Feed on

Since 2007 we’ve gone from being a two-man blog, to a one-man blog, and most recently a sadly neglected blog.

At the same time Charlie has moved on to better things at Neo, while I struck out on my own a couple of years back. I’m glad to report that we’re still great friends, and we see each other loads through our band Small Shipwrecks.

With that in mind it’s time to officially can Hackbash the blog. It’ll still be here, lurking in its own corner of the internet, but this’ll be the last update.

Don’t get misty-eyed on me – Hackbash has become my business identity, and Hackbash.com is about to return from the grave as our company website. It should be launching by the end of this week, so please come back and visit.

Thanks for reading,


Small Shipwrecks

Going a bit off-topic here, but Charlie and I are also in a band. We just released a single, which you can listen to for free. You can also find it on iTunes, Amazon and (eventually) Spotify.

If you like it, please like us on Facebook, and maybe, you know, buy a copy. The album is due for release in early August 2012.

Pyrrhic popups

Way to go with this inescapable popup on Android:

It’s obscuring the Twitpic page I was trying to view, and can’t be dismissed.

The options are to click the OK button, or lose all interest and just close the browser.

Can you guess which I did?

Since you ask, this is my favourite status message:

It appears in the status bar while Word is unresponsive for a second or two after you’ve initiated a print job. In other words, while Word is not background printing the document.



Great though the idea of legal music streaming is, the implementation still leaves a bit to be desired. After six or seven years as a Napster customer I ended up leaving the (increasingly unloved and dated) service when they messed up my monthly payments for the second time.

Onto Spotify, about which a few things bug me. The first is that I’m not sure why, with the bandwidth and storage available in 2012, we still can’t have lossless streaming based on a codec like FLAC. I’m guessing this one’s down to the rights-owners.

The most recent update appears to have fixed another gripe; that tracks were automatically cross-faded and that this couldn’t be switched off, meaning that tracks without a lead-in pause could be heard to fade in. Two new options let you toggle gapless playback, and disable or tweak the crossfade. Good.

Unfortunately, the most recent update has also taken the single worst feature of the software and somehow made it worse. For reasons that are hard to explain, playing a track in Spotify typically queues all the other tracks in the view you had at the time. For example, if you play a track after searching for an artist, the artist’s entire Spotify catalogue is added to the play queue.

This usually does make sense if you’re viewing an album page, but the real problem is that the additional tracks aren’t explicitly queued: if you explicitly right-click other tracks and select ‘Queue’, they’re given a higher priority and inserted (in yellow) after the track that’s currently playing, but before the remaining tracks implicitly added to the original play queue (in white).

It’s incredibly unintuitive: play an album, find another you want to hear next, queue it and you’ll find it plays in the middle of the first album you selected. Worse, you can’t delete implicitly queued tracks or move them around in the play order. The easiest way to deal with them used to be by quitting and restarting Spotify.

With the latest update, even that doesn’t remove them. Now the only way I’ve found to clear the unwanted items is to double-click to play the last track in the list, which should make those before it disappear, then seek to the end of the track and when playback finishes that track will also disappear. Now that’s good UX.

In case you hadn’t worked it out, you can avoid the problem in the first place by always right-clicking tracks/albums and queueing them, then starting playback by viewing the Play Queue and double-clicking on the first track in the list.

Napkin fail

Fewer grammar.

Twitter spam seems to be on the rise, anecdotally at least. In my experience the network’s spam falls into one of two camps. Spam followers are invariably female, have an unlikely sounding name and an attractive/revealing/slutty profile pic. Spam replies typically come from a similar profile.

It’s tricky to deal with the former. Any new user is likely to follow several other accounts and send a few messages before anyone follows them back, so it’s hard to say with any certainty whether a brand-new account is a spammer.

The latter is easy: if I’m not following someone, we’ve never messaged each other before and they send me an @ message containing only a shortened link; it’s spam.

It’s a simple and unfailing rule, which is why Twitter should impliment it, rather than relying on me reporting offenders.

Muscle memory can be a bugger for touch-typists, particularly those of us taught by a combination of Mavis Beacon and the Typing of the Dead.

My own personal keyboard twitch appears to be transposing the ‘o’ and ‘n’ in words ending ‘ion’. I have to watch for it when proofing myself, but it’s a typo that keeps on giving; always calling to mind a smaller, more Italian form of whatever I’m writing about: train statino, BIOS configuratino, administratino passwords.

A less frequent transpositino comes with words ending ‘ine’; most frequently when I substitute ‘machien’ for ‘machine’. On some days, using some computers, it’s more apt.

Everyone I’ve spoken to hates Facebook’s ‘frictionless sharing’ thing. You know, the thing that shows you every single article your friends are reading on supported sites.

On the occasions when the story sounds interesting, you click the link and get asked to install a social reader, rather than just taken to the story. Install the reader and you become one of the people pumping out endless ‘X read Y’ updates to their friends’ timeline.

The problem is that you can’t turn it off, so imagine my joy this morning when I encountered this:

Yes please!

Imagine the crushing disappointment when I discover that, like marking the fucking things as spam, it doesn’t work.

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