Category Archives: Uncategorized

Breaking: 3rd June 2015 – the BBC has broken get_iplayer (contains workarounds)

July 2015 Update: Please read this article FIRST.


Just a quick update from my mate Crispy, to point out that SquarePenguin is alerting us to a change that has broken iPlayer.

Either use the workaround SquarePenguin provides OR use the workaround of copying and pasting the url of the programme from iPlayer directly into get_iplayer here.

Welcome back!

When I started off this blog – let’s be honest, I had some time on my hands – in which to bumble around in the global super highway.

Three years on – and my quest is sharper. I have had some real – and seemingly rare requirements – for which I have either had great difficulty in finding an appropriate solution – or I have discovered something so awesome that it really is a gem. Either way, this blog aims to bring those gems to light for those still searching – and who happen on this page in the process.

I could have not bothered and kept this all to myself – but a few months ago, I found myself reading quite a popular (and amusing) UK blog from a guy who works in advertising (so I figure – he should be good at doing this blog stuff). In his “about me section” he made a big point of having 800 readers per month – so curious, I decided to check mine. I was surprised to find some real Long Tail stuff – in that although I last posted an update 10 months ago, I am still getting a steady readership of 700-1000 people a month – so I thought that it was about time I gave you something new to read.

To be crystal clear, this blog will only feature those things that I consider to be absolute gems – and usually unique and the sort of thing that you have been searching for (and not finding) for some time now.

Each gem represents a solution to a problem that I have genuinely been searching for – and while I am normally successful in that search, there are two things that stubbornly evade me:

1. A simple calorie counter for Windows Mobile. i.e. something that you can type in the number of calories (as you eat them) and it will present a daily/weekly/monthly fat-boy guilt total.

2. A real gem of a free house design/floor plan program. The closest I have got so far, is Dibanet from Roca and the Ikea kitchen and bathroom design software.


How to make sure your Broadband/ADSL goes as fast as possible – if you live in the UK.

Entry re-published 20/1/2015  – in order to update some of the links

Doing one or more of the following could have a positive impact on your broadband speed:

1. Buy one of these for 12 quid: it just plugs in to your BT Master socket (you unscrew the old one – a 3 year old could do it) and gives you a less noisy signal along with two outlets – one pre filtered for your phone and the other for your broadband.

2. Buy one of these for £6.49 to go between your new faceplate and your ADSL modem: they come in longer lengths, see: but try and buy the shortest that you can get away with.

3. Optimise the service that your ISP is giving to you:

a) Find out what your actual upload and download speed is (despite the speed that your modem might have told you that it connected at) by going here: clip_image002   and clicking on the spinning Orange Pyramid. This will give you an idea of your real throughput – and you can use this to measure if any of the steps listed have made an improvement.

b) Go to and check the maximum speed that BT thinks your line can provide by hitting the “Further Diagnostics” button at the bottom of the page once the initial broadband speed tests have run. Note: that this site can get choc-a-bloc – so don’t be surprised if it takes a number of goes and crashes half way through …..

c) If the results from b) is a lot higher than a) it could be that your line is syncing at a higher speed than your ISP is providing you a service at. For example, your line might have synced at 6MB – and be capable of giving you a 6MB broadband connection – but your ISP may only be providing you a 2MB service – for example. Check your contract (to see what speed you signed up for) and talk to your ISP if the actual speed is a lot less than you could get – and which you signed up for.

d) A final/concurrent check, would be to go here: and check the status of your telephone exchange – because if there is a problem with capacity there – your ISP can’t do much about it.

WinDirStat – a clever visual representation of the contents of your hard drive

Here’s the scenario: you have a home PC and the hard drive is running out of free space (again). You don’t know what’s on there – but you suspect that the kids have been downloading videos from their phones and YouTube etc, etc – but you can’t instantly see where all these videos are in order to delete them (as Dad’s we need to get our own back sometimes …..).

Step forward WinDirStat by an unassuming guy called  imageOliver Schneider who, building on the work of some other clever folk, has managed to find a way of both visualising the contents of a hard drive – while at the same time providing a way to quickly identify what files are what.

You really need to download WinDirStat to see what I am wittering on about, but once it has run on a specific folder or entire drive (can take a while depending on the size of the drive) you can click on the representation of large files – and it will tell you precisely which files they are. Conversely, if you you want to know how much space your .avi files are taking up – just select the file type .avi and WinDirStat will outline all the .avi files.

What Oliver doesn’t mention, but is a real cool facility for System Administrators, is the ability to click on a file and automatically send an email to the owner telling them what the file is, the file size – complete with pre-configured text of your choice telling them to delete the file etc.

FreeMind – free mind mapping software

I have spent ages looking for free software that would allow me to map out thoughts and ideas and the interconnections between them all – before I finally lose the plot altogether…..

imageYou could do this with Visio, but I don’t have a copy – and if I did, I am probably too lazy to read the manual.

Let’s face it, mind mapping software is pretty niche – so there is not a lot of it about. I think that Freemind is the best – it is a real gem – particularly as it is free.

Send and receive Windows Live Hotmail from within Outlook with the new Microsoft Office Outlook Connector

Trying to send and receive Windows Live (previously Hotmail) email from within Outlook used to be a confusing affair. Some said it couldn’t be done, others could sync using POP3 and some could only sync with POP3 if they had paid for the premium service. [If I have got this wrong – please don’t bother to correct me – it’s hardly relevant and a little bit nerdy to be honest].

Whatever…. that is all in the past and you can now banish the Outlook syncing blues by using the latest Microsoft Office Outlook Connector.

I have tried it with both Windows Live and Hotmail – and it works a treat. There are stories on the net that it also works with Googlemail/Gmail – not that you really need that functionality – see my earlier post.

Speed up Outlook 2007

Microsoft has released an update (KB933493) which:

 “fixes a problem in which a calendar item that is marked as private is opened if it is found by using the Search Desktop feature. The update also fixes performance issues that occur when you work with items in a large .pst file or .ost file.”

I would recommend anyone running Outlook 2007 to install this.

JkDefrag – best free defrag utility I have bumped into in a while.

Having a home PC that seems to be rapidly filling up with junk – aka Dolly Parton MP3’s – I have found that defragmenting (optimally arranging the way that files take up space on the HD to enable faster access) is something that I need to do regularly.

I seem to have tried them all (well, all the free defrag tools) Sysinternals Contig, O&O Defragmenter and Auslogics etc, etc.

One tool that I had high hopes for (but it’s only a free trial for the first 30 days) was UltimateDefrag from Distrix. However, there have been stories of variable  support for Vista and the fact that (for me at least) the Distrix web site seems to have been off-air for two weeks now – not something that inspires confidence.

Quite by chance, I have stumbled on a free defragmenter called JkDefrag – which does support Vista – and is easy imagepeasy to use – no install, just run it and it works automatically (leave it to run overnight). The results, in my opinion, have been very good and as it uses Windows API’s, there is no chance of anything screwing up – a major consideration if it’s your precious data being shuffled round on the disk.