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Taxcalc Self Assessment Under Linux

Mon, 25/01/2016 - 13:35

I first wrote about the difficulties of submitting a UK self-assessment tax return back in January 2009, with a follow up in January of 2010. In the subsequent years I have submitted my tax return under Windows with nary a thought about attempting it under Linux.

This year was different, I went to download TaxCalc as usual, only this time there was a Linux option. I barely noticed at first, downloading the Windows version before I thought "Hang on, did that say Linux?". It did indeed.

Despite the fact that I do have a Windows PC now, as well as a Linux PC and a Linux laptop, it probably makes more sense to perform my tax return on Windows now, but having posted on this subject before I really ought to give it a go!

I won't detail all the installation instructions, which are clearly described on the TaxCalc website.


Unfortunately the download is for a compiled .run file and not a distribution package, so you will have to decide whether you are happy to run the file and potentially dump unknown rubbish all over your system which might then be difficult to remove.

I decided to give it a go, downloading the .run file and marking it as executable. The instructions provided did not suggest running with sudo or as root, so I decided to follow the letter of the instructions and simply executed the .run file.

This entered a typical Wizard style installer, which resulted in the application being installed within my home directory, including a 127MB lib directory containing a large number of Linux libraries. This is very much the "Windows" way of doing things, bundling everything you need within the installation, rather than simply specifying dependencies. But the fact is that it works and gives TaxCalc control over the installation, in a repeatable and supportable way.

Import from previous year

The first step in using TaxCalc is always to import the previous year's files. This process completed for all files without error.

Step by Step Process

Probably the main reason for using TaxCalc is the simple step process for completing your tax return, and I am pleased to report that this aspect was identical to Windows.

On-line Submission

The one aspect that I was concerned about was whether the on-line submission to HMRC would work okay, again I am pleased to say that it worked flawlessly, both for the test submission and the live submission.


I must confess that I assumed that this day would only arrive when TaxCalc moved to a web-based service, something that surely is inevitable. I am delighted to at last be able to perform my tax at home, rather than on a Windows PC at work. Good news for those wanting to eradicate Windows from their lives.

Thank you TaxCalc.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Perfect Saturday. #bacon #coffee

Sat, 23/01/2016 - 10:04
from Instagram:

The post Perfect Saturday. #bacon #coffee appeared first on life at warp.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

My first #linux mag. May 2000. #career #tech #computer

Thu, 21/01/2016 - 16:24
from Instagram:

The post My first #linux mag. May 2000. #career #tech #computer appeared first on life at warp.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

#beachrock #rockpool #devon

Wed, 20/01/2016 - 14:46
from Instagram:

The post #beachrock #rockpool #devon appeared first on life at warp.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

I’m a good fit from DnBHeaven. I knew that already.

Fri, 08/01/2016 - 11:39

#lastfm tells me I’m a good fit from DnBHeaven. Luckily, I love DnB, so this
seems apt.


The post I’m a good fit from DnBHeaven. I knew that already. appeared first on life at warp.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Modern consumerism: using HD YouTube reviews of 4K TVs to help choose.

Wed, 06/01/2016 - 18:52

Modern consumerism: using HD YouTube reviews of 4K TVs to help choose.

As it is, my vote went with Samsung this time around.  Sorry Panasonic/Sony/etc…


The post Modern consumerism: using HD YouTube reviews of 4K TVs to help choose. appeared first on life at warp.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Really love the #LibreOffice 5 #UI. So clean.

Wed, 06/01/2016 - 11:30

Really love the #LibreOffice 5 #UI.  So clean.

The community has done a great job on this wonderful, #free, #opensource software.

The post Really love the #LibreOffice 5 #UI. So clean. appeared first on life at warp.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Low oil prices may be living on borrowed time

Tue, 05/01/2016 - 08:53

Low oil prices may be living on borrowed time

The post Low oil prices may be living on borrowed time appeared first on life at warp.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Ubuntu Simple Scan HP All in One

Sat, 02/01/2016 - 12:14

At home we have an HP OfficeJet J6410 printer, which has worked brilliantly for years. Unlike every previous printer we've owned, this printer sits happily on our network and seems perfectly content to be used only very occasionally, whereon it willingly responds with decent quality prints and scans.

I have set up the printer with a static IP address and so the scanning is managed via the web interface, whereon the scanned image opens a new tab in the browser, enabling you to save to wherever.

This printing and scanning Nirvana hit a road bump today, when it just instantly went to "Scan done" and failed to actually do anything. Rebooting the laptop, the printer and clearing temporary internet files all failed to resolve the problem, as did changing from Chrome to Firefox.

In desperation I tried running Ubuntu Simple Scan, but predictably enough it did not find the printer. A quick Internet search took me to this excellent Ubunutu community page.

I opened a terminal and typed:

$ hp-makeuri CUPS URI: hp:/net/Officejet_J6400_series?ip= SANE URI: hpaio:/net/Officejet_J6400_series?ip= HP Fax URI: hpfax:/net/Officejet_J6400_series?ip= Done.

I then typed (taking the SANE URI from above):

$ simple-scan hpaio:/net/Officejet_J6400_series?ip=

And it worked perfectly! Flushed with success I read on to see how to make this a permanent fixture, and it turned out that all I needed to do was configure the CUPS URI for the printer itself (it was previously set to something like socket://

$ vim /etc/cups/ DeviceURI hp:/net/Officejet_J6400_series?ip=

And now simply running Ubuntu Simple Scan works perfectly.

Thank you Ubuntu community!

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Rebooting into a New Year

Fri, 01/01/2016 - 18:12

I used to typically find New Year celebrations a mixed blessing.

Sometimes they can remind you of all the good, great, sad and bad events of the concluding year, in a way that makes you grateful to be alive and with loved ones.  Other times, the gratitude can give way to pensiveness, reflection and perhaps also regret.

Having One’s Cake

This new year (2015 into ’16) was a little different, though.  Following a very busy but also very rewarding year, the period over Christmas gave me opportunity for reflection and redirection.

2015 was a “solid” year.  And by that, I basically mean unrelenting.  It was a year without a single week off for annual leave, which proved extremely tiring as the autumn months came around.  At the same time, after a gruelling late summer with web projects “galore”, things started a gentle easing towards the end of the year.

It wasn’t to last, but amidst the business of work projects was also a number of social engagements which provided plenty of entertainment and some light relief!  All of which was enjoyed on social media, of course (want to connect? Find me on whatever you use).

Always room for a little freshly-made cake, right?

Three Directions

Naturally, life eventually returns to matters of work, which I love.  This year, my focus is on quality and quantity.  Well, if you can have both, why not!

Quality First

My belief is always that there is no substitute for quality [1].  I apply this principle to all the work my company, Warp Universal, is commissioned for by clients, and to all hosting services too.  I’m currently working on some ideas to further guarantee the highest quality project management and delivery to clients, whatever the challenges!

Support Always

Providing quality support is paramount in my eyes.  I have always been proud to offer good support to our customers, but this hasn’t been without its challenges (being forced to quickly reconsider data storage, in the wake of Schrems vs Facebook, being the most recent).

Building Up Organically

Managing a micro business is no mean feat, as anyone who has done so will testify.  At one time, I considered growth to be the largest (and perhaps only) signifier of a successful business.  But this is false, and I’m glad I realise that now.  Many struggling businesses are those that have grown too quickly, without enough consideration, or without the ability to back-off sales satisfactorily.  It’s my intention to grow the business, organically, sustainably and vertically.

2016 is looking to be a very promising year for Warp Universal

Pushing Forward

Alongside work, 2016 is looking to be a great year for my surfing.  Not because the weather patterns look particularly convivial to it, nor that my free time is that much greater than it was before.  It’s simply that I want to surf more in 2016, and I’m in a position to make it happen.

Along with that, it’s definitely a year to align my media production with media consumption.  A great love of mine is music, and work commitments have often meant I’ve lost touch with newer acts on the scene.  I look forward to reconnecting via a music subscription service.

Take Off!

The year ahead is an interesting prospect.  365 days remaining from today (leap year, remember!) to achieve so many goals.  And not forget that life is short, so a little fun should be had also.


[1] A phrase once used by my Grandmother.

The post Rebooting into a New Year appeared first on life at warp.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Ubuntu Empathy Microsoft Skype For Business Lync 2013 Client

Thu, 31/12/2015 - 10:23

I wrote recently regarding using Microsoft Skype for Business / Lync 2013 in Pidgin, this has worked really well for our Lubuntu 14.04 clients, running Pidgin. Having some time off work I decided to try and get this working also on my Ubuntu 14.04 laptop.

The problem is that Ubuntu uses Empathy by default, rather than Pidgin, but I found that the steps were virtually identical (cut and pasted from my earlier post):

Download and Dependencies
  1. Install build tools if you don't already have them:

    sudo apt-get install build-essential

  2. Install checkinstall if you don't already have it:

    sudo apt-get install checkinstall

  3. Download source files.

  4. Extract source:

    tar -xvvzf pidgin-sipe-1.20.1.tar.gz

  5. Change into source directory:

    cd pidgin-sipe-1.20.1

  6. Read carefully the README file in the source directory.

  7. Install dependencies listed in the README:

    # apt-get install libpurple-dev libtool intltool pkg-config libglib2.0-dev libxml2-dev libnss3-dev libssl-dev libkrb5-dev libnice-dev libgstreamer0.10-dev

These dependencies may change over time, and your particular requirements may be different from mine, so please read the README and that information should take precedence.

Compile and Install

Lastly, as an ordinary user, you should now be able to compile. If it fails at any stage, simply read the error and install the missed dependency.

$ ./configure --prefix=/usr $ make $ sudo checkinstall

I found checkinstall was pre-populated with sensible settings, and I was able to continue without making any changes. Once complete a Debian package will have been created in the current directory, but it will have already been installed for you.

Add Account in Empathy

Still in a terminal type:

$ empathy-accounts

Then simply click the + button to add an account, select the Account Type "sipe", enter your email address in the Account field and click Log-in. Then highlight the newly created account and Edit Connection Preferences, opening up the Advanced section. I completed the following:

  • Login: enter your Skype for Business email address
  • Password
  • Server: leave blank
  • Transport: auto
  • User agent: UCCAPI/15.0.4420.1017 OC/15.0.4420.1017
  • Authentication: auto

And that really was all that there was to it.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Testing Ubuntu Apps As A Service

Wed, 16/12/2015 - 12:20

tl;dr. Stuart Langridge and I made an simple, easy to use, experimental app tester called Marvin, for Ubuntu Click Packages, which emails you screenshots and logs of your app while running on a real device you may not own.

I frequently get asked by new developers in the community to help test their apps on Ubuntu Phone. Typically they don’t want extensive testing of all features, just a simple “does it start and what does it look like on the device you have?”.

Often they don’t have a physical device when developing on the desktop with our SDK, but want an on-device sanity check before they upload to the store. Sometimes they have one device such as a phone, but want to see what their app looks like on a different one, perhaps a tablet.

I’ve been happy to help developers test their apps on various devices, but this doesn’t scale well, is time consuming and relies on me being online and having a phone which I’m happy to install random click packages on.

Meanwhile, at OggCamp I gave a short talk about our recent security incident on Ubuntu phone. During the Q&A and in the bar afterwards a couple of people suggested that we should have some system which enables automated testing of devices. They were coming at it from the security point of view, suggesting heavy instrumentation to find these kinds of issues before they hit the store.

While we (Canonical) already have tools which review apps before they go in the store, we currently don’t actually install and execute the apps on devices, and have no plan to implement such a service (that I know of).

I’m aware that other platforms have implemented automated systems for testing and instrumenting apps and wondered how hard it would be to setup something really basic to cover at least one of the two use cases above. So I took to Telegram to brainstorm with my good friend Stuart Langridge.

We thrashed out what was needed for a ‘minimum viable product’ and some nice-to-have future enhancements. Pretty soon after, with a bit of python and some hacked-together shell scripts, ‘Marvin‘ was born. I then approached Daniel McGuire who kindly provided some CSS to make it look prettier.

A developer can upload a click package to the site, and specify their email address & one or more of the available devices. Some time later they’ll get an email showing a few screenshots of the app or scope running on a device and pertinent logs extracted after it ran. While the developer waits, the website shows the current status as ‘pending’ (you’re in a queue), ‘claimed’ (by a device) and ‘finished’ (check your inbox).

This fulfills the simplest of use cases, making sure the app starts, and extracting the log if it didn’t. Clearly there’s plenty more it could potentially do, but this was our first target met.

Under the covers, there’s a device attached to a computer which checks periodically for uploaded clicks and processes them in sequence. In between each run the phone is cleaned up, so each test is done on a blank device. Currently it tests traditional apps/games and scopes, webapps are rejected, but may be supported later.

The reason we reject webapps is because currently the devices have no network access at all – no wifi or cellular data. So running webapps would just result in this:-

It’s experimental so not completely robust, being a prototype hacked together over a couple of weekends/evenings, but it works (for the most part). There’s no guarantees of availability of the service or indeed the devices. It could go offline at any time. Did I mention it’s experimental?

Significantly, I’ve disabled network access completely on the device, with no SIM inside, so any app which requires external network access is going to have a bad day. Locally installed apps however, will work fine.

We currently don’t do any interaction with the uploaded applications, but simply run them and wait a few seconds (to give it time to quiesce) then take a screenshot. The image at the top of this post shows what a typical email from Marvin looks like.

It contains:-

  • click-review.txt – The output from running the click review tools
    • Note: Apps which fail the click review process (the same one run by the click store) will not be installed or tested.
  • install.txt – Output from the commands used to install the click on the device – good for debugging install failures
  • Screenshot-0 – What the “home” app scope looks like with the click installed – useful for showing the icon and description
  • Screenshot-1 – What happens immediately after starting the app, showing the splash screen
  • Screenshot-2 – The app after 5 seconds
  • Screenshot-3 – The app after 10 seconds
    • Note: We attempt to de-duplicate the screenshots so you may not get all four if any are identical
  • application-log.txt – The actual output (stdout) from the application, pulled from ~/.cache/upstart
  • dmesg.txt – Any kernel logging generated from the app during the app run
  • device-version.txt – The output of ‘system-image-cli –info’ run on the device, so the developer knows what OTA level, channel and device it ran on

There’s clearly a ton of other things that could be added to the mail, or extra items which could be instrumented or monitored, and features we could add. Off the top of my head we could potentially add:-

  • Scripted touch/gestures
  • Networking
  • VPN endpoints (so the phone looks like it’s in a particular region)
  • Orientation changes
  • Faked GPS location
  • Video/screencast recording during runtime
  • Input from microphone / camera(s)
  • Specify which release / channel to flash on the device prior to testing

Clearly all of these need some careful thought and planning, especially those enabling network access from the device.

We’re interested in feedback from developers who might use Marvin, and suggestions for improvements we might make. There are a limited number of devices in the pool, and not all supported devices are currently available. In the future we may have more devices connected to Marvin as they become available.

So go and test your apps at!

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Why people really use #Instagram ?

Wed, 16/12/2015 - 01:54

Why people really use #Instagram ?

The post Why people really use #Instagram ? appeared first on life at warp.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Pretty sure, if Trump got elected, the last thing Americans need worry about is Muslims.

Wed, 09/12/2015 - 10:03

If Trump got elected, the last thing Americans need worry about is Muslims.

The post Pretty sure, if Trump got elected, the last thing Americans need worry about is Muslims. appeared first on life at warp.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

#GNU books @FSF ordered. Satisfaction in this.

Fri, 04/12/2015 - 09:51

I have an eReader, but I prefer physical books :)

#GNU books ordered.  Satisfaction in this.

The post #GNU books @FSF ordered. Satisfaction in this. appeared first on life at warp.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Discovering Dokuwiki

Thu, 03/12/2015 - 10:15

I was looking for a Wiki for managing the sharing of a boat, including booking usage, task lists and maintenance, as well as acting as a repository for any-and-all information available.

What it looked like was incidental, but it needed to be really simple for users to edit pages quickly. I wanted to squeeze it onto a work server, so it also needed to be really lightweight.

The Choices

I have experience of using both Wordpress and Drupal, but felt they were too complex and cumbersome for this use-case. I have also used MediaWiki in the past but, whilst easy to edit, I found it fairly cumbersome to use - it is after all designed for managing vast sites.

In the end I opted for DokuWiki, after stumbling across a site that recommended it as a really simple alternative to MediaWiki.

Installing DokuWiki

Dokuwiki is really easy to install, with delightfully simple instructions for Apache, but following my lightweight wishes I decided to try Nginx for the first time. Unfortunately I could not immediately find Nginx Instructions from DokuWiki, so instead followed these Nginx Instructions from Rose Hosting.

On first attempt the landing page would not load, but the nginx logs were very clear and helpful in pointing me to increasing a value of server_names_hash_bucket_size in /etc/nginx/nginx.conf. This I found was commented out (with a default of 32), so I uncommented it and increased it to 64 and restarted nginx. At last I could reach the install page and from that point it all worked perfectly.

Later I decided to implement Nginx Pretty URLs, which again worked perfectly.

First Impressions

The main thing I love about DokuWiki is the simplicity.

Creating users is trivial, creating and editing pages is a doddle, there is a reasonably sane way of managing media files, and the Wiki syntax is bearable (not Markdown sadly).

Despite this simplicity, each time I have come across something I'd like to tweak, then there has been a way to do it without resorting to nasty hacks. Where Plugins are required, these can be installed in seconds via the web interface.

Most of what I was trying to do with this boat site was simply a matter of creating pages, but I did come across a few exceptions:


One of the key uses for the site is to host a number of checklists, but I wanted tickboxes against each item. Not essential clearly, but it turned out to be trivial, simply deciding how to type a tickbox, e.g. square brackets for incomplete [] and [x] for complete, and then adding DokuWiki Entities to convert these into the appropriate character.


The main problem that I faced was how to enable boat users to book time on the boat and in the end I settled on using simple text tables, but to make them simpler to edit I added Andreas Gohr's excellent Edittable Plugin. This plug-in is so good that I would always install it in any DokuWiki that will have tables.

Whilst this will certainly do for now, I am on the look out for some sort of site to manage bookings properly - if you know of anything suitable please do comment below, otherwise at some point I will probably write one in Perl Dancer!


Under the Use Cases on the DokuWiki website there is the suggestion of using it for a Private Notebook - having used DokuWiki I can totally see how that would make sense - it is that simple to create and edit.

DokuWiki has definitely filled a gap in my web toolbox, alongside Perl Dancer and Jekyll.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Great. Off we go to bomb an already ruined country. #SaveSyria

Wed, 02/12/2015 - 23:30

Great. Off we go to bomb an already ruined country. #SaveSyria

The post Great. Off we go to bomb an already ruined country. #SaveSyria appeared first on life at warp.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Work this week has gone nova. Exploding, then collapsing in a big heap!

Wed, 02/12/2015 - 22:55

Work this week has gone nova. Exploding, then collapsing in a big heap!

The post Work this week has gone nova. Exploding, then collapsing in a big heap! appeared first on life at warp.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs