LUG Community Blogs

Andrew Savory: Home Automation: Turn it on again

Planet ALUG - Wed, 15/01/2014 - 00:55

In Pi three ways I wrote:

what happens when you combine an RF transmitter, smart sockets with RF receivers, and a Raspberry Pi?

I’m still finding out what can be done, but this is what I’ve discovered so far.

This is what I bought:

First, I set up each of the smart plugs, and paired them with the remote control.

This is already a big improvement: my home office has bookshelves filled with LED lights, but with inaccessible switches. Being able to turn them all on and off from the remote is awesome, but I’d really like them to turn on automatically, for example at sunset. So I need some compute power in the loop. Time for the Pi.

The Pi is running Raspian. I followed the installation instructions for telldus on Raspberry Pi. See also R-Pi Tellstick core for non-Debian instructions.

Next I tried to figure out the correct on/off parameters in tellstick.conf for the smart plugs. The Tellstick documentation is a bit sparse. Tellstick on Raspberry Pi to control Maplin (UK) lights talks about physical dials on the back of the remote control; sadly the Bye Bye Standby remote doesn’t have this.

Each plug is addressed using a protocol and a number of parameters. In the case of the Bye Bye Standby, it apparently falls under the arctech protocol, which has four different models, and each model uses the parameters “house” and sometimes “unit”.

Taking a brute-force approach, I generated a configuration for every possible parameter for the arctech protocol and codeswitch model:

for house in A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P ; do
    for unit in {1..16} ; do
      cat <<EOF
device {
   id = $count
   name = "Test"
   protocol = "arctech"
   model = "codeswitch"
   parameters {
      house = "$house"
      unit = "$unit"

I then turned each of them on and off in turn, and waited until the tellstick spoke to the plugs:

count = 0
for house in A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P ; do
    for unit in {1..16} ; do
        echo "id = $count, house = $house, unit = $unit"
        tdtool --on $count
        tdtool --off $count

This eventually gave me house E and unit 16 (and the number of the corresponding automatically generated configuration, 80):

tdtool --on 80
Turning on device 80, Test – Success

But this only turned on or off all three plugs at the same time. I wanted control over each plug individually.

I stumbled upon How to pair Home Easy plug to Raspberry Pi with Tellstick, and that gave me enough information to reverse the process. Instead of getting the tellstick to work out what code the plugs talk, in theory I need to get the tellstick to listen to the plug for the code.

So this configuration should work, in combination with the tdlearn command:

device {
    id = 1
   name = "Study Right"
   protocol = "arctech"
   model = "selflearning-switch"
   parameters {
      house = "1"
      unit = "1"

However this tiny footnote on the telldus website says: 

4Bye Bye Standby Self learning should be configured as Code switch.

So it seems it should be:

device {
    id = 1
   name = "Study Right"
   protocol = "arctech"
   model = “codeswitch"
   parameters {
      house = "1"
      unit = "1"

… which is exactly what I had before. Remembering of course to do service telldusd restart each time we change the config, I tried learning again:

tdtool --learn 1
Learning device: 1 Study Right - The method you tried to use is not supported by the device

Well, bother. Looking at the Tellstick FAQ:

Is it possible to receive signals with TellStick?

TellStick only contains a transmitter module and it’s therefore only possible to transmit signals, not receive signals. TellStick Duo can receive signals from the compatible devices.

So it seemed like I was stuck with all-on, all-off unless I bought a TellStick Duo. Alternatively, I could expand my script to generate every possible combination in the tellstick.conf, and see if I can work out the magic option to control each plug individually. But since there are 1 to 67108863 possible house codes, this could take some time.

Rereading Bye Bye Standby 2011 compatible? finally gave me the answer. You put the plug into learning mode, and get the Tellstick to teach the right code to the plug by sending an “off” or an “on” signal:

tdtool --off 3

So setting house to a common letter and setting units to sensible increments, I can now control each of the plugs separately.

Next up: some automation.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Dick Turpin: Gizza loan.

Planet WolvesLUG - Tue, 14/01/2014 - 12:21
Customer: "Hi we bought a cheap laptop from you but it does not appear to have MS Office on it, do you by any chance have a copy of Office we can borrow?"

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Peter Cannon: Iniegogo campaign fails to hit target.

Planet WolvesLUG - Tue, 14/01/2014 - 10:48

Well sadly there it is folks. We failed to meet the target of £700 for sending The Dick Turpin Road Show to FOSDEM.

We did however raise £368.00 which equates to 52.57% or as +Thomas Heine said “Over half the target.” We did have 24 people contribute, 1,039 visits and 399 referrals. On a personal level I’d like to thank each person who donated. Regardless of the amount. You’re an awesome selfless person and I appreciate the effort you all made in an attempt to get not only myself but #tdtrs  to +FOSDEM

Thankfully (Read that as you will) only +Matthew Copperwaite will be there to represent us so if you was planning on buying me a ginger beer buy Matt one instead. To all my friends that are going (A fair few are not on G+) I hope you all have a fantastic time and once again thanks everyone for your kindness.

If you listen to Episode 67 of The Dick Turpin Road Show when it is released you’ll hear that I will hopefully be thanking you all personally in my own famous way.


Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Debian Bits: Call for Proposals for the MiniDebConf 2014 Barcelona

Planet HantsLUG - Tue, 14/01/2014 - 00:00

Debian Women will hold a MiniDebConf in Barcelona on March 15-16, 2014. Everyone is invited to both talks and social events, but the speakers will be all people who identify themselves as female. This is not a conference about women in Free Software, or women in Debian, rather a usual Debian Mini-DebConf where all the speakers are women.

Debian Women invites submissions of proposals for papers, presentations, discussion sessions and tutorials for the event. Submissions are not limited to traditional talks: you could propose a performance, an art installation, a debate or anything else. All talks are welcome, whether newbie or very advanced level. Please, forward this call to potential speakers and help us make this event a great success!

Please send your proposals to Don't forget to include in your message: your name or nick the title of the event, description, language, and any other information that might be useful. Please submit your proposal(s) as soon as possible.

For more information, visit the website of the event:

We hope to see you in Barcelona!

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Tony Whitmore: Oh yes they did!

Planet HantsLUG - Mon, 13/01/2014 - 22:08

This weekend I had the pleasure of watching my parents do something I’ve never seen them do before. Acting together. On a stage. In front of people who have paid to be there.

The church that they attend resurrected its annual pantomime this year, for the first time in probably fifteen years. Conversation over Christmas was about little else, and they have clearly put heart and soul into it since August when rehearsals began.

I went along to the performance not knowing too much about what to expect, apart from embarrassment. Dad has been a dame before and something tells me he was near the front of the line of volunteers, offering to don the wig and heels again. It is a measure of his commitment that he shaved his ankles and forearms for the role. Mum claims she was roped into playing the baddie’s son who gets to woo a milkmaid with enormous buckets.

My parents are, I hope they won’t mind me saying, both in their sixties now. Yet you wouldn’t know it if you had seen them throwing themselves around on the stage. Dad actually did a forward roll, in heels. Mum sang and danced and looked so different in the costume and wig that I didn’t recognise her at first!

Of course, there were plenty of other people in the cast doing their bit. With a script and songs written especially for the run, this was not an AmDram production that did things by halves. Particularly impressive were the costumes, even the chorus dressed in consistent and plausible outfits. Clever use of moving lights kept the lighting rig small. But above all it was fantastic to see my folks having a ball on stage, clearly loving every moment of it. Congratulations.

Pin It
Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Mick Morgan: strip exif data

Planet ALUG - Sat, 11/01/2014 - 21:52

I have a large collection of photographs on my computer. And each Christmas the collection grows ever larger. I use digiKam to manage that collection, but as I have mentioned before, storing family photographs as a collection of jpeg files seems counter intuitive to me. Photographs should be on display, or at least stored in physical albums that family members can browse at will. At a push, even an old shoebox will do.

So when this Christmas I copied the latest batch of images from my camera to my PC, I did a quick count of the files I hold – it came to nearly 5,500. Ok, so many of these are very similar, and this is simply a reflection of the ease (and very marginal cost) of photographs today compared with the old 35mm days, but even so, that is a lot of images. Disappointingly few of these ever see the light of day because whilst both my wife and I can happily view them on-line, I don’t print enough of them to make worthwhile albums. Sure, actually /taking/ photographs is cheap these days, but printing them at home on the sort of inkjet printer most people posess is rather expensive. Which is where online print companies such as photopanda, snapfish, photobox or jessops come in.

Most of these companies will provide high quality prints in the most popular 6″ x 4″ size for around 5 pence each – so a batch of 40 Christmas pictures is not going to break the bank. But one nice innovation of the digital era is that you can get your photos pre-printed into hard back albums for very reasonable prices. Better yet, my wife pointed me to a “special offer” (70% off) being run by a site she has used in the past. That was such a bargain that I decided to go back over my entire collection and create a “year book” for each of the eleven years of digital images I currently hold (yes, I don’t get out much).

However, I don’t much like the idea of posting a large batch of photographs to a site run by a commercial company, even when that company may have a much less cavalier approach to my privacy than does say, facebook. Once the photographs have been posted, they are outside my control and could end up anywhere. And of course I am not just concerned with the actual images, but the metadata that goes with those images. All electronic images created by modern cameras (or more usually these days, smartphones) contain EXIF data which at the minimum will give date and time information alongside the technical details about the shot (exposure, flash timing etc). In the case of nearly all smartphones, and increasingly with cameras themselves, the image will also contain geo-location details derived from the camera’s GPS system. I don’t take many images with my smartphone, and in any case, its GPS system is resolutely turned off, but my camera (a Panasonic TZ40) contains not just a GPS location system but a map display capability. Sometimes too much technology gets crammed into devices which don’t necessarily need them. As digicamhelp points out, many popular photo sharing sites such as Flickr or picasa helpfully allow viewers to examine EXIF data on-line. It is exactly this sort of capability which is so scarily exploited by ilektrojohn’s creepy tool.

So, before posting my deeply personal pictures of my cats to a commercial site I thought I would scrub the EXIF data. This is made easy with Phil Harvey’s excellent exiftool. This tool is platform independent so OSX and Windows users can take advantage of its capabilities – though of course it is much more flexible when used in conjunction with an OS which offers shell scripting.

Exiftool allows you to selectively edit, remove or replace any of the EXIF data stored in an image. But in my case I simply wanted to remove /all/ EXIF data. This is easy with the “-all= ” switch. Thus having chosen (and copied) the images I wanted to post to the commercial site it was a matter of a minute or two to recursively edit those files with find – thus:

find . -type f -iname ‘*.jpg’ -exec exiftool -all= {} \;

Highly recommended – particularly if you are in the habit of using photo sharing sites.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Steve Kemp: Some productive work

Planet HantsLUG - Sat, 11/01/2014 - 19:15

Having decided to take a fortnight off, between looking for a new job, I assumed I'd spend a while coding.

Happily my wife, who is a (medical) doctor, has been home recently so we've got to spend time together instead.

I'm currently pondering projects which will be small enough to be complete in a week, but large enough to be useful. Thus far I've just reimplemented RSS -> chat which I liked a lot at Bytemark.

I have my own chat-server setup, which doesn't have any users but myself. Instead it has a bunch of rooms setup, and different rooms get different messages.

I've now created a new "RSS" room, and a bunch of RSS feeds get announced there when new posts appear. It's a useful thing if you like following feeds, and happen to have a chat-room setup.

I use Prosody as my chat-server, and I use my http2xmpp code to implement a simple HTTP-POST to XMPP broadcast mechanism.

The new script is included as examples/rss-announcer and just polls RSS feeds - URLs which haven't been broadcast previously are posted to the HTTP-server, and thus get injected into the chatroom. A little convoluted, but simple to understand.

This time round I'm using Redis to keep track of which URLs have been seen already.

Beyond that I've been doing a bit of work for friends, and have recently setup an nginx server which will handle 3000+ simultaneous connections. Not too bad, but I'm sure we can make it do better - another server running on BigV which is nice to see :)

I'll be handling a few Squeeze -> Wheezy upgrades in the next week too, setting up backups, and doing some other related "consultation".

If I thought there was a big enough market locally I might consider doing that full-time, but I suspect that relying upon random work wouldn't work long-term.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Andrew Savory: Mobile modem

Planet ALUG - Fri, 10/01/2014 - 23:01

I was trying to get a handle on how much mobile data download speeds have improved over the years, so I did some digging through my archives. (The only thing I like more than a mail archive that spans decades is a website that spans decades. Great work, ALUG!) Here’s some totally arbitrary numbers to illustrate a point.

In response to A few Questions, this is what I wrote in May 2002:

[Nokia] 7110 works fine with IR (7110 has a full modem). The 7110 supports 14.4bps
connections, but I bet your telco doesn’t

That should have been 14.4kbps (14,400bps). In 2002 the phones were ahead of the network’s ability to deliver. In 2014, not much has changed.

In GPRS on Debian, this is what I wrote in November 2002:

I finally took the plunge and went for GPRS [..]  (up to 5x the speed of a dialup connection over a GSM mobile connection)

Remember when we did dialup over mobile connections? GSM Arena on the Sony-Ericsson T68i states 24-36 kbps. I’m assuming I got the lower end of that.

In 2003 I was using a Nokia 3650 GPRS connection. GSM Arena on the Nokia 3650 states 24-36 kbps. Let’s be generous and assume reality was right in the middle, at 30 kbps.

In 2004 I got a Nokia 6600, which according to GSM Arena could also do 24 – 36 kbps. It was a great phone, so let’s assume the upper bound for the 6600.

In 2008 I upgraded to 3G with the Nokia N80, and wrote:

3G data connections are dramatically better than GPRS

… but sadly I didn’t quantify how much better. According to GSM Arena, it was 384 kbps.

That’s a pretty good and pretty dramatic speed increase:

But then in 2009 I was using the Nokia N900 (and iPhone, HTC Hero, Google Nexus One, …). GSM Arena on the Nokia N900 states a theoretical 10Mbps … quite the upgrade, except O2 were limited to 3.6 mbps.

In 2012 I was using the Samsung Galaxy SII. GSM Arena on the Samsung Galaxy SII promises 21 mbps.

And now the Sony Xperia Z Ultra supports LTE at 42 MBPS and 150MBPS. Sadly, the networks don’t yet fully support those speeds, but if they did, the chart would be truly dramatic. 2003-2008 starts to look like a rounding error:

I don’t need to use a modem or infrared, either. Things have really improved over the last twelve years!

(This post is probably best read in conjunction with Tom’s analysis of Mobile phone sizes.)

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Peter Cannon: Linux Outlaws Live 300

Planet WolvesLUG - Fri, 10/01/2014 - 12:07

Linux Outlaws celebrated 300 episodes on Sunday 17th February 2013. Initially I was not intending to go even though my co-conspirator Matthew Copperwaite said “Well if I’m going you’ve got to go!” fortunately for everyone Travelodge just happened to send me an email offering rooms for £15.00 plus Trainline was offer return tickets to Liverpool for £16.00 that meant with the £5.00 entrance fee I could go to the event for the incredible price of £36.00.

I set out on a crisp, sunny Sunday morning from the village halt where I was to board my first train terminating at Rugeley Trent Valley. I had three trains in total to catch, each with a 10 minute separation. Knowing the UK rail system this was going to be a nail-biting experience. My first train arrived on time and my daughters waived me off from the platform, I suspect to make sure I actually left the county more than anything? We diesel chugged through the countryside and I discovered from the conductor that all I had to do was get off the train and my next connection arrived on the same platform. Now this is where things get interesting, so stood in a group was about seven or eight middle aged men drinking cans and bottles of larger? I thought “10:45am is a bit early in the day for that kind of thing isn’t it?” my next train appeared, the 10:43 to Stafford. Oh yes now we know why the larger louts was on the platform don’t we? As I alighted my carriage I was greeted by red vested, omg I must have a drink, football fans. Just fecking great. Now I know zilch about football but I was thinking “Hopefully they’ll get off at Crewe?” Oh you soppy thing Pete. The 11:09 London Liverpool Virgin train pulled in, Virgin trains are the perfect colour for what greeted me! Yep, I was on the football special Liverpool vs Swansea, whoopty fooking do one hour of larger clutching fans traipsing up and down the corridor to visit the toilet or try to find the buffet car.

Now Matt and I have some traditions when we go to events, Matt’s are generally passport/forgetting things related mine is mobile phone related. I always run out of credit mid transit! The day before I put £10 on my PAYG phone, I remembered not to upload lots of photo’s but I did check and make comments on my  G+ account fairly regularly, and I did also try to tether my phone via USB to my netbook but just outside Runcorn I’d used up my credit. This always sends me into a panic as I think “What the hell do I do if Matt contacts me?” Willing the train to “Get a fooking hurry on” we eventually pulled into Lime Street where I popped into WH Smiths and stuck some more credit on and texted Matt to say I had arrived and would wait for him. One hour later the other half of The Dick Turpin Road Show arrived and we set off for The LEAF.

Now we had arranged for one or two people to join us but the two faced gits sloped off to some private Chinese meal based event that Matt and I was not invited to, I mean, is that any way to treat friends? Bout 15:15 with tear stained cheeks Matt and I dragged our dejected bodies off to our respective hotels with Matt telling me to get back to his room by 15:45. I dunno what he was thinking? I was in the Strand which was at least a 10-15 minute walk, I had to book in, get cleaned up, change and then yomp it over to the Travelodge Central like some fooking Marine come paratrooper! I arrived at his room and barely managed to tap his door through my wheezing frail carcass. Matt called out “Who’s there?” A fooking corpse that’s who! Upon entering there was one of the swine’s that stood us up Oliver Clark  “Hello Pete” he said, hoping I did not bare a grudge or believe in blood feuds “You can fook right off.” I responded.

After being offered apologies, excuses and the sacrifice of Oliver’s first man-child we all settled down to record EP46 of The Dick Turpin Road Show #lol300 (which will be released soon) the main theme running through this recording is Pete’s bitterness at being stood up, Mr Les Pounder by the way. Once we had finished we set off for the event, just past wetherspoons a local lad walked up to us and said “Hey lads wanna buy some champagne?” While Matt pretended to have and engrossing text to read on his phone and Oliver was gripped with a fit of giggles I was left to deal with the damn scally! I told him no thanks but this did not deter him “It’s good stuff mate, normally £50 but I can let you have it for £20″ I replied again that we was not interested and we quickly made our escape.

[This will remain unfinished sadly]

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Dick Turpin: Translating Customers Comments.

Planet WolvesLUG - Fri, 10/01/2014 - 11:01
"I'm a friend of xyz" = "I want it really cheap or better still for free because I know xyz."

"It says here delivery included, how much is the delivery?" = "I'll come and collect it and save myself the [Delivery cost]"
Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Jono Bacon: Community Leadership Summit 2014 Announced!

Planet WolvesLUG - Fri, 10/01/2014 - 07:10

I am delighted to announce the Community Leadership Summit 2014, now in it’s sixth year! This year it takes place on the 18th and 19th July 2014, the weekend before OSCON at the Oregon Convention Center. Thanks again to O’Reilly for providing the venue.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the CLS, it is an entirely free event designed to bring together community leaders and managers and the projects and organizations that are interested in growing and empowering a strong community. The event provides an unconference style schedule in which attendees can discuss, debate and explore topics. This is augmented with a range of scheduled talks, panel discussions, networking opportunities and more.

The heart of CLS is an event driven by the attendees, for the attendees.

The event provides an opportunity to bring together the leading minds in the field with new community builders to discuss topics such as governance, creating collaborative environments, conflict resolution, transparency, open infrastructure, social networking, commercial investment in community, engineering vs. marketing approaches to community leadership and much more.

The previous events have been hugely successful and a great way to connect together different people from different community backgrounds to share best practice and make community management an art and science better understood and shared by us all.

I will be providing more details about the event closer to the time, but in the meantime be sure to register!

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Surrey LUG Bring-A-Box 11th January 2014

Surrey LUG - Thu, 09/01/2014 - 23:25
Start: 2014-01-11 11:00 End: 2014-01-11 17:00

We have regular sessions each month. Bring a 'box', bring a notebook, bring anything that might run Linux, or just bring yourself and enjoy socialising/learning/teaching or simply chilling out!

Our first meeting of 2014 is at the Red Hat offices in Farnborough, Hampshire on Saturday 11th January - thanks to Dominic Cleal for hosting us..

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Aq: Pretending to type like a Hollywood hacker in Sublime Text 2

Planet WolvesLUG - Thu, 09/01/2014 - 17:34

Christian Heilmann has just drawn my attention to a neat trick for automating typing into a text editor, from William Bamberg at Mozilla. Basically, when you’re doing a screencast, popping up a screen full of code is disorienting and hard for your users to take in, but if you actually type the stuff live on air then everyone gets to see all your typos and your mic makes it sound like a herd of wildebeest sweeping majestically across your keyboard.

Bamberg’s solution is to have an AppleScript which reads the file of your choice and then sends keypresses to your editor to “type” the file in, and it’s a neat idea. However, that’s Mac-specific so I can’t use it, and it doesn’t (as Chris notes) work in Sublime Text 2 (my editor, and his) because ST2 does autoindenting and so on and that sods you up.

Conveniently, I needed a script to do precisely this for some screencasts I’m about to work on, so I thought: I shall write it as an ST2 plugin. And lo, I have done so. It’s only about 30 lines: in ST2, do Tools > New Plugin, then paste the Python from and save it as in the ST2 User folder (which should be default).

You then need a way of running it: I added a keybinding for it in Preferences > Key Bindings -- User so that file now looks like

[ { "keys": ["ctrl+shift+."], "command": "type_file_out" } ]

so I can press ctrl-shift-fullstop.

What it actually does is: when you run it, it removes all the text in the current editing tab, waits two seconds, and then types it back in, character by character. The two second wait is to give you a cut point for the screencast, so you enter or load the code you want into ST2, then start your screencast showing slides or whatever, switch to ST2, then press ctrl-shift-. and it’ll type the text back in. When you’re editing your screencast, cut the part between switching to ST2 and the 2 second break.

There’s probably a way of packaging this up so other people can download it with a click, but I don’t think I know how to do that.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Dick Turpin: Free upgrades for life!

Planet WolvesLUG - Thu, 09/01/2014 - 15:47
Me: "You need to make sure you are all running the same version of Office tbh."
Customer: "Yeah but I bet you have to pay for the upgrades?"

Am I really living an an alternate reality?
Categories: LUG Community Blogs

MJ Ray: Request for West Norfolk to Complete the PCC Consultation

Planet ALUG - Thu, 09/01/2014 - 14:19

Please excuse the intrusion to your usual software and co-op news items but vine seems broken and as part of my community and democratic interests, I’d like to share this short clip quoting Norfolk’s Deputy Police Commissioner Jenny McKibben about why Commissioner Stephen Bett believes it’s important to get views from the west of the county about next year’s police budget:

Personally, with a King’s Lynn + West Norfolk Bike Users Group hat on, I’d like it if people supported a 2% (£4/year average) tax increase to reduce the police’s funding cut (the grant from is being cut by 4%) so that we’re less likely to have future cuts to traffic policing. The consultation details and response form are on the PCC website.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs
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