Zarino Zappia

develops things

An open data Masters thesis

8th October

Just over four years ago, I’d frantically finished the most involved piece of writing in my life: my Masters thesis about Open Data. Today I take a look back at how Open Data has panned out over the intervening four years.

Accessing a Jekyll site over your local wifi network

16th September

We all know you can access a Jekyll site running locally at a address like http://localhost:4000 – but what about testing it from other devices on the network, like phones, tablets, and virtual machines?

ImageMagick and FFmpeg: manipulate images and videos like a ninja

28th August

A collection of really useful command line snippets for manipulating and converting images and videos in a flash.

Zoetropes and the phi phenomenon

7th August

In which Zarino compares the transit of the moon, stop-motion zoetropes, and the music video to the Correspondents’ Fear and Delight.

Know your arts: Nouveau, Deco, Moderne

17th July

Vintage is in. Impress your friends and up your cocktail party chatter, by learning the difference between the three early 19th-century design styles: Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Moderne.

Sass: One Year On

1st June

Zarino debunks some myths about CSS pre-processors, and explains why he started using Sass at mySociety

Micropache: Cut the crap out of getting Apache running on your Mac

11th May

Upgraded to a new version of Mac OS X but can’t face the nightmare of getting your Apache-PHP-MySQL stack working? Try Micropache, my one-line Apache server.

My £80 DIY IKEA standing desk

7th April

It’s an object of fascination, jocularity, even lust and admiration. Here’s a quick run-down of how to make your own standing desk, like mine, from about £80 of IKEA parts.

The hacker ethos starts at home

25th February

A response to a recent blog post by Liverpool internet-of-things guru Adrian McEwan, about the importance of the hacker mindset, and how we can get it into the business world.

Is Diskmaker X taking forever to create your bootable OS X drive?

15th February

How to create an OS X installer using Diskmaker X, and what to do when it gives you a cryptic error: “command not found.”

My One-Third Rule for buying books online

5th January

In which Zarino ponders Amazon’s dominance of the bookselling industry, and the warm fuzzy feeling he gets from sitting in a bookshop on a rainy day.

A Synology-flavoured rsync backup script

21st December 2014

A good starting point if you routinely copy files from your Synology DiskStation NAS onto an external USB drive, or a remote server.

Restoring your custom software after a Synology DSM update

20th December 2014

Updated your Synology NAS, and suddenly things are broken when you SSH in. Try this quick trick for setting things straight again.

Looking behind the curtain

7th December 2014

In which Zarino confesses justifies a six month Star Trek addiction by pointing out a single episode that helped him be a better designer.

Stop wasting time with Git branch upstreams

3rd December 2014

A three-character fix for the infuriating “no tracking information” Git error. Plus some bonus aliases to turn you into a Git ninja.

Music to program to

14th October 2014

Sometimes the right music can help you get twice as much work done. This week, Zarino introduces you to some of his favourite albums to program to.

A moment of silence for the iPod

24th September 2014

A personal eulogy for Apple’s breakthrough device, which passed away quietly, in its sleep, on 9th September 2014.

Putting Awesome into words

2nd September 2014

Every month, I get together with ten strangers, and give £50 to Awesome projects all over Liverpool. Find out why…

Attention, toilet door is not locked!

18th August 2014

Every few weeks, work sees me travelling down to London to meet clients. This week my cosy schedule was turned upside-down, and I discovered the weird world of Virgin Pendolino toilets.

A storefront in every pocket

3rd August 2014

Amazon released a new phone last week: the Amazon Fire Phone. Will it be the user experience that revolutionises everyday shopping for us all?

How do you make people watch your airplane safety routine?

26th July 2014

Virgin Atlantic takes us on a 5-minute tour of British movie history, from Spaghetti Westerns to The Avengers, Bond to A Space Odyssey.

What the “universal typeface” says about us (hint: not much)

18th July 2014

While attempting to market the “individuality” of its customers, BIC, the yellow ballpoint maker, accidentally shows us how the whole of a Universal Typeface can actually be a lot less than its parts.

Using Spotlight (or mdfind) from the terminal

9th July 2014

A quick demo of how I use Spotlight on Mac OSX to search for words and phrases faster, and more easily, than Grep.

Find out which process is using a port on a Mac

1st July 2014

Tired of getting an “Address already in use” error when you start Jekyll on your Mac? Use this handy command to track down the cause, and get your server back up and running.

The Liver Grease, Oil & Chemical Co. Ltd.

26th June 2014

A tour of the typography in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, starting with the bizarre and exquisite Liver Grease, Oil & Chemical Co. Ltd.

Susan Kare and the ⌘ symbol

19th June 2014

The history of the ⌘ symbol, plus other awesome anecdotes from early Apple designer, Susan Kare.

Sinking underground with Merseyrail

16th June 2014

In which Zarino bemoans Merseyrail’s disappointing lack of visual design acumen, and argues it’s actually indicative of a deeper mindset of complacency.

What’s in a checkbox? (revisited)

12th June 2014

In a follow-up to my debut blog post about opt-in and opt-out decisions, a Sky News producer sues John Lewis for sending him emails after he accidentally left a checkbox ticked at checkout.

Deploying web projects with Git

10th June 2014

How to set up Git and Sass on a typical low-cost web server (in this case Dreamhost) so you can just push your work remotely and have it automatically deployed and running in seconds.

Wrapping your head round the Monty Hall problem

8th June 2014

In which Zarino finally understands the famous probability puzzle, and explains his method for working it out.

Cosmos: A live commentary

5th May 2014

A minute-by-minute account of the opening episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s relaunch of the classic American scientific documentary series. Because, why not?

Are you listening comfortably?

21st April 2014

In which Zarino searches for a comfortable set of headphones for his new remote-working job, and discovers the holy grail in an unexpected place… the Gaming aisle.

Write to an HFS+ (Mac formatted) USB drive from a Synology NAS

18th April 2014

If you use a Mac with your Synology NAS, this trick will save you hours of painful Finder-based copying and restoring. Find out how to write to a Mac-formatted drive directly from your NAS.

Investing in RSS

13th March 2014

In which Zarino reflects on the importance of RSS, exactly a year after Google Reader’s demise. And explains why he happily pays £2 a month for a replacement service.

Distinguishing beauty from utility

26th February 2014

It’s fun to imagine a new user interface that makes car controls simple and delightful. But this month’s rash of style-over-substance YouTube videos isn’t helping.

Breaking news: NHS scheme delayed until “autumn”

19th February 2014 Have you opted out yet?

17th February 2014

Organ donation may still be opt-in, but elsewhere in the NHS, people with far too much power and not enough common sense are pushing the button on an opt-out nightmare innocuously called “”.

Could Microsoft lead the re-decentralisation revolution?

7th February 2014

In which Zarino voyages to an alternate reality where Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, steers the company to become the new giant of Open Source software and Internet-of-Things hackery.

Teaching everyone to hack

6th February 2014

Teaching kids to program isn’t about the act of actually putting variable to screen – it’s about the mindset that programming introduces. A mindset that British kids simply shouldn’t have to live without.

Synology DS214se: Going under the hood

24th January 2014

A step-by-step guide to setting up SSH access to your Synology NAS, and installing 3rd-party programs.

Time Machine and the Synology DS214se NAS

22nd January 2014

Not many Synology owners realise their NAS is a few steps away from becoming the perfect wireless Mac backup system.

Getting started with a Synology DS214se NAS

17th January 2014

An introduction to Synology’s network-attached drives, and how to set yours up with the minumum fuss.

Why I wireframe in pencil

14th January 2014

I’m a designer. I think in pictures. And unlike a growing contingent of designers these days who protest they can’t draw, I sketch everything before I even touch a computer. Find out why…

New Year’s Resolution #1: Back up your shit

2nd January 2014

A New Year’s resolution we should all observe: what’s your computer backup solution, and if your main machine died tomorrow, how long would it take you to get up and running again?

Getting to the bottom of Bitcoin

30th December 2013

A realistic survey of the potential of Bitcoin, from the peak of the Winter 2013 hype cycle.

The unfortunate exclusivity of art

21st December 2013

In which Zarino discusses his love-hate relationship with hidden meanings in art, and deconstructs two of his favourite paintings.

What’s in a checkbox?

18th December 2013

A single email newsletter checkbox spurs me into asking: At what point do I, as a designer, have sufficient data to make a decision on the user’s behalf?