New tab pages in Google Chrome with a movie theme

Discover a good movie to watch each time you open a new tab
Discover a good movie to watch each time you open a new tab

A few months ago I blogged about a new Google Chrome extension called Momentum that replaces the default Chrome ‘new tab’ page with a beautiful image that changes daily (they have since extended it with a premium version that imports todos from other applications such as Todoist).

Yesterday I received an email from David Gordillo from Noosfeer who have released a similar extension with the less snappy title of New Tab = A Movie to Watch + Watch List, which I shall refer to as NTAMTWWL.

In David’s words,

It is a Chrome extension that delights its users with movie pictures each time they open a New Tab. The more you interact with the extension, the more the recommendations will adapt to your taste.

You have also a Watch List, in which you can collect the movies you want to watch later.

The website, for the company behind it, Noosfeer, however, calls it “a content reader and aggregator.”

Movies

Unlike Momentum, which gives you the same image for 24 hours, in NTAMTWWL the image and movie recommendation changes every time you open a new tab: The Martian (2015), 25th hour (2002), We Are Your Friends (2015), Whiplash (2014).

While you can click on the little plus at the bottom of the new tab page to bookmark that movie, to watch the trailer later, I can imagine that you might easily forget or close a tab before you’ve saved that movie to your list. As I have done a few times since trialling the extension.

Suggested articles

For full functionality you need to register an account with Noosfeer—the usual suspects are available including using your Google or Facebook account.

This is where it integrates with Noosfeer’s content aggregation functionality.

The extension invites you to enter topics that you are interested in, such as technology, movies, etc. Noosfeer then provides links to articles based on your topics. They claim to tailor the articles to your likes as it learns more about you.

Bookmarks

The bookmarks link at the foot of the new tab page takes you to a list of suggested articles based on the topics you have identified, plus movies you have bookmarked, and articles that you have elected to read offline.

The extension page advises that you can synchronise with your Pocket account, but I can’t figure out how—it’s not very straight forward.

Update: It turns out that you need to sign-up for Noosfeer by logging in to your Pocket account. I was expecting that I could create an account (using Facebook) and then from within my Noosfeer account connect to my Pocket account. Simple instructions on the login page may have made this clearer.

Evaluation

Changes too often

My immediate response when looking at the new tab page was that it was attractive. Within just a few minutes I had already found a few films that I never knew about that look really interesting.

If you want to discover new films then this looks like a really ideal and unobtrusive way to do it.

However, even having used the extension for less than an hour I find the continuous change of image distracting. I imagine that if I continued its use it would affect my productivity: always demanding that I pay attention to this new movie to watch… or what about this one? Or this one here? That’s why I like Momentum: I have the delight of seeing a new image each day, but then it becomes part of the background of my day—it continues to inspire but it doesn’t distract.

I would be happy with a new film every hour or two, even one a day.

UPDATE: This has now been changed, so you can select to keep an image for 24 hours.

No 24 hours time format

One criticism I have: I would like to display the time in 24 hours format. While that may be possible, I couldn’t find how to change it. My Windows default is 24 hours format, so it’s not taking its lead from my system.

Noosfeer integration

The settings appear minimal and whisk you off to the Noosfeer website to do nothing more than select topics.

Conclusion

Having used it for just an hour I have discovered a few films that I will certainly look out for. But the continuously changing background I found more distracting than endearing. I just know the way that I work best, and I need more continuity and fewer distractions, but your mileage may vary.

To be honest, personally, I can’t imagine using this extension, as I use Feedly and Pocket almost daily for following the content and blogs that I am interested in. I don’t have room for any more.

But here is perhaps the main issue for me. I expected to be reviewing a plugin that showed different movies on my new tab page, but I’ve ended up writing about a content aggregator.

Overall, I do wonder if this extension is trying to do too much. I felt like I’d installed it under a false pretence. I was surprised after installing it. I was expecting new tabs with movie recommendations. I didn’t expect a content aggregator behind it—I felt a little duped, if I’m honest.

While this isn’t the extension for me, if you are looking for a content aggregator and love your movies then definitely check it out on the Chrome web store.

I do hope they can find a better name, though. Noosfeer New Tab, perhaps.

Getting my Logitech F710 wireless gamepad to work with Windows 10 (and 10.1)

Logitech F710 wireless gamepad
Logitech F710 wireless gamepad

UPDATE: I’ve updated this post a little to also include information about getting this to work in Windows 10.1.


Last night I took the plunge and upgraded my desktop PC from Windows 8.1 Pro (64-bit) to Windows 10 Pro (64-bit).

The whole process took less than an hour, and as far as I could see most of my peripherals were still working after the upgrade: laser printer, scanner, webcam.

Of course, the one thing that I forgot to test were my pair of Logitech F710 wireless gamepads, which my three boys use most to play LEGO games. The controllers couldn’t be detected.

I downloaded the latest drivers from the Logitech website, which they claimed were Windows 10-compatible. That didn’t work.

There are instructions below for both Windows 10 and Windows 10.1.

F710 not working Windows 10

Here’s what I did to get them to work; I found the official Logitech forum to be very useful when I originally encountered this issue with Windows 10.

  1. Remove both nano receivers from the PC (I have mine marked 1 and 2, so I know to which gamepad they belong).
  2. Switch the gamepad to D mode.
  3. Insert the nano receiver.
  4. Windows 10 installs drivers for Rumblepad 2.
  5. Remove the nano receiver.
  6. Switch the gamepad to X mode.
  7. Insert the nano receiver.
  8. Windows 10 installs drivers for Wireless Gamepad F710.
  9. Press Windows key + Pause/Break to open System screen.
  10. Click Device Manager.
  11. Locate Wireless Gamepad F710.
  12. Right-click and select “Update Driver Software”.
  13. Click “Browse my computer for driver software”.
  14. Click “Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer”.
  15. Select Xbox 360 Peripherals.
  16. Select Xbox 360 Controller for Windows.
  17. Click Next.
  18. On the Update Driver Warning dialog, click Yes.
  19. Allow the driver to install. You should now see Xbox 360 Controller for Windows listed.
  20. (Optional: if you have more than one controller, keep the working one plugged in but now do the same, starting at step #1, for the other controller.)
Device Manager listing the Xbox 360 Controller for Windows
Device Manager listing the Xbox 360 Controller for Windows

The controller now works perfectly for me in the LEGO games. Obviously, I’ll report back if there are any further issues.

F710 not working on Windows 10.1

I also found this post, “Logitech Wireless Gamepad F710 Not Working with Windows 10“, on Superuser to be useful when trying to get this working on Windows 10.1. Their advice was as follows.

Make sure your controller is turned off and the wireless receiver is plugged-in to your PC before proceeding with the steps below:

  1. Press Windows key+X (or right-click the start menu icon).
  2. Click “Device Manager”.
  3. Find any listings of “Unknown Device” in the list of devices, likely under Human Interface Devices or Other Devices, or devices that have a yellow “!” warning icon on them.
  4. Right-click each unknown device device and select “Scan for hardware changes” and then “Update Driver Software” > “Search Automatically for Updated Driver” options before the next steps, especially if you have more than one “Unknown Device” listed.
  5. Right-click on “Unknown Device” and click “Update Driver Software”.
  6. Click the option “Browse my computer for driver software”.
  7. Click the option “Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer”.
  8. Near the bottom of the list, select the option that looks something like “Xbox 360 Peripherals” and click “Next”.
  9. From the list, select the driver option “Xbox 360 Wireless Receiver for Windows” and click “Next”.
  10. A warning will appear about the possibility of the device or your computer not working properly and likelihood of system instability. Disregard it and click “Yes” in the bottom right corner of the panel.
  11. A message should appear within a few seconds saying that the device has been correctly installed. Click “Ok” and exit out of all device manager windows.
  12. After performing these steps, power on your controller if it is not already powered on.
  13. Then press Win + R to bring up the run dialog and type in joy.cpl and click OK.
  14. This brings up the Game Controllers control panel applet. You can use this to check whether the game controllers have been identified, and if you select the game controller and click “Properties” you can test it: it will demonstrate which joysticks and buttons are being pressed.

Good luck!

Acer ES1-111M-C3CP review

Acer ES1-111M-C3CP
Acer ES1-111M-C3CP

A few months ago I bought a new laptop: the Acer ES1-111M-C3CP. I wanted something small and quiet. I didn’t need anything particularly powerful—that was the point: just something that would allow me to get on with some writing projects while Reuben. Joshua and Isaac hijack my desktop PC to play LEGO computer games.

Specification

The laptop features:

  • Windows 8.1 64-bit
  • Intel Celeron N2840 2.16 GHz
  • Intel HD graphics
  • 11.6″ HD LED display screen (1366 × 768 pixels)
  • Fanless (silent performance)
  • 8 GB DDR3 RAM (upgraded from 2 GB — there’s a guide here on how to upgrade the RAM: Acer Aspire E3-111 Disassembly)
  • eMMC 32 GB (solid state disk)

Setting up the laptop

My plan was to install only a few applications:

  1. Google Chrome (browser)
  2. Dropbox (selective sync of only writing projects)
  3. Scrivener (writing application)
  4. Write! (a beautifully simple editor)
  5. LibreOffice (a Microsoft Office-compatible office suite)
  6. Scapple (free-form text
  7. Mindjet Mind Manager (mind mapping)
  8. MusicBee (audio player)
  9. VLC media player (for watching the occasional Mpeg-4)
  10. Skype (video and text chat)
  11. F-lux (adjust the screen colour temperature)

Out of the box, set-up didn’t take terribly long (once I’d swapped out the 2 GB RAM for an 8 GB module) and I signed into my Microsoft account

I then uninstalled most of the bundled applications (McAfee, Microsoft Office 2013 Home and Student trial, a few Acer media/office applications, plus a bunch of Windows Modern UI (Metro) apps and set about the seemingly never-ending task of running Windows Update which pulled in more than 130 updates.

But here’s the thing… the laptop only started with 32 GB of hard disk space. On initial startup there is a little more than 9 GB of free space. After the Windows updates only 3.13 GB of hard drive space is left.

Windows updates ate almost 6 GB of hard drive space!?

And that’s after uninstalling the bundled software and running Disk Clean-up to remove remnant update files.

Experience

Over the last couple of months I appear to have performed a factory reset more often than actually using the laptop for the purpose for which I bought it.

The factory reset is pretty good, to be fair. The 32 GB drive is divided into three partitions:

  • 100 MB (EPI system partition)
  • 19.40 GB (NTFS—Windows 8.1)
  • 9.5 GB (recovery partition)

Despite what the Acer factory reset application advises, once you’ve created a USB recovery disk you cannot delete the recovery partition. According to some on various discussion forums, this partition is a Windows Image File Boot (WIMBoot) that is required to run Windows.

Which means that if you find that you’ve installed too large a collection of applications you end up with your C: drive reporting 0 bytes free, as I did for the umteenth time last night.

To try to get around this I attached a tiny Sandisk 32 GB USB 3.0 drive as storage (installation files and music) and onto which I could install applications. But, of course, whenever you install any software on Windows, no matter where, the C: drive is always used.

And so I still managed to overflow the C: drive and had to perform yet another factory reset.

Currently my ambitions are a little less ambitious:

  1. Google Chrome (browser)
  2. Dropbox (Modern UI)
  3. Scrivener (writing application)
  4. Write! (a beautifully simple editor)
  5. F-lux (adjust the screen colour temperature)

I’ll see how I get on. With those five applications installed I have 2.63 GB free on C: drive. Far from the 9.5 GB that I had expected when I bought the machine.

Conclusion

I can’t help feeling rather disappointed with my first couple of months with this machine. The build quality is really pretty decent for something at this price (£179): the screen is large and bright enough for my needs, the keyboard feels comfortable, and so far I’ve had no issues with the touchpad (though I do prefer to use a USB Microsoft Intellimouse Optical mouse.

32 GB is clearly not enough. I would have happily paid more for double that. 64 GB would have made this gem of a machine far more flexible. Instead I have to worry about installing as little as possible. I can’t simply get on and write, I always have to have an eye on whether Windows Update has run and used up the remaining sliver of hard drive.

(UPDATE: Note that the hard drive cannot be upgraded. It’s an eMMC drive — like flash storage — that is soldered to the motherboard.)

Hey! There’s not even enough free space to keep the trial installation of Microsoft Office 2013 that it ships with—how utterly ill-thought through is that?!

If I’d been using this as a Windows-flavoured ChromeBook-equivalent, relying entirely on web apps and storage, I would probably be delighted with the machine. But as it is, I’m not writing everything in Google Drive and I’ve more or less given up on Microsoft OneDrive due its unreliable file synchronisation for documents. (Something that a friend of mine from St Andrews was also complaining about on Facebook the other day, prompting her move to Dropbox.)

Anyway, I’ll report back here in a couple of months to give an update on how I’m getting on… in the meantime, if you’re looking to buy this laptop yourself be warned that once you’ve done all the updates you’ll have next to no drive space to store anything, let alone run the thing.

My HP LaserJet P1606dn stopped printing duplex—here’s how I fixed it

HP LaserJet Professional P1606dn
HP LaserJet Professional P1606dn

I have an HP LaserJet Professional P1606dn, which has been great. It prints double-sided (duplex) — that’s the ‘d’ in P1606dn — and it connects to the network — that’s the ‘n’ allowing Jane to print wirelessly from her laptop.

The problem

But today… for some reason my P1606dn stopped printing double-sided. The option was still there in the printer properties—on the Device Settings tab, under Duplex Mode both “Allow Automatic Duplexing” and “Allow Manual Duplexing” were both ticked.

Hmm…

I tried changing various settings but nothing seemed to fix it. I checked if the driver had been updated. I rebooted the PC. Again, no improvement.

How I fixed it

I was actually in the process of trying to downloading the HP Smart Install software when I stumbled upon the answer.

If you have this printer, you’ll know that you can also connect to a configuration screen via the network. All you need is the printer’s IP address. Mine is at 192.168.1.73 on my local area network.

Well, lo and behold, under the Settings tab there is a section called Paper Handling, and the Duplex option was set to Off. Changing it back to On fixed things for me.

HP P1606dn network settings
HP P1606dn network settings

At least, it did for the first document. I then discovered that (again for another mysterious reason) the next document’s paper settings were blank. Setting it to A4 restored the option to print double-sided.

So, in summary:

  • Check settings (Control Panel > Devices and Printers > Right-click the printer and select Printer Properties > Device Settings tab).
  • Connect to the printer settings via the network.
  • Make sure the print dialog shows the correct paper size.

At least, that’s what fixed it for me.

Update

Sunday 24 July 2016

I’ve come across the same issue today, but this time I’m not connected to a network, the printer is connected via USB.

To resolve this — I had a couple of Word documents that would only offer the ability to print duplex (double-sided) manually — I changed the page size to anything and then back to A4 and then made sure the margins were set to normal or wide, as I noticed that the document margins were oddly small.

Backpack hack

Cabin Max Tallinn
Cabin Max Tallinn – Flight Approved Backpack for EasyJet & BA hand luggage

About a year ago I bought myself a new backpack, the Cabin Max Tallinn, for about £25. The reviews were favourable (average of 4/5 stars) and when it arrived I was delighted with it: mainly because it was more compact than the large rucksack that I bought for a trip to California about a decade ago.

I packed it and headed off to Glasgow and then London to seek my fame and fortune attend the first NYCGB Alumni choir singing day. It was a timely opportunity to road test the bag.

That four day trip identified two main issues. This wasn’t quite the bag that I thought it was.

However, I don’t like throwing stuff away, and I don’t like sending stuff back because it’s not 100% what I want it to be. This bag was about 95% the way there. I like the whole computer hacker culture (not to be confused with the illegal ‘cracker’) so…

Open zipped pocket

Zipped pocket that I've now sewn up
Zipped pocket that I’ve now sewn up

The first issue was that in the middle compartment there was a small, meshed pocket with a zip. I looked at that and thought it was the perfect size to store a passport, for example.

There was one small snag: the top of the zip wasn’t sewn down. So even when the zip was closed you could still slide items into the meshed pocket beneath the zip.

Who designed that?! It was like a shirt pocket with a redundant zip sewn into the top seam.

I wrote to Cabin Max and asked if this was a fault or a feature. It turned out to be a feature. I told them this was ridiculous and whoever it was I corresponded with agreed and said that she would pass on my feedback.

So I got my sewing kit out and completed the job: I sewed the zip down so that when the zip was closed it was… well, closed.

No inner straps

Cabin Max Tallinn inner straps
Cabin Max Tallinn inner straps

It wasn’t until a later trip last year that I realised there was another problem: if I didn’t pack the back completely full (as I had done for the London trip) then my clothes and whatever else I put in the large, main compartment just rattles around in there.

What this bag was missing, that every other rucksack or suitcase I own has, were straps inside that would allow me to tie down whatever I place into the main compartment.

So today I added my own. Having bought a couple of quick release tie-down straps online last week—the kind that people use for strapping things to their golf caddies (I believe)—this evening I measured them up (using the straps in my giant rucksack as a template) glued them in and sewed them down. Job done.

This weekend I’m heading to Sheffield for the second NYCGB alumni concert. I’ll report back how I get on with my two alterations to my bag.