I like to keep tabs on who’s coming and going on the currently only human outpost in space, the International Space Station. Like every Spring and Autumn, it’s again time for crew changeovers with several of the half-year missions overlapping and ensuring that there are at least three, normally six but sometimes even nine astronauts on the station. Right now, there are only three up there, but tomorrow’s Soyuz launch will bring the crew contigent back up to six – and this expedition and the one that will be following it in November will be very special ones indeed. Let’s see who is coming, who is going and what other space traffic is in the vicinity of the ISS. [Image: Crew photo of Expedition 41]
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It’s Music Monday and I really need something cheerful, so Meri Amber to the rescue! The self-described Australian geek songstress has just released her next album, the six-plus-one-track Super EP, last weekend and while I sadly don’t have the energy right now to write up a full review, I can only highly recommend it for groovy and catchy tunes with quirky and thoughtful lyrics and meticulous musical arrangements. Meri is so generous to let everybody listen to her songs for free on her music streaming page and several other streaming services, but you can also buy all of her stuff at very reasonable prices in her own online shop in the form of actual CDs (remember those?) and digital downloads, which are also available almost everywhere like on Itunes and Amazon. I really recommend the higher-bitrate MP3s, because they sound so much better than the streaming versions and it’s after all the best way to support her musical endeavours!
Perhaps some visitors have already noticed those snazzy new icons in the top right sidebar – I put them there last week on all three websites because I thought the links to my social media profiles should be a bit more prominent now that I’m getting more and more involved in those. While my own websites are still my main headquarters and all the important content I post off-site will always appear here too, I’m not scoffing at social media any more and have actually found it enormeously fun and useful. So where can I be found except around here?
Google+ has rapidly become my favourite place on the web to connect to other people and share my content. My main focus there is on photography, but I always share all the links to my other blog postings too. The community and interaction is absolutely astonishing, wonderful and friendly – I’ve met some great people all over the world there. Rumours presist that Google+ is dead or dying, but after almost two years I now have over 4000 followers and over three million views on my posts and if that is not alive, I don’t know what is! Interaction is the key – writing comments, having conversations, joining and sharing circles and taking part in communities is what Google+ is all about. If you circle me on Google+, I will most probably circle you back if you post something interesting in your stream and perhaps give your posts some +1’s or comments.
Twitter was actually one of the first social media sites I mainly joined for fun back in 2011 and I haven’t really done much with it from my side except that I regularly tweet the updates from my websites by way of WordPress and only occasionally talk with people. 140 characters are simply not my thing, but in the other direction it’s almost entirely different – I follow over 300 people and enjoy my daily dose of tweets very much to keep up with everybody. I’m just not very good at this kind of high-frequency sharing myself, although I can certainly see the use of it as a communications tool. I actually have two different Twitter accounts: @guidobibra has the updates from all the websites, while I use @dvdlogger only as a legacy account for the DVDLog website.
Facebook has become more of a necessity than anything else. I have a few followers over there, but those are mainly family and friends who are not on Google+ and I exclusively post my website updates automatically from WordPress – although I sometimes write comments if I have something to say and will answer comments from others. This is mainly because I really don’t like Facebook from a technical standpoint – I hate the web interface, the official Android app is completely unusable and if it wasn’t for some third-party clients I would hardly look at my Facebook feed at all. I don’t intend to get involved into Facebook any more than I have to, so if you really want to interact with me, I would suggest Google+ instead – although I certainly won’t deny any Facebook friend requests or commenting.
Instagram is just a bit of fun for me than anything else. I actually installed the Android app to follow some other people, but because I’ve had a tablet with a very basic camera since last year, I have been posting the occasional crappy tabletcam shot there. It’s nothing really serious, I consider this throwaway stuff and the “real” photography will always appear on my websites. I actually like the Android app, but I have no idea if I will keep this up further because the tablet camera is a bit cumbersome. Although once I get a smartphone with a decent camera perhaps later this year, there could be more silly Instagram shots from me, so even if it’s still boring in my stream there, feel free to add me :-).
The first icon in the row is, of course, the RSS Feed which WordPress is still generating automatically and as long as the software supports it, I will continue to provide a feed. Even with the untimely death of the Google Reader last year, the format is stronger than ever and other services like Feedly have risen to the occasion and filled the gap perfectly. If you add my blogs to your feed, you’ll always get my articles as soon as they’re published here!
Okay, that’s enough self-promotion for now. I’m actually not really good at this sort of thing and I almost threw this article away, but sometimes you just have to toot your own horn :-).
About the Icons: Credit where credit is due – the four in the post logo are from Brainleaf Communications, I just loved that retro look and had to use this free icon pack in this article. The icons in the sidebar are based on a collection called Socialtograms put together by Steffen Norgard Andersen – I was trying to find something simple and was already half through creating some from the app icons, but these really hit the spot and I think they fit well into the websites.
Recently, my provider had updated the server my webspace is hosted on to PHP 5 and while at first I didn’t notice anything wrong, there actually was a creeping background problem: all WordPress installations refused to send out any emails and in some cases even timeout error messages appeared from the PHPMailer module.
After some unsuccessful digging, I found a post on the bugtracker of PHPMailer regarding an incompatibility with PHP 5.2 – apparently there is a problem with this particular PHP version related to the Regex function. So if you suddenly have those error messages, like a timeout in class-phpmailer.php on line 879 in the case of WordPress, check what PHP version your webserver is running. In my case, the server defaults to 5.2, but I was able to switch it with the line AddHandler php55-cgi .php in the .htaccess file to 5.5 and then everything worked again.
If your webhost supports this method of switching to different PHP versions, this will fix the problem – if not, you have to ask your webspace hoster to switch versions or install a higher version yourself. Reportedly anything above 5.3 works, but I only tested it with 5.5 and it works fine with WordPress 3.9.2 and the release candidate of 4.0.