• Blocking quiz / test apps from accessing your Facebook information

Here’s what I posted on Facebook recently

Your friends are the weakest link, mine too

Every time I spot that you’ve taken some test on Facebook and shared your results here I block the app that you used. This is because, when you authorise the app to interact with your page, it is then able to interact with mine* (and can, I assume from the wording below, access non-public information). Which I’d rather it didn’t. Obviously I will miss some because Fb won’t show me everything.

How to block apps etc https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=blocking

*because you can see my page and the app can access what you can access

Screenshot 2017-11-16 00.56.06.png

If you scroll down that page there are several options for blocking or restricting various things. At the time of writing (Nov 2017) the list is

  • Restricted list
  • Block users
  • Block messages
  • Block app invites
  • Block event invitations
  • Block apps
  • Block pages

The last two are particularly useful for dodgy looking quizzes and tests. As far as I can tell when your friends take a test they authorise the app to access their page. Their page can access all your info, so my supposition is that the app can access all your info too. This is borne out in the format of the help text Facebook uses to clarify what happens when you block an app (in the picture above) – “Once you block an aapp, it can no longer contact you or get non-public information about you through Facebook.” Hmm, the ‘non-public information’ bit made me wonder, so I have blocked – over the years – over 260 of these apps I think, here is my full list.

It’s very simple to block, just start typing the name of the offending app and autofill options will appear (if not you’d need to visit the app’s page and see if you can work out who is behind it). If an app doesn’t show up in the Block Apps dialogue box try it in the Block Pages option lower down.

Of course once someone’s authorised an app it’s already (presumably) been able to harvest some of your info so you can request that individual app owners remove that data by contacting the developer directly. I have not done this, I probably should.. but…

Further reading

 

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• How can I/we persuade employers to set up a /jobs redirect from their homepage?

If an organisation…

  • employs people and
  • has a website…

…then I think it would be great if they made

https://www.companywebsite.com/jobs

redirect to wherever they keep their vacancies page. This would let visitors to any organisation’s site type /jobs at the end of the homepage and find out about opportunities.

An example is https://cern.ch/jobs which autoredirects to https://jobs.web.cern.ch/

Websites often move their vacancies pages around during site overhauls but companies also use different terms to refer to jobs (vacancies, employment, career, recruitment, opportunities, work with us, work for us etc) – this can mean a few search attempts before uncovering it (assuming it’s there, smaller orgs might not have one).

If you like this idea please share with organisations. I’d love it if this could be the industry default 🙂

How to set up a redirect
Ironically, for a mildly tech-ish blogger, I am not particularly confident in advising how to do this. The method I’ve used for an old website may not be ‘best practice’ but it did work. That method used the refresh redirect and the code looked like this

Screenshot 2017-11-12 01.16.05
The W3Schools website lets you try out some html to achieve this effect and once you’re happy with it you can copy the code to your own site.

This site says that you shouldn’t use the refresh redirect though as it can cause problems if your website visitor uses the back button. It recommends instead using HTTP redirects. The 123 registration site has information (and example text) on how to do that.

Wikipedia has super-detailed information on URL redirection. I’m hoping that people who maintain organisation’s websites know more about this and can set this sort of thing up fairly easily.

• How to download Audioboom posts as mp3s

Audioboom is no longer supporting free accounts, they will not delete your content for three years though so don’t panic (yet). However at the end of October 2017 they’ll make all free accounts private, so if you have your sound-posts embedded in other places then they’ll no longer work. They will help you migrate your RSS feeds (more info here) though.

This embedded post of mine will presumably stop working properly in a month or so…

Of course Audioboom are entitled to start charging and restrict services from non-payers, it’s just a bit frustrating for individuals (who own the content) and the wider internet which suffers when embedded audio files disappear on websites along with comments. Basically this ‘breaks the internet’ a bit.

Here’s one way of downloading any Audioboom sound file, as an mp3. I’m investigating better solutions for people with lots of files. Below that are suggestions on how to share them online again.

1a. How to download any Audioboom file as an mp3

  1. Visit the page of the sound file, eg here’s one of mine
    Screenshot 2017-09-02 14.29.46
  2. Add .mp3 to the end of the URL in the address bar, press enter – this automatically changes the page to an mp3 player page
    Screenshot 2017-09-02 14.30.46
    Screenshot 2017-09-02 14.32.09
  3. Hover over the play icon (it goes blue) and right-click Save Audio As…
    Screenshot 2017-09-02 14.33.06
  4. Repeat for other files
  5. If you have a lot of files (I have 85 clips to download) there’s probably a more efficient way (I don’t know it yet but will gladly link if I hear of it). I have emailed Audioboom support to ask them support@audioboom.com

There are some techy suggestions on Twitter which include uncovering them from iTunes by subscribing to the podcast RSS. To be honest I’m looking for a ‘Download archive’ button as on Twitter 🙂

1b. Additional information on downloading

  1. You can also download the image that accompanied your ‘boom’ (or ‘boo’ as they used to be called when the service was Audioboo) with right-click Save as too OR hover over the pic and take a screenshot, that way you’ll get an image of the little soundwave, that also gives information.
  2. For completists you might want to number your sound files and have an accompanying readme.txt type of file that includes info about the date originally published and the hashtags.

2. Where to put your files now you’ve downloaded them
You can upload sound files as a video (static image) to YouTube. WordPress also lets you pay £80 a year for the ability to upload more files than the basic ones (without it you can’t upload sound files, only embed them from somewhere else).

Background

How to add a reference to Wikipedia

Usually I use ProveIt, an in-Wikipedia editing support tool that makes it easier to reference information added to the encyclopedia. It’s not working at the moment (doesn’t seem to be related to my Ad Blocker) which means I have to do it manually.

Sadly this just makes me want to punch everything and then throw it out the window – Wikipedia has the worst user interface I’ve ever encountered. It’s comically bad and the fact that the site devotes many, many pages to how to do simple tasks on Wikipedia is indicative. Having said that I definitely have Stockholm Syndrome for the site and love it unconditionally. Tragic.

Here, for my benefit and perhaps yours, is a screenshot of how a reference looks in-action, then a screenshot of it broken into its component parts and a text version for me to copy and paste and update with new information for a new reference. What a fiddly fiddle.

casinoroyaleref

,casinoroyaleref2

{{
cite web
|
url=http://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/events/2017/casino-royale-in-concert/
|
title=Royal Albert Hall presents Casino Royale in Concert World Premiere
|
publisher=Royal Albert Hall
|
date=17 May 2017
|
accessdate=21 May 2017
}}


 

How to ‘pipe’ a reference

Another thing I always having to sodding well look up is how to point to something that needs disambiguating. Wikipedia’s guide to how to make a Piped Link (which involves one of these | ).

[[train station|station]] displays as station but links to the train station Wikipedia article. Also [[Name of Film (1968 film)|Name of Film]]


How to add bullet points
It’s literally a * in front of the line – this is also used to indent your comment if you’re replying to someone on a talk page.


 

• Fighting with WordPress admin / editor – a bleat rather than a solution (wp-admin)

For work we have a paid-for work-related WordPress dot com website (not self-hosted WordPress dot org which is a completely different thing). I thought I’d keep a tally of some of the (reasonably recent) changes to the layout that really annoy me about it. Seemingly aesthetics has one out over functionality and it is extremely poor and unintuitive to make changes on the site.

A solution of sorts
The first thing to commit to memory is the suffix /wp-admin (stick it at the end of your homepage address) which will always take you to the main ‘old’ admin bit of your site, from which you should be able to find all the things you want to do.

Editing a sequence of pages, finding the right address
My site has information about a 10-week course. There’s a start page with an overview of the course and 10 sub-pages for each week, to which I add material every week. I’m fairly sure I used to be able to ‘URL hack’ the address to bring up the next page that I wanted to edit.

If you can guess what the link for Week 8 might be you’ve already grasped URL hacking.

https://teachinglondoncomputing.org/gcse-week-5/ https://teachinglondoncomputing.org/gcse-week-6/ https://teachinglondoncomputing.org/gcse-week-7/
what could go here... :)

Things aren’t that simple once you’re stuck in their awful new editing system, the address I’m actually stuck with is

https://wordpress.com/page/teachinglondoncomputing.org/6925

[hopefully this won’t actually work if you click on it as you’re not logged in to my site]

This means I have to prune everything up to teaching… and after .org and re-add /wp-admin to start a new editing instance. It is seemingly impossible to navigate to other pages from within the editing pane. You may be lucky, if you’ve recently been on the /wp-admin page you can use the back button, but invariably this won’t take you to where you want to be.

I can’t understand why the WordPress-using community (particularly those of us who’ve paid for an ad-free service) isn’t up in arms about how poor this interface is. Hear me bleat.

They have improved things a little bit though
One thing they have fixed though is being able to access a new page or post you’ve just created or edited, see the ‘escape’ / page launch button to the right of the updated page, below. For a long time using the View Page (once the page was published) would only give you a sort of pop-up overlay but with no way of getting the actual address to copy. If you click on the new button below you’ll be taken to a copy of the page from which you can collect the URL.

magicbutton

Poor situational awareness for comments
Another difference between the two admin interfaces is shown in the pictures below. In the /wp-admin one (on the left) you can see that there’s a comment waiting for attention, in the newer Admin page (right) that notification is absent.


Hopeless wrangling of pages
Oh my goodness, this is comically bad. In the newer version (lower image) it’s not obvious how you select an author or order by date. It looks like you can’t do a quick edit (change the URL, add a password, edit the categories and tags) either. Awful.

The top images shows all pages that I’ve written, in reverse date order and at the bottom displays an example of a ‘quick edit’.

Screenshot 2017-07-27 13.43.33

Screenshot 2017-07-27 13.44.13

More bleats to come as I remember things about this new interface that annoy me…

How to connect to QMUL’s Eduroam wifi with a new password on Windows 10

Admittedly this one might be a bit niche. It’s something I probably do no more than twice a year, whenever I am forced to change my password.

The trick is to forget Eduroam. I’ve spent much longer than is reasonable trying to prod it into prompting me for the new password but it refuses, so the successful route was basically to turn it off and on again.

There’s more than one way to reach the network settings but today I did it by clicking on the wifi icon in the bottom right tray…

01 network and internet settings
I’m sure you know which one is the wifi icon but in case not it’s between the battery icon and the muted speaker icons. Let’s assume you know those too 🙂

…then clicking Network & Internet settings. This brings up a range of options in a menu on the left and the one I want is Wi-Fi. Once clicked the text on the right shows me a new option, Manage known networks

02 manage known networks

…which lets me find Eduroam, click on it and forget it (or check its properties).

03 forget

Then start the process again by clicking the wifi icon bottom right, it will include Eduroam in the list (assuming it’s in range) and at this point will ask you for your login name and password. Remember that for QMUL folk the login is NOT the same as your email address.

Pictures to follow…

• Excel ‘concatenate’: how to combine FirstName LastName columns into one column – Name

Formula
The formula is of the format =CONCATENATE(A1,A2) which will combine the separate names in Cell A1 and Cell B1 into one.

concatenate

On my version of Excel this format will include a space between the two but you can force one if yours doesn’t, with =CONCATENATE(A1, ” “, B1).

Note that Cell C1 is highlighted (surrounded by a green border). If you have lots of names in columns A and B you can double click on the tiny green square at the bottom right and the formula will cascade all the way down your list, stopping at the last item.

This format will also work =A1 & A2 (or if you need a space it’s =A1 & ” ” & A2)

Beware: do not now delete columns A and B or your newly created column C will disappear as each cell is actually a formula, contingent on the contents of other cells. If you want a text-only version I think the quickest way to do this is to select Column C and copy (Ctrl+C) its contents, then paste temporarily into a text file (eg notepad.exe) which will paste the words you see in the column and not the underlying maths. Then paste from the notepad file back into an empty column and you can delete the other three safely.

Why not just collect people’s names as names rather than FirstName LastName?
Sometimes it’s handy to be able to order a spreadsheet of people’s names by their surname as well as by their first name, so it’s quite handy to have one column for their forename and another for their surname.

Further reading
Microsoft’s help page on the CONCATENATE function

This post is a neatened update of a post originally published on my main blog (I’m gradually transferring the techy posts I’ve published there… here).