With High Sierra now available I made the customary check to see what possible problems may result from installing it. What I found was a bit worrying. Not in respect of High Sierra itself, but the fact that the subsequent update is not going to support 32 bit apps. A quick check on how many 32 bit apps my Mac is running revealed a very long list, and they are not by any means all minor pieces of software. For example, Amazon Music, Audacity, BBC iPlayer, Kindle, Libre Office, MS Office 2011and many more, a lot of which I use regularly. Perhaps the respective developers will be producing updates before the fateful day, but I would imagine that rewriting 32 bit code into 64 bit code is no simple task.
As for MS Office 2011, I further discovered that MS are not going to support it on High Sierra, and in fact all support for this version will end on 10th October this year. With Microsoft limiting its basic Home and Student offering to one computer, replacing the copies on my Mac, my MacBook and my wife's machine would be very expensive. My existing Office 2011 came in a family pack with three licences. I may, therefore, initially only upgrade the copy on my Mac. My MacBook is still running El Capitan, being too old for Sierra, and fortunately my wife rarely uses Office.
Every so often Apple makes a move that renders a lot of legacy software, and sometimes hardware redundant. We are I fear approaching one such paradigm shift. The arrival of Snow Leopard cost me money and it seems that the post-High Sierra world will do likewise. But, on the other hand, this clean-out of arguably less efficient technology at least avoids the situation in which Microsoft finds itself, where the need to continue to support legacy programs has resulted in the Windows operating system containing far more code than it need do.
I bought the Amazon Echo earlier this week on a bit of a whim. Amazon had reduced the price from £149.99 to £99.99, but that's still expensive of course. I thought that this was a permanent reduction, but checking the Amazon site today it has reverted to the higher price.
Set up was fairly painless using the app on iOS. Reviews of the said app weren't great, but this perhaps relates more to accessing content than the set up process. Having signed in with your Amazon details you first need to connect to the Echo's WiFi network, which appears in the available WiFi connections in iOS Settings. This done you need to connect to your own WiFi. At this point I did have a problem in that Echo failed to connect to my BT Hub, which was literally right next to it. The Amazon help information recommended that I switch Echo off, and then power up again. After this going through the process worked.
Having spoken to Alexa and tried a few simple commands, next I set up the two 'Skills' needed to communicate with my recently installed HIVE system. This was painless, and I've tried asking Alexa to increase the temperature. This worked, although while the new temperature was shown on my iOS HIVE app, it didn't alter the target temperature on the physical thermostat. Time will tell how this will perform in practice, but not while the weather is still warm enough to not need the central heating.
We had the boiler changed today by British Gas. It brought the date forward a day and everything went very smoothly, in spite of it raining for most of the day. The parts were delivered by a plumbing suppliers at 07:45 and the fitters arrived at 08:10. The only slight hiccup was a missing bypass valve, but one of them popped around to Travis Perkins and bought one.
The unit was a direct replacement so that part was reasonably straightforward, but being a condensing boiler (Worcester Bosch Greenstar) there was a need to fit discharge piping, and as there wasn't a main drain connection near a small lime-chipping filled soak-away had to be dug. We also had the radiator system flushed. And the icing on the cake was the Hive control system, thrown in for 'free' as part of the quote, although I accept that British Gas probably charge more than most anyway.
The work went very smoothly with everything on the gas side of things being completed by about 14:00. The electrician arrived shortly afterwards and fitted the Hive system. A small unit plugs into the router, a Hive thermostat is installed to replace what you have, and another Hive unit replaces the programmer. They all communicate through WiFi. The system can be programmed from the thermostat, or more easily through your web browser, having set up an account and registered the devices. A smartphone app allows you to communicate with the system from your phone, so you can switch the heating on or boost the water on your return from a trip, so it's all nice and warm when you get home. Hive also market other devices, such as lamps, sockets, a camera and door and window security fittings.
And there is one other device, referred to as Boiler IQ, a revolutionary new technology developed in partnership with Worcester Bosch for British Gas. It basically monitors the boiler and lets British Gas know if there is a problem before you have perhaps realised anything is wrong. This becomes a £3/month subscription service after the first year.
All in all we're very pleased with the new installation and must praise British Gas and its fitters. Things went smoothly from the moment we accepted the quote until everything was switched on today.
Mercedes Me allows you to communicate with your car, offering a range of services, some free and some requiring a subscription. I registered for Me when I got the car but all attempts to get the iPhone app to connect failed, with a message saying that the vehicle hadn't been activated and that I should visit the web portal to do this; but the web portal showed the car activated, thus getting me nowhere. The dealership wasn't much help and for a while I had decided just not to bother, but recently I thought I would have another try.
I thought that if I bought one of the subscription packages this might kick-start the service. I chose the 'Remote Retrieval of Vehicle Status', as this seemed the most useful, but this little ploy didn't make any difference. Having paid out money a call to customer services was now unavoidable, where I spoke to a very helpful women in the Netherlands who agreed that something wasn't quite right and said she would refer the matter to the technical people and get back to me. This she duly did, advising me that there had been a back-server problem, which I guess means that my car for some reason wasn't communicating with base, or perhaps base wasn't communicating with me. Whatever, my Me is now operative.
I can now view vehicle status information on the web portal:
Or the iPhone app, which provides similar data and also has the ability to open and close the car doors.
Is all this necessary you may ask. Well, obviously not, but if you're of a technical bent and like this sort of thing, it is of course indispensable!
Since I upgraded from a BT Home Hub 3 to the latest model 6 we have experienced occasional drop-outs, and my wi-fi connected printer sometimes refuses to connect, requiring a reboot of the hub. Today, however, the hub dropped out and no amount of attempts to reboot helped. The hub kept cycling through its colour sequence, green, flashing orange, orange and finally blue, which should have meant it was connected, but we still couldn't connect to the wi-fi. The blue never lasted long, the colour sequence restarting, with an occasional flashing purple, which is supposed to mean that the broadband cable isn't connected.
A call to BT was necessary. The message system informed me that they were very busy and offered a call-back within an hour, but I opted to wait. Amazingly having chosen that option I was answered almost immediately. After explaining the issue, and confirming our phone was working, the woman called me on my mobile number so I could clear the land line. She then did a bit of checking and asked me to switch off and then after around 30 seconds restart the router. It went through its laborious connection routine with all the expected colours before settling on a reassuring blue. She got me to check that all our devices would connect, which they did.
And that was that, problem solved. I asked her what she had done, and she said she had re-set the line, whatever that means. It will be interesting to see whether the occasional drop-outs continue or whether today's episode will make things more stable. Either way I can only applaud how quickly things were sorted out today. I had expected a much more frustrating experience based calls I have made to BT in the past. Procedures and technical fixes have clearly been vastly improved.