Fighting with WordPress admin / editor – a bleat rather than a solution

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.

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.

My site has information about a 10-week course. There’s a landing 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.

GCSE Computer Science – Week 5
GCSE Computer Science – Week 6
GCSE Computer Science – 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 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.

One thing they have fixed though is being able to access a new page or post you’ve just created. 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. If you click on the new button below it that looks like this you’ll be taken to a copy of the page from which you can collect the URL.

magicbutton

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).

 

 

Voting for the slightly forgetful

Voting is tomorrow, from 7am until 10pm. If you’re reading this on Wednesday and will be heading off somewhere tomorrow… are you going to vote before you go there or on your way back?

It’s very easy to get up and get ready to go to work or wherever and find you’re halfway there having meant to have voted already. Similarly on the return journey. Generally we vote once every four years so this isn’t part of our normal ‘going places’ routine and easily overridden by habit. Exploit anything that helps you remember. See point (1).

If you’re not going anywhere tomorrow then vote whenever you feel like it, but do vote 🙂

Let me know @JoBrodie if I’ve forgotten anything, or need to correct something, ta.

Table of Contents
1. Set a reminder or an alarm
2. I’ve forgotten my polling card
3. I’ve forgotten where I go to vote
4. Whose names will you find on your ballot paper?
5. Oh crap I’m not going to get there before 10pm
6. I’m not well / something’s come up at work urgently
7. Further reading

1. Set a reminder or an alarm
My phone lets me set a reminder that will send me a message whenever I enter (or leave) a particular geographical area, which is quite useful. Or stick a post-it note on the door. Incidentally these strategies for ‘helping you remember something that you don’t do routinely’ are sometimes known as resilience strategies.

2. I’ve forgotten my polling card
Doesn’t matter, you don’t need it. You only need to confirm your full name and address.

3. I’ve forgotten where I go to vote
Go to https://www.yourvotematters.co.uk/ and look for the lavender-coloured box saying ‘Enter your postcode’. You’ll need to use the full postcode as each polling station covers only a bit of your constituency.

4. Whose names will you find on your ballot paper?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/constituencieseither enter your full postcode in the search bar on that page or use the A-Z filter to pick the first letter of your constituency (if you don’t know, use the postcode one).

5. Oh crap I’m not going to get there before 10pm
If you’re in the queue by 10pm then I think they’re meant to let you vote. I’ve not seen anything official to confirm this though [can anyone point me to something official?].

6. I’m not well / something’s come up at work urgently
You can get an emergency proxy vote up to 5pm tomorrow (it’s too late to get the regular in-advance proxy vote) – https://www.yourvotematters.co.uk/how-do-i-vote/voting-by-proxy

Ignore the first bit about proxy votes and see the second bit about “Can I apply for an emergency proxy?” – download and fill in whichever PDF is relevant to your situation (work or medical – you’ll need to get it signed by your employer or a healthcare professional – full info is in the PDFs).

A proxy vote means someone else will go and vote for you (with your permission).

[Does anyone know if you can write your information on a piece of paper, for people who don’t have access to a printer? Can you fill it in on a computer and email it?] A short version of the link above, for writing down and giving to someone who does have a printer plus internet is http://tinyurl.com/vbp2017

7. Further reading
Ways of voting – from GOV.UK
https://www.gov.uk/voting-in-the-uk

Where is my polling station? How to find out where to vote – from Metro
http://metro.co.uk/2017/06/07/where-is-my-polling-station-how-to-find-out-where-to-vote-6692484/

How to remove the audio track from a video made on an iPhone, using iMovie

Sometimes I take a video of something and on listening to it hear other noise or conversation that I don’t particularly want to include. Here’s how I get rid of it in ‘post-production’.

This may not be the best way of doing it and I’m certain it’s not the only way. However, it works and doesn’t involve downloading any extra apps or spending money, so it’ll be the method I’m likely to favour. If you know of a better way, others might be interested so please feel free to share your improvements and suggestions in the comments below.

This post assumes that you have an iPhone with the built-in camera, and iMovie apps. I’m running iOS 7.6 (if you’ve got a higher iOS then my screenshots might look a little different from yours, but hopefully not so much as to make the instructions unworkable).

Here are the basic instructions, repeated below with the addition of screenshots

1. Record your video
2. Open iMovie
3. Click the + at bottom right to create new project
4. Click Movie
5. Click Create Movie
6. Tap the icon to ‘insert media’
7. Select your chosen video, it goes yellow
8. Click the down arrow to insert
9. Your video appears as a panel of images, and the cursor leaps to the end
10. Click the video panel, it goes yellow
11. Audio is already selected, click the two dots below the dustbin, click detach
12. The audio track is now separated from the video and you can, if you wish, move it into a different position. It’s already selected (yellow) so press delete to remove it
13. Try out your now silent video, all the sound should have gone
14. To export it click on the back arrow at the top, then the upload icon for sharing options. Your options will depend on your phone and apps but I’ve got Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo etc. and if I scroll along there’s the email option at the end and WhatsApp. The save video, in the lower down (not brightly coloured) panel will save it to your camera roll, from which you can also email and send it other places etc.).

To share it on Twitter, note that it will need to be reduced in length to just a few seconds and you’ll need to save this ‘iMovie project’ to your camera roll to do so (and ensure that you’ve granted Twitter access to your iPhone’s camera roll [at some point I might add something about how to do this but it’s in Settings somewhere]), you can also email it to yourself.

You’ll end up with a much smaller, squarer version of your video, rather than the rectangular one you created. I’ve no idea why, nor how to make it larger. If you know a better way that will let you end up with a video that’s identical to the one you recorded minus the audio, please let me know. I’m less interested in costly professional tools though.

The same again but with added images

1. Record your video
2. Open iMovie (it was already installed on my phone)
3. Click the + at bottom right to create new project

photo 1(5)
4. Click Movie (in blue, below)

photo 2(4)
5. Click Create Movie (top right in pale blue, below)

photo 3(3)
6. Tap the sprocketed film + musical note icon at the top to insert media

photo 4
7. Select your chosen video, it goes yellow – you can slide the yellow boundaries to make your clip shorter too.
8. Click the down arrow to insert

photo 1(5)
9. Your video appears as a panel of images, and the cursor leaps to the end

photo 2(4)
10. Click the video panel, it goes yellow

photo 3(3)
11. Audio is already selected, click the two dots below the dustbin, click Detach

photo 4
12. The audio track is now separated from the video and you can, if you wish, move it into a different position. It’s already selected (yellow) so press the dustbin icon to delete it

photo 1(5)

13. Try out your now silent video, all the sound should have gone
14. To export it click on the back arrow at the top, then the upload icon for sharing options. Your options will depend on your phone and apps but I’ve got Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo etc. and if I scroll along there’s the email option at the end and WhatsApp. The save video, in the lower down (not brightly coloured) panel will save it to your camera roll, from which you can also email and send it other places etc.).

photo 2(4)

Above: Click the left-facing arrow in the top left to start the export process.

Below: you’ll see this screen, choose the upload icon in the middle to upload your silent film.

photo 3(3)

Below: Mail is at the end of the list of things you can send the file to and you can also save it to your camera roll.

photo 4

 

What do do with a QR code once you’ve created one

Following on from my post on How to create a QR code here’s the logical extension of that – what to do with one. Feel free to add suggestions in the comments or ping me on Twitter (@JoBrodie).

QR codes are a square barcode-like picture which can be scanned by the camera in a smartphone to open a document or web page. A QR code is a “machine-readable optical label that contains information about the item to which it is attached”. They are also known as 2D barcodes and look like this – it’s a “link you can click on in real life“.

QR_code_for_mobile_English_Wikipedia.svg.pngQR code for the URL of the English Wikipedia Mobile main page

I’ve only ever used QR codes that point to websites, but that could include YouTube videos or links to Word or PDF documents, or surveys etc.

Table of Contents

  1. QR scanners for your phone
  2. Example of using QR codes at an event to collect survey data
  3. Classroom use
  4. Teaching staff use
  5. Research posters
  6. Marketing for events
  7. Museums
  8. Language learning / supermarkets
  9. Downsides, or things to be aware of
  10. Dynamic QR codes and short URLs


1. QR scanners for your phone

I have several QR code scanners on my phone – I think they were all free: Scan-Life (it just opens the page so watch out if you’re not sure about the page), Kaspersky’s QR Scanner and RedLaser. They all also scan supermarket barcodes, though unless the product is listed in its library the scanner doesn’t really know what to do with them.

2. Example of using QR codes at an event to collect survey data
A recent example from my work with computer science teachers: we’ve just had our annual conference for teachers supported by Computing At School (CAS) London and we wanted to find out what the delegates thought of the sessions and conference overall. At the final plenary we included massive QR codes on the slides (and a short link written in full for those sitting in the audience without QR-enabled phones) and people were able to point and click, or type the address, and complete the short survey there and then.
Pro-tip: if you want to compare use of QR codes with typing in (short) links, create two short links (one for each) that point to the same page.

3. Classroom use

Eleni Kyritsis has used QR codes cubes, each side posing a different question, to encourage her pupils to reflect on their learning (there’s a template on her page).

I also asked my primary school teacher chum Jane for her thoughts on the use of QR codes in primary classrooms and, paraphrasing, she said…

“One of the requirements in early education is to be creative with computing (not just programming) and for us to get kids using tech and building up their IT skills through fun activites (if it is not fun it does not happen – or at least not without huge disruption and pain).

QR codes are used in all sorts of ways.

We can make interactive displays (we LOVE displays of children’s work – gives the children an audience/purpose and better motivation/quality of work) – so children create little presentations as well as a piece of artwork or writing – so they are augmenting their physical artefacts with e-artefacts – they make a QR code and put it next to their work and then peers and other year groups (and visitors) use their mobile device (which many primary schools have a small batch of) and the viewer can access this other piece of work.

Interactive displays are also used by teachers to create displays that teach, so you might have a display about volcanos – that also has a link to a website or presentation etc..

QR codes are used for differentiation (this tends to be for schools where they have class sets of mobile devices) so if I have 3 core ‘sets’ High ability/ Middle/ developing plus a couple of children with special educational needs or who speak English as an additional language then I create a differentiated task for the lesson – and rather than photocopying the task – they scan the red QR code, blue QR code etc…

QR codes are used for assessment – this is getting to be a very popular idea. Kids are each given their own QR code as a little laminated square – with their photo on the back and say a colour on each edge of the QR code so red can be top, blue can be top, yellow can be top or numbers can be used 1,2,3 4 for orientation. The orientation of the QR code – gives a up to 4 different answers from a pupil. So you have 30 little mites all sitting on the carpet, or at tables if a bit bigger mites…. and you ask what is the correct spelling for the word (say a word) and show 4 spellings marked 1,2,3,4 They all show the relevant bit of their card. You use your mobile device hooked up to some app – can’t remember the name and it instantly records who got it right/wrong and what the wrong answers were. We are big into this kind of fast formative assessment. Normally we used whiteboards – but this captures the data longer term and is more accurate than scanning by eye.

Primary teachers are very creative and you never quite know what they get up to make their classroom more interesting, teach concepts in quirky fun ways or just help them work quicker and smarter.”

4. Teaching staff use 
This post highlights a kind of game which encouraged teachers to share useful resources with one another while also getting them using QR codes and getting a sense of how they might use them in their classrooms. There’s a picture of a QR code on the blog, so I scanned it and a message came up which said “10. Find and share a parent communication resource” – they used GoQR.me to do this.

5. Research posters
A QR code pointing to a web page containing your contact details, publications, PDF of the poster and whatever else might be useful would seem quite handy. Don’t forget that you can update the page during or after the conference too. Marianne’s using them on research posters to point people to a short video about cancer research.

6. Marketing for events
You can play around with different sizes – smaller QR codes on an A5 flyer work fine (you can test before printing by pointing a QR-enabled phone at your onscreen code with the document sized at 100%).

7. Museums
Museums are adding QR codes to some of their exhibits which take visitors to a page with additional information. The Broolyn Museum is doing some interesting stuff in this area. QR codes should never replace the normal text-based information of course. If you’re adding QR codes can I recommend sending someone round to check them periodically – if the link dies it’s a bit disappointing. See bit on dynamic QR codes below.

8. Language learning / supermarkets
Multi-language shopping labels: a Canadian supermarket gave customers a device which pronounced the names for various products in the indigenous language – Grocery stores bring Indigenous languages to the aisles

It would be quite handy if a supermarket used QR codes for “how do I cook and eat this obscure looking vegetable” (I’ve got no idea what celeriac is for) or gave recipe ideas.

9. Downsides, or things to be aware of
QR codes are not intuitive and people often need to be shown how to use them, and what the point of them is. If the technology (eg wifi) doesn’t work then have a back up plan. In most cases they should never replace other text-based instructions but only be used to augment.

Just like clicking on a link that ends up taking you to a dodgy site be careful what QR codes you ‘bip’. If in doubt use RedLaser or QR Scanner instead of Scan-Life because they tell you what the page is going to be.

Dynamic QR codes and short URLs
You can create a single QR code and change the link that it goes to by having an intermediary link which then redirects it. That service is available from QRstuff.com and they have a very good page explaining what it’s for and how it works. I generally create static QR codes (can’t change what it points to) as it suits my purposes.

You can create a QR code based on a full length website link, or on a shortened link that points to it (I use Bit.ly and log in with Twitter so that I can customise the links). If you want to compare visits to a page from QR codes or from some other method (eg typing the address in, or via social media) you can create multiple aliases in Bit.ly and have one link for your QR code and one written out and can compare which is used more.

See How to create a QR code as well.

 

 

How to create a QR code

QR codes are a square barcode-like picture which can be scanned by the camera in a smartphone and open a web page. A QR code is a “machine-readable optical label that contains information about the item to which it is attached”. They are also known as 2D barcodes and look like this.

QR_code_for_mobile_English_Wikipedia.svg.pngQR code for the URL of the English Wikipedia Mobile main page

Opinion is divided on QR codes. The people who dislike them have perfectly good reasons for doing so, in that almost no-one has the faintest idea what they are, and it’s certainly not obvious if you’re seeing one for the first time, most people probably don’t have an app on their phone that will let their camera respond to them, and even if you do know what they are and how to interact with them you’ve still no idea where you’re phone’s browser is going to end up(1) as QR codes are not human readable (well, you can learn but they’re not as immediately informative as a web link).

Having said that I’ve always been rather smitten with them – they save so much time compared with typing in an address. Just open the app, point and ‘ping’ – the website opens. To be honest the excited ‘ping’ made by the app I use (Scan-Life) is part of the fun. It’s like living in the future.

(1) Presumably someone could invent a phone app that tells you where the QR code is trying to take you, perhaps this already exists. That would probably eliminate that particular problem. Kaspersky QR Scanner and RedLaser both tell you what URL you’ll be taken to (and invite you to decide if you want to) but don’t seem to give any warning about malicious links.

Here’s how I make a QR code from a web address
(Go to 3. if you just want a message to pop up, no websites)

1. You will need a web address (aka link, URL etc)
If you want your QR code to point to a document you’ll need to save it with a public link. My preference for that would be to upload the document to Dropbox and copy the file’s public link. Remember that if anyone finds the link they can access that file so if privacy is a big issue be aware of that.

2. Consider shortening the URL – tinyurl, is.gd, bit.ly etc will all give you a shortened version and bit.ly will also let you customise it to something human-readable and it will also tell you how often the link is visited. See bit in (3) about long-term use though.
It is probably quite good practice (in publicity contexts) to include the full original link, as well as the QR code and short URL, so that people can type that in if they’re wary (and don’t have an app or an idea of what to do with your QR code). If you’re doing this at a conference you can probably assume a degree of trust.

3a. Use QRstuff.com to create your QR code from your long or short URL (though for longer-term use better to use the real full-length URL in case the URL shortener goes off line) http://www.qrstuff.com/

Or…

3b. Use GoQR.me to create a QR code that just shows a piece of text or instruction on-screen http://goqr.me/

4. A QR image is automatically generated from either of the sites above. Check that the on-screen code works with your scanning app (I use Scan-Life for iPhone) then print it / save a copy / take a screenshot of it.

5. Open the picture in image editing software, I use Paint (free on Windows) or PowerPoint, and add a text box with the short or long URL on it for archiving purposes.
It’s a kindness to the end-user, and to yourself, to include the URL in a QR code so people know where they’re going to end up, and also it’s handy three years from now when you find the code stuck in a filing cabinet.

I have written might write the accompanying Part Two to this post – What do do with a QR code once you’ve created one 😉 I use them at work to provide people who come on our courses or events with a quick way of accessing the feedback surveys. The people who come on our courses etc are computing teachers and I understand that QR codes are much used among computing teachers.