#MildlyUsefulInfo – a collection of tips

This blog is really about slightly more technical stuff than the collection below covers. Probably relatively few of these would warrant a whole explanatory post, so instead I tweeted them and included the hashtag where possible, then collected them together in a Storify story. I’m hoping it will embed nicely below, but it might depend on your browser – the original can be seen here. Hope you find something useful among them, it’s a bit potluck as I tweet them as they occur to me so they’re not organised in any logical way.

Converting a single A4 PDF into two A5 copies on one page

Solved with PDFescape which is a free PDF editing tool for Windows, I used the online version. (I think on a Mac you’d just use the Preview tool which lets you edit PDFs anyway).

The situation I was in with a one-page A4 PDF was A and I wanted to get two copies of it so that it printed out like B. I was missing a sort of duplication step which I thought I could fix in the File / Print stage, but apparently not.

aversusbpdfs

1. Go to http://www.pdfescape.com/windows/ and click on the free online bit on the left, it looks like this

freeonlinepdfwrangling.png

2. Choose how to get your PDF into PDFescape – I used the second option ‘Upload PDF to PDFescape’, clicked ‘browse’ to select though you can also drag and drop, and waited for it to load.

3. Click on Page in the menu on the left, then Append and upload a second copy of the same PDF*

bitontheleft

*Can be a different one of course if you’re trying to add different PDFs together

4. Now you’ll have two pages, like this – click the little green button with white chevrons on it (see pic below) to download a copy.

boom

5. To print two onto one sheet open the PDF and it’s File / Print then the options should appear

Page Sizing & Handling
Multiple
Pages per sheet = 2

printing.png

Google is fiddling about with mobile search results, using ‘AMP’. Not sinister, bit annoying though

tl;dr
You might have noticed ‘amp’ appearing in mobile search engine results on Google. This began in Oct 2015 and makes mobile pages load much faster (effectively loaded from Google’s cached copy), but the page looks like it’s from Google, quite a few users who’ve noticed it have found it puzzling and it’s a bit fiddly to share the ‘real’ address. Your device hasn’t been hacked and it’s not particularly sinister but lots of web publishers are a bit ‘hmm’ about it and feel Google’s put its metaphoric bag on the seat next to it and taken up a bit more space.

Recently I was mildly alarmed / irritated to notice that a page I’d failed to open on iPhone Safari (that had nothing to do with Google) somehow had ‘Google’ at the top of the page, instead of ‘The Guardian’, and the URL had ‘amp’ in it – I briefly wondered if I’d been hacked or something exciting like that, but it turns out – no, nothing quite that sinister but this new amp thing is annoying plenty of people, though when it does work it can actually make pages load ridiculously fast (which is great). AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages.

Before I discovered that, and while trying to open the Guardian article I retraced my steps which showed me that ‘AMP’ was appearing in a few of my search results, next to a lightning bolt, and I found that it wasn’t always that straightforward to remove it from the address, to get the right link*, because it seemed pretty well embedded into the address.

I’ve just recreated the experience, with an example that turned out to be fairly straightforward to edit (I was hoping to find the one that wasn’t but couldn’t remember what I’d originally searched in November).

A more recent mobile search was for the frequency of the chiltern radio beacon╚ and the search results included the following amp-containing URL https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/media/2008/jun/26/gcapmedia.radio, after deleting the bits in bold gave https://theguardian.com/media/2008/jun/26/gcapmedia.radio  which worked fine. Note that if the website doesn’t support https then you might have to delete that bit too to make it work. Or use a different search engine! I’m reluctant though, on principle 😉

In the replies to Deb’s tweet above someone has highlighted an applet that will return ‘canonical’ (for purposes of argument this just means correct^) URLs though I’m afraid it’s github which is beyond my technical skill.

Ardan (according to their bio) works for Google search.

Further reading
Google Helping Mobile Publishing? Some Publishers Are Not So Sure New York Times (1 January 2017)

Google will change AMP display to make it easier to find & share publishers’ direct URLs Change will be to the header in AMP content, expected in early 2017  Search Engine Land (21 December 2016)

Footnotes

╚ If you are not far from the Chiltern radio beacon (a non-directional radio beacon / aviation navigation aid) you can hear it emitting its Morse callsign (C -.-. H …. T – for Chiltern) on 277MHz. I once found it by accident and was intrigued, wanted to find it again. It also features in a song.

*Related to this – if you’re sharing a link to Wikipedia from your phone please remember to delete the m otherwise you send readers on PCs to the mobile version (they can select the desktop version by scrolling to the end of the page, which is a bit of a faff). If you share the non-mobile version then people on mobile devices will be shown the mobile version anyway, and people on PCs will see the desktop version. I’ve no idea why computers can’t ‘de-resolve’ a mobile link to show the desktop version but… not yet it seems.

Compare and contrast these links below (if you’re reading on a mobile both will take you to the mobile site but you can select the desktop version at the bottom of the Wikipedia page).
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia

^for a more technical definition of canonical url see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canonical_link_element

“This tweet is unavailable” – it can mean 3 different things

Well of course it might mean more but these are the three meanings I’ve found for it after puzzling over its appearance. I’m talking about this –

Cyh622SXAAcBiJh.jpg large.jpg

– which shows up on the desktop (website / browser) version of Twitter.

As far as I can tell you’ll see this pop up in tweets if

  1. the tweet has been deleted
  2. you have blocked the sender
  3. the original sender of the tweet has blocked you

But it’s the same message for each so you have to click through to the tweet to find out.

  1. If it’s been deleted then you’ll see a ‘tweet not here’ page
  2. If you’ve blocked the sender you will be able to see the tweet once you’ve clicked on it, and it will show you a button to indicate that you’ve blocked the person
  3. If you’ve been blocked then you’ll see a page telling you you’re not authorised to view the tweet, and the page’s address will include “visibility_check=true”. If you want to view it you’ll have to log out first, or use a differerent account, or a third party app

The slightly odd thing is that if you’re blocked other people can still see that the tweet is unavailable (they see what you see in other words), so Twitter informs other people that you’re blocked.

Possibly there are other times when the ‘This tweet is unavailable’ note appears, let me know if you’ve found another case.

 

How to reply to, or RT, tweets from someone who’s blocked you (Dabr, Echofon, Janetter)

tl;dr – use these third party apps – Dabr (desktop) or Echofon or Janetter on iPhone.

This post serves two purposes – mainly to let more people know that if you’ve blocked someone they can still reply to your tweets (and that other people can see and interact with those replies) and to highlight to skeptical or political activists that it’s still possible to correct misinformation tweeted by “the other side” (which of course works both ways!).

Over the years I’ve been blocked by lots of alternative medicine providers and supporters, particularly homeopaths and people flogging live blood analysis. Some of them are pretty harmless but a handful persist in tweeting misleading and occasionally dangerous health information. In those cases I think it’s worth replying to those tweets so that whenever anyone else clicks on them they might see the threaded replies with more correct info.

I think most people now know that if you block someone they can still see your tweets.

Generally this is wrongly believed to involve a bit of effort (in that they’d have to log out and search for your tweets, or log into a different account etc). However if the blockee is using one of the third party apps mentioned below then it involves precisely zero effort – it’s easy to see the tweets and reply to them, particularly if watching a conversation unfold via a hashtag. Most third party apps will now no longer let you view the profile of someone that’s blocked you – but if you’re reading and contributing to a hashtag you’d probably not even notice.

I think fewer people know that blocked people can also reply to your tweets, or retweet them [see note at end], while logged in as themselves rather than some spare account. Remember that if someone’s blocked you the chances are high that they won’t see your reply, but others may well do.

Here’s how they (you / I / we) can do that.

Desktop Twitter

Log into Dabr (http://dabr.co.uk/) by authorising it to interact with your Twitter account, search for a hashtag or the name of someone who’s blocked you – find a tweet, click reply.

Neither twitter.com nor Tweetdeck (now owned by Twitter I believe, so should be considered as an official Twitter app) will let you see tweets from those who’ve blocked you.

iPhone

*Note* I do not automatically update my apps, or my iOS version (it all works fine as it is so no particular pressure to do so). This may mean that my version is working while your updated one doesn’t – obviously I can’t really test this, so be aware of that if it doesn’t work for you.

Echofon and Janetter
Download the app (I think free / ad-supported versions are available), log in, search for hashtags or names and click on a tweet to reply. You won’t be able to view their profile (but can see their tweets fine in hashtag- or name-search results though).

Neither the official Twitter for iPhone app nor Osfoora for iPhone will let you reply to the tweets. You can see them on Osfoora but not Twitter for iPhone. I’ve not tried any other iPhone apps. Mobile Twitter (viewing mobile.twitter.com on Safari on iPhone) blocks the tweets entirely too, no viewing (and obviously no replying).

Google, Android or other phones I don’t know about

At this stage I don’t know. It used to be Fenix for Android which let people see tweets from those who’d blocked them but I believe that’s no longer possible so I’m not sure which apps would do this, if any. I’m hoping that someone reading this might let us know and I’ll update the post.

Supplemental:
probably more than you wanted to read about Retweeting

There are a few ways to retweet someone’s tweet – 1 and 2 won’t be available if you’ve been blocked though, but 3 and 4 are

  1. ‘Native’ RTing – on desktop Twitter you would click on the retweet button, it asks you to confirm and if you say yes the RT button goes green and you add ‘1’ to the tweets RT count
  2. Quote RT – on desktop Twitter this is identical to (1) but this time you add a comment and the green button stays grey and the counter doesn’t increase
  3. Retweet with Comment – on Echofon for iPhone this manually pastes the text into the tweet and lets you edit it and add your own comment
  4. Retweet as Quote – on Echofon for iPhone this manually pastes the tweet’s URL / link into the tweet and lets you add a comment.
  5. I’m sure other variants are available but I’ve not tried it on Janetter or Dabr

Both 3 and 4 work if you’re blocked.

Watch out with 4 though as the tweet would normally show up as an embedded tweet but if you’re blocked it will instead show up as ‘This tweet is unavailable’. On seeing that message many of your followers might reasonably assume that the tweet has been deleted or that the user has blocked them. They might not realise that they’ll be able to see the tweet fine if they click on it, and it’s only you who has been blocked – so be aware that (4) may be a bit confusing and (3) may be better.

How to download Vines (yours or someone else’s) via a desktop computer

The short video service, Vine, is going to be switched off – though old videos will apparently still be accessible (though after some point it may be impossible to add any new ones). This helpful article from heavy.com has lots of information and suggestions on how to download your Vines to a computer or to an iPhone etc. This post is just about doing it on a desktop computer.

tl;dr version
1. Find the URL of the vine you want to download
2. Stick it on the text box on this website – http://www.vinedownloader.com/
3. Save the video by right-click, save as on the Download button

Here’s how I did it, with screenshots.

My vines can be found here https://vine.co/u/1110588297073610752, here’s a selection

jbvines

To download one you need to put its URL / address into the Vine Downloader website (the article linked above has some other websites that do this as well). Make sure you use the right address for the vine – you need to pay attention to what’s appearing in the address bar as it might not be the right address. If, on my vine page, you click on any of those vines then the list view will appear and the vine in the active bit of the window will play, but the address doesn’t reflect the ‘real’ address of the vine – you’ll just see this for all of them
https://vine.co/u/1110588297073610752?mode=list

To get the download URL you need to click the vine’s timestamp (or right-click, save as to copy the address) and then the vine will open in its own window and you can copy its address.

https://vine.co/v/edX0AvrHEOM « a valid address for one vine video

00onevine

Put that URL into the Downloader and click download.

00downloadvine

…then right-click, save as to start the download and choose where you want to save it.

00saveas

You’ll now have a copy of the video in your downloads to keep and you can also upload it elsewhere. I’ve saved a copy of this example vine on another blog, it’s on this page). Note that it won’t loop.

I don’t know of a way to do this in bulk though. Fortunately I don’t have very many vines!

 

 

 

How to display Instagram pictures correctly in tweets using IFTTT

If you post to Instagram and it sends a copy to Twitter then only a link appears, Twitter doesn’t display your image in the tweet. The reason is because Instagram does not support ‘Twitter cards’(1) but you can(2) bypass this by using the third party service IFTTT (If This, Then That) to get around it and display images correctly. Once you upload a new image to Instagram it will get tweeted out and display as a picture (note that it won’t work in cases where you write a tweet and include an Instagram link).

Be aware that if you have ‘post to Twitter’ switched on on your Instagram account then you may end up with two copies of the tweet – one directly from Instagram with no image (the wrong one), and the one via IFTTT with the image (the new and improved version). You can safely switch off the Instagram one (see my image below of my settings).

You will need, and to be logged into

  • a Twitter account
  • an Instagram account
  • an IFTTT account

Once logged into IFTTT visit this recipe(3) page Tweet your Instagrams as native photos and follow the instructions to ‘connect’ your Twitter (https://ifttt.com/twitter) and Instagram (https://ifttt.com/instagram) accounts – IFTTT refers to these as ‘channels’.

ifttttwitter

This will allow your Twitter and Instagram accounts can talk to each other independently, through IFTTT.

Once done it should look a bit like this and when you post an image to Instagram and it should turn up on your Twitter timeline with the picture appearing.

0000ifftttwitterinsta

It worked… [if you’re viewing on a mobile it will probably look as if it didn’t, but it did!]

Note that these are my settings on Instagram – it says that I have Twitter-sharing switched off, which is true, but the IFTTT recipe is now overriding this.

photo.PNG

(1)Twitter cards are basically a display-format that websites can sign up to so that pictures embed and display on Twitter as an image rather than as a link that you have to click on. The IFTTT system uploads the image to Twitter as a (usually hidden, but may show on mobile apps as a pic.twitter link and also provides a link back to the original Instagram (that link will show as iff.tt).

(2)However you might prefer that people click on the link so that your Instagram account gets the relevant metrics and you might also prefer that Twitter isn’t further overrun with images 🙂

(3)There are other examples of recipes that will also perform this function, have a search of the options and see what’s on there.