Beautiful Google Chrome new tab pages with Momentum

Today's new tab background in Google shows a beautiful landscape
Today’s new tab background in Google.

One of my favourite new Google Chrome extensions (plugins) is Momentum.

Momentum replaces the default Chrome ‘new tab’ page with a beautiful image that changes daily, the current time, plus an inspirational quotation, the weather, and an optional to-do list.

I never used to use the shortcuts on the default new tab page, so I find this page much nicer. It’s fun, it’s friendly, it opens really quickly (unlike other new tab replacements that I’ve tried) and it’s inspiring, not just because of the quotation at the foot of the page, but the image giving you a 24 hours glimpse into another beautiful part of the world.

Today’s image is of Geiranger, Norway, © Igor Sukma. For me it is, interestingly my colleagues who are using this extension always see an image unique to them each day, which is neat.

Check out Momentum on the Chrome Web Store.

Team meeting via Google Hangouts

Daily meeting via Google Hangouts
Daily meeting via Google Hangouts

Last week I had to work from home one morning. Our team meets at 09:30 every morning to catch-up. Years ago I suppose I would have had to either phone in or miss it.

We used Google Hangouts to allow my colleague Lewis and I to take part, connecting remotely.

Isn’t the world wide web an amazing thing!

Firewatch

Firewatch hut overlooking forest

It’s not often that I purchase a computer game spontaneously, certainly not one that I’ve never heard of. But on Friday I did just that.

On Friday I bought Firewatch on Steam.

It was the artwork that first grabbed me, stylised and beautiful. Then I watched the trailer…

Who is the guy in the other tower?! Who are the girls who’ve gone missing?

And that was me hooked!

I finished the game on Sunday evening. But this week I’m going in again…

No sitting in the dark during a power cut with our UPS

My desk lamp running on battery power
My desk lamp running on battery power

When I returned home from St Andrews this evening the whole of Anstruther was in darkness. There was a town-wide power cut. It turns out the power cut extended right down the Fife coast, as far as Leven, someone reported.

It was really quite eerie. Most houses were in complete darkness, a few had the flickering glow from candles at the windows. A couple of people were walking down the street using torches (‘flashlights’ for American readers).

The sky was spectacular: a blanket of pin holes. I had never seen so many stars while standing outside my house.

I walked into the house and found everyone walking around with torches. There were a couple of candles lit on the dinner table.

“We can’t find your bike light!” a tiny voice exclaimed in the darkness.

“It’s under my bed,” I replied. “I charged it over night.”

I handed Reuben and Isaac my keys and they went racing up the stairs to find it. The small LED torch on my keyring lighting the way. (I always carry a torch with me!)

I walked upstairs, ducked under my desk for a moment and then asked Isaac to switch on my desk lamp.

Suddenly the room was bathed in light from a 7.5 watt 3000K LED bulb.

“How did you do that?!” Isaac quizzed.

“Aha!” I said, “I have an uninterruptable power supply. It’s like a giant battery.”

We saw out the rest of the power cut sitting in my study: the only room in the house with any electric light.

I opened my curtains to show off to the neighbours that we had electricity.

Uninterruptible power supply

Uninterruptible power supply
Uninterruptible power supply

A few years ago we experienced quite a few power cuts here in the East Neuk. I got fed up of my PC suddenly dying when the power went out, even just with short blips in power. So I bought myself a UPS, an unterruptible power supply.

As I said, it’s like a giant battery into which you plug your equipment. It monitors your power supply and if the voltage suddenly drops out then the UPS immediately kicks you over to battery power. It announces it with a satisfying ‘click’, and sometimes even a ‘beep’.

The UPS I have — the APC Back-UPS ES-700VA — which cost me about £80 a few years ago, doesn’t have a massive amount of power but it does give me a few minutes to save my work and shut down my PC safely.

But this evening it occurred to me that I could simply plug in my 7.5W desk lamp into it and get maybe over two hours out of it.

I certainly recommend getting a UPS or two, not just to safeguard your data but look how handy it is in a power cut.

Stream Planet Rock radio in MusicBee on your PC

Pure Evoke-1XT Marshall edition
Pure Evoke-1XT Marshall edition

I wake up most mornings to Planet Rock radio on my beloved Pure Evoke-1XT Marshall DAB radio. But that’s in my bedroom, I don’t currently have a DAB radio in my study and Screamer Radio no longer works for Planet Rock.

Which got me thinking: could I somehow convince my digital music player of choice, MusicBee, to stream Planet Rock? It seems to handle pretty much everything else I throw at it.

The answer is yes; this is how in three easy steps.

1. Find the Stream URL

The first thing to find out was obviously the URL to stream Planet Rock. Thankfully that is displayed very prominently on their listening online page. This is what they currently are (although I guess, they may be subject to change):

  • http://www.planetrock.com/planetrock.m3u
  • http://tx.sharp-stream.com/icecast.php?i=planetrock.mp3

Both work, depending on the player you use, e.g. iTunes, Windows Media Player, MusicBee, etc; I use the first one.

2. Play the stream in MusicBee

Next, we need to tell MusicBee to use that stream.

Screenshot of MusicBee menu
File > Open Stream

That’s as simple as opening the menu and selecting:

  1. File > Open Stream.
  2. Then paste in the URL and click OK.
Screenshot of dialog to enter URL
Paste the URL then click OK

This may take a few seconds while MusicBee connects to the streaming audio feed and then BINGO! you’ll suddenly be listening to Planet Rock on your PC.

Don’t go setting your watch, though, to the streamed version. It can have a few seconds delay between broadcast and it emerging from your PC’s speakers. (My PC stream is currently 1 minute 25 seconds behind my DAB radio broadcast.) This is due to the software buffering enough data to ensure continuous playback, so that if some data goes missing and has to be re-requested from the server or if there is a local data bottleneck the audio doesn’t suddenly drop out.

What’s nice is if you use the first URL (the one ending /planetrock.m3u) then MusicBee will also display the name of the track currently playing:

Screenshot showing the name of the track currently playing: Iron Maiden—Wrathchild
Now playing…

3. Save the stream as a playlist

The final thing we need to do is tell MusicBee to remember this station. It would be a bit of a hassle to have to find, copy and paste that URL every time you want to listen to the radio.

Again, that’s simple.

  1. Right-click the name of the track
  2. From the context-menu select: Send To… > Playlist > <New Playlist>.
  3. A new playlist will be created in the Playlists panel, with the edit caret waiting for you to give it a name.
  4. Enter a meaningful name, mine says Planet Rock DAB.
  5. Then press Enter to save it.
Screenshot showing how to save the playlist
Send to > Playlist >

Conclusion

That’s all there is to it.

While I usually listen to MusicBee using the compact player view, when listening to streamed radio I prefer the mini player view which also pulls in the current track’s artwork.

Screenshot of mini player view
MusicBee mini player view

Where The Guardian advertises developer jobs

Screenshot of code from The Guardian website with WE ARE HIRING written in ASCII art
Screenshot of code from The Guardian website with WE ARE HIRING written in ASCII art

This evening I was reading an article by Giles Fraser on The Guardian website and I was intrigued to understand how they coded the drop-cap at the top of the article:

Screenshot of dropped cap
.drop-cap > .drop-cap__inner

So being versed in the ways of the web developer I highlighted the letter, right-clicked and selected Inspect (I’m using Google Chrome, other browsers are also available). This opens a code inspector where you can poke around the HTML, CSS and JavaScript that builds a webpage, and it even allows you to edit it in situ to better understand how it all fits together.

I smiled when I saw, at the top of the HTML code, written in a comment in a combination of text and ASCII art:

WE ARE HIRING

WE ARE HIRING

Ever thought about joining us?
http://developers.theguardian.com/join-the-team.html

What a terrific idea! Brilliant targeted advertising.