Category Archives: News

My CoinBase Experience

With the recent Bitcoin excitement in the marketplace, I thought it was finally a good time to sink some cash into the cryptocurrency and see what fortunes, if any, were to be had. Full disclosure: I’m not a trader so what follows is a layman’s account of an investment experience.

Choosing Coinbase

After reading a book about Bitcoin, watching countless videos and listening to word on the street, I chose Coinbase to be my Bitcoin broker as it seemed like a safe bet. They are by far the most established BTC trading platform, the website looks decent, they have a lot of funding, and it’s a largish company that would appear to be sticking around for the short to medium term at least. From my research I couldn’t even see a second choice, so I just went ahead and went through the fairly extensive ID verifications required to get my account setup on their platform.

The Problems Begin

When I started out with Coinbase, in Christmas of 2015, I took it really easy and just bought £20 worth of BTC and another £20 worth of Ethereum, just to make sure the transactions were possible and the whole process worked. Nothing unexpected happened at this stage.

The Coinbase Mobile App

I wanted a way to track the value of my mini investment so it seemed like a good idea to get the Coinbase app. I was immediately surprised that the app wouldn’t launch, it had a problem getting or parsing the pricing data and crashed instantly. No biggie I thought, I don’t really have anything to track. A month or two later, a new version of the app came out, same problem, crash on start. Strange, I thought. Another month or two later another new version, same instant launch crash. I should have seen the signs. I sent Coinbase an email asking if there were any pirates onboard the ghost ship – well not in those exact words – anyway, no answer.

After what seemed like a long time, I think it was around 6 months, I noticed that their app was finally working. It was a relief, but I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my chair or anything. As an app developer let me point out that each time I tried I reinstalled the Coinbase app from scratch, knowing that the package files can be left in an botched state – this didn’t help.

BTC Surges 100% in 2016, Time to Buy?

Watching the steady growth over 2016, I was impressed – like many others – that BTC value actually doubled in less than a year, and it seemed to be storming ahead confidently. Let’s sink some cash in, I thought, and started out with £500. I bought at £726 a Bitcoin. The currency forged ahead strongly until £900 – I thought this may keep going, let’s put another £500 in. All was well, for 24 hours at least, then, as luck would have it, the biggest crash of 2016 happened, hundreds of pounds of my investment disappeared in less than 24 hours.

Coinbase Fees

As you may know the BTC price varies quite a bit depending which exchange youre looking at, so its hard to compare the buy/sell prices to see how much of a cut Coinbase is taking on a buy. However, what is very obvious is the hefty commission they charge per transaction. Not listed anywhere on the site but once you make a transaction, the £20 fee is obvious enough. When I sold the fee was lower, £7.45, not sure how they calculate that.

Coinbase Purchases

The easiest way to buy BTC is with a debit card, and from the above experience you can see its also the most expensive. But the website shows you another option, you can also choose to do a bank transfer which ought be cheaper. The bottom line is less obvious and of course less favourable than customers are lead to believe.

At first I tried to do the transfer which I assumed was to a UK account and therefore free of charges, but further down the line I discovered the transfer must be done to a European account. A £10 fee. Well its a one off, I thought, lets take the hit now and I should be able to recover it later on. The website presents you with a message when you initiate the transfer, “Your bank account will be verified 1-2 business days after the transfer is completed.” Two days go by, no verification. 5 days, none. Ive sent in total another 4 messages to Coinbase asking to explain the meaning of this misleading message, of course no answer. I should point out that to date Ive sent at least 10 messages to Coinbase support and have never once received an answer. So there is no Coinbase support, it’s a mirage. At the time of writing it’s a week after the verification date and nothing has happened yet and probably never will. Maybe the company is folding after all. I have been given no reason to trust Coinbase support whatsoever.

Trying to Sell on Coinbase

So BTC is tanking, no problem I thought, I can always sell, right? Would you believe the Coinbase website went down for about 24 hours during the BTC price fall. Of course it did. I was kicking myself, but while Coinbase gave the impression of professionalism, this was one scenario I didn’t anticipate. By the time the site came back up I was down £200. I sold £500 at a considerable loss, and figured I’d keep the rest in, just to see what happens.

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Trying To Get Your Money Out Of Coinbase

I should mention at this point that you will not find any info anywhere on the Coinbase website about how to get your money out of Coinbase and back into your back account. I did spot this right away, and sent an email enquiry. Of course it was never answered. I thought I’d persist. To date I think I’ve sent the same enquiry at least 3 times. No answer. So I’m left feeling a little disenchanted with the folks at Coinbase, this is not a serious company in my opinion.

Today I tried to get my £500 out of Coinbase and back into my bank account. This is the surprise message I was presented:

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How Many Ways to Lose Money with Coinbase

Well it looks like I don’t have much choice. So I proceeded with the bank transfer only to be presented with the following message:

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Of course, that’s my bank account that’s never been verified! 🙄 So now it looks that I’ll have to wait indefinitely before I see any of my money back. I will be pursuing this for sure.

Tracking Final Losses

£492.55 (sold £500)
to be updated …

Conclusion

Coinbase cannot be trusted, in my opinion. I feel woefully mislead as a customer. I would strongly advise against using their service. I’ve personally put £1000 into Coinbase and it currently looks like I will never see my money again.

Please enter your mobile number so we’re know you’re not a robot

First, in the on-boarding process, it insists on a sign up. Of course wanting to send me notifications which I refuse.

Then this:

Please enter your mobile number so we’re know you’re not a robot

Deleted immediately. Muppets.

Does @dripapp honestly think anyone is stupid enough to believe a phone number is required to prove they are not a robot?

Now they’re spamming me with emails that include an unsubscribe link that doesn’t work. What a surprise!

Virgin Media Email Contact

This is quite a discovery, anyone who is a Virginmedia customer will be amazed.  Hopefully Google will do its thing and this solution will bubble to the top …

NB: all info is accurate and correct at the time of posting

tl;dr Email the CEO

If you want to penetrate Virginmedia’s anti-customer service shield, send your emails to tom.mockridge@virginmedia.co.uk

Customer Service in 2016

As many Virginmedia customers know, the company goes out of its way to ensure there is no way to contact customer service with any complaint about their service you might have.  One of the top broadband providers in the UK, Virginmedia has no publicised email contact details.

Currently the options available for contacting Virginmedia are:

  • a buried Chat option which, even if the first link says it’s available, a second click through tells you to try again as no operators are on hand
  • a premium charge customer support number, so you not only have to wait at least 20 minutes on hold, but you get the pleasure of paying to waste your time to report a problem that’s not even your fault

Google Gems Not On First Page of Results

Fed up with these options I decided to invest some time trying to discover how to contact Virginmedia.  This is a large organisation, right?  There must be some people sitting in front of computers that can deal with customers, right?

I had recently signed up for their home broadband package and instead of getting the advertised 100 mb/s broadband speed,  Virginmedia is only delivering around 3 mb/s.  This is during evening “rush hours”, which are from around 6pm to 10pm, which is pretty much the only time you want your home internet connection to work.

It turns out that the 14th result in Google for “virgin media email contact” is this rather strange item from a website that claims it hosts contact details for CEOs of big corporates:

virgin

When you click the link you are taken to a page which indeed provides the email address of the apparent CEO of Virgin Media.

I had typed a complaint email to Virginmedia reasonably voicing my complaint and up until now it had been unceremoniously bounced from emails like help@virginmedia.com and enquiries@virginmedia.com, revealed from previous searches.

Not willing to be fobbed off, I shot another email to the apparent CEO of Virginmedia.  For reference, that email is tom.mockridge@virginmedia.co.uk

What do you think happened?

I got a call within 15 minutes

I got a phone call within 15 minutes with a very helpful chap on the end of the line who was not reading from a script, wasn’t located over 10,000 km away, and in fact was very keen to address my complaint, resolve it, and who ultimately offered me a goodwill credit sum of £60 for the poor service I had received.

Internet: 1
2016-Style Customer Service: 0

Concrete Results

goodwill

Update 1

The date Virgin promised a fix for unfortunate customers in Ealing, London, UK has long gone and no fix is available.  The 100 mb/s package regular maxes out at 3 mb/s during prime time.  I complained again and this time was given only a £10 discount/month.  It seems unlikely the Virgin will be able to deliver what is promises.  I should point out that I got an almost instant response to my complaint, however, using the technique above again.

Getting Rotation to Work in Procreate

Here’s an email I sent to the developers on the subject:

Hi Matt

 
I can’t really complain as your app is amazing, it’s something of miracle that you and your team managed to pack so much functionality and quality into one app.  As an iOS developer and amateur artist I salute you, great job!
 
However I cannot overlook the fact that it’s taken me 2 hours to figure out how to rotate the canvas and rotate selections.  From a UX perspective here are the steps I went through to find the solution:
  • NO (45 mins): went through every setting in the app multiple times, including sliding layers to reveal all possible options
  • NO (45 mins): found and downloaded your excellent iBook manual and reviewed all relevant chapters
  • NO (20 mins): experimented with changing the settings under Settings.app > General > Multi-tasking
  • NO (10 mins): googled and went through several forum posts with 4-5 years worth of posting, mostly irrelevant answers due to wrong version of app/iOS
  • YES (1 min): found a reference that suggested “rotate” was disabled by default in Settings.app > Procreate
As an iOS dev I am constantly downloading and trying out new apps, I always have around 250 installed on my iPad and check new releases often.  As an amateur artist I have the top 30 drawing/sketching apps installed on my device and have tried to become proficient with all of them.  I literally have not had to adjust anything in Settings.app > $appname for at least the last 3 years, hence this route to find a solution was not near the top of my list.
 
I’m sure you have good reasons for disabling rotation by default, although I don’t know what they are.  Can I suggest you update the iBook manual (the first place I looked was 10. Transform) with the requirement to change the app’s default settings to get rotation to work.
 
Many thanks and keep up the great work!
 
cheers
 
Demian

iTunes Match vs Apple Music

2015 11 18 04 04

The main difference is if you upload your music (ripped CDs, “acquired” MP3s) with Apple Music, you lose it after you cancel your Apple Music subscription. Even if the files are sitting on your device, you will not be able to access or play them after the subscription is ended.

When you end your iTunes Match sub, you can only access songs you’ve downloaded, they will not be available to download after the sub ends. You can continue to play the songs that exist on your device.

Your iTunes Match library will only be stored online for 30 days after you cancel.

Best Option

  • make a backup of your iTunes “matched” personal music, store it somewhere on disk
  • cancel iTunes Match
  • continue subscribing with Apple Music, and upload all your personal music with it

Details

You can see the file type in iTunes if you add the new column “iCloud Status”. If you upload an audio track that cannot be matched, it gets the status “Uploaded” in the “Cloud” column.

So to follow the best option above, download and save all items of type Matched and Uploaded.

Caveat

There is currently (2015-11-18) a bug where content you uploaded with iTunes Match is mistakenly labelled as Apple Music. 

Conclusion

So at the time of writing Apple is forcing customers to pay for both services, if they paid for iTunes Match and then later subscribed to Apple Music.

Linking Between Ulysses, MindNode and DayOne

Ulysses, MindNode and DayOne are excellent writing, planning and journalling apps, respectively. Many would argue they are best of breed in their respective categories and perhaps even their main reason for using Apple hardware. Certainly I feel this way and I’ve done a fair bit of research over the last little while to find these gems and have enjoyed getting to know them better.

In this article I’d like to show you how to link between the documents of these apps, but first a bit of background.

What is Mac-like?

Although Ulysses, MindNode and DayOne are standalone, unrelated apps, you’ll find many people that use all three. If you had to find a quality that unites them I think it would be how Mac-like they are. “Mac-like” is a funny term when you think about it and it may confuse some readers yet it appears on almost every description page of Mac software. In truth only a few apps properly live up to that title. There’s a huge amount of design aesthetic that’s gone in to Apple’s own apps and indeed many of the best 3rd party apps. Luckily for developers it’s all catalogued in a document called The Human Interface Guidelines1

Linking

One of the key aspects of Mac-like software and the Apple design aesthetic is application interoperability. 2 The original way to achieve this was through drag & drop and indeed this feature has remained unchanged for several decades now.

Fast forward to 2015 and you have excellent apps like Ulysses, MindNode and DayOne, and of course they have all considered interoperability carefully as each one imports and exports their data to multiple formats. 3

But one Mac-like feature that seems to be missing is how to link between the documents of these apps. Here are my suggestions.

Ulysses to DayOne

Well DayOne is a very developer-friendly app, so they’ve done a bit of extra work and it’s quite easy to invoke the app from other apps and indeed open specific journal entries.

Here’s the format to use

dayone://edit?entryId=3270B67A74E44A7491375036168310C2

Just drop that in a Ulysses link dialog like so:

Screen Shot 2015 10 23 at 5 08 09 p m

To get the unique ID of a journal entry, select the entry and hit Info > Show Entry in Finder and use the filename without the extension.

Dayone

UPDATE 1: Sadly this great feature no longer works in DayOne2.  I’ve contacted the authors requesting it to be reinstated.

Ulysses to MindNode

Going from Ulysses to MindNode took a bit more research. After a brief exchange with both software authors, one of the Ulysses support team discovered that just using the OS X file protocol was enough to invoke MindNode from within a Ulysses document.

Screen Shot 2015 10 23 at 6 00 29 p m

Here is the process I used for getting the link:

  1. locate the MindNode document in the relevant iCloud drive sub-folder
  2. To do this, command click the icon to the left of the document name in the title bar of MindNode and select ‘iCloud Drive’, the Finder will come forward with the relevant document file selected
  3. Drag the file to the Terminal app to get the full path
  4. If your file or any parent folders have spaces in the names, the Terminal will escape them with backslashes, you need to remove these
  5. ensure you add the “file:///“ protocol at the beginning of the path, with 3 forward slashes
  6. place the result in a Ulysses link dialog box as per above

But there are still a few more gotchas to get it to work. Normally this should work in the HTML preview but because of a glitch you have to further specify “open in Safari”.

Openinsafari

Try it, click the link in the Safari webpage. It should pop the Finder to the foreground with the MindNode document selected. Not ideal. But if you want to view the actual document in MindNode, the trick is to preview the document as a PDF.


  1. Running at over 700 pages long, few developers bother to read the HIG. It’s a shame because it’s rare that a proven success formula is so well documented.

  2. The ability for various apps to work together harmoniously and pass data to each other. 

  3. These apps are also some of the best examples of how to allow users to shift effortlessly between devices without interrupting workflow.

Runkeeper 6.2 on the Apple Watch

Runkeeper 21

With yesterday’s release of version 6.2 of Runkeeper, you can now do a run without having to carry along your iPhone. That’s a relief because it seems to be what the watch was designed for. I got in the habit of using only the watch and the Workout app, but it’s painful to sync the runs back into Runkeeper, you basically have to enter them manually on the website.

But with the latest release of the app, all the boxes are ticked:

  • Runkeeper registers a workout and sends it to HealthKit, along with the basic stats for your run
  • with watchOS 2.0, 3rd party apps can now access the watch hardware including the heart rate measurement sensor, so that’s also saved
  • there’s no GPS on the watch so the distance is estimated with the pedometer/“motion co-processor”

Distance Estimation Under-Reported

On that last note I’ve found the estimated distances to be slightly under-reported, I’d estimate by 5%. I have a route I’ve been doing for ages and I know it’s 5km, and the watch reports 4.8km, both in Workout and Runkeeper apps.

Grant Access to Heart Rate

A mistake that I think everyone will make when using the app “headless” for the first time: failing to grant the needed permissions on the iPhone.

Runkeeper opens a dialog on your phone (which is probably sitting at home) requesting permission to access the heart rate sensor the first time you run the updated app. You don’t see this until after you run is completed and you’re back home. What you do see is an empty reading for your heart rate on the watch app which makes it look like something is broken. It works fine after you grant the access.

Manually Added

Another strange thing is Runkeeper reports the run as “manually added” which obviously it’s not. If was funny to see this after having to manually add so many other runs. I actually went out and bought a new armband for the iPhone 6s since the previous one didn’t fit and the day it arrived, the Runkeeper update went live in the App Store. I thought they would take ages to support “headless”.

Smart Pause/End Choices

In an improvement over the Workout app, if Runkeeper on the watch detects the phone is not present, it only allows you to pause the workout, not end it, since it can’t be saved without the networking on the phone.

Problems mounting Time Capsule with OS X 10.6.8

I use a slightly older Mac Mini as the target for my backups and due to it’s 1GB RAM limit, it cannot be upgraded past Snow Leopard, OS X 10.6.8.

One of the Apple software updates in 2012/13 introduced a bug for this version of the OS where certain mounted volumes are automatically self-eject after 10 minutes or so.  Despite tons of Google search results on the subject, it’s not easy to fix the problem.

I send my Time Machine backups to a dedicated TimeCapule disk, then mount the TC on the Mini and use Crashplan to sync the backups to the web, along with a few static files/folders.

Once the self-ejecting problem appeared my backup redundancy solution no longer worked.  Seeing so many HDs die without warning over the years, I progressively became more concerned about finding a workaround to the problem.

What eventually worked was to mount the TC over SMB instead of the default Apple Filing Protocol (afp) formerly known as AppleTalk.  I first had to resolve the TC to an IP using the admin tools on my router, then was able to mount it with SMB using the Finder’s  ‘connect to server’ option, illustrated here: http://take.ms/cv3Zw 

Problems with 64 bit MySQL on Mountain Lion

When I first installed  MySQL 5.6.11 on Mountain Lion it worked fine for a week.  The only issue was I couldn’t get the service to automatically start from boot.

Strangely a week later it started recursively crashing, the only way to stop it was a kill -9 on the mysqld process.

At first I thought this might be due to running the database with a Postgres installation running as well, something that gets setup when you install Daylite, the excellent CRM package.  But this was not the cause.

The only way I found to fix it was uninstalling the 64 bit version and installing the 32 bit.  I had read something earlier describing this issue.