Year: 2011

Will HTML5 web books change the way we view the web?

HTML5 has been touted as changing the web for a while now, but will it change the way we read books?

20 Things I Learned about Browsers and the Web

Last year Google published the HTML5 web book “20 Things I Learned about Browsers and the Web” but I largely ignored it. Why would I want to read books in my browser? I read books on my phone and iPad, but even for me reading a novel through the browser might be a step too far.

However, as much of a digital convert as I am, I had not factored in just how quickly HTML5 adoption would take place in a year. Google is really pushing the adoption of HTML5 with it’s Chrome desktop browser and beginning August 1st Google Apps will only support modern browsers. This means that if you’re a Gmail user, you will have to be running either the current or prior major release of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari or you will not be able to get the most out of gmail.

This summer will see offline working arrive for Google Apps through the Chrome browser. This is powered by HTML5. You seen HTML5 is more than just a web page. While HTML5 allows designers to create beautiful pages and layouts, they can also build in more functionality (to the website) without requiring the user to download or install any additional software. The user simply requires a ‘modern’ browser. If you are using the web browser ‘Chrome’ you will always have the latest version. This is because Google wants (and needs) its users to be running the latest browsers so its users will get the best experience. They therefore built Chrome to auto update itself. The other major browsers already support HTML5 and will continue to do so.

So how will HTML5 make me read a book on my computer?HTML5-web-book-screenshot

I don’t think I could actually read a novel on my desktop computer and I don’t think HTML5 will change that. However, the web is evolving fast and is in more and more devices now. HTML5 will drive adoption of web services on devices such as phones and tablets. You know, that smartphone that you download all those apps for might not need apps in a year. When the iPhone launched without an App Store, Steve Jobs stated that with the mobile version of Safari users didn’t need apps, they could do everything through the browser. While that was true to an extent, we the user and developers weren’t quite ready for that. However, users are becoming used to sophisticated websites and are used to the ‘app’ experience. It will be easy to transition users to the web full time in a few years. There are already a lot of apps that are really just a webpage. At the end of the day, do you as a user care what the technology that drives the app is? No. All you and I care about is the experience and HTML5 will make that experience sweet!

Take Kindle as an example. Here is an app that let’s you read books on any device, on any platform – and they all sync and work together to get you the best experience. You can bet your last pound (£) that Amazon will be one of the first companies that adopt HTML5 web books, if for no other reason than it will reduce their development costs. Instead of developing for many platforms, they develop for the web and the user just points their browser to their Amazon account. Simple.

There are lots of content based sites (like this one) that will benefit from web books. I could see newspapers adopting web books on masse just so they can replicate the ‘paper’ version. TV companies can produce slick sites that recreate that ‘living room tv’ set up.

My mum doesn’t need to know about HTML5, she just needs to know that her experience of using the web will get better if she uses a modern browser and the sites she visits build their site with HTML5 in mind. So, to answer my own question, HTML5 web books will definitely change the way we view the web.

How to fix a Parse error: syntax error on your wordpress site

How to fix a “Parse error: syntax error” on your wordpress site hosted by 1and1I just broke my website 🙁 and received the following error:

Parse error: syntax error, unexpected ‘=’, expecting ‘)’ in /homepages/43/dbxxxx/htdocs/xxxx/wp-content/themes/arras/library/admin/options.php on line 216

This error was caused after I upgraded a couple of plugins. A plugin error you say? Wrong! The answer was a straight forward .php error. Somewhere along the line I had rewritten my .htaccess file and removed support for PHP5 which is needed to run a modern wordpress install. (Needed? Maybe not but highly recommended)

If you get presented with one of these:

internal 500 server error

Or see the above Parse error in your wordpress dashboard or on any of your site’s pages DO NOT PANIC!

Here is what I did wrong:

1. I had just upgraded two plugins and wrongly assumed they were the problem.

2. I used my FTP programme to delete those plugins (by deleting their folders from the “/wp-content/plugins” directory.

3. I was surprised to see that my website was still down and I was still getting the 500 & the syntax error.

4. I assumed that the template had been corrupted. So I deleted that. The site was still down, and by now I was in a bit of a panic.

How I fixed this problem

1. Google. A quick (and I mean quick) search on google revealed that I was using an older version of PHP and I needed to force my host to use PHP 5.

2. Thanks to this site I added this code to my .htaccess file:

AddType x-mapp-php5 .php
AddHandler x-mapp-php5 .php

3. I then uploaded that to my site’s root directory and hey presto my site was back.

4. I then uploaded my site’s theme, and reinstalled the plugins I had deleted and within an hour I was back to normal.


I had previously added this code to my .htaccess file, but somewhere along the line I must have overwritten the file with a newer version that did not include the code. As I said above, your host really needs to be running the latest PHP (1and1 do, but you have to manually add the code to force it into action).

I panicked and started deleting folders without backing them up. What I should have done was simply rename them. I have been lucky because I backup my site and was able to resolve the problem relatively quickly. In the worst case scenario I would have deleted everything and reinstalled wordpress and imported my wordress backup file.

If you don’t have a strategy to get your website back online quickly, you really need to devise one now.

How to flash the HBOOT on your HTC Desire

I use Fastboot Commander which as a GUI based tool is the easiest way I have found to flash the HBOOT on your HTC Desire.

A screenshot showing the startup screen of fastboot commander
A screenshot showing the startup screen of fastboot commander

A little disclaimer: Fastboot Commander is a tool that should only be used if you are comfortable messing about with your phone. This has the potential to brick your phone or to put it simply, break it!
However, if like me you like to tinker with your phone, Fastboot Commander will allow you to upgrade your ROM, your radio and your HBOOT without much fuss.

What is fastboot?

“Fastboot is a command line tool used to directly flash the filesystem in Android devices from a host via USB. It allows flashing of unsigned partition images. It is disabled in production devices since USB support has been disabled in the bootloader. You must have an Engineering SPL, or an SPL that is S-OFF.” Find out more from the Cyanogenmod Wiki.

Fastboot Commander is a tool that harnesses the power of fastboot and puts it into a package that the average person can use.

Simply download it from the link above and run it on eiher, Mac, Windows or Linux. There is no installation – it just runs as a JAR programme.

Step 1: Put your HTC Desire into fastboot mode by powering the device off. Wait a few seconds, then hold the volume down button and press the power button. After a few seconds your phone will boot into a screen that gives you several options, including fastboot and recovery. Select the fastboot option.

The image shows the user updating their radio on their HTC Desire
The image shows the user updating their radio on their HTC Desire

Step 2: Do nothing!

Step 3: Go back to your computer and run Fastboot Commander.

Step 4: Connect your phone via USB.

Step 5: Now all you need to do is select the action you wish to complete e.g. in the picture shown I was updating the radio. I selected the radio button and selected the appropriate file and then selected open. After a minute or so my HTC Desire had a new radio image installed. Updating the radio has the advantage of bringing several improvements to mobile reception, data transfer, battery life and better GPS.

If you are thinking about installing a custom rom on your HTC Desire you will need to update the default radio as many roms require you to update to a newer radio. I recommend that you use Fastboot Commander to do this.

Let me know if you have a better method or if you found this tool useful in the comments below.

HTC Desire updated to Android 2.3.4

Android 2.3.4 screenshotGoogle have release the latest version of their phone operating system, Android 2.3.4 for the Nexus S. Among the improvements include upgrading the GTalk app to enable video chat to other Android users and GTalk PC or Mac users, over wifi and 3G.

The 2.3.4 update on the Nexus One doesn’t include the improved GTalk app, but the Oxygen ROM by AdamG is available for the HTC Desire over on the XDA with the updated app. I have it installed and can confirm that it works. (Although you have to remember that the Desire does not have a front facing camera!)

I have tested the new version of GTalk and can confirm that it does indeed work. You can have a two way video chat and if you need to, just have an audio only call. To get started go into the app and select your profile. From there tick the box that says “Allow video and voice chats” and you’re good to go.


Read more about this release on the Google Mobile Blog.

Apple replaced my scratched ipad 2 screen under warranty

iPadThis post will detail how Apple replaced my scratched iPad 2 screen free of charge.

I recently took delivery of a new iPad 2 and have been having lots of fun with it. So much fun, that somehow, I managed to scratch the screen. Nightmare! A google search for “how to fix a scratched iPad screen” or “scratched iPad screen” revealed some home made fixes, none of which I was prepared to try on such a new device. The google searches also revealed that scratches aren’t covered under warranty, so how did I fix my scratched iPad?

After much thought I decided that I had to speak to Apple to see if they had any suggestions. This involved a trip to the Apple Genius Bar (If you have never been to the Genius Bar before, it really is a treat). Apple does not call these guys geniuses for nothing, they are well trained in customer service and are very knowledgeable on Apple products.

I was met by a Genius who quickly identified the scratch and sympathised with me. I explained that I didn’t know what happened (I honestly don’t, I can only suspect that it occurred while I cleaned the screen) and that I always try to take care of my gadgets. After some consideration the genius offered to repair the iPad under warranty for free.  This was a fantastic piece of customer service. There I was, a disgruntled Apple customer who honestly thought he had bought a lemon, but now, Apple have demonstrated quality customer service and have restored my faith in Apple products.

[As a side note, Apple would have charged me £199 (including VAT) to repair the screen.]

So there you have it, if you have a problem with any Apple product, make sure you speak to Apple or visit the Genius Bar as they will offer you advice and may even repair it for free!

Screen Protector

After taking delivery of my replacement iPad 2 I decided that I needed the security of a screen protector. Call me paranoid, but after my first iPad 2 got scratched so easily, I just had to have an extra layer of protection, so I ordered one from Ebay. It was easily fitted and does not make the screen any less bright or usable, but it does make the iPad slightly less attractive to look at!

Flipboard: a Great Way To Read News on the iPad

Ever wonder why people make twitter lists?Is it to categorise the people they follow or to streamline the timeline?

Maybe those clever people who make twitter lists do so because they use apps like Flipboard?

Flipboard allows you to take twitter lists and read them like a magazine.

I was never one for waking up and reading with my breakfast – it just seemed too complicated, but with Flipboard I just open up the app and there’s the days latest news.


Not only does Flipboard display twitter lists, but you can sync with google reader allowing you to catch up with all your favourite RSS feeds, all while enjoying your cornflakes.

With the sharing of news articles on twitter on the rise, this app and others like it can really change how we consume news.

Users have since the dawn of RSS been able to consume many websites from within one application, but this has always been the domain of the geek and RSS has never gained mainstream traction. What makes Flipboard a useful app for me is the ability to read all my favourite sites from within an attractive UI.

Flipboard is available in Apple’s App store for free.

Words With Friends

words-with-friendsThis has to be one of my favourite apps. Words with friends lets you play scrabble against your friends. Simple.
Whether playing against your friends or random opponents, this game will keep you occupied for hours. There is no time limit, so each game can take days, but that just adds to the fun.
If you’d like to play me, my username is iChrisTaylor.

The Sex Club

The Sex Club

The Sex Club by L J SellersWhen a bomb explodes at a birth-control clinic and a young client turns up dead, Detective Jackson is assigned both cases. But are they connected? Kera, the clinic nurse who discovers that the girl’s Bible group is really a sexual free-for-all, thinks they are.
I bought this from the Amazon Kindle store for 71p and was a bit dubious before I read it. I need not have worried as it turned into a really gripping read and to be honest, quite disturbing.

iPad: Creator or Consumer of Content?

iPad: Creator or Consumer of Content?

Can the iPad be a consumer and a creator of content?

My iPad is not just a consumer of content it has proven time and time again to be a useful aid for creating content. For example I have installed some photo editing apps, some “office” apps and of course there is email! All of this has cost very little and has really added to the overall experience of the iPad.

If I’m honest, most of my time on the iPad is spent consuming information, either from websites, twitter or news apps and it is here that the device excels.

I have read lots of articles about how Apple’s revolutionary new tablet was going to change the publishing industry forever, but so far all I’ve seen are expensive blunders.

What can the media industry do to convince me to buy their app?

Guardian iPhone App offline options

I read The Guardian online and have purchased their iPhone app (which works on the iPad). They charge £3.99 for a 12 month subscription to their content and overall is a worthwhile purchase.  However, I still do most of my Guardian reading through RSS and their website. Why? It’s just a better experience. I will continue with the app though because it offers offline reading which is essential if you’re flying!

If I am going to buy your app, you need to offer me something that your website does not.
This is why most of the apps I have installed help me create things, whether it’s a photo edit, a document or an audio recording.

As long as the iPad has an internet browser, its primary function for me will always be to consume content, but it is also really useful as a productivity tool.

My mini iPad review

My mini iPad review

iPadI ordered an iPad when Apple had their Black Friday sale and to be honest I was not sure I really needed it or would actually like it. Remember that I ditched the iPhone for Android!

First impressions of the iPad were not good. It’s heavy and the aluminium back make it cold to touch and without a case it can on occasion dig into your hands and give the impression of being sharp. However, these initial thoughts on the iPad’s form factor was quickly squashed after using the device.

I have a 10″ netbook which I have enjoyed using for two years. While it is a pain with some tasks, overall it has been £250 well spent and continues to serve a purpose today. How then can a £390 10″ iPad compete with that?
To put it simply, it not only competes with, but out muscles the netbook on many levels. I have never been so taken with a device, even my first iPhone was not as compelling as this iPad.

After un-boxing, which is always a joy with Apple products, I fully charged the iPad and after a couple of hours synced it with iTunes and got all my apps (that I had previously used on my iPhone) on to the device.

Now I faced a dilema: I would now have two portable devices running similar (if not the same) apps, therefore did I really need the iPad?

Quick answer: YES! Immediately the device becomes second nature.

  • If I want to read the news headlines at breakfast, I reach for the iPad;
  • If I want to check twitter, I reach for the iPad;
  • If I want to check email, I reach for the iPad;
  • When I want to draft a blog post, I reach for the iPad;
  • I’ve got meetings at work, I load up the iPad with the relevant documents;
  • If I want to make edits or touch up photos, yes you guessed it, I reach for the iPad.

So what makes the iPad so compelling?

  1. The battery life is just awesome . It seems to last for days.
  2. Instant on. Just like your iPod, this thing is just in standby and as soon as you unlock the screen you’re good to go.
  3. Screen. While not the retina display seen on the iPhone 4, the current iPad screen is still really good. NB not good in bright sunshine, but that’s not an issue for me in Belfast!
  4. The speakers are surprisingly good e.g. handy for the bathroom or listening to in the holiday apartment.
  5. Built-in microphone. Seriously, skype has never been so easy. You can even do one way video.
  6. Apps – the app ecosystem on iOS is really good and there are plenty of good apps that utilise the iPad’s full potential e.g. flipboard, filterstorm2.

I could really go on and on, but this is a mini review and after the above the iPad comes into its own when you discuss individual apps, which I plan to do at a later date.

Would I recommend one? Absolutely, but I’d wait until the next generation which should be announced in the next couple of months. Also keep in mind that Android 3.0 has been announced which looks to be a really cool tablet operating system and will give the iPad a run for its money.