Archive for May 2021


My 10 favourite Don Black lyrics

21.05.2021

I’ve bought Don Black’s The Sanest Guy in the Room, which is a great read—you know that it’s piqued your interest if you can do 110 pages in a single sitting. There’s more to go, and it’s entertaining learning a bit about the backgrounds to his songs, ‘Born Free’ arguably his best known. (I do know there are insurance commercials with the song, so I hope he, and the families of John Barry and Matt Monro are getting decent royalties from them—though it’s pretty bad I have no idea which company it’s for. I assume it’s a successor firm to AA Mutual.)
   Don has been very humble in this book and in one part, excerpts his favourite lyrics that others have written. In my mind, however, Don is the top man in his business, and it seems right that I highlight a few of my favourites out of his extensive repertoire and honour him. These come to mind, in no particular order. Many show a good use of rhyme, and all evoke imagery. The repetition of a root word is also clever. And they’re “singable”. As someone who works with the English language professionally they appeal to me for their ingenuity and, in some cases, brevity. Surprisingly, by the time I chose 10, I realized I had not included any of his James Bond lyrics.
   Any errors are mine as I recall the songs in my head.

But how do you thank someone
Who has taken you from crayons to perfume?
(‘To Sir with Love’, from To Sir with Love)

You’ve been dancing round my mind
Like a bright carousel.
(‘If There Ever Is a Next Time’, from Hoffman)

While your eyes played games with mine
(‘On Days Like These’, from The Italian Job)

This way Mary, come Mary,
While the sun is high,
Make this summer the summer that refused to die
(‘This Way Mary’, from Mary, Queen of Scots)

Walkabout,
And as you wander on
Reflect and ponder on
The dreams today forgot to bring.
(‘Walkabout’, from Walkabout)

The me I never knew
Began to stir some time this morning.
The me I never knew
Arrived without a word of warning.
You smiled and you uncovered
What I had not discovered.
(‘The Me I Never Knew’, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

Most people stay and battle on with their boredom
But what’s the sense in dreaming dreams if you hoard ’em?
(‘I Belong to the Stars’, from Billy)

Love has no season,
There are no rules.
Those who stop dreaming are fools.
(‘Our Time Is Now’, from the Shirley Bassey album The Performance)

Main attraction, couldn’t buy a seat
The celebrity celebrities would die to meet
(‘If I Never Sing Another Song’, as originally performed by Matt Monro)

There’s so much more for me to find,
I’m glad I’ve left behind behind.
(‘I’ve Never Been This Far Before’, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

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On OneDrive, Flickr, and FLOC

19.05.2021

Yesterday, I worked remotely, and I don’t know what possessed me, but as OneDrive was activated on my laptop, I decided to save a word processing file there, planning to grab it from my desktop machine later in the day.
   Normally I would just leave the file where it was and transfer it across the network, which is what I should have stuck with.
   Heck, even transferring a file using a USB stick would have been a better idea than OneDrive.
   I hadn’t signed up to it on my desktop PC. I went through the motions, used the default settings where it said it would back up documents and pictures (while making it clear my files would remain exactly where they were). I grabbed the file I need—the entire 18 kilobytes of it—and thought nothing more. I deactivated OneDrive as I saw no real use for it any more.
   Bad idea, because most of my desktop icons vanished, and my Windows default documents’ and pictures’ folders were emptied out.
   After reactivating OneDrive, I found the lot in the OneDrive folder, and promptly moved them back to their original folders. The desktop files—the text files I had on there plus the icons—I duplicated elsewhere. Ultimately, I made new shortcuts for everything—thank goodness my laptop’s icon layout is identical to my desktop’s—and restored the three text files from their duplicate directory.
   The above took me all of a few minutes to write but in reality I spent an hour fixing this—something that Windows said would not happen.
   Chalk it up to experience—consider this fair warning to anyone who thinks of using “the cloud”.
 
 

Also in the “say one thing, do another” file for yesterday: I attempted to sign in to my Flickr account, which has not been touched since around 2008. I tried a range of addresses I had in 2006, when I originally signed up, and attempted to do password resets. Flickr: ‘Invalid email or password.’ I even tried an address that Yahoo! emailed me at in 2018 concerning Flickr, and which Flickr itself said might be the correct email (use your Yahoo! username and add ‘@yahoo.com’ to the end of it).
   I had no other option but to email their support, and mentioned that I was a paying Smugmug customer, given that the photo site now owns Flickr.
   They have responded in a timely fashion, not telling me the email I had used, but said they had sent it a password reset in there.
   Surprisingly (or maybe not, considering we are talking about another big US site again), the address was indeed one of the ones I had tried (I’m glad I kept a record). Except now it works—what’s the bet that post-enquiry, they fixed things up in order to send me that reset email?
   I thanked the support person for the reset email, but suggested that they had some bugs, and fixing them would mean less for him to do.

Don Marti linked an interesting article in The Drum in which he was quoted. Duck Duck Go, Firefox and Github have all opposed Google’s new FLOC tracking method. Meanwhile, Bob Hoffman points out that only four per cent of Apple users have opted in to tracking after the Cupertino company’s new OS opted you out by default.
   Most of the time, people tell me that they find targeted ads ‘creepy’ as they appear from site to site, so it’s no wonder that take-up has been so low with Apple users. So if not FLOC, then what?
   Well, here’s a radical idea: show ads on sites that have subject-matter relevant to the advertiser. It’s what happened before Google’s monopoly, and there were plenty of smaller ad networks that did a great job of it. The prices were still reasonable, and Google wasn’t taking a big cut of the money earned. Of course Big Tech doesn’t like it, because they won’t earn as much, and the old system actually required people with brains to figure out how best to target, something creepy tracking has tried to replace.
   The old methods, with their personal touch, resulted in some creative advertising work—I remember we had some page takeovers on Lucire’s website where the traditional header was redesigned to show off the R55 Mini, thanks to one of our earlier ad directors, Nikola McCarthy. No tracking involved, but a great brand-builder and a fantastic way for Mini to get a fashion connection. Ads with tracking are so transactional and impersonal: ‘Buy this,’ or, ‘You’ve searched for this. Buy this.’
   I doubt it does the brands much good, and before you say that that doesn’t matter, let me also add that it can’t do the humans much good, either. The user’s purpose is reduced to clicking through and buying; so much for building a relationship with them and understanding their values. That isn’t marketing: it’s straight selling. Which means the marketing departments that put these deals together are doing themselves out of a job. They’re also spending money with a monopoly that, as far as I have read, doesn’t have independently certified metrics, which 20 years ago would have been a concern with some agencies.
   I do like innovations, but every now and then, I feel the newer methods haven’t done us much good. Tracking is tracking, no matter what sort of jargon you use to disguise it.

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Other than the ending, this is my only memory of St Elsewhere

18.05.2021

Conversation with Mum, some time in the 1980s.
   The credits for St Elsewhere begin rolling, and they read, ‘and starring William Daniels as Dr. Mark Craig’. Two taller actors flank Daniels as they walk toward the camera.
   I say, ‘Mum, that’s the guy who plays KITT on Knight Rider.’
   She replies, ‘He’s very short, isn’t he?’
   ‘Of course. How do you think they fit him under the bonnet of the car?’
   (At this point, I knew Daniels was dubbed in post, but I’d say my humour was pretty similar as a teenager as it is today.)

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Cellphone apps: InShot’s Music Player may finally be the one; Über remains a total waste of time

14.05.2021

Forgetful Muzio Player has been replaced by a program (or app) called Music Player, which isn’t the best brand name considering the many other apps out there with the same name. This one’s version 2.5.6.74 and its maker is InShot Inc., so if all goes well, this is the one Meizu users should go for.
   First, a good bit: it picks up the directories on the SD card, which, till Meizu upgraded its Music app, I thought I could take for granted.
   The not-so-good bits. It doesn’t pick up the album artwork, so you have to link each cover yourself. The disadvantage is that you have to search for the cover by image, and there’s no option to search by name. Mind you, it was the same story with Meizu Music, and provided you have a rough idea of when you downloaded the album (as it displays the covers in reverse chronological order), it isn’t impossible.
   It did, however, pick up the graphics from the songs where the cover image was embedded and used them for the album covers … at least it did till today, when it forgot all about those and I spent more time relinking the dozen or so that the app forgot.
   What is it about forgetful software, or at least software that operates differently every day? Do I need to invent the dot-ini file (since it doesn’t seem to exist in this universe) or radically suggest that software follows a set of instructions, line by line, that do not vary each time?


Above: InShot’s Music Player displayed an album cover for Gone with the Wave yesterday, but today it appears to have forgotten what it was.

   Nevertheless, Music Player does “share” the chosen album cover with the individual tracks, so when they’re played, the image appears on the player screen, something that Muzio was loathe to do.
   In other words, Music Player does what Meizu Music used to do before it became a lemon and, providing it doesn’t forget all the linked album covers (all 280 of them), it’ll stay on my phone for the foreseeable future. Since it didn’t come from an app store, it won’t be “upgraded” to something inferior, either, which appears to be the path of a lot of cellphone software.
   It doesn’t look too bad, though admittedly Muzio Player’s interface remains superior.
   Linking 280 covers with each album over the course of a day and a bit sure beats linking over 1,000 of them with each song on Muzio Player, and to have three weeks’ worth of labour vanish despite the program saying, ‘Changes saved’.
   If InShot’s Music Player keeps things as they are, then it’s the replacement I’ve sought for some time. Since I didn’t hear back from Muzio Player, I’ve deleted the app.

One program I can say is a genuine waste of time is Über, if you happen to use a Meizu M6 Note like me. I’ve always resisted it, on principle. If they didn’t play silly buggers on tax, I might be more inclined to have supported them, but I’ve remained very faithful to public transport and taxis all these years.
   Because of timing and circumstances that I won’t go into here, and having had a virus all of last week that I haven’t fully shaken off (one symptom being short of breath), Über was suggested again today. My first choice was driving to the station, catching the train (being careful not to spread any of my germs about), then either a bus or cab, to pick up a press car from town. That would mean after returning home, I would have to walk to the station while not feeling 100 per cent to get my own car. I know first-hand that a cab from here in the northern suburbs can be pricey—and that’s when one even shows up, as my partner’s faced ridiculously long waits for them during the daytime. So Über was a realistic choice and I’d be suckered into helping to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few milliardaires high up at these tech firms at the expense of working people.
   Never fear, for Über is a half-baked app that cost me two missed trains and I could have been typing this an hour earlier than I am now.
   Thanks to the full factory reset that PB did last year on my phone, and my installation of Meizu’s far more advanced Chinese OS afterwards, I was able to create an account this time and log in. It didn’t keep returning the message that I had attempted too many log-ins, even after a single attempt.
   After that, it takes about half an hour to read the terms and conditions and the privacy policy on a cellphone. You can opt out of promo messages, or so they claim (to be on the safe side, I’ve done it thrice: once when reading the T&Cs before I accepted them, once after I read them, and once more from the desktop when an email with an unsubscribe link arrived).
   And that’s really about all it does. You can’t type in any destination; I later checked their instructions on a proper computer and I was doing exactly what was asked. I could feed in my home address (it came up after I began feeding in the basics), and I could feed in some favourites, but I can’t actually go to them.
   Naturally, it will take your credit card details: Über made sure that that part worked.
   Having saved the Railway Station as a destination, and attempted to order a ride to there, I got to a screen to tell me that Über isn’t available in my area. Whether that means Tawa, or Wellington, or New Zealand, I don’t know.




Above: It’s impossible to feed in a destination in Über, but it’s probably because it’s not available in Tawa.

   I have map software on my phone—both Here Maps and Baidu Maps. And my partner does successfully use Über from time to time, on a Huawei phone which, like my Meizu, is Google-free. She has no Google Maps, so I know that isn’t a prerequisite for Über. I also know Google Services aren’t, either. At least these are points in their favour. I can’t be bothered troubleshooting beyond that, since they’ll just deny everything and pass the buck.
   Eventually, when I realized Über is a monumental waste of time, I carried out plan A, and took a train an hour after the one I could have taken had I not attempted to get an Übercab. And walked in the wintry air to collect my car.
   It was an easy decision to delete my account and the app soon after. Just as well, really. Big Tech loses once again. To think, the little music player made by a small company is more reliable than the milliards behind Über.


Above: Relieved to be on a desktop computer—and hopefully I won’t need to have any connection with Über ever again.

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There go three weeks of ‘Changes saved’: another forgetful piece of software

12.05.2021

After all these experiences, I really shouldn’t be surprised that computers and their programs are so forgetful, and the same applies to cellphones. But of course it happened again today, undoing three weeks’ work.
   I don’t know if this is hardware- or software-related, but all I ask of people who make this stuff is to not have them be so damned forgetful. My email to the developer of Muzio Player follows. This was a player I adopted after Meizu Music also proved forgetful.

Hi there:

I’ve been using Muzio Player for just under a month and have found it attractive, and, other than the issues below, very practical. It’s been a far more stable player than the default one that came with my Meizu M6 Note.
   I am on the free version, so I don’t know if this is something reserved for the Pro one.
   Last month I sent you a small feedback item about cover artwork. Meizu’s default app stores the cover JPEGs in a folder of their own, and I was able to link the hundreds that I have on my phone with your app. I was a bit disappointed that the individual songs don’t “adopt” the chosen covers, but accepted that that was how you programmed it.
   Therefore, over the last month, I decided to link each song—I have over 1,200, and I imagine around 1,000 of those do not have cover artwork embedded in the song file—individually with the album covers. It took hours each day, and I’ve spent the last three weeks almost finishing the task. I estimate I probably had about 30 left to go. Each time Muzio Player would report ‘Changes saved’ and the app was looking better and better as the majority of tracks got linked, especially when I had the player going in my car and I could see the cover artwork with the track.
   Imagine my surprise when today, Muzio Player “forgot” all the cover artwork. Three weeks of individual linking gone. Every track now shows the default musical notes, other than the handful that have artwork within the files. It seems ‘Changes saved’ didn’t mean that after all. Surely these are saved somewhere?
   I should note that I haven’t done any system clean-ups in the last 24 hours, so that is not the reason these changes have vanished. Indeed, I have done them in earlier weeks without any effect on Muzio Player.
   Is there something I can do to get them all back, save for spending another three weeks relinking everything?
   I am on version 100666008, OS 25. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,

Jack

   I hope they care about their product and can tell me just where everything was saved and can be recovered from. Advice on less forgetful software would be welcome. I’d still be on Meizu Music 8·0 if it didn’t insist on self-updating to an inferior version. It’s like computer mice: they actually make something good, and because they know they cannot top it, they wind up making worse things to succeed it. At the present rate, a computer mouse in 2030 will the size of a stapler, as they continue to shrink.

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How to get your Facebook ad account shut down: do something honest

05.05.2021

‘We can’t level, you crazy bastard, we’re in advertising!’—Paul Reiser as Stephen Bachman, in Crazy People (1990)


Signal

You can run ads with misinformation, and you can launch bot nets of thousands of accounts, but what can’t you do on Facebook? Buy ads that expose their tools with which you have bought their ads.
   That’s exactly what happened to Signal when it attempted to run ads on Instagram that illustrated the targeting.
   I don’t believe there’s anything in their T&Cs that disallow this, but Facebook has never been about those. You can breach them as much as you like with running scripts and creating bots, after all. One bastard streamed a massacre on March 15, 2019, which was accessible for some time afterwards; and a year later, eight copies were still on the platform. Facebook “enforces” what it wants to, and that includes disabling accounts that show just how invasive they are.
   I’ve already had a taste of this after I began deleting my ad preferences and exposing how terrible they were. And they probably didn’t like my pointing out that they were collecting those preferences long after I had opted out of their ad targeting (at a time when their own site suggested that opting out meant just that). Now that feature is gone for me.
   It’s what Facebook does. It lies, and even uses those lies to plant software on your computers that never show up in your programs’ list. And, like Google, the timing of when ad accounts are disabled is interesting: it’s not the first time this took place right after you do something that reveals some hard truths about them.
   Personally, I believe Facebook’s preferences are a joke, so Signal may have found their ad account cancelled not because they reminded everyone that the conjurer had a trick, but just how lousy the trick really was. Imagine getting one of these ads and thinking, ‘That ain’t me at all.’ That would get certain Facebook advertisers thinking twice—that is, those who give Facebook’s many bots a pass, and don’t mind that Instagram is 45 per cent bot, 55 per cent human, and don’t mind that their demographic estimates have no basis in reality. I mean, we’re already talking quite a gullible bunch who are doing an activity that’s marginally above setting fire to banknotes in terms of monetary utility, or donating to Jeb Bush’s presidential tilt in 2016.
   Facebook wants to keep as many of them as possible, and they’re taking no chances. You just never know where the tipping point is, when the masses finally decide to jump ship.

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Classic example of tech firms passing the buck

04.05.2021

Just another day dealing with US tech firms then.
   When I signed up to Anchor, there was no mention of Google Podcasts, so I was very surprised to find later that I was syndicated there. Can you remove yourself?
   Anchor: ask Google!
   Google: ask Anchor!


   All that money (Google, not Alphabet, is worth US$320 milliard) and they’re about as useful as David Seymour at a socialist workers’ conference. Actually, about as useful as David Seymour, full stop.

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May 2021 gallery

01.05.2021

Here are May 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.

Sources
Viki Odintcova, via Instagram.
   Alexa Breit, photographed by Weniamin Schmidt, via Instagram.
   Vickery Electrical advertisement: something I asked my Dad to photocopy for me in the 1980s. Briefly we had one of those Apple II portables, on loan from a colleague of Dad. I can’t recall if it had one disk drive or two, but it was a fun little unit to have in my bedroom for that period. Dad was prepared to buy it if I wanted to keep it, but I didn’t have much software to run, plus I already had the Commodore 64 for schoolwork.
   Lucire issue 43 cover, photographed by Damien Carney, creative direction and fashion styling by Nikko Kefalas, make-up by Joanne Gair, hair by Kirsten Brooke Anderson, and assisted by Rachel Bell, and modelled by Elena Sartison. Find out more here.
   Drew Barrymore quotation from Elephant Journal on Twitter.
   I still have plenty of old stamps, which I tend to save for family (though I’m less discerning about those discounted Christmas ones, which I always used to buy in bulk). This is going to my cousin’s daughter and her husband, and their family.
   Comments after an article on Buzzfeed News. Business as usual for Facebook.
   Happy birthday to our niece Esme!
   Tania Dawson promotes Rabbit Borrows, from Instagram.
   Bizarre that the only car with a manual transmission on sale at Archibalds is from the 1950s. I’m sure New Zealand was majority-manual into the first decade of this century.
   More on the 1982–94 Chevrolet Cavalier at Autocade.
   Citroën C5 X, as covered in Lucire.
   Amira Aly (Mrs Oliver Pocher) photographed by Christoph Gellert, reposted from Instagram.
   Gaza statistics, sourced from Twitter.
   Even after 44½ years of living in the occident, I find certain western customs very strange. From Twitter.
   Number crunching from Private Eye, reposted from Twitter.
   Evaporated milk, reposted from Twitter.
   Triumph Herald advertisement from the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Cadillac tailfins, reposted from Tumblr.
   This photo of Sophia Loren was captioned ‘© David Hurn | Sophia Loren, Inglaterra, 1965’ on Tumblr. I wonder if she is on the set of Stanley Donen’s Arabesque. Reposted from Tumblr.
   I had the pleasure of watching Peggy Sue Got Married again a few weeks ago. This was a nice scene at the end, that seemed to suggest that Peggy Sue had travelled back in time. John Barry’s score is sublime.
   The Murdoch method: reposted from my old NewTumbl account.
   Alexa Breit photographed by Sagaj, reposted from Instagram.

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