I’ve been using iCloud Photo Library (iCPL) for the last few months, basically since the day it went to Public Beta. It was one of the features I was most excited about for iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. The idea is fantastic – all your photos available on all your (Apple) devices, and it’s integrated with what is probably your most frquently used camera, so new photos are automatically added.

When it works, it’s seamless and brilliant, and I can’t say enough good things about it… but this morning I turned it off on my iPhone and won’t be switching it back on any time soon.


Here are the two major problems I’ve had with it:

1. It causes (most) apps accessing the photo library to run extremely slow

Anytime I open an app which wants to access the photo library, that app tends to hang for a few seconds. This is easiest to see in something like Instagram, where if you go to add a picture, the icon in the bottom left which lets you select an existing image will show as blank for several seconds while it loads the first thumbnails. I’ve seen similar behaviour in the stock Camera app, and numerous image editors.

2. It absolutely destroys my mobile data allowance

I have a 4GB data allowance on my 4G data plan. When I have iCloud Photo Library enabled on my iPhone – even after syncing the entire library over WiFi before leaving the house – within a couple of days I will get a text message from my network telling me I’ve only got 200MB of my allowance left. This happens even after disallowing the Photos app from using mobile data, so it’s obviously some other process running in the background. To be clear: without iCloud Photo Library turned off, I have never been close enough to my data cap to trigger a warning; with it turned on, I use up my entire allowance within a few days.

This morning, in the space of 2 hours
This morning, in the space of just 2 hours

The first problem of slowness has improved with the iOS 9 public betas, but #2 is still happening. A lot. It’s probably cost me upwards of £60 in increased mobile phone bills over the last few months. And this is before we get to other issues, including: either iCPL/the new Photos app screwing up the metadata on a whole bunch of photos1; occaisional sync conflicts2; problems caused by turning it off because of the other issues3.

By and large, I get the impression I’m the outlier. For most people, iCloud Photo Library works without issue and they’re happy with it. Hopefully it’s the same for you! But for me it just doesn’t work reliably enough without some serious downsides.

What’s your experience of iCloud Photo Library been like? Let me know!


  1. I found this one out when I tried importing my library into Google Photos and Dropbox for redundancy. Roughly 2500 photos no longer have any date information associated with them, so both services sort them into the day they were uploaded, completely ruining any logical grouping. 
  2. In iOS 8, if I quickly edited a new picture on your device, while it synced to your other devices, one of two things would happen; 1: only the edit would sync, or 2: your edit would be discarded when the sync finished. 
  3. What should happen is your iCPL photos are removed from the device, apart from the Camera Roll pictures on the device previously. Except, it usually turns into a crap-shoot as to which photos are kept. And sometimes, despite removing all these photos, the storage space isn’t freed up afterwards. Which is awesome when you only have a 16GB device. 

LotV-Screenshot-04

Never, ever pre-order games. That’s the general rule, especially given such recent debacles as the PC version of Arkham Knight.

But as with every rule, there are exceptions. The final entry in the Starcraft 2 series is – for me – one of them. Within 20 minutes of learning the pre-order for the digital editions was live, I had the deluxe edition ordered.

Starcraft is one of those rare gaming series I hold dear; I played the original on my very first PC, fell in love with the story, then had to wait over a decade until Starcraft 2 came along. When the first part, Wings of Liberty, arrived 12 years after Starcraft 1, I fell in love all over again, and all fears about how splitting up the game into 3 would work out. The 3 year wait for Heart of the Swarm was agonising — I loved the story being told so much I just wanted more!

Now we’re nearing the end, at last. The final chapter in the Starcraft saga will arrive sometime between now and March, and I can’t wait.

I have none, because we haven’t seen enough full information – in context – to make any informed opinions.

And neither have you. I get it, change is scary. But stop whining on the internet about AoS before you have all the information. Please? It’ll make the transition much more pleasant for you, me, and everyone else.

I’m flabbergasted by how quickly it all went from “ok, this looks like it could be fun and interesting,” to “ZOMG! The sky is falling! F-you GW! This is the most ridiculous and crappy game EEEEHHHVVAR!

And it hasn’t even been officially revealed yet. Careful; your knee is jerking so hard you might do yourself an injury.

I do have one final, parting thought to leave you with:

If you want a balanced, tournament-friendly (and 1st-party supported!) Fantasy massed-battle game that plays like a “Warhammer 9th” – basically what everyone complaining the loudest seems to be lamenting Age of Sigmar is not – then I humbly suggest you go check out Kings of War. 2nd Edition is right around the corner, with the beta rules available for free download. A number of Warhammer Fantasy armies port over to KoW with little-to-no modification or need to buy new models. It’s fast, deceptively simple, fun, well written, and actively supported. If you’re up in arms about AoS, it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.

I mentioned a few weeks back I was considering my choices for how to upgrade my aging computer equipment, and of the choices, building my own custom PC would be the most rewarding path to take. I swithered a bit on whether I really wanted to do this, but in the end I gave in to the temptation to build something entirely my own.

Great, I know what I want to do, now how do I get there? It’s been several years since I built a PC1, and I haven’t been keeping up with the trends, or what’s the latest and greatest in terms of performance, price, or anything really.

I had a few ideas of what I wanted – it needed to be small, as space in the office is at a premium. It needed to be as powerful as I could afford, so it would last a decent amount of time until it needed major upgrades, while being flexible enough to tackle many different types of task – development, gaming, photo (and potentially basic video/audio) editing, for example. In a perfect world, I wanted it to be as quiet as possible and look good.

The last few weeks have been spent doing research, going back and forward over potential configurations using PC Part Picker before settling on an outline of what I wanted. I took it over to /r/BuildAPC for a sense check, and was told my best bet was to change the graphics card for something more powerful than I had picked out. I rejigged a few things to make that possible, and ended up with the spec below:

TypeItem
CPUIntel Core i5-4690K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor
CPU CoolerCooler Master Nepton 120XL 76.0 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler
MotherboardAsus MAXIMUS VII IMPACT Mini ITX LGA1150 Motherboard
MemoryCorsair Vengeance Pro 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory
StorageSamsung 850 EVO-Series 250GB 2.5″ Solid State Drive
Video CardGigabyte GeForce GTX 960 2GB Video Card
CaseSilverstone FT03B-MINI (Black) Mini ITX Tower Case
Power SupplySilverstone 500W 80+ Gold Certified Fully-Modular SFX Power Supply

The graphics card might still be swapped for another, similarly specced one, but otherwise this is what I’ll be building in a little over a week’s time, when I have some time off. I’ll be talking more about the build, closer to the time, as I have a few things planned which will make it a bit more interesting than just a straight PC build


  1. It was in 2008. I checked my order history. 

I like to think of myself as generally a smart person. I have my weaknesses, but I’m usually pretty good at figuring something out – particularly if it’s tech related. Problem solving is generally one of my strong points.

So why, oh why, can I not figure out how to “downgrade” or migrate a Google Apps account to a “normal” Google account?

For background, I have a legacy Google Apps account, from when I used to run my own-domain email account through the service. I switched to Fastmail a couple of years ago, but by this point the Apps account was my “main” Google account – the one I was logged into all the time and thus had my data attached to.

I wanted to get rid of the Apps part of the account, as it causes some weird issues now and again, doesn’t work with all Google services, and I don’t use it for the intended purpose any more.

But it’s increasingly looking like this might not be possible. I can think of a number of enterprise-y reasons why not, but I can also think of a few use cases where it should be possible to at least allow it. I’ll keep hunting for now.

I’m in the market for a new computer1, but I have no idea what way to go. I’ve been making do with older kit for the last few years, but all of it is pretty much at the end of its usable life.

I recently set up a new “office” area in the house, and the way I did it allows me to swap between my work-supplied laptop, and a computer of my own, just by plugging into the right monitor input and swapping a USB cable. This setup also allows my son to make use of the desk if he needs to.

Until recently, the computer I used most around the house was a 9 year old Dell Latitude laptop which I had made usable by putting an SSD into it, and building a lightweight Arch Linux installation. This was primarily because a laptop was all I had space for. Actually, I tell a lie – the “computer” I use most is my iPhone, but for times the iPhone can’t cut it (for whatever reason) I used the Dell2. While this arrangement worked, it showed its age, and it was fiddly at times.

I’ve had a 6 year old Mac Mini lying around for a while, doing nothing. It’s only barely more powerful than the Dell3, and the one time I had it plugged into the living room TV, it was just plain awkward to use. With the new office I was able to plug it in to a proper monitor/keyboard/mouse arrangement which made it more viable. So this past weekend I took the SSD from the Dell, put it in the Mac, and made that my “home computer.” It’s just fast enough to not induce rage when trying to do anything more taxing than surf the web and other light duties.

Now I’ve got a “proper” desk and space, I’ve been thinking I should look getting something which will last me another few years. The cheapest upgrade I could do is to spend ~£60 and double the RAM in the Mac Mini, going from 4GB to 8GB. I’m sure that will give a noticable boost to OS X, but it doesn’t really change the fact the system is on borrowed time. It could buy me another 6-12 months, but at some point, likely soon, something is going to fail. The way I see it, my choices are:

  1. Buy a newer Mac, probably a laptop for flexibility (plus that’s where all their non-iOS/Watch innovation seems to be going).
  2. Buy a Windows laptop.
  3. Build a custom PC.

Of the choices, #3 is likely the most satisfying, and would have the most upgrade potential further down the line, though I would be constrained later by choices I made now. It also has the potential to get very expensive; I priced up a high-end Mini-ITX system for a bit of fun, and it came to roughly £1000 before choosing a suitable graphics card. I could definitely price something for less, and would probably have to, but it would have to be weighed against longevity of usable performance and upgradability. I am a little space constrained, so a massive tower is never going to be practical, but there are plenty options between Mini-ITX and mATX nowadays.

A Windows laptop feels like it would be a cop-out, and there’s not much out there I feel inspired enough to part with my money for. There’s a couple of nice laptops I’ve seen4, but none I feel would last as long as I’d like them to.

Getting a new Mac has been the direction I’ve been leaning towards for a while, but I’ve always struggled to justify it vs. other spending priorities. Plus, when you factor in how fast Apple iterate their hardware, the lack up after-sale upgradability, and you’re always hoping to “time it right”. That said, as an iPhone/iPad owner there’s a lot of upside to getting a Mac, for example: close integration through Handover/Continuity (granted, which I can’t currently use with the Mini), and iCloud Photo Library. I guess I could set up something more “cross-platform” for the photo library, using Dropbox, but I found Apple’s solution to be that little bit nicer to work with.

So the jist of this much-longer-than-I-planned stream of consciousness is that I need to start thinking about replacing the old and almost busted computer kit I have with something new. I don’t know what that will be yet, and I’d hoped getting my thoughts out would help me focus my mind on what I want to do.

No such luck though. Any ideas?


  1. Anyone who knows me probably knows I’ve actually been talking about it for ~4 years. 
  2. And what of my iPad? I mainly just use it for Hearthstone and Games Workshop rulebooks. Since iOS 8 (I think), my iPad has taken a huge hit in performance, and just isn’t as capable as it once felt. 
  3. On paper, at least. In practice it was severely hamstrung by the old-school HDD and running OS X. 
  4. My work laptop is quite nice; it’s a Dell Ultrabook, thin, light, and performant enough. But the consumer pricing is higher than I’d value it at. 

Thanks to using 2 cork stoppers to elevate the back of the laptop up about an inch.

Laptop cork legs

Typing on this thing (a Toshiba R500) has been abysmal for the 4 years I’ve had this laptop. The keys are slidey, mushy, inconsistent, and generally just a mess of bad design and ergonomics. Tilting the laptop at least makes it more comfortable. Thankfully it’s being replaced soon, but boy do I wish I’d thought of this a lot sooner!

The Reading List is a round-up of interesting blog posts and articles I’ve recently read, curated and posted every couple of days.

The Reading List is a round-up of interesting blog posts and articles I’ve recently read, curated and posted every couple of days.

The Reading List is a round-up of interesting blog posts and articles I’ve recently read, curated and posted every couple of days.

The Reading List is a round-up of interesting blog posts and articles I’ve recently read, curated and posted every couple of days.