Bug fixing with Mac, the chatbot

I've just fixed a bug in the data files for my chatbot, Mac. The bug was preventing Mac from replying to your input. It turns out there was a misplaced comma. All fixed now and Mac is chatting away like a four-year-old child again.

The usual standard of conversation you can expect from a computer program written in JavaScript.

Goji Cafe York

Today I went to York for breakfast. This post has nothing to do with technology and geeky things, but it's my blog and I don't care.

York is a fantastic city in Yorkshire, full of ancient ruins and endless cool places to explore. Founded by the Romans, invaded by Vikings and more recently by countless tourists. There is too much to see and do in York to write about here, so I will just mention what I had to eat.

One of my favourite places in York is Goji Cafe on Goodramgate. I had this delicious vegan sausage ciabatta. All the food at Goji's is vegetarian or vegan and it is all delicious. The staff are friendly, the service is great and it is well worth a visit if you are ever in York.

Nom nom nom
If you haven't already set off for York, and you are still able to wiggle your mouse after this post, then you might be interested in these photos of computers from the 1970s, or perhaps you just need some light reading.

@gojicafe #york #vegan

Setting your Chromebook desktop to the Bing image of the day

Until recently I had set my Chromebook to regularly update with an interesting daily desktop image. The option to do this is in the settings under Appearance > Wallpaper > 'surprise me'.

Setting your Chromebook desktop to the Bing image of the Day
These kangaroos are brought to you by Bing.
It occurred to me that the Bing image of the day was often far more beautiful than what is offered under Chrome OS and there must be a way to change the desktop automatically to the Bing image of the day.

A quick search in Bing led me to the Chrome Web Store, and there it is, the Wallpaper from Bing for Chromebook app. It only works on Chromebooks, but there are other workarounds for different platforms which I may go into in detail in another post sometime.

'Wait!' I hear you cry, with horror: 'you Binged it?!? Why didn't you Google it??'

Well, I quietly changed from Google to Bing a few years ago. There are a number of good reasons for this.

Back in the day, well the nineties, when music was good, and we did actually believe that things could only get better (that's a Dr. Brian Cox joke) I used Netscape Navigator and searching the web was a rather hit and miss affair. A typical web search would throw up thousands of results and you would spend half an hour scrolling through irrelevant results. I think I was in the middle of a troublesome and tiring search through Ask Jeeves or Yahoo or something similar when a friend asked me why I wasn't using Google.

'What's Google?' I asked. This was around the end of 1998 and the first iteration of Google's search engine had just appeared. I wasn't disappointed, as you can imagine, and in the intervening years, the word 'Google' has become synonymous with searching itself. Not only is your preferred target on the first page of results, but it also predicts your search term and completes it for you.

A couple of years ago Microsoft launched their 'Bing Challenge'. Switch to Bing and see if you notice the difference. Being the naive sort of fellow that I am, I gave it a chance and noticed only that Bing seemed to give slightly better results and came with a beautiful image of the day.

But there are a few reasons for sticking with Bing, such as better image search, but here is the main reason...

...You get paid to use Bing.

With Microsoft rewards, you can earn points each time you search. Points add up and can be spent on sweepstake entries or saved up for gift cards for some of your favourite department stores. The more you search, the more points you earn (up to some daily limit). You can even donate your points to charity.

Microsoft rewards for using Bing search
Some of the offers available for using Bing.

Well, that's all from me for today. If this post hasn't made you rage-quit the Internet, then you might like to stick around and read about some other Chromebook posts, or maybe you like calendars instead?

Updated day clock

Today I have been updating my day clock to include even more historic events, pagan festivals and international days of this and that.

It would be great if you went and had a look, and even better if you set it as your homepage.

A vision of 1970s Computing

I recently found a pile of books in the back of a cupboard at work. They are a series of books introducing children to the wonderful world of computers written in the early 1970s and published by Chambers. The books have inspiring names, such as "The Useful Computer" (IBSN 0 550 77111 5) and "The Computer Becomes Literate" (ISBN 0 550 77109 3). Throughout the books there are delightful photographs of computer devices being used in business (very few home computers in the early 70s).

Considering the age of the books, let's assume that they are fair use. Which is good because I want to post them here and write faintly amusing things about them.

In this image we can see a person from the 1970s using one of the most up-to-the-date computer systems to update her eHarmony profile. This would then printed out and placed on noticeboards around the building.
In the 1970s it was thought that Babbage's Analytical Engines would become smaller, faster and more portable. It was thought that the main use for these flawfless mathematical calculation machines would be for sending Tweets. This never came to be.

In this image we see an office worker phoning her boss to admit that she has deleted the spreadsheet, again. Yes, all 500 bytes of it.

A typical man cave from the 1970s. This gaming setup includes a tape deck which later evolved into the 'restore point'.

Early Facebook users from the 1970s would print out their friends profile pages and then spend their evening reading through them. If they 'liked' a post they would draw a little thumbs-up or heart next to it in red ink and send it back to them in the mail.

Whenever someone made a copy-paste error in their spreadhseets in the 70s, they would telephone the debug man who would spend his evening rewiring the spreadsheet. Typically, the problem was fixed in time for another working day.

Back in the 1970s storage devices were kept under lock and key. A specially trained technician would feed and train a small zoo of mice whose job it was to keep the spindle rotating high enough to achieve data transfer rates of up to 8 bits per second. It is from this practice that we get the computer terms 'mouse' and 'hard cheese'.

An early storage device from the 1970s. This one was mainly used to store cat photos, as they still are today.

A rare photograph showing early Tumblr memes being uploaded.
There was always much excitement in the office whenever a new Linux distro came out.
Back in the 1970s it was thought that the office of the future would involve desk after desk of office workers staring at their computer screens all day. Thankfully, this never happened.
If you liked this post, then do please share it with your friend if you have one, alternatively you could look at this other post which has nothing to do with the one you just read, or look at a home computer from the 1980s.


I love simple and beautiful puzzle games, and this one is my favourite at the moment.

Lines by Leo de Sol Apps
In Lines for Android, you must race to 'flood-fill' more of the screen than the computer. The gameplay involves selecting a point on the line for your coloured paint to start filling. The colours then race each other as they run down the lines with apparent minimal viscosity. If you have filled more of the screen than the computer, then you win, and you get 'medals' with which you will be the envy of your friends.

When coloured paint collides there is a piano stab sound effect which adds to the game's ambience. Not only is this puzzle a great way to challenge your brain, but it is beautiful as well. It is what would happen if the gods of geometry had a race. Ok, I don't think that mathematics has gods, but if they did...

There are multiple modes of play which get unlocked as you defeat different levels. The main mode of play involves choosing one or more points on the line to start from. In 'Eraser' mode, you get to remove one or more of your opponents starting points, you meanie! In 'Rope' mode you have to add one or more of your own lines to create short-cuts in your race against the opponent. In 'knife' mode you must cut the rope next to your opponent to strategically and dastardly stop him from filling your own region of the map. I haven't unlocked any more than that, however, there is also a 'paint' mode, and a 'mixed' mode which presumably requires you to do combinations of the other skills, such as cutting ropes as well as adding new lines.

There is a daily challenge to keep you entertained for longer, as well as a series of challenges for the dedicated Line player to test themselves against.

This simple but fun and beautiful game does have a few drawbacks. Some of the levels are rather easy to complete, but then again, I have only just started playing so maybe the challenge ramps up later. Secondly, the advertisements do come fairly thick and fast, which I know many people find annoying.

Overall, a great game to help keep your brain ticking over: +1 Geek Experience Point for Leo de Sol Apps.

If you haven't already left this page in a huff, then you might be interested in some other posts tagged with the word 'puzzle', or something completely different.

Windows 10 shortcut keys

While not an exhaustive list, here are some Windows 10 shortcut key combos that I did not know about until today, so I have decided to share them here, in the hope that you didn't know them either.

If you want to be a Windows 10 keyboard ninja, read on...

Windows key + SHIFT + S
This opens the screen clipping tool. This confusing one used to be Windows key + S in Windows 7 (without the SHIFT), but this combo now opens Cortana (in Windows 10). Phew!

The snipping tool allows you to screenshot sections of your screen which then gets copied to the clipboard. I am glad I found this as it is going to save me from overuse of the PrtSc button. If you don't know what PrtSc does, find it on your keyboard and press it now.

A screen clipping of my desktop. This image is generated by the Tiny Planet Maker app for Android.

Windows Key +  D
This is a useful combo for when you are working on your secret plans for world domination and someone walks into the room behind you. Unless that person is a trusted minion or lieutenant, then you might want to keep your plans secret. This combo will automatically minimise all your windows and deposit you at your desktop. Now, whoever it is will just wonder why you have been staring so intently at your desktop (unless your desktop image is something unimaginably gross or stupid, in which case they will just get the wrong idea about you and you should probably change it immediately).

Windows Key + CTRL + D
This combo is the same as above, except it will create a new virtual desktop. Press Windows Key + TAB to enter the task viewer to manage all your desktops.

Windows Key + CTRL + cursors
Pressing this combo with left and right arrows will cycle through your virtual desktops without needed to go to the task viewer. I promise that this will make you feel like a keyboard ninja.

Windows Key + Alt + D
This one opens the Windows Calendar. It is the same as aiming your mouse pointer at the digital time display in your taskbar and clicking. This is very useful for when you need to remember how long you have until your BFF's birthday, or when you plan to use the doomsday device that you have been building in your shed, for example.

Oh, and Happy new year by the way

Windows Key + T
This toggles through the apps you have pinned to your taskbar. Hold down SHIFT to toggle in the reverse direction. Press enter to load your selection.

Windows Key + cursor keys
This one deserves some experimenting. First press Windows key with the right arrow. Then press Windows key with the up arrow twice in rapid succession. What happens? I'm not telling you, but you will enjoy it, you keyboard nerd.

F2 in file explorer
This one will save some pointing and right-clicking. Simply press F2 to rename any selected file in the file explorer without having to take your hands off the keyboard. Need to quickly rename 'my secret diary.docx' to 'osughsdmbfw'? Windows has your back.

CTRL + 0 in your browser
You probably already use CTRL with the plus and minus keys to zoom in and out of a webpage. Pressing CTRL + 0 will restore the page to the default magnification again. I have tested this in Chrome, Edge and Firefox so far.

So, that's all the combos I learned today. You can find the full exhaustive list over at Microsoft support pages.

If you enjoyed this article, then you probably need to seek some sort of professional help for that, but until you get that booked in, you might like to look at some other Windows related posts, or maybe something completely different.

Conways Game of Life in 3D running on BeebEm BBC micro emulator (shown here for no reason whatsoever)

Public noticeboard

I'm probably going to regret this.

It is an experiment.

I have used lino it to create a public noticeboard. Anyone may post onto the noticeboard. The only rule is that the content must remain suitable for children.