Text only news websites

as featured on Hacker News in 2023!
(last update 6 January 2024 – changes: considerable tidying up)

TL;DR – the ones to start with

Site by site reviews

CNN

Advantages:

  • fast loading, cleanest possible design
  • plenty of stories 40+ 100
  • default visited link colour! so anything you’ve already read is shown in purple
  • More varied content than before – even in an election year it’s not all Trump/Biden (yet). 
  • Opinion pieces clearly marked
  • Since it launched, if anything the text formatting has actually improved rather than being left to decay. It’s exceptionally rare to see any HTML -> text conversion issues.
  • they’ve also fixed things like citing author names and lack of links back to the full-fat version of each story

Disadvantages:

  • a single list view means stories can feel a little random, sometimes newest stuff appears at the top, sometimes not.
  • no topics headings or pages either, so you need to mentally parse the headline
  • no date/timestamp on the index, though it’s there one individual stories
  • the live audio stream from lite site has been scrapped, but you still can get it from the main one via TuneIn: https://edition.cnn.com/audio (last tested Nov 2022) where you can choose between the US, CNN International and Spanish streams.

Well done CNN! ūüôā

68k News

  • a text-only version of Google News. You can choose the ‘edition’ (country) for local headlines. Articles from multiple sources are grouped by topic.
  • the widest range of stories
  • only service with ability to select by country
  • they may not have the news source you want
  • you may find it slightly annoying having to read repeated headlines or headlines from sources you don’t like, or having to choose which newspaper/website you want for every story
  • non-article content and other clutter like newsletter signups may not be stripped out

NPR

  • clean design
  • supports visited link colour
  • nice mix of cultural stories as well as news
  • reliable formatting
  • links to related stories on the text-only site

CBC

  • fast-loading
  • a world news page
  • high-quality: includes stories from Reuters and Associated Press
  • nevertheless a bit limited, you may want more news
  • uniquely, a button to allow to you load any individual images you wish to view
  • links at bottom of page to equivalent page on full size
  • sitemap
  • an actual release notes¬†page! Unfortunately it’s on Medium (which has become incredibly aggressive about registration/paywall subscriptions) rather than CBC’s own site.

BBC News

There is NO BBC text-only or low graphics website, and hasn’t been for years.
Don’t waste your time searching.

One exception: the old BBC On This Day website Рwhich like vast swathes of BBC content, has been archived and abandoned for years Рdoes still exist in low graphics format. You need to choose your own date, but all the linked articles still work. So if you want to read stories between WW2 and 2005…

How should I be reading all these text only sites anyway?

Besides in your desktop or mobile browser (with a plugin like Vimium or Vimari), I also like this W3m Vim plugin for reading in Vim itself.

It hasn’t been updated in years, but I’ve found it very reliable and, if you’re a (n)vim user, I’d recommend this way over Lynx.

W3m puts the site you are reading in a Vim buffer (or buffers).

So you can navigate the page with all your standard Vim keybindings, you can search the text and highlight occurrences of strings, and you can yank text to buffers for use elsewhere. You can even spellcheck it if you like. About the only thing you can’t do is modify text in place.

It also supports an extra ‘f’ shortcut for quickly jumping to specific links.
Tab/shift+tab moves you from one link to the next.
Use backspace to go back in your history.

One other bonus: none of those annoying Lynx cookie prompts.

Could a (paid) news app with an ‘offline’ mode be what you really want?

It might be the time pages take to load is what’s most annoying you, or – to use western countries as an example – you’re often an in area with congested 3/4G masts, or where wifi is spotty.

Certain apps, such as the Financial Times (both the full subscription, and FT Edit which is a much cheaper daily curated set of interesting articles rather than rolling news) will automatically download a full set of stories each time you open the app, and you can then instantly view those regardless of connection status. (The FT gives you a subtle prompt that offline mode is ready). Because the articles are loaded within an app rather than a browser, it will also feel quicker. The disadvantage is it’s more likely articles will contain ads which you can’t block as on a website (though ads may disappear in airplane mode).

For what it’s worth, I’ve found reading cached offline stories in airplane mode quite productive / therapeutic.

Could a smaller/lighter phone be what you really want?

This will be more comfortable for holding for longer periods of time, and will create less glare in the dark because the display is smaller.

Use it in conjunction with your browser’s “reader” mode, which will strip out navigation, ads etc. and allow you to change the font size/style and background colour. You can set the browser to automatically use reader mode for all articles on specific websites. I even do this for text only sites like CNN Lite, just because the font size is more comfortable, or it’s nicer to have an entirely black background in the dark.

For Apple users – the lightest and most comfortable device for any text only site is the iPod Touch – it’s only 88 grams and is extremely comfortable to hold. It was discontinued in 2022, so get one second hand (easy), the earlier the installed iOS version the better your battery life will be. Just don’t use it for anything that would be a security risk, and/or leave it at home.

Alternatively, get iPhone SE (personally used/recommended – and the cheapest iPhone. Also the only one left with with an LCD display, which may actually reduce headaches for those people who don’t like OLED, especially those who tend to use their screen on minimal brightness, which is when OLED flickers the most). If you don’t mind OLED and would like a phone with more screen space (no bezels) and a more advanced camera, get an iPhone 13 Mini. It’s more expensive though.

Could an e-reader be what you really want?

(I discuss “save-it-later” apps, reading lists etc. later.)

A Kindle will give you:

  • a dedicated email address you can send documents to
  • if you combine your e-ink Kindle with the iOS Kindle app, you can load a web page and then use the iOS share screen to send it to a Kindle in 4-5 clicks.  The way this works is the text is converted on-device, which means if you are using a site behind a paywall, provided you’ve browsed to the actual page (rather than long-pressing on a link and sharing that) it won’t be a problem and you’ll get the full text.   Curiously, Amazon’s server then makes a request for the CSS file before sending the document, but it doesn’t request the actual contents again.   The only irritation is this method takes 4-5 clicks each time and gets annoying if you are sending a lot at once.
  • Use pushtokindle.fivefilters.org on the desktop. This is nicely designed and lets you preview what you’re sending before you send it. Again the conversion is client side so paywalls aren’t an issue. It makes a nice job of including images and removing cruft from the header/footer (though a well semantically coded source site – think <article> tags etc.) makes this a lot easier.

Kindle benefits: distraction free, front-lit rather than back lit, so more comfortable on eyes, adjustable font size (e.g. set it larger when you are tired), one-tap dictionary (which is a huge time-saver), may be more comfortable to hold than a smartphone due to a combination of overall weight / weight distribution over larger surface area / texture of the device.

In terms of content, you may also find you enjoy breaking up periods of news reading with books – not necessarily because of the topics you are reading about (and for the record about 95% of what I read is also non-fiction) but if you’re reading a succession of shorter articles, there is considerable mental load involved in the choice of deciding what to read next. With a book, it’s much more linear and you can kind of ‘sink into’ it.  (Perhaps this is why ‘long form’ journalism has become popular online in recent years – again, this is usually best enjoyed with an e-reader.)

E-Reader disadvantages:

Frankly, pushing article after article to an e-reader, remembering to download them, then reading them later isn’t very time efficient (and is less so the shorter the items are). You may also tire of a workflow where you reading headlines or half-read articles once in a browser, then come back to them again on your e-reader. It may make the whole thing more work, even if the reading experience itself is more comfortable.

Downloading full newspapers / magazines to an eReader:

You can buy a Kindle subscription to many newspapers/magazines. The quality/presentation varies depending, mostly, on how much effort the publisher has made. Larger publications (ahem, The Times) can even crash the Kindle.

However you can also use pressreader.com to manually save a day’s edition of whichever paper/magazine you want and copy it to your device.  It’s not perfect – formatting errors are much more common, and it’s a bit slow to generate the file as everything gets watermarked – but it does work, and if you have a library card, hundreds of publications are available free.

If you’re a Facebook user‚Ķ

mbasic.facebook.com

Ideal if you just want to quickly check the feed and go away again.  No javascript, so feels (and is) faster, less bloated.  Design feels suitably retro.

(last tested Jan 2024. Note the same as m.facebook.com, which just redirects to the full site.)

Sites which aren’t strictly text only, but I highly, highly recommend anyway:

Advantages:

  • a really nice (friction – minimal clicks – and distraction/clutter free – minimal menus etc) way to read a full newspaper
  • nice typography
  • low bandwidth – typically 1 small image per page
  • free

Disadvantages:

  • only updated once a day

Thomson Reuters Foundation Trust Context

Great if you want to escape the mainstream news agenda, where every news organisation is relentlessly flogging the same story.  The Reuters foundation is a charitable part of the Thomson Reuters agency and focuses on under-reported news and regions.  Often these are stories you won’t read elsewhere but which are still trustworthy and with excellent photograph.

They cover an increasingly wide range of topics and there is bound to be something you are interested in (e.g. climate, technology, cities‚Ķ) and which I think would appeal to people across the political spectrum – i.e. you can read it without feeling you’re being lectured.  Also, if you’re bored with or not interested in a particular topic, just start from one of the other index pages and you’ll avoid it.

In terms of the design, yes there are (good) photographs, but overall it’s very clean and won’t overwhelm you or your mobile device.  Navigation, search and tagging are simple and reliable.

There are opinions but they’re not clearly separated from the journalism and “thoughtful” rather than “shouty”.

  • Secondly, I’d recommend BBC Future – this is produced by BBC Worldwide (nothing to do with BBC News Online).  They publish less frequently but the articles have more depth.

Other tips:

  • use your browser’s reader mode (see above)
  • use a save-for-later app, such as Apple’s Reading List, Pocket, Instapaper‚Ķ (as an Apple user who tries to stay in Safari as much as possible, I’ve switched from Instagram to Reading List because there’s less friction.)

The (theoretical) benefits to text only news sites:

  • Save the time waiting for a page to load, or in situations where bandwidth is extremely limited, the difference between being able to access a site and not retrieve a page at all (better chance of success on 3G networks)
  • Quicker to browse a list of headlines on a single page than navigate through a long homepage of photos and video thumbnails.
  • Save bandwidth used, preserve more of your mobile data allowance
  • Increase battery life on mobile devices (there’s little or no JS to load/process, so CPU load is reduced, and because the data transferred over the network is so much smaller the wi-fi or cellular radio on a phone or tablet is on only briefly and uses less power.
  • Less distraction (from other elements of the page) more immersion in content (like reading a book)
  • No iframes / social media oEmbeds
  • Less likelihood the page will reflow (due to DOM changes by javascript)
  • Usually no advertising
  • Usually no irritations like cookie warnings
  • Overall, less stressful

Other sites:

  • BizToc Light – business news website (links are to full content on external sites)

Apps:

The Reuters app isn’t strictly text only but it does have an offline mode and supports iOS dark mode.

It is still available for really old devices too – e.g. iPod Touch 4th generation – and supports offline mode. Not strictly text only, as there are photos at the top (imho, Reuters has the best/fastest range of news photos).  Still loads quickly on hardware that was released in 2010.  Most content sections still working. iPod Touch only weighs 100g so comfortable to read for long periods and easily slips in a bag (just don’t use it for anything that requires up to date security).  Turn javascript off in Safari settings to make websites bearable.

Tip for debugging complex MySQL queries if you have PhpStorm

  • Start a new scratch file (Mac: shift-cmd-N)
  • choose ‘MySQL’
  • Paste your query in
  • Reformat code (Mac: opt-cmd-L)

It’ll colour code and tidy everything, including lining up all the field names and aliases, neatly arranging the joins and the where clauses, plus you can hover over opening or closing brackets and see the opposite bracket highlighted.

This is useful when previewing raw Drupal view SQL and trying to understand it.

Troubleshooting ‘The provided URL does not represent a valid oEmbed resource.’ with YouTube videos

If you are trying to add a YouTube video using media > remote video in Drupal 8.7 (media is now part of core) and you stumble across this error Рwhich is not discussed anywhere in the core issue queue that I can see…

The provided URL does not represent a valid oEmbed resource.

the fix is to add this line in settings.php:

$settings['http_client_config']['force_ip_resolve'] = 'v4';

Debugging / cause:

– First verify it’s not a private video (unlisted is fine)
– Optionally you can manually test the oEmbed response in your browser (you should get some JSON data back) – the URL needs to be:
https://www.youtube.com/ombed?url=[an encoded full YouTube URL]

It’s as quick/quicker to look in Recent Log Messages in Drupal first, you may be seeing errors like this:

Client error: `GET https://www.youtube.com/oembed?url=https%3A//www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3Dyoutubeid` resulted in a `429 Too Many Requests` response:

and also:

Could not retrieve the oEmbed resource.

(which doesn’t tell you anything).

oEmbed requests in Drupal are simple, unauthenticated HTTP GETs – i.e. they don’t use the YouTube API.¬† Nothing particularly wrong about this.¬† However the trouble is YouTube has started blocking IPv6 blocks en-mass; apparently because it’s too easy for people to keep changing IPv6 addresses (if ISPs provide a large pool of them) and use them for spam. ¬† Therefore all and any requests over IPv6 may simply be blocked, regardless of how few you’ve made (I can confirm this for Linode servers.)

First, verify this is true for your server by manually grabbing the URL at the command line via wget, with the  -6 and -4 switches.

Assuming IPv4 works, you now need to tell Drupal to make Drupal use it.¬† This is easier than expected.¬†¬† Drupal uses the Guzzle HTTP client library, specifically as an HTTP client factory – but as this StackExchange answer explains¬† – part of the default setup automatically merges in values from $settings, i.e. anything you add under $settings[‘http_client_config’].

So make your $settings.php writeable, and configure the force_ip_resolve setting as shown at the beginning of this post.

YouTube queries should then start working immediately.

 

 

 

 

PSA – Safari 13.0.1 breaks multiple extensions

Even if you’re still running macOS High Sierrra (I’m on 10.13.6) you’ll receive a Safari update (from 12 to 13).¬† This will break a number of extensions – including most adblocking – also a vim-based keyboard extension I was using called Vimmy.

So you may want to avoid upgrading, or do as I’ve done and switch your default browser to Firefox etc. for the time being.

macOS Catalina 10.15 – things to be aware/wary of

  • 32-bit apps will no longer be supported at all (currently that still includes Acquia DevDesktop – for running Drupal development sites)
  • the default shell is going to change from Bash to Zsh
  • scripting languages won’t be installed by default (Apple gave Python, Ruby and Perl as examples in a support document, but didn’t specifically mention PHP). ¬†It’ll mean Homebrew will need to be installed differently. ¬† Presumably it won’t be an issue if you’re upgrading a previous macOS version, but, also presumably, it will be if you’re using a new computer, even with Migration Assistant.
  • iTunes has been removed and the Apple Music replacement apparently doesn’t support column view of your music library.
  • John Gruber writes that Catalina is a pain to use due to (a) bugs but also (b) excessive permission alert dialogs.

(As usual, my own policy is not to upgrade to a new macOS release until 9-12 months after it’s come out, to allow everything to settle. I write this – post updated Feb 2020 – on a machine that’s still running High Sierra, which should still get support until late 2020 – although again, Apple have never announced support lifecycle dates.)

Upgrading a Pure Digital Radio to DAB+ ‚Äď as it happened

  • Notice¬†Global have added a couple of new DAB+ stations on the Digital One multiplex. ¬†Other household radios (including a Roberts Sports DAB 5 – my review) can receive these automatically, but the Pure One Classic (purchased Dec 2009 – ¬£47, Amazon) displays “Upgrade pure.com/upgrade”. ¬†I have been putting this off.
  • Nervously visit Pure website – seem to remember DAB+ upgrade cost ¬£10 or so. Felt sense of irritation at charging for a feature that ought to be free, and that offering it free will boost chance of repeat custom.
  • pure.com/upgrade redirects to http://upgrades.pure.com/uk/update¬†and prompts for serial number.
  • Look at slightly worn barcode (sticky label) on back of radio – consists of six digits, two letters, 4 digits, a space then a 9 – is this it? Maybe the final nine is a check digit. (Later: it is, if you remove the two letters in the middle).
  • Enter serial number on iPhone, rejected.
  • Notice letters are lower case. ¬†Enter again in uppercase in case of sloppy programming. ¬†Still rejected.
  • Probably only supports recent products? Click the “if your product is not listed” link and navigate through Digital Radio/Hi-Fi and One Family. (Each model type has a “Family” suffix – idly wonder how many people will be sufficiently on-brand to understand/care what a “family” is, in this context?) ¬†Click Software, then Software upgrade then another Software upgrade link. ¬†Browser downloads a PDF telling me to go to upgrades.pure.com/uk.
  • Am doing all this on an iPhone in the kitchen where the radio is. Wonder if iOS/Safari or the 1Blocker software I’m using it screwing things up. ¬†Go upstairs and load the site there. ¬†Same thing, just a PDF.
  • Return to upgrades page and read product list properly. ¬†Realise One Classic is listed after all, so I should be using the serial number form after all.
  • Realise I’ve forgotten the serial number. ¬†Go back downstairs with phone. ¬† Re-read the bit about the serial number format:

    “Serial numbers are normally in a 6 number, 2 letter, 6 number format.”

  • ¬†Hmm – mine has 6 numbers, 2 letters, but then a gap and 1 number at the end. ¬†Move radio around in light whilst squinting at barcode. ¬†Is that a scratch in the label, where a number used to be?
  • Wonder what to do. ¬†Can I get the serial number via the radio’s UI? Poke around the settings menu a bit. ¬†Doesn’t look like it.
  • Realise I have a number and a barcode,¬†so if I can just scan the barcode‚Ķ¬† With a unhealthy level of cynicism, open iPhone camera app, knowing that it will scan QR codes, but assuming Apple, whilst having invested considerable developer resource in creating an animated poo emoji, have probably deemed that enabling the camera to scan a linear barcode is too niche of a feature to bother adding support. ¬†This assumption is proved correct.
  • Wonder if there’s a website that’ll let me scan a barcode, to save installing an app just for this. ¬†Quickly abandon that idea.
  • Open App Store on phone. ¬†Start typing “barcode scanner”. ¬†Choose “barcode scanner” from autocomplete dropdown rather than barcode scanner free (likely stuffed with ads etc.?) or¬†barcode scanner uk¬†(what’s so country-specific¬†about a barcode scanner app?).
  • Results page:
    1st: “QR Code Reader and Creator” (Ad, 191 reviews, 3.5 stars)
    2nd: “QR Code Reader” (37.4k reviews, 4.5 stars)
    3rd: “BarcodeScanner” (8 reviews, 4 stars)
  • Observe, optimistically, that BarcodeScanner doesn’t mention QR codes at all. ¬†Looks much simpler / duller than rest. ¬†Decide to choose it, based on similarity to own personality.
  • Install¬†BarcodeScanner and open it:

Omschrijving
Met deze barcode scanner kun je een barcode scannen om de inhoud van de betreffende barcode te controleren en zien welk type codering er gebruikt is.

  • (Later determine this is Dutch.)
    Press Scan een barcode link at bottom of screen.
  • After a couple of attempts, scan successful (red moving horizontal line turns green).
  • A number was indeed missing – the ‘1’ had been scratched off. ¬†(To the app’s credit, although I can’t copy paste it, it remembers the last number I scanned when I subsequently reopen it, and it tells me what type of barcode it is.)
  • Also take a photo of the barcode, go back upstairs and enter number for safe keeping in my notes app.
  • Enter correct serial number on website, accepted. ¬†Now asked for current software version. ¬†Back downstairs to check the radio again, do this bit on the iPhone – which doesn’t seem to handle the enabled/disabled state of the Continue button quite right (remains greyed out, but still clickable).
  • Now asked to enter ‘Device Hardware Identifier’. ¬†Wonder how secure this needs to be.¬†Wonder how I’m supposed to get that. ¬†See it involves holding down Menu button then waiting and holding it down a second time. ¬†Presented with a 32-digit hex number on two lines of the screen. ¬†Really?¬†Attempt to enter this in full the first time (rejected), verify I’ve typed it correctly, then re-read the instructions and note they only want the top line. ¬†Note that they could have just trimmed the first 16 characters of the response or limited the maximum length of the text field. ¬†(Grateful I don’t own a different Pure radio, having read account from another user that hardware identifier on Pure One Mini only displayed for two seconds at a time before reverting to radio mode).
  • Next page has a link to DAB+ or DMB-R update
  • Decide at this point things are going to be a lot simpler if I just take the radio upstairs to where the computer is (I’m going to have to connect it to USB anyway). ¬†But first, take a photo of the display, showing the hardware identifier.
  • Find somewhere to plug radio in. ¬†Inevitably involves having to unplugging something else because power adaptor is too big.
  • Enter details on computer again and note so far there’s been nothing about payment (but it hasn’t said the upgrade is free, either).
  • Next page has a heading (which I suspect most people won’t notice) saying “Paid software download” , but also doesn’t have any payment info, just a couple of download links (Windows, Mac). ¬†Maybe it’s free and they forgot to update it. ¬†Also has a bit confirming device hardware identifier and an 8 digit DAB+ unlock key. ¬†Copy and paste this into notes app. ¬†In all honestly, can’t be bothered to fully read the following four bullet points – but do notice one mentions having to turn the tuning dial to enter the code.
  • Download the firmware for Mac. ¬†(Extra point to Pure for providing this, as wasn’t confident a non-Windows version would exist).
  • Take down box of USB cables from shelf and select an appropriate one.
  • Run the installer. ¬†Take time to read the instructions carefully.
  • Set the radio to update mode as described. ¬†Attempt update. ¬†App immediately says radio cannot be found.
  • First suspicion is that it won’t work properly when running via the extra USB socket on my (wired) keyboard, so instead connect to a proper USB port on rear of Mac Mini (predictably, sockets already fully in use, so have to work out which of three HDDs to disconnect. ¬†Requires care as macOS has an external USB connected SSD startup disk. ¬†Trace cables and unplug the Time Machine backup drive instead. ¬†The drive was in power save mode (not spinning) at the time, but that doesn’t stop macOS complaining that I didn’t eject it first.
  • Retry firmware upgrade. (Pure app has a button for this). ¬†This time, takes a lot longer (promising), but fails again (not so much).
  • Decide to repeat but power cycle the radio first. Fails again.
  • Aware that not all USB cables are created equal. ¬†Search in box for another. ¬†Curiously, seems to have a USB symbol on both sides, thus making it more of a pain to insert the correct way around.
  • Radio connected! Update process start, a little bit slow, just over 3 minutes. ¬†To Pure’s credit, a copy of your existing firmware is downloaded first.
  • Radio has restarted, seems OK. ¬†Can receive Radio 3 on BBC multiplex. ¬†Go to the update menu and verify the version number has incremented.
  • Haven’t been asked for an unlock key. ¬†Perhaps I don’t need it after all‚Ķ
  • Put cables back in box and replace on shelf. ¬†In doing so, knock biscuit tin onto floor. ¬†Retrieve tin (contains actual biscuits) and inspect contents. ¬†Mostly smashed.
  • Try and tune into a DAB+ station. ¬†Opt for Gold. ¬†Appears in the station listing twice, once as Gold on local mux I know I definitely can’t get in this room, and as Gold UK on D1 in DAB+ (40k), which is what I need to test.
  • Tune in. ¬†Display shows “Upgrade – pure.com/upgrade”. ¬†Hmm.
  • Maybe I’ll retune it just to be on the safe side. ¬†Choose Autotune. Wonder as I wait, as I do every time I’ve done this, on the inconsistently of TV/radio tuning menus and whether on not this device has a ‘Purge’ option to get rid of stations or secondary services that no longer exist.
  • Station list looks fine (has recent additions), but get identical upgrade message to before when tuning to DAB+ stations.
  • Go back to the software menu. ¬†Idly try turning the tuning knob and suddenly there’s a DAB+/DMB-R unlock¬†option. ¬†Feel stupid about this. although wonder if, as software has been replaced, it could have been rephrased or prompted me to enter the key.
  • Realise I left the phone with the code in upstairs. Go back to fetch.
  • Correctly guess how to enter it (turning the dial to select the number and A-F – obvious – then pressing the button in to advance to the next one – perhaps not quite so obvious to all). ¬†In hindsight, this was perhaps the most enjoyable stage of the process, as it felt a bit like opening a safe.
  • Message saying code accepted. Check to see if there is a congratulatory exclamation mark at the end. ¬†There isn’t. ¬†Wait and if anything else happens, like the message going away or the radio retuning itself. It doesn’t.
  • Attempt to tune in again. “Station not available”.
  • Power cycle the radio. ¬†Repeat.
  • Try BBC mux. ¬†Fine. ¬†(Always much stronger, even though same mast. Wonder why this is?)
  • Double check aerial fully extended.
  • Try other D1 stations again. ¬†Nothing.
  • Scrolling “intellitext” freezes and radio spontaneously reboots. ¬†Worry about this – is radio too old to cope with new software?
  • Remember (possibly apocryphal?) story of TV installer who, unable to get a picture at customer’s house, proceeded ¬†to dismantle entire television, only to return, defeated, to office and learn of Emley Moor mast collapse. ¬†Decide sensible to check if any transmitter work ongoing.
  • Try and remember what the Digital One website address¬†is. ¬†Vaguely recall how the site looks – reassuring old fashioned – quite narrow horizontally, as designed when smaller desktop displays prevalent – maybe a purple colour? Suspect list of stations is out of date and lists services that don’t exist anymore, like Oneword and Birdsong. ¬†Get mildly depressed at this.
  • Remember the domain ‘getdigitalradio.com’ for some reason. ¬†Enter it. ¬†Ok, this isn’t it, this is that peculiar green one with the animation that looks like it was done in Flash (but isn’t) and the confusing menus/navigation.
  • Note Digital Radio UK copyright statement and link to Radioplayer in footer. ¬†Who are¬†Digital Radio UK? A consortium, but who exactly? Can’t remember.
  • Don’t think this site has any transmitter info, but try the postcode checker anyway. ¬†Note, yet again, the choice of colour scheme is confusing: the heading Good reception has a green background, yet the stations underneath it all have a gradient that’s more yellow than green, which implying to me reception will be weaker.)
  • Google “digital one”. ¬†Top result – ukdigitalradio.com – this is it. Check the news page. No updates since Heart 80s launch and BFBS closure in early 2017.
  • Does have a transmitter list – under coverage. ¬†Including Google map (to their credit, unlike many sites since Google helpfully broke everybody’s maps when they started charging for the Maps API, they’ve made the effort to register a API key). ¬†Doesn’t seem to be anywhere that gives me transmitter status though.
  • Decided to try BBC reception site. ¬†Signal from same mast, after all. ¬†Despite annoyance that they can’t just give me a single page of text, transmitter by transmitter, like on Ceefax, the checker does work properly and they haven’t hidden any technical info ‚Äď and it shows past faults, including about 10 minutes of downtime for the BBC digital mux on Friday night. ¬†Listed as “fault”. Idly wonder cause of this and what, nowadays, BBC / Arqiva consider a good response time.
  • No current faults though.
  • Move radio around a bit. ¬†BBC reception is stable, but not good as normal. ¬†Back on Digital One, can get one bar of Classic FM, with a lot of gurgling, if I move radio closer to the window.
  • Assume probably due to the weather. (Humid day with thunderstorms.)
  • Decide can’t be bothered to test Gold or other DAB+ stations now and go back upstairs and listen to Simon Mayo on Scala via iTunes. ¬† (I can receive the¬†SDL multiplex directly off air here, but only if I climb a small hill first‚Ķ)

Possible lessons?

  • Print serial numbers directly onto products if you can (consider wear and tear, impact of cleaning, fading from exposure to daylight – perhaps place on a shielded internal surface, such as the inside of a battery compartment cover). ¬†Barcodes are a useful backup, but use QR-codes for maximum compatibility with smartphones.
  • Use serial numbers codes with a consistent format that’s easy for humans to parse. Use dashes where you have separators. ¬†Maybe copy something familiar, like the 0000-0000-0000-0000 credit/debit card style.
  • Read all the instructions.
  • Assume your users won’t read all the instructions.
  • Make it clear at the start of a process which software updates incur a charge.
  • If you’re asking people to enter more than one code, perhaps you’re doing it wrong. (Can’t a unique hardware identifier give you all the information a serial number can?)
  • Allow for common mistakes in your form validation.
  • Include the instructions on entering any unlock codes again after¬†completing a firmware upgrade.
  • Use straightforward, clear navigation and colour schemes on websites.
  • Test things before upgrading a product – e.g. remember to verify if a particular station/multiplex has good reception that day and in that location.
  • Store biscuits near ground level.
  • Bear all this in mind (including the likelihood of users of all abilities making mistakes) when contemplating marketing material for digital switchover.

Later: reception has improved and I can confirm the DAB+ upgrade has worked. ¬†I’m grateful the radio I bought almost ten years ago will continue to work.

P.S. ¬†Pure have a list showing which of their radios are DAB+ compatible. ¬†It’s worth checking as curiously, it shows that another of their radios, the Tempus 1S, with a rather nicer wooden finish and almost twice the price, and which I bought a year later,¬†isn’t in fact DAB+ compatible, despite having a USB socket.

Troubleshooting empty Laravel Redis queue (cause: APP_NAME change)

Be aware that if you’re using Redis to handle a queue, don’t rename your APP_NAME environment variable while there are jobs on the queue, as they will all mysteriously disappear.

This is because the APP_NAME is used as a prefix to the Redis key, so Laravel will fail to find any jobs that have already been added.

'redis' => [

'client' => env('REDIS_CLIENT', 'predis'),

'options' => [
'cluster' => env('REDIS_CLUSTER', 'predis'),
'prefix' => Str::slug(env('APP_NAME', 'laravel'), '_').'_database_',
],

Source: config/database.php:116

.eu domain names and Brexit – latest news

EU domains are handled by EURid¬†(headquartered in Belgium), on behalf of the EU. ¬†In 2018, the EU said they wanted anyone in the UK who’d registered a .eu domain to hand it back – The Register claimed there were about 300,000 such domains.

EURid have a dedicated Brexit page. You should keep checking this.

Scenario 1 is the ‘leaving without a deal’ scenario (with two months allowed to update your registration details to a postal address in the EU27 or EEA).

Scenario 2 is leaving at the end of the planned transitional period (e.g. Dec 2020)

As of May 2019:

  • all plans are suspended (i.e. UK citizens/companies can register .eu domains as normal), because Article 50 has been extended until 31 October.
  • There’s also a new regulation to allow all EU citizens to register .eu domains regardless of where they are living in the world. ¬†EURid told me this would become effective later in the year, “possibly October”.
  • All this will also apply to Gibraltar (GI).

This means, provided your organisation has an EU citizen, it will be fine to register a domain in the UK. ¬†But you’ll need that person to be the registrant for as long as you renew it.

Unclear yet what proof of citizenship will be required. ¬† I wouldn’t expect it to prevent you from using WHOIS privacy services.

How much do .eu domains cost, anyway?

$15/year to register and renew on Hover.com (they will give you free WHOIS privacy, for individuals only)
£5.99 to register (50% sale price) and £11.99 to renew on 123-reg

(123-reg is slightly more expensive when you convert the currencies)

 

ISO country codes of The Commonwealth members

Greetings, fellow traveller in search of a list of ISO codes for countries in the Commonwealth. Tricky to find one, isn’t it? So to hopefully save you the time, here is one I made for a thing‚Ķ

There are 53 countries (or were in May 2019) – for the official list see The Commonwealth website.

Below are the ISO 3166-1 alpha 2 codes (that is to say, the two letter codes that most people use, including for domain names).

  // Africa
 'BW','CM','GM','GH','KE','SZ','LS','MW','MU','MZ','NA',
 'NG','RW','SC','SL','ZA','UG','TZ','ZM',
  // Asia
 'BD','BN','IN','MY','PK','SG','LK',
  // Caribbean and Americas
 'AG','BS','BB','BZ','CA','DM','GD','GY','JM','LC','KN','VC','TT',
  // Europe
 'CY','MT','GB',
  // Pacific
 'AU','FJ','KI','NR','NZ','PG','WS','SB','TO','TV','VU'

And here are the countries that competed in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.  There were 71, but only 68 are listed here, because England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland competed separately, but they all share the same GB code (technically they can identified separately with GB-SCT, GB-NI and GB-WLS):

  // Africa
  'CM','GH','GM','KE','LS','MU','MW','MZ','NA',
  'NG','RW','SC','SH','SL','SZ','TZ','ZA','ZM',
  // Asia
  BD','BN','BW','IN','LK','MY','PK','SG',
  // Caribbean and Americas
  'AG','AI','BB','CA','BM','BS','BV','BZ','DM','GD',
  'GY','FK','JM','KN','KY','LC','MS','TC','TT','VC',
  // Europe
  'CY','GB','GG','GI','IM','JE','MT',
  // Pacific
  'AU','CK','FJ','KI','NF','NR','NZ','NU',
  'PG','SB','TO','TV','UG','VU','WS'