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Back to fishing & golf

After a very fallow period I've managed a few fishing trips lately and I've also managed to get back to some golf, my long-suffering back having eased somewhat over the last month or so.

So, if you're interested, check out the fishing and golf diaries.

Creating a French website

I've offered to create a website for the wife of a friend in France whose an amateur artist. This has brought new challenges, some expected, others less so.

Challenge one was to use a content management system (CMS) to allow my friend to add to and edit prescribed parts of the site. I use RapidWeaver and had already used Armadillo for the blog on this Kilburnlad site, but I would need to use some of Armadillo's other capabilities for the new site.

The next unexpected technical nicety was working with a French (.fr) domain. I first researched the domain with a view to purchasing it for my friend but during the process a warning message advised me that after Brexit it might not be possible to retain ownership without a valid EU address. I therefore asked my friend to purchase the domain name and using his login details was able to direct it to the DNS name servers on my web space.

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Fishing diary lovingly modernised

My fishing diary is one of the longest standing parts of my website and has not really changed in format since I first started it. I use RapidWeaver to build my sites and while the main application has been updated a number of times over the years, the blog page that facilitated my diary has not been treated to any major changes. These days most serious Weavers don't rely on the base application but enhance it using an add-on named Stacks. This add-on has spawned a cottage industry of different stacks, these also being add-ons that are usually aimed at specific enhancements to the base application. This has brought with it alternative options for blog pages and I have used a stack named Poster to rebuild my diary.

The main advantage is that whereas with the original blog page one could only enter text and embed images or videos, with the Poster stack one can add other special purpose stacks to the page. In my case I have used a gallery stack to present images in a light box. So whereas my original diary had small embedded images, the reworked diary now allows the reader to view larger images by selecting thumbnails.

To get to this point I had to create a totally new server repository of the images, requiring me to go back to the original photographs to create suitably sized versions along with accompanying thumbnails, a labour of love. I then had to build the new blog one post at a time, transferring the text over and configuring links to every photograph and its accompanying thumbnail. Truly a labour of love. But now it's done, so if you want to have a look, feel free.


Chasing unicorns (or transcription software!)

Occasionally one gets off on the wrong foot and no matter how obvious this becomes you doggedly persevere.

In this case I was investigating transcription software, my aim to be able to obtain text transcripts of French audio or video files to help prepare material for my U3A French groups. By transcription, I mean automatic text generation. After a bit of research I downloaded a trial copy of Ingscribe, which at $99 isn't cheap. I duly loaded an mp3 audio file and waited to see the results. There weren't any !

So for the next couple of hours or so I kept re-reading the instructions, but to no avail. I obtained the 14 day free licence in case the basic free edition was the problem but that made no difference. In desperation I then tried Express Scribe, but with much the same lack of results. I even tried to uninstall Soundflower in case this was creating a conflict, but found that not to be as easy as it sounds (excuse pun) despite running the uninstall script.

Then it dawned on me, perhaps the two applications weren't supposed to produce an automatic transcript but were simply aids to manual transcription. The option of a foot pedal control to stop and start the playback should have alerted me, but tunnel vision prevailed. These apps are obviously aimed at manually capturing the transcript and their power then lies in using that transcript to professionally enhance videos etc.

So a few hours wasted and a bit more knowledge gained, but I'm still no nearer finding an automatic transcribing app, which in this day and age I find astonishing. It appears that pay-by-content services have cornered the market but these can be expensive.

Redesigned Film Search page

I've redesigned the alphabetical listing for my film reviews using modal pop-ups to replace the previous show/reveal arrangement.

There is now a full alphabetical selection rather than groups of letters, each letter linking to a pop-up window displaying associated film titles.

The film titles themselves are not linked to the associated reviews, but it is straightforward to find a review by entering a relevant word from the film title into the search facility.

Film Search

I hope everybody finds this to be an improvement.

After Mojave I've given my site a dark theme

Among the new features that come with Mojave, the dark theme has perhaps been the most publicised. For years I avoided 'dark' layouts, preferring a clean white-space look. But fashions change.

The new theme compliments the original monochrome banner image and I must say that I'm quite pleased with the result. In particular, the photographs in the galleries seem to stand out more. I needed to modify some of the miscellaneous images that originally had white backgrounds. I also wanted to keep the little fisherman gif on the fishing diary page, it having been a feature from the earliest days of my site. Changing the background involved splitting the four separate images, editing them in Photoshop Elements, and then reassembling them as a new animated gif. All quite fiddly but the Picasion (http://picasion.com) site was a great help in achieving this.

I also had to rearrange this Blog and the Film Search page as the original layouts didn't work well with the new theme.


Upgraded to Mojave - almost painless

Having been nagged for months with notifications to upgrade to Mojave I finally took the plunge. It wasn't really a plunge, as I considered with release 10.14.3 most of the initial problems would have been ironed out. Also, I spent quite a lot of time preparing to migrate.

I reviewed all 32 bit apps on my iMac and cleared out some little-used stuff, while transferring some other apps that I use occasionally to my 2009 MacBook Pro running El Capitan. I checked all the remaining apps for updates. I cleaned out a lot of files using Disk Doctor Pro, finding in the process a cache of over 8GB associated with my Tom Tom Connect app. Finally I did a First Aid scan with Disk Utility.

The install went without a hitch. I selected dark mode but while it looked great on my 4k iMac screen, it wasn't very good on my now ageing Apple Cinema second screen. So I reverted to light mode. I had to give my Avira Anti-Virus access to the computer, the Avira app prompting this after the upgrade and guiding me through it. Some other apps needed permission to access files, which was simply a matter of agreeing when the pop-up message appeared.



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Promoting a Facebook page

I recently self-published my book French at 60, which was an education in both the effort of writing it and the complexity of then publishing. The next stage was to sell it, which I now realise is going to perhaps be the hardest part of the process.

As a first step I created a business page on my Facebook account and decided to take a ten-day promotion, which cost me £20, equivalent to selling about ten books based on my royalty payments. I wasn't overly hopeful but it seemed quite an easy thing to set up. I chose an audience based on the subject, language learning, adding France as another key word and targeting an older demographic, which again fitted with the intended audience. The promise was audience reach and 'Likes', which was no doubt achieved judging by the summary of the promotion. But viewing and liking is easy, whereas meaningful engagement is not so easily achieved. From the summary below you will see that engagement was minimal. I shouldn't be surprised since Facebook is, at the end of the day, a network of fleeting engagements without real depth. It's all about 'Likes'.

And as for book sales, well you won't be surprised to learn that it appears to have driven a nice round zero!


Facebook promo



Back to Vinyl

Quite a few years ago I bought an inexpensive Bush record deck with the intention of transferring my old vinyl collection to CD. It turned out to be a labour of love with many technical problems. The Windows' software didn't always play ball and the process was of course carried out in real time, making it particularly laborious. When I learned that 'burned' CDs could deteriorate over time, that was the signal not to bother. The deck was relegated to a corner of my study.

Bush record deck

For 2019 I decided to make room for the deck on my desk. As my last stand-alone amplifier was retired a long time ago, I fed the output into my little Sony Micro HiFi system, which is connected to a couple of circa 50 year-old Goodmans' Mezzo 3 speakers. As I write this I'm listening to Gershwin's Greatest Hits on CBS records dated 1971. Quite nostalgic hearing a record I bought so long ago, which even allowing for the budget setup, and my ageing ears, sounds so crisp compared to the ubiquitous compressed music formats that we have to endure today.

However, whether I will invest in the vinyl offerings on sale today remains to be seen, some of which seem a bit pricey.



The trials and tribulations of self-publishing

Kindle Direct Publishing - the paperback story

I have written a book. It took me a while, and over the past few weeks I have been negotiating Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing system to get my book to market. Amazon seemed the best place to go, given its reach in the marketplace and the maturity of the publishing framework. There is copious advice on all stages of the process, which in the case of a printed book requires a properly configured Word or PDF file. You also need a cover and back cover, for which you can choose from templates or design your own. I did the latter, using an outline template to ensure correct positioning of all the elements. Fiddly but achievable in my Photoshop Elements application.


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