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4. April 2015

Well, that was fast. It feels like Christmas was just last week and now suddenly it’s Easter again – how did that happen? It doesn’t help much that Easter is very early this year and the weather has been less like early spring and more like late winter, so it really doesn’t feel like the season with the eggs and the bunnies! But at least it’s not as bad as 2013 when we actually had snow on Good Friday. I hope everyone’s having a nice Easter holiday weekend – this year, I don’t have much of a program except some recycled content and some pretty pictures, but I’d still I’d like to wish everyone a nice Easter holiday! This post is just a little roundup of what I’ve been doing lately on the web – so what has everybody else been up to?

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30. January 2015

Google Chrome has really become my favourite browser after Opera completely abandoned its former self and just became a Chrome clone, but not everything’s great and sometimes Google does some incredibly annoying things, like recently… In the last few days, there have been a smatter of complaints about the overhauled and simplyfied bookmarks, ironically called the Enhanced Bookmarks Experiment, which seem to have been switched on after some users upgraded to version 40.

But don’t panic if you are suddenly confronted with a square-y, colourful mess where your good, old bookmarks manager used to be – there is an easy way to go back to the old system. Just go to chrome://flags and search for “bookmarks” – or copy & paste or click the link below:

» chrome://flags/#enhanced-bookmarks-experiment

Here you can set the switch to disabled and bring the experiment to a swift end – if it doesn’t work right away, close all Chrome instances and restart the browser. The “Enhanced Bookmarks” were also previously available as an extension but now seem to have been merged directly into Chrome – if you had the extension installed sometime previously, this flag also switches back to the old bookmarks manager. Your bookmarks will not be deleted or compromised, even if you chose not to sync them with the cloud.

There’s no guarantee that this will work forever, but there has been a pretty strong backlash against the new bookmarks manager and hopefully Google will listen to the users and throw this sorry attempt at modernization away or at least make it usable.

AndroidGoogle+Social Media
21. January 2015

I’ve been using Google Hangouts as a text chat communications tool for a while now on both computer and tablet and despite some limitations, it really works great – IF it works, that is. That was unfortunately not the case when Google released an update of the Android Hangouts App – version 2.5.x – in mid-December, which seems to have completely broken the background push notifications and message synchronization of the app. Notifications only arrived when the app was actually in the foreground and messages appeared in the wrong order and often only when scrolling down manually. Notifications from all other apps including the Facebook Messenger worked perfectly, so it was not a general system problem and on my older tablet under Android 4.0.3 the problem did not even occur, so the Jellybean 4.1.1 of my current tablet didn’t seem at fault.

In short, the app became completely unusuable, and from the Play Store reviews it looked like I wasn’t the only one with this problem. There were various approaches to fixing the broken notifications, but from setting the notification sounds back and forth to switching notifications on and off in both the app and the system settings to several complete reinstalls, nothing worked. Then I read somewhere about the unlikely radical approach of removing and re-adding the Google account in the system settings, which surprisingly worked! It seems that something fundamental in the synchronization of the account was broken and only this drastic step fixed it.

The full steps that fixed the problem on my tablet were:
• Uninstall the Hangouts App. If it’s a system app on your device, uninstall all updates.
• Remove the Google account – if there are more than one, remove them all just in case.
• Re-Add all the Google accounts one by one. This might take some time because there will by a lot of synchronization in the background.
• Re-install the Google Hangouts app from the Play Store.
• Test the background notifications and make your preferred settings in the app.
• Rebooting with the Google accounts removed should be avoided, because some apps may not like it and could stop working, making reinstalls necessary. Other Google apps like Google+ did not notice the temporary removal of the Google accounts.

This should work in the more stubborn cases of broken Hangouts notifications – if this doesn’t fix it, only a  What I noticed is that the process was not running when the problem occured, but appeared afterwards – obviously this service is the one handling all the notifications for the Hangouts app and for some reason it breaks on certain systems when the new 2.5.x version is installed.

One other peculiarity I noticed is that you are not getting any sort of notifications anymore on your mobile devices while you have a chat window open on a computer in the browser or in the Chrome hangouts extension. This especially happens when you use the older 2014.1119 version, which pops up the chat window as soon as a message arrives, while the newer 2014.1204 doesn’t open windows automatically and instead shows the messages as notifications on the app icon first, only marking notifications as read when a chat window is actually open.

I hope this article is going to be some help for those who encounter the same problems, as there don’t seem to many solutions out there.

Bibra-OnlineGoogle+Science & AstronomySocial Media
31. December 2014

For the last blog post of 2013, I did something unusual by posting a collection of Google+ circles and for the end of 2014 I wanted to repeat this and make it a regular feature in the future. This is not as easy as it sounds because most of my circles are utter chaos, but once again I chose some of my most important circles to share at the end of this year to highlight and thank all the amazing people I’ve met there. I originally shared the circles yesterday directly on Google+ and this is just a blog article collecting those posts together, but in addition I also included a few of my Twitter lists here in this year’s post because this medium has also become a great source of information and interaction. But before we go on…


Google+ Circles

Photography Essentials – This first one is my “small” Photography circle of people I mainly found in the beginning over two years ago, although the size of this circle has doubled in the last twelve months. These are people whose posts I don’t want to miss even when I don’t have time to look at all the other circles. Don’t be disappointed if you’re not in there – there are two more much bigger photo circles coming up after this!

Photography One – This is the first part of my “big” hand-picked Photographer circles. Everybody from the Essentials circle is also in here, plus everyone I noticed in other circles, who plussed or commented on my posts or who I learned to know through other people. If you’re not in there, either I haven’t noticed you yet or you don’t fulfil my one requirement: you have to post your own work. There are only original photography content creators in here.

Photography Two – The second part of my “big” Photographers circle. I had to split it to be able to share it because of the 500 user limit. This one has already grown almost up to the limit and there will be a Photography Three circle in the future.

Science, Space & Astronomy – One of the other things I try to get involved in, or at least promote, is everything about these three fields and for this reason I have a hand-picked circle with everything about science, spaceflight and exploration and astronomy around. It’s a relatively low-noise group, but everyone from space journalists and scientists from the CosmoQuest & Universe Today crowd, many astronauts and a lot more people are in here. If you want even more, have a look at Fraser Cain’s Super Science Circle, on which my circle was originally partly based on – but it has taken on a kind of life of its own during the last year.

CosmoQuest, Universe Today & Co – This is a slightly more condensed circle and could be called “Friends of”, because in addition to the scientists and journalists working for CosmoQuest, Universe Today, The Planetary Society and Astronomers Without Borders, it also contains all those people who have or have had some connection to them. Most of those people are in the previous circle, too.

Astrophotographers – There is some overlap with the Science circle, but I chose use a separate circle for astrophotography to see all the beautiful images in one place. Credit where credit is due, though: this circle is also based, but not completely similar, to one with the same name originally shared by Fraser Cain.

Twitter Lists

Science & Astronomy – The first three lists are the Twitter companions to the Google+ lists of the same name, only with more and sometimes different people. This is where the conversation and often breaking science news happens – if a supernova goes off, a meteor comes down or something exciting happens in space exploration and science, this is often where you can hear about it first.

CosmoQuest – A further condensed science circle only with scientists, journalists and other people loosely affiliated with CosmoQuest, Universe Today and related organizations.

Astrophotographers – Even more semi-professional Astrophotographers are active on Twitter and that is where they often post their photos

Astromomers – This is actually a link to a Twitter list from Fraser Cain, who put together a great collection of astronomers who are active there.

Astronauts – There are a lot of future, active and retired astronauts on Twitter and I’ve tried to collect them all in this list, which I’m sure is still incomplete.

Astronauts on the ISS – This list has only the Twitter-using astronauts which are currently on the International Space Station – as of late December 2014, half of the crew is actively tweeting!

Spaceflight – Everybody and everyone related to spaceflight in all its forms, from the various NASA accounts to mission project leaders and the private space companies.

And this is the end of 2014 – let’s see what 2015 will bring! :-)

23. December 2014

I’d like to wish all family, friends, regular readers, commenters and all other visitors Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, A Happy New Year or any other holiday greetings you prefer! Myself, I like Happy Newtonmas because Isaac Newton was born on December 25th, but I’m very democratic in that respect and let everyone celebrate the the holiday you prefer.

Last year I basically skipped the year-end retrospective I usually write at this point because I wasn’t feeling very well, but this year I’m a lot better and I’ll do at least a little roundup. Let’s just say that 2014 was a lot better than 2013 – it has been very busy and while I only got around to do a fraction of what I had originally planned to do with the websites, it’s been a lot of fun and especially the interaction over the social networks has reached a whole new dimension.

The Photography Blog, now renamed at least temporarily to GB Photography to give it a proper name, is actually the only one of the three websites I’m regularly active on at the moment. I usually post several photos per day, mainly because I built up such a huge backlog especially of flower photos that I have still enough to go even if I don’t take another photo for weeks. But that’s not going to happen, because I finally managed to snag a new camera on Ebay in November – I wanted a little upgrade ever since I found out in Spring that the camera I bought the previous year has some lens sharpness issues. Next year is going to be even better with the photography and maybe I’ll finally get around to redesign the photography blog and the galleries. But posting the photos on Google+ has been almost as important, because the feedback there has been absolutely phenomenal and the photography community is amazing to say the least.

In contrast to the photography, the movie and DVD reviewing over on DVDLog has been on a bit of a backburner this year, mostly because there was not so much to write about and I didn’t get around to do as many translations of older reviews as I wanted. But I did get some reviews done including a  television five-parter in the fall about Brian Cox’ new series – and I still have a couple of unreviewed discs lying around which I will get to next year. I have to admit that I really can’t keep the one-review-per-week rhythm up any longer, but I will try do get the site going more next year. I’ve also finished switching over everything into English including a new review index, but there is still a triple digit amount of great material to be properly translated – so this site will never die and I’ve never really thought about shutting it down. Just be patient, once in a while I will have something interesting.

This Blog here has also been subject of a slow transformation – it’s still my go-to outlet for everything that is not related to photography, movies and television, but the focus has been mainly on science and astronomy in 2014 because so much exciting things have happened. I usually leave the science reporting to the real reporters, but some things I just had to write about and I’ve made a kind of series out of the postings about the comings and goings on the International Space Station. I have also been very busy supporting CosmoQuest and there is also the Hangouts Schedule which I’ve kept updated ever since August – this will get a slight makeover and a move to a proper page in the new year. I’m also considering moving the whole site to the spiffy new domain I registered this year and there’s also the small, but important matter of making the theme compatible for mobile devices, but I will come to that when I really have some time.

As usual, I will not go completely offline over the holidays, but instead put DVDLog on a winter hiatus until February and slow down the Photo Blog a little bit to maybe two posts per day plus perhaps some collected galleries. Between Christmas and the new year I’ll maybe share some of my circles over on Google+ again like I did last year and then put them in a blog post – it’s certainly time for an update! But other than that, I’ll take a well deserved break and will not be much online until early next year.

Wishing everyone a nice and relaxing winter holiday – see you in 2015!

Bibra-OnlineGoogle+Social Media
8. September 2014

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.

22. June 2014

Two weeks ago, I posted a somewhat angry rant about what had transpired with the Google+ Android App on my tablet, but I think I have to write a kind of retraction as I already mentioned in an update of the original article. After things went really bad, they got a lot better – there were a couple of updates of the Google+ App in the last two weeks and the current version runs practically perfect now. Has Google really listened to the bug reports and fixed the fatal problem with the edit box? It seems so, because I can now post again without problems with the app and it seems it has become even faster than before. So, kudos to Google for making the Google+ app really useful again – I forgive them, they’re not perfect and make mistakes, but they are always relatively quick fixing them.

The Google+ App in action – the two top bars seem huge, but they scroll away if you swipe down!
(No, I actually don’t use the app in landscape mode all the time, it just fits the article better.)

There is still one aspect of the Android App and its mobile web counterpart that puzzles me, though: if you start a post from the main screen, you can choose a photo – but only from the highlights or local storage, not from your albums. For that, you have to go to the photo section of the app, choose the image and share it from there . This is not a very big deal, but surprisingly counter-intuitive to the openness of the app from which you should be able to access all of your Google+ content from everywhere. The exclusion of the Albums from the “quick share” option has been in the app from the beginning and seems like a glaring omission – this is, after all, a great tool for photographers who want to share their content and having to make a detour like this feels a little strange, especially because the option is there in the desktop version.

Apart from these slight imperfections, the Google+ App has improved so much over the last few months and using it even on a small 7″ tablet is extremely comfortable. Are there other improvements on the way? We’ll have to see – Wednesday and Thursday is the Google I/O conference and there are usually a lot of updates around the corner. It’s entirely possible that the web interface of Google+ gets revamped again like it happened last year. Stay tuned, and don’t panic if something looks different :-).

8. June 2014

Warning, this is a bit of a rant and the reason why I didn’t post as many photos today as usual… Recently, the Google+ Android App got a big update with some interesting and useful design changes and a lot of improvements under the hood, which meant that for the first time the app didn’t slow down my whole tablet to a crawl. Reading, posting comments, even the problematic browsing of my own photo galleries works perfectly and I seemed to have a completely new tablet because everything else became lightening fast.

But today, I actually tried to post something and my tablet locked up to the point that I had to make a hard reset – the pin-in-hole kind. On the next reboot, the whole tablet was extremely slow, probably because the crash had damaged the database of the G+ app. It took me almost two hours to deinstall the app and then I also had to deinstall Chrome and Hangouts because they also slowed up the device. After reinstalling the three, everything worked fine again. And then I tried to post again and exactly the same thing happened. At the moment I’m on round three and have come to the conclusion that it’s pointless: the sharing/writing component of the Google+ app simply breaks my tablet.

This should not happen on a device which I just bought last year – it’s by no means a high-end tablet, but Android 4.1.1 on an 1.6 GHz dual-core cpu with 1 GB RAM should really be enough to run the Google+ app, which works absolutely fine until you want to actually post something. Interestingly, on my older tablet which only has a 1.2 GHz single-core processor and 512 MB RAM, the share/edit box does not crash, so I fear that this whole thing is a bad bug only happening on certain devices. The problematic thing is that I cannot even file a proper bug report because the tablet even crashes doing that! This is all extremely frustrating to the point that I just want to give up.

Option A would be going back to the older version, which is not really acceptable because it slows down my whole tablet and needs constant cache-clearing to keep it working. Posting, with a lot of patience, works though, but it’s hardly worth the effort.

Option B would be keeping the new version for reading and commenting, but not posting. This would mean that I would only be able to post via the WordPress Publicize feature to Google+, and that means especially for posting photos that I won’t be able to post full-size images to Google+ any more. I am seriously considering this for the hot days when I can’t use the laptop much over the day, although I might post the full-size photos later.

Option C would be for Google to fix this bug!! I don’t want to complain about something that’s free, but I’m really frustrated at this point of having the possibility to do everything comfortably from the tablet, but being prevented by buggy software from it. Come on, Google – you’re better than this! The G+ app is the best thing out there and should not suffer from bugs like this.

Option D only occurred to me the next morning – why not use the G+ mobile website? To my surprise, the mobile website now hast about 90% of the features of the app and getting to my albums to post photos certainly seems no problem. And because I’m already in the mobile web browser using WordPress I would not even need to switch apps, only tabs. I’ll be testing this later today.

The bottom line is, I don’t have anything against Google+ and actually love the Android app especially in the new version, but if such a bug prevents me from sharing content from my mobile device, what can I say? Please fix this problem, Google!

In the unlikely event anyone from Google actually reads this post, my tablet is an Odys Genio running Android 4.1.1 on a 1.6 GHz dual-core Rockchip RK3066 processor with 1 GB RAM and 8 GB flash, not rooted or anyhow else modified from the factory version.

[Update June 17th: It seems like the recent version from June 13th has fixed the crash on the posting box, at least on my tablet. Did someone from Google really listen to my bug reports or was that just coincidence? I have no idea! I’m going to write another post soon about this issue.]

Kategorie: Android, Google+
18. April 2014

What, another Easter, I thought we had that just last year? Oh well, another year has come and gone and 2014 at least brings a little warmer weather than last year, when we even had a little snow on a very early Good Friday. I hope everyone’s having a nice Easter holiday weekend – I’m going to take it very easy this year and although I have several things lined up on my websites, there won’t be tons of new material. So, with this post I’d like to wish everyone a nice Easter holiday!

Over on DVDLog, I’m just going to repost last year’s review of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? later, which I had translated to English for the first time back then. It’s more of a joke than a real easter movie and I really should have prepared another review, but I’m not very good at writing long articles at the moment, so I’m just using the archives a little bit. More Sherlock Holmes will be coming soon and some other random reviews. But contrary to what it may look I’m certainly not giving up the website, just slowing down a little bit. I still have so much great stuff to write about and older articles to translate.

The Photography Blog is where I’m most active at the moment, posting at least four images a day and having a lot of fun interacting via Google+ with other photographers all over the world. I’m posting mainly flowers at the moment, but in addition to the City Views series I have also started a River Views collection with some of my favourite photos from our local waterfront. What I still haven’t done is redesign the blog and the galleries, although I have at least now translated the complete frontend into English. A new design will be coming, I just haven’t found the perfect new look yet, let alone a proper name for the website!

And here on the old main Blog or website or whatever you may call it, I’m still posting a mix of computer geekyness, webdesign and, of course, science and astronomy, of which there will be somewhat more in the next few days because there’s a certain event next weekend I want to promote as much as possible. I will start with that tomorrow and post a couple of articles over the course of the next week. (Also, there’s a SpaceX rocket launch attempt this evening at 21:25 CEST which you can watch live on NASA TV :-). I’m also going to continue the Vintage Computing series at some point, but the next postings still need a lot of preparation and research, so it might be a while until that’s ready.

So, this was this year’s Easter update – not much, but at least a little something. Have a nice Easter, everybody! As usual, you can follow my web exploits on Google+, Facebook or Twitter, although I’d recommend Google+ if you want to interact with me as I’m only really active there.

14. March 2014

A recent post of a fellow photographer over on Google+ got me thinking about the dynamic of circles and plusses. If a couple of thousand people have you in their circles, you should get an equal amount of plusses, right? It turns out that it doesn’t really work that way and the amount of users who have you circled often stands in absolutely no relation to the amount of plusses you get.

I’m not complaining, quite the contrary – but sometimes I wonder why some of my posts seem to attract no attention at all while others are surprising hits. While it’s not really all about the plusses, each one means a little more motivation. My experiences can be humorously summed up in this way:

Post a series about 30-year-old computers: land on the What’s Hot list for the first few articles and get more than 400 plusses, but then further articles get almost nothing.

Post a photo of a 30-year-old computer mainboard: get more than 50 plusses.

Post your usual photos: get between 10-20 plusses, sometimes a bit more.

Post a link to a movie review you’ve worked on for a couple of evenings: one or two plusses maximum.

Reshare posts of science stuff like awesome hangouts that really matter to me: <crickets>

The last two are actually not surprising, since most of the users who have circled me care about photography, but less about science and movies. I just haven’t found the right crowd yet for this, but there are already some signs of improvement lately.

Somewhat puzzling is also the difference between the amount of image views and the plusses – for example, a recent picture of two daffodil blossoms just got 19 plusses, but over 3000 views. One of the photos of a C64 I’ve used to illustrate a Vintage Computing article almost has 200000 views, but then the post itself also got over 400 pluses. Mostly my photos seem to get between 100 and 300 views, but a couple go into the thousands and don’t have more plusses than the others. One problem is that nobody seems to know how the image views are counted – does a view mean a user really clicked on an image and viewed it large or just that it appeared in his stream?

The best method to get noticed on Google+ is, of course, to actually talk to people by having conversations in the comments – if you get to know someone better, you’re also bound to give them a plus or two occasionally. While I give out plusses quite liberally for a group of selected people just because I like what they post on Google+, I do not automatically expect them to do the same with my posts. It’s not a “I plus you and you plus me” game, but when someone gives me a plus, I almost always take a look at their profile and may also give them some plusses if I like their work. Google+ is all about discovering other people and this is often only the first step. Of course there’s a lot more, but I won’t even go into the use of hashtags and all the photography themes, because then this article would never end!

Again, I’m not complaining, just observing and noticing, because despite the sometimes erratic feedback, Google+ is a lot of fun and I’ve learned to know many fascinating people from all over the world whom I would never have met otherwise!

Kategorie: Google+