How to record screen (or part) on a Mac via Mojave OS

This is just an opportunity to point people to Apple’s excellent help page on this topic, with instructions and screenshots. Go here for more https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT208721

Shift+Command+5 brings up a resizable window (adjust to select an area you want to record, or click the ‘whole screen’ option). You can tweak the settings to include the inbuilt mic if you want your video to have spoken instructions. To end the recording you need to press Shift+Command+5 again at which point you can edit out the ending (the bit of you moving the mouse to press ‘stop’) from the recording, and you can shorten it at either end.

Give it about 3 seconds after you press record before speaking as there seems to be a slight delay and I’ve found it generally misses off the first few words. Recommend doing a test 10 sec recording first.

Once you’ve completed the recording a small pop up version appears at the bottom right of the screen (on my system) and clicking it brings up the video with a panel at the top for editing. Click the button on the left of Done to shorten it (first pic below), and use the yellow drag bars (2nd pic below) to shorten it. You can click anywhere in the ‘tape strip’ and press play to see how your new ending / beginning changes things.

Screenshot 2019-08-23 13.09.58

Screenshot 2019-08-23 13.10.06

Here’s one I made earlier, which relates to Make Twitter Useable Again

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Basic photo watermarking on an iPhone

If you happen to take images of ‘stuff happening’ that might be newsworthy and that you want to share but not have mis-used there are apps that let you add a watermarks. I presume these watermarks can also be removed later, presumably by you (but perhaps by newspapers) so I might suggest screenshotting the image first and sharing that instead. Screenshotting also means minimal EXIF data. But you can do it without apps too and just draw your initials on the picture and only remove them when you send (by DM) a copy of the image to media sites you want to [though this won’t stop someone from passing it on I suppose…].

For iPhone users you can draw on any picture in the Camera roll –

  1. Make a duplicate copy of the photo first (to keep the original safe)
  2. Draw your watermark on the copy
  3. Screenshot the watermarked copy and share that (watermark possibly harder to remove because it’s no longer layered on top of the image, and EXIF data is hidden)
  4. Resizing the image if necessary

1. Duplicate the original

Have the photo open, click the upload icon (the one on the left in the all-blue icons picture below), then choose Duplicate which is the middle grey icon in the second image below. Note that you may have to scroll right to find this option.

1A

Screenshot 2019-08-17 20.32.58
Pic 1. It’s the one with the arrow bursting out of an empty box, on the left

1B

Screenshot 2019-08-17 20.34.21
Pic 2. Duplicate icon is a grey rectangle with a white + & a single grey rectangle behind.

Once you’ve created your duplicate open that one (you can slide back and forth between the two copies).

2. Draw your watermark

Click on the Edit option (on the right in the pic below), then choose the three overflow dots in a circle (•••), then click Markup.

2A
Screenshot 2019-08-17 20.38.56

2B
Screenshot 2019-08-17 20.40.34

2C
Screenshot 2019-08-17 20.41.44

You’ll have the option of various pen thicknesses, and colours to choose from. To select the colours click on the (()) symbol…

2D                         and                  2E
Screenshot 2019-08-17 20.56.45   Screenshot 2019-08-17 20.58.11

…or you can add text by clicking on the (+) at the end (in pic above).

2F
Screenshot 2019-08-17 20.55.56

Once you’ve added whatever watermark format you’ve chosen and clicked DONE twice (once in blue at the top right of the photo, and once in yellow at the bottom right) you’ve completed the ‘add watermark’ to your duplicate image bit of the process.

2G

IMG_1595.jpg
“Watermarked” image.

3. Screenshot it

Click on the image to remove the white borders (the bits saying the current date / time, battery info or whatever’s currently on your phone) and to see the image just on its own – usually with a black border at top and bottom. The two images in 3A below are identical, the only difference is the white or black border – this is a toggle-click, where clicking once hides the phone info and clicking again brings it back, and so on.

3A

Press the ON/OFF button and HOME button simultaneously (iPhone) to make a screenshot which is saved to your cameraroll. (You can do the white-border one too of course but may need to do an extra step of pruning out the additional info)

This is the image that you should share.

4. Resizing / removing the white or black borders

If you want to prune out the borders outside the relevant image, or only want to share a particular portion of the image then use the cropping tool to do this.

Click the image again to bring up the white borders which shows the options. Click Edit (see 2A), then the white square tool from 2B which will go white as shown at the bottom of the three images in the panel below.

Screenshot 2019-08-17 23.07.41.png

Left: the square button brings up the resizing boundary – you can use the corners or sides to shrink the picture. Middle – I’ve taken most of the top black border off and the resulting image now takes up more space on the screen. Right – I’ve pruned out all of the unnecessary bits. The next thing I click on is Done (in yellow, bottom right of each pic).

 

Using Dropbox on a phone to listen to media files offline

A version of this was originally posted here, this is updated with screenshots and adapted for playing files offline.

It’s fairly straightforward to save media files to your Dropbox and set them up on your phone so that you can listen or watch them when you’re without internet.

To begin with you will need

  • a laptop and a smartphone
  • a free Dropbox account
  • and the Dropbox app installed on your smartphone
  • wifi connectivity (you won’t need it later though)

Instructions

  • Save the media file into your Dropbox folder on your computer
  • open up the Dropbox app on your phone, and wait for the file to appear / sync, or if it’s already there just search for it or navigate to its folder

The example shown is a short beep (listen) from the machine checking tickets at the Royal Albert Hall (at a performance of a Star Trek film with a live orchestra!).

tricorderbeep03
Step 1. Click on the three ••• dots on the right hand side.
IMG_1260
Step 2. Click on the Make Available Offline option and wait
tricorderbeep01
Step 3. The rotating sync icon will take however long is needed to make the file available offline. I assume you will need some space on your phone to do this, especially for larger files.
tricorderbeep02
Step 4. Once you have the white arrow on the green circle icon you should be able to use that file without internet access. Check! If it doesn’t play check that your phone is able to play that file type.

Dropbox’s own help pages have a list of files that will play including music and video: https://help.dropbox.com/installs-integrations/photos/play-movie-audio-mobile – note that you may need to convert some files to a type of file that your phone can play so check before disconnecting from wifi / signal. They suggest Handbrake for conversion though I’ve only used Zamzar and Real Player).

Media filetypes that I’ve successfully played on my iPhone via Dropbox

  • .avi
  • .flv
  • .m4a (these are meant for iTunes, but work fine)
  • .mp3
  • .wmv

Music files listed on Dropbox help files that should work: .mp3, .aiff, .m4a, .wav

Video files previously listed on their help files that should work: .mov, .mp4, .m4v

Filetypes that I’ve not had much luck with

  • .m4r – ring tones, but these can be converted to .mp3 files via http://www.zamzar.com (I’ve just tried it, works fine)

Make Twitter Useable Again

Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.56.14

Yesterday I was infected with the #NewTwitter virus meaning that I’d been upgraded to Twitter’s latest changes. I’m pretty grumpy about unnecessary change, particularly as all my carefully tweaked settings were no longer working and I was exposed to the full horrors of what Twitter’s like on desktop (web browser) without these settings. Scrolling through I could see that “So and so follows X, who sent this tweet” (who cares?) or “So and so liked this tweet” (just show me their RTs). Grim 😉

I’ve thrown everything at it to reverse this and so far it’s holding fast.

  1. Try and go back to Old Twitter
  2. See latest tweets first (chronological Twitter)
  3. Unsuggest the suggested tweets (X follows Y, X liked Z)
  4. Hiding side panels (“Who to follow” & “Trends”) and promoted tweets
  5. Troubleshooting
  6. Not yet solved (1): Proper Length Tweets
  7. Not yet solved (2): Blimey the images take up a lot of space in comment RTs
  8. Things I like about New Twitter

1. See if you can restore “Legacy Twitter” aka OldTwitter

1a. Simple link
To get back to legacy Twitter I’ve found that this works but perhaps it won’t after a while. It’s lost if you refresh the page, but new tweets show up in a panel at the top (‘See XX new tweets’, example below) as before so it’s fine.

You must RIGHT-CLICK and open in new tab to make this work. Don’t click on the link.

No need to refresh the page to view new tweets as Twitter provides this auto-updating feature, clicking on it shows the latest tweets.Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.42.49

1b. “Good Twitter” extension / add on
This works by convincing your browser that it’s unable to support new Twitter, forcing it to display Old Twitter. I’ve seen good things about it on Twitter but use Firefox so haven’t tested it myself.

For Chrome users

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/goodtwitter/jbanhionoclikdjnjlcmefiofgjimgca

Screenshot 2019-07-26 22.52.10

If you find afterwards that videos seem to be mucked up have a look on that page in the Reviews section, it seems to be more due to Chrome than to the add on. You might need to log out and in again to get it to work and there’s an explanation on the main page as to why it says it wants access to your browser history (apparently it doesn’t, it just needs permission to clear the cache).

Other Chrome extensions: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/extensions

For Firefox users

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-GB/firefox/addon/goodtwitter/

Screenshot 2019-07-26 22.53.48

Other FireFox add-ons: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-GB/firefox/

1c. A bit more tinkering involved
There are also add-ons that might affect more than just Twitter, and a technique for typing in a string to override something. This might be getting a bit technical for me (and 1a worked for me so I’ve not tested further). The aim with all is to fool Twitter into thinking that your browser cannot support its latest version.

User-agent switcher for Firefox: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/uaswitcher/
User-agent switcher for Chrome: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/user-agent-switcher-for-c/djflhoibgkdhkhhcedjiklpkjnoahfmg

and

For those who just want to make the best of the new Twitter there are options to show latest tweets first, hide Who to follow suggestions, Trends and the in-timeline suggested tweets.

2. Show latest tweets first not ‘top tweets’ (chronological Twitter)

Once your Twitter home page looks like this at the top you should just see tweets in the order in which they’re sent…
Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.01.51

…to get there click on the blue stars icon and choose ‘Latest Tweets’ over ‘Home’. The bad news is that it will spontaneously revert so this is probably not a permanent solution. I’ve already tweaked my settings so the picture below gives me the option to return to the ‘wrong’ one.

Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.03.40

3. Removing the suggested tweets from timeline

This seems to be very effective though it takes quite a long time to manually paste all of the individual phrases into the ‘mute this word’ section. If anyone knows of a way to speed this up?

You can leap to your Muted Words setting on desktop here https://twitter.com/settings/muted_keywords on mobile it will be via the gear icon. See also Twitter’s help page on Muting stuff, which curiously doesn’t mention this.

For copying and pasting purposes the text types are: RankedOrganicTweet, ActivityTweet, suggested_rank_organic_tweet, suggest_sc_tweet, suggest_ranked_timeline_tweet, suggested_grouped_tweet_hashtag, suggest_pyle_tweet, suggested_recycled_tweet_inline, suggest_activity_tweet, suggest_recycled_tweet, suggest_activity, suggest_recap, suggest_who_to_follow, generic_activity_Highlights

I set these so that they were muted for everyone, forever.

4. Hiding side panels and promoted tweets

I really struggled with this one as my normal settings didn’t help. I’ve got both AdBlock Plus and UBlock Origin on Firefox (possibly they conflict with each other!). When Twitter began showing us irrelevant stuff I activated these to clear the timeline of crud but noticed that doing so also missed out other tweets. I’d toggle between having the blockers ON or OFF during searching and eventually noticed that Twitter just stopped showing me the stuff I didn’t want to see, even without the blockers on. Hmm.

Stopped working yesterday though and it took a few goes of pressing buttons to return to normal.

I’m using Firefox, not sure if it will be the same for other browsers. In the left panel with the small red logo is AdBlock Plus and it’s the “Block element” bit that lets you hover over an offending panel (or liked tweet) to set up an exception to hide that bit when the page loads. I think you need to add Element Hiding Helper to activate this. In the right hand panel with the large blue ON/OFF switch is uBlock Origin and it’s the dropper tool that you use to select an element you want to block.

Another solution I’ve seen for removing the distraction of trends is to change your location to a country whose language is unintelligible to you. Then you’ll still see it but it won’t mean much.

Caveat 1: be a bit careful when blocking elements and move the mouse carefully to see what is picked up. You want to block only the thing you want to block and not all the bits around it. It’s fiddly to undo.

Caveat 2: This can also hide other tweets (including your own) especially those with Twitter cards (images etc). It seems to do this fairly randomly but you will be missing tweets. If you need to run a search it’s best to switch off any blockers to ensure the best results.

Note that this automatically hides all promoted / advertised tweets. I actually didn’t mind those so much and have no objection to Twitter making some money but alas they stuffed up the user experience.

5. Troubleshooting

Now that I’ve had a couple of days playing with the adaptations I’ve made to New Twitter I’ve spotted some things that you may want to be aware of. Your own experience would depend on how much of the stuff above you’ve tweaked and what method you’ve chosen.

Not every tweet shown
Using AdBlockers and Element Hider Helper or whatever it’s called has always caused the minor glitch of some tweets with images in not showing up. If you are running a search for someone’s tweets or a hashtag and want to be sure of seeing everything it’s worth switching off the Ad Blocker or uBlock Origin temporarily (toggling off/on), and pressing refresh.

Settings
I’ve also spotted that I can no longer interact with Settings while I’ve got the blocks in place, it just shows up as a blank page. Toggling fixes.

Reply threads
Also if you’re replying to people in a thread and want to select who gets the reply that doesn’t work with the Blocks on and you need to toggle them to see a list of names to put a tick by (or remove the tick from).

Saved searches
This no longer seems to work in New Twitter. Fine in Legacy Twitter but doesn’t transfer over.

6. Not yet solved (1): Proper Length Tweets

When Twitter brought in 240 character length tweets everything suddenly took up a lot of room but the Proper Length Tweets (PLT) add-on solved that nicely. Unfortunately it no longer seems to work so the search is on for a replacement. For comparison here are tweets of mine screenshot from New and Old Twitter. It’s a lot easier to scroll through many tweets with this add-on working, particularly where people have used the full number of characters.

My example doesn’t show this off to its best effect as I’ve picked a tweet of mine that isn’t that large to begin with but you can see the difference between PLT on (top pic) and PLT off (bottom pic). When tweets have more characters the difference is more pronounced and the add-on makes scrolling much quicker as the tweets take up less space.

Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.35.53

Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.37.13

7. Not yet solved (2): Blimey the images take up a lot of space in comment RTs

First image shows what a comment RT normally looks like on Legacy Twitter and below is the same tweet screenshotted from New Twitter. The second one is the only tweet I can see at the time on the screen in New Twitter so it’s just taking up more space than needed.

Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.30.12

Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.30.26

8. Things I like about New Twitter

  • It tells you what platform (“Twitter for iPhone” or “Twitter for Android” or “Twitter Web Client” or “Twitter Web App” for desktop users) someone’s used to send a tweet. This can be vaguely informative in a mildly forensic sense – you can generally tell if someone’s tweeting from a phone or a laptop. I suspect it will also show tweets that have been sent by clicking on a ‘tweet this’ button from another website, or automated / delayed tweets, but haven’t played around with this

Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.33.50

  • It tells you if a tweeted image has had an image description added for visually impaired people [how to do that] – though I’ve not worked out how to read others people’s text. See ALT in the screenshot below, can’t interact with it though.

Screenshot 2019-07-23 08.25.47

 

Image credit is spanner / wrench by me (using shapes in PowerPoint) applying pressure to the Twitter bird logo, shrunk to fit (from Pixabay https://pixabay.com/vectors/twitter-tweet-twitter-bird-312464/). Here’s a copy of the .pptx

Add “?random” to a WordPress dot com blog homepage to view random posts

Random post generator

Granted this might not have wide application on this particular blog (where people are generally looking for answers to specific questions) but if you fancy having a wander around this site you can use the Random post generator button in the menu panel on the right. Clicking it takes you to a link formed from the blog’s homepate address with ?random appended to the end – https://howtodotechystuff.wordpress.com/?random

Just add ?random at the end of any WordPress.com blog homepage.

This mildly useful trick came from the WordPress dot com blog https://en.blog.wordpress.com/2007/04/26/get-random/

How to tweak (digitise) drawings in Inkscape

I’ve been playing with Inkscape, a free open-source image processing tool. For a project I need to draw some cartoonish images and clean them up and I’m learning how to do that thanks to YouTube and Inkscape’s own tutorials.

Note: If you’re using Inkscape on a Mac you may also need to download XQuartz; note that you use the Ctrl key not the Command key in Inkscape. Similar software is Gimp (free) and Adobe Photoshop (not free). I’m also teaching myself to use Scribus, a layout tool, but I mostly use PowerPoint for that at the moment.

Here’s a drawing of a house (biro on white paper) photographed by my iPhone and emailed to myself. Scanning it in would give a much better starting image to work with and drawing it more neatly etc etc but I’m just playing for now.

Screenshot 2019-04-16 17.32.56

Imported into Inkscape by File > Import and OK-ing whatever suggestion it gives

Screenshot 2019-04-16 17.33.21

Once imported ensure it’s selected (click on it if not) and that the arrows are double-headed, then choose Path > Trace Bitmap

Screenshot 2019-04-16 17.35.34

Fiddling about with the settings … (use Update to see how it’s going before using OK to apply)…

Screenshot 2019-04-16 18.17.22

…produces a layer which can be moved away from the main image, resulting in a separate clean black and white image.

 

The resulting image…

Screenshot 2019-04-16 17.38.13

Further tweaking can be done by using the node tool (looks a bit like an archer’s bow between the pointer icon and wave (?) icon in the panel on the left below) and moving the lines about but I’ve not bothered with that for now.

Screenshot 2019-04-16 17.39.42

OK I had a bit of a play around with it. Stretched the E.  (Eeeeee !)

Screenshot 2019-04-16 18.22.58         Screenshot 2019-04-16 18.23.11       Screenshot 2019-04-16 18.23.18

Things I’ve learned after a few hours’ play

I have not been saving images as .svg files (which is, I think, what I am supposed to do) and am. just cheating, copying a screenshot and pasting into my .pptx presentation. I’ve noticed that enlarging the image once in the PowerPoint neans that it looks a bit grainy so I recommend enlarging it in Inkscape by zooming in, taking a screenshot of that and then it will look better.

I’ve also had some fun with the ‘bucket’ tool which fills an area with colour. Also the resizing tool (hold the Ctrl key [Mac users you too, not Command] to enlarge or shrink while keeping the same aspect ratio.

Screenshot 2019-04-19 13.18.52.png

 

How to know if the link you’re sharing on Twitter will produce an in-tweet image preview

tl;dr – check if the link you’re sharing can produce an inline image preview by running it though Twitter’s Card Validator. If it doesn’t you can cheat by manually uploading or pasting in an image.

The order and type of links in your tweet can affect things: pasting in a link to a tweet always displays that tweet regardless of other links involved or their order but for any two (or more) non-tweet links included in your tweet the last one is displayed. You can prevent a link from displaying an image by converting it to an is.gd shortened link (not bitly though), or override by adding an image to the tweet.

Instagram is a law unto itself and linking your Twitter & Instagram won’t display your Insta posts, you need a third party app for that.

In my previous post, How the order of links in tweets determines which one gets its accompanying image displayed, I played around with the order (in a tweet) of links that either do or don’t produce an inline image preview.

This is what an inline image looks like.

Screenshot 2019-02-17 08.59.42

The picture below the text appears automatically after I shared a link (the link itself becomes hidden and is replaced with the image) to a post on this blog about Instagram images. Instagram doesn’t support Twitter cards so letting Instagram autopost your Insta posts to Twitter doesn’t work in terms of displaying an image, you need a third party app to do that – details in that post I’ve just linked to.

  1. For an inline image to appear the site being linked to must have Twitter cards set up correctly [technical info for web developers].
  2. You can check if any given link will work by plugging it into Twitter’s Card Validator (note that the S in HTTPmay be important so try that first if you’ve copied over an HTTP address).
  3. If (2) doesn’t work and you aren’t able to set up (1) you can always cheat by just uploading an image or pasting in a screenshot of the image you’d like to appear. The link you share won’t disappear (it’ll show up as a clickable link) but hardly anyone will notice this workaround 🙂

If you include links to two or more posts that have Twitter cards working then the last one mentioned in your tweet will have its image preview shown. If you include a Twitter-card link alongside a non-card link then the card link will always show its image and the order of the links doesn’t matter. For an enjoyably pedantic (YMMV) examination of the effect of the order of links have a look at my earlier post: How the order of links in tweets determines which one gets its accompanying image displayed.

Note that if you include in your tweet a link to another tweet (even if included with a link that would normally produce an inline image) it seems that the link to the tweet will always take precedence and show up, regardless of the order you write them in your tweet. In the example below (using my testing account) I’ve reversed the order of two links, one to a post on this blog about getting rid of ‘your friend liked this tweet‘ notifications, the other to a tweet of mine about a Wikipedia page I created.

Screenshot 2019-02-15 23.25.19