LivingSocial is dead long live GoodReads

I have used LivingSocial since joining Facebook to keep track of books I am reading, have read and to pass this information onto my friends.  The service didn’t offer any other functionality really, a standard suggested books feature but that was about all.  However when recently I accessed the site to update my latest read I was surprised to be confronted with this message.

First of all, thank you for your enthusiastic support over the past four years. Your continued engagement with our these applications means a lot to us here at LivingSocial, and we're sad that we haven't been able to dedicate the time and effort you deserve to keep this community alive and thriving.  It's not you. It's us. You see — about two years ago — we tried a new idea, which has taken our team and company in a new direction. This community needs tools and products that are fully supported and continually improved, and unfortunately, this is something we just can't support right now.  We know your data is important to you. Before we discontinue the service, we want to give you the opportunity to save it.  On August 10th, 2011, we are going to shut down this suite of applications.Fortunately they supplied a handy link to export all existing data to the GoodReads site, which now having signed up seems to be a far superior and greater used service.  I’m often on the lookout for new ideas for books to read and this appears to be a valuable resource. It can also link in with Twitter, Facebook, WordPress and Kindle accounts, allows you to compare your bookshelf against your friends and supplies a number of widgets for inclusion in your site.  So I’m afraid I will not be mourning the passing of LivingSocial. Long live GoodReads!

Red Eyed Monsters read books

The Forever War
Bodyguard Of Lightning
Foundation and Empire
A Clockwork Orange
The Cider House Rules
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
The Tin Drum
In Other Worlds
Elric: Song of the Black Sword
Niagara Falls All Over Again
The Pillars of the Earth
Smith of Wootton Major & Farmer Giles of Ham
Use of Weapons
Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible!
The Player of Games
Sandman Slim
Vampire AD 70
The Desert Spear

Nigel Bachmann’s favorite books »


Captain SKA – Christmas No 1

Liar Liar by Captain SKA

Dark days have arrived in Britain. The coalition government and their toxic flotilla of cuts are ruthlessly hacking away jobs, damaging vulnerable lives and chipping away at the very fabric of our society. We cannot afford to stand by and let this country sail towards a future of inequality.

Fear Not! Captain SKA and his ship have arrived to fight this coalition, but more crew members are urgently required, there is strength in numbers.
Pass this video on to other potential shipmates.

Happy Sailing
Captain SKA!/CaptainSKA!/home.php?s…

Top 5 Android Applications

My 5 most used and favourite Android applications.

Having owned a  HTC Magic for all of a few months, I thought I would give you my unbiased and expert ;op opinion regarding my favourite Android applications. There are absolutely thousands of applications to choose from, mostly free, but after playing, downloading , discarding, these are five that I still use, rely on and enjoy.

1. Twidroid

TwiroidTwidroid is , unsurprisingly, a Twitter client.  There is a free and ‘Pro’ version, the Pro version offering additional features including multiple accounts, integration, desktop widgets, video posting, followers and friends.

Once you are logged into the application it displays the latest 50 tweets.  The list length can be increased via the settings menu.  Tweets can be refreshed by using the appropriate button at the bottom of the screen or by shaking the phone. Tapping a tweet creates a popup containing any available links. Selecting the little button to the right of a tweet displays a menu allowing you to reply, show profile of tweeter, favourite, retweet, send DM, delete or copy the contents of the tweet to the clipboard.  Additional functionality includes viewing and managing lists,  setting up notifications for when there are new tweets, if you receive a direct message or are mentioned.  You can also show/hide various buttons, display real names instead of user names and set up your favourite photo, video and URL shortening services.  The application also integrates with your phones GPS to allow you to annotate tweets and photos with your location.  Other miscellaneous settings include the ability to merge your accounts, refresh tweets on launch, auto-complete for DMs and disable profile images for improved speed.

I have tried a number of Twitter clients, free and paid, and found this to be the most stable and feature rich of all.  In the majority of cases I think the free version will cover most peoples needs however for a small price you may be tempted to upgrade to pro for the additional functionality and to support the future development of this app.

2. DoggCatcher

DoggcatcherDoggcatcher is primarily a podcast subscriber although it is capable of subscribing to standard RSS and video feeds also.  Podcasts were not something I had explored in any great detail until I bought this application (yes, sorry, this is not a freebee). Mainly because I have very little time at home and 3G connectivity out here in the sticks is limited at best. With this application you can set to download your favourite podcasts  only when attached to WiFi and/or when connected to a power source.  It allows you to specify the maximum number of casts to download and can be set to delete them from your phone once you have listened to them, or marked them as ‘done’ thus automating the clean up process and keeping your phones storage free.  I tend to switch the WiFi on when I get home at night and the latest feeds are downloaded to my phone for my listening pleasure the next day.

Podcasts can be subscribed to by entering the URL, browsing Doggcatchers top 100 casts or by a very nifty utility which allows you to see what others listening to similar feeds subscribe to. Download queues are easily managed and you can dip in and out of podcasts as the application remembers the play position of each podcast.  For me it means that I never miss an episode of The Archers and have an alternative to music when at a loose end away from home.

Why is it called Doggcatcher? I’ve no idea.

3. MixZing Music Player

MixZing Music PLayerThe standard Android player is pretty basic so I had a hunt around on the market for something with a bit more oomph and came up with this.  Having bought a 16gb card for my phone I tend to just dump albums onto it but there is always the odd track that once heard you don’t really want to hear again e.g. Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin.  MixZing allows you to delete as you listen an option that is missing from the standard player an my most wanted utility.

This player does all the usual stuff like play lists, random mixes, album art and if you download Scrobble Droid it will update your account listened to list and library.

Selecting the ‘i’ button in the top left of the screen brings up the artists biography including photos and the button opposite shows your current play list.

The real strength of this player (apart from being free) is that it will recommend other songs based on your current play list and you can agree or disagree with its suggestion via the + and x buttons, bottom right.  This will then adjust  further recommendations accordingly.

In the blurb for this player it indicates that you also get recommendations from the internet although I have not witnessed this feature.

All in all for a free player you can’t go far wrong, the interface is clean and easy to use and the automatically downloaded album art looks great.

4. My Tracks

The last two applications on my list are not ones that I use heavily but I think they are just fantastic freebees which make use of the HTC Magic’s compass and GPS.  My Tracks allows you to plot your favourite walks, runs etc. in real time and upload them to Google Maps to share with your friends.  It records distance, elevation, and the time it takes to complete the route.  You can create way points, link photos to them and it also integrates with all your messaging applications like Twidroid, Facebook Mobile, Google Mail and standard SMS.  Ever been for a lovely walk and wondered how far it was or wanted to share it with someone else? Then this is the application for you.

5. Google Sky Map

For my daughters 16th birthday her Grandfather bought her a star.  This year she was eighteen and her boyfriend bought her a telescope so she could properly find it.  Google Sky Map is a fantastic application for the budding astronomer or for those clear star filled evenings when you are not quite sure what you are looking at.  Simply fire up the application and hold your phone in the direction and elevation that you are looking.  Displayed on the screen is a replica of the stars and planets you are viewing along with their names.  A horizontal line defines the horizon and there is a night mode for easier viewing.  You can even use the sky map in the day or when light pollution is too intense.  I have found it amazingly accurate even with the GPS switched of.  A fantastic fun application and a must for camping holidays.

Widgets – Poorly coded?

Is it me or are a large number of widgets poorly coded?  Although they may look good on your site do they actually conform to any standard? As I’m still putting this site together I thought it might be fun to add a couple of good looking widget adding a bit of interactivity.  I grabbed the code for the Twitter profile widget and the Books Widget from entered the code into my sidebar and checked the results.  Well, they looked pretty good, but when I used the  W3C Validator I was astounded at the number of errors it brought up.  Now perhaps I’m being a bit anal, maybe its the autistic gene but I’m not even expecting strict compliance merely transitional.  So wouldn’t it, after spending so much time creating a good looking widget, only take a little more effort to add a little conformity?