The Return of SonoAir

Back in January I wrote about trying to play podcasts through the Sonos. As you’ll recall1 I had tried and failed to install AirSonos on my NAS, and was considering trying SonoAir on my Mac.

I did try it, but it never quite worked. The app launched, and found the Sonos network and the speaker. But it didn’t appear as an AirPlay device to my phone. I could make it work in one context: iTunes (on the same Mac) could see it and use it as a functional output device.But that wasn’t much use, as the Sonos already has access to my iTunes library from where it’s backed up on the NAS — and also to Apple Music. So being able to play from iTunes to the Sonos brought nothing new.

The added functionality I was looking for was to be able to play podcasts from Overcast, and switch to the speaker when I’m listening in the kitchen. For that my iPhone or iPad needs to be able to see the speaker.

So it all didn’t look too promising. But I was just having another go, and I noticed that the version on the website is 1.0 (BETA 6.1), while I had BETA 4. A quick download and we’re up and running: it works!

Now I just have to keep my MacBook running at all times. Oh well.

  1. I know, you probably won’t. []

More Network Nonsense

More trouble with the home network today. We had a smart electricity meter installed a few days ago. Though without the “smart” part, because they couldn’t get a good enough signal down in our basement. You’d think they’d have considered that possibility in designing them, since that’s the kind of place where a lot of people’s meters are. Anyway, I think it was interfering with our powerline connection.

We have a BT HomeHub as our main router and connection out to the fibre. But the wifi was a bit crap up at the top of house. So about a year back I got a couple of powerline connectors and used them to extend the 5GHz network upstairs, using another router that we had accidentally acquired as the other access point.

It worked fine, until just the other day. The first symptom was that the Sonos app couldn’t connect to the speaker. I did some diagnosis, and everything was just weird. We could mostly connect to the outside world without any trouble, but I couldn’t connect to the HomeHub’s web interface by name. Nor, I think, by IP address. And then in one of my experiments I tried a slightly different IP address (one that shouldn’t have existed on our network), and I found myself at… a Sky box.

Now you know my dislike for that bunch. There’s no way I’d let their networking hardware on my LAN, any more than I’d subscribe to their channels. and in any case, just, what?

I wondered if our network could somehow have got crossed with one of the neighbours’. But it seemed so improbable. The neighbouring network would need to be using the same SSID, at the very least.

As you’d imagine, I started taking components out to try to isolate the problem. With just the BT HomeHub in place, things were back to normal. But as soon as I began adding parts, everything went weird.

Eventually I concluded — guessed, really — that the smart meter might be using powerline itself. We’re supposed to get a screen-based device for monitoring usage, and maybe that communicates with the meter over powerline. And the meter could have an embedded sky router? That seems unlikely, but maybe Sky have the contract to do the phoning home for EDF.

Anyway, since the root of the problem seemed to be at least partly to do with IP address conflicts, I decided to factory-reset everything and rebuild with a different IP address range (I’ve never used before). Along with a new wifi SSID and password.

And so far so good. But I’m having trouble getting the second router to route properly via the first, so upstairs is going to be problematic till I can solve that.

All this is doing, of course, is making me wish that we could get Eeros in the UK. A self-configuring mesh network is exactly what we need, and not all this jerry-rigged nonsense.

Mac Wishing

Those times when you’re typing a document at work on a shonky Windows 7 machine, and longing for your Mac, where you’d have professional text-handling tools, like Marked for previewing Markdown.

Not that you can’t preview, as long as you’ve got a decent text editor such as Sublime Text (well, specifically Sublime). But things are just so much easier with Mac tools.

And I speak as one who has never had the opportunity to use the Mac professionally. I’ve used Windows machines at works since about 1993, and before that green-screen 5250 terminals.

One of these days, though.

Wifi Blues

I didn’t write a post tonight because I spent most of the evening struggling with wifi configuration. And the less said about that, the better.

“Ping” Pong

When the original Unix designers (or, as it turns out, Mike Muuss) chose ping as the name for the command for checking the status of a network host, it was a moment of inspired genius. The word is almost onomatopoeic in its appropriateness.

But nowadays people are pinging each other all over the place: emails, IMs, even phone calls are “pinged” at each other. “I’ll ping you an email,” they say.

The purist in me cringes a little each time I hear it. But it shouldn’t. The word that was so apposite for those early savants is just as suitable today: it communicates a needed concept. And English, of course, is a living, thriving language. So let people get on with it

Just don’t expect me to use it myself.

A Touching App

I’m typing this in MarsEdit, from Red Sweater Software, which has long been considered the best dedicated blogging client for the Mac. Daniel Jalkut, who is Red Sweater Software, is also one half of the Core Intuition podcast with Manton Reece, who is creating, and running the Kickstarter I wrote about a few days ago.

Anyway, a while ago Jalkut wrote and released a kind of “Touch Bar emulator” app for Macs. It simulates on-screen the Touch Bar of the new MacBooks. I just installed it, and it’s really very cool at giving you an idea of what the Touch Bar is like. Obviously you have to use it with the mouse or trackpad, as it doesn’t actually turn a section of the screen touch sensitive, but you can see what features each application offers when the Touch Bar is present, for example.

The only real downside is that it covers up a piece of screen. But it’s easy to toggle it off and on with a key combination.

All in all, fun and useful; and with a clever name: Touché.


Further on owning your own content, I practise what some call POSSE: Publish on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. One of the elsewheres, as I’ve mentioned before, is Medium.

Medium, though having troubles recently, is in part a platform that other publications can use to build their own sites.

After yesterday’s Politics and Poetry post, I got an email this morning from somebody called Steve Saul, telling me that a new Medium-based publication called EveryVote would like to use my piece.

EveryVote is made by the people who make a site called, which helps people find and get in touch with their representatives in Congress. A bit like They Work for You over here, I guess, but with a specific stated aim of resisting the Trump regime.

Obviously I’m broadly in favour of their goals, so I had no problem with saying yes to their using my piece. Though it occurs to me that it’s bad professional-writing practice, as they didn’t even suggest payment (and I must admit I didn’t think of it till now). But let’s face it, I’m not a professional writer, even if I’d like to be. And the possibility that more people might come here and read my stuff, or at least read my stuff on Medium, is a genuine one.

“Doing it for the exposure,” to an extent. But not so much, since I had already done it. Anyway, my piece is currently visible on EveryVote

The Strange Case of the Lost Reply

I’ve tried various email clients on iOS, but for quite a while now my favourite has been Dispatch from Clean Shaven Apps. As well as the many integrations and efficient handling of archiving and deleting emails, I like it because it is one of the only apps that lets you order mail in the One True Way.

Which in case you’re wondering is oldest at the top. Newest at the top is fine for blogs and similar news-based things, but it’s not right for anything else. Call me old-fashioned, but that was the default in Eudora and probably in Mutt and Elm and all those too, and it was and remains the best way.

Even Outlook lets you order it oldest-first. Though disturbingly few people take advantage of it.

Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that today Dispatch let me down. I was typing a reply on my iPad this morning. The reply composition window looks like this:

Fullsizeoutput 5a7

I did something — I’m not sure what — that made the composition window slide off to the right. Part of it was still visible, so I tried tapping on it. And it disappeared.

There was no prompt, and nothing in my drafts folder. All that I had typed was gone, like tears in rain.

I’ve just been trying to reproduce it, and I can, up to a point: if you slide the compose window to the right it goes off out of the way, like this:

Fullsizeoutput 5ab

Which is actually quite useful, because it makes the compose window non-modal and lets you interact with your other messages. But somehow something can go wrong, even though I can’t make it happen now.

Not the end of the world. I retyped the mail. But that’s not good enough, Dispatch. You have to be able to trust your email client.

Things That Should be Easy

It ought to be easy to install a software package on Linux. I mean, it usually is. All modern distros ship with package managers, right? So all you should have to do is type (Debian-based example):

sudo apt-get install PACKAGE-NAME

and away you go. Right?

Well, usually. But today, not for me.

I have a NAS box from Western Digital, which is really a little Linux server with a biggish disk drive. Some time ago I replaced the shipped distro with a newer one, but it was so long ago, and it’s been so quiet and reliable that I can’t remember what version, exactly.

So first, there seems to be no way to interrogate it to see what distro it is. I mean, there must be, and this page lists several ways, but none of them work on this box. I mean, uname shows me the kernel version and all that, but not the distro.

Anyway, all that doesn’t really matter. I was only doing it to install Node, and I was only wanting to install Node so that I could run AirSonos. We got a Sonos Play:1 for the kitchen recently, and it’s great, but the one weakness is that it doesn’t support playing from an arbitrary source one your phone, such as, say, your podcast app of choice (Overcast, obvs).

AirSonos is supposed to effectively turn the Sonos into an AirPlay speaker, so you can easily send audio to it from iOS devices. And you want it to be running on a server, so it’s available all the time.

But it turns out that Node does not want to install on my NAS. Either by apt-get, as above, or by downloading the binary and unpacking it. (That installs it, obviously, but it won’t run.)

I’m going to try running SonoAir on my MacBook. That’s a wrapper round AirSonos, and obviously it’ll only work (assuming it does at all) when my MacBook is awake. But life’s too short.

Getting Rid of Offensive Publications in Apple News Widget

This is not a “How To” article, it’s a “How Do I?” one. I’ve been googling (or duckducking) to try to find the answer, but to no avail yet.

Take a look at this screenshot:

Screenshot of Apple News widget on an iPad.
Note that those “Top Stories” include headlines from the Sun and Sky News. Two publications whose names and words I do not want to see polluting my iPad or iPhone.

But I can’t find any way to get rid of them. The widget details are linked to the Apple News app, and in the app itself you can specify preferences, but it doesn’t seem to affect what appears in the widget.

So if anyone has any idea of how to influence what appears there, please drop me a comment, or tweet me a link or something.

And yes I know I could disable the widget and/or delete the app, but I quite like the idea of it, in principle at least. And yes, I also know that avoiding the views of publications I dislike is only going to increase my own bubble effect. But you’ve got to have standards. I could cope with the Telegraph or even the Times (though I’d prefer not to). But the Sun? Come on.