac. Unsurprisingly, Firefox failed just as it had on the PC but with Safari and Camino it worked. Once i’d completed the login i could see the lovely visitor numbers graph on the dashboard widget and all the detailed statistics in the Blog Stats page. And then when i tried Opera i got a clue to where the problem may lie…

wp cert warning

Approving use of this certificate allowed Opera to get into the Stats too. So is it something about Firefox’s default security settings that mean we can’t get around this “faulty” certificate? I assume so but to be honest, i’m not sure. I’ve not yet found any setting in Firefox that gets me around this though (of course) that’s not to say it isn’t possible. Meanwhile, Andy Skelton has passed on my “findings” to WordPress’ Systems people to investigate.

So, until WordPress sort something or i find a workaround for Firefox, i’m stuck switching to another browser whenever i want to see the detailed Stats. Shame.

Special Characters.

Back in ye olden days i was a big fan of using alt codes to produce special characters that built pseudo-GUIs for my PASCAL programs but i’d never twigged that many of these characters would be available in HTML too. Despite being a regular user of   and © i’d never thought that classics like ♦ ♣ ♥ ♠ would be there too. Yes, sometimes i am very slow.

Anyway, here’s a very big list of the special characters available in HTML.

Enjoy. ☂

LED Lightbulbs.

Four or five years ago i realised that LEDs were the inevitable future of lighting and decided that if i wanted to make pots and pots of cash i should produce an LED bulb. Unfortunately I hadn’t yet got around to that item on my to-do list and now it seems Philips have beaten me to it.1

They’ve created a range of LED lightbulbs that use very little power (approx 7watts to produce a “45watt bulb” effect), last upto 45,000 hours (that’s 5 years if you left it on permanently) and employ standard fittings. They’re bound to be expensive (since you make a saving in the long-run) but this is one bulb you wouldn’t want to hide behind a shade…

philips master led bulb

The Core77 Blog also details Philips’ new “LivingColours” lamp which, through the use of primary-coloured LEDs, is capable of creating 16 million different colours. Presumably none of those 16 million will be black though.

  1. Damn those international corporations with their huge R&D budgets! How is a fat, lazy man from Northern England meant to compete with them? 

Apple Wordle.

I’ve been messing aroung with a lot lately. I find myself quite fascinated by it and i can’t seem to stop hitting the “Randomize” button to see what’ll happen to the “word cloud” next. Here’s the Apple press release about the new desktop line-up put through Wordle:

Apple press release wordle

Clearly there’s no surprises in what words feature most prominently. It’s just a shame that doesn’t count “®” as a word – with an Apple press release i’m sure that symbol would be the biggest thing by a mile.