Blog has moved

Finally moved my blog away from wordpress to Jekyll. Maybe I’ll actually blog again at some point.

Amazon Yesterday Shipping

So, it seems that I've managed to have something delivered 2 weeks before it was ordered.

I had a chat with the Amazon agent - transcribe follows

You are now connected to Aiyswarya from
Me: Tracking info says that package was delivered 2 weeks before I ordered it.
Aiyswarya: Thank you for contacting My name is Aiyswarya. May I know your name, please?
Me: my name is Martin (as should be given on account)
Aiyswarya: Hello, Martin.
Due to an error the tracking information of the City Link is given as delivered.
In this case, I will contact City Link to deliver your parcel as soon as possible.
Me: tracking information is given the wrong tracking number. Therefore I cannot track the package.
Can you please have the information updated with the correct tracking information
or provide the correct tracking information to me.
Aiyswarya: I've checked the tracking information of your order and it states that your parcel is still in transit.
In this case, I will contact City Link to deliver your parcel as soon as possible.
As soon as we hear back from them we will update you via email.
Me: To check the tracking, you must have the tracking id?
Aiyswarya: Your tracking ID is <redacted>
Me: using that tracking information - that syas the parcel was delivered on the 12th December. to London
that was 2 weeks before I placed the order.
Aiyswarya: 27/12/12 18:38 Details of the consignment have been received from the consignor, but the collection Depot has yet to scan any goods.
12/12/12 16:59 These goods have been successfully delivered.
Me: So, my package has travelled in time?
Aiyswarya: Yes
You will receive your parcel on the estimated delivery date.
Me: but it says It was delivered on the 12th - I didn't receive it.
You've just confirmed that it's a time travelling package :)
Amazon Yesterday shipping :)
Aiyswarya: Yes you are correct.
I understand your concern that the tracking states it was delivered on December 12, 2012.
Due to an error the City Link information was incorrect.
Now the issue has been resolved.
The current tracking information states that your parcel is still in transit.
I hope that you will receive your order on estimated delivery date, that is December 28, 2012.
Is there anything else I can help you with?

So, it seems that I've had something delivered by Amazon Yesterday Shipping

Adventures with the Galaxy SII

Good morning all!

It feels like forever since I last blogged.... Which is extremely bad of me *slaps own wrist*. However, I'm been horrendously stupidly busy.  As some of you may know, I'm very much an Android fan.  Recently, I've gotten myself a shiny Galaxy SII.

Given the fact that alongside my day job of being a Web Developer for an Online Retailer, I'm also a Voluntary Ambulance Person I thought it'd be useful to ask my current workplace if they'd provide me a mobile phone cover for my new phone.   Of course, work were more than happy to provide me with a shiny Samsung Galaxy S2 case (I actually went for the Case-Mate Barely There in brushed aluminium).

Being a voluntary Ambulance Person, I regularly have to go to random places to pick up an ambulance/attend an event.  Because of that - I rely quite heavily on Google Maps and it's navigation features (Free Sat Nav - in my opinion, the killer feature of Android).

Having only had my phone a week, I started to find that there were a few problems with the GPS.  Whereas previously, I'd been able to lock on almost instantly, It'd now take me about half an hour (literally) to get a lock on anything.  I tried Googling, I tried everything I could think of, but to no avail.  I downloaded GPS Test, and it was showing that while it was picking up a couple of sattelites, it wasn't picking up enough to get a decent lock

The image above is a screenshot of the GPS test from directly outside my front door, taken after it had settled down.

As you can imagine, I wasn't happy - and was ready to send the phone back.

Then, for some reason, a brainwave hit me (It doesn't happen often).  What changed from when it was working to now? I know! The Case

*takes case off, tries GPS test again*

It can be amazing what happens when you realise that shiny case you have is mainly made of aluminium.  Guess what works well at deflecting radio signals and the like... You got it, aluminium.

So now I need to decide whether to get another case or whether to just take the case off when I need to do sensible things.

Other than the case problem, I'm finding that the Samsung Galaxy SII is a great phone (as soon as I got rid of Touchwiz).  I'm not a fan of the OEM Samsung crap that's been bolted onto the phone, and will, as soon as there's a decent release, be putting a copy of CyanogenMod on the phone (I've already made most of the tweaks - I just want rid of SNS)

In other news - I've started more and more gaming again. If you're interested in a couple of rounds of TF2 or some SC2 (or some Portal 2 Co-Op) then give me a shout with your Steam ID / ID and I'll see what I can do.  I'm thinking of starting doing some "Let's Play" Videos, as my Youtube Channel is looking a bit sparse!

I'm going to try and start blogging a bit more aswell - so if there's anything you want to see me blog about - pop a post in the comments below!

Till next time..

Google+: Part 1 - Circles

So, I haven't read the planets in a couple of days - but I'm going to guess that, like twitter, a lot of people are going to be raving about Google+.

For those of you who haven't heard about Google+, it's a new Social Networking site from Google - and it brings a new take to the world of social networking.

In real life, we communicate differently to the different people in our social contexts.  For example,  most people will converse differently to their work colleagues than they will to their family.  They'll converse differently with their drinking buddies than they will with their Family.  There are things that you want only certain people to know, and there are aspects of your personality that you only want to show to certain people.

I think giving an example here might be better.   This is an example of a friend of mine, who we'll call ... Fred.  Fred is a teacher.  Fred also likes to go out of a weekend and party till dawn, while consuming lots of tequila.  I, as Fred's friend, am on a night out of drunken debauchery, and I've my camera with me, and decide to post lots of pictures online of the night's revelry.

The next day, one of Fred's colleagues logs into a Social Networking site, and sees said pictures in Fred's profile.  Now things aren't looking so bright for Fred.  He no longer gives across that professional image that he should do at work.  Some may say that this is Fred's fault for going out and doing these things, but everyone's entitled to a personal life, right?

At the moment, on Fred's social networking site, it's an all or nothing option.  If he allows you access to his profile, he allows you access to see anything and everything that might show up on there.  (It's a bit more complicated than this, but let's keep it simple for now).  Every time Fred has someone add him as a contact - he has to make that decision "Do I want this person to be able to see everything I may or may not get up to".

Put simply, how many of you have refused someone to add you on the Social Networking site 'du jour' because what you show on their may be harmful to you, or give over an impression that isn't what you want to give across.

Enter Circles.  Circles brings to the social networking scene the way we interact with people in real life.  We show a different aspect of our personality to different people we interact with.  I'm a bit of an organisational freak, and I know that there are different groups of people that either for the fact of portraying a persona, or not annoying everyone else, I might want to push in different ways.  For example, I might want to send out a "BBQ at my house, bring lots of alcohol" message to all my friends, but don't really want my co-workers coming along and making it so I have to be on my best behaviour.  Below is a screenshot of my (current) circles.

As you can see - I have a fair few, and only a relative few people.

Now, let's say that I wanted to send out that BBQ message...

As you can see - I've the option to send this to the 5 people that are in my "Friends" group (it's currently mostly geeks on there - there are only a few of my real life friends on there so far!)

Now with only a few clicks, I've managed to send out a message to just those few people that I want to :)

Over the next few days, I'll write a bit more about Google+, but I thought I'd start with an introduction into the Circles feature.  I'll be giving a bit of feedback about what I like, what I dislike, and also making a few suggestions for what I'd like to see happen in the future (and probably use the word "siloing" a fair bit!)

For now, toodles.


Japan Disaster

It seems that once again, the squirrel has it right:-

For those of you reading this via a planet, or similar, please click on the title of this post to see the video I've embedded above. (Please note, may contain language that offends some)

20 Easy steps to cook your Christmas Turkey

  1. Go and buy a turkey.
  2. Take a drink of whisky (scotch or bourbon).
  3. Put turkey in the oven.
  4. Take another two drinks of whisky.
  5. Set the degree at 180 ovens.
  6. Take three more whiskies of drink.
  7. Turn oven the on.
  8. Take four whisks of drinky.
  9. Turk the bastey.
  10. Whisky another bottle of get.
  11. Stick a turkey in the thermometer.
  12. Glass yourself a pour of whisky.
  13. Bake the whisky for four hours.
  14. Take the oven out of the turkey.
  15. Take the oven out of the turkey
  16. Floor the turkey up off the pick.
  17. Turk the carvey.
  18. Get yourself another scottle of botch.
  19. Tet the sable and pour yourself a glass of turkey.
  20. Bless the saying, pass and eat out.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Why Google Apps might not be right for your Enterprise

A few months ago, my company made the decision to switch from our previous mail provider, to use Google Apps. It was a no-brainer really, most of the company were using it already, for the calendars, and Documents, and well - we were a bit fed up with our previous mail provider.

So we made the move. As an online retailer, we obviously get a lot of Financial related emails, and our Accountancy Department has an email address setup as a group, where the group sends to all the members in the Accounts Team. A pretty simple setup.

However, for the last 2 months, I've been fighting an uphill battle to get this to work properly. When an email gets delivered to a Google Group, it stops there, and then Google re-sends the email to the people in the group. Somehow, this triggers the receiving account to believe that it's originated from the Google Groups servers, rather than the actual originating server.

Google Apps emails have a pretty nifty spam filtering service. For those well-known services on the web, it'll check whether it actually came from them (I think through some combination of DKIM and SPF), and bounce it if not.

Can you see where I'm going yet?

Google Groups has a nifty feature to stop it attempting to send emails to addresses that don't exist. If an email address bounces at a certain rate, it'll flag it as undeliverable. If all the emails in a group are flagged as undeliverable, it'll bounce that email to the original party, so that they know no-one received it.

The Accounts team are setup to receive information regarding Paypal Payments, Disputes, etc etc.

A couple of days in, I had our Financial controller tell us that the Accounts team had stopped receiving emails. Well, being who I am - I sent a test email out - guess what I got back?

Hello <redacted>,

Your message could not be delivered because of previous failures during delivery attempts to this mailing list. Please update the list with valid addresses.

This is an example of some of the bounces we received:


550 550 5.7.1 Unauthenticated email is not accepted from this domain. u22si29486554yba.55 (state 18).
Message-Id: <[email protected]>


550 550 5.7.1 Unauthenticated email is not accepted from this domain. u22si29486554yba.55 (state 18).
Message-Id: <[email protected]>


550 550 5.7.1 Unauthenticated email is not accepted from this domain. u22si29486554yba.55 (state 18).
Message-Id: <[email protected]>

*sigh* - time to play with the group. I change the members of the group to use one of our alias domains instead of the - this gets emails working again.

2 days later.... our Financial Controller comes to me and complains that clients are complaining that they're receiving bounce emails when sending to his team... I check, and once again, get the same message.

Time to open a support ticket.

That was in October... since then - we've tried everything... Changing to user-defined groups and switching off the spam filters, whitelisting the groups, setting up DKIM on our domain, changing the spam levels, clearing bounce statuses... all to no avail... I've been back and forthing with Google Enterprise Support for 2 months - and have still not found a suitable solution ... *sigh*. I must say however, that the person dealing with the case at Google (Josephine H) - has been professional and helpful all the way along, even with my rising frustration at the issue.

Today I ended up calling their service unusable number, after having tried a couple of times to change the groups so that the Accounts Team could receive emails again... and finding that none of my previous tricks worked. While on hold, I found that I could use a local part extension to an email address, and the group would recognise it as a new email address - and therefore have no bounce status. I've now made a script using the Provisioning APIs, and a bit of python-fu that will generate a local part extension based on the current date/time, and replace the users in the group for the Accounts team with those. Say for example, the primary email address for a user was [email protected] - it'd add a user of [email protected]

This is set to run each day - so it's pretty much the same as "resetting the bounce status" (which fixes things for a short while) on a daily basis.

According to my latest email from Google Enterprise support:-

At the moment there is an incentive going on to fix this outright as messages from Paypal etc have been causing bounce's for other domains. This fix is supposedly due very early in the New Year and will solve this problem indefinitely.

I wait with baited breath - but for now, I'm happy with my hack.

New VPS & Shameless Plug

Due to the fact that my previous VPS was well out of date (Ubuntu Intrepid!!!) - I'm currently in the process of moving everything to a new server.

I've had lots of fun re-setting up my email - and it's now very shiny and easy for me to use :) (I'll be writing a tutorial at some point in the near future)

Other than that - I'd like to give a quick shameless plug to my VPS provider, Bitfolk. They're awesome, and have a great policy for Migrating to a new VPS.

How bad tech support makes me feel

Dear Lord, please grant me the ability to punch people in the face over standard TCP/IP

Freedom in Creativity

One of the things that I love about our Local LUG is the people. At our LUG, we have our resident geek artist, Antonio Roberts (aka hellocatfood) who, on the odd occasion, gets harassed into doing a talk for us. His talks are always fairly awesome. His previous talk about FLOSS + Art is the video with the highest views on our video archive, and tomorrow night, Thursday 16th September, at 19:30pm BST, he'll be delivering his next talk about his experience in the FLOSS community as an artist to us.

Freedom in Creativity

In his own words:-

This talk extends greatly on what was said and goes into issues of copyright and what experiences I’ve had as an artist in the open source world

His previous talk was a bit of an eye-opener to me, as a pure geek with barely a trace of artistry in me, and it's always good to see the FLOSS world from the eyes of someone who doesn't exactly fit the stereotype of what you'd normally expect to see.

The video will be available after the event, at some point, but for those who're interested in gaining an insight into artistry and FLOSS, we'll be broadcasting the talk live over the interwebs.

Mini Rant: Emails

Please, those of you who send me emails, remember the following:-

  • An email has a subject line - use it
  • If you put a proper description in your subject line, it's easier for me to find the email again
  • The subject line is that - what the email is about. It's NOT meant for the entire content of your message, no matter how brief
  • If you send me an email entitled "FYI" - Don't bitch at me when I don't reply.
  • If you ask a question, and it's a vague one, don't get annoyed at me when I ask for clarification

Geek Art

I do love a bit of Geek Art - and I loved what one of our LUGgers (whose name escapes me!) bought with them tonight's LUG Meeting :)

Open Sauce!

A great addition to any condiment cupboard!

Mark Shuttleworth is driving me insane

With his announcement of the N-imal for Ubuntu 11.04 - I'm being driven slightly insane, as I now now have this song stuck in my head (and probably will do for weeks to come!)

Why shouldn't I login as root?

I've recently gotten a lot of flack from a couple of people for an innocent comment I made about logging into a machine as root.
I'd like to think of myself as pretty savvy when it comes to security, and as far as I'm concerned, the reasons for not logging in as root are:-

  • Password could theoretically be sniffed
  • Unsecure connection could theoretically be hijacked
  • You don't get an audit trail like you would with su or sudo
  • Password could be brute forced
  • You could easily run a command unintentionally which causes damage to your system

Ok, so we have the reasons not to - and they're good reasons. This is why, generally, I don't login to my boxes as root. However, the box in concern mitigates the above in the following ways

  • We only ever connect via SSH
  • Access to root is only allowable through SSH keys
  • Due to the nature of the server (local file storage) we don't need an audit trail
  • Password login is only ever allowed from a secure TTY (aka the box itself)
  • The only reason we ever need to login to this machine is to perform maintenance which requires root access

Is there any good reason that I shouldn't be logging in as root in the above circumstances?

An hour in the life of my mouse

A mini-meme that has been spreading round the IT team at my workplace is "IOGraph" - a small Java program that tracks and draws the status of your mouse over a period of time. Lines are movement, circles are places where the mouse has stopped... The bigger the circle, the longer it was there. I have 2 monitors, which explains the weird dimensions!

An hour in the life of my mouse

I'm also a writer

For those of you who don't know, I occasionally write for Linux Format. As I've got an article coming out in the next issue (available on April 29th), I thought I'd have a check to see if the PDF's are available in the subscribers area yet.

Unfortunately, they're not, however, I did notice that my first article for Linux Format has now been released to the general public.

If you head on over to Issue 121, you'll find my tutorial "Security: Protect your server" has a "Click here to read!" link underneath it.

One of my other articles for them, "Super Snooper", has also found it's way onto TuxRadar, and, while it doesn't have the pretty artwork (or a mugshot, or any mention of me, it seems!) that the magazine does, it's still well presented on the site!

Let me know in the comments if you've any feedback to either of them!

Along the same lines, I'm thinking that I want to write a book (mainly so that I'll eventually come first in Google, rather than what used to be second and now for some reason seems 7th :( ). But what should I write about? I've a few thoughts, and the one that I feel like I want to write the most is about "becoming a Google Ninja" (using Analytics, Website Optimiser, etc etc to their full potential) - but - I don't know - would people be interested in buying that?

Only one squirrel can say it as it is...

If you can't see the video above, click here

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Transforming data is hard. When I joined my current company, there were stupendous amounts of Perl/PHP/Bash/<insert random programming language here> scripts that would run on a cron job and do magic things to our data. They'd create reports, they'd tell the purchasers when we were running out of stock, they'd synchronise data between our Frontend and backend databases, they'd collect, they'd collate, they'd do everything and anything.

Except, with all these scripts, in all these random languages, written by a multitude of previous developers (at different skill levels), they weren't particularly maintainable (and sometimes, they weren't particularly readable or understandable either - imagine a 6000 line perl script that pretty much ran different permutations of the same data over and over again)

Enter Pentaho, and specifically it's "Kettle" project. (since renamed "Pentaho Data Integration"), a tool that lets you manipulate your data in pretty much any way you can imagine, in the simplest and easiest way imaginable.

That's right, it's a GUI for data manipulation.

I know a lot of you are probably sceptical right now.  The first time I ever saw this was when a previous boss of mine put it forward as a potential solution for one of our problems (getting our orders from the front end database down to the office/warehouse).  I saw it, and I thought "GUI? Nah, that's not how real programmers do things!", so after the development team put forward another proposal to solve this, and it got accepted, I thought I'd never see the thing again.

That was until my current boss started playing with it, trying to work out what it was doing so that he could get these evil GUI based scripts into something manageable, like nice, pretty code.  Thing s, when my boss plays with things that he doesn't know about, he tends to read up, research, and, 9 times out of 10, change his mind.

We wiped the previous server (it was rather noisy! We're glad it's no longer switched on!) and set up a new server to house our "BI platform".  Starting off with a few scripts, my boss learnt to love this tool, and then, as I'm his "2nd in command" (aka general lackey) - started making me learn how to use it.

Again, I was sceptical, I didn't want to learn, and I put up resistance, but my boss was going away for nearly a month, and by this time, a few of our key business processes relied on Kettle, so, grudgingly, I sat down, and started to learn.

You may be wondering now, why I started off this story talking about all those magical and wonderful scripts that no one seemed to know the inner workings of.  These scripts, as I've already mentioned were unwieldy, and at times, god-damned awful.  The plan was to move them to the BI system (as my boss had been doing already).

I like to think of Kettle as a bridge between the process-flow diagram, and the code.  I started converting these scripts, and I was astonished by the fact that most of the conversions I was doing was converting a long perl script into 3 or 4 "Integration steps"

I'm totally besotted with this program now.  Any time I have to do data manipulation, I turn to it.  I can't describe how (once you've got used to it's quirks) easy it is to use, how simple it is, and how much it just makes sense. Best of all, most of those evil scripts are gone now, and replaced with "pretty" diagrams that do the work for you.

If you have to play with large data sets on a regular basis, I urge you to try it out.  You can buy me a beer for reccommending it next time you see me at $conference.

SSH Host Completion - zsh Stylee

Ok, so recently, Richard Johnson and Michael Lustfield blogged about tab completion for SSH hosts.

I'm an avid user of zsh, and have my own way of doing this (liberally stolen from Daniel Silverstone).

Now, this requires a little setup to start with, as some Linux Distributions have a habit of creating "hashed" known_hosts files.  So, what I've done, is before I ever SSH into a host, I add the following line to my ~/.ssh/config

HashKnownHosts no

From here, I can then add the following line to my ~/.zshrc

zstyle -e ':completion::*:*:*:hosts' hosts 'reply=(${=${${(f)"$(cat {/etc/ssh_,~/.ssh/known_}hosts(|2)(N) /dev/null)"}%%[# ]*}//,/ })'

Now, when I try and ssh into a host, I can use tab completion to complete any host I've previously ssh'd into and any new hosts I ssh into get automatically added to the list

(UK) The Gadget Show - PC vs Mac

Today, an episode of "The Gadget Show" aired in which they compared PC and Mac to put on their "wall of fame".

I was shocked that there was no mention of Linux at all in their rundown.

Here is the email I just sent to them in response to the show:-

Date: Mon, 30 Nov 2009 22:16:28 +0000
From: Martin Meredith <mez AT debian DOT org>
To: AT northonetv DOT com
Subject: PC vs Mac - Yes, you mention windows

But both PC's and Mac's have the ability to run a little thing called "Linux"

Linux is the base of an operating system that's been around for years, often
making innovations BEFORE Windows or Mac are able to.

It's an Operating system that's written by the people, for the people, which
shows in the fact that there are hundreds (if not thousands) of distributions
available to download and use - for FREE!!!!

A large motive behind the Linux movement is the fact that it's completely free.
Both in the sense of Free Speech, and in the sense of Free Beer.  You don't have to pay for it, and you can do what you like with it.

Compare the above to a Mac.  With a mac, you're limited to the hardware you can use, you're limited in the functionality, etc etc.  Comparing to Windows, you can see the benefit of the price.  Constantly upgrading windows can cost a LOT of money.

Ok, Linux does have it's flaws.  Some hardware isn't supported correctly, and a lot of the software you'll find on the shelves of your local shop probably won't work with it.  But, nowadays, with the advent of the iPhone, and to a lesser extent, Android based Mobile Phones, people are coming to expect easily available software.

Enter the package Manager.  Most distributions of Linux now offer an easy way to find and install applications,  and some go a step further and give you an application that makes life even easier (See attached screenshot)

Linux also has the benefit that, like the Mac, the fact that it's not Windows,
and something that 90%+ of people use, it's not a target for Viruses.  Add that
to the fact that it has Least Privileged Access built in (Think Windows Vista
"are you sure that you want to run this program as an admin?"), and has done
since the very beginning, and it makes it one of the most secure operating
systems you can find.

Linux has come along in leaps and bounds in recent years, and is surely a
competitor for any operating system out there.  While it may be unfamiliar,
with the advent of new technology, it's perfectly placed.  This has been shown
by the fact that until Microsoft made a sly move to relicence Windows XP for
netbooks, it was hard to find a netbook with anything but a Linux based OS on it (and all those who tried out my eeePC 701 when it was new and shiny out of the box tended to prefer what was on that than Windows!)

Martin Meredith

Freelance Writer for Future Publishing
Debian Developer -
Ubuntu Developer -
Deputy IT Manager for Mobile Fun Ltd. -

Things that make me angry ...

My Hobby...

Freaking out the freaks on Omegle.


Call for... stickers

Random plea for free stuff.

If anyone out there has any geeky stickers (or anything a bit random for a sticker) lying around, please send them to me!

I'd rather not put my address on the intarwebs, so please feel free to email me on martin AT sourceguru DOT net if you have something to send me, and I will happily send you out a Stamped Addressed Envelope.

The stickers will be put to good use decorating my laptop ;)


I've just realised that sending a SASE to another country really doesn't work particularly well, different countries use different stamps after all!!!!
I'm trying to think up a solution, but please let it be known that I am in the U.K., so if you're outside and want to send me stickers, you may have to help me come up with a solution for getting round the whole stamp thing!

Most Awesome Warranty Ever!

If this product should fail in your lifetime, we will replace it at no charge. If the proeducts is damaged by aggressive music listeners sliding a rail, sliding down the emergency ramp of your aircraft, slammed in your locker, slammed in your car door, run over by a car, running into a wall, getting run out of town, mountain biking, road biking, sky diving, beating your boyfriend unmercifully, getting beat down by the man, blown up in an accidental experimentation with flammable substances or damaged in any other every day experience, it means you are living your life the way we want our product used! In these, or any other damaging events, we will replace the product for a 50% discount from retail.

Skullcandy rock! - I'm loving my new headphones

Geeky Lights

I'm an avid reader, and normally curl up in bed at the end of a long day with a book.  However, since I've  been in my current flat, I've had a bit of a problem, as I don't like to leave a light on while I'm sleeping.

So, seeing as my bed is at the opposite end of the room than my light switch, and I also tend to sleep on the side furthest from the light switch, my night-time habit would be something like this:-

  • Turn on light
  • Walk to other side of room.
  • Walk round bed
  • Turn on bedside lamp
  • Walk back around bed
  • Walk back to light switch
  • Turn off light
  • Walk back to bed, and around it
  • Get into bed
  • Read
  • Turn off bedside lamp
  • Sleep

Not exactly good when you've had a hard days work, and just want to curl up and read a book until you fall asleep.

On Wednesday however, I stumbled across a range of products on the net, and ordered a remote control light switch, and also a remote to go with it. My bedtime arrangements are now:-

  • Turn on light
  • Walk to bed
  • Get into bed
  • Read
  • Turn off light with remote control
  • Sleep

A lot more easier!

Have been playing with the remote from my office, and I think that if I were to order more switches, I'd be able to turn on/off all the lights in my flat from my desk.

Another neat feature about these lights? They can be programmed to use any button on any remote control!

Oh, and also, The Birmingham Jam is going pretty well!

I'm really enjoying Karmic

Today, I reinstalled my laptop to use a fresh install of Karmic.

My laptop's one of those annoying ones that have problems, however, it seems Karmic has fixed a fair chunk of those. My wireless now works (though still only with WPA networks for some reason), I no longer have to boot with "nolapic_timer" (urgh!) and those annoying little niggles have gone. Also, Karmic is looking pretty swish. It's new notification icons are stylish and minimal, and the xsplash looks good. Also, I've noticed that shut down time is drastically reduced! (2 seconds vs my old 10-15 seconds).
Boot time isn't amazing, but it's pretty nippy.

I'm lovin it.

Dear Lazyweb...

Is there a decent dotfile manager packaged in Ubuntu/Debian? I need something that'll let me have a repository of my dotfiles and manage them easily amongst multiple locations.

I've seen a lot of homebrew implementations of something like this, I'm just wondering if there's something that's worth using already out there!

Ubuntu Global Jam - Birmingham (UK)

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="216" caption="The Birmingham Bug Jammers at the Last event"]The Birmingham Bug Jammers at the Last event[/caption]

The Ubuntu Global Bug Jam is just around the corner, and once again, the kind folks at the Linux Emporium have kindly offered the use of their offices to the Ubuntu UK team.

Last time, we focused on bugs, and this time it's only slightly different.  Instead of it being a "Bug Jam" - it's just going to be a "Jam".  There will be people on hand to talk to about Bug Triaging, packaging, translating (and I hope we'll get the whole of Ubuntu translated into English by the end of the Jam), and anything else you can think of.

So, if you're interested in helping make Ubuntu a better distro, and live in (or can travel to) the Birmingham Area in the UK, then you're welcome to come along.

The Jam is on the 2nd-4th October, and we'll be around on all three days.  If you need more info, please feel free to email me on <mez AT ubuntu DOT com>.  Last year we had a great time, with refreshments (including beer) provided. Juggling penguins, and one person sleeping underneath the conference room table overnight.  Hopefully we'll also have the live Video Streams up and running again for anyone who can't make it (or other Ubuntu Jams) to join in with!

You can also find some blog posts about our last bug jam

Derren Brown: My take

So, anyone watching the show was actually pretty much told (although indirectly) how it was done. (Potential spoilers - see full post for my take)

Stepping down from the Ubuntu IRC Team

After long deliberation (a good few months!), I today came to the decision that I no longer felt that I could be part of the Ubuntu IRC Team.

I have felt for a long time that the Ubuntu IRC team has become an elitist crowd, with a very cliquey inner circle, and those who are not in the inner circle being treated on multiple levels like second class citizens.

There are a lot of things that have pushed me to make this decision, and I've not made it lightly. I've voiced my concerns to the IRC Council previously, (via individual emails), and had no response.  I don't see the situation getting any better. In fact, more and more, I see it getting worse.

I know that I'm not the only person who's thinking this way, though I may be one of the only ones that feels that I need to lay down my cinnamon roll.  I've discussed these issues on multiple occassions with various members of the community (both in and out of the team), and with people linked to the Ubuntu IRC community in one way or another (Debian Developers, Freenode Staff, etc etc).

There are also other people who've come out of the woodwork after I posted my resignation. Within minutes of doing so, one member forwarded my mail onto the community council, and another replied with his thoughts and feelings regarding the matter.  I'm glad to see that there are other people out there who've seen what I've seen, and like me, also dislike it.

I will however, retain my @ in #ubuntu-uk.  This is a channel I participate regularly in, and the ops there are chosen by the LoCo Team, rather than the IRC council.

It's nice to see young people getting into Open Source

I live in one of the roughest areas of Birmingham, in the UK. Today I was walking from my flat to go and visit my mother, and as I was turning a corner, a kid of about 10 years old started to give me some funny looks as he went past me.

"Oh Great" I thought, thinking that I'd have some cocky little kid trying to cause trouble.

At the time, I was wearing a T-Shirt that I'd gotten while I was at EuroPython, with the Google logo on the breast, and "Python - Programming the way Guido indented it" across the back.

The kid asked me whether I worked for Google. Still thinking that he was going to try and start causing trouble, I answered no, and walked on. It was great to hear afterwards though "You use Python? I'm learning Python"

Good to see that even amongst the rough, there are some people out there starting young in the Open Source world.

Good luck to you kid, whoever you were!

EuroPython 2009

So, for most of the last week, I've been at EuroPython 2009. The conference was amazing, even if I am still completely shattered.

A lot of people who know me have asked why I went to EuroPython. I know at least one person made the comment "But you're a PHP Hacker (hiss)". Yes. I'm a PHP hacker by trade, but I've been trying to teach myself Python over the last few months, and I've really been enjoying it. I've not done much of great interest, but I've found that Django is a pretty awesome tool, and lets me build stuff like my Video Site with minimal effort.

Anyway, back to the conference. I got involved pretty simply because I'm a local, and know most of the organisers from my Local LUG. I'm glad I did get involved in it though. I enjoyed it (though, until I got home from it, I hadn't had time to realise I'd enjoyed it!).

Day 1

I arrived at the conservatoire at about 7:30 am. I was half asleep, and didn't really know what was going on. I found the registration desk, got my badge, and buggered off to the crew room to get changed into my lovely blue shirt, and then I started off helping set some stuff up (projectors and such)

Knowing that I'd previously lost my Bank Card, and that I'd need cash, I scarpered pretty quickly to the bank, to go get some money for the week. I headed back to the conference for about 10, and then wandered aimlessly around looking at the different stalls. I hadn't volunteered to do anything till 11:30.

At about 11:15, I headed to the Adrian Boult hall to get ready and Mic up the first speaker I had to work with. This was Simon Willison, talking about CrowdSourcing with Django. A pretty cool talk, which was kind of interesting to me after listening to Matthew Somerville's talk at my local LUG the month before.

Next up was the talk that had been advertised in all the toilets around the venue. I've no idea why it was advertised in the toilets, and I didn't really watch that much of the talk. The speaker had wanted a screen with IRC in for the talk, and this was where the first major fail came in. Chris Swift's laptop didn't like the projector, so I had to dash up and replace it with mine. Unfortunately, for some reason, my laptop didn't want to work with the projector under Ubuntu, but happily worked with it under vista, so I loaded that up, loaded up putty, and SSH'd into my irssi session. Anyone who saw this will probably agree that I need to be in less IRC channels!

Lunchtime next. I quickly ran off to McDonalds to grab some food (not wanting to have to stand in the long queue!) and headed back to set my laptop up with the projector for the big Twitter screen, which people seemed to enjoy (espescially Fiona!).

After lunch was the first Keynote from Cory Doctorow, who I've already mentioned before, is one of my favourite authors. Cory managed to give us a dark perspective on where life in the digital age could be going, and a rallying cry for us to fight against that (though surely,this is reminiscent of M1k3y?? I wonder if the DHS will be after Cory now!). I also managed to snag a copy of "Little Brother", which Cory asked that we email a copy of the ebook to people after we'd read it. I'll one up that, and tell you that you should go read it (espescially if you saw his talk!) If you want to be emailed a copy, please leave a comment and I'll add you to the list I'll be sending it to!

It was about this point that I started wanting to get onto IRC and chat to people. Unfortunately, my laptop is a right dodgy thing, and doesn't like using wireless of any kind. Luckily, I had my E71 to hand, and so managed to get online with that (and it shocked me how easy it was to set up in Ubuntu). I ended up using this as my primary means to access the net throughout the conference. I just wish I'd had my E71 Desktop Charger with me, as I'd then have been able to charge my phone via USB at the same time! Unfortunately, it meant that I had to spend my time at the hotel flicking and changing between the charger for my phone and my laptop to try and keep them both going (why a hotel room only has one plug socket, I don't know!)

Next up was "Mashing up the Guardian" and "Flickr for Formulas". .. the second talk I don't actually remember any of. But the first one was pretty interesting. I thought during it "Oh, I could link that up to twitter and generate a personal news feed based upon what they were twittering about. Unfortunately, the last few slides was showing someone who'd done exactly that. I guess my ideas aren't that original!

Off to the Australian bar for the social, where I got rather tipsy, and chatted to some very cool people (thanks for the link to the Biltong seller Brad!)

Day 2

Bruce Eckel started the day off with the keynote. I was half asleep during this, having been out for most of the day, but I do remember that there were some pretty amusing pictures, and some good commentary. I also enjoyed the talk about unconferences, which led me to thoughts about possibly doing something similar for FizzPOP.

The day dwindled away with me running round until Bea's talk "We need to fail, and we need to fail fast" - a very good insight into Agile Methodology (some of which we should probably adopt at work!). First barefoot presentation I've seen. Bea's a very good speaker though, you can tell she has a lot of passion about what she's talking about.

Next was a caged deathmatch. I didn't really know much about Unit Testing in Python, being a bit of a n00b and all, but the talk was interesting nontheless. Even if I did end up running up and down the stairs like a trained monkey (ah well, I needed the exercise anyway!)

Next Keynote: Bletchley Park. I found this talk had some interesting content, but it's delivery was a bit dry.

Then it was time for the GPG Keysigning. I'd left my ID in the hotel. What an idiot!

Lightning talks were next, followed by another keynote, followed by a spectacular fail trying to get Guido up on the big screen (10 second delays, him not hearing anything, and then the laptop battery running out). Alex took it in his stride though, the bow with a flourish was certainly amusing!

Off to the conference dinner. Good food, good conversation, good talk.

Day 3

I'm surprised I made it in. I was tired. Too much running around.

Tobias started off the day with a short talk on OSS, BSS, and Python, and then I went to the "Clean Code Challenge" talk, which was interesting, though I'm not too sure about the actual coding bit of it. There were a few things in the talk that I wish has been delivered to my bosses, but I'm not too sure the example "Clean Code" that was meant to be pythonised was the best code to work with.

Another Keynote, lots more lightning talks, and then a prize draw. I didn't win anything, but I enjoyed myself.

After that, there was a "secret" organisers meal at the Hyatt Hotel. Good food and good conversation again.

And that was it, I headed home, and slept for 16 hours!

Thanks to everyone who made EuroPython a success. All the organisers, all the speakers, and all the delegates.

Though hopefully more people will help out next time. I don't think Ciaran got to sit down for more than 5 seconds during the day!

Linux Format: Security: Protect your server

For all those who can, I'd urge you to pick up a copy of Linux Format tomorrow.

A couple of months ago, I pitched an article to the editor of Linux Format and it was accepted. Tomorrow, the magazine will be on the shelf. While I've already seen the PDF for the article, I'm going to be up early to make sure I can get my hands on the physical copy. For some reason, it won't seem real until I can run the paper through my fingers and smell the ink.

Here's a sneak preview:-

Way back in the early days of dial-up, the internet mostly contained library catalogues, military secrets, and students' Dungeons and Dragons spec sheets.  Now there are websites for people, their pets, their friends and family, and their businesses.  However, while most people are happy to use a free hosting provider, or to pay a company to host their websites for them, the more dedicated web master tends to plump up for a dedicated server, or a Virtual Private Server (VPS).

Running your own server means that you have to be aware of the multitude of potential security issues you're exposed to on the internet, though.  These days, most home computers have a firewall in place, or connect through a router that can protect them from the dangers lurking on the web.  If you own a server, you'll still need a firewall, but there's much more you can do to be safe online and we'll show you how.

I hope that anyone who reads the article in full will find it useful, and please, do send me feedback if you've read it!

The big question now is, what do I pitch for my next article?

Floss and Art

So, recently (the last couple of months), I've been involved with the Birmingham Hackspace (aka FizzPop), and I've found it a great community to be part of. For those who aren't in the know, a HackSpace is a place where a group of people interested in Hacking (and that's not the bad sense of the word, nor just the coding sense of the word - there's a lot of Hardware hacking going on :D) can get together, share a space, share knowledge, and come up with some mad and cool inventions!

Anyway, one of the group's main leaders, Antonio Roberts is very very arty, but is also pretty much your classic computer geek too. It's been interesting talking to him of late regarding his journey into the FLOSS world, and how he's coping with that, and integrating it into his artwork.

For all those interested, he's doing a talk at the Birmingham LUG tomorrow about FLOSS and the art community tomorrow (Thursday 18th June), and you'll be able to watch his talk Live on the internet. The talk is starting at approximately 7:30 UK time. You'll also be able to interact with us on IRC, we're on the Freenode Network, in the channel #sblug, and for those of you who miss it, a video of the talk will be available online at some point after the talk on my Video site. (where you can also find videos of past talks, including Dave Walker's talk about Mythbuntu, and Scott James Remnant's talk about Upstart)

Pagerank mystifies me...

So, because of my work for an online Mobile Phone Accessories Site - I recently installed a Pagerank Plugin for Firefox.

I was pleasantly surprised when I loaded up my blog and found that I had a PageRank of 5. I've never done any "SEO" work on my site, and until recently, it was a bog-standard wordpress installation. (now I have a theme, and I point at feedburner, as I was curious about statistics)

It's kind of nice to know that a simple blog can achieve a decent PageRank, without actually doing anything special :D

I think what mystifies me more, however, is the fact that googling for my name brings up my site within the first page of results, even though my name isn't mentioned anywhere on the site (I guess I can blame the planets for that though!)

I've got to admit, I'm quite happy that even though a famous author shares my name, I'm still on the first page of results in Google.

VB.Net just doesn't cut the mustard for me

So, this morning (or yesterday morning, as it is now!), my attention got drawn to Wolfgang's post regarding VB.Net. While I understand his point, I'm not too sure whether I agree with it in it's entirity.

When I first started programming, I learnt how to write Basic. I don't mean Basic as it stands nowadays, but Basic as it was back then (or should that be BASIC?). I learnt to code while I was wheelchair bound, as my father thought it'd be something interesting for me to do. It taught me the basics of programming, and I stemmed from there, moving on to learn Perl, then PHP, then C, etc etc etc.

The first time I ever wrote an application for a Modern computer, I wrote it in Visual Basic. I loved it. It was so simple to use, and I could use everything I'd learnt (apart from stuff like Music Envelopes etc etc) with ease in it.

Since then however, the world of programming has moved on. People have discovered Object Oriented programming, and found new and better ways of describing the data structures and logic behind an application. I have also moved on, I no longer write my own code in Visual Basic. I'll generally use a tool more suited to the task.

I do, however, have to maintain some VB.Net code. In fact, it's the code that Wolfgang mentions in his article. I can fully understand why the original subject's response was "Urgh!" - the code is horrid.

I don't neccesarily, however, think that this is because of the coders themselves. While this may have contributed (I've had many a "WTF" moment) - I think that the main problem behind it is the fact that it's an Object Oriented design written in a language that's tried to shoehorn Object Orientation into it's core functionality, where the core functionality should probably never have had something like that done to it. It sits in my mind like some bad genetic experience resulting in some sort of mutated behemoth.

VB.Net, to me, just seems like a poorly made implementation of something it was never originally designed for. Wolfgang mentions that the ease of use of the Basic Language allows a user to start working without having to dive straight into OO programming, as would be forced onto you using something like C#, and in a way, I agree. The thing is, that Basic, as Wolfgang rightly said, is meant for beginners, after all, it was originally an acronym. "Beginners All Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code". This, in my opinion, is where it should stay. Basic is great for beginners, and VB6 was amazing. But, the advent of VB.Net means that programmers are going to start writing OO code in Basic, something it was never designed for, and to that end, fall into pitfalls and misconceptions where they have been led to believe that the VB.Net way of doing something is the de-facto standard. When they come to start working in another language, they have to re-learn things from scratch. If their experience is in a corporate environment, then their skills are only transferrable to something also written in VB.Net, and rarely anything else.

Basic is for beginners, it was never designed for the more complex stuff, which should probably be left to languages that were designed to handle it.

Dear Lazyweb

I'm looking for a "Soundboard" application for Linux (preferably that works with Jack)

Does anyone know of one?

I'm impressed

My latest blog post about PPA Keys has had a few comments already. Having just returned from visiting my parents, I've noticed an email asking me to approve a Pingback.

The pingback was to a Portuguese site which had taken my post and written it into a tutorial.

I've got to say, my portuguese may not be up to scratch, but it's obvious that this is a well written tutorial. I'm very impressed by this site, and the way that they've written, and illustrated this tutorial.

All I can say is, great site Claudio! Keep up the good work! Something like this site in English would be an asset to the ubuntu community. It's well thought out, and well written

Automated PPA GPG Keys

After reading Alan Pope's recent post on installing GPG keys for PPAs easily, I thought I'd have a bit of a hack around.

Personally, I regularly add PPAs to my system, whether it be for Chromium Daily Builds, Bazaar, Gwibber, or anything else. I've found the most annoying thing is the installation of the GPG keys.

Now, I wouldn't reccomend this for everyone, but, for some, it might be exactly what you've been looking for.

Here's what I did:-

Firstly, I saved the Script that Alan linked to as /usr/local/bin/ppakeys and chmod'd it to 755. I then created a new file, "/etc/apt/apt.conf.d/05ppa" containing the following line

APT::Update::Pre-Invoke { "if [ -x /usr/local/bin/ppakeys ]; then /usr/local/bin/ppakeys; fi"; };

Now, every time I do a "sudo apt-get update" - it'll check for new keys that I need, and install them as neccessary.


<edit> Please make sure the quotes are correct if you copy and paste this!</edit>

This whole GPG/PGP thing

So, SHA-1 has potential exploits, but you know what? I only use it for signing plain text things. Email, change files... I've no reason to use it for encryption, as I don't encrypt things

Surely, if anyone is going to make something that collides with a valid signature of mine, it's going to either a) be noticable to the person reading it (random characters in an email?) or b) not be processable by whatever automated sytem is using it.

I've yet to hear of any exploit that could affect the way I use SHA-1 in a meaningful way. Ok, yes, I'm not going to be using it to hash passwords in future (well, GPG uses it to hash passwords, but generally, to be able to crack that, someone would have to have my secret key anyway, which I would count as being compromised!)

If someone can give me a real world example of how this can be used against me, I might go out of my way to replace my key, but for now, I don't see the need. Ok, I might take the next time I meet up with a fellow Debian Developer as a chance to replace my key, but I'm not going to go out of my way to do so (as I had to for getting my key signed by my first Debian/Ubuntu Developer in the first place)

Trying KDE again

When Kubuntu switched to KDE4 as it's main desktop, I was disheartened. KDE 4, at the time was just, well, pretty unusable for me. It kept crashing, I couldn't do the things that I wanted to, and I spent more time fighting with KDE than I did actually doing work. After about a week, I'd had enough, and I switched to Gnome.

Now, a lot of people are probably going to respond to this with Gnome vs KDE flames, but let me explain my viewpoint on the whole "Desktop Environment" war

I prefer KDE, but if a desktop will let me do the work I need to do without getting in my way and causing issues, then I can learn to use it.

The above is possibly the reason that I can get along ok with Windows XP, but if I have to use Vista, I'll end up wanting to throw the machine out of the window.

So, for possibly the last year or so (I'm not too sure on the timescale!) I've been using Gnome in Ubuntu, and I must say, I've liked it. the fact that I can login, and instantly get access to my servers without having to type in my SSH key password (yes, insecure I know!), and that everything seems to integrate in a nice way, well.. it's been fun.

But still, my heart lies with KDE, and I've been flipping back to it to see how KDE4 is coming along on a regular basis.

So far, I've seen it gradually improving, and well, it looks damned sexy to be honest, but there were a few things that I felt it was missing. The ability to have multiple rows of apps on the task switcher was a big one for me. I generally have a lot of windows open, and I don't like the "Grouping" functionality. So when I get more than a few apps open, I could only see the icons. That's been fixed in KDE4.2, and it does it in a nicer way than Gnome does it (only switching to two rows once there are a certain amount of windows open.

Next on the list is the whole password management thing. Gnome does a GREAT job at this. I login, and it unlocks the default keyring, sets up the SSH agent, adds my key, unlocking it from the keyring, and I don't have to do anything but login with my normal user and password (though I intend to switch that to biometric login once I can be bothered to setup the fingerprint reader).

I've fixed that little issue (well, for SSH) by setting up an autostart script using ksshaskpass to add my SSH key when I login.

So far, KDE seems pretty usable for me now, but then, I'm quite happy to plod along on my Laptop and try things out. I'm feeling a bit lost with all the new functionality, and wishing that the Ubuntu Gnome Notifications (from pidgin, which I use as my IM client) didn't look so ugly in the new sexy KDE Desktop (in fact, if anyone knows a way to get pidgin to use the Jaunty style notifications in KDE, let me know, as they'd fit in quite well under the new KDE look :D) - I'd like to see some sort of common ground for notifications across the desktops, but who knows when that's going to happen!

I'll also try using it at work, if I can use it there without it getting in the way, then I will happily switch back permanently, but that's the ultimate test.

I'm pretty sure that KDE 4 will be usable for me soon, and I'll let you know if that's now

My Boss, with a little help, starts the conversion to Linux

Ok, so at work, pretty much the whole company uses Windows, of some sort. The web team, however, are pretty adamant that they use the best tools available for them, and we use Ubuntu because of this (because it's the easiest option that we all have the same distro, and as long as it's Linux, we don't mind)

Anyway, at the moment we're working through the process of moving all our internal business applications from Visual Basic.NET (urgh!) to PHP + a web based app. The "Product Owner" for this is one of the bosses, who currently uses Windows Vista.

He has, however, seen us all using Ubuntu and it's got him interested in using it. He's said that he wants to try using Ubuntu, and see whether he can get his work done on that, and slowly transition to it, as obviously, he needs to be able to use Windows for the .NET stuff (which sadly, doesn't work well under WINE).

So, we set him up a Virtual Machine, and he got to grips with what he was doing, great. Except for the fact that he had to allocate memory to it, switching back and forth between windows and Ubuntu was a pain. He eventually gave up on this idea, and got a spare machine, a spare monitor, and set it up next to his machine.

Still, however, it was a bit of a pain, he'd have to switch position on his desk, start using a different keyboard and mouse, and i was all a bit of hassle.

Recently, we've gotten a "big screen" (which isn't actually that big!) for the Web Team to monitor the servers, our order download service, etc etc. We were showing our manager some of the stuff we could do with it, and he asked the question "So, how do you control it" - to which my response was to move my mouse off of the edge of my screen, and onto the big screen. "So is that a third monitor?" he asked. "No" I replied, it's another machine.

Enter Synergy

So this is the point where I explained to our manager exactly what synergy is. Trying to explain it however, is a bit of a hassle, so I'll try my best here. Synergy is an application that allows you to control another machine's keyboard and mouse from your own PC. It's a bit of a mix between a KVM switch, and Remote Desktop, but it doesn't require extra hardware, and you dont have to relay the video across the network to show it on your screen too.

At this point, our boss got a glint in his eye

"Does it work in Windows?" he asked. At this point, I didn't realise that he had a seperate machine for Ubuntu. I told him it did anyway, but I wasn't too sure whether it worked with Vista

"Lets give it a go anyway"

So we went over to his machine, and I installed quicksynergy on his ubuntu box, while he downloaded the Windows installer for Synergy. 5 minutes later, he was grinning like a maniac as he moved his mouse from one machine to another.

Now he's happily using Ubuntu without any hassle, it's just a third screen to him - with different stuff on it.

I think the moral here is, there are different ways to get people to be able to use Linux, and Synergy is one of those great tools that enable people to use Linux without having all the hassle that comes with switching over.

I think also, a quote from m manager sums it up.

This is one of the best things I've seen all year. I thought it'd take forever to setup, but it was so quick. I can be so much more productive now

I hope that this will be one of the turning points for my manager, and we'll have another convert by the end of the year

vim, cherokee, etckeeper

Ok, so, today, I started using vim. I've never really had the time before to learn how to use it. I think the most I'd learned before today was just how to get out of vim if I ever accidentally got into it.

Now, however, I'm quite happy to do basic editing of files with it. I've got to say, I'm impressed with it's code highlighting features.

I hope to eventually switch to vim permanently, but I'm not that confident with it yet - my first command was "nano ~/.vimrc" *chuckles*

Anyway, next comes cherokee. I'm actually loving this webserver. It's so simplistic, yet so powerful, and it's admin interface is a dream. If anyone out there is interested in having a lightweight server, have a look at cherokee before you go and install lighttpd !

The most exciting new thing that I've been using of late is etckeeper. (ok, maybe exciting isn't the word - but I like it!). This hooks into a RCS and basically keeps a track of your /etc/ folder. It will automagically commit changes made to it when using apt-get (or similar) and I've actually set mine up to have bound branches. Meaning that my /etc/ is kept on a remote server.

All my machines are now using etckeeper (with the exception of the eeePC, which is tucked away in a corner with a network lead plugged into the back, being used as a playground machine) and I'm happy that if I ever have a hard disk crash, I can always get my configuration back from my server in a simple manner (which is massively useful for stuff like X).

Anyway, just some stuff I've been playing with of late. It seems I'm switching more and more to the command line :D

Maybe I should start using w3m instead of Firefox?

Cheese Nibbles and Podcasts

So, fanatical readers of my blog (are there any?) may remember a long time back that I got bored and wrote a little script that amused me.

While testing something out yesterday, I needed to find a domain that I wasn't using in production so I could test on it. I stumbled across Cheese Nibbles which had a lovely "We'll be back with something cool soon" message on it.

So, I did my tests, and they worked. Everything's good. I'd actually forgotten what was on Cheese Nibbles in the first place, so I started rooting round in the code. I found the old site, and I decided to resurrect it.

I posted in a couple of IRC channels, to see if other people found the site amusing, and got the following back in response

<Daviey> neat
<Daviey> Mez: rss feed needed
<Mez> Daviey: *chuckles*
<Mez> but then it'd be twitter
<Daviey> sure, but a shared account :)
<Daviey> Or.. make it twitter when changed

So, well, thanks to Dave Walker's suggestion, I did a quick google, and within 6 minutes, had it working. You can find the twitter feed at

Also, over the last couple of weeks I've been working with Zeth from my local LUG (and the tech, who shall remain anonymous, like "The Stig") on a podcast, which we are, for now calling "The Podcast" (imaginative I know).

I was interviewed in the first podcast (which Zeth did alone, and I (apparently) provided the comedy element for) and presented with Zeth for the second one. Also, as the second one was recorded during the Ubuntu Global Bug Jam, of which I was running one of the venues, I actually allowed myself to be interviewed for it aswell. The podcast is very rough around the edges at the moment, and well, we haven't got a website, or an RSS feed yet, but you can find the show notes here, and download the podcast episode in either MP3 Format, or OGG Format

All comments/thoughts/suggestions welcome!

A compelling read

Now, It's probably obvious to anyone reading this blog what my thoughts on Open Source and Licencing are, so I won't go into that. However, I've recently found a new author, who I'm liking a LOT.

His name is Cory Doctorow, and after reading some of his short stories, I thought I'd look into his longer stuff. As I've mentioned before, I'm a fan of - and, as an author who's releasing his works under a Creative Commons licence, his stuff is also there.

I started reading one of his books called "Little Brother" ( I read the intro, and I was hooked.

It's kind of hard to explain what I mean, so I'd suggest if you're interested, goto the link above, and click on the PDF link, then read pages 4 through 12 (the introduction/foreword to the book) and you'll see what I mean.

I'll probably review the book once I've finished it (curled up in bed with my trusty eeePC), but from what I've read, and that intro, Cory Doctorow is fast becoming one of my favourite authors.

You can find more about Cory Doctorow, and his works at

Obligatory Post

Ok, so here's my obligatory "Hello Planet Debian" and "I'm now a Debian Developer" post.

So, yeah, I'm now a Debian Developer - and have a shiny new email address. For those of you considering going through the NM process, or already going through it - don't give up hope, you'll get there eventually!

Thanks to all those who've helped me along the way.

In other news, I've been meaning to blog about a couple of sites for a while now.

First of all, is - a nifty little site with lots of ebooks to download. Including a lot of the classics. You can also publish books on there, but I haven't got round to it yet. This is currently my homepage on my eeePC. I've setup the "custom PDF" to be a good size for the eeePC (152mmx91mm, 10px font, 5mm all borders) and have been reading some of the Doctor Who books on there (and actually not finding it that uncomfortable curling up in bed with.

The next site is Stack Overflow - I've mentioned this briefly before, but it's a great site. A community driven Programming Q+A site. Kind of hard to describe, but go have a look, you'll soon get the gist of it!

Anyway, I think it's time to head to bed for me!

Console Love

Ok, so, some of you may know that I recently switched from using Xchat + ctrl_proxy to irssi for my main IRC connection. I did this as I'd been pestered literally thousands of times to "get a real IRC client".

While I don't agree with this philosophy (Xchat IS a real IRC client!), I have to admit, I've not regretted switching to irssi! Combining it with screen means that I can see the same IRC session from anywhere, and using irssi gives me quite a few cool new features (I'm a HUGE fan of regexes!). So, irssi, after getting used to switching channels, and managing everything is great for me. I can now authenticate to OFTC using SSL, I can use IPv6, and many many other things. Slick.

Anyway, as I've said, I also use screen. This is one of the best tools ever created by man. It's increased my productivity, and it's so simplistic to use.

So, why am I writing this now?

Well, over the past few ways, I've finally got around to using mutt for the first time, and while it's not as pretty as some of the email clients you get out there, it does exactly what I need. And, although I've spent the last 2 days tweaking my configuration, getting confused, rereading the mutt manual, shouting and swearing, getting even more confused, rereading the mutt manual again, I've found that mutt, for me, is actually an email client that does what I want it to.

For example, using mutt, I now no longer have to worry that I'll send an email to a mailing list using the wrong address, I can subscribe to a better "Inbox Zero" philosophy (Inbox Zero Status: 0!) and managing my email seems to come more naturally.

Mutt may be hard to get used to, a pain to configure just the way you want it, but, in the end, it makes sense. I'd reccomend everyone try it at least once!

So, yeah, I've moved my ubuntu email address over to mutt (in a screen window alongside irssi!) and will be moving the others just as soon as I can be bothered to goto all the different places and combine my .procmailrc. But I've made a start, and, for the forseeable future, it'll be my mail client of choice.

It seems though, I'm spending a lot more time in an xterm than I am in anything else.

Maybe I should start using bitlbee too ;)

zsh seems to be getting a lot of press of late ...

And so it should - it's an awesome shell.

Anyway, I've just spent a lot of time sorting out my zsh so it does titles in the right way. By this, I mean changing the title of your xterm window, and/or your screen window.

Anyway, here's the code that I use for my zsh titles

precmd () {
 case $TERM in
 print -Pn "\e]0;%n@%m: %~\a"
 print -Pn "\ekzsh: %~\e\"
 print -Pn "\e]0;%n@%m: %~\a"

preexec () {
 case $TERM in
 print -Pn "\e]0;%n@%m: $1\a"
 print -Pn "\ek$1\e\"
 print -Pn "\e]0;%n@%m: $1\a"


I find this works in the same way that the default bash shell does ;) though - it also works quite nicely with screen, and sets the screen titles for you too :D

Also - my prompt lines are (inspired by Daniel Silverstone circa 2005)

export RPROMPT='%B%d%b %t '
export PROMPT='%B%n@%m %#%b '

Happy zsh'ing folks!

Hacky HTML

Ok, so working on a new site, I've realised that an image I've floated to the right of my text seems to be overlapping the items beneath it.

Ok, so, that's obviously not what we want!!!!

Normally, I'd use clearfix for this, however, I have the issue that I will also be using a sidebar (at times) and well, clearfix will interfere with this:-

So, that's obviously not something we want! - I had to find a nice way of doing this, without it interfering with everything else!

I thought about this, and thought I'd do a bit of voodoo with CSS and make this work!

Yay! It worked!

How'd I do this you may ask. Well, the containing div needed the following CSS (which also, quite niftily extends the height of the float if it's the shorter one, making it the full height of the containing div

overflow: hidden;
padding-bottom: 32767px;
margin-bottom: -32767px;

The only issue? - It doesn't work in any Internet Explorer Version, or Opera <= 8 - though it works in pretty much every other browser (according to browsershots)

*sigh* back to the drawing board, unless anyone else has some suggestions?

Edit: I was wrong - it works in IE7, but not in IE8
Edit 2: and it works in IE8 if you tell it to run in IE7 compatibility mode

Django - S3 Storage Engine

After having read James Bennett's article on Django Media and Performance I decided that I wanted to be using S3 for storing and serving media for a new site that I'm working on (in Django)

So, it seems that it's not that easy. I did first of all experiment with using FUSE, but decided against it.

Anyway, looking through some obscure documentation, I found that Django can use custom storage methods. So, I thought I'd write one.

You can find the file here

The code requires you to have Amazon's S3 API installed.

So, how do you use it? It's pretty simple really. First of all - you need to setup your configuration - so edit and add the following (changing the values to suit your needs!)

    'bucket': 'bucket_name',
    'default_perm': 'public-read',
    'vanity_url': False

The settings should be self-explanatory - apart from 'vanity_url'. S3 allows you to CNAME a domain name to a bucket with a similar name - for example, I could CNAME to and it would allow me to serve information from that bucket as if they were coming from my own domain. (infact, I'm tempted to do this - I've too much stuff in my files section!) - the vanity_url - when set to True - will use the bucketname as the domain instead of <bucketname>

Now, to use it in a model, it's as simple as adding an import line at the top of the models file

from import S3Storage

and then, in your model

class Item(models.Model):
    storage = S3Storage()
    image = models.ImageField(upload_to='path', storage=storage)

Pretty simple, :D

Hope this helps some people out there!

Launchpad: The forgotten URL

A site I use quite regularly is Stack Overflow - a great, community driven site for programmers.

At this site, you get rep when you post good answers, or good questions, which are voted up by the others on the site.

Imagine my dismay, when, this morning, I tried to login using the normal URL that I use for OpenID logins, only to find that the URL that it is delegated to has changed.

"What does this mean?" I might hear you asking.

Well, it means that anyone who's using Launchpad as their OpenID Provider (OP) doesn't have their openID assosciated to them anymore. For me, this means I can no longer access my stackoverflow account and my reputation starts at 1 again.

*sigh* - while I can understand that LP's OpenID implementation is still in Beta, I don't expect changes that completely change the way the system works. It's paramount to going through the system and changing everyone's username.... :(

I'm pretty annoyed at this, and have filed a bug about it.

Edit: It seems they've removed the delegation on the pages for users, and This is why it's happening...

Data-Scraping Evilness

So, I'm sure most of you are aware of Facebook - if not, where have you been?

Anyway, I run a site that promotes local events and gigs for a specific group of people, and a lot of the work for the site is in keeping it up to date - going and grabbing the info from various different websites, and plonking it into the format that's used by the website. (which could consume hours)

This morning I noticed that I kept getting invites to events on Facebook that I should be adding to the website. I also noticed that the emails I got from Facebook were all in the same form.

Regex anyone?

preg_match("/^Event: (.*)\n.*\"(.*)\"\nWhat: (.*)\nHost: (.*)\nStart Time: (.*)\nEnd Time: (.*)\nWhere: (.*)\n\nTo see more details and RSVP, follow the link below:\n(.*)\n/m", $email, $matches);

So, yup, that's what I did - I poked it all through a script, registered a new Facebook account, and now - through the magic of Regular Expressions, when someone invites the special user to an event, it automatically gets added to the site (through a bit of PHP + procmail magic! (with sanity checks!))

It was certainly interesting to get going, and well, quite fun... but I feel a bit dirty doing it ;)

Anyway, now all I need to do is create screen scrapers for the different websites that I get the gig listings from, and well, hopefully, then, I'll be able to have everything automated!

If only...

Epic Fail

So, after finding out that that nasty noise my PC's been making was actually a hard drive failing (I knew it was, but thought I'd fix it now, while I'm doing my refresher) So, after a few failed install attempts with lovely kernel messages telling me that the disk was failing horribly, I thought, ok, I'll shut down, unplug the hard drive, and get on without it.

Ha, if only I were so lucky. Seems that for some reason, my PC, having had 2 hard drives connected to the primary IDE channel for the last... oh, 4 years? doesn't like it - and now, my primary IDE channel is unusable (or at least, nothing is being detected from it :()

So, that leaves me with 1 hard drive.... at least it's the bigger of the three. However, my PSU has also developed a high pitched squealing noise, which to be quite honest, sounds dangerous.

So, it's with some regret that I say that, I'm going to be out of commission for a while. I still, however, have my eeePC available, which is a blessing, as it means I'll still be able to surf and access email.

However, with apathy out of action, and with christmas around the corner, and lots of bills to pay, it's unlikely to be until around March that I have enough in the coffers to pay for a replacement.

Thank god for the eeePC

Starting from scratch: RAID + LVM

Ok, so working with RAID and LVM is... well... not easy.

I have three hard drives in this machine, all of different sizes, (160Gb, 200Gb, and 300Gb), and I'm gong to be setting these up so that I have a  RAID-5 made up of three 160Gb Partitions, (with LVM on top) a RAID-1 Partition of 40Gb (no LVM) and the rest split between boot, swap, and misc.

However, the ubuntu alternative CD doesn't make this easy, and, one of my favourite annoyances is that once you configure RAID, you cannot make changes to the partitions on the disk where you have RAID partitions :( (hidden away in the middle of a block of text that people aren't likely to read... I only spotted it on the 4th/5th attempt)

Getting RAID setup is fine, getting RAID+LVM has taken me... 6 attempts so far, and I think that I've managed to say the right prayers to the right gods this time... or maybe not...

"The kernel was unable to re-read the partititon table on /dev/md1 (Invalid argument). This means Linux won't know anything about the modifications you made until you reboot. you should reboot your computer before doing anything with /dev/md1

Maybe I should do this manually *clicks reboot*

Starting from scratch

Over the next few days, I'll be re-installing my main Desktop from scratch with Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex.

This is mainly to help me cleanup my PC (I've got a lot of stuff on it) and also so I can make better use of my system.

So, first of all I need a copy of Intrepid. I've opted for the alternate CD as I want to try LVM + Software RAID.

I've also decided already that I will be completely removing Windows from this machine (having previously had an archaic Windows 2000 install for playing online poker).

While I reinstall, I'm going to be using my trusty eeePC to blog about it, so hopefully those little snags that I hit along the way will be documented somewhere, and hey, it might even make for some good reading.

Well, as we all know, the first step to re-installing a system is... backup...

I'm currently sitting here waiting for my home directory to tar itself up onto my external 1TB hard drive, and watching as the file list goes past, I realise just how lax I've been at keeping my home directory tidy. I've got the last ~6 years of crap in there (including a backup of all my music which I'd thought I'd lost years ago! - yay!)

I'm backing up my home drive as I'm going to be wiping that, which, while it means re-installing all my settings, etc etc, means that I have a clean start (and if I actually do need something out of it, I can just pull it out of the tarball ;) )

Well, the backup's on it's way, my download of the ISO has 15 minutes left, so I'll go ahead and hit publish, with the final words.

See you on the flip side.

My Package of the Day: blueproximity

So, yesterday, my new Bluetooth adapter arrived. I've been wanting one for a while so that I can quite quickly push new files to my phone (for ringtones, etc)

However, while playing with bluetooth (and trying to setup a bluetooth headset - which is the biggest headache EVER!) - I stumbled across a package called blueproximity.

The application allows you to use a bluetooth device as a proximity sensor.

Basically, it uses the bluetooth protocol to "ping" the bluetooth device, and then run commands when the signal strength gets low (or hich)

At the moment, I have it setup to do a couple of things, firstly, I have it set to lock/unlock my session, and switch my monitor on/off if I leave the range/enter the range. I've set this up so that the unlock is on entering the room, but the "lock" is only if I leave the house.

Secondly, I have a habit of leaving for work, and forgetting to disconnect from my server's screen session (running irssi) - meaning that when I come back, the highlights don't show in irssi's away log. So, I've added another sensor that will close my screen session (ssh <myserver> screen -D) if I leave the house. Very useful!

While the app isn't perfect, and could do with some "built in" features (rather than having to specify commands). It's a great app with huge flexibility ;) I can think of many uses for it, espescially in an office environment (I remember my boss emailing me from my account once saying "I'm a security risk, I left my station unlocked" - blueproximity would have solved this issue!

If you're in an office, and have bluetooth enabled, this is a great security feature... I think the whole "walk up to the desk and your monitor switches on and unlocks itself" feature is pretty cool.

Though, it does leave a security risk if someone steals your bluetooth device (in my case, this is my phone!)

<edit>Knew I'd forgot something :-

One step closer to becoming a Debian Developer

As you may or may not know, I'm in the New Maintainer Process for Debian, well, not long back, (a few days) I finished off the Tasks and Skills #2, and today my Application Manager (Steffen Joeris aka white) filed my AM Report, reccomending me as a Debian Developer.

You can find a copy of my AM Report here

Thanks to all those who've helped me along the way, including (but not limited to) Steffen (white), Francois (fmarier), Nelson (naoliv), Sune (pusling), Ana, Adam (infinity) and many many others :

Succumbing to the meme

Ok, so it's vary rare that I'll become a sheep and add to the "planet full of meme"... However, it's quietened down now... so I thought I'd join in.

Thing is ... not that long ago, I'd already asked about peoples naming schemas

I had hoped to start a meme with that post. Obviously madduck was more successful

Forum Software - What are your thoughts?

Having worked for two different competitors in the Forum Software Market, and watching over the last few months at the ranting and raving about the incompetency of these companies and others (Not by me, but by others - I can't (for legal reasons) express my personal opinions regarding them) It's led me to ask the question.

If you were to write your own, perfect Forum Software, what features would it have, and what would be "special" about it?

Personally, I'd like to see a Forum System that had an abstracted API at it's core, so addon features could be added nicely. I'd also like to see that it'd be a RESTful system (or at least work in a Resource Oriented Architectural Manner)

So, tell me your thoughts...

Reading Festival

I'll be there ;) Gotta love winning competitions!

Can't seem to get a decent shot... my camera doesn't seem to like photographing these... :(

Procmail tip for Vanity emails.

As you know, some sites allow you to have a vanity email, (,,,, etc) - Usually - these are setup to forward to another account.

Well, after getting fed up of people spamming my email account by using the address that it's forwarded to (which I have no idea where it's coming from) - I eventually decided to get my revenge and write a procmail recipe to get rid of these ;)

* ! ^Received:.**

This will send anything that does not have a header containing both and in the header line, and send it to the spam folder, this means that anything sent directly to <alias> instead of <nick> will be sent to spam. Yay! It's blocked... 5 spam in the time of writing this post.

Obviously, you have to be a bit careful with these things, there are other bits that you could add in, like checking that it was also recieved by <server> for <nick> (unfortunately,'s email servers don't seem to provide the "for" bit of it) - and some other checks. But as a basic rule, it goes pretty far (I wouldn't send this sorta thing to /dev/null however, there might be false positives)

Also, do be careful if you decide to do this for your email address. Until Launchpad has the extra features for setting an email as an alias for your email address, and having you email address set as your preferred email address at the same time, then Launchpad can and will send emails directly to your alias address... I'll probably update at some point with a nice procmail ruleset for email addresses ;)

Hope this helps someone fight spam!

Oh, and of course, it does rely on you having a single email account for the alias, rather than just sending it to an address that you'd normally use!


Just a note - if you've sent me any important email in the last 24 hours, then please re-send. I've had to wipe my mailboxes due to a 10,000 strong backscatter of bounced email... :(


Some of you may know that I'm looking for a new job.

Well, anyway, I had a Phonecall from Kalamazoo Reynolds earlier, who, 3 questions into the interview asked.

"Do you smoke?"


"Ok, then please feel free to re-apply if you ever give up, we have a company policy in place that we do not employ smokers"

Is this legal?

Wanted: Custom Audio Solution

This is a sort of "Dear LazyWeb" post.

As I'm moving to a new place on sunday, I'm going to have some restrictions on when I can use loudspeakers (so as to not disturb other people), but at the moment, I've got a few places where I'm using different audio sources, for example, when I'm using my PC, I might be either playing music through my PC, listening to the DAB Radio I have in the background, watching TV at the same time, etc etc.

What I need (want) is a solution so that I can have a box on my desk which allows me to select from a range of inputs, and flick between outputting to the speakers, or to headphones.

While at the moment, every item I have seperate speakers. My Surround has 4 inputs (1 aux, 3 for surround - all 3.5mm Jacks) and my headphones have a single 3.5 mm jack.

What I'd like to do is be able to wire the following into a box, and then have a button to switch between using the speakers on the surround, and the headphones.

  • PC - 3 3.5mm Jacks for surround
  • Laptop - Single 3.5mm Jack
  • DAB Radio - single 3.5mm Jack
  • TV - single 3.5mm Jack
  • Mixer - currently going through PC, but has 2 x Mono 1/4" jacks out (which I've already converted to a single 3.5mm Jack at the other end)

I'd like it if I could listen to multiple resources at the same time. However, at the moment, I think that the main issue is going to be converting the Surround into stereo for the headphones... The single 3.5 Jacks can be output to the "Aux" channel...

I don't know if anyone knows of any solutions for this, or wants to help me build one (anyone good with creating circuit diagrams) - and I'm sure there'll be issues with different sources.

I mean, I could probably just pipe all but the surround through the mixer... and then use the headphone override on the speakers, but I don't really want to have the issue of plugging and unplugging the headphone jack all the time. I'd rather just hit a button.

Any thoughts?

LugRadio Live - The Review

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200" caption="(c) 2008 Barbie"](c) 2008 Barbie -[/caption]

So, this weekend just gone was the weekend of LugRadio Live. Here's how it went for me. Friday morning, I got up, finished packing my stuff into my suitcase and headed off to the airport to go and pick up Myrtti. After missing a couple of buses, eventually got there, just in time to meet her as she was coming out of Arrivals.

We then headed off to Wolverhampton, with Myrtti being amazed by English houses (don't ask me - I don't know either) arriving in Wolverhampton 20 minutes before we could check into the hotel. So we went for food. Well, actually, I went for food, and Myrtti came with me. Moon Under Water has nice food, as do most Wetherspoons.

Anyway, from there on, Myrtti and I went and checked into the hotel, and then had a bit of a chat  (and checked on the CaveyCam) while waiting for the evening events to kick off.

The evening events... god. well... I don't remember a lot of it. I remember coming in, sitting down, and sitting down with Daviey, ompaul, and a couple of other people (I can't remember who!) and well - the night went on from there.

Left the Evening Events @ around midnight, and walked back with ompaul and Myrtti to the hotel. Couldn't sleep, as there was a dry-riser next to my room, so at 4am, I gave up, and registered on flickr, uploading the photos from the night that I'd taken.

Then, at 6am, I went hunting for breakfast, had a little walk round Wolverhampton, and found that Spar had food, so bought a couple of sausage sandwiches from there (and a couple of cans of Relentless). Went back to the hotel room, answered the wake up call, and headed to the venue just before 7.

I was the second person there after Chris (Proctor) - am proud of that, and spent the morning setting up all those lovely banners that you people saw (and chasing after some that had gone missing).

Did anyone notice that the can of relentless I'd thrown in the bin had been used to help stick up the Main Stage schedule poster? No? Good... twas amusing though.

Thanks to Mrs Ron for providing the Bacon Sarnies though :)

Anyways, sat down and started to film the intro, then moved onto the first talk in the Atrium (I signed up for the morning sessions on crew - why oh why?). I had to try and keep myself from falling asleep due to no sleep in the first one, but towards the end, the caffeine kicked in, and I started to wake up.

Next up was Bruuuuunnoooooo's talk... it was "tres amusant" ... I enjoyed watching it, and am glad that the audio isn't coming from the camera, or all you'd have heard was my laughing.

After that, It was lunch. Woo. Headed off to the Moon Under Water for what was meant to be an SBLUG gathering, but, couldn't find them in the packed pub, so ended up sitting with Barbie and JJ and chatting to them while we had food.

Came back and scoped out the Exhibitors for a bit (and yes, played some TF2) before going to watch the gong-a-thong... mrben... raccoon pants... I won't say anymore, or my mind will explode. Though I must say, I did love Matthew Garrett's talk on how he hates the community.

After that, I went back and gamed for a bit, before heading to the Live and Unleashed recording. Found Myrtti again there, and gave her a bit of a shoulder rub while watching it (and laughing my ass off too!)

So. There brought an end to Day 1... except, it wasn't over. By this time, I was feeling pretty crap... no sleep. So went and packed up, then headed back to the hotel, slept for a bit, then headed to Karaoke.

I didn't stay long, and was on the soft drinks all night, but managed to fit in a rendition of "Summer Nights" - I do a mean Olivia Newton John. I'm kind of dissapointed that the guy I was singing it with (my Ex Boss) didn't know the words, but I've had a promise from froodie that next year she'll do the John Travolta, and I can do the Olivia Newton John. Speaking of froodie - great rendition of "Sweet Child O' Mine" - I was singing along in the back of the venue (and drawing funny looks by air-drumming/air-guitaring)

Sunday morning. I was still tired, but due to exhaustion - I'd actually managed to sleep. Though - I think the fact that the following comment was made in IRC means that I didn't look as fresh-faced as I'd have like to believe I was.

<+ompaul>    Mez, on sunday you looked like someone had eaten enough of your brain not to kill you but to stop you from understanding there was sunday :)

So yeah. Once again, set up at a ridiculously early time (this time 8am though) - I managed to be one of the people on the Coffee Run to Starbucks, so that worked well for me. I didn't have to do much.

Started off the morning upstairs in the Lightning talk room, watching Barbies talk (and getting told off for raising my hand to answer his questions). Was still a good talk the second time round. And some of the stuff I forgot the first time, I've now seen again. I must apologise to Barbie for laughing to myself towards the end of the talk though. When you have a crew radio on, and you can hear Jono telling everyone he's in the toilet with a speaker, you can't help but laugh (I so wish that the LCD display in the atrium was something we could send messages to - I would have sent "FlashHug Jono now - he's in the loo!")

Next was Agostino Russo's talk about Wubi - which was quite interesting. I've not actually used wubi myself, but to see it working in situ, and to hear about the geekyness behind it was actually quite cool.

Lunchtime again, where I spent outside eating sandwhiches and munch provided by MrsRon again, before I came back in, scoped the exhibitors again, and generally mingled talking with people until it was time for Chris Jones' (Ng) talk about terminator.

Next was the goodbyes... Sad to see them go - but - they WILL be back next year! (YAY!). Sad to see the podcast end, but it was a good ending to a good weekend.

Then we packed up, and found out that the bar we'd arranged to goto afterwards... was closed.... FAIL. Got it sorted out in the end, and after food, ended up at the Novotel bar, where there were quite a few people. Twas good talking to people there, a nice friendly relaxed atmosphere, and a nicely stocked bar. I must say though - I don't think I've laughed so much in a long time than I did with standing outside smoking with Xalior, Daviey and a few others (failhat!). Xalior is an extremely funny guy.

Anyways, from there, it was time to head home, after another night in the hotel, and taking Myrtti on a whirlwind tour of Birmingham's Music Stores ;)

To me, it'll be a weekend to remember. There were a lot of firsts for me, and a lot of fun.

I must say though, thumbs up to Tony Whitmore and Ron Wellsted for doing an amazing job at organising everything this year. And to all the rest of the crew who made everything run so smoothly (and Tig for the trousers! and barely leaving the sound desk!)

LugRadio Live UK 2008

Is less than a week away

So, yes, am on crew, and am also on the Speakers List as I'm organising the Keysigning Party.

If you've got the weekend spare - and can make it to Wolverhampton - why not come along and meet some of the wonderful people that are the LugRadio community. It's only £5 on the door (which is entry for both days) and well - Just look at the schedule to see the kind of talks that are going on.

Plus, It's also going to be the LAST EVER LugRadio - so it's really your last chance to see, plus you'll be participating in a historic moment in FLOSS history (just wish it was the start of something rather than the end!)

So obligatory LRL advertising post over - hope to see you there!


Yes, that toything. Hehe.

Ok, so after one of my Flatmates decided to tread on my wireless dongle (which I had trailing on a long USB cable down the stairs outside my room so I could actually pick up the signal!) and break it, I haven't used my Desktop machine in a good few months. It was pretty much of a case of without internet access, it was pretty useless other than for watching DVDs on :) (which is when I'd boot it up) - so I used my eeePC instead.

Anyway, I went out and bought a nice new PCI Wireless card today - no chance of it being trodden on. And I got a nice one with 2 aerials, for connectivity purposes (and I can say - it's boosted my signal from what was on average 15% on the wireless dongle to on average 65%!)

I'm happy and actually surprised that Ubuntu picked it up straight away, and even used the settings from my old Wireless dongle to connect straight away!

Anyway, after a while, I hardlocked.... :( I hate hardlocking... tis so annoying. So I rebooted into the Hardy Installer CD (This still has Gutsy on) and tried an install... Another hardlock...

Uh-Oh I thought .... and ran memtest86+ - no problems... Try again.. another hardlock.

Ok, reopen PC to see if wiggling the wires does something.... OW! I burnt my hand...

My PC was seriously overheating.. :( So - I had a look - MY PSU and CPU fans were clogged up with orange dust. :'( damnit.

So I took a walk down to Maplin and went and got myself some compressed air... Something I'd learnt from my IT Technician days was a godsend for cleaning CPU Fans.

Anyway, My PC is now sparkly and shiny inside, and on a plus, I've gotten rid of the annoying rattle it's had for the past year... I thought it was the CD drive... as it would always stop when I whacked the CD drive (another trick I learnt as an IT Technician!)

So yeah - I'd suggest that any geek out there goes and invests in a can of compressed air (or 'airduster' as it seems to be branded these days) - It is the magic computer fixing tool... if it can't be fixed with compressed air, (and/or wiggling the cables) you might as well replace it - it'll save you time and stop you banging your head against the wall

I just wish I'd thought and taken photos of how dusty it was (It was orange dust too - which was strange... I think the dust puppy's are becoming Ubuntu themed)

Feature suggestion for Launchpad

(Click to View)

To IRC, or not to IRC....

... that is the question.

Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer
the slings and arrows of outrageous harrasments,
or take ops against a sea of trolls,
and by opposing, end them? To /part; to /quit;
No more; and by a /quit say we end
The head-ache, and thousand virtual pings
That IRC is heir to, 'tis a consumation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To /part; to /quit;
To /quit, perchance to /ignore: ay, there's the rub;
For in that /quit, what messages may come
When we have shuffled off this virtual coil,
Must give us pause, there's the respect
That makes calamity of such low ping;
For who could bear the whips and scorns of time?
The operator's wrong, the users contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after disconnection,
That undiscover'd country from whose bourne
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.

Dutch PHP Conference

So, am sittig in my hotel room, after spending way too long getting here, drinking tea, and using up the Wifi.

It doesn't actually start till tomorrow, so not much to say - but I shall probably blog some more.

Good night out tonight, with a few of the Speakers, some good conversation, though really dissappointed that everywhere stops selling food at like - 10pm. Which is about when we got to the hotel. I think I've had a single bitterballe (or however it's spelt) - roll on breakfast tomorrow morning is all I can say - and dissapointed that the place we went to only had two kinds of beer, or wine.... :(

Still, all good fun, looking forward to tomorrow. Just not liking the fact I have a single bed. I haven't slept in one for 6 years!

Welcome to the Family, Synergy

So - after my post about wanting a conference laptop - I went out and bought one today. I got myself a nice, large, Dual Core 17" Jobby. Ok, I've realised afterwards that it might be a bit of a gas guzzler, but, at least, as long as I have power, it should meet all my needs. And it's the first machine that I've had where, out of the box, everything works perfectly, and the first where I've been able to properly use the Desktop effects (Darn proprietary Video Cards!)

Anyway, along with this - I've now installed Ubuntu on it. Actual Ubuntu - rather than Kubuntu. This means that I now have nearly a full shipment of *buntu that I'm regularly using. Kubuntu @ work and on my desktop at home, Xubuntu on the eeePC, and Ubuntu on this new Laptop.

I also had fun thinking up another name for the laptop. I've called it synergy. Which basically means lots of small things working together to make something greater in whole than of it's component parts (Think of two muscles working together to give you a sort of idea) - The reason? Well - partly because my computer naming scheme revolves around the "I can't be bothered of thinking of a name" (put politely) - and - synergy, is of course, ultimate laziness, putting small things together to make something bigger (convoluted excuse I know!) and well - it completes my having what my idea of the 3 primary WM's are (Gnome, KDE, and XFCE), and means that my experience of Linux as a whole, is a more rounded and richer experience (Again, convoluted!) but anyway - here are my machines and what I call them (from the newest acquisition to the oldest)

  • Synergy - The new "Conference" Laptop
  • Stupor - My VPS for running the important things on
  • Lethargy - My eeePC
  • Coma - My work PC
  • Anorak - Radio Amarok's primary server (named after a Radio Amarok inside joke)
  • Torpor - My "playground" VPS (where I keep all the non-critical stuff)
  • Apathy - My Home Desktop

So - those are my machines, but, knowing that I have a similar naming schema to Daniel Silverstone, it begs me to ask.

What do you call your machines and why?



So - today I decided that I needed a "conference laptop"

Basically, at the moment, I have my main desktop, (custom built monster) and an eeePC.

While the eeePC does exactly what I need it to, which is be portable, and have wifi - so I can check email etc etc on the fly, it doesn't lead itself very well to developing on the move. If I try to compile anything but the most basic, it dies. So, I thought that I'd take some of my paycheck and invest a few Quid in a lower end laptop.

What I need is

  • At least 1Gb RAM
  • A Processor around the 1.7 GHz mark
  • As much disk space as possible
  • Wifi
  • 15" Screen size minimum

What I'd also LIKE is

  • Compatible Video card for stuff like Compiz, etc
  • Wifi Chipset that's compatible with Linux without me having to hack away for hours to get it working (preferably something that works out the box)
  • Something where I'm not paying extra for the privilege of having Windows installed before I wipe it

Ok, so - these things, espescially in the "What I need" - are fairly standard. So I went around a few websites and started trying to find the best deals. I went to ebuyer, dabs, Dell and PC World (not linked - I'll explain why in a moment!)

Well, looking through these sites, one thing came to me pretty much instantly, and that's that none of them seem capable of telling me what chipset the Wireless cards are running. and pretty much all of them (in most cases) lack sufficient information for a tech savvy person to actually decide whether it meets their specifications. It's a bit like buzzword bingo on some of the sites. They give you all the weird and wonderful wacky names that come along with the technologies, without even giving you details about it. Dell is one of the few sites that gives you the information you need. But it still doesn't tell you what chipset it's running.

Well, anyways - that's my first annoyance. My second... is one of putting "bling" ahead of usability, or in some cases, using technologies where it's not even needed. The PC World website uses Javascript extensively. I, out of habit - tend to middle-click on pretty much everything when I'm browsing (ending up with my record of 37 tabs open in Firefox today!) but, when a link links to a javascript: URL - it doesn't work. So, I goto the PC world website, click on "Laptops" and see a selection of types - I middle click on a couple of them to get the different choices, but no such luck. The tabs open to about:blank cause they don't know what to do with Javascript.

Now, as a web developer - I know that this is a bad thing. I know that a link should have a static URL, and an onclick handler (or event listener, or whatever) if it wants to do Javascript stuff. This isn't purely for the people who want to surf the web with Javascript turned off (which I'm sometimes tempted to do!) - but it also makes the site accessible for those who want to open a link in a new tab, in a new window, etc etc.

I'll stop my griping now. But, please, for the love of god, if you create a website, make sure it's accessible to anyone who doesn't want to just stick around in a single window. If I wanted to do that - I'd use Prism (or whatever it's called!)

I'm confused.

Could someone please tell me why, around 5pm every day for the last couple of weeks, my wireless laser mouse stops working when it's on the mousemat, but if I take the mousemat away, and use the mouse directly on the desk, it works fine...

I could understand if it just decided it didn't want to work on the mousemat, or didn't want to work at certain times, but specifically at a time, and specificaly on the mousemat. It's confusing, and REALLY annoying.

Setting up networking on an ubuntu server

Ok, by popular demand (aka ompaul) I've decided to do a mini-howto on setting up networking on an ubuntu server, for those who are new to it.

In Ubuntu itself, when you install the desktop version, you get a nifty little tool called "Network Manager" (you may have noticed the icon, espescially if you have wireless) which pretty much does everything for you. However, if you're using the server, without a GUI then this isn't generaly available.

So, where to start?

It really depends on your network setup, you need to know a few things about your network before you start this.

The first and most important question you need to find out is whether there is a DHCP server on your network that will assign you an IP address. If so, your networking setup is very very simple, so I'll start off with that.

Networking with an available DHCP server

When you have a DHCP server available on your network, things are made a lot simpler. Cut short, a DHCP server sits on your network and hands out configurations to the different computers that ask for them. I won't go into detail, but, generally you'll find these on small home networks (your router will generally work as a DHCP server, which is why you (usually) magically find your way onto the internet when you plug yourself into a network with a router on it)

First of all, find out whether you actually already have an internet connection. I'll assume for now that you have a keyboard and monitor hooked up to the computer you're setting up as a server, and have logged in as a user with sudo rights.

Type in the command "ifconfig" (without the quotes) and you should hopefully see something like this:-

mez@stupor:~$ ifconfig

eth0      Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr 00:16:3E:7F:AC:B2
inet addr:  Bcast:  Mask:
RX packets:3576458 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
TX packets:1886783 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
collisions:0 txqueuelen:10
RX bytes:836607596 (797.8 MB)  TX bytes:291514569 (278.0 MB)

lo        Link encap:Local Loopback
inet addr:  Mask:
RX packets:73611 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
TX packets:73611 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
collisions:0 txqueuelen:0
RX bytes:15252378 (14.5 MB)  TX bytes:15252378 (14.5 MB)

The important bit we see here is the block of text starting with "eth0" and espescially the line

inet addr:  Bcast:  Mask:

This generally means that the computer already has an IP address! yay!

Next, try the command


Hopefully, you'll get back a response saying something along the lines of

PING ( 56(84) bytes of data
64 bytes from ( icmp_seq=1 ttl=245 time=100 ms

If so, you have a working internet connection! Go you! you can now start using your computer on the internet (though the IP address given above might only be accessible from an internal network, depending on your setup - going into howto get this IP available on the internet proper is beyond the scope of this blog post)

If not, you'll get one of two errors, either a "no route to host" or a "cannot resolve".

The first issue is a complex one, which again, is beyond the scope of this article (though feel free to email me to ask questions - or catch me on IRC - I will *try* to answer them)

The second one generally means that you do not have a nameserver setup.

Open DNS is a project that provides Accessible DNS resolvers for the whole world to use. More information can be found out about OpenDNS here

For now however, lets open up your DNS resolver settings

sudo nano /etc/resolv.conf

This file should be edited to contain the following lines only


Hit Ctrl + O then enter, then Ctrl + X to get back to your command prompt.

Try pinging google again, and hopefully it should work. If not, something went wrong somewhere, again, try emailing me or poking me on IRC.

So, what if you don't have an IP address?

Well, assuming that you DO have a DHCP server running on your network, lets first of all check that we have a working interface on our system

ifconfig -a

You should hopefully see a couple of lines here, one starting with "lo" and another starting with "eth0" (or similar) - remember this name

Now, open up your /etc/network/interfaces file (sudo nano /etc/network/interfaces) and make sure it contains the following

auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

auto eth0
iface eth0 inet dhcp

Assuming that it does, we should be able to do the following

sudo ifup eth0

Which will (hopefully) bring the interface up. Go back a step if you cannot resolve when trying to ping it. You might have to setup a resolver (though your DHCP server should provide these details for you!)

Voila! hopefully you now have a working network interface

Networking without an available DHCP server

Now, here is where things get more interesting. To be able to setup a network without having a DHCP server readily available, you need to know the following

  • The IP address that will be assigned to your host
  • The netmask for the IP addresses being used
  • The default gateway's IP address (usually the IP address of your router)

It may differ how you get this information, however, I cannot tell you how to do so, I'd ask your network administrator if I were you (or your hosting provider)

So, I'm assuming here that you have the above details, are logged in at your machine and ready to go

I'll only be brief about this setup, as a lot of the details are covered above.

First of all, make sure that your interface is down

sudo ifdown eth0

next, edit your /etc/network interfaces, replacing the information between < and > with
the information from above

auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

auto eth0
iface eth0 inet static
	address <IP Address>
	netmask <Network Mask>
	gateway <Default Gateway>

So, you should have something like this

auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

auto eth0
iface eth0 inet static

Now head back to your console, and try

sudo ifup eth0

To bring your interface up. Hopefully, now, everything should be working (if not, go have a look at the DNS stuff above)

If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment here, or email me (martin AT sourceguru DOT net) and I will try and answer, though I make no guarantees!

Thus concludes Mez's basic guide to server networking on ubuntu - I'll try and add some more interesting stuff in a later blog post (IPv6, IP Aliases, etc etc)

Notes to self

  • postfix reload does not change the listening interface settings for postfix
  • postfix really should listen on if you are running mailman
  • when things go wrong, it's usually your own fault

Buzzword Bingo

I'm ashamed of myself, I really am

A rose by any other name...

In contrast to Martin F. Krafft and Daniel Silverstone, I personally, prefer to be called by my online nickname.

The reasoning behind this is simple. The name I (now) use for myself online actually comes from what most people in real life call me. The name "Mez" is a contraction of my surname "Meredith" (apparently) and is the name I go by as online, as well as in real life. Daniel also says that he finds it hard for his name to recognise "Kinnison" as someone trying to get his attention. I'm the opposite. I actually find it harder for my brain to recognise "Martin" as someone trying to get my attention, unless I'm in a situation where I'm expecting people to be calling me by that (usually with family, as they are the only people to call me by that name). I'm sure if you ever speak to my work colleagues, they'll be able to confirm that my selective hearing only ever really picks up "Mez" :D

I however, unlike some people I know, have no problem with people calling me by my "Real" Name (though a definition of what is real is vague, and although I can't find a citation, I'm pretty sure that UK law defines the name of someone as that of which they are called by and respond to (given name))

But it's all good. If you want to get my attention though, I'd try shouting "Mez" at me. (and not "Meez or Mess, cause that DOES annoy me


In your opinion, should putting incoming mail in the right folders on an IMAP server dependent on say, the mailing list it corresponds to, be the job of the MDA or the MUA? (The "server" or the "client")

*shakes head*

There are some strange people on the internet, and most of the time, they can be annoying, but after this

* bod_ has joined #ubuntu-ops
<+Pici> bod_: How can we help you this morning?
<bod_> afternoon here ;~) im fine, just seeing how many ops have a 'p' in their name
<bod_> 9
<+Pici> bod_: /msg chanserv access #ubuntu list will give you a list of all #ubuntu ops
<bod_> omg, theres a command for everything,. can i grep for 'p' aswell?
<+nalioth> bod_: if there's nothing we can help you with, /topic
* bod_ runs away
* bod_ has left #ubuntu-ops ("Leaving")

I couldn't help but chuckle for a good 10 minutes or so

PHPLondon Conference 08

I managed to dodge most of the photos, however, one person managed to get a non-blurry shot of me.

Was a good conference, I'll write more about it later...

Cheeky gits...

Online food shopping - oh the joy.

When you shop for food online, generally, something will be out of stock, so you'll get it substituted for a similar item.  This I can accept.

However, my monthly shopping came last night, and there was one replacement.

This would have been fine, it was a pasta sauce that they simply substituted for another flavour. However, for some reason, they substituted 2 x Flavour I asked for for 3 x Other Flavour.

Considering that the products differ only on their content (the flavour) and are the same price and weight, what makes them think that adding an extra one to my order is correct?

*sighs* I accepted it anyways, as it was actually the flavour I wanted, but couldn't find on the website.

And on another note, darn Firefox for flagging up "flavour" as a spelling mistake. (even with the language set to en_GB!)

I want one...

If you are viewing this on a planet, you may need to click here to view the video

Wireless! Woo!

Hehe. As I'm moving soon, and I'm only going to have wireless internet, I thought I'd sit down and have a look to see whether the D-Link USB adapter I've had for about 2 years would actually work with Linux, which, while it had previously picked up details of the networks, never seemed to work.

After reading through a couple of Ubuntu Wiki Pages, I managed to download, compile and install the working module - and guess what - it works!

Now this is great news - I won't have to go out and search for a new Wireless Dongle/Card, and well - seeing as the end of my ethernet cable is missing the clip, and keeps falling out of the router, I can now use wireless! woohoo! (and it's even working with WPA!)

Oh, and hello Planet #bitfolk

PHP Conference

It's coming up to that time of year when the London PHP Conference is gearing up and getting ready to go.

Head on over to to book your tickets!

War Dialling ?

When a few people in IRC noticed Daniel Silverstone's post about his new phone number, that started a whole conversation regarding whether his number crunching alogorithm was good enough.

I made a lovely script in PHP, which told me the numbers that it could have been.

There are 67786 combinations that it could be, it took me about 27 seconds to find that once I'd written and debugged the code.

It's an interesting puzzle, so if you're bored, why not write some code and see whether you can get the same answer?

The Facebook equivalent of...

"I am your father"


KDE4 will eat your children

It's official, The President said it

On another note - one heck of a day at work. I need a drink

Stand back, I know regular expressions

So, after the last blog post, I was talking to Seveas and mentioned how I thought with all the nifty and useful commands coming in on here, I might make a niftyutils package. The conversation is as follows

<Mez> thinking of compiling a few of these into a nifty-utils package ;)
<Seveas> so we have coreutils, moreutils and nifty-utils?
<Seveas> just contribute them to moreutils :)
<Mez> and a few more
<Mez> patch-utils being the most obvious
<Mez> findutils, psutils ...
<Seveas> dennis@mirage:~$ apt-cache -n search utils | wc -l
<Seveas> 266

Ok, so I had to get one up on this, as I only wanted fooutils, not foo-utils or foo-utils-bar, and came up with

apt-cache search utils | awk '{print $1}' | egrep '^.*[^-]utils$' | wc -l

for which I got told off. Awk can do everything, so why pipe to grep?

After a bit of back and forthing, the equivalent command, without egrep is

apt-cache search utils | awk '/^[[:alnum:]]*([-[:alnum:]])*[^-]utils[[:space:]].*/' | wc -l

I think the first version was prettier.

Oh, and another comment relating to my last post, specially going out for "Bork Fomb":- I've deleted your post, and I'm glad I have approval on here - you could have done some damage to people who didn't know what that does, so here's a special command, just for you

sudo iptables -I INPUT -s -j DROP

Nifty commands

So, helping someone with an issue earlier (amarok had crashed and they couldn't kill it properly), I told them to issue the following command

ps x | awk '/amarok/ {print $1}' | xargs kill -9

Now, this is a command I use a lot to kill programs that are being evil (generally, I use it to kill evolution!)

But the comment came back "That's nifty!"

So I've got to ask, what are your favourite "nifty" commands? and what do they do?

<edit> So far, within 5 mins of posting this, I've had 2 people ask why I don't just use killall

mez@apathy:~$ ps x -ocommand | grep [e]vo
/usr/lib/evolution/evolution-data-server-1.12 <snip>
/usr/lib/evolution/2.12/evolution-exchange-storage <snip>

Dicing with death en route to work

Today on the way to work, a truck crashed into the railway bridge as my train was going over it. Luckily, noone was injured, and it was right by the station I had to get off at anyway. Now at work, but have an interesting photo to add to my collection

Truck into bridge thumbnail

(Click for full size image)

Sorry about the quality, it was taken on my Mobile Phone Camera... which I spent ages playing with someone else's Vista machine so I could get the picture off of it. Damned Proprietary Software. I should go get a greenphone

Knitting ... again

Corey, glad to know - I'm not arguing - I'm sure all three (perl, purl and pearl) are right.

Anyway, lets put our differences aside and congregate in #ubuntu-knitting



1) I'm a PHP developer
2) I know barely anything about knitting
3) It's actually "purl" :P

An insight into the mind...

So, a few years back, I started playing around with some photos, and started my own mini "An Insight into the mind" series, which was basically me taking photos of my friends, and adding captions to them, a la...

After looking over Aaron's new Webcomic I decided that it might be a fun idea to start doing the same for a few of the random "Conference" Photo's you find around.

You can find my first (5 mins) attempt here

I apologise in advance to Zack and Aaron.

So yeah - who think's I should, who thinks I shouldn't - answers on a postcard (or just comments will do)

Managing a Community

Isn't exactly the easiest thing to do - you say something to someone on someone's behalf, and end up getting your head bitten off..

Radio Amarok Website Design competition

Radio Amarok is looking for a design for their new website.

As a community project, we're opening up the design as a competition to the general public, so if you're an arty type, want to contribute to Open Source, and want your work out there, then please do enter the competition.


Minimum requirements for a submission are as follows

  • The design must be released under a Creative Commons licence
  • We must receive the minimum of a PNG mock-up, and SVG/PSD sources
  • All entries must be made before the 31st October
  • All submissions to be made to [email protected]

After the 31st, the top designs will be picked out by the Radio Amarok team, and a vote will be put out for one week to the general public to decide which design they want for the site.

So, get your virtual paintbrushes out, and get designing - we've had some great entries already, and haven't even announced it yet!

More information will be available soon at

Learning IPTables

Generally, I'm pretty lax when it comes to Firewalls in Linux, for the simple fact that I use kubuntu/ubuntu, which opens no ports by default. So any open ports on the system, I generally know about.

Anyway, as I've recently had a new server setup for Radio Amarok (many thanks to BitFolk for this, who have provided this service for us) and I knew that it would be something that's going to be in the public eye, I thought that I better get a firewall up and running

So yes, I've been learning how to use Iptables correctly, and having to learn more about how TCP/IP works. I knew the basics, but actually sitting down and learning more about it is definitely interesting. Though, I've still not much idea on some issues, like why Aaron Krill's ISP can't route him to the Radio Amarok server (Andy Smith tried explaining - but I still had no idea what was going on!)

On another note, Radio Amarok is still looking for help. So if you have anything to offer (we're looking for sponsors, artists, DJs, and web developers/designers (and at some point we'll be looking for a sysadmin)), so if you have anything to offer us, feel free to pop into IRC ( or email me (mez AT radioamarok DOT com)

Radio Amarok Needs YOU!!!

Yep, that's right - We need you!

Radio Amarok is currently in it's Research and Development phase, and we're looking for Artists to showcase on the station.

Radio Amarok will be broadcasting live 24/7 - and dedicated to playing the best in free music! So if you have a band and want to get yourselves out there, then please get in  contact!

You can find us in on freenode, or you can email me on mez .AT. radioamarok .DOT. com

Please note that we will not accept artists who are not willing to do one or more of the following

So if you're a new and upcoming artist, or know of someone who is, the please do get in contact! (and feel free to pass this onto your musical friends!)

It's amazing what happens when Hardware People are bored

Also - the Easter Egg at the Easter Egg Archive

Bored in Reading...

Ok, so I moved to Reading last Sunday to start a job here... I'm now working with vBulletin as a developer... which is cool.. and uber and stuff, cause it's the kind of Job I went to University to get into (before I dropped out because of debt!)

However, now it's the weekend, I'm not at work, and have nothing to do and noone to do it with.

Ah well, time to drink my vodka and then go invade the local Rock Bar :D

Quote/Giggle of the day 28/09/2004

"For Example. I can see my own privates"

Something for ubuntu-women

From xkcd


Ok, now it seems that I can play videos in Xine.. but not in kaffeine I managed to do this by switching to openGl mode ni Xine itself... however, kaffeine won't allow me to do that.

Any ideas? (It's good, I can now watch my movies!-  but I prefer Kaffeine's GUI!)

A plea for help.

It seems that since I've started using gutsy, my PC does not want to play (well, display) any video files played through xine. Which is very very very very annoying. It worked fine originally in fesity, then, when I upgraded to gutsy, the video I wanted to watch decided not to play (and OGG/Theora video)

Then, due to issues, It still won't play. I've tried everything, adn xine itself isn't thtrowing up anything in the log that's making me think it's an issue with that.

Does anyone have any ideas, or would anyone be able to tell me where to look to sort this out? I've been all over my xorg.conf, the Xine settings, all to no avail.

Any help would be muchly appreciated! This seems to be one of the only problems I'm, having with gutsy atm!)

Gmail annoyances

Ok, so recently, I thought that my status as an ubuntu developer had expired, as I've had emails about my membership to ubuntu-dev expiring, and when I tried to send an email to a list in ubuntu (kubuntu-devel) it got bounced back to me. Now of course, I thought that the bounce was because the list was restricted for posting to developers only (as is ubuntu-devel)

I finally got a hold of a member of the Ubuntu Technical Board (thanks keybuk!) who explained to me..

<Keybuk> ubuntu-dev is a dead team
<Keybuk> rather than reject everyone, we're just letting the membership expire naturally
<Keybuk> motu is the active "universe upload" team

So I then went to look what was going on with my email.

As my ubuntu email recieves a HUGE amount of traffic. (I dread to think but just checked and it seems I've had ~15000 emails go through it since march... a lot less than I'd expected) I have it setup in launchpad to go through a gmail account which means that I don't overload my own server (as I was doing before when I hadn't learnt to tweak my mailserver so it's settings didn'tput my server into swap death!)

I was also sending outgoing email from my ubuntu email address through gmail's smtp service.

However, it seems recently, that gmail will now rewrite an email address if it isn't the one you're sending through. If I send an email as if it's coming from [email protected], then gmail's smtp server will rewrite it so that it comes from [email protected]..


I've now changed my email setup to use my server for all outgoing mail.

Trying out Opera

Ok, so for years, and years, I've used Mozilla Firefox (Firebird, etc etc!) as I've always liked that it was more secure, it was FLOSS etc etc.

Well anyway, after having spent a lot of time recently at Omega Sektor where I've had to use Opera (simply because their Firefox install is broken and I hate Internet Explorer!) I've come across a few features I've liked in it.. (Speed Dial - the fact that a popup without a URL bar has a lil thing giving the web site address across the top)... so I've decided to try it at home...

The install was smooth (sudo dpkg -i opera*.deb) and It's working nicely.

I'll probably end up either loving or hating it in the next few days, but we can only see how things go!

Looking for Developers

I'm looking for Developers who are experienced in the following fields, and have some time on their hand to possibly work on a new project I've had an idea for.

  • Jabber/XMPP
  • Linux/Windows Cross Compatibility
  • Streaming Audio
  • SIP/Similar Technologies
  • Jack or Similar/Windows Equivalent

The concept is based around an online radio station management system, allowing DJs flawless integration with each other to allow seamless changeovers, multiple DJs etc etc.

Please feel free to contact me on martin AT sourceguru DOT net if you're interested and would like to know more.

Should I or Shouldn't I?

Over the last couple of days, I've been posting a few things that have made me giggle, to share with the outer world.

Anyways, I've had a complaint, so I'd like to know from you guys and gals whether you think I should continue doing so?

Giggle of the day 28/08

They must know how impure she is.

Who’s more impure?

From a purity comparator on Facebook

Giggle of the Day 26/08


So, am off down to reading today to hopefully sort out a new place to live when I move down there. Should be interestin, but it's a long drive!

Movie Pirate forced to ditch Linux

I just found this on the register.

While I agree that the punishment is fair, it just shows how nowadays it seems too many people are unaware of the impact of Free Software in today's community.

To be fair, I'd rather be offline than be forced to buy/use windows on a permanent basis. Espescially seeing as having to get used to a whole new system would be hell for me.

Though, he could always wait for KDE4 to be Windows Compatible and fully released and run that ;)

Giggle of the day.


Linux - unafraid, no matter the competion.

I came across this...

Found at Ctrl+Alt+Del

A trip down memory lane.

It's amazing what can cause a trip down memory lane.

The other day at work, a girl walked in who looked a lot like my Ex girlfriend of about 4 years ago could look like now, and it sent me back on a trip down memory lane.

By gods, I miss the good old days, when life was easy, and there wasn't so much FUD to deal with all the time.

Long live the past I say *drifts off back down memory lane*

(oh, and Miz, if you read this, get in touch!)

Compiz in Gutsy... a sort of review

Ok, so it's been a while since I've used compiz, simply because well, I liked Beryl better/ However, I didn't use that much because there were a few niggly bugs that just meade me annoyed as hell...

Anyway, seeing as I've now done a reinstall of Gutsy (due to a broken upgrade from feisty making dbus not work, half the udev stuff be missing, and it would only work with the feisty kernel!) I've decided to try what I now believe is called "Compiz Fusion" (though in ubuntu seems only to be called Compiz)

To start off with, I used the compiz-tray-icon, which gives you a nice menu to right click, and select "Gl Desktop", which is nice, and works pretty much straight off of the bat (after following these instructions), giving you all your nice shiny desktop effects (you can find this as part of gnome-compiz-manager)

Compiz Tray Icon

However as you should all know, my allegiance lies with KDE. Now, with KDE there are a few... issues, shall we say. First of all... viewports are broken and crackful at the moment in KDE. (from the perspective of me trying to use them with compiz), and dont pick up properly the sides of your cube. (confusingly enough, the desktop pager tried to give me 16 desktops with the generic cube!)

Luckily, I don't use the desktop switcher much anyway... but, there was another issue, that being that the K Menu, kicker, tooltips and a few other things were trying to cast a shadow, but couldn't for some reason (so I'd get a lovely white line around my tooltips, above my kicker, around the K Menu)

I loaded up ccsm (CompizConfig Settings Manager - package is called compizconfig-settings-manager - a great compiz configuration tool!) and used that to edit my config for my Compiz settings.

CompizConfic Settings Manager

Nothing changed.

I didn't know why until I tried running Compiz Manually... and all the changes I'd made there were.... there.

I don't use the tray icon anymore, and I have 2 icons on my desktop to switch back and forth between GL and non GL mode now.

Compiz Icons on my Desktop

I do however, have to conclude that Compiz is looking fantastic, working great, and Group and Tab Windows are the most useful feature ever, I'm already starting to Tab together a Kate window and a Konsole when I'm hacking! useful to be able to switch from one to the other with a <Super> + Arrow Key (yes, I know kate has a kpart for a konsole - but I don't like it - I prefer Konsole itself!)

However, the most annoying part of it all is ....

That Compiz's WM doesnt recognise window Hints properly (aka I dont get the window flashing when someone sends me a Message through pidgin!)

Next to review KDE4 :D

I got offered the job...

now I just need to work out how to move down south!

Wish me luck!

I'm off for an interview for this job - wish me luck, I hope the next post is to tell you I got it!

The LRL 2007 Experience, Part X.X

Yes that's right, once again, procrastination, strange work schedules and lack of sleep have made me forget to actually finish writing my blog posts on LRL2007.

I'll get there eventually... I think

The LRL 2007 Experience, Part 0.5

No, I'm not going to have a part 2.0 :P

Couple of quotes from tonight.

"Only at LUGRadio Live would you find someone doing a Linux install at 9pm in a pub"

"and then putting the CD back in a holster he has attached to his trousers"

Guess who was doing the install ... :P

Then Dave2  arrived, and the conversation switched to well, goatse., and then to Tubgirl

"What's Tubgirl"

"you've never seen tubgirl"


"Ok guys, get your cameras out for a reaction shot"

*fiddling with Mobile Internet ensues*

"Ok, ready? 1... 2... 3..."

"What the **** is going on there" ... "oh, actually, she's kinda hot"

Only at LUGRadio

The LRL 2007 Experience, Part 0

So, yes, a lot of things have forced my hand, and I now have to be in Wolverhampton tonight, at the pub, to try and find an overnight home for 2 Laptops :D Hopefully it wont be that hard to do!

Other than that, i've got to say, I love the FLOSS community just for the simple fact that so far I've had three people offer me a lift. Well, I'm still stuck on who I'll be taking it off, trying to whizz round and organise everything, but one way or another, I'll be there tomorrow @ 9.

That's if I don't pass out from alcohol poisoning tonight.

I must say, someone remind me tonight to take the piss out of whatever Aq decides to drink, just for comparing me to his granny last year ;) (and that winky was for Jono!)

If you read this, come say hi to me at some point. I'll probably be wearing a nametag tomorrow, but, to be fair,you're probably reading this through one or another of the planets, and they all have Gotchi's

I may look strange, but I'll be recognisable.

LUGRadio Live 2007

LUGRadio Live 2006 - Exhibitor

Yes, that's right, I'll be at LRL2007, giving away a bunch of Kubuntu CDs, and hopefully *crosses fingers* demoing it for people if I can find a spare laptop or two (The person who was meant to be supplying the laptops for this let me down!)

See you there!

You know you've been working too long when ...

You ask for more info on a bug that you reported in the first place

I'm very tired, and I really can't remember reporting that bug, AND I can't reproduce it.

In other news, Katapult has been released after months  of headaches trying to work out why it wouldn't build in a pbuild. Maybe if I hadn't been making it use one file from debian's libtool, and one from KDE's ... It's been a day for headaches is all I can say, I had to make two releases, as after I made the first, I only THEN found out that google had changed their URL syntax, rendering one of the new plugins useless.

I think I need a beer now.

And I must say, I was rather surprised that Gentoo got there first for including the new version of Katapult. Kudos to them for it, Debian came a close second... now just to wait to put in a sync request to Ubuntu.

Global Warming - A very good POV

I've just been forwarded on this video, and well this guy's standpoint on the Global Warming crisis, it makes complete and utter sense.

 Watch it now and see what I mean

Stack Overflow

This comic from Scott Johnson made me laugh

Xubuntu - First Impressions

So, this post is being written from Xubuntu.

As most of the people who know me will know, I'm a huge KDE/Kubuntu Fan. However, I've been sort of "donated" an old laptop to play around with for a while. And seeing as how old it is, I decided to install xubuntu on it.

I've only hit a few issues so far, so I'll outline them.

  • I downloaded the Dapper ISO thinking that it was the Feisty one - this was probably a case of PEBKAC
  • Feisty crashes X when trying to load a terminal (and probably other things, I reinstalled when I tried for the 13th time to open a terminal
  • When booting, between the grub loading and X starting, I just have a blank screen (I've heard this is an issue on laptops with *buntu though - so I don't know - It worked fine on my old laptop!)
  • No IRC client installed by default
  • Slow responsiveness (but it's faster thanit was in windows!)
  • No Launch Feedback - when I click an icon to run something, I don't know if it's actually running or whatever. This is a feature I sorely miss from KDE as I just ended up loading 5 file managers as I thought that it wasn't loading!)

In general though, other than the points above, I'm finding Xubuntu a nice clean distro. Looks wise, I haven't had to change anything, as I do with kubuntu (what's with those squished title bar buttons?) and it all looks nice clean crisp and fresh.

It's a nice Distro. I think I may look at using it on some of my other machines in the future, even if it is GTK-app based, it's still a nice alternative.

A case of mistaken identity?

I just recieved a pingback for my latest blog post from

It seems that they think I'm someone called Randy Charles Morin.

I like the name, I think I might use it.

It's nice to be syndicated :D even if I don't get credit for my work

Open Wifi Access

Recently, Baz blogged about 2 people being arrested for using other people's wifi for free access.

I actually read this in the Metro on the bus on the way home today, and I think it's ludicrous. OK, some people don't like it, but then most if not all Wireless Devices have the ability to use something along the lines of WEP/WPA etc. Surely, you can either blame the people setting up the wireless router for not setting it up in a secure way, or blame the manufacturers for not getting across the point of how WEP/WPA are good, and should be enabled? I can find a basic description in my routers manual, which doesn't explain what these technologies are, just where to type in a key in the routers configuration screen.

I purposely leave my wireless open to the public (allbeit with traffic shaping so that my bandwidth doesn't get molested!) And so far, have had 7 "visitors" with one actually taking the time out to research who I was and email me telling me I had an open access point, and how to fix it. How kind of them, but I replied and explained to them what I was doing.

I urge anyone out there to have a look at Fon - free wireless for those who share theirs :D Enjoy!

Evolution has Mutated

Every now and then, I go through my junk folder in Evolution, and check it for any emails that should have got to me.

I've just checked it and found that there were more emails that weren't junk in there than were. It's been filtering innocuous emails for no apparent reason, including a couple relating to a Job application I was going for (this was the reason I was checking it today, so luckily I spotted it!)

It's annoying when spam filters get too smart though. It's things like this that make me start wanting to use fetchmail/procmail, so that only the stuff I want marked as junk gets marked as junk.

Ah well, it's easy enough to turn off Evolution's Junk mail filtering.

RSS, supybot and utf8

So, it seems that the issues I've been having with Lethargy are because supybot is not by default utf8 compliant. Meaning that it wont pick up RSS feeds that are.

Zeth Green came up with the following solution

<+zeth> back up that file
<+zeth> sudo cp -a /usr/bin/supybot /root/
<+zeth> you see the line import sys
<+zeth> after that add these 2 line
<+zeth> reload(sys)
<+zeth> sys.setdefaultencoding('utf-8')
<+zeth> then restart Lethargy and see what happens :-)

Well, it worked, now if only I could find the supybot bugtracker

<+zeth> that is why those Launchpad people have a point
<+zeth> One bugtracker to rule them all

I totally agree

Source Guru returns

So, after a few issues with Paypal (damn them!) I've finally managed to be able to actually send my payment(s) for my VPS, and it has now returned.

Over the years, I've been hosted in many places, from Tripod, to Freedom2surf, to lyximer (man, I miss that place!) enhosting, one&one, and now to bitfolk and over all that time -I've used many a different Control Panel (except for lyximer - those were the good old days of getting down and dirty with the configuration files)

Well anyway, in Source Guru's past implementation, I used ISPConfig which did exactly what I wanted, to an extent. It automated the creation of new domains, including mail, DNS etc etc. However, it lacked in a few features. It was horridly coded, and well, cause me more hassle than was worth (espescially when trying to upgrade)

So, now I'm using webmin, usermin, and virtualmin, and I'm surprised at how well Webmin actually interfaces with the config files actually on your server. You can add as many obscure settings as you want and webmin either recognises them, or just leaves them alone.

Unfortunately, It's still not up to scratch, for me probably more than most. As I'm hosted by bitfolk I have access to 5 other DNS secondaries. It's nice to know that you'll be able to access your DNS even if things go wrong. However, using VirtualMin to create sites (for things like Realist Anew) it doesn't actually create the proper Nameserver records, meaning that the Secondary Nameservers won't take the transfer requests.

If I use Webmin's DNS settings to create it, I can add in a nice bit that will add all the nameservers for me, but it seems that Virtualmin doesn't interface with this! Gah!

So well, yeah, it's getting down and dirty again in the config files to make things work (Many thanks to Andy Smith for helping me out with this one)

Anyways, other than a nice swap death, my server's been up and playing nicely, now I just need to import all the old websites I had on there!

But it does lead me to want to start making my own "Control Panel" software ... ... ...

*lets out a sigh of relief*

Ok, so not that long ago, I had to reinstall Kubuntu (we won't explain why here! - I'm too ashamed to tell!)

Anyway, I installed Kubuntu Dapper, and that all worked fine. However, after upgrading to Feisty, I had a strange problem, I no longer had an English Keyboard layout, and I couldn't change it.

So, I put up with it, after searching the ubuntu forums and realising a couple of people had a similar issue to me, thinking it was a bug.

Today, however, it really got to me (again, not something I wan't to explain why)

So, I started bitching on IRC.

Again, as usual, my bitching and ranting and raving was unfounded. (sort of) The code WAS right in feisty, but for some reason, had been removed from my system. Grr.... I guess that the upgrade path is broken somewhere (seeing as I had to have about 3 attempts to do the upgrade with modding a couple of init scripts to just return true as they were giving me huge headaches! (one of the font updating things I believe))

But yeah, It's fixed now, and much thanks to Colin Watson for pointing out that the file was in the package, as if it wasn't for that, I wouldn't have thought to just

sudo apt-get install --reinstall xkb-data

So I'm now back on a UK keyboard, and after using it for a month as a US keyboard, am now having difficulty switching back!

I should switch to dvorak, and just make my life even more confusing :D

So... a MAME'ing we go.

For a while now, I've wanted to make a MAME Cabinet, being inspired by MAKE magazine and also Michael Erskine's appearance at LUGRadio Live 2006 with his MAME cabinet.

So, well, I've just been chatting to the guy who runs my local gaming cafe and he has a Konami cabinet that was used for playstation games which he's trying to get rid of. (unfortunately, I can't find any information about it online!)

It's got the perfect sizes for a PC to be put in the back, hooked up with a couple of Playstation-stylee controllers and loaded up with MAME.

 It could be fun... I just need to know where to start.

 Getting an old PC to host would be a start... anyone got one they want to donate?


Trying to update my control panel software (Manages stuff like email websites etc, etc) and I get this

checking whether the C++ compiler (gcc   ) works... no
configure: error: installation or configuration problem: C++ compiler cannot create executables.

Kind of annoying, yes.

 But even more annoying that it then went on to delete my current (working) copy of My control panel.

Luckily everything works, I just have to do things manually until I can get this fixed

Katapult release + annoying ISPs

Last night, I released katapult, which is mainly a bugfix release, but well, It's a release!

We now have katapult working with amarok >=1.4.2 (and with < 1.4.2 still too!)

It was annoying, however, when my ISP decided to drop my connection for half an hour in the middle of pushing the files out to sourceforge.

See The Katapult website for more details.

Packages will be available soon for feisty and sid

Novell + Microsoft - My POV

First of all, before I start writing, I need to state the following.

This blog is published on Novell affiliated website(s) This post does in no way represent the view of Novell/Microsoft or any of their employees, and is only my own personal opinion on this subject.

For those of you who haven't already read, Novell and Microsoft have entered into 3 agreements of Collaboration between the companies. See here for more info

The way I see it is yes, this is a good thing in general for Linux. With Microsoft actively participating in the collaboration between open source and Windows, it can only be a good thing, finally, we will be able to integrate Windows and Linux clients seamlessly, they'll work together, and everything will be groovy.

For SUSE Enterprise customers.

Yes, this will bring technical advances and help with the proliferation of Linux, undoubtedly, but - the way the Press Release and FAQ are written, it seems to me that Novell and Microsoft will be working hand in hand to exclude anyone outside their customer bases from using anything that will come from this collaboration.

Novell, up to this point to me have seemed to make huge steps into the Open Source Market, making a lot of contributions in lots of projects, but with this announcement, it now seems that they just want themselves to benefit, not the rest of the FLOSS community. Do we really want Novell to become the "Microsoft" of Linux? Monopolising on the things that are going to get the paying customers to use their Products? I remember a quote from an interview with Novell's Greg Mancusi-Ungaro in LXF which was this

Well, if we ever woke up one day and said 'Wow, Novell is the Microsoft of Linux' or 'Red Hat is the Microsoft of Linux', then the Linux movement would be over.

I totally agree, but to me, it looks like this is a step in that direction for Novell.

By the way, feel free to flame me^W^Wcomment, I'd love to hear other people's opinions on this


I just discovered a neat little app called "Pandora"

This app loads in a web browser and asks you for an artist name or a song title - and then goes and finds different music for you through the "Music Genome Project"

It's a very cool app - and free to use ;) It's already introduced me to 2 bands who I want to go out and buy the albums of ;)


I've finally.... after god knows how long, got my internet sorted out at home.

Thanks to the guys at WebTapestry for providing excellent support and Internet access where others said they couldn't

Also thanks to neuro for recommending them.

Expect to see more of me around the net now ;)

Oh, and it was nice when I opened my router to see a copy of the GPL staring up at me

Wouldn't it be nice...

If life had tab completion... ?

Telephone Preference Service

I've just had to sign up to the Telephone Preference Service, after, 1 hour after having my new phone line fitted at my new place, I recieved a marketing call, and then another from the same company an hour later.

The installation guy must have tipped them off it was ok to call :P

And now to sort out my problems with my ISP

Web Host Annoyances

It seems my web host has taken it upon itself to, instead of displaying generic ErrorDocuments, to display ErrorDocuments with Adverts in.

This - I am not happy with, and I'm sure is illegal for them to do (generating revenue from every customer's site who hasn't set a custom 404 page!)

 To see what I mean - see here.

 I think this is totally wrong and unethical. I've been thinking of changing hosts for a while now anyway, and this is now just something that tops it. I will be moving.

I used to think that 1and1 were a reputable company. Now I do not, and I will be writing to them in the near future to express my disgust at this outrage.


The other day, I walked into a local computer shop as I needed to buy a few components, after a while, I got chatting to the Sales Girl, and the talk moved to Linux. she said she was trying out linux on her laptop, and I asked her what she was using

"Oh, 'K-ubuntu'"

"Really? I help with the development of that" (not true of late - but hey!)

"Wow - I've met someone famous"

People changing things that don't need changing

Recently, Amarok decided to change the way they store URL's in it's database, meaning that it's now a PITA to try and get a song to play, as for some reason - they all now start with ./ - instead of just /.

 So now I have to go hacking away to make katapult use the proper URLs. This is going to be even more fun as it will also need to detect the version of amarok. - Yay!

 Lets just hope KURL::isRelativeURL (const QString &_url) works well enough to determine the type of path amarok is returning ;)

Linux at work

For those of you who don't know me... You may be surprised to find out that I actually have a real Job.

 I'm a dealer. No - not the drug kind, I work in a casino. Gala Casino in Birmingham in fact.

Anyway - today - I'm sitting there, dealing a game of roulette, when all of a sudden, the "winning number display" crashes. Leaving an xterm on screen.

Considering that most of our electronic gaming equipment is supplied by the same manufacturer, I'd assume that they're all running Linux... Which means - that, at work - I'm surrounded by Linux.

I'm actually surprised by the quality of how everything is linked in together, including the "table top" display (a big table which shows a 3D rendering of the roulette wheel). These are all linked to Smart Card Cash terminals... it's pretty amazing how linux is being used. I'm happy to see it being used in a way other than just for servers. Rock on ACE systems!

Thankyou James

For this - just the things I've been wanting on the supermirror since I started using it (2 weeks ago!)

The Ubuntu Community - my POV

Recently Scott James Remnant blogged about his leaving of the Debian Project.

Reading this, I was sad to read how he felt that Debian's conduct to Ubuntu Developers was wrong, and partly, I agree. But I would also like to say that although there are certain individuals within the Debian Community who are VERY anti-ubuntu, a LOT of them are not. I've found quite a few Debian Developers who are more than willing to help out, and although I get shot down sometimes in #debian-devel, and yes, I do ask a lot of stupid questions in a lot of stupid places, generally, the Debian community isn't as elitist as many people think.

I also think that, although it doesnt come across a lot, the Ubuntu Community can come across as pretty elitist to. From my own experiences, I've seen a lot of elitism, there are people who will (no names mentioned) shoot down people for not being the "brightest" of the bunch.

The thing I ask is that everyone remembers that there are new people coming to Linux all the time. There are people from ubuntu who want to try something a little different, and want to try debian, there are people (like me) who want to contribute to both Debian and Ubuntu (but, unlike me, give up trying after their first bad experience of the "inter-distro" tension).

The Ubuntu community on the whole does a superb job in welcoming new people to the fold, as shown by Pete Savage's latest blog. However, in some cases, it falls below par, just as a lot of other places do (as shown by a coment on Pete Savage's blog).

I'd like to see  more people working towards helping new users get into Linux. There's a wealth of people out there who just need a little help, and by giving them that little help, they're more likely to contribute back in the future.

A few of you may know about the "New User Network" in ubuntu -  this is a team of "mentors" set up to help new users come to grips with Ubuntu, and Linux. Recently, it was featured on I implore everyone reading this who wants to help increase the friendliness of the Ubuntu Community, whether you be a new user yourself, or an old hack, to join the NUN. It's a great project, and it's growing rapidly, and I like to think we're making a difference.

If you're interested in joining, feel free to talk to myself or nalioth on IRC, or join #ubuntu-nun, or make a post to the ubuntu-nun mailing list

Anyway, that's my rambling over... now go read some more geek blogs

Hooked on technorati

I know I'm a bit behind on the band wagon, but I've fallen in love with Technorati. Basically, I was playing around with Opera Mini on my Samsung D600... and found that it had a search feature for Technorati.

Now, knowing vaguely what Technorati is - I decided to snoop around a little, and find out what people had been blogging about Katapult... just to be nosy.

Well - after reading through a few blog posts about Katapult, (and finding we have a lot of spanish fans) I started reading some links from blogs that were writing about katapult, and well - I was browsing round the blogosphere for a while... 3 hours in fact. OK, so this bought my mobile phone bill up a little (darn high GPRS charges), but well... It was great. I fell in love with technorati.

I've claimed my blog, and hope to be tagging my blog posts from now on.

Web 2.0 isn't all it's hyped up to be, but some tools, like technorati, are just worth looking at.

Goodbye Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin, the famous crocodile hunter died this morning, aged 44, off the north coast of Australia. He was stung in the left side of his chest by a Sting Ray. His wife, terry, was hiking through the southern mountains of Australia at the time, and police had to be dispatched by helicopter to inform her of her loss.
Having actually met steve, i feel this is a huge loss to the world. He will be missed, but hopefully his team at Australia Zoo will carry on his work, and his legacy

I'm heading back

A while back, I wrote a post saying that I'd be away for some time.

I'm happy to say that within the next few weeks I'll be heading back and resuming my role(s) under the many projects I've undertaken.

At the moment, there are a few things that I definately need to get up to date on. And they're my priorities.

  • Katapult - This needs a little love and attention, the bzr branches syncing with SVN and a few other things.
  • Backports - It was slightly annoying while I was away reading a tutorial someone wrote in a magazine and reading the words "and the ubuntu backports repositories gave no help either". I want to get this running again. I'm going to be badgering people to get on with working on things that need to be done (sorting out soyuz to do the backports mainly) so that backports can be back to what it used to be
  • New User Network - it seems while I've been away that nalioth has done a lot of good work on the NUN... including #ubuntu-classroom and getting an article on While he's done good work, I need to get up to scratch with what's going on and fix things
  • Email - I've got a ton of unread email sitting in my inbox(es) which I need to catch up on. If you've sent me anything important lately please re-send it... I may just have to do a bulk delete (when I last checked there were 12,000 emails waiting)

Well. If you need me, I'll be around on IRC... I hope to be hearing from you all soon, and hopefully not people moaning at me to fix things.

We're off to see the Wizards

I'm off to LUGRadio Live 2006Well, I'm off to see some wizards anyway.

On Saturday, I'm going to be hopping on a bus and heading on over to Wolverhampton to go see four large gents and a load of geeks make fools of themselves.

For those of you who don't know what it is LUGRadio Live is an annual event driven by, and for the Open Source community. The event includes a range of speakers, exhibitors and other attractions, all housed within a unique event with a unique atmosphere.

Specifically, it's an Open Source community conference... but it's a little more... relaxed than most. If you've ever listened to any of the LugRadio shows - then you should know what kind of things will happen. Mainly lots of swearing and getting drunk.

I'm going to be helping out on the KDE/Kubuntu Stand - hence the "exhibiting" button. I'm also helping with the A/V work (filming talks etc) and hopefully running the GPG Keysigning BoF. Plus I'm sure i'll be doing other things - I always seem to volunteer to help out.

Anyway - if anyone's going to be there - feel free to come over and say hi at the Kubuntu Stand and have a chat!

More on LUGRadio Live

Due to unforseen circumstances

I am taking a "vacation" from all things linux.

I don't know how long this will last - but i'll still be around in an emergency.

I'll be contacting people in the next few days to delegate jobs etc to them.

I hope I'll be back soon - but I can't promise anything.

I'm still off to LUGRadio Live 2006 though

By popular demand

The source code for Cheese Nibbles... available under GPL

On another note - I've made friends with a couple of badgers .... they let me stroke them this morning

Time to blink I think

Since my last blog post - I've been having a random conversation with somebody through the thing I created.

It's been random... very random.... though - apparently it's someone who I've met in person - so at least it isn't a cyber-stalker.

If anyone knows somene who went to UBZ with a .fi domain name, let me know please? :P


It's not often that I get so bored I start actually doing something.

Usually, I'll just end up moaning and whining at people on [Insert name of preffered IM protocol here]

But, you know - I actually did something today. Nothing that's really of any use to anyone... and nothing that's really worthwhile for anything other than my own personal amusement - but hey - I took an hour or so - I hacked away - I played around a little, and this is what I came up with - Impressive huh? Didn't think so - but it kept me amused for a while. As I hope will some of the comments that are left :D

 However, in writing the code, it did take me on a trip down memory lane, back to when I first got into web programming. My first ever website I set up over on tripod, back when I was learning HTML and thought marquee's were cool. (though thankfully I never thought flashing text was!)

Back then - one of the websites I visited regularly was dogbomb (NSFW) - and I still do - on occasion - it has a couple of interesting forums I enjoy reading through (particularly the jokes forum - check it out) and has a few.... how shall I say... intriguing (?) topics on there.

Anyway - I've strayed from the point. Way back then - Simon (the webmaster) had a little thing you could click on and change a bit of writing on his main page, which I found very very cool (remember I was a newbie back then). He called this graffitti. Well, being the eager little beaver I was... I wanted it. I wanted it for my own, and, that's how I got into it - I pored the web, yahoo searched, and eventually taught myself perl, and managed to get my own copy up and working. Of course, being a "featured site" at the time on dogbomb, I got a hell of a lot of abuse for "ripping" the code, but - I knew that I'd done it all myself - not stolen anything and well.... I was proud - it was the first time I'd sat down and programmed anything decent (apart from a few really basic RPGs on my old MSX!) and then I started getting into other things - forum software etc etc etc etc.

It all led me to where I am today.

Thing is - with all the innovations already being made - what can we do except copy them? Ok. it may be a different way of doing the same thing, but if it wasnt for the fact that there are so many restrictive licences, patents, etc etc out there, then surely we wouldn't need all this re-making of things.... GnuPG and PGP for example... I don't see the point in any of it. Which is why I advocate Open Source Software. Lets all work together instead of duplicating effort - and maybe we can move faster!

"Could you please just step away from the computer sir?"

A phrase I've only ever heard once before today, which was when Igot frustrated at a camper in UT2004 :D

 Anyways, in the process of moving home, and some other stuff going on, I no longer have access to the net from home anymore. So I decided this morning I'd go to an Internet Cafe up the road from me. Well - it was closed - apparently it doesn't open till 11am (which sucks) - so I went to the one about 3 doors away from that.

 Well anyway, after about 5 mins (logging into gmail - and a site which I'm ashamed to admit I've gotten addicted to lately -MySpace) in walk the police, and ask to see the owner. Then ask me to back away from the computer. I'm wondering what the **** is going on.

 Apparently, they had a warrant to search the computers for child pornography, and after checking my background, to make sure i wasn't a wanted criminal, they let me go.

Interesting though - I'm going to see if I can make some money out of it by setting them up a dansguardian proxy or similar ;)

Nominet amuses me

Years ago, I registered a couple of domain names with some random register, and nominet contacted me regarding one of those ( and sent me a certificate of registration for the domain. That was the only one they sent me anything for.

 Recently, I've registered a few new domains with my new host, one of them being (currently nothing there - so no point in going)

Well, anyway, this morning (3 months after registering the domain) I recieve a letter from nominet, asking me to go to their website and confirm my details so that they can send me a certificate of registration.

Uber weird. It seems to me that nominet look through the domain registrations and anything that might seem like it could be a "business" domain they contact so that the business can have a shiny bit of paper saying that yes, they own the domain, and no - cyber-squatters not allowed.

 What amuses me the most is the fact that I won't actually be using the domain for anything business-like - I'm planning to set up a satirical site for "dealers" of "illegal substances". Ok, it's going to be a joke website, but nominet obviously must think I'm on about car dealers or similar. lol. Well... it's nice they do that - but why only for some domains not others?


So... First of all - I'd like to say a big welcome back to \sh, who, after all his problems, seems to be getting his life back on track. Good luck with it Stephan, and I hope it all goes well.

Anyways, back to me ... I've been having a few problems of late, and it's starting to get interesting. I've got a few health issues going on - and well - they're not good... I'm currently having to wait for tests, and for test results and stuff - and all the waiting has gotten to me.

Anyway, due to all of this stuff - I've decided to make a fresh start with my life... Once I've paid off my rent and got my new house sorted out (my current lease ends at the end of the month - so I should be moving in with my friends once that's over - buig mad rush to find a place before June now), I'm going to start making a few changes to myself.

First of all, I'm going to start contributing a lot more than I have been of late to both ubuntu, and other FOSS projects. I've not really been doing much lately, and I want to start contributing again, to get back that sense of accomplishment that I had when I was working back on breezy, and of course, I want edgy to be uber cool. Katapult is coming along in leaps and bounds of lates (when we get together and work) and I think that with a little hard work, and a lot of patience, we can make it up to an application that rivals the functionality of Quicksilver.

I'm also looking into moving out to America at some point in the future... Probably around this time next year. Thing is - I either need to convince my Company to let me transfer over there, or find another company to sponsor me for a Visa... At the moment, I'm currently eligible for an E3 Visa, if I can convince the company - but I don't know - we'll have to see. So, if anyone out there wants to offer me a job (preferably in the Daytona area (for personal reasons)) feel free to get in contact with me - (martin (at) sourceguru (dot) net)

 Anyway, I'm just writing this to kill time before I head off to work, and my bus should be arriving soon, so well - I guess I'll go.

 And for those who read my post about Spam .... well - it's nothing compared to the amount of email I've had in the past 3 weeks where I haven't been on my own PC - I just checked it through webmail and I have just under 19,000 emails waiting for me. I think it may be time to turn off my mailing list subscriptions temporarily :D


106 Comments awaiting Moderation on my blog today.

 Guess how many of them weren't spam.....


Yes, that's right. Two... It's nice to know that these bots are here trying to sell drugs, online poker, and porn sites through my blog.

 It's amazing what people are like nowadays - it's just stupid. Spam should be in an easily filterable form and email only... or just non-existant.

 Now to hack away a little to auto-delete these comments - unless anyone knows of a nice Wordpress plugin that'll do it for me ?

Headache's a-coming

I've just been given some info that I think is going to cause me MASSIVE headaches for a few weeks...

I best get stocking up on the pain killers ;)

Loss of functionality... again

For some reason - Mozilla Thunderbird has decided to not allow me to send emails anymore.- or at least it wont allow a Message composition to be opened.

Apparently it's something cocked up in my prefs.js file... If anyone can see something wrong in it - please let me know ... here it is
My Prefs.js

It's very very very very annoying - espescially cause i cant see anything wrong myself.

Loss of functionality

Isn't it annoying when you use an app for about a year - and then they go and upgrade, and remove one of the useful shortcuts that you've always used?

The reason I first decided not to use konqueror as my primary Web browser was the fact that when I middle clicked a tab, it didn't close the tab - but tried to open whatever was in your clipboard as a URL. I found this very... very annoying...

Now, firefox has gone and changed and does the same thing - so now I have no way of quickly middle clicking a tab to close it. Which just ... p**ses me off. It's the thing in firefox that always saved me the most time. I'm very annoyed at losing this functionality - but meh - I guess I have to live with it.

More on malone

I have to agree with Mark's latest blog post regarding launchpad being able to open bugs in other bugzillas... There's been a couple of times when I've wanted to open a bug in Debian through launchpad - as It would be easier to do it that way.

However, I've thought of another solution. I'd love to see bugzilla adopt some sort of "Global" account system - where you can use your bugzilla account from one bugtracker in another. Sort of the way openID and Jabber do things - the whole account@bugzilla. This would then open up the doors to be able to cross post the same bug across many bugzillas.

I believe this is similar to what launchpad intends to do eventually - however - I think it would be better as native bugzilla code.

I mean - one centralised "bugzilla" may be good... but - a distributed bugzilla would be even better

Need for malone to be adopted

Ok, so not too long back a couple of us managed to thrash out a bug in katapult, and found out it was due to qt-immodule returning errorneous data. So - we fixed it in ubuntu - and sent the patch into debian.

Well now, it seems like katapult is hitting this problem in every single other Linux Distro, because people are starting to adopt qt-immodule.

I've just spent half an hour filing bugs in every major linux distro's bugzillas regarding this issue. What an annoyance.

From what I've spoke with Mark about Malone ( - it seems that Malone would be the best thing since sliced bread for bug reporting. But only if everyone were to adopt it. I could file my bug in ubuntu - say "yep - it's upstream too" and then say "oh, and it's also in gentoo, Mandriva, RedHat, Suse etc etc ... and when the devs from those distros come along and find the bug, they could easily see - "oh - it's been fixed in ubuntu - lets grab the patch from there - and fix it in our distro".

However, this isn't the case at the moment, as the only people who really use malone to it's full potential are ubuntu. And well - it's no good just having us.

Please, anyone who is a developer out there - and has a bugtracker, consider using malone - it makes life so much easier for us people who have to work with so many bugzilla's etc to get a problem in one place fixed everywhere.

iFolder apt Repositories

Thanks muchly to Jorge Castro for Mirroring the apt-repository for iFolder

Add the following lines to your /etc/apt/sources.list to enable

deb dapper main
deb-src dapper main

And this should allow you to use it.

Please report any bugs to the pkg-ifolder product on launchpad

iFolder (again)

So ... after finally getting everything ready for ifolder - I've finally actually made an apt repository for it :D

I have limited bandwidth however, so until Novell decide to mirror it - it'll be restricted.

However, if you wish to grab a copy of iFolder, please feel free to email me and I'll send you the details of the apt repository.

Please note, that this is currently only for ubuntu dapper. I will however, be adding sid, etch, sarge and breezy repositories soon ... well - if they build :D

oh yeah - mez _AT_ ubuntu _DOT_ com

On a slightly different note

I must say - I love the Open Source Community. Only in a place like this could you blog about weird problems with your web server and get a fix commented to your blog post :D


Is it bad that when watching a program about Triplets last night, and a photographer was taking photos of baby triplets that my first thought  was "how cool an "ubuntu circle" photo would that be?"

Over-Zealous Webserver

So, not too long ago - I moved to a different webhosting provider, thinking it'd provide me with everything I needed and more.

Now, I'm sort of wishing I hadn't. It's getting to the point where I'm just thinking that the support people are complete and utter dumbasses.

Now, to start off, I used to use Bazaar ... which is a great Revision Control System - though slightly ancient. Well - back in those times - I was using webdav to post my stuff to my webserver!

Great you might say, except for the fact that to use webdav I had to use my main FTP login. Not good... for security reasons. Meaning I'd have to find another way - or setup webdav slightly differently. So - going onto the support site, I looked through everything, and it seemed that I'd be able to use webdav with Frontpage extensions enabled, using the username and password for that. Did that work? no... so I email support, telling them my situation, the problems, how to get round them usually, what wasn't working, exact errors, debugging info etc. What do they do? send me to the same thing I read before. So I email them back telling them that I've read all that, and I've tried it and it doesn't work, and that I'd actually told them that in the previous email that I'd done so. I get a reply back sending me to random stuff that has nothing to do with webdav at all.

So, I give up on that line.

I then start using Bazaar-NG - hoping that the next generation stuff would be useful for me. After managing to set it up and get it all running over the slow sftp connection provided... I then get people reporting that they can't get the archive. After a lil chat with the bzr people, I finally find out it's because my webserver is being over zealous - for a file called bla.bla.bla.sig that doesn't exist, it's returning an error 300 saying "bla.bla.bla.sig doesnt exist, but bla.bla.bla does"... meaning that Bazaar-NG doesnt know what to do... and falls over.
Yay I say to myself. Yay.

I've just emailed support asking if they know how to switch that off... because technically it can be a security
risk. If anyone knows - please tell me! It has to be done through a .htaccess though..

*sighs* lets hope the fact that this is on a couple of planets saves my ass and gets me through
this nightmare, because I doubt that the support will come up with anything useful

iFolder on Ubuntu

Ever since I first got involved in iFolder - I've never managed to get Simias to build properly inside a chroot.

A sense of overwhelming achievement came across me today when I finally had this happen

dpkg-genchanges: including full source code in upload
dpkg-buildpackage: full upload (original source is included)
Copying back the cached apt archive contents
-> unmounting dev/pts filesystem
-> unmounting proc filesystem
Current time: Tue Feb 14 00:22:51 GMT 2006
pbuilder-time-stamp: 1139876571
-> cleaning the build env
-> removing directory /scratch/cache/pbuilder/build//21686 and its subdirectories

Ok, so everything may not be cool - I've just realised there are some thing in libsimias0 that should be in libsimias-dev - but hey - that's the smallest issue I've ever had.

You have NO idea how ... relieved this has made me feel. To finally have an actual fully built simias package. I'm really hoping that this is the final step - that I don't come across anything else. Because, for those of you who've been following my struggle with iFolder over the past x months will know it hasn't been a pretty one. Much to the fact that the Novell Code/my packaging have always been at a stage where they disagree with each other... but now they finally agree... now - onto iFolder itself... which is currently building nicely... lets just hope it'll build in a chroot ;)

*crosses fingers and hopes*

Gotta love those launchpad guys

I was browsing through launchpad and came across this beauty

What? it made me grin - ok?

iFolder stuff

So, the last couple of days I've hopped back onto the iFolder train - and have been doing a lot of work.

It's quite a scary program really... It's got so much stuff in it.

I've found that to have a basic iFolder Server install it's 36Mb ... big eh ?

Anyways - things are going good - I've got libflaim (new and open sourced) built :D and well - the other package (log4net) seems to being wubbed in debian - so will appear for dapper+1 in ubuntu - and debian pretty soon (theres no way I can get iFolder into dapper easily - so I'm not going to try!)

But yeah - hopefully we'll see some nice iFolder packages being made in the near future - and it's going to add 4 packages to my list of packages I maintain in debian - yay! (and erk!)

Hopefully - I'll get a sponsor pretty easily for it - the debian mono team are uber people - and have helped me a lot - plus - It seems a DD is already interested in packaging it - so well - should be able to work with him.

Kudos to the iFolder people though - they work hard on bringing you the best they can - and well - they're alot better at working with the community than some other projects are :D

Anyhoo - well - I hope Jorge will be happy about all this.

Gah - now I just need to get my website sorted out :D

Katapult 0.3.1

Well... it's been a long time in the coming - but we've finally managed to make the first release of katapult - a program we stole from another developer (with his permission of course) and developed specifically for kubuntu.

The Feedback for it has been outstanding so far (see the page on and it seems to be going well. It's amazing how such a simple program can be so useful.

I'm glad to be part of the katapult team. It's great to be able to help people, and it's a very cool application - I find it very hard when it's not around (when I was in windows the other day - I tried to run firefox - I tried alt+space, alt+f2 alt+f1 before I finally realised it was windows and none of those shortcuts worked!) It's amazing how dependent I've become upon it.

Anyway - I can't wait for the next release - hopefully it'll be even more uber than this one :D

Oh yeah - and hopefully we'll be seeing it as my first debian package soon too ;)

New Server, New Blog

Well, seeing as I've had a few problems lately regarding my web host - I've decided to change host.

I'm now on a new host - and therefore, am starting a new blog... Lets hope it goes well