Tuesday, August 4, 2020

GDPR and the EU-US Privacy Shield

It's interesting that the US-EU Privacy Shield has now been completely invalidated (which isn't a complete surprise).

The link in the email takes you to this PDF, which summarises the courts' decision.

Given that the UK is now separate (but still the same) regarding European Law it will be interesting to see how this decision is incorporated into UK law.

My money is on a US-UK trade agreement re-writing GDPR to become "what the US says and does is fine".

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Removing all Photo Albums in Google Photos (MacOS)

I've been a user of Google Photos since it was introduced as a service. Managing the shear bulk of photos I have in the service has always been a huge challenge. A few years ago I shifted to using other services to manage my photos simply because the amount of junk that hung around in Google Photos would just take too long to tidy up.

I had already emptied all the photo albums - and now have more than 1,000 empty photo albums and no way to remove them. Except individually. By clicking on each one, selecting "Delete" and then Oking the popup that appeared.

This would take days - hence why after spending a lot of time on it I gave up and began looking at other services.

And finally, yesterday, after a gap of a few years, I picked this up again and took another look to see if there was anything out there that would help. There wasn't. Despite a lot of people requesting the feature on Google's Support pages (since 2016!) there was no solution.

Well, that's not true, I stumbled on a comment which mentioned a MacOS application called "Keyboard Maestro".

The version I downloaded was Version 9 and is available on the companies website;

There's a "free trial" if you fancy it, but after using it for Google Photos I can wholeheartedly recommend it if you are looking for something to automate your tasks. This application literally saved me days ...

Probably the easiest way to do this is to share the file I've created; Google Photos Delete macro.

So here's how it works (because you *will* need to change it, especially if Google Photos develops).

The top bit is the number of times to do the delete - I'd recommend setting this to 1 until you've got it working!

There are lots of pauses - this is just to give to make sure Google Chrome (the browser I used) has updated with the actions that have been taken. My assumption is that accuracy is more important than speed - frankly, I didn't care that it took 30 minutes, it saved me days of manual work!

The "Page Up" moves you to the top of the web page - the assumption is that you have a large-enough screen to see the empty albums from looking at the top of the google photos web page. This means the button that needs to be clicked to bring up the options for the Photo Album is in a fixed place - and clicking on it is the job of the "Move and Click"-part of the macro.

This is the last mouse-click, control then switches to the keyboard.

Down-arrow twice to get to the "Delete" option, and then pressing "Return" to select it then, following a wait for the dialogue box to appear, press Return again to activate the delete.

And finally, wait two seconds before repeating.

Hope this is useful!

Friday, May 8, 2020

A Little Bit of Light Plumbing ...

As typically happens during any prolonged period at home - things start to break. In this case, the overflow pipe outside had started to drip. First, it wasn't a lot so we could safely ignore it. The plan was to do something big in the autumn and it could wait to then. Then, rather than the odd drop, it was dripping continually. Then occasionally running. While we weren't that worried to start with it was beginning to look like it costing us quite a bit in the water (not to mention the green slime that was starting to grow on the wall).

So the first thing was to decide to do something about it. This is a big step. Once you've taken the decision to actually do something with then it becomes a lot easier to actually put aside some time to do it. Deciding to see if I could make this into a blog post was just part of that decision process. 

Finally, the day came, and this was how it started;

Now the first thing you'll notice is that there are no drips. This is from a pipe that was dripping profusely all night. How absolutely typical was this?! I put aside some time to fix it and as if by magic, it fixed itself. The problem with it not dripping is that if I was going to crawl around in the loft I wanted to make sure when I'd found the cause I was actually going to be able to identify it so I could fix it. No drips and it's a lot harder to track down and 100% identity the cause.

There's a magical thing that you can do to make problems like this recur. Just stop trying to fix them, busy yourself with something else. Sure enough, I got half-way through another job and then the dripping resumed. Perfect!

So the investigation started!

We have a quite a big crawl space on the 1st floor and so nimbly made my way through it (with almost no cursing and swearing!) and then found this;

The most observant of you will notice that outside there were two pipes coming out. Two. Now here, on the inside of the wall, we have three pipes going in. Three. There isn't a great deal you can do in this situation - I knew that there was water coming out and so there must be water going in. I couldn't really worry about where the third pipe was going. The white wire, by the way, is electric for the non-working outside security light. Because of course, it is. I'll save tracking back and disconnecting that for another day. 

The next thing to do was to track back the overflow pipes and try and identify which one of the three was responsible for the water. Two went into the loft, one went straight into the toilet cistern. Checking that quickly ruled that out as the source of the leak. 

The next step was a trip up into the attic. My first in this new house!

This then led to the first problem; a ladder. Our old house had one of those really nice loft ladders where you un-catch the trap door and there was a loft ladder right there you could use. Fantastic. This house doesn't have that.

A bit of digging around revealed a suitable ladder in the shed - and also a plug which, when plugged in, turned a light on in the loft for me to see. Result!

Once I was up there the problem became pretty clear quite quickly;

Basically, it looks like the cold water storage tank in the loft was overfilling. There was a lot of flexibility around the stopcock, I think age must have just weakened it a bit at a time and it was now no longer was able to cut off the water before the overflow was reached. The usual solution would be to bend it back into place so it was slightly lower - however, as we're in the middle of a pandemic, that would have been quite a risk if it broke. 

The solution? A plastic bottle attached to it to give it more buoyancy (and thus it would cut off the flow of the water earlier).

And here you go;

I have to say I enjoyed this. First of all, it was my first trip into the attic and I found some useful stuff up there (leftover from the previous owners). And secondly; I really enjoy this type of problem. It was something that I could solve using the tools around me (in this case a plastic bottle and an elastic band dropped by the postman), and the effect was an immediate fix and something that would last. I loved it.

This is intended to only last a couple of months until a permanent fix. 

Oh. Why did the dripping stop? I'd had a shower after getting up so the tank was refilling ...

Anyway, you read to the end, well done. Gold start for you :-)

Monday, January 13, 2020

Space Adventure by Virgin Games for the BBC Model B (Twenty Year mystery solved!)

Yes, I know. Very different post this.

I remember from my 8-bit childhood playing a game on the BBC B called "Space Adventure". It was from Virgin Games, released in 1983, and if you fancy playing it (it was pretty good for its time) then here's the cover (courtesy of the Every Game Going website) and a link at the game itself is at the bottom of the page.

Space Adventure - Virgin Games - BBC Micro
Space Adventure for the BBC B
Now this game, while fantastic for its time, has not aged as well as its contemporaries and didn't actually seem to be that big a success at the time (I might be wrong, that's just my memory). I still enjoyed it.

However, what really struck me at the time was that after you loaded the game there's a little box on the tape which says "Now listen to the other side".

The other side had some rock/ 80's music on it.

Now I had never been able to track this down as I didn't have my original cassette and every website that hosted it seemed to concentrate on the game and not even mention the music (even the link I included below - at the time of writing this - doesn't include a reference to the music).

A few days ago this changed - I suddenly had access to the tape! No instructions, just the tape (so I can't see if it included a reference to the artist). In common with other people my age (he says hopefully!) I don't own a tape player. A few minutes on Amazon revealed then you can pick up a walkman-like device which plugs into the USB port on a computer that then allows you to record tapes as if it were a microphone (it actually comes with the Audacity audio editing software - https://www.audacityteam.org/ - that I have been using for years and really like).

Of course, as I'm using a Mac it wasn't that straightforward - First off I needed an adaptor to fit the USB-A lead into the Macs USB-C slot *and* then there was some fiddling around with permissions in order to allow Audacity to record from the USB microphone (everything came out silent whatever the volume was set to). See this forum post for the solution (thank you Google!) - https://forum.audacityteam.org/viewtopic.php?t=105586

So finally I managed to record it, along with a good amount of tape hiss. I applied a bit of noise reduction and then, on the off-chance, played it into Shazam not really expecting anything to see if it could identify it. It did!

The music turns out to be this track by Steve Hillage which was remastered and re-released in 2007;

It's not *quite* the same as the original in that there seems to be some additional lyrics at the end of the track that wasn't on the original but as it was released almost a quarter-of-a-century after I think we can all allow the artist a bit of leeway when it comes to re-visiting it!

Anyway, I enjoyed puzzling this one out and thought I should share.

Here's the link to the games information;
Every Game Going - Virgin Games - Space Adventure - BBC B

And here's a photo I've taken of the original tape (I'm more than happy for people to use this image - credit would be nice but isn't essential);