Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

May 6, 2015
by Neil Turner
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App of the Week: Airmail 2

Screenshot of Airmail 2

About 18 months ago, I reviewed Airmail, a third-party email app for Mac OS X. Today, I’m reviewing a new version of the app – which is version 2.1 at time of writing.

I’ve been using the previous version of Airmail for some time now. It manages the balance between simplicity and power; the interface is simple and focussed on quick reading and sorting of messages, but it also includes many of the features of more powerful email clients. POP3, IMAP and Exchange email accounts are all supported, and it includes extensive support for Gmail-specific features, including OAuth authentication (so no need to create a separate ‘app password’).

Airmail 2 isn’t a massive change from the previous version, which is actually a good thing as version 1 got a lot of things right. The interface has changed a bit, with a flatter, more out-lined appearance, and some aspects of the app have been re-designed. The biggest change I noticed was its speed – my major complaint with Airmail 1 was that it was a bit slow, and thankfully Airmail 2 is much faster at starting up.

Another major new feature is plugins. At present there are just two, one to add S/MIME support, and another which integrates with GnuPG for email encryption and signing. Whilst I don’t use PGP very often, it’s handy to have this available.

Airmail 2 is somewhat more expensive than its predecessor. Currently it costs £8 which I believe is an introductory price; this is to allow users of Airmail 1 to upgrade at a discount, seeing as the Mac App Store doesn’t officially allow paid updates to existing apps. If this is so, then eventually the cost will rise to £16, and whilst I like it, I’d also struggle to recommend it as much at that price. But at £8, it’s worth looking into.

Airmail 2 is available from the Mac App Store.

May 5, 2015
by Neil Turner
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Catching up

Bee

Last month, not counting the automatically-posted lists of links that I’ve saved on Pinboard, I wrote three blog posts. Sadly, I’ve not really had much time to sit down and actually write anything much of late.

Work has only just started becoming quieter – January-April is one of our busier periods where we interview prospective students. Christine and I were also both involved in two BUSOM shows – last week’s concert, which went well, thanks for asking, and the show in March. The house purchase has been progressing, albeit slowly, and I’ll write more about that later this week. And I’ve had a renewed interest in playing World of Warcraft following the release of Patch 6.1, so that’s eaten up quite a bit of spare time too.

The result of all of my busyness has not just prevented me from writing blog posts. I’m still reading some longform articles saved to Pocket in February, and haven’t had the chance to edit my photos from my trip to the Middle East which was over six weeks ago.

Now that work has calmed down, I should be able to take more annual leave. And not having rehearsals on weekday evenings will free up quite a bit of time as well. So hopefully I’ll have chance to write down all of the things I’ve been wanting to talk about recently.

May 4, 2015
by Neil Turner
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A Marvel-ous weekend

Swordfish

Christine and I had a somewhat Marvel-themed weekend. On Friday, we watched Captain America: Winter Soldier, which we missed in the cinema when it came out, and then on Saturday we went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron at the cinema.

We’ve tried to watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films in order, although Christine ended up seeing both Iron Man films for the first time after the first Avengers film. Having also missed Iron Man 3 in the cinema, we caught this on Netflix a few weeks ago, but the second Captain America isn’t yet available on Netflix. We ended up signing up for a one-month free trial of Sky’s Now TV Movies to stream it; most other sites like Blinkbox, iTunes and Google Play ask for around £7 to buy it to keep.

If you haven’t seen Winter Soldier, I would strongly recommend that you watch it before seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron. Without wanting to give away spoilers, several events take place that explain some of the changes between the first and second Avengers films. Similarly, I’d suggest watching Guardians of the Galaxy before Age of Ultron as well – whilst they may not seem at all related, both take place in the larger MCU and Age of Ultron continues some of the plot threads from Guardians of the Galaxy. Also, Guardians of the Galaxy is a great film in its own right.

Both are really good films. I think I enjoyed the second Avengers film more than the first; whilst the first was an action-packed romp, the second focussed more on the relationship between the characters and seemed to have a stronger plot. But it was definitely darker and the ending of the film was much more open-ended. So far I’ve enjoyed all of the MCU films and am looking forward to future instalments. The next release is Ant-Man later this year, and 2016’s Captain America: Civil War will be the first MCU film to feature Spider-Man. We haven’t yet seen The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but seeing as we still have the rest of the month to enjoy Now TV Movies we’ll find time soon to watch it.

A final note: whilst Winter Soldier has a bonus sequence at the very end of the credits, Age of Ultron’s bonus sequence is part-way through, so there’s no need to stay all of the way to the end.

May 2, 2015
by Neil Turner
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Links from Pinboard for May 2, 2015

Here are the articles or web sites that I’ve found this week and linked to on my Pinboard Bookmarks:

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April 27, 2015
by Neil Turner
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Hear Me Sing!

Never Work With Children or AnimalsA rare opportunity to hear me sing has arisen! I’ll be joining the chorus of BUSOM in their summer concert entitled ‘Never Work with Children or Animals’, featuring songs from popular musicals on the theme of childhood and animal magic.

I’ve helped with BUSOM behind the scenes for some of their main shows like Moby Dick! The Musical and Little Shop of Horrors, but this will be the first time I’ve sung in front of an audience since secondary school – karaoke excepted. I wouldn’t say I’m a great singer (and have some issues with timing that need sorting out pronto) but apparently I can hold some semblance of a tune. At least, enough to be part of the chorus.

The concert is this Thursday, in the Escape Bar, Student Central at the University of Bradford. It starts at 7:30pm and tickets will be available on the door.

April 25, 2015
by Neil Turner
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Links from Pinboard for April 25, 2015

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April 18, 2015
by Neil Turner
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Links from Pinboard for April 18, 2015

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April 17, 2015
by Neil Turner
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Theoretically passed

Burnt out car

Two of the big things we’re aiming to do in 2015 are learn to drive, and buy a house. We’re making progress on both: we’ve had an offer accepted on a house (although we’re probably still a good 6 weeks away from getting the keys), and last week I passed my theory test.

I’ve passed the test before, but that was way back in October 2006, when I last had driving lessons. Because I didn’t then pass my practical test, my theory test certificate expired in 2008, meaning I had to take it again.

The test has changed a little bit since last time. Firstly, there are more questions – 50, instead of 35 – and a higher pass mark; you now need to get 43 questions right instead of 30. 5 of these questions form a case study, which was also new compared to last time.

The second part of the test is hazard perception, where you watch several videos and have to identify the hazards that take place. This is to make sure that you’re aware, and would have time to react appropriately in a real situation. This was new when I took it last time – back then, a series of actual video footage was used. Nowadays the videos are mocked up using reasonably realistic CGI – right down to the idiot BMW driver who pulls out in front of you.

I actually didn’t expect to pass. Even though I’d passed it before, in the week running up to it, I heard of two people who had failed it, so I assumed I would too. As it happened, I got 47 questions right out of 50, and scored 58 out of 75 for the hazard perception. To practice and revise, I used the Theory & HPT app from SmartDriving, which was recommended to me by my instructor. It’s up-to-date and comprehensive with hundreds of practice questions, and available on iOS (iPhone and iPad), and on Android. There are many other apps out there that I haven’t tried, but this one seemed to work for me.

Now I just need to pass my practical test. This week’s driving lessons suggested that I’m most of the way there but there are a number of areas that I still need to improve. Hopefully I’ll be able to take the test in the summer, by which time I’ll have had lessons most weeks for around a year.

April 11, 2015
by Neil Turner
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Links from Pinboard for April 11, 2015

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April 4, 2015
by Neil Turner
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Links from Pinboard for April 4, 2015

Here are the articles or web sites that I’ve found this week and linked to on my Pinboard Bookmarks:

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