Google Apps, Hangouts, and messaging

tl;dr: Here’s how to make the Hangouts app work on your Google Apps account.

I’ve been a long-time paying Google Apps user for (since at least 2008, according to my mail archive).

Yesterday, I discovered that my use of Google Apps has prevented a friend from contacting me. He’d been cheerfully messaging me using Google Hangouts, and the messages had been going no-where.

I fired up Google Hangouts on my iPhone and received the error “The domain administrator has disabled text messages”:

Google Hangouts Messages Disabled

Since I am the domain administrator, this came as rather a surprise to me. I figured it would be simple and straightforward to turn messages back on. Not so much.

Here’s what to do.

We start our journey on “Turn on Hangouts chat”, which tells us:

“Google Apps accounts created before July 2015, however, may include Google Talk. To give users more chat features, such as the ability to share photos or have larger group conversations, turn on Hangouts chat instead.”

Well, alright. And then:

Ready to set up Hangouts for your team? Follow our easy Quick Start Guide.

The Quick Start guide page has a link for apps users:

Google Apps quickstart guide

Awesome! I’m an apps user! Let’s click it. This takes us to “Set up your Google Apps services with these guides”. Scrolling down the page is a section on Hangouts, with a link to “Learn more about Hangouts setup”:

Google Apps Hangouts

Clicking on the “Learn more about Hangouts setup” link takes us back to the Quick Start Guide. Not much use. There’s also those “View in browser” and “Download PDF” buttons. It turns out these link to a presentation on how to set things up.

Feature request: Google, please label those buttons “View a presentation on setup”, “Download a presentation on setup” or something similarly meaningful.

So, on to the presentation. It’s 21 slides and states you’ll need 30 minutes to get set up:

Google Hangouts Setup presentation

There are at least two things wrong with this:

  • Presentations are a horrible way to provide documentation
  • 30 minutes to enable a feature? Seriously?

Very enterprisey, but let’s work through it. The first instruction is to click “Apps” in my Google Apps admin dashboard:

Google Apps setup instructions

And here’s what my dashboard looks like:

Google Apps Admin

The promised “Apps” item on my dashboard is missing. I found it by clicking on “More Controls” at the bottom of the home screen, and adding the Apps button.

Feature request: Google, please clarify your instructions for people that don’t have Apps on their home screen.

I followed the presentation to find the advanced settings, and found the magic option to turn on Hangouts chat (it was previously set to “Google Talk only”):

Enable Google Hangouts

And now Hangouts actually works on my iPhone.

Feature request: Google please just put this simple step on a web page somewhere and link to it from the app. Or better yet, the app should know I’m logged in as the domain administrator, so instead of telling me it’s disabled, give me an option to enable it from right within the app.

Hurrah, I now have another walled garden for messaging!

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ASP.Net with Docker on Mac

I tried a ton of different ASP.NET on Linux / Docker / Mac tutorials, none of which worked for one reason or another. Then I fixed it.

The closest I got was Deploy ASP.NET 5 Apps to Docker on Linux, but whenever I tried to build I got some error ‘unable to locate System.Security.SecureString’.

Turns out the fix was really simple: use aspnet beta 5, not beta 4. This is not great as it’s not the latest release. However, lots of things got renamed and parameters changed between 5 and 7 and I don’t have time to figure out what everything should be called. So it’ll do, for now.

ASPNET Hello World

So: if you are like me and you’ve been struggling to even get to Hello World with this stuff, the code is on github.

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The WordPress iPad app

Next up in my tour of iPad blog clients: the official WordPress app.

Categories – check.

Tagging – check.

Uncomfortably accurate geotagging – check (though thankfully only at the resolution of “Andrew’s street” and not “sat in the lounge”).

Ugly preview – check.

I do suspect WordPress and associated ecosystem are designed to make platform and plugin updates so frequent and arduous that the average blogger throws up their arms in disgust (“I only updated that yesterday!”) and resigns to hosting everything on
Still, it looks like the WordPress app covers the essentials. That’ll do … for now. Suggestions for alternatives will be happily received.

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Testing BlogPress

I think I need to start using iPad blogging clients more — in part in the delusional belief that I will blog more, but also because I keep losing my “local drafts” folder each time I change laptop.
 BlogPress does not seem to support categories or tags though so I’m not sure it is the answer.
 – Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:London,United Kingdom

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The cost of keeping your cool

As the UK basks in record temperatures (“Scorched Britain”, “Havoc on hottest day for a DECADE”, “ travel disruptions and health fears as temperatures soar”, “Record-Baker”, “Heatwave UK”), I’ve been running the air conditioner at home rather more frequently in a desperate attempt to avoid melting.

I was intrigued to know what it costs. According to the label on the side of the AC, it uses 930 watts of power. UK Power has a handy running costs calculator, which does the work for me.

Assuming I use the AC for 6-7 hours a day for a month, it would cost me an extra £19.08 to keep cool*:

AC cost calculator

Not bad! Especially as it’s unlikely this heatwave will last very long at all (certainly not 30 days), so the cost will be significantly less than that. In fact, expenditure is still going to be lower than in the middle of winter, based on First Utility’s handy usage chart:

Electricit usage

And since I use less electricity than the average house (even though I’m usually working from home), I can relax in the cool, cool, breeze coming from the AC.

Comparible electricity spend

Now all I need is a fridge full of cold beers.



* I am of course ignoring the environmental impact of this, but there’s little I can do until I am able to move to a house built on more sound ecological principles.

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It’s Pebble Time

I backed the Pebble Time Kickstarter project, and my watch arrived a couple of weeks ago. It’s a great device and the first “smart watch” I’m happy wearing.

I’ve been critical of the wearable space. Back when Samsung and Google were first making noises about smartwatches, I thought the design was wrong and the devices themselves needed more battery, smaller size, less weight. I tried the Sony Smartwatch 2, but it ended up in a drawer as the frequent charging (and cumbersome USB port) was too much hassle. I looked at the Apple Watch, but I’m annoyed enough at charging my phone daily, I don’t need another thirsty device.

When the Pebble Time was announced, I was convinced. A few things won me over: the “up to a week” battery life, colour display, and the microphone. The original Pebble E-Paper Watch was nice, but this third iteration from Pebble convinced me. For a run-down of the differences between versions, see Pebble Time vs Pebble Steel vs Pebble.

So is the Pebble Time any good?

Pebble Time Box

The box felt like something Amazon would ship; very much like Kindle packaging. That actually is a good summary of the feel of the device itself: “Kindle-like”. It’s not premium, but it’s functional. 

The hardware is nice and ‘watch-like’: it does not look particularly oversized, and it fits on the wrist properly, especially compared to the Sony Smartwatch 2.

Setup was really easy. Plug in, turn on, connect to phone, up and running.

After a couple of weeks I seem to be getting 5-6 days battery life between charges. The choice of watch faces seems to make a difference: watch faces that update frequently (second hand, or weather reports) naturally chew through more battery than the less-featured faces.

Pebble Watch Face

Changing watch face is one of the understated killer features of this device. It’s nice to pick and choose based on mood. I’m currently a big fan of “DIN Time”, “Weather Land”, and “91 Dub”.

The notifications are good, and less problematic than they were with the Smartwatch. This is in part because Apple Mail’s VIP feature is responsible for delivering only important mails to my wrist, and because it’s easier to control what you see by turning off iOS notifications.

The much-heralded timeline functionality is nice but to be honest I haven’t much used it.

One annoyance is that a lot of meetings show on my watch even though they are cancelled. I’m assuming this is a problem with corporate calendaring systems rather than the Pebble but it’s still irritating to be buzzed for an event that isn’t happening.

Another annoyance is that iOS’ Do Not Disturb capability is ignored by the watch, so even if the phone makes no noise when a new notification arrives, you can be sure the watch will vibrate.

Another problem is that when your phone rings the pebble gives the option to accept / cancel a call, but the first time I accepted a call on the watch, the watch kept vibrating until I hung up. This seems to have been a one-off glitch as I can’t replicate it.

The Pebble website is a disappointment, all style over substance. The pebble watch faces and the pebble apps are killer use cases, but there’s no easy way to see what’s available. The website that powers the app store in the Pebble iOS app is but browsing is blocked. You can go to and but there’s no search. You can search the app store via which recreates the phone app UX, but it’s not ideal.

Reddit’s /r/pebble is a good source of community and I found a few nice apps and watch faces from recommendations there.

How is the watch for developers?

In Mean Time to Hello World, I talked about the importance of developers being able to be productive quickly:

if you want developers to adopt your platform, provide the simplest possible path to getting a trivial application up and running in the minimum amount of time.

Custom WatchfaceAnd that’s what Pebble has done. The SDK is simple to install, and the tutorials are straightforward. I was able to get a simple watch face built in no time at all.


brew install pebble/pebble-sdk/pebble-sdk
pebble new-project foo
cd foo
pebble build && pebble install


Pebble QEMU Simulator

With the built-in simulator it’s easy to see results without having to debug on-phone. Simple.

Despite the niggling annoyances, this is a really credible smartwatch and a great example of how innovation can come from a scrappy startup just as easily as from an industry behemoth. It’s amazing that Pebble hit a feature/functionality sweet spot that the likes of Samsung, LG, and even Apple have struggled to match.

Arguably as batteries improve then the Apple Watch and myriad Google Wear watches will overtake Pebble, but for now I’ll take a week without charging over any number of wearable gimmicks.

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Office 365

I want to give Microsoft Office 365 a chance. But it’s just a terrible and incomplete experience. Herein my tale of woe.


I received a link to a folder from a co-worker. I need to keep up-to-date on the files within it. Great news, there’s a “Follow” button that looks like it will do the trick:

office 365 follow

Except, when I click on it, I get an error:

office 365 follow errror

Ok, worst case, I guess I can just sync the folder to my local filesystem and monitor it that way. There is a big shiny sync button that leads to this:

office 365 sync

Well, it makes sense that I’d need to download a desktop app to perform the sync, like with Dropbox. What happens when I click “Get the OneDrive for Business app that’s right for me”?

onedrive fail

“Only on a PC”? That’s … disappointing.


Microsoft really should know that table stakes for cloud-hosted services is that the clients work seamlessly across multiple devices. After this experience, they’ll have a really hard job to convince me to take another look in a few years’ time.

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Mastering the mobile app challenge at Adobe Summit

I’m presenting a 2 hour Building mobile apps with PhoneGap Enterprise lab at Adobe Summit in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, with my awesome colleague John Fait. Here’s a sneak preview of the blurb which will be appearing over on the Adobe Digital Marketing blog tomorrow. I’m posting it here as it may be interesting to the wider Apache Cordova community to see what Adobe are doing with a commercial version of the project…


Mobile apps are the next great challenge for marketing experts. Bruce Lefebvre sets the the scene perfectly in So, You Want to Build an App. In his mobile app development and content management with AEM session at Adobe Summit he’ll show you how Adobe Marketing Cloud solutions are providing amazing capabilities for delivering mobile apps. It’s a must-see session to learn about AEM and PhoneGap.

But what if you want to gain hands-on practical experience of AEM, PhoneGap, and mobile app development? If you want to roll up your sleeves and build a mobile app yourself, then we’ve got an awesome lab planned for you. In “Building mobile apps with PhoneGap Enterprise“, you’ll have the opportunity to create, build, and update a mobile application with Adobe Experience Manager. You’ll see how easy it is to deliver applications across multiple platforms. You’ll also learn how you can easily monitor app engagement through integration with Adobe Analytics and Adobe Mobile Services.

If you want to know how you can deliver more effective apps, leverage your investment in AEM, and bridge the gap between marketers and developers, then you need to attend this lab at Adobe Summit. Join us for this extended deep dive into the integration between AEM and PhoneGap. No previous experience is necessary – you don’t need to know how to code, and you don’t need to know any of the Adobe solutions, as we’ll explain it all as we go along. Some of you will also be able to leave the lab with the mobile app you wrote, so that you can show your friends and colleagues how you’re ready to continuously drive mobile app engagement and ROI, reduce your app time to market, and deliver a unified experience across channels and brands.

Are you ready to master the mobile app challenge?


All hyperbole aside, I think this is going to be a pretty interesting technology space to watch:

  • Being able to build a mobile app from within a CMS is incredibly powerful for certain classes of mobile app. Imagine people having the ability to build mobile apps with an easy drag-and-drop UI that requires no coding. Imagine being able to add workflows (editorial review, approvals etc) to your mobile app development.
  • No matter how we might wish we didn’t have these app content silos, you can’t argue against the utility of content-based mobile apps until the mobile web matures sufficiently so that everyone can build offline mobile websites with ease. Added together with over-the-air content updates, it’s really nice to be able to have access to important content even when the network is not available.
  • Analytics and mobile metrics are providing really useful ways to understand how people are using websites and apps. Having all the SDKs embedded in your app automatically with no extra coding required means that everyone can take advantage of these metrics. Hopefully this will lead to a corresponding leap in app quality and usability.
  • By using Apache Cordova, we’re ensuring that these mobile app silos are at least built using open standards and open technologies (HTML, CSS, JS, with temporary native shims). So when mobile web runtimes are mature enough, it will be trivial to switch front-end app to front-end website without retooling the entire back-end content management workflow.

Exciting times.

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Login problems on Mac OS X Snow Leopard

These are notes from a tech support call with my parents last night, saved here for the next time stuff breaks.

If you’re running Mac OS X Snow Leopard (and possibly other versions), you may find you can’t log in. Symptoms are:

  • You click on your username and enter your password
  • The login screen is replaced by a blue screen for a short time
  • You are returned to the login screen.

After searching the interwebs I found Fixing a Mac OSX Leopard Login Loop Caused by Launch Services. It seems the problem is caused by corrupted cache files (which could be caused by the computer shutting down abruptly, or may just be “one of those things” that happens from time to time). This gave me enough information to come up with these “easy” steps to resolve it:

  1. Log in to the Mac as a different user*
  2. Press cmd-space to open Spotlight, type “Terminal”, and click on the Terminal application.
  3. Work out the broken user’s username by typing: ls /Users and look for the appropriate broken account name e.g. franksmith or janedoe.
  4. Find out the user ID of the user from the previous step by typing: id -u janedoe which will print a number something like 501
  5. Delete the user’s broken cache files. In the following command, be sure to substitute the correct username (in place of janedoe) and the correct user ID after the 023 (in place of the 501): su -l janedoe -c ‘rm /Library/Caches/*’ (be very careful with this, you don’t want to delete the wrong things).
    • If you’re super-confident in figuring out backticks you could of course skip step 4 and instead of step 5 do: su -l janedoe -c ‘rm /Library/Caches/`id -u janedoe`.*’
  6. Test by logging in to the troublesome user account.
Note that if you had any apps configured to launch at login, you may need to re-add these.

* This makes me think it’s good practice when setting up a Mac to always set up an extra user account, just in case stuff breaks.

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Super markets

I’ve been using our local Lidl recently, because their policy of regularly baking throughout the day means I can pick up fresh croissants and pains au chocolat whenever I go, whereas the local Tesco, Sainsburys, and Waitrose have usually run out by mid-morning. Are the so-called discount supermarkets really cheaper than the mainstream supermarkets? Here’s the result of one unscientific survey.

This morning I checked my till receipt against Tesco online.
There are some items that cost the same regardless of which supermarket (fabric softener, fresh orange juice). There are some items that don’t have direct equivalents across stores, so price comparisons aren’t possible. And there are some items where the price is not significantly different (fresh milk, toilet paper).
On today’s basket of comparable items, Lidl was £10.62 cheaper (costing £18.46 instead of £29.08).
There are some real eye-openers. Eggs are 1.5x more expensive at Tesco. Fresh vegetables were often almost twice the price at Tesco. And what about my fresh croissants and pains au chocolat? £0.29 and £0.39 at Lidl, vs £0.80 each at Tesco. Over twice the price — on today’s shop, buying just these alone saved me £4.70. And they were fresh from the oven, still warm when I got them home.
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