Planet ALUG

Syndicate content
Planet ALUG - http://planet.alug.org.uk/
Updated: 36 min 46 sec ago

Brett Parker (iDunno): Sony Entertainment Networks Insanity

Sat, 28/06/2014 - 16:54

So, I have a SEN account (it's part of the PSN), I have 2 videos with SEN, I have a broken PS3 so I can no deactivate video (you can only do that from the console itself, yes, really)... and the response from SEN has been abysmal, specifically:

As we take the security of SEN accounts very seriously, we are unable to provide support on this matter by e-mail as we will need you to answer some security questions before we can investigate this further. We need you to phone us in order to verify your account details because we're not allowed to verify details via e-mail.

I mean, seriously, they're going to verify my details over the phone better than over e-mail how exactly? All the contact details are tied to my e-mail account, I have logged in to their control panel and renamed the broken PS3 to "Broken PS3", I have given them the serial number of the PS3, and yet they insist that I need to call them, because apparently they're fucking stupid. I'm damned glad that I only ever got 2 videos from SEN, both of which I own on DVD now anyways, this kind of idiotic tie in to a system is badly wrong.

So, you phone the number... and now you get stuck with hold music for ever... oh, yeah, great customer service here guys. I mean, seriously, WTF.

OK - 10 minutes on the phone, and still being told "One of our advisors will be with you shortly". I get the feeling that I'll just be writing off the 2 videos that I no longer have access to.

I'm damned glad that I didn't decide to buy more content from that - at least you can reset the games entitlement once every six months without jumping through all these hoops (you have to reactivate each console that you still want to use, but hey).

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

MJ Ray: #coops14 sees last days of Downham Food Co-op

Fri, 27/06/2014 - 11:14

While  cooperatives fortnight is mostly a celebration of how well cooperatives are doing in the UK, this year is tinged with sadness for me because it sees Downham Food Coop stop trading.

This Friday and Saturday will be their last market stall, 9til 1 on the Town Square, aka Clock or Pump square.

As you can see, the downturn has hit the market hard and I guess being the last stall left outside the market square (see picture: it used to have neighbouring stalls!) was just too much. The coop cites shortage of volunteers and trading downturn as reasons for closure.

But if you’re near Downham today or tomorrow morning, please take advantage of this last chance to buy some great products in West Norfolk!

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Jonathan McDowell: Forms of communication

Thu, 26/06/2014 - 23:39

I am struck by the fragmentation in communication mechanisms. Let's look at how I have communicated with my friends in the past few days:

  • Phone call
    Tried and tested, though I tend to avoid them. I've made some deliberate calls to sort out immediate plans, and at least one accidental call caused by user error which resulted in talking to someone it was good to hear from.
  • Text message
    Again, reasonably tried and tested. I miss the inability to use Google Voice when I'm in the UK; I'd much rather read and compose text messages from my web browser when I'm near a computer than type them on my phone, even if it does have a keyboard.
  • Email
    One of my favourite methods of communication. Suitable for quick messages or longer screeds. I can throw links in and expect you to be able to click them. I can put lots of detail so that everything is covered easily. I can confuse you by quoting correctly. I guess while I do read email on my phone I'm less likely to reply there as I'm always a bit embarrassed how the clients cope with replies.
  • IRC
    Like, I suspect, many readers of my blog posts, I'm still a daily user of IRC. There are friends I keep in touch with mostly via this method. It's great. It's like Twitter for old people and much better in many ways.
  • Skype
    This started out as a work thing. It was the way in which the Belfast office communicated with the US, it become the way the Belfast office communicated with each other and when I moved on it was the way in which I kept in contact with a group of people I consider good friends. It's great for calls (I feel bad saying that, but it's an idea executed well across multiple platforms and any other VOIP stuff I've played with has been much more of a hassle), but the one to one and group chat functionality is pretty spot on as well. Also has the advantage that I can turn it off and mostly not end up with work queries.
  • Google Hangouts
    I actually quite like these. They work on my phone, I can poke them from a web browser, I can dump more than just text into them. IRC is better in some ways, but I do like the additional flexibility I get from a Hangout. It doesn't play well with people who haven't drunk the Google koolaid, which is the main reason I haven't managed to convince the Skype group chat group to move it over here.
  • Facebook messenger
    I hate this. On the face of it there's not a lot of difference between it and Hangouts, but the app wants more and more privileges, I'm less likely to be logged into Facebook (e.g. I avoid it at work, whereas there are good reasons I'd be logged into my Google account there, though less so since the demise of Reader) and I don't think it's as nicely implemented. However there are a few people who it's easiest to get hold of via this method. And there's a certain amount of mesmerisation by the floaty wee faces it invokes on my phone.

While some of these work better for me than others really what I'd like is to use fewer of them, and I can't see that happening any time soon. I don't want to have to run a handful of different messaging apps on my phone. I also don't want to be limited to only using my laptop or my phone for something - I'd much prefer to be able to pickup the phone, laptop or tablet depending on what I'm up to and have my full range of communication available. Some of these things can be aggregated together, but that will then lose some of the advantages. And I'm sure that even if I got rid of one or two of the above there'd be something to fill the gap along shortly (I have, for example, so far completely avoided WhatsApp).

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

MJ Ray: New comments methods

Wed, 25/06/2014 - 21:04

After years of resisting it, I’ve added the least evil Twitter/Facebook comments plugin I could find to this blog as a test and updated the comments policy a little.

Please kick the tyres and try commenting to see if it works, phase.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Steve Engledow (stilvoid): tmux

Tue, 17/06/2014 - 11:19

tmux is the best thing ever. That is all.

No, that is not all. Here is how I make use of tmux to make my life measurably more awesome:

First, my .tmux.conf. This changes tmux's ctrl-b magic key binding to ctrl-a as I've grown far too used to hitting that from when I used screen. I set up a few other screen-like bindings too. Finally, I set a few options that make tmux work better with urxvt.

# Set the prefix to ^A. unbind C-b set -g prefix ^A bind a send-prefix # Bind c to new-window unbind c bind c new-window -c $PWD # Bind space, n to next-window unbind " " bind " " next-window unbind n bind n next-window # Bind p to previous-window unbind p bind p previous-window # A few other settings to make things funky set -g status off set -g aggressive-resize on set -g mode-keys vi set -g default-terminal screen-256color set -g terminal-overrides 'rxvt-unicode*:sitm@'

And then here's what I have near the top of my .bashrc:

# If tmux isn't already running, run it [ -z "$TMUX" ] && exec ~/bin/tmux

...which goes with this, the contents of ~/bin/tmux:

#!/bin/bash # If there are any sessions that aren't attached, attach to the first one # Otherwise, start a new session for line in $(tmux ls -F "#{session_name},#{session_attached}"); do name=$(echo $line | cut -d ',' -f 1) attached=$(echo $line | cut -d ',' -f 2) if [ $attached -eq 0 ]; then tmux attach -t $name exit fi done tmux -u

Basically, what happens is that whenever I start a terminal session, if I'm not already attached to a tmux session, I find a session that's not already attached to and attach to it. If there aren't any, I create a new one.

This really tidies up my workflow and means that I never forget about any old sessions I'd detached.

Oh and one last thing, ctrl-a s is the best thing in tmux ever. It shows a list of tmux sessions which can be expanded to show what's running in them and you can then interactively re-attach your terminal to one of them. In short, I can start a terminal from any desktop or vt and quickly attach to something that's happening on any other. I use this feature a lot.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Steve Engledow (stilvoid): Simple mail transfer pondering

Sat, 14/06/2014 - 01:54

tl;dr I like the MIT license, mutt, tagging things, and synchronising my data between my devices.

Simplicity

As I meander through my life and career, one thing stands out as becoming more and more important as time goes by; I've noticed a definite trend in myself towards desiring simplicity above all else.

When I say that, I don't mean that I have a hankering to live in a cave and subsist on fruit. I like the complicated things that my life involves but I increasingly like to deal with them in simple ways. I find that I don't have the appetite or inclination to see an argument through nor the patience for dealing with irrationality; I'll just state my case clearly and succinctly and step away until everyone has calmed down and can accept my point.

When it comes to code, the difference is clear. If starting something new, I'll write down a set of features I want then refine them until I have a clear idea of how the system works before writing a single line of code. If I'm brave, I'll embrace TDD. In the old days, I'd get a vague idea in my head and design the rest in my head while I'm churning out code.

Recently, as an example, I refactored someone else's code from a general-purpose, multi-featured single class into several small functions that are individually very short and meaningful and all hang together to perform just the required behaviour and nothing else.

This all leads me deeper and deeper into the Unix philosophy (of which I've always been a fan) of having lots of tools that each do one thing well that can be combined in any way necessary. Which leads me into deeper and deeper suspicion of the GNU environment (see my rant about netcat). I'm not saying GNU is bad, it's just that I'm less immediately bought into the GNU way being always the right way.

Related to my bent for simplicity, I choose to license the things I write under the MIT license these days where I'd previously chosen the GPL. Socialism is a nice ideal but in practice it's just too complex to work as intended. Both benevolent dictatorship and co-operative anarchy are much simpler and seem far more likely to result in a better society (though not both at once ;)). I guess that sums up how I feel about the GPL these days. #cueflamewar

Discoveries

With apologies to the Linux Voice crew, here are a few discoveries I've made recently:

offlineimap

I don't know why I hadn't investigated this before but offlineimap has recently made dealing with my email much more bearable. For years I've been switching between various GUI clients and in recent months I'd decided to switch to mutt and make a real go of it. I've been enjoying mutt but not it's in-built IMAP support. Offlineimap means I don't have to care about mutt's weaknesses and I can just focus on its strengths as the best client for reading, replying to, sorting, and above all deleting email :)

notmuch

On a very related note, I also discovered notmuch which is a tool for indexing and tagging a collection of email. I'm now using mutt-kz (because it integrates with notmuch) to sort my email into (virtual) folders based on tags that I apply both through hooks in offlineimap and in the course of dealing manually with my email. Notmuch also makes it very easy to find old emails when I need to refer back to something.

syncthing

I've never been very good at backups. I've never had the patience to set up something robust and to ensure that the right things will be plugged in to the right machines and that they'll be at the right network locations at the right times based on a carefully designed backup schedule. Because of my crappy attitude I've lost some precious data in the past.

Through the Bad Voltage podcast, I discoverd Syncthing which is sort of like a replacement for dropbox except that it synchronises folders between your own machines rather than between your machine(s) and a (possibly evil) server.

To summarise how it works, once you've got the service running on two machines, you copy the ID from each to the other and then specify repositories which are just directories that you give a shared name so that machine A can store files from the "Photos" repository in one place while machine B stores them in another place. Adding extra machines to the network is easy and each repository can be configured to share with any number of the machines in your network.

My current set up is:

Machines:

  • Home desktop machine (media server)

  • Work laptop

  • Linode VPS (where this blog is hosted)

  • My Nexus 4 phone

Repositories:

  • One with an eCryptfs folder where I store private keys and the like - shared between my desktop, laptop, and VPS

  • podcasts - my VPS downloads podcasts into this folder directly from RSS feeds and synchronises to my laptop and phone

  • photos - synced between my desktop, VPS and laptop because I want to make sure I never lose them

It's incredibly simple to use and configure and thus far, it works very well and gives me just what I needed.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Paul Tansom: Beginning irc

Thu, 12/06/2014 - 17:27

After some discussion last night at PHP Hants about the fact that irc is a great facilitator of support / discussion, but largely ignored because there is rarely enough information for a new user to get going I decided it may be worth putting together a howto type post so here goes…

What is irc?

First of all, what on earth is it? I’m tempted to describe it as Twitter done right years before Twitter even existed, but I’m a geek and I’ve been using irc for years. It has a long heritage, but unlike the ubiquitous email it hasn’t made the transition into mainstream use. In terms of usage it has similarities to things like Twitter and Instant Messaging. Let’s take a quick look at this.

Twitter allows you to broadcast messages, they get published and anyone who is subscribed to your feed can read what you say. Everything is pretty instant, and if somebody is watching the screen at the right time they can respond straight away. Instant Messaging on the other hand, is more of a direct conversation with a single person, or sometimes a group of people, but it too is pretty instantaneous – assuming, of course, that there’s someone reading what you’ve said. Both of these techonologies are pretty familiar to many. If you go to the appropriate website you are given the opportunity to sign up and either use a web based client or download one.

It is much the same for irc in terms of usage, although conversations are grouped into channels which generally focus on a particular topic rather than being generally broadcast (Twitter) or more specifically directed (Instant Messaging). The downside is that in most cases you don’t get a web page with clear instructions of how to sign up, download a client and find where the best place is to join the conversation.

Getting started

There are two things you need to get going with irc, a client and somewhere to connect to. Let’s put that into a more familiar context.

The client is what you use to connect with; this can be an application – so as an example Outlook or Thunderbird would be a mail client, or IE, Firefox, Chrome or Safari are examples of clients for web pages – or it can be a web page that does the same thing – so if you go to twitter.com and login you are using the web page as your Twitter client. Somewhere to connect to can be compared to a web address, or if you’ve got close enough to the configuration of your email to see the details, your mail server address.

Let’s start with the ‘somewhere to connect to‘ bit. Freenode is one of the most popular irc servers, so let’s take a look. First we’ll see what we can find out from their website, http://freenode.net/.

There’s a lot of very daunting information there for somebody new to irc, so ignore most of it and follow the Webchat link on the left.

That’s all very well and good, but what do we put in there? I guess the screenshot above gives a clue, but if you actually visit the page the entry boxes will be blank. Well first off there’s the Nickname, this can be pretty much anything you like, no need to register it – stick to the basics of letters, numbers and some simple punctuation (if you want to), keep it short and so long as nobody else is already using it you should be fine; if it doesn’t work try another. Channels is the awkward one, how do you know what channels there are? If you’re lucky you’re looking into this because you’ve been told there’s a channel there and hopefully you’ve been given the channel name. For now let’s just use the PHP Hants channel, so that would be #phph in the Channels box. Now all you need to do is type in the captcha, ignore the tick boxes and click Connect and you are on the irc channel and ready to chat. Down the right you’ll see a list of who else is there, and in the main window there will be a bit of introductory information (e.g. topic for the channel) and depending on how busy it is anything from nothing to a fast scrolling screen of text.

If you’ve miss typed there’s a chance you’ll end up in a channel specially created for you because it didn’t exist; don’t worry, just quit and try again (I’ll explain that process shortly).

For now all you really need to worry about is typing in text an posting it, this is as simple as typing it into the entry box at the bottom of the page and pressing return. Be polite, be patient and you’ll be fine. There are plenty of commands that you can use to do things, but for now the only one you need to worry about is the one to leave, this is:

/quit

Type it in the entry box, press return and you’ve disconnected from the server. The next thing to look into is using a client program since this is far more flexible, but I’ll save that for another post.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Mick Morgan: a new app

Fri, 30/05/2014 - 20:47

My newspaper of choice, the Guardian, has for some time produced its own android (and iOS of course) app. I have often used the android app on my tablet to catch up on emerging news items at the end of the day. I also read the BBC news app for the same reason. Yesterday I received an update to the Guardian app. That update was a complete rewrite and gives the user a very different experience to the original app. For example, in the old app I could tailor the home screen to show me just the news categories I wanted (i.e. no sport, no fashion, but plenty of politics, business and UK news). In the new app I can only do that if I subscribe to a paid version. Sorrry, but no, I already pay for the newspaper, I just want this to give me updated headlines, I don’t want to have to buy the newspaper all over again.

In today’s paper (and on-line of course) there is an editorial comment on the new app explaining its background. The writer opens:

Today I am proud to announce the launch of our redesigned Guardian app. It’s been a ground-up reworking to bring you a new, advanced and beautiful Guardian app. For the first time you will have a seamless experience across phones and tablets, with a cleaner, responsive design that showcases the Guardian’s award-winning journalism to our readers around the world.

The article goes on to explain the history of the original app and the thinking behind the redesign. It continues:

We’re also thrilled to announce that GuardianWitness – the Guardian’s award-winning platform through which readers can contribute their own pictures, videos and text – is now integrated into the app, meaning readers can now contribute to assignments seamlessly and directly within the main app.

Hmmmm.

It continues:

Other new features include:

  • A new flexible layout so we can display different stories in different ways, and show readers which stories are the most important in one glance
  • Breaking news and sport alerts and up-to-the-minute live coverage
  • Increased personalisation: readers can personalise their home screen depending on what topics they’re most interested in, and create notifications to follow favourite writers, stories, series and football teams
  • Improved photo galleries and inclusion of interactives for the first time
  • Off-line reading – with intelligent caching readers will now be able to save articles to read later and have more content at their fingertips wherever they are
  • Open journalism has been built into the app, with even easier ways for readers to contribute comments, videos, photos via our new GuardianWitness integration, as well as a better commenting experience
  • New opportunities for advertisers.

I particularly like that last bit.

And of course the app needs access to my location.

Right.

(P.S. The app called “UK Newspapers” by Markus Reitberger gives access to all the UK news sites you could want – and all it asks for is network access.)

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Steve Engledow (stilvoid): Ramble

Fri, 23/05/2014 - 18:12

Today has been a fairly mixed bag. I booked today off as holiday some weeks back as work has been consistently stressful and I felt I needed a day to spend by myself with nothing in particular to do. I could probably have predicted it, but that's not quite how it turned out.

The morning started pleasantly: my wife is on a late shift today so she didn't need to leave until 11 so we had a leisurely breakfast together. Then we got to talking about what I'd do today; "Not much", said I. Naturally, the conversation went down the route of talking about things I might do. "Perhaps I'll wander into the city". "Oh, while you're there could you just..."

Before long, I had a to-do list. I didn't mind too much but mentioned in passing that days off always go by far too quickly. The ability of menstrual women to misinterpret a sentence is literally mind-blowing.

After I'd dropped the raging pile of hormones at her place of work, I wandered into the city. First on the list was getting a family photo printed onto canvas with a frame for my mum's birthday tomorrow. My SD card didn't work in the guy's PC - oh no! Luckily, I'd brought my laptop with me so used that to copy everything off, reformat it (making sure I picked something his Windows 8 machine would be unlikely to barf on) and copy the photos back. Still no joy on his machine but it worked fine in the Kodak printer he had; but that turned out not to be useful as he couldn't get it from there onto the canvas printer. Giving up, I went to Boots for some other things and noticed they did canvas printing. Cheaper. And it worked. Flawlessly. I blame Windows 8. Or summat.

I then went to the optician as I've been getting really dry eyes again recently. They told me I'd have to wait until 2:45 to see someone. Resigning myself to spending the day in the city, I had lunch at a noodle bar. After quite a lot of walking around, I eventually had my appointment to be given two things I apparently need to go and buy:

  • Opticrom ("more than meets the eye"?)

  • Some eye bags. Never heard of these. Apparently Amazon is the place to get them.

On my way back to the car, I decided to pop into a stationers and ended up buying a really nice notebook. There's something really satisfying about a good notebook - even though I don't use one very often. I suppose next time I can put my to-do list in it ;)

After that success, I decided to try something I've been meaning to try for ages: a backrub from The Rub. I've never had a professional massage before so I went for a 10 minute backrub there. It was worth every single penny - absolutely fantastic. I'll be going back again soon for a longer massage.

Now I have about 50 minutes until I have to pick up my son from the nursery so I think I'm going to go for a cheeky half.

Btw, the illness I mentioned last time culminated in some stomach-based fun-times and then we both felt fine. Weird.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs