Friday, March 14, 2014

Dropbox on Ubuntu 13.10

Just a quick post on something that has been annoying me for a few days.
I recently installed Ubuntu 13.10 and couldn't get the Dropbox sync program to work. After much hunting for information and a bit of trial and error I have found a solution.
My problem was that after the install the Dropbox program would say that my computer was not linked to an account, but gave no option to add an account. In past installs the Dropbox program would throw up a dialog after installation to enter your account details, but on my 13.10 install it did not.
My solution was to uninstall Dropbox and then reinstall using the instructions here:
Once I ran the script at step 7 the add account dialogue box popped up and now everything is fine.

It also seems that the the dropbox notification indicator is broken (doesn't show) in 13.10. To fix this install package libappindicator1 then log out, and then log back in (or issue dropbox stop && dropbox start at the command line).

Friday, August 09, 2013

Down with the (next three) King(s)!

This post is a bit behind the current news cycle, I tend to post my 2 pence worth on Twitter and Facebook these days, but sometime when you need to rant 140 characters just isn't enough.

This well written article in the guardian highlights the issue of our fundamentally anti-democratic monarchy. Now I know that there are more pressing issues facing our country; the recession, corruption, inequality and so on. But this is still a major blight on our democracy. Over the past few years we have been sending soldiers around the world on dubious missions to spread democracy to all and sundry. It seems crazy that in our so called modern democracy, with the birth of the messiah royal baby, we now have our next three heads of state all lined up and we don’t get a say in who any of them are.

I know there are lots of people who love the Queen, I agree she is a lovely old lady who has done some fine charity work, but her son has some very questionable views that he doesn't hesitate to thrust into the highest levels of our government.  Frankly I would like to have a say in whether he becomes the next head of state, if the majority of people disagree and want him then fine, that is democracy, but that is not how it works.

If we went to an elected head of state I know people would cry “what about tradition and heritage”. But what about them? With an elected head of state all that would stay, they can ride around in a gold carriage, open hospitals, heck they can continue to be called King / Queen for all I care, the difference being we get to choose who rides in the carriage. If you want Wills, then vote for him, if you would rather Stephen Fry had the job (assuming he would be up for it) vote for him, Stephen for King! Also if you don’t like them then in 4 years (or however long it happens to be) you get to choose again.

I know this is a minority view, but not that minor. As the guardian article highlights, 20% of the UK population would prefer to see the monarchy abolished. That is 12.5 million people. Let that sink in, 12.5 million people who want to have a say in who the next head of state is. But tough you have Charles, then William and then his sprog, end of story. They might be very nice and not put a foot wrong but they could also be terrible. It doesn't matter you are stuck with them.

I know, as a country, we have bigger fish to fry. But I believe that one day we will be rid of the last vestiges of this archaic and unfair institution.  Where one day any child in this country can be elected head of state (King/Queen/President/Prime Citizen whatever the position is eventually called) and where a child born to a certain couple doesn't have its life unfairly mapped out in front of it, bathed in a light of paparazzi flash bulbs and telephoto lenses.

Besides the issue of an unelected head of state, there are many other reasons that the Monarchy should go. The Republic campaign website gives a breakdown of what these are, as well as giving answers to the common arguments against a republic, I think they make compelling reading. I know many people disagree with me on this issue so I look forward to some lively debates and who know maybe, in my lifetime we might get to have a say about who heads the Great British nation.

My name is Thomas Cooper and I am a Citizen not a subject.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I have started jotting.....

Well after years of much thumb twiddling, and any other appendages I could twiddle (except that one - I know what your thinking - sickening) in order to prolong my procrastination, I have made the first real progress to actually putting the half baked ideas I write down into the cold light of day.

In short I have started putting some of the more complete stories I have written on to Jottify. This is basically a site for authors where you can post work and get feedback and possibly, if you feel your work is worth something, sell it.

This is my page:

I have 4 stories up so far and I am working to get some of the 50 or so other in a fit state to be read by the general populous. The eventual goal being to put them all together in a collection and publish an ebook. But that is way in the future, for the time being I would be happy if any of you fine people out there would be kind enough to read them (you can download them as ebooks (for free) to you iPad or kindle (other e-readers are available) and leave feedback (any feedback).

Honourable mentions go to Gill Pepper who edited the 3 longest works and provided the encouragement to write them down in the first place, also to the Liars' League for providing the deadlines that forced me to complete them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I have been using Google+ (G+) for a couple of days now. I have to say I like it. It is clean, simple and gives you a lot of control. These are all things that Facebook fails at. Some years ago Facebook trialled a system called Facebook Lite. It was basically just your news feed and photos and events. I loved it. The normal Facebook is a distracting mess of a million clickable links, confusing menus and overlapping sections. It is not as bad as Myspace but it is certainly not the best way making a social network easy to interact with. G+ doesn’t suffer from this UI overload and I hope that as it develops it keeps things clean and simple.  

So why do I like it so much? Well:
  • I like that I can control who my posts go to (Facebook groups lets you do the same but it is a pain to set up), the circles feature is a joy to use. Some people I invited have been confused by the circles concept; I think this is mainly because Facebook’s equivalent is so complex.
  • I like that is it just like twitter where I can follow people without having to friend them and can make public posts for all the world to see.
  • I like that it integrates so well with Picasa (soon to be Google Photo).
  • I really like that it has such a great mobile app, the instant photo upload is a good idea well implemented  and Huddle (group chat) will be really useful when all my friends are on the network.
  • But most of all I love the potential it has. G+ in its current form is the first step in Google’s wider social agenda. Project Emerald Sea will be introducing social aspects into almost all of Google’s products (read this in-depth Wired article for more background). Soon you will be scheduling events with Google calendar and inviting your G+ friends. Your Gmail and Android contacts will be your G+ friend list. Maps and Google Latitude will be integrated to let you know when your G+ friends are nearby (if their privacy options allow it). Collaborating on Google Documents will be so much more streamlined and many more features I can’t even think up. I think the future is bright for G+.

However I do not think it will be plain sailing for Google. G+ has a mountain to climb, it may have gained 10-20 million users in a month, but Facebook has 750 million and climbing. Social networks sink or swim on the number of friends each user has on there. There is no point posting things if no one you know will see them. Also for me the big thing is integration with other networks. I am not going to abandon Facebook (nearly everyone I know is on there) or Twitter (I get most of my news from there). I want to be able to use G+ alongside these two. Google needs to get the G+ API out there ASAP so that developers can integrate it into their apps. I rarely ever use the Android Facebook App because Tweetdeck lets me check and post to Twitter and Facebook in one go. I currently have to repeat my Tweetdeck posts in the G+ mobile app which is a barrier to me using it. I am sure this feature is on the way but it can’t come soon enough for me.

I really hope G+ makes it. The integration with the rest of Google’s products makes it a killer proposition for me and not having all my data sealed inside the Facebook walled garden really appeals. The public release is rumoured to be at the start of August which will be the real test. Can G+ scale to 100+million users? Will that many sign up? Will it suffer the same fate as the Wave? 

While we wait for the answer to those questions here is a Google + tips document for those people already in the +

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

AV for the win!

On the 5th May we have a real chance to change our voting system for the better! The first past the post system is a hobbled version of democracy. If  Party A gets 4001 votes, Party B gets 4000 votes and Party C gets 2000 votes and party D gets 1000 votes, party A wins even though they only have 36% of the vote (7000 people out of a constituency of 11001 don't want them in power) and a majority of 1! This is crazy. Under the current system a handful of voters in marginal seats dictate who wins elections, that is not democracy, it is a joke!

Under AV, the party that wins would have to have an actual majority, more than 50% of the vote. Half the people in a constituency would have to state a preference for the winning party. I know that people in the No camp think this is a stupid, undemocratic system but frankly it make perfect sense to me. How can we live with a system where just having a 1/3 of the votes lets you rule the country!

There are many blatant untruths fielded by the No campaign to scare people into not voting for AV (don't get me started on how babies and soldiers are apparently going to die if we vote for AV). I would go through them but Mr Gower has already gone through them all and shown how if you actually do the maths the No campaigns claims do not stand up. I urge to read his (admittedly long and detailed) blog post and come out still thinking our current system makes any sense:

Long detailed version:
Short(er) version:

And here is the really short summary:

1. FPTP is unfair because it is very far from proportional.
2. AV is probably no more proportional than FPTP.
3. However, FPTP is also unfair because it puts pressure on large numbers of people not to vote for their favourite party. Under AV you don’t have to worry about wasting your vote. The right voting strategy is almost always to put the candidates you like in order of preference.
4. Under AV, everyone gets one ballot paper, just as under FPTP.
5. In each round of an AV count, everybody gets exactly one vote. It goes to their highest ranked candidate out of the candidates still left.
6. Under AV, if you vote for unpopular parties you don’t get more votes — you get more disappointments.
7. Under First Past The Post, there is no post. (FWIW, under AV there is.)
8. Under AV, the person who would have come second or third under FPTP sometimes wins.
9. Under FPTP, the person who would have come second or third under AV sometimes wins.
10. In so far as AV helps the BNP, it also helps everyone else. (The same could be said of women’s suffrage and votes for 18-year-olds.)
11. Anomalies can occur under AV.
12. There is no anomaly-free voting system.
13. Anomalies in a very small number of constituencies are very unlikely to affect who gets the power nationally.
14. AV doesn’t make your MP any more bland and inoffensive than FPTP.
15. AV won’t make your MP work harder.
16. AV wouldn’t have made any difference to the expenses scandal, which is in any case yesterday’s news.
17. AV might possibly lead to more coalitions but will not lead to a state of permanent coalition.
18. AV makes it easier to get rid of unpopular governments.
19. You think FPTP makes it easy to get rid of unpopular governments? Just look at the figures for 1987 and (especially) 2005.
20. Whatever system is in place, the Lib Dems will get a kicking at the next general election.
21. The Conservatives like FPTP so they can exploit the split on the left and often get a majority of seats with a minority of votes.
22. It is hard to predict what will happen in the future, but in the past AV would mostly have benefited the Lib Dems and Labour at the expense of the Tories.
23. It’s not true that bringing in AV would cost £250 million. The correct figure is more like £25 million (which is needed to explain to people that when the ballot paper asks them to put the candidates they like in order of preference, then they have nothing to gain by not doing so).
24. The outcome of the referendum will affect us for decades. Whichever way the vote goes, Nick Clegg will be forgotten about after five years. David Cameron and George Osborne want you to vote no and Ed Miliband wants you to vote yes.

AV may not be the perfect system, but it is better than the excuse for democracy we have now! I hope that if anyone reads this you will consider Mr Gowers' arguments and vote yes to AV to bring a real change to this country!

Now a final word from Uncle Stephen:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spotihalf........makes sense to me!

Spotify is halving the amount of music free subscribers can listen to in a month from 20 hours to 10 hours and will only let you listen to a track 5 times in total. Personally I think this is a good move!

Quite predictably there is loads of bellyaching in the comments of the official announcement page. This appears to be from people who think an award winning music service can be run for their own personal benefit with no suggestion of reimbursement and that all the artists in the world work hard to make music for the fun of it without needing to eat or buy cloths?

Spotify is an amazing service! For the price of 1 CD a month you can access all the music in its multi-million track catalogue, save it for offline listening on your PC and phone and even manage all your own music files and sync them wirelessly to you mobile.

So if they want to give all the millions of people using the service for free a bit of nudge towards supporting them I say fair play. Without services like Spotify we would be stuck in the gray hell of Apple iTunes!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jodrell Bank

Just got back from sound testing at the new Jodrell Bank visitors centre. It was great to see the place looking so good, the old 60's sheds are gone, replaced with shiney new metal ones. Last time I went was 4 years ago when they turned the dish into the worlds largest cinema screen and showed the trippyest, mind altering collection of space images I have ever seen. I still think it might have been some form of subliminal programming.... I highly recommend going to the new visitors centre when it opens in April....wait what did I just say?