Location location location

This evening, I went out for a meal and then some drinks with a variety of friends. Four different people have birthdays at this time of the month, and we were celebrating that. As part of this experience, we went to a restaurant and then two different bars — those bars were Hakamou and Pirates Bar Leicester1. I came away from the evening with some thoughts about the bars and wanted to write them up somewhere.

Hannah and I at Hakamou.
Hannah and I at Hakamou.

My first thought was Yelp, a website that allows people to rate and review places to eat and drink. I used Yelp to help inform my dining choices whilst holidaying on the west coast of the USA with my parents. What makes it so useful is the ease by which you can search for a certain type of restaurant and then see which of the restaurants available has the best ratings (as decided by the Yelp community). However, Yelp hasn’t really taken off in Britain properly — of the nine British venues I’ve reviewed, only one has attracted reviews from anyone else (two others, more than a year apart).2 I wrote a review for Hakamou anyway, but I have no idea whether anyone will find it useful, or whether they’ll even read it!

Where does this leave me? Well, I’ve also put the same review on Google.3 This is because the owners at Hakamou had taken the (very sensible) step of creating a verified listing for the business. Not only that, but Google was able to use my location preferences to work out I wanted to know about their Leicester branch, and not the bar in Northampton. On top of all that, Google realises that people may want to write a review for your venue, and provides a handy ‘write a review’ link under the search result. If there are already reviews for the venue available, it’ll provide a link to those, too, and you can go and peruse them at your leisure.

Hakamou's search result on Google.
Hakamou's search result on Google.

Google’s solution has one advantage over Yelp: its simplicity. Yelp requires you to answer a series of questions, on things like whether there’s a beer garden, what alcohol is available and whether children are welcome, whereas Google just wants a rating (1-5 stars) and a short review. It even removes paragraphs for you. Of course, this advantageous and concise approach to the problem is also Google’s disadvantage, since Yelp gives the user much more detail about the venue in question and also provides a higher level of analysis.

There is, of course, a third option that may not be as obvious: Foursquare. I use Foursquare a lot when I’m abroad or on holiday, since it helps remind me where I was and when. Given how terrible my memory is, that’s a significant feature to be able to offer! Foursquare isn’t really optimised for reviewing or in-depth analysis in the same way as Yelp is, but for short tips and one-line recommendations, it’s a very powerful tool. When using the service in far-away lands, the recommendations it gives can be incredible and really turn your evening around.

The company is clearly beginning to realise that it is this that is the real killer application for the network — the gamification aspect to the service is much less useful, if still a pretty fun way to operate a loyalty scheme. This is backed up by a couple of recent developments: Firstly, the radar feature in the new Foursquare apps on mobile devices. I personally don’t fancy having my GPS on permanently in order to take advantage of this, but it looks like a very good idea that would help you explore a city very efficiently. In fact, TechCrunch published an article not so long ago in which the company talks about helping people to discover and explore new things in such a way.

Location-based services, whether they’re based around networking or just providing information, are something incredibly useful. Unfortunately, in the United Kingdom they currently seem to be very much in their infancy, which is a huge shame. Screw flying cars — the thing that excites me most about the future is restaurant recommendations!4


  1. It’s a pirate-themed bar in Leicester. The name they’ve selected for the bar is not only completely unimaginative but also missing an apostrophe, which is almost as many criticisms as there are words in the name. Also, you’ll note that the link goes to Facebook, rather than a proper website; this is because they don’t have one. It’s 2012. Websites are easy. Keep up, please, people! 
  2. Chimichanga, in Peterborough, if you’re curious! 
  3. I’m still not sure what this feature is actually called. On my iPhone, when I search on Google for something, it seems to be called Google Places. However, the URL is maps.google.co.uk, which would seem to suggest it’s a feature within Google Maps — but saying I wrote a review on Google Maps would sound strange. Anyone? 
  4. Actually, that honour goes to FaceTime/iMessage, but restaurant recommendations are still fairly excellent. 

Footnotify and a site redesign

Recently I found a really cool Chrome extension called Footnotify, which takes footnotes (as you see them on Daring Fireball or Wikipedia) and renders them as a hovering box when you click them. If you are a regular reader of either site (or, indeed, a plethora of others) you too might find it handy.

The extension’s elegance and ease of use made me want to put footnotes on my website, too, and so I started fiddling with various footnote extensions for WordPress. Eventually, I got a little disillusioned, since none of them were working quite how I wanted — as a result I sought out PHP Markdown Extra, which includes footnotes and also a host of other neat ways to write online. It’s based on the syntax developed by John Gruber, who runs Daring Fireball, and so the footnotes it generates are guaranteed to work with Footnotify, right?

Wrong. The WordPress theme I was using completely screwed footnotes up, and so I went hunting for a new one. I had been using The Unstandard, which is the theme I’ve successfully implemented and used over on the Leicester Sabres website. It’s a very good theme that’s very visually powerful — for the Sabres, that means that we draw people into the site and get them reading. However, I don’t really do my website for the hits, and so I’m unsure that the very visual theme was suitable. I ended up looking for a new, simple, one-column theme1 and eventually found Blaskan, which is now in use on the site.

As a result, I’ve installed a new plugin ([Markdown Extra]) and installed a new theme (Blaskan). However, they aren’t the only changes, since Blaskan also has good support for smartphones and as a result I no longer need the plugin that enabled the mobile view I previously employed. Good news all round!

There’s one small problem — for some reason, Footnotify doesn’t work properly on the individual blog entries. If you click a footnote on the main homepage it’ll work fine, but on the page for this post, it’s broken. I installed the JavaScript that enables it on a website, in case having it on the site rather than as a Chrome extension was helpful, but that hasn’t changed anything; I’ve gotten in touch with the author and hopefully this will eventually be resolved.

Edited to add: Initially, I had a problem with Footnotify. It would work fine on the homepage, but on the entries’ pages themselves, it didn’t work correctly. After sending a missive to Michel Fortin, I was able to identify it as an issue with a plugin on my website. Something was causing the relative footnote links generated by [Markdown Extra] to become absolute links, and thus breaking the Footnotify plugin. After some trial-and-error, it turns out that it was an issue with Joost de Valk’s Google Analytics for WordPress plugin. I visited de Valk’s website, where I read:

For plugin support, please use the appropriate support forums on WordPress.org. Plugin support emails will be immediately discarded. The only reason the option in the contact form below is there, is so I can more easily filter away those emails for those who don’t bother to read this text.

As such, I couldn’t be bothered to notify him of the bug in his plugin, and am instead using a plugin called Google Analytics which is much simpler to configure and works perfectly for what I need it to do. And now, footnotes work how they should — hurray!


  1. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that this theme is not one-column, since it has a sidebar. You’re entirely correct to notice that, but Blaskan can be configured to be one-column and so appears in several lists of such themes. 

Messages Beta on OS X: Return of the error

In my last post I described an issue I’d been having with iMessage, delivery confirmations and Messages on OS X. I fixed the issue by deactivating iMessage in the OS X client, and I thought that was the end of the issue, but I was wrong, because this morning, the same ‘Not Delivered’ messages came back with a vengeance. Now, I am a little obsessive-compulsive and these messages really annoy me,1 so naturally I wanted to get to the bottom of this once and for all.

Now, as you may or may not be aware, the Messages beta updates its dock badge to reflect the number of unread http://www.mindanews.com/buy-paxil/ iMessages even when it’s not running. As a result of this, I decided to run the app just to doublecheck it hadn’t done anything since I had quit it the night before.

Guess what I found?

If your guess was that the app had re-enabled iMessage with my Apple ID without my permission and thus resulted in the renaissance of the issues that I thought I had fixed, you guessed correctly – well done. If this happens again, I will be forced to uninstall the Messages beta permanently!


  1. And, given that I never delete messages on my iPhone, they will continue to do so until the end of time. 

Messages Beta on OS X

UPDATE: If you’d like to find out more about the ongoing saga that is my relationship with this app, check out my follow-up post.

I’ve decided to try to make more posts on here about technology (including reviews of apps I use regularly on my iPhone and my iMac), but I have so far spectacularly failed to do so (or, indeed, to blog much at all). I should let you know, though, that I have been using Google Chrome ever since the previous entry and it’s working out great for me. Although, I must confess, recent news of Firefox’s resurgence has reached my ears and I’m glad they’re back on form and doing well.

Today I’m going to talk to you all about Messages. For those that don’t know, Messages is a free public beta currently available from Apple for OS X. As Macworld has reported, it’s the replacement for iChat, and it brings iMessage to OS X as part of Apple’s continued drive to bring iOS features ‘back to the Mac’.

The single window view in Messages for OS X.
The single window view in Messages for OS X.

Messages is great. I love the single-window interface (foreshadowed by Bjango), which is sleek and works very well.1 I’m also a massive fan of being able to send iMessages from my Mac, since typing on a real keyboard is nicer than typing on my iPhone and long iMessage conversations can be a drag. However, last night, I tried to send an iMessage from my Mac and it told me it couldn’t be delivered. I tried resending, but no dice, so I went to bed and tried to send it from my iPhone. This also gave me that red text, but the recipient, España, responded anyway, so I assumed it was just iMessage playing up. España said the same was happening to her, and so we both power cycled our iPhones and reactivated iMessage to no avail. Eventually we switched to Twitter’s Direct Message service (which is what we used for a long time before Apple invented iMessage) to avoid the annoying error messages.

Not Delivered abounds in iOS
Not Delivered abounds in iOS

Fast forward to this morning and I awake to texts from my correspondent that she was able to text a different friend of hers without issue. Now, España lives in the United States, and I am British, so I wondered http://nygoodhealth.com/product/forzest/ whether it might be a trans-Atlantic issue. Texting two British friends promptly cured me of that notion, since messages to both were reported not delivered but were responded to with bleary-eyed questions.

The fact was that the messages had gotten through but myself and everyone I texted was having errors. Nobody else seemed to be having trouble with anybody else. This forced me to conclude that iMessage must be having issues with me, or with my Apple ID.

Then it hit me that I still hadn’t looked at Messages on OS X. I don’t have an iPad so that’s the only other place I can use iMessage, and, when I checked, no iMessages had synced with my iMac since I’d had my very first refusal of delivery. Trying to send messages to the same people from my Mac resulted in radio silence and when I followed up, not one of those messages had arrived.

The reason I was getting Not Delivered errors was because the messages weren’t being delivered. But they were failing to get to my Mac, not failing to get to the intended recipient. The reason that others were having trouble was because they weren’t getting a delivery confirmation from every device my Apple ID was registered on. Disabling my account in the Messages beta fixed the issue.

Messages for OS X is still a beta, and that shows throughout the app, whether it’s the problem outlined here or the fact that the dock badge bears no relationship whatsoever with the messages that are actually unread. Apple need to think about the best way to indicate that a message has only reached one of a recipient’s devices, since Not Delivered is an unhelpful error message when you know it’s untrue. I must confess that, right now, I’m not sure whether the obvious benefits to having iMessage available from your workstation outweigh the multiple teething problems the app has.


  1. If I’m honest, I’m not always a huge fan of single-window views: For instance, take Adium, the popular IM client for OS X based on the same open-source libraries as Pidgin. The contact list is separate which means the user can easily see who is online and who is not – this is obviously not required for iMessage, but for traditional IM services I prefer Adium’s approach. 

Google Chrome and download management

This marks the first blog entry on this website that isn’t related to fan writing, but is more about technology and my experiences with it. I want to write about my struggles with technology here, partly for my own benefit (so that, if I come across a problem again down the line, I can just look on my blog for the answer!), partly to solicit help from others, but mostly because I sincerely hope it might be interesting. Let me know what you think!

I have recently been looking at switching my default browser from Mozilla Firefox to Google Chrome. I am a Mac user, and I have two Macs – a MacBook from 2007 and an iMac from 2010, both running Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion). For some reason, on my MacBook, Firefox 5 was horrendously unstable and would regularly crash (Firefox 6 is better, but I’ve still seen the SBBOD way more than I should), and so I began to use Chrome as a solution until Firefox was updated to work properly with my MacBook. As a result, Chrome now occupies the position of default browser; Firefox no longer even resides on the Dock!

There is something making me hesitant, when it comes doing the same with Chrome on my iMac, however. I’ve been using Firefox for a long time (since before Firefox 1.0, in fact) and, before Firefox, I was a Mozilla Suite user. But the brand loyalty isn’t the problem – Chrome has impressed me enough with its adoption of Mac-like UI features to convince me to switch. It was updated with support for Lion’s full-screen mode quickly after Lion’s release, which is a Godsend on my MacBook’s 13″ screen. On my 21″ screen, as well, the fact it maximises to the content displayed (as any other Mac app would) rather than the window (which is what Firefox insists on doing) is a really nice feature. I would dearly like to take the plunge and move to Chrome, so what’s stopping me?

Well, in a word, add-ons. I have many add-ons for my Firefox browser. I have a plugin that brings Safari’s PDF reader interface over to Firefox. I have a plugin for an app called 1Password, which allows me to access all my login data for every website I visit. I have the FlashGot and NoScript plugins, which allow me, respectively, to use the download manager of my choice and block Tynt (the only reason I have NoScript). I also use the Camelizer, which allows me to see graphs of Amazon products’ pricing over time at the click of a toolbar button. And Easy YouTube Video Downloader adds download links to all YouTube videos, allowing me to easily archive content I like.

So, what does Chrome offer? Well, the 1Password team offer Chrome support, so that’s that sorted. The Camelizer isn’t available for Chrome, but their website does the same job, so that’s something I can live without. As Freddie points out in the comments, the Camelizer is available on Chrome, and the UI is actually improved over Firefox. NoScript isn’t available; but Tynt now allow you to opt out of their service from your browser, which is a little less elegant but achieves exactly the same task. Easy YouTube Video Downloader is an available Chrome extension, and I now have it installed. And Chrome has its own PDF reading feature, so I don’t need to hack in the Safari functionality as I do in Firefox.

What does this leave? FlashGot. There’s no FlashGot equivalent for Google Chrome. I currently use FlashGot to feed downloads to Speed Download from Yazsoft. Speed Download is supposed to be able to work with Google Chrome, without FlashGot. However, this involves totally uninstalling the app (using the company’s provided uninstaller) and then reinstalling it, which I dutifully did. Not only did that not fix the problem, it actually introduced a new one – the preference file on my Mac which told Speed Download it had been paid for was removed by the uninstaller, and because I purchased it in a MacHeist bundle, I could not reregister (the developer isn’t keen on those users that didn’t pay very much for his software, which does rather beg the question why he made it available in the bundle in the first place). Cue a trawl through Time Machine to find and restore the appropriate system files to their pre-uninstallation state (for the curious, if you restore com.yazsoft.SpeedDownload.plist both to /Library/Preferences and to ~/Library/Preferences, the app should be satisfied you bought it).

So, FlashGot is unavailable and Speed Download appears to be very tempramental in its support for Chrome. What does that leave me with? Well, I remembered using Leech (from ManyTricks) once upon a time, at which point I promptly Googled it. Turns out that changes in Lion and WebKit mean that, not only does it not support Chrome, but it doesn’t even support Safari any more. And, a perusal of the Speed Download forums revealed that they’re having exactly the same issue – both download managers are only compatible with Firefox at this point (through FlashGot).

So where does this leave me? Well, it means it’s almost impossible to switch to Chrome, from my perspective. I rely on my download manager, and without it I’m unlikely to switch on my desktop computer. But then, I had a stroke of inspiration – if I just put the Speed Download icon on my Dock, I can just drag links to it. This is my current solution to the lack of integration, but some download sites work in such away that this is not a perfect fix to the problem. Yazsoft say they are working on a major new release of Speed Download to get around the problems that Safari 5.1 has introduced for their app. Maybe that will mean that they introduce proper Chrome functionality, rather than the existing solution which seems only to work for a lucky few.

For now, I will be using Chrome, on a trial basis, on my iMac. If I can get by with dragging downloads to the Dock, and the lack of proper integration proves not to be too annoying, then I’ll stick with the browser and hope that Speed Download 6 features better Chrome support. It’s actually rather exciting; it’s been so long since I switched browser that it’s quite nice to have a change!