LUG Community Blogs

Steve Kemp: A transient home-directory?

Planet HantsLUG - Wed, 25/11/2015 - 11:39

For the past few years all my important work has been stored in git repositories. Thanks to the mr tool I have a single configuration file that allows me to pull/maintain a bunch of repositories with ease.

Having recently wiped & reinstalled a pair of desktop systems I'm now wondering if I can switch to using a totally transient home-directory.

The basic intention is that:

  • Every time I login "rm -rf $HOME/*" will be executed.

I see only three problems with this:

  • Every time I login I'll have to reclone my "dotfiles", passwords, bookmarks, etc.
  • Some programs will need their configuration updated, post-login.
  • SSH key management will be a pain.

My dotfiles contain my my bookmarks, passwords, etc. But they don't contain setup for GNOME, etc.

So there might be some configuration that will become annoying - For example I like "Ctrl-Alt-t" to open a new gnome-terminal command. That's configured on each new system I login to the first time.

My images/videos/books are all stored beneath /srv and not in my home directory - so the only thing I'll be losing is program configuration, caches, and similar.

Ideally I'd be using a smartcard for my SSH keys - but I don't have one - so for the moment I might just have to rsync them into place, but that's grossly bad.

I'll be interesting to see how well this works out, but I see a potential gain in portability and discipline at the very least.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Facebook experts: how do I stop all re-shared posts appearing in my feed?

Planet SurreyLUG - Wed, 25/11/2015 - 10:29

I’d like to stop all re-shared posts appearing in my Facebook feed, and only
see newly created content from my contacts. Is this possible?

The post Facebook experts: how do I stop all re-shared posts appearing in my feed? appeared first on life at warp.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Engine stalled yesterday. #ill

Planet SurreyLUG - Wed, 25/11/2015 - 10:20

The problem with being the engine of your business is that, sometimes, engines stall.

Recovering now.

The post Engine stalled yesterday. #ill appeared first on life at warp.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Self-hosting the IndieWeb

Planet SurreyLUG - Tue, 24/11/2015 - 10:15

Discovering the IndieWeb movement was a 2015 highlight for me. It addressed many of my concerns about the direction of the modern internet, especially regarding ownership and control over that data.  But to truly own your own data, self-hosting is a must!

Background: Self-hosting your own stuff

I’m an ideas person. I have a number of projects – or, rather, project ideas – lined up, which I need to record and review. My blog provides me with the ideal space for that, as some ideas may attract the attention of others who are also interested. But why does this matter?

As someone who naturally likes to share experiences and knowledge, I see no benefit in not sharing my ideas too. After all, the web is all about sharing ideas. This matters to me, because the web is widely regarded as the most valuable asset civilised society has today (aside from the usual – like natural resources, power, warmth and sustenance)!

Owning your own data

As a small business owner, I sometimes benefit from various common business practices. For example, the standard accounting principle of straight-line depreciation means that after several years, capital assets once purchased by the business have little-to-no use for the business, meaning they become potential liabilities (both in the financial and risk-management sense). This means I am able to get hold of used, good-condition computing hardware of 4-5 years old at very little cost.


Even 10 year old servers still make for good general purpose machines. I’ll be using one of these for this blog, soon.  Expect plenty of caching!


This is useful for me, as a blogger and an IndieWeb advocate, as I can not only publish and manage all my own data, but also physically host my own data too. As I have fibre broadband running to my house, it’s now feasible to serve my blog as reasonable speeds with 10-20 Mib/sec upstream (“download speed” to you), which is sufficient for my likely traffic and audience.

This ties in nicely with one of my core beliefs, that people should be able to manage all their own data if they choose. I am technically competent enough, and have the meants at my disposal to do it. So why not!

Another driver towards this is that I wish to permanently separate “work” and “pleasure”. My business web hosting and cloud service is for my customers. Yes, we host our own web content as a business, but personal content? Well, in the interests of security and vested interests, I am pushing towards making  personal content something that is only hosted for a paying customer.

Of course, I would encourage anyone to start their own adventure self-hosting too!

Many bridges to cross

Naturally, taking on this type of arrangement has various challenges attached. Here is a selection of the tasks still to be achieved:

  • Convert some space in house for hosting
    • Create a level screed
    • Sort out wiring
    • Fire detection/resistance considerations
    • Power supply (e.g. UPS)
    • Physical security
  • Get server cabinet & rack it up
  • Configure firewall(s)/routing accordingly
  • Implement back-up – and possibly failover – processes
Step one: documentation

Whilst I am progressing these endeavours, it would be remiss if I didn’t document them. There is a lot to be said for the benefits (to a devop, anyway) of hosting one’s own sites and data, but naturally my blog must carry on while I am in the process of building its new home.

A quick jiggle around of my site’s menu structure will hopefully clarify where you can see this work, going forwards (hint, check the projects menu).

Taking it from here

If you are interested in hosting your own servers and being in direct control over your content/data, why not subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed or subscribe by email (form towards footer). Or if you have comments, just “Leave a Reply” beneath!

The post Self-hosting the IndieWeb appeared first on life at warp.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Mick Morgan: christmas present

Planet ALUG - Mon, 23/11/2015 - 19:12

Like most people in the UK at this time of the year I’ve been doing some on-line shopping lately. Consequently I’m waiting for several deliveries. Some delivery companies (DHL are a ggod example) actually allow you to track your parcels on-line. In order to do this they usually send out text or email messages giving the tracking ID. Today I received an email purporting to come from UKMail. That email message said:

UKMail Info!
Your parcel has not been delivered to your address November 23, 2015, because nobody was at home.
Please view the information about your parcel, print it and go to the post office to receive your package.

UKMail expressly disclaims all conditions, guarantees and warranties, express or implied, in respect of the Service. Where the law prevents such exclusion and implies conditions and warranties into this contract, where legally permissible the liability of UKMail for breach of such condition,
guarantee or warranty is limited at the option of UKMail to either supplying the Service again or paying the cost of having the service supplied again. If you don’t receive a package within 30 working days UKMail will charge you for it’s keeping. You can find any information about the procedure and conditions of parcel keeping in the nearest post office.

Best regards,

I /very/ nearly opened the attached file. That is probably the closest I have come to reacting incorrectly to a phishing attack. Nice try guys. And a very good piece of social engineering given the time of year.

Virustotal suggests that the attached file is a malicious word macro container. Interestingly though, only 7 of the 55 AV products that Virustotal uses identified the attachment as malicious. And even they couldn’t agree on the identity of the malware. I suspect that it may be a relatively new piece of code.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Varidesk Pro Plus 48 Standing Desk

Planet SurreyLUG - Sun, 22/11/2015 - 18:25

In my recent post on the Bac Posture Stand I mentioned that I had purchased the Varidesk Pro Plus 48. I promised to review this "in due course" and that time has now come!

The Varidesk Pro Plus 48 is "desk riser" that enables you to choose your working height. You can start the day standing up and then, after your executive lunch, you can spend your afternoon sitting down.

N.B. This post includes Amazon Associates links, I have never actually received anything from them, but I live in hope!!


At £437 (including delivery) this is a very expensive piece of equipment indeed. The alternative is to buy an actual standing desk and in many cases this will be a better option. The beauty of the Varidesk is that you are able to retain your existing furniture.

You do also need the Varidesk Standing Mat, which is another £67.50 (including delivery).

There are cheaper solutions, such as the LIFT Standing Desk mentioned on Bad Voltage, but at the time I was unable to locate this in the UK. You can even build your own.


In the end I purchased the Varidesk Pro Plus 48 from Amazon*. Not only was it almost the only option that I could find, it was a professional looking unit and the reviews were also very positive.

*Please note that the photo on the Amazon item is actually incorrect and the Pro Plus 48 actually looks like the photo above, visit the Varidesk website for details. I did contact Varidesk about this anomaly and they explained that they had informed Amazon on multiple occasions and were unable to get the photo corrected.

To enhance my new standing desk I also purchased a number of other items:


Typically the Varidesk arrived when I was on a day off. It turned up on a pallet, resulting in much consternation at work. In fact, once the packaging was removed, the item was the desired size and all was well.

There is no assembly required, simply unpackage and lift onto your desk. Be warned though, the Varidesk does weigh a lot and will require two fairly strong people to manoeuvre it into place.

I was a little concerned as to how this Pro Plus 48 would fit on my corner desk. I did originally order the Varidesk Cube Corner 48, but I received an email from Varidesk explaining that this unit had been discontinued and cancelling and refunding my order.

In the event the Pro Plus 48 fitted my corner desk beautifully.

First Impressions

The Varidesk Pro Plus 48 appears to be extremely well constructed and solidly made. It has what I assume are bolt holes for those scared of the desk falling over, but in practice the weight of the metal base is sufficient.

The desk can be raised and lowered without physical effort, although sometimes cables will get under the desk requiring their removal before it will lower fully. I cannot blame Varidesk for that, but you need to give some thought about cable routing to minimise the likelihood of this happening.

The First Month

After a month of using my Varidesk I am very happy with it. I would love to be able to report a stunning transformation of my painful back, but sadly my back is still very sore. That said, I certainly feel healthier from standing up and being more active.

Standing up all day is not without its issues, my feet and legs get tired, so I tend to sit down at lunchtime and late afternoon. But I have also found that sitting down for too long has started feeling very uncomfortable. Perhaps it always did? But now I can do something about it, raising up my desk and enjoying standing up again, if only for a while.

In short, for me at least, being able to choose to sit or stand feels very natural and it would feel very strange now to be forced to spend the entire day sitting down.

I believe I now have the closest thing possible to the perfect desk.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Jonathan McDowell: Updating a Brother HL-3040CN firmware from Linux

Planet ALUG - Sat, 21/11/2015 - 13:27

I have a Brother HL-3040CN networked colour laser printer. I bought it 5 years ago and I kinda wish I hadn’t. I’d done the appropriate research to confirm it worked with Linux, but I didn’t realise it only worked via a 32-bit binary driver. It’s the only reason I have 32 bit enabled on my house server and I really wish I’d either bought a GDI printer that had an open driver (Samsung were great for this in the past) or something that did PCL or Postscript (my parents have an Xerox Phaser that Just Works). However I don’t print much (still just on my first set of toner) and once setup the driver hasn’t needed much kicking.

A more major problem comes with firmware updates. Brother only ship update software for Windows and OS X. I have a Windows VM but the updater wants the full printer driver setup installed and that seems like overkill. I did a bit of poking around and found reference in the service manual to the ability to do an update via USB and a firmware file. Further digging led me to a page on resurrecting a Brother HL-2250DN, which discusses recovering from a failed firmware flash. It provided a way of asking the Brother site for the firmware information.

First I queried my printer details:

$ snmpwalk -v 2c -c public hl3040cn.local iso. iso. = STRING: "MODEL=\"HL-3040CN series\"" iso. = STRING: "SERIAL=\"G0JXXXXXX\"" iso. = STRING: "SPEC=\"0001\"" iso. = STRING: "FIRMID=\"MAIN\"" iso. = STRING: "FIRMVER=\"1.11\"" iso. = STRING: "FIRMID=\"PCLPS\"" iso. = STRING: "FIRMVER=\"1.02\"" iso. = STRING: "" iso. = STRING: "" iso. = STRING: "" iso. = STRING: "" iso. = STRING: "" iso. = STRING: "" iso. = STRING: "" iso. = STRING: "" iso. = STRING: ""

I used that to craft an update file which I sent to Brother via curl:

curl -X POST -d @hl3040cn-update.xml -H "Content-Type:text/xml" --sslv3

This gave me back some XML with a URL for the latest main firmware, version 1.19, filename LZ2599_N.djif. I downloaded that and took a look at it, discovering it looked like a PJL file. I figured I’d see what happened if I sent it to the printer:

cat LZ2599_N.djf | nc hl3040cn.local 9100

The LCD on the front of printer proceeded to display something like “Updating Program” and eventually the printer re-DHCPed and indicated the main firmware had gone from 1.11 to 1.19. Great! However the PCLPS firmware was still at 1.02 and I’d got the impression that 1.04 was out. I didn’t manage to figure out how to get the Brother update website to give me the 1.04 firmware, but I did manage to find a copy of LZ2600_D.djf which I was then able to send to the printer in the same way. This led to:

$ snmpwalk -v 2c -c public hl3040cn.local iso. iso. = STRING: "MODEL=\"HL-3040CN series\"" iso. = STRING: "SERIAL=\"G0JXXXXXX\"" iso. = STRING: "SPEC=\"0001\"" iso. = STRING: "FIRMID=\"MAIN\"" iso. = STRING: "FIRMVER=\"1.19\"" iso. = STRING: "FIRMID=\"PCLPS\"" iso. = STRING: "FIRMVER=\"1.04\"" iso. = STRING: "" iso. = STRING: "" iso. = STRING: "" iso. = STRING: "" iso. = STRING: "" iso. = STRING: "" iso. = STRING: "" iso. = STRING: "" iso. = STRING: ""

Cool, eh?

[Disclaimer: This worked for me. I’ve no idea if it’ll work for anyone else. Don’t come running to me if you brick your printer.]

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Howto | Add ActiveDirectory Addressbook to Sylpheed Email

Planet SurreyLUG - Thu, 19/11/2015 - 21:00

Where we require a lightweight mail client, we tend to use Sylpheed, a fork of the old Claws Mail.

It seems unlikely that you would be able to add an ActiveDirectory Address Book into such a lightweight email client, and indeed the manual states:

### FIXME: write this part.

But in fact it was trivially easy:


Whilst these instructions worked for us, do be aware that we are using Samba4 ActiveDirectory. In theory this is a drop-in replacement for Windows ActiveDirectory and these instructions should work unchanged.

Add LDAP Addressbook

Firstly run Sylpheed and go to Tools and Addressbook. Within the Sylpheed Addressbook go to File New LDAP Server You should now see a screen like this:

Having entered the Name, Hostname and Port you are able to "Check Server", to ensure connectivity. Next either enter your Search Base, or click on the &ellipsis; button to select from the detected Search Bases.

Item Explanation Example Name Addressbook or server name example Hostname ActiveDirectory Host Name ads.example.lan Port LDAP Port Number* 389 or 636 Search Base Your AD domain in LDAP form DC=example,DC=lan

*You should probably choose 636 when connecting via a public network, and you may need to open ports on your router.

Now select the Extended tab and you should see the following screen:

Item Explanation Example Search Criteria This simple example worked for us (objectclass=*) Bind DN Your ActiveDirectory username chris@example.lan Bind Password Your ActiveDirectory password -

Now click on OK to finish.


You should now have a Search field available, enter a colleague's first name and Search and you should be faced with their email addresses.


As far as I can tell the addressbook lookup is not automatic and you have to click on the addressbook icon in the Compose Window and search for the person, in order to add them to the To: field. A bit clunky perhaps, but arguably not so very different from the need in Outlook to press Check Names to look up new addresses. Needless to say - once the address is in the recent address list, it is auto-completed in the future.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Adam Trickett: Bog Roll: Wombat Upgrade

Planet HantsLUG - Wed, 18/11/2015 - 22:21

Today the order went in for a major rebuild of Wombat. Some parts will remain from the original, but overall most of the system will be replaced with more modern parts:

  • The new CPU has double the core count, higher clock speed and better features. It should be faster under both single and multi-threaded use. It should also use less electricity and be cooler.
  • The new GPU should be much faster, it's on a faster bus, and it has proprietary driver support (if required).
  • The SATA controller is more modern and should be much faster than the hard disk, the current controller is an older generation than the disk.
  • The RAM is much faster - two generations faster and there is four times as much of it.

Overall it should be faster, use less electricity, and be thermally cooler. It won't be as fast as my desktop, but it should be noticeably faster and my better half should be happy enough - especially as I shouldn't have to touch the data on the hard disk, which was only recently reinstalled.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Steve Engledow (stilvoid): Newstalgia

Planet ALUG - Tue, 17/11/2015 - 23:57

Well, well, after talking about my time at university only yesterday, tonight I saw Christian Death who were more or less the soundtrack to my degree with their compilation album The Bible.

I'm pleased to say they seemed like thoroughly nice folks and played a good gig. Proving my lack of musical snobbery (which, to be honest, generally goes with the goth scene), I only knew one song but enjoyed everything they played, from new stuff to old.

The support band was a local act called Painted Heathers who (for me, at least) set the scene nicely and represented an innovative, modern take on the musical theme behind the act they were supporting. Essentially an indie band with goth leanings (I wonder if they agree), they suit my current musical bent (I play keyboards in an indie band) and the mood I was in. They're very new, young, and I shall spread their word for them if I can :)

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Howto | Install ESET Remote Administrator on Ubuntu

Planet SurreyLUG - Tue, 17/11/2015 - 20:12

After much research I decided to purchase ESET Antivirus for our Windows clients. But rather than install ESET Antivirus on each client in turn, I decided to install ESET Remote Administrator on an Ubuntu VPS. ESET Remote Administrator is a server program for controlling ESET Antivirus (and other ESET programs) on clients, you can use it to deploy the ESET Agent, which in turn can then install and monitor the ESET Antivirus software.

Our Windows PCs are controlled by an ActiveDirectory server (actually a Samba4 ActiveDirectory server, although that should not make any difference to these instructions).

I found the ESET instructions for so doing decidedly sketchy, but I eventually managed to install it and took some notes as I went. I cannot promise these instructions are complete, but used in conjunction with the ESET instructions they may be of help.

Update Hosts

Edit /etc/hosts: localhost.example.lan localhost.localdomain localhost eset.example.lan eset

Test by typing the following two commands and checking the output matches:

# hostname eset # hostname -f eset.example.lan Dependencies # apt-get install mysql-server unixodbc libmyodbc cifs-utils libjcifs-java winbind libqtwebkit4 xvfb # dpkg-reconfigure libmyodbc Install MySQL Server

Edit /etc/mysql/my.cnf:


Restart MySQL

# service mysql-server restart Configure MySQL # mysql -u root -p

Cannot remember whether I created database and/or username and password, suggest you try without and then with.

Install ESET Remote Administration Server

Replace ??? with actual:

# sh --license-key=??? \ --db-type="MySQL Server" --db-driver="MySQL" --db-hostname= --db-port=3306 \ --server-root-password="???" --db-name="era_db" --db-admin-username="root" --db-admin-password="???" \ --db-user-username="era" --db-user-password="???" \ --cert-hostname="eset" --cert-auth-common-name="eset.example.lan" --cert-organizational-unit="eset.example.lan" \ --cert-organization="example ltd" --cert-locality="UK" \ --ad-server="ads.example.lan" --ad-user-name="era" --ad-user-password="???"

In case of error, read the following carefully:

/var/log/eset/RemoteAdministrator/EraServerInstaller.log Install Tomcat7 # apt-get install tomcat7 tomcat7-admin

Wait 5 minutes for Tomcat to start, then visit http://localhost:8080 to check it has worked.

Configure SSL

See SSL/TLS Configuration HOW-TO.

Step 1 - Generate Keystore $JAVA_HOME/bin/keytool -genkey -alias tomcat -keyalg RSA -keystore /usr/share/tomcat7/.keystore

Use password 'changeit'.

At the time of writing $JAVA_HOME is /usr/lib/jvm/java-7-openjdk-amd64/jre

Step 2 - Configure Tomcat

You should have two sections like this:

<Connector port="8080" protocol="HTTP/1.1" connectionTimeout="20000" URIEncoding="UTF-8" redirectPort="8443" /> <Connector port="8443" protocol="HTTP/1.1" SSLEnabled="true" maxThreads="150" scheme="https" secure="true" keystoreFile="/usr/share/tomcat7/.keystore" keystorePass="changeit" clientAuth="false" sslProtocol="TLS" />

These will already exist, but need uncommenting and adjusting with keystore details.


You should now be able to go to http://localhost:8443.

Join Windows Domain

The ERA server must be joined to the domain

Install samba and stop any samba services that start.

# apt-get install samba krb5-user smbclient

Edit /etc/samba/smb.conf:

[global] workgroup = EXAMPLE security = ADS realm = EXAMPLE.COM dedicated keytab file = /etc/krb5.keytab kerberos method = secrets and keytab server string = Samba 4 Client %h winbind enum users = yes winbind enum groups = yes winbind use default domain = yes winbind expand groups = 4 winbind nss info = rfc2307 winbind refresh tickets = Yes winbind normalize names = Yes idmap config * : backend = tdb idmap config * : range = 2000-9999 idmap config EXAMPLE : backend = ad idmap config EXAMPLE : range = 10000-999999 idmap config EXAMPLE:schema_mode = rfc2307 printcap name = cups cups options = raw usershare allow guests = yes domain master = no local master = no preferred master = no os level = 20 map to guest = bad user username map = /etc/samba/smbmap

Create /etc/samba/smbmap:

!root = EXAMPLE\Administrator Administrator admionistrator

Edit /etc/krb5.conf:

[libdefaults] default_realm = EXAMPLE.COM dns_lookup_realm = false dns_lookup_kdc = true ticket_lifetime = 24h forwardable = yes

Make sure that /etc/resolv.conf points to the AD DC, and dns is setup correctly.

Then run this command:

# net ads join -U Administrator@EXAMPLE.COM

Enter Administrators password when requested.

Edit /etc/nsswitch.conf and add 'winbind' to passwd & group lines.

Start samba services.

Update DNS

For some reason the join does not always create the DNS entry on Samba4, so you may need to add this manually.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Intermittent USB3 Drive Mount

Planet SurreyLUG - Tue, 17/11/2015 - 14:38

I have a problem with a Samsung M3 Portable USB3 external hard drive only working intermittently. I use a couple of these for off-site backups for work and so I need them working reliably. In fairness a reboot does cure the problem, but I hate that as a solution.

To troubleshoot this problem, the first step was to check the system devices:

# ls -al /dev/disk/by-id

But only my main two system drives were showing, and not the USB3 drive, which would have been sdc, being the third drive (a, b, c).

System Logs

The next step was to check the system logs:

# dmesg | tail

This showed no issues at all. Then I checked syslog:

# tail /var/log/syslog

This was completely empty, and had not been written to for almost a year. I can't quite believe I haven't needed to check the logs in all that time, but there you are.

I checked that rsyslogd was running and it was as user syslog. But the /var/log/syslog file was owned by root with group adm, but whilst syslog was a member of the adm group, the files all had user rw permissions only -rw-------.

This was easily fixed:

# chmod g+rw /var/log/* # service rsyslog restart

Now the syslog file was being written to, but there was a problem writing to /dev/xconsole:

Nov 17 12:20:48 asusi5 rsyslogd: [origin software="rsyslogd" swVersion="7.4.4" x-pid="11006" x-info=""] start Nov 17 12:20:48 asusi5 rsyslogd: rsyslogd's groupid changed to 103 Nov 17 12:20:48 asusi5 rsyslogd: rsyslogd's userid changed to 101 Nov 17 12:20:48 asusi5 rsyslogd-2039: Could no open output pipe '/dev/xconsole': No such file or directory [try ] Nov 17 12:20:48 asusi5 rsyslogd: [origin software="rsyslogd" swVersion="7.4.4" x-pid="11006" x-info=""] exiting on signal 15.

So I duly visited the link mentioned, which gave instructions for disabling /dev/xconsole, but this made me nervous and further research suggested that that was indeed the correct fix for headless servers, but possibly not for a desktop PC. Instead I used the following fix:

# mknod -m 640 /dev/xconsole c 1 3 # chown syslog:adm /dev/xconsole # service rsyslog restart USB Powersaving

Now at least it seems that my syslog is working correctly. Unfortunately unplugging and plugging in the USB drive still was not writing to the logs! When I plugged in the drive the blue light would flash repeatedly and then switch off. I would have believed that the drive had a fault, if it weren't for the fact that rebooting the PC solves the problem.

Thinking that perhaps this problem was USB3 related, I decided to Google for "USB3 drive not recognised" which found this post. Except, that post was only relevant when operating on battery power, whereas I am using a plugged in desktop PC. Clearly that page could not be relevant? Except that in my notification area there is a battery icon, relating to my Uninterruptible Power Supply. But surely Ubuntu couldn't be treating my UPS as if it were a battery? Could it?

In order to find out the power status of my USB devices I followed the suggestion of typing:

# grep . /sys/bus/usb/devices/*/power/control

Most were flagged as "on", but a number of devices were flagged as "auto". I decided to try switching them on to see if that made any difference:

# for F in /sys/bus/usb/devices/*/power/control; do echo on >"${F}"; done # grep . /sys/bus/usb/devices/*/power/control

Now all the devices were showing as on. Time to try out the drive again - I unplugged it and plugged it back in again. This time the power light flashed repeatedly and then went solid.

Unfortunately the drive was still not mounted, but at least it was alive now. What next? Ah yes, I should check the logs to see if they have any new messages, now that the drive is powered and my logs are working:

# dmesg | tail [15243.369812] usb 4-3: reset SuperSpeed USB device number 2 using xhci_hcd [15243.616871] xhci_hcd 0000:00:14.0: xHCI xhci_drop_endpoint called with disabled ep ffff880213c71800 Faulty USB-SATA Bridge

At last I have something to go on. I searched for that error message, which took me to this page, which suggested:

Reason is faulthy usb-sata bridge ASM1051 in USB3 drives. It has nothing to do with motherboards. See this. Workaround was made to kernel 3.17-rc5. Now those disks works. Some perfectly and some works but data transfer is not smooth.

Could that be my problem? I checked my current Kernel:

# uname -r 3.13.0-68-generic

So yes, it could be. As I cannot read the device yet, I cannot check whether ASM1051 is present in my USB3 drive.

Having uninstalled 34 obsolete kernels and a further 8 newer kernels that weren't in use, I was in a position to install the latest Kernel from Vivid with:

# apt install linux-generic-lts-vivid

The problem of course is that in order to boot onto the newer Kernel I must reboot, thereby fixing the problem anyway.

And finally

It would be easy to portray this as clear evidence of the difficulty of running Linux, certainly Samsung will have thoroughly tested their drive on Windows and Mac operating systems. That said such problems are not unheard of on the more popular operating systems and debugging such problems is far harder, I would argue, than the above logical steps.

Having rebooted, as expected, the drive worked. I tried running lshw to see if ASM1051 was present, but I could not find it. Of course upgrading the Kernel could have fixed the problem anyway.

For the present I will labour under the comforting belief that the problem is fixed and will update this post again when either the problem reoccurs on in a week's time if all is well!

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Steve Engledow (stilvoid): More ale

Planet ALUG - Tue, 17/11/2015 - 00:35

There are several reasons I took the degree course I did - joint honours in Philosophy and Linguistics - but the prime one is that I really felt I wanted to study something I would enjoy rather than something that would guarantee me a better career. To be honest, my degree subject versus the line of work I'm in - software development - is usually a good talking point in interviews and has probably landed me more jobs than if I'd had a degree in Computer Science.

The recent events in Paris, leaving politics aside, were an undeniably bad thing and the recent news coverage and various (sometimes depressingly moronic) Facebook posts on the subject got me thinking about moral philosophy again. Specifically, given we see conflicts between groups of people ostensibly because they live according to different moral codes (let's ignore the fact that their motivations are clearly not based on this at all) and those codes are complex and ambiguous (some might say intentionally so), can there be a moral code that's simple, unambiguous, and agreeable?

My 6th form philosophy teacher, Dr. John Beresford-Fry (Dr. Fry - I can't find him online. If anyone knows how to contact him, I'd love to speak to him again), believed he had a simple code that worked:

Do nothing gratuitous.

To my mind, that doesn't quite cut it; I don't think it's actually possible to do anything completely gratuitously; there's always some reason or reasoning behind an action. Maybe he meant something more subtle and it's been lost on me.

Some years ago, I thought I had a nice simple formulation:

Act as though everyone has the right to do whatever they wish.


You may do whatever you want so long as it doesn't restrict anybody's right to do the same.

Today though, I was going round in very big circles trying to think that one through. It works ok for simple, extreme cases (murder, rape, theft) and even plays nicely (I think) in some grey areas (streaming movies illegally) but I really couldn't figure out how to apply it to anyone in a position of power. How could an MP apply that rule when voting on bringing in a law to raise the minimum wage?

Come to think of it, how could an MP apply any rule when voting on any law?

Then I remembered the conclusion I came to when I was nearing the end of my philosophy course: the sentimentalists or the nihilists probably have it right.

Oh well, it kept me busy for a bit, eh ;)

Note to self: I had an idea for a game around moral philosophy, don't forget it!

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Steve Kemp: lumail2 nears another release

Planet HantsLUG - Mon, 16/11/2015 - 22:04

I'm pleased with the way that Lumail2 development is proceeding, and it is reaching a point where there will be a second source-release.

I've made a lot of changes to the repository recently, and most of them boil down to moving code from the C++ side of the application, over to the Lua side.

This morning, for example, I updated the handing of index.limit to be entirely Lua based.

When you open a Maildir folder you see the list of messages it contains, as you would expect.

The notion of the index.limit is that you can limit the messages displayed, for example:

  • See all messages: Config:set( "index.limit", "all")
  • See only new/unread messages: Config:set( "index.limit", "new")
  • See only messages which arrived today: Config:set( "index.limit", "today")
  • See only messages which contain "Steve" in their formatted version: Config:set( "index.limit", "steve")

These are just examples that are present as defaults, but they give an idea of how things can work. I guess it isn't so different to Mutt's "limit" facilities - but thanks to the dynamic Lua nature of the application you can add your own with relative ease.

One of the biggest changes, recently, was the ability to display coloured text! That was always possible before, but a single line could only be one colour. Now colours can be mixed within a line, so this works as you might imagine:

Panel:append( "$[RED]This is red, $[GREEN]green, $[WHITE]white, and $[CYAN]cyan!" )

Other changes include a persistant cache of "stuff", which is Lua-based, the inclusion of at least one luarocks library to parse Date: headers, and a simple API for all our objects.

All good stuff. Perhaps time for a break in the next few weeks, but right now I think I'm making useful updates every other evening or so.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Wordpress Comments Migration to Disqus

Planet SurreyLUG - Mon, 16/11/2015 - 21:00

I assumed that, when I migrated from Wordpress to Jekyll, one of the casualties would be the old Wordpress comments. I had decided to use DISQUS for comments on Jekyll, partly because it is the "new thing" and partly because it is incredibly easy to achieve. But I never for a moment considered that migrating the old comments would be a possibility.

In fact, not only is it possible, but it is almost trivially easy.

I did encounter a few issues, as I had foolishly renamed some pages to more logical names, thereby both breaking all Google and other links, but also breaking the link with DISCUS comments. That was a very bad idea and as a consequence I spent quite a while renaming files back again, but other than that it all worked flawlessly. If you are going to rename pages - probably best to do it in Wordpress before migrating to Jekyll.

Well done [DISCUS] for making something that you would expect to be difficult easy. And thank you Wordpress for providing a decent export routine, without which my data would have been locked away.

I look forward to your comments!


Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Sleeping Better with Linux

Planet SurreyLUG - Sun, 15/11/2015 - 19:28

I was reading Phones need 'bed mode' to protect sleep on the BBC, that computers should have a blue light filter to help people to sleep properly at night. As I am frequently working on my laptop until late in the evening, I felt that I should investigate further. Currently I do turn down the brightness, but it seems that is not enough.

The article linked to a program called f.lux, which is free for Linux. I also came across this article on Linux Magazine Avoiding Eye Strain.


Getting this working on my laptop was trivial:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kilian/f.lux sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install fluxgui

Finally I ran the program and set it to launch on start-up. I entered latitude as 51.2, which is close enough I believe.


The software feels fairly basic, whether this is the same for Windows and Mac I don't know. That said the applet seems to run perfectly in the Ubuntu notification area.

It is very noticeable that the display is more muted and much more comfortable to view in the evening. I don't yet know whether this will work well during the day, nor whether it will improve my sleeping. But the logic behind it seems sound and there is no reason why it shouldn't help.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Reasons For Migrating from Wordpress to Jekyll

Planet SurreyLUG - Sun, 15/11/2015 - 00:00

Following my recent announcement, I thought I would give some of my reasons for the move and some early impressions of using Jekyll.

What is Jekyll?

Jekyll is a Markdown based website and blogging platform, written in Ruby. The principle is simple - you write markown text files and they are automatically converted to static HTML webpages.

What is Markdown?

I am assuming that most of my audience have at least a passing knowledge of Markdown, but basically it is a very clean virtually syntax-free way of writing text files, so that they can be easily converted into different formats. The key to markdown is the conversion utility and I currently use Pandoc. I write the file once, and then I can convert into whatever format I want it in:

  • PDF: pandoc -o sample.pdf sample.markdown
  • Word: pandoc -o sample.docx sample.markdown
  • HTML: pandoc -o sample.html sample.markdown

I would imagine most people start using Markdown so that can continue to use the favourite text editor - Vim or Emacs. At work I have found myself using it in preference to a word-processor, I have written a simple md2pdf perl script, so that in vim I can simply type :md2pdf % to have my document saved as a PDF. And the PDFs that Pandoc produces are beautiful and headings and sub-headings are automatically converted into PDF Bookmarks, giving your documents an effortless professionalism.

For complicated documents I sometimes start in Markdown and then move to LaTeX, but increasingly I am finding myself able to do virtually everything in Markdown, including simple images and hyperlinks. But you also have the option of extending plain markdown with HTML tags.

So in simplest terms Jekyll is just an automated way of creating Markdown files and converting them to HTML.

But why change from Wordpress?

Wordpress has been great for me, it's relatively simple, has great statistical tools, a build in commenting system and much more besides. So why leave all that behind for something which is fundamentally so basic?

Benefits of Jekyll
  1. Text Editor: Once again the desire to use Vim was probably the key motivation.
  2. Github Pages: The fact that Jekyll could be used with the free Github Pages was another.
  3. Command Line: The ability to use grep, sed and perl and all the other command line goodies makes for an incredibly versatile system.
  4. Version Control: To have the whole site under version control.

I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to grep -l searchtext *.markdown | vim - and be able to edit each matching file in Vim.

Bootpolish Blog

There was another reason too, which was that I still had an old blog at, which I wanted to close down. I could have merged it into my Wordpress blog, but I thought it would be easier to transfer it to Jekyll. To be honest I can't say that it was particularly easy, but thankfully it is now done.

The Migration Process

I followed the GitHub Instructions for Jekyll. I used rsync to copy the underlying text files from into the _drafts folder, before using bash for loops to auto-process each into a Jekyll markdown post. I used the Wordpress Importer to transfer my Wordpress blog. The importer did not work particularly well, so I ended up editing each file in turn.

I found there was some customisation required:

  1. Categories: By default Jekyll has no Category pages, for example:
  2. Tags: By default Jekyll has no Tag pages, for example:
  3. Wordpress RSS: I wanted to maintain the existing feed locations, which required creation of various additional feeds.
  4. Tag Cloud: By default Jekyll has no tag cloud functionality, which I believe is crucial to a blog.
  5. Site Search: By default Jekyll has no site search. There are plug-ins, but these are not compatible with GitHub pages. For now I have used Google Custom Search, but it has not yet indexed the entire site.

I have written a script to build all the tags and categories, which is working well. I would like to integrate this into the git commit command somehow, so that I don't forget to run it!

Any new categories would require additional RSS feed files creating, by simply copying the feed template into the relevant category/feed folder.


This has been much more work than I would have liked. That said, I now have my Markdown files in a format under my control. I can move those files to any Jekyll provider, or indeed to any web provider and have them hosted.

In short, I am hoping that this is the last time I will move platforms!

Lastly, if you're unfamiliar with Markdown, you can view the Markdown version of this page.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Adam Trickett: Bog Roll: Cold

Planet HantsLUG - Sat, 14/11/2015 - 14:58

I'm starting to get close to my target weight - only 3 kg to go according to BMI or a few centimetres according to height to waist ratio. Sadly for the past month I've not been able to get as much exercise as normal and I've hit another weight plateau.

Another strange phenomenon I'm experiencing is being cold. Normally even in mid winter I'm fine at work or home with short sleeved shirts and only on the coldest days do I need to wear a T-shirt under a regular shirt. In fact I've not worn or owned a proper vest for decades.

Last weekend I felt cold at home and put a jumper on. Something I wouldn't normally do in autumn. On Monday at work I felt cold but it was such a strange sensation that I didn't even recognise it. On Tuesday I went into M&S and bought a vest! Human fat doesn't provide the same level of insulation that blubber does for seals and whales, but it does provide some and more importantly on a diet the body down regulates thermogenesis to save energy. As I've been starving my self for 9 months to lose weight, it's hardly surprising that my body has decided that keeping warm isn't that important when I've shed over 21 kg.

Today isn't that cold - but it is pretty miserable. I've now got a vest, shirt, thin fleece and thick fleece gilet on. I even raised the temperature on the central heating thermostat up by 2°C...!

Categories: LUG Community Blogs
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