Category: General


So, my Rasperry Pi finally arrived last Thursday, just in time for me to spend some quality time with it whilst on my holidays. Here it is in all it’s glory.

My lovely Pi

So far I’m impressed for a PC that costs just £30 including delivery. Admittedly, you need a few extras to get things working, but happily I got a double pack of 8GB SD cards from PC world for just £13, each of which is more than enough to store either the Debian or Arch distros that are available. And since I already had HDMI and ethernet cables, plus a Samsung mobile phone charger that provides just the right amount of power, my costs were kept down even further.

Although everything worked out of the box, there was one thing I did have to do to make the HDMI work properly.

On the first and subsequent boot ups, It was obvious that the display was being cut off at the left hand side, and had quite large margins on all the other sides.

After doing some digging, I found that a configuration file was required. Unsurprisingly, it was called ‘config.txt’, and it lives in the /boot/ directory.

There is a really good explanation of all the options to be found here: config.txt options

For me, the options that worked are as follows:

# Set stdv mode to PAL (as used in Europe)

sdtv_mode=2

# Force the monitor to HDMI mode so that sound will be sent over HDMI

cable hdmi_drive=2

# Set monitor mode to CEA

hdmi_group=1

# Set monitor resolution to 1080p 60Hz 

hdmi_mode=16

# Make display smaller to stop text spilling off the screen

#Left Border

overscan_left=8

#Right Border

overscan_right=8

#Top Border

overscan_top=-15

#Bottom Border

overscan_bottom=-15

These options can be copied over exactly to form the basis of your config.txt, but you’ll need to edit the values to suit your particular TV. Yes, the top and bottom values are negative for my set up, otherwise I have a half inch border there. Bear in mind I’m in the UK.

To find out supported modes you’ll need to run the following commands:

/opt/vc/bin/tvservice -m CEA or /opt/vc/bin/tvservice -m DMT.

/opt/vc/bin/tvservice -s will show your current status.

If you get a value wrong, as I did, you can end up with a blank screen. I resolved this by taking the SD card out of my Raspberry Pi, and plugging it into my Linux laptop, and just edited the values there. You can always comment out the lines, or delete/rename config.txt if you need to go back to default.

Bear in mind, I’m just passing on the info, and what you do with it is your responsibility. In other words, if you break your Pi, it’s not my fault.

Good luck, and enjoy your Pi.

 

I’m getting a lot of Russian email addresses logging new user requests. Anybody know how to block specific email domains from registering?

Its VERY annoying!

Ok, so I posted up 12 new entries for my museum pages, and they instantly pushed my most recent posts off the bottom.

I didn’t want the museum stuff to be on the front page, so I tried some exclusion plugins, eventually setting for the Clix category excluder, as it did exactly what I wanted, and adds into the posting mechanism so that I can exclude as I post if needs be.

So all my museum posts are where they should be, and will be getting updated with more info soon.

To ensure my front page is showing all the posts I want it to, for now at least, I increased the number of blogs showing from 10 to 20, and once things are back to normal, since I shall be adding relatively few new pages to the museum, I should be able to drop it back down.

I shall be more careful in future!

Hopefully some new posts will get around it…

I’ve now got some good photos of my retro kit, so will be adding in more pages into the museum. Please be patient, as it will take a little while to get the info that goes with them in place.

Hope you find it interesting.

I’ve had some discussions on forums of late, which have made me think long and hard about the almost religious fervor  some people get into over iPhones in this particular case.

I am an Android user, but I am more than capable of looking at the iPhone and saying ‘Yes, it is a standard setter, and has, and always will be a great piece of industrial design, and does what it does very well’.

Although I have an older model as a spare phone, and my wife has a 3gs, I’ll never go down the route of having one as my primary phone, because as a techie, I love the freedom I get with Android, and the iPhone leaves me a bit cold, because it is too rigid and fixed. I can’t tinker with an iPhone so easily. Oh, and it doesn’t have Flash either, or an easily changed battery. And it has a SIM card that is so small, that if you drop it on a brightly coloured carpet it vanishes for good.

So as a droid user, I can see both sides of the  argument, and am prepared to believe that both devices have pros and cons, and ultimately, its down to the individual to choose the device that best suits their personality.

iPhone users however, seem to be incapable of accepting that both devices have pros and cons, and simply wish to pour damnation on everything remotely droid.

One forum I posted on had an iPhone user saying that droids were laggy, fragmented, malware infested and had no updates, and wouldn’t sync with iTunes. Another described the Market as a cess pool!!

Folks, all I’ll say is this. Look back at the iPhone and it’s recent past, such as antennagate, alarm clocks that won’t recognise summertime, baby shaking apps, flashlight apps with hidden tethering, and a serious WiFi security bug in the iPhone 3g, that won’t be fixed because support has ceased. Not much consolation for those with a year or two old iphone 3g.

Back in 2009, which is not that long ago people, Apple had to close around 46 bugs in iOS, some of which were serious security vulnerabilities.

There has been malware in both the App Store and the Android Market.

Apple is no more perfect than Android, they are just better able to put a spin on things, and divert our attention away from the bad things by launching new, sexy things just when something bad happens.

When comparing an iPhone to an Android handset, don’t compare with a handset that is way down in the specs. Make sure you’re comparing Apples with Apples (So to speak).

Get your facts right. Android gets updates, and some manufacturers do this over the air, rather than having to plug into iTunes to get them. I can also choose from a selection of ROMS to install on my phone at any time I choose.

Oh, and finally, both my HTC Desire and Samsung Galaxy Tab can sync to iTunes.

So if you are an Apple fanboy, and you want to slag off Android you’d better:

  1. Get your facts right.
  2. Don’t be standing in a glass house.

Try and see both sides.

Reminds me of a long time ago when my friends and I owned things like a Sinclair Spectrum, CMB64, Atari 800 and all those other long lost home computers, when the ‘My Computer Is Better Than Your Computer’ argument raged on.

Except then it was much better natured. Sighs….

I’ve just added Disqus functionality to the site, and it was pretty easy too.

You can register your own site at disqus.com, or register as a user just to make comments on other peoples sites.

Hopefully it’ll stop me loosing track of all the various posts I make!!

It’s been such a long time since I last blogged. I thought I’d better get started again.

I shall try to get something posted soon re a comparison of the Android and IOS UI and what I like and dislke about each.

So come. back soon!

Now, I’m a fan of Delicious, and have been for a couple of years now.

Being a techie, it’s been a boon to be able to build up a useful, search-able library of bookmarks that goes where I go, and is not restricted by browser.

So, I am not too happy that Yahoo are planning to ditch it, along with other services.

Now it does seem that Yahoo may be intent on selling it, rather than closing it down, which would be good, but I just have to say that if you do close down Delicious, you are all A BUNCH OF IDIOTS!!!

Now I have just registered with Diigo, and hopefully, I’ll be able to import my bookmarks, now exported from Delicious, in, since Diigo does seem to be a similar service.

So far I haven’t been able to import them, and I’m hoping it’s just because Diigo is swamped with disgruntled Delicious users all importing things in, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I’m also hanging on to my Delicious account by my fingernails, and will continue to use it until it stops working.

Hopefully some kind, huge corporate will buy it up. Fingers crossed, hey.

In the meantime I’d better continue my search for an online bookmark service that has browser integration and an android app!!

Given the time of year, I don’t think Bah Humbug is unreasonable!

Well, it was only a fortnight ago that I was upgrading, and yet again, there’s another WordPress update.

However, in true WordPress style, it was yet again seamless, and my site was updated, including updates to 3 plugins and a DB backup, all within 5-10 minutes.

I guess that is one of the benefits of hosting sites on your own webserver, at least you have full access and control to do what is needed.

Rather that than hosting it somewhere else and having to suffer when they go down, as happened to somebody I know who recently moved their blog to Tumblr.

Hosting your own stuff isn’t always a win win, because you have to sort it when it goes wrong, but I’m loving WordPress so far!

I’ve just had a bit of an EEK moment. Quite a big one actually.

I use ZoneEdit.com for my dynamic DNS. When I joined it was free and you got 5 zones free. I also use an application called DirectUpdate, since it supports ZoneEdit.com out of the box, and it is a pretty flexible app.

I hadn’t changed my ZoneEdit password for a while, and since I know it expires I thought I’d better get on to it. So, I changed the password, updated the accounts in DirectUpdate, and imagine my horror when NONE of my DNS was updating.

On looking in to it, I realised that the ZoneEdit site I was using, was now legacy.zoneedit.com, and zonedit.com had a new funky looking site, and my account hadn’t been migrated, and I couldn’t log in.

I managed to solve the problem, though it took a couple of hours that I’d set aside for other things. GRRRR

I solved the problem by editing the DirectUpdate config file belonging to Zonedit.com, located in the dns folder within the DirectUpdate installation. It was called ZoneEdit.com.dud, and I had to change it to be the following, items in red are what I changed (Yes, I took a backup of it first!):

[Info]
Name=legacy.ZoneEdit.com
TargetHost=1
Version=1
CLSID={8DCDE204-FAEB-47df-A0ED-7EE7340BA7BB}
Home=http://legacy.zoneedit.com/
Signup=http://legacy.zoneedit.com/signup.html?
Features=0x0158
Fields=0x0095
[Update]
BasicAuth=1
Server=dynamic.zoneedit.com
Path=/auth/dynamic.html?
Data=host=*domain*&dnsto=*IP*&type=A*extra1*
Offline=1,&park=,1,0
[Return]
; format is “Retx=error,flags,extra,string”
; see http://legacy.zoneedit.com/doc/dynamic/ReturnCodes.txt
Size=8
Ret0=0x00000000, 0, 0,SUCCESS CODE
Ret1=0x81830068, 1, 0,ERROR CODE=”701″ TEXT=”Zone is not set up in this account.”
Ret2=0x81830077, 1, 0,ERROR CODE=”702″ TEXT=”Update failed.”
Ret3=0x8183006B, 1, 0,ERROR CODE=”703″ TEXT=”one of either parameters ‘zones’ or ‘host’ are required.”
Ret4=0x81830067, 1, 0,ERROR CODE=”704″ TEXT=”Zone must be a valid ‘dotted’ internet name.”
Ret5=0x81830067, 1, 0,ERROR CODE=”705″ TEXT=”Zone cannot be empty”
Ret6=0x01830066, 0, 0,ERROR CODE=”707″ TEXT=”Duplicate updates for the same host/ip, adjust client settings”
Ret7=0x8183006F, 2, 300,ERROR CODE=”707″ TEXT=”Too frequent updates for the same host, adjust client settings”

I’ve also emailed ZoneEdit support, using the email address on the new site, asking for an account migration. Hopefully once that’s done, everything will be straight again and I can go back to using the unmodified ZoneEdit.com.dud file.

Furthermore, there seems to be a password length limit, mine was 12 characters and was getting truncated so updates weren’t working, though I’m not sure if this is a Zoneedit issue, or a Direct Update issue. I settled on a shorter password, and updated it where necessary, and all seems to be back to normal.

As a backup plan I now also send an email to my Hotmail and Gmail accounts, so that if the IP address changes, but Zoneedit doesn’t update for some reason, I will at least be able to go and manually update the DNS.

Very annoying indeed!!!

I’d heard a rumour that it is possible to sync your iTunes music with your HTC Desire, using the latest and greatest version of HTC Sync.

So, I went off to HTCs website, and downloaded the software and set about installing it. And it turns out to be true!

I was quite surprised, but not only does music I’ve ripped from CD into iTunes, but also music I’ve purchased will sync and play.

Quite handy really, seeing as I now have my phone with me all the time, and the iPod is permanently attached to the car.

I’m very impressed!!

Well, it’s been a while coming, but finally another emulator has arrived that is this weeks ‘App of the week’.

I grew up with 8Bit computers, starting off with a ZX81, the Spectrum, closely followed by Atari XLs and XEs, and various other less well known machines. Though I was never a CBM64 owner, well at least not until later life, friends had them and got to knew them and the games they played.

For me, the Ataris were better, had more interesting games and add ons, and were, if you knew where to look, surprisingly easy to buy things for.

I still have quite a collection of 8Bit hardware these days, and sometimes fondly retrieve them from the loft for a few days of retro gaming.

So, imagine my joy when I found, in amongst all the Atari 2600 emulators in the marketplace, a full blown Atari 400/800/XL/XE emulator!

I dug out all my old files I used with my PC based 8Bit emulator and copied them over to my Desire, and began to relive my Atari glory days!

Ok, it’s not perfect, and the lack of a soft keyboard is a pain, but it’ll do for now! Off for another session of missile command I think!

Download it and enjoy! Its called Droid800.

I’ve just upgraded to WordPress 3.0.2, and this time it was a smooth and satisfactory upgrade.

The key? Make sure you have the same permissions on the directory where WordPress lives as the user under which the site is run. That way the automated upgrade runs a dream!

If you can’t do that yourself, just follow the manual upgrade instructions that are linked to when the upgrade option appears in your control panel, and be certain you have a DB backup, just in case. Good luck, though with the professional way WordPress does things, I doubt you’ll need it.

I am a self confessed Android fan. As an OS, I’m finding it great to use, and far better than Symbian as my main phone OS.

Not that Symbian is bad. No, Symbian in my eyes is one of the best phone platforms I’ve used. It’s just that I think Android is better.

I have another Android device though, an Eken M001 Android tablet. As far as I can tell, it was one of the first in a batch of Droid based tablets, hot on the heels of iPad.

TBH, it isn’t that good. Despite a supposed CPU speed of 900Mhz, it turns out that 600Mhz is closer to the truth. That, and the base OS is just terrible, and like wading through treacle, it’s that sluggish.

However, in the last week or so, I’ve been looking for updated firmware, and came across one called Relax by a coder called LFD. I’ve just installed v 2.0.4, and I’m quite impressed.

Speed is boosted considerably, making it a good deal more smooth, though there is an oddidty that still exists from the original OS, which is that it performs much better in Landscape mode than Portrait.

It isn’t perfect, since the Android Market doesn’t seem to work properly (Nothing Downloads), but I’m sure that given time, this will get resolved, and LFD does provide an alternative marketplace that seems to have quite a lot of apps on it.

You can find LFDs OS here: Relax

If you’re looking for a later version of the original OS, with working Android Marketplace, it can be found here: Eken M001

The later version of the original OS is an improvement, but not quite as nippy as Relax. If I encounter any more options, I’ll post them up here.

To install either OS, simply unpack the zip file and copy the script directory to the root of your SD card and reboot. Be aware this can brick your tablet, and the responsibility is all yours if you do! Make sure you keep the charger plugged in the whole time, just to be on the safe side.

NOTE: I unpacked the script directory, rebooted and nothing happened. Why? the directory structure after the unpack was \script\script. I just had to get rid of the top level directory and all was well. Good luck!

I recently decided to add a forum to my WordPress powered blog, to try and expand a bit, and hopefully after a bit of judicious SEO, try and promote my site a bit more.

I chose Mingle, since it is provided through a simple WordPress plug in, and is therefore very easy to install, you simply download the plugin, follow the simple instructions and suddenly your site also has a forum.

The one gotcha for me though, was that I managed to keep the forum hidden from all but registered users, by putting my forums into a group that had restricted access.

Once removed, I got just what I wanted, which was a forum that could be read by all, but requires registration in order to post.

If you want to add a forum, get Mingle, it really is very simple. You can visit the authors site here: Mingle

I’d certainly recommend it.

I now have Firefox and Opera installed on my Desire. I thought it would be interesting to run the Acid3 test against them, and the standard Android browser. The result was 97/100 for all three browsers, and whilst not top marks is still pretty good. Overall, Opera was fastest, but the on screen rendering looked a bit odd. Firefox and the standard browser gave very similar results, though I felt the image was slightly better quality in Firefox. So, overall, not much to choose between them, though the Opera rendering speed was impressive.

Try the test for yourself here:   http://acid3.acidtests.org/

Well, I’ve just finished adding the new forum area to the site, so if you feel so inclined, please join in and post something interesting or useful.

Just hit the link marked ‘Forum’ at the top of the site.

There aren’t many forums at present, but if you can think of a forum you’d like to see, please post in the Suggestions forum and I’ll see what I can do.

You will need to register initially, and you’ll get an email right away with your password.

We’ll then activate your membership, and off you go.

If you do hit any problems registering, just drop me an email at info@electronicnothingness.co.uk, and I’ll sort you out.

Jon

After performing a number of configuration changes on my server to improve performance, I decided that I wanted to work on performance tuning of my IIS6 install since I host all of my own web sites.

One way of doing this is to enable compression, either globally, or per site. By doing this, content can be compressed by the IIS6 server before being sent, giving savings on bandwidth.

This does rely on support by the web browser being used, but since most do support compression nowadays, it’s well worth doing.

Since I don’t run many sites, I decided to enable compression globally. If you want to do it per site, then look here: Enabling HTTP Compression (IIS6).

So, my first stop was to create a new directory for the compressed files on my D: drive, since I also wanted to move the folder to a new location at the same time. The  default is at ‘C:\WINDOWS\IIS Temporary Compressed Files’, however I didn’t want the folder to be slap bang in the middle of my Windows directory. If you’re creating a new folder for the first time, then make sure the the IIS_WPG user has full control to the folder, and, if you have an identity for your app pool(s), then they will also need full control.

I then opened up IIS Manager, found the folder marked ‘Web Sites’, that contains all my sites, and right clicked on it. I then selected ‘Properties’, and once the dialog box had opened up, located and selected the ‘Service’ tab.

I then checked the boxes ‘Compress Application Files’ (Dynamic compression), and the box marked ‘Compress Static files’.

I also checked the box to restrict the directory size, and chose to restrict it to 100Mb, after which it will clean out the oldest files.

I clicked ‘Apply’, then ‘Ok’, and that was it, compression enabled!

PHP and IIS have not always got on. My last install was hand crafted, and took some time to get the way I wanted, with the extensions I needed etc.

So, I had the need to install PHP for a customer at work, on what was a new, effectively bare install of IIS, and things have improved somewhat.

After a bit of research, I discovered I needed the following:

1. PHP for Windows, found here: PHP for Windows. Recommended was version 5.3.3 VC9 non-thread safe installer. You may also need the Microsoft 2008 C++ Runtime, which is linked to from the same page.

2. Fast CGI for IIS, found here: Fast CGI for IIS. Follow the on screen instructions to install this.

Since it was a clean install, there were no previous versions involved, I simply installed the Microsoft 2008 C++ Runtime which was appropriate for my OS, installed FastCGI, and finally, ran the PHP 5.3.3 installer, selecting FastCGI from the list presented. I also left the installed extensions as the defaults, however you can opt to install more extensions if you so desire.

By selecting FastCGI, the installer will automatically add the .php extension globally to IIS, so any new sites you create will automatically get the .php extension.

Reboot if you need to, and once the server has restarted, create a file in the root of your default website called ‘phpinfo.php’, and edit it so it contains the following:

<?php
phpinfo();
?>

Using a web browser, visit the default site and specify the phpinfo.php file. If PHP is working, this will display several pages of information about PHP. If not, you’ll need to retrace your steps to see what might have gone wrong.

The most usual problem is that the site does not know what to do with the .php extension, so just check and make sure it matches the global one, and if it doesn’t exist for your site, you can add it using the global definition as a reference.

If you are upgrading, the procedure is much the same, except you must uninstall any previous versions before starting. This will mean your sites are down, so be sure to do it when it will have the least impact. I also took a backup of my old PHP directory as a reference before uninstalling

Also, although the global settings for the .php extension will be updated, you will need to check all your PHP enabled sites to ensure the .php settings match the global settings, or your sites may not work correctly.

That’s it. Not too difficult, just take your time and don’t panic!