David Artiss

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What’s on my desk?

A while ago I wrote posts on ‘What’s in my bag?‘ and ‘What’s in my pencil case?‘. However, picking up an idea that came from an internal discussion amongst some Automatticians, I now present to you ‘What’s on my desk?’.

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Remind me again… Scotland Yard?

I didn’t know there was a board game based on Scotland Yard, the home to the London police, until my wife stumbled across it on Amazon. The short descrition describes it thus – “Race around London to try and capture the elusive Mr X”. Reviews are positive and it’s a decent price.

But, there was something about its listing on Amazon that caught her eye.

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On Long Passwords

At the moment, I’m having a ‘discussion’ with British Airways on Twitter. Sadly, it’s not the first time I’ve had a similar conversation with a company.

Here’s the initial part of the problem – when you try and change your BA password, it gives you the following guidance for the password…

So, the password has to be at least 6 digits and be numbers and letters. No symbols, mind you, which is a negative point. So, I put in a new password, generated for me. 49 digits no less. It complained..

The password you have supplied is invalid. Passwords need to be at least 6 characters in length and use a mix of letters (English A-Z) and numbers.

But my password did abide by those rules.

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This beauty is on my Twitter timeline today. Notice anything odd?

Check the mirror.

Or is it a mirror? It appears to be a hole through to an identical cabin (which, thankfully, has their hole filled in) – no wonder they can’t sell them.

But, let’s be honest, it’s supposed to be a mirror. It’s just that whoever photoshopped this doesn’t have particularly good skills.

ONA17: Mr Artiss Goes To Washington

Just weeks after returning from the company GM in Canada, I’m off again. This time I’m attending a conference in Washington DC -my first visit to the US! The conference in question is ONA17, which is for journalists. My team, WordPress VIP, works with a lot of media companies so we have sponsored a booth at the event and I will be one of a number of the VIP team attending to help run it, provide advice and, hopefully, assist with new client leads.

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My First Grand Meetup

Every year Automattic has a “Grand Meetup” (GM), where all the employees, from across the world, get together for a week. This year it was in Whistler, Canada, a resort town which hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics.

As my first GM I was, understandable, apprehensive. I’d been told that a GM could be overwhelming, so I made it my task to make sure it wasn’t.

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If you’d asked me a couple of years ago what goals I’d like to achieve in the near future I would have told you 2 things…

  • Work for Automattic
  • Publish an article on a technology website

I achieved the first earlier this year and, a couple of weeks ago, I had my first technology article published as well. In fact, I’ve since published a second and a third is imminent.

The Big Tech Question is a new technology site, the brains behind it being both a past and the current editor of PC Pro magazine, the UK’s biggest selling monthly computing magazine. I hope to publish many more articles in time too.

Tesco – Supermarket Bakery Business of the Year

The following advert appeared on my Facebook today…

The video at the bottom is a little bizarre and it’s simply an animation of that static image but with the two bottom lines appearing, one at a time. A static image of animated GIF would have worked just as well.

Anyway, I always like to look into these things as I often find, particularly when it comes to awards, that they’re not always what they seem.

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The new Mazda 3 – first thoughts

I've had the 2017 model of the Mazda 3 for little over a month now. It's easy to talk in bold brush strokes about the driving ability, etc, but I thought I'd write up about the little niggly things that annoy as well as the small things that delight. For the rest, read the professional reviews – it's an excellent drivers car, well built but is a little noisy on motorways.


  • There’s no connectivity in the back of the car. Even my old Focus had a cigarette lighter socket, so that USB connectors could be added. Other Mazda models have USB sockets, etc, in the rear arm rest but the Mazda has nothing.
  • If a door is not quite closed, it doesn’t tell you which one. My Focus would show a diagram of the car and highlight the door in question. The Mazda doesn’t.
  • The car idles high when starting from cold, making it quite noisy initially.
  • The boot only has an interior handle (for closing) on the right-hand side, making it a nuisance for left-handers or anybody with something in their right hand at the time.
  • Bugs in the ‘infotainment’ system prevents DAB radio information from being displayed and the HUD from showing SatNav information (although the latter can be corrected by switching the settings off and then back on again).
  • The springs on the driver’s wiper shine through the SatNav when the sun are on them, looking like a row of bright LEDs, causing a minor distraction.
  • There’s no quick way to pause music playback when driving – you need to use voice controls or the joystick to select an icon on the far opposite side of the screen.
  • I have an annoying rattle coming from the driver’s door. I suspect some of the trim is loose and will be bringing this up with the dealers. Equally, the boot is a bit stiff to close properly and, more than once, I’ve got in to find the ‘open door’ light is on as a result.
  • This is a general annoyance with a lot of modern cars, and my Focus was no different. The Mazda has a number of external lights using LEDs, including the headlights, but not all. Most (if not all) the rear lights are traditional bulbs. Why? Not only that but all the interior lights (ceiling lights, visor lights, etc) are non-LED as well. As well as having a longer life, they don’t get anywhere near as warm and use a lot less power.
  • Searching for locations on the SatNav via postcode is more hit than miss and you often resort to using street addresses instead.
  • Using the SatNav requires a special SD card to be used – it’s minor, but this takes away the use of the SD card slot for your own music, etc. You can use the USB slot instead though.
  • Too much of the dashboard, for my liking, is the cheaper, hard plastic.
  • The controls on the steering wheel are awkward to use, particularly when trying to find the correct button whilst driving.
  • It would be nice to be able to adjust the HUD other than up and down. I sit, I don’t know why, at a slight angle in a drivers seat so it would be nice to adjust the horizontal, angle, for instance, to better suit my position.
  • The lighting controls appears over-complex. The dealer set it up so that it’s pretty automatic but I’ve accidentally adjusted the stalk and I have no idea now what it’s set up to do. I also have no idea, for example, how to flash my lights now. When it goes back to the dealer next, I’m going to ask them to talk me through it.
  • Like pretty much all car manuals, the one for the Mazda tries to cover off all models, which makes it painful to get through sometimes as you try and find the specific setup for your model. It would be nice for manufacturers to provide specific manuals for your car (or is that maybe asking a lot?).


  • When a DAB signal is too weak, and the station has an FM equivalent, it will switch to that. There is a delay between digital and analogue radio, due to the time it takes to decode the digital version. With my Focus, when it switched from DAB to FM or back that delay was obvious – with the Mazda, they've synced the signals so there is no difference. It's not quite perfect, though, as they haven't equalised the volumes – FM is a lot quieter.
  • The HUD is really good to use and I find myself using that all the time, and not the main dashboard instruments. Which is a shame, as the white on black display is really very nice.
  • The automatic light dimming works great. You put your lights on full beam and it automatically dips and even moves the lights around anything approaching.
  • I have issues with touch-screens in cars and the fact that they're insecure – you have to physically look at a touch-screen, rather than feel for a button, which makes it unsafe for drivers to use. Mazda have made it so that the touch feature is disabled when the car is moving – you have to use the physical controller instead. This is a great solution.
  • When you set a speed limiter, the car is not restricted below that speed. Let me explain – if you set a limit on my previous Focus, it would restrict power as you approached the limit. If this was set to 30, say, then the car felt very sluggish accelerating up to this. I can understand why – I guess they didn't want people dashing up to 30, only for it to suddenly stop you. I don't know how Mazda have done it, but they've found an absolute sweet-spot – it doesn't suddenly stop me when I hit the limiter but, equally, I don't find any sluggishness on the acceleration up to it.

I know this seems overly weighted towards 'niggles' but that's because the big over-arching features of the car – the driving, comfort, etc – are excluded. This is the minor stuff and it's usually the annoyances that you notice. For my the "delights" are things that are good that didn't initially attract me to the car in the first place.

The new Mazda 3 – tips for a new owner

4 years ago I took possession of a new Ford Focus and the post I wrote about it became one of the most popular on this site, covering various tips for any owner. Now, the Ford has gone and, in its place, the new, 2017 model of the Mazda 3. So, let’s do the same…

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