My Official Birthday

My very first bank card, I received it longer than I care to remember ago. It would only operate in the bank’s own machines, and the PIN number they sent could not be changed. So I had to make sure I remembered it. As time has gone by, it is now a standard feature on all cards, to be able to change the PIN. But that first PIN number stuck, so every card since then has been christened with that same PIN.

It was the same with computers. I bought my first laptop back in 1992, and so began the era of needing personal passwords for things. My first password was based on the model of that very first computer, now fortunately long-since forgotten so even harder to guess. Of course, over the years, the password has become more complex, just by concatenating several other pieces of information to it. Unless you’re me, you’d be lucky indeed if you guessed it – the phrase chance in a million springs to mind, but more like a chance in a million million million million million.

Now, with the coming of the internet age, we log on to many web sites, so I have added a site-specific element to go even harder. So that I have many different passwords. The passwords themselves may all be different, but the rules for building up the password are the same (almost) every time.

And thus it was with other data, too. When I got a Facebook account, it wanted to know my date of birth. So I made one up. It was sufficiently close to the real birthdate that I didn’t get tripped by silly age-verification checks, but that’s where the resemblance ends. Entered it, then promptly forgot.

So at that time, it was just a random, one-off invention, but since Facebook, more and more sites ask for this information (Spotify did the other day, see my recent post) although it is none of their business, it is easier just to fill something in. And so I dreamed up another date, which is slightly more memorable, and which I now use consistently. My official birthday – actually it was the birthday of my friend in elementary school. It took a few years for me to adopt that rule universally, but I now give that DoB out for most everything, except for important things. And using some online service is definitely not important.

So, dear reader, that is why I have two dates of birth, my real date and my official date. But if you wish to send a card on my official birthdayrather than my real one, go right ahead 🙂.

Twenty-first Century Boy

It must have been six months ago when I first got my voice-controlled tech. I blogged about it here. It all started when Google offered their home hub at half price – £25. I guess that’s around $25 or €25, give or take. I’d seen them advertised, so I thought I wonder what it can do?

Actually, on its own, not much. It connected to the web, told me the time, the news and the weather, and within a day I was bored. The device came into its own when I started looking at add-ons. It took a few days research, but I identified a light bulb. Hey, Google, light on. Bear in mind that I tend to crash into things when it’s dark – the stroke affected my balance and although it also affected my eyes, I crash about less in light than in dark. The bulb was just off eBay. Spurred on, the obvious next question was what else can it do? I found a smart switch, again on eBay, which allows me to boil the kettle first-thing. Okay, the switch was more out of decadence than a great practical use, but that too was cheap. I still need to go into the kitchen to feed two hungry cats, but at least I can wait until the kettle is almost boiled before I leave the comfort of my duvet.

My wife – my wife is able-bodied so she doesn’t need any of these gadgets – my wife was impressed by the light especially. We had Black Friday last week, and she picked up an Alexa device, plus bulb, at a third off. Amazon also had a deal on their Prime membership, three months free. At the weekend she finally devoted some time to setting it all up. So, we now have two totally independent circuits in the house, each doing these gadgety things.

One of the things I thought about, then dismissed, was paying for a music streaming service. The main reason is that I already own most of the music I’ll listen to (apart, of course, from SLS!) so it felt like I was paying twice.

However, with my wife’s trial Amazon Prime subscription came also a trial of their music service. And I must admit that I liked the idea, yesterday, of saying Alexa, play Graceland by Paul Simon, then having a leisurely soak in the bath. So, a bit more open-minded, I had a another look.

Google support several providers. They don’t explicitly say they support Amazon, for the two are direct competitors in this market, but they do say that they support any service. But no matter, I won’t buy from Amazon, deal or no. Of the several services they specifically mention, I had a look at them over the weekend.

There is Google Play and YouTube Music – I couldn’t tell the difference, they are the same company after all, and offered the same deals. Deezer is French in origin, so possibly not so many tracks than American services? And not one of them had any sniff of a Black Friday deal, although they did all offer a free trial upon signup. So, in the end, I went with Spotify. Again, no promotion, but three months free, so I have until March to cancel.

I have friends who have, for years, used Spotify happily, although I suspect that, at the time, there was less choice. The price of £10/month was universal – the word cartel springs to mind. But, three months was the longest trial. And Spotify had a student plan, which recognises people on a low income and charges them less. No disabled plan, unfortunately, but at least they have taken a small step in the right direction.

So, I decided overnight, and set everything up this morning. On laptop, tablet and phone, plus of course this Home Hub – it is nice just to lie on the bed and say what I want to listen to. (You can have is on as many devices as you like, but only listen to one at a time). I’m listening to something now. So those lists I made for my Tick-Tock posts might have yet another use, after all.

Too Good To Be True?

I was unbelievably pleased that my migration from Blogger happened so smoothly. Within a day, probably, I had something ready to share with the world. I suppose the abortive attempt a few weeks ago helped out, just in terms of having a pre-idea of how to set things up.

I didn’t quite go the whole way with WordPress, just as I never did with Blogger. I bought the domain name through my usual registrar (I’ve probably got ten domains with them). They allow me full management. For the Blogger site, I set up a few things to point to Blogger, so when I made the change, I reset these to point to WordPress. Because I own it, I can make these changes without having to ask so-and-so to do such-and-such.

WordPress still likes to manage a few things. When I performed the migration, I thought it was really smart, because things like my email worked perfectly, right from the off. WordPress must’ve looked up the old data and brought it across.

At this point, it gets technical. When you set up gmail.com (or any other email server), you have to set two things up, your incoming server’s address and your outgoing server’s address. For each one, you publish the server’s IP address. When you’re huge like gmail, you’ll have different addresses for each.

So imagine somebody opens their email program. When they’re picking up their emails, they’ll connect to one of the servers.

Then imagine that they then decide to send an email to joe.bloggs@gmail.com instead, their email program looks at the other address, so it knows where to send the message.

I own strokesurvivor.me.uk, so the plan was to change the web site settings from Blogger to WordPress but to keep the mail settings the same.

I could see it was all working, so I probably didn’t look closely enough at the settings. I assumed that wp had been really smart and pulled the old settings across, and I was good the whole weekend.

Today, though, my email program stopped picking up messages. It gave an error when it tried to read them. That was weird because people could send to me without any problems. My current wp settings mean that wp alone is sending me 50-odd emails per day!

So I looked closely at these settings, and here’s the weird thing: some of them had been set up, some hadn’t. The settings for somebody to send stuff to me were there, but not the ones my email program uses to receive.

Fortunately, my blog’s email is all hosted on my mail server, so I’ve been able to log directly on to that to see messages, and nothing was lost. And, I’ve made sure that the necessary settings are added in wp. Lo and behold, my email program is fine now.

A hiccup, no more. I can kind-of understand how I managed to pick up email after I migrated, because changes take time to propagate around the world, but I’m stumped, why wp picked up some of my original settings and not others.