Matthew Gatland


January 04, 2018

I’ve given up television… again.

Many years ago, I stopped watching broadcast TV. TV, I thought, is a waste of time. You sit there and watch random shows selected by someone else. Clever people like me download the shows we want to watch over the internet, and only watch stuff that’s really good and relevant to us. We don’t waste our time.

15 years later, the world was very different. The internet got faster, and TV shows become more common - so there were more shows I wanted to watch, and it was easier to download them. Netflix arrived and destroyed the final barriers. Now I could watch shows I liked continuously, without even taking a break to find new download links.

Watching TV become too easy. Any time I sat at my computer, I’d be tempted to open Netflix - especially if I was feeling tired or stressed. And because TV doesn’t make me less tired or less stressed, the desire to watch Netflix is never satiated. Each episode leaves me in the same state of mind I started in, ready to watch another episode.

The only way out that I could see was a total ban. No TV, unless I’m with someone else. (I don’t want to ostracise myself.)

So that’s what I did.

I originally aimed to do this for 100 days, but it was so good I’ve kept it going for much longer. I have had occasional cheat days - you might want to schedule these in officially if you don’t like cheating. Of course, it’s much better to use the loophole of convincing a friend to watch an important show with you.

The no-TV rule hasn’t changed my life that much. In particular, it hasn’t made me more productive or self-motivated. However, it has helped me spend my time on a much more diverse range of timewasting activities. Instead of watching TV, I might read a book, play a video game, or even spend a quiet moment with my thoughts.

I highly recommend giving up TV again. If you, like me, gave up broadcast television a long time ago, it’s worth thinking about how your relationship with TV has changed since then. Maybe it’s time to take another step back.

How to make YouTube (or other video websites) louder

November 24, 2017

Sometimes I find a YouTube video of a conference talk that’s just too quiet. Even when it’s set to maximum volume, with Windows set to maximum volume, it’s still too quiet.

The YouTube volume slider set to maximum

The Windows volume slider set to maximum

You can easily fix this with JavaScript!

First, open your web browser’s JavaScript console. In Chrome, click on the menu button, then ‘more tools’, then ‘Developer Tools’ to open the developer tools.

Opening the developer tools as described above

In the Developer Tools, click on the Console tab.

Open the console

Click in the empty white space after the > symbol. Now you can type or paste code into the console.

Click on the console

Copy this code and paste it into the console.

var videoElement = document.querySelector("video")
var audioCtx = new AudioContext()
var source = audioCtx.createMediaElementSource(videoElement)
var gainNode = audioCtx.createGain()
gainNode.gain.value = 2 // double the volume

It will look like this once you paste it in:

The code, as it will appear in the console.

Press enter to send the code to your browser. The video should immediately get louder.

If you want to make it even louder, copy this line, paste it in and press enter. You can change the number to a higher value to make it even louder.

gainNode.gain.value = 3

The code, as it will appear in the console.

What just happened?

Imagine that the video was a physical object (like a phone), and it was connected to your speakers by a cable.

We unplugged that cable and connected the video to a new object called a gain node. Then we plugged the gain node into your speakers. Sound flows from the video to the gain node to the speakers. The gain node has a volume dial on it, and we can adjust that dial to amplify the sound.

How to recycle CFL bulbs in Auckland

July 04, 2017

I’m writing this post because I googled that title and took a long time to find the answer. Hopefully I can make it simple for you:

Take your energy saver bulbs to EcoMatters in Newmarket at 1 Olympic Place, New Lynn, Auckland. They are open from 10am-4pm on weekdays, or 10am to 1pm on Saturday.

You will be charged $1 per bulb. It’s a small price to save the planet.

EcoMatters will take the bulbs to Interwaste, which seems to be the only company in New Zealand that can actually recycle them. Interwaste works with bulk amounts. If you have hundreds of bulbs you might want to go to Interwaste directly. If you only have a few, EcoMatters is the place for you.

I wrote this in 2017. You might want to recheck the EcoMatters ‘Recycling Weird Stuff’ page to check nothing has changed.

(The page says Bunnings Warehouse recycles bulbs at no charge, but I don’t think that is true in New Zealand.)

In case you didn’t know

CFL stands for Compact Fluorescent Light. They may be called ‘Energy Saver’ or ‘Energy Saving’ lights on the packaging. They are the little tubey lights that cost more to buy than old-style light bulbs, but last longer and use much less energy. This makes them cheaper and better for the environment in the long run.

CFLs contain mercury, which is highly toxic. They should not be thrown in the rubbish.

Proper disposal information isn’t displayed on the packaging or in stores anywhere :( But now you know! Tell your friends. Save the world.

(By the way, you probably shouldn’t buy any more CFLs. LED bulbs are better now – they might cost twice as much, but they last 3 times as long, they’re even more efficient and they don’t contain mercury.)