Crochet Caterpillar

What’s this? A resurfacing and temporary change of topic! I’ve been absent for a couple of months, busy with daily life in Melbourne. One of the things I’ve been getting back into is knitting and crochet. And today I’m posting my first ever crochet pattern!

First, some back story.

My parents’ dachshund Lucy has a beloved toy caterpillar that she uses for stress relief: whenever she feels sad or overwhelmed (for example, when she doesn’t get quite as many snacks as she’d like, or the latest visitor has stopped patting her) she pulls out the caterpillar, climbs on top and starts chewing its face. When she’s done she falls asleep on top of it.

Lucy Lucy's caterpillar

She’s destroyed several of these caterpillars by now but the shop Mum and Dad used to buy them from doesn’t stock them anymore. They’ve tried buying other caterpillars but they’re too big or not quite right, and Lucy still goes back to her favourite which is starting to look rather worse for wear. So I decided to crochet her a replacement!

Caterpillar side

Here is the pattern if you would like to make your own. (It assumes you already know how to crochet in the round.) Please let me know if you spot any errors so I can fix them!

This pattern is now also available in Finnish thanks to Vilma! Read on for the English version.

click for the pattern »

How to reduce iPhone 5 battery and data leakage

**Note: always back up your iPhone before playing around with settings!**

I recently bought an iPhone 5. It was a huge jump up from my old 3GS and I love it: slim and light, super fast and responsive, excellent GPS response and accuracy, the camera is fantastic (the panorama function is fun), I love the retina display, and the extra screen space is great.

But there were two things I wasn’t so keen on. The battery seemed about on par with my 3 year old 3GS (ie, needed to be recharged every day) and my data allowance was leaking away at an alarming rate. (I rarely scratched the surface of my 500MB monthly allowance with the 3GS but my iPhone 5 was consuming 50-100MB a day.) Now, I understand that some of this was down to the fact that it was a new toy and I was probably using it more than usual, but after a bit of research I discovered these were pretty common complaints for both iOS6 and the iPhone 5. I became determined to find a solution.

I collected a long list of tips from a variety of forums, blogs and articles and tried every one. In the end I found…

The two things most likely to help:

FOR BATTERY LIFE: Reset all settings

Settings > General > Reset > Reset All Settings

“If you’re prompted, enter your Passcode. Wait for the reset to finish then use your phone until it gets down to 0% then shuts off. Then, plug in your iPhone 5 until it charges to 100%. This should help to solve any battery life issues you’ve been having.” [Source: gottabemobile.com]

I’m not sure why this helps but it seemed to do the trick for me. Combined with setting my phone to airplane mode at night I now only need to recharge once every 3-4 days. You may want to make a note of all your current settings before you reset so it’s quicker to set them back afterwards. Note that it will also wipe all your saved wifi passwords!

FOR DATA LEAKAGE: Delete iCloud account from the phone

Settings > iCloud > Delete Account

(Note that this just removes the iCloud account from your phone, it doesn’t close it altogether. You can always turn it on again in the future if you want to.) See this thread for an explanation and a demonstration of why this supposedly works. Apparently even if you turn off all the settings that could possibly connect to iCloud it will still chew data (sometimes even when you’re connected to wifi!), unless you remove the account from your phone.

The trick is that without iCloud you’ll need to connect your phone to your computer regularly to back up, and you won’t be able to use features like Find My iPhone. (That’s the only iCloud feature I found useful anyway – I use Gmail to sync all my email, contacts and calendar items, Any.DO for tasks and Evernotes for notes.)

If you’re not keen on doing this, or it helps but doesn’t completely resolve your data leak, the only sure-fire guarantee is to turn data off when you’re not using it. It’s a little bit inconvenient at first but you get used to it. Go to Settings > General > Cellular > set to OFF. (This also helps battery life.)

I’ve listed below all the other suggestions I found in case you find any of them helpful. (Some may appear on multiple websites but I’ve just listed the sources where I first came across them.)

click for more tips and advice »

Lifting the curse of the black spot from a Panasonic Lumix

The first two digital cameras I owned were different models of Canon IXUS. I loved them both, but when the zoom ring died on my 870 IS last year I upgraded to a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 (ZS10). It took me a little while to get used to it (and if I’m honest I think Canons are still better in low light situations) but now I’m very happy with it, especially the brilliant 16x optical zoom. However, about two months ago I noticed two black spots would appear on the edge of my photos whenever I zoomed in:

Green roof with black spot

Cleaning the lens made no difference. When I researched the problem online I discovered the cause was a speck of dust that had found its way inside the camera and onto the sensor. (Apparently when the lens barrel extends after the camera is turned on a small amount of suction is generated, enough to pull tiny specks of debris inside.) I found a detailed video showing how to open up a Lumix in order to clean its sensor but I was in Estonia at the time I just couldn’t find a screwdriver small enough to undo the screws holding my camera together.

I could put up with the issue in the meantime because often the spot would be lost against the background of the image anyway, and when it stood out like a sore thumb I could retouch or crop it away. I kept an eye out for small screwdrivers as we travelled through Finland and Russia but didn’t have any luck there either.

Happily, the spot disappeared of its own accord about two weeks after it first appeared. (Maybe the suction was enough to eventually dislodge the dust.) I was delighted – problem solved!

But then, this week it came back. And it was WORSE.

Now I had three blotches, two smack bang in the middle of frame, one of which was present whether the camera was zoomed in or not:

Blotches

Luckily, by this time Alex and I were in Japan (I’m a bit behind on our travel posts!) and without even going out of our way we stumbled across a street of computer part shops in Kyoto, all of which were selling small screwdriver sets. We bought one and the next day I sat down to follow that video:

My model of camera is slightly different from the one shown  here but I was still able to get it apart and access the sensor. The trickiest part was unlatching the LCD screen, but once I did that I found I didn’t have to unhook the ribbon cables connecting it to the rest of the camera because I could just carefully put it to the right hand side.

Accessing the sensor unveiled SIX specs of dust:

Lumix TZ20 sensor with specks of dust

(You can see how the three in the middle match up with the spots on the text image above, the others were sitting out of frame.)

Removing them all was very satisfying.

I put the camera back together again and turned it with baited breath… it still worked! And the spots were gone! やった! Not ever having dabbled in electronics before I was really rather proud of myself.

Many thanks to Graham Houghton for posting his video tutorial explaining the fix, my Dad for tech support and advice via Skype mid-repair session, and Alex for putting up with me whinging about black blotches on our photos and dragging him in and out of shops literally half way around the world hunting down a size 0 Phillips head screwdriver. Due to the nature of the camera and the suction side effect of the barrel extending as it powers on there’s every chance more dust could end up on the sensor in the future, but now that I know how to fix it it shouldn’t be a problem.

Facilitating a friendly breakup between iPhoto and Flickr

In the 6 years I’ve been using Flickr I’ve used a variety of different methods to upload photos: the Uploadr for both PC and Mac, the updated web interface, and most recently, iPhoto. Uploading via iPhoto 11 seemed great at first (and a huge improvement over doing so with iPhoto 9): I could add all my titles, descriptions, tags and (corrected when necessary) location data, hit share, wait for the upload, then I was done.

Then the problems started.

I knew that iPhoto was not just uploading to Flickr, but syncing with it. I understood that if I deleted a photo from iPhoto it would also disappear from Flickr, but this wasn’t going to be a problem because I didn’t intend to delete anything from iPhoto if I liked it enough to put it on Flickr.

What was a problem was that iPhoto was happily syncing files in the other direction – copying images from my first 5 years of Flickr use to my SSD. Duplicating photos I already had stored on my laptop and consuming valuable SSD space. This might have been useful if it was pulling all the titles and descriptions too, but it wasn’t. When I stumbled across the duplicated photos (by viewing the last image in the Photos view and hitting the right arrow key) I checked the info and all I got was a message that said “This photo was downloaded from your Flickr account.” I tested what would happen if I deleted one of the downloaded photos: it got wiped from Flickr too.

The next problem was that one day I noticed all the photos I’d uploaded via iPhoto were now appearing in a random order within their sets on Flickr. Not the order I uploaded them, not chronologically, not any order that made any sense. Since I hadn’t touched the sets in Flickr I could only surmise it was iPhoto doing something weird and tricksy behind the scenes.

These two problems being annoying and out of my control I decided to sever the link between iPhoto and Flickr. The problem with this was I’d read quite a few horror stories about entire Flickr collections being wiped when people tinkered with this connection. But, happily, after quite a lot of research (and a surprising amount of angst) I’ve been able to separate the two without losing anything (apart from the duplicates I wanted to ditch). This is how I did it:

1. BACK UP THESE TWO FILES:

Macintosh HD/Users/[username]/Pictures/iPhoto Library.photolibrary
Macintosh HD/Users/[username]/Library/Preferences/com.apple.iPhoto.plist *
(If you’re using Lion you’ll need to make the Library folder visible first.)

2. Flickr:

Go to the Sharing & Extending section of your account Flickr account. Scroll down to “Account links” and click “edit”. Find “iPhoto OS X” and click “Remove permission?” next to it. Tick the checkbox and confirm your selection on the next page. Now iPhoto no longer has the power to do anything to your Flickr photos.

3. iPhoto:

Open your iPhoto preferences and choose “Accounts”. A message like this one will likely pop up:

iPhoto is no longer authorized

Hit “Cancel”. Select your Flickr account in the Accounts panel and hit the minus button underneath it. A message like this one should pop up:

Are you sure...

It’s only talking about removing the photos it downloaded from Flickr, it won’t touch images in your normal iPhoto library that you uploaded to Flickr. Leave the checkbox empty and hit “Remove”. The photos downloaded from Flickr will appear in iPhoto’s trash – empty it to get rid of them. (Then empty your OS trash for a permanent delete.)

Now your Flickr collection is safe, the duplicates are gone, and iPhoto and Flickr will have nothing more to do with each other. Hooray!

But, how now to upload anything? I think I’ll most likely be investing in Flickery which allows you to export your edited photos (with all their metadata) from iPhoto and do a one-way upload to Flickr without any of this syncing nonsense. (Uploading is also just a small part of what Flickery does, you can download a free trial via the website to check it out. On top of all this, the developer is super quick to respond to any queries and very helpful. )

* Why back up the preference file? This is where iPhoto’s connection with Flickr is saved. While experimenting with the above steps I restored my original iPhoto library after step 3 because I thought something had gone wrong. (It hadn’t.) This meant that the photos downloaded from Flickr were back but mostly hidden and unable to be deleted, and as far as iPhoto’s preferences were concerned the link with Flickr was already gone so I couldn’t repeat step 3 to push those downloaded files into the trash again. After much hair tearing I hit upon the idea of taking the iPhoto preference file from my external back up and copying it over the one on my laptop. This enabled me to go through step 3 again and delete those little suckers for good (freeing up almost 1GB of SSD space)!

1 iPhone, 2 (or more) iTunes accounts

I bought my iPhone 3GS a year before moving to the UK so by the time I arrived I’d accumulated a lot of apps from the Australian iTunes store. Living in the UK I also wanted access to UK-only apps such as transport, banking and special offer apps that aren’t available from the Australian store. I did some research online and found stories from people that had converted their account from one country to another but it meant they were no longer able to update apps that were downloaded from the original store: they were stuck at whatever version was downloaded before the change. Eventually I found out you can sync multiple accounts (from various countries) to the same device through iTunes, so that’s what I ended up doing.

I currently have 3 accounts synced to my iPhone:

  1. My original account (Australian iTunes store)
  2. My new account (UK iTunes store)
  3. Alex’s account (Australian iTunes store)

For the UK store I created a new account with one of my other email addresses and used my UK bank account details. My Australian account is still active as I still have an Australian bank account. I generally leave iTunes and my iPhone logged into my Australian account, but if I want to download an app only available on the UK store all I need to do is log out of the iTunes store and log back in again with my UK details. You are automatically redirected to the UK store where you can then download apps (or music for that matter) the same way you would with your usual account.

You can also sync friends’ or family members’ accounts as anyone can share their account with up to 5 other computers. This so families can share music or apps without everyone having to pay for and download them individually. (I wish I’d figured this out earlier as Alex and I have both bought the same apps on multiple occasions but only one of us needed to have paid for it!) To do this:

  1. Open iTunes
  2. Go to the iTunes Store
  3. Click your username in the top right corner
  4. Click “Sign Out”
  5. Click “Sign In” in the top right corner
  6. The person who is going to share their account with you now needs to log in with their details
  7. iTunes will ask if you want to authorise this computer for this account – say yes
  8. Search for apps your friend/family member has already purchased
  9. The button for the app will say DOWNLOAD instead of showing a price – click this and the app will be downloaded to your iTunes at no additional cost
  10. When you sync your device the new apps will be copied over
  11. To get back to your account log out of the other person’s, log back in as yourself and continue using the iTunes store as normal

The only trick with multiple accounts is you can only update apps for the account you are currently logged into. You can do this from your iPhone but I find the easiest way is via iTunes:

  1. Open iTunes
  2. Go to Apps (the number displayed next to this will be the total number of app updates are available for regardless of which account they came from)
  3. Click “# Updates Available” in the lower right corner
  4. Click “Download All Free Updates” – this will only download the updates available for the apps you downloaded from the account you are currently logged into in the iTunes store
  5. Go to the iTunes Store
  6. Log out of that account, log into the next one (so if one of the accounts is a friend’s and they don’t trust you with their password – as anyone probably shouldn’t! – then your friend will need to log in for you each time you want to download updates for apps from their account)
  7. Go back to Apps > # Updates Available
  8. Click “Download All Free Updates”
  9. Repeat steps 5-8 until all apps from all accounts are up to date
  10. Resync iTunes with your device

It may seem a bit convoluted at first but once you get used to it it’s not so bad. Enjoy!

Running Baldur’s Gate on Windows XP

Baldurs Gate 4 in 1After all that talk about travel, I’m kicking this off with something random instead! (This is actually a repost of a note I wrote on facebook a few years ago but I’d like to give it a wider audience.)

Baldur’s Gate is quite possibly my favourite PC game of all time. Back in August 2008 I bought the 4-in-1 boxset to play it again on the laptop I’d recently purchased. I could hardly believe how difficult it was to get it running smoothly on a (then?) high-spec machine. I spent days sifting through forums, tweaking settings and doing multiple installs/uninstalls, until I finally worked how to get it running beautifully:

  1. Install Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast.
  2. Patch with the 5512 (non DX8) patch from here. (Seemingly no longer available from the current Bioware website.) It’s also possible newer re-releases of Baldur’s Gate will include this patch in a folder on the disc.
  3. Patch again with the Widescreen mod from The Gibberling’s Three and set to your desired resolution (1440×900 for me). This is optional but if you do install it you get to see so much more of the map during in-game play, it’s awesome. :D
  4. Go to Start > Run > dxdiag.
  5. Go to the Display tab and disable DirectDraw Acceleration.
  6. Start a new game in Baldur’s Gate.
  7. Go into the Graphic settings and make sure they’re set to 16 bit. (I couldn’t find any success stories from anyone running 32 bit.)
  8. Enable Software Transparent BLT.
  9. DON’T disable Full Screen mode (this gave me heaps of errors).
  10. Optional: up the framerate in Baldur.ini then Config.exe.

My system specs:
Windows XP
2.4 GHz dual processor
3GB RAM
NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics card