Using Mastodon as a RSS Feed Reader

There are a number of blogs and serials that I really enjoy reading and (where available), I've tended to subscribe to their RSS feeds using Nextcloud News.

What I've noticed though, is that, amongst everything else I do on my phone, the new article notifications do tend to get lost. The result is that I quite often don't notice that a new post has been published unless I happen to see someone else toot it into the fediverse (for example, the prompt for this post is that I very nearly missed out on this great post).

Just under a year ago, I wrote a simple RSS to Mastodon bot to automatically toot links to my own posts.

Given that fediverse notifications are one of the things that I do look at fairly frequently, it occurred to me that it might be an idea to re-use my existing code base to stand up a "private" bot: it could monitor the RSS feeds that I care about most and publish a followers-only toot when something new appears. I'd then also be able to set Mastodon to always notify me when the bot tooted.

In this post, I talk about building a configuration to use my existing bot code to push new posts into my Mastodon notifications so that I (hopefully) never miss another great post.

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Running a Lemmy Instance using docker-compose

Recently Reddit made changes to it's API in an attempt to knobble third party apps (apparently stemming from concern that it's own lacklustre and ad-laden app could not compete on a level playing field). Reddit's management now seems to have moved on from lying about application developers in order to continue to threaten moderators protesting the changes.

Reddit's user and app hostile approach looks set to continue for some time and is already driving the growth of Reddit alternatives such as, Lemmy and KBin.

Like many users, I've ended up creating new accounts in various places and now only really look at Reddit in order to look in on the drama or to see whether my 3rd party app is still working (which, at time of writing, it is).

I originally thought that I'd end up primarily using KBin (because I preferred the interface). That changed, though, when then the news broke that Boost will have a Lemmy compatible adaptation: Boost's interface is probably the reason that I've managed to stay on Reddit for so long - the official app would have led to me drifting away years ago.

With Boost targeting Lemmy, I decided that adopting Lemmy was likely my best long-term option, and that I would look at running my own instance (much like I do with Mastodon).

The Lemmy documentation does contain a guide to installation using docker but (IMO) it's a bit simple and lacking in examples.

In this post I'll detail the process I followed to stand up a docker based Lemmy instance, including where (and why) I deviated from the official documentation.

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Upgrading a docker-compose based Mastodon server to gain today's security fixes

My previous post detailing how to run a Mastodon server using docker-compose includes a section detailing how to upgrade an instance built using that approach

However, today's Mastodon releases (v4.1.3, v4.0.5 and v3.5.9) include important security fixes (especially the fix for CVE-2023-36460), so I thought it was worth a quick post detailing the process that I've followed to upgrade my instance ( to ensure that I get today's security fixes in place.

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Motorola Moto G7 Stuck in a Wifi connection loop

A little while ago we bought a Motorola Moto G7 but found that it had issues when connected to our wifi.

After connecting, the phone would aquire an IP, report there was no internet connection and then disconnect (before automatically trying to connect again), leading to it repeatedly looping through several states

  Connecting -> Obtaining IP -> Connected
      ^                            |
      |                            V
    Saved <------------------ No Internet

Our main wifi is dual band, exposing 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz networks using the same SSID. So, at the time, I assumed that (like many devices at the time), the phone didn't like this.

Not wanting to shut off our 5Ghz network for the sake of a single device, I instead associated the phone with our (2.4Ghz only) Guest wifi network and it's worked happily ever since.

However, I was recently looking at swapping out our Wifi and wanted to try moving this phone back to the main wifi (so that it can reach cast to Chromecast etc).

Despite the change in Wifi access-point, as soon as I connected the phone to the main SSID it went straight back into the connection loop I'd seen before.

There are lots of pages talking about resolving Wifi issues on the G7 but they all seem to be focused on a phone that won't connect, or that periodically experiences dropouts rather than a device that connects but won't stay connected for more than a few seconds (even Motorola's troubleshooting page doesn't list it as a possible issue).

So, having finally got to the bottom of our issues, I thought it might be useful to detail what I found in case it provides a pointer to others.

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Roku DLNA Media Playback Gets Stuck at 13%

Earlier in the year, I wrote about configuring Kodi to act as a DLNA Media Source for a Roku Streaming Stick, using Roku Media Player to access and play a local media library.

This setup worked quite well for me until recently, when I suddenly found that media would no longer play.

I could browse the media library but attempting to play anything resulted in a loading wheel which got stuck at 13% before eventually showing a timeout message.

Although the cause, in my case, was specific to my network, it seemed worth writing about because 13% seems to be quite a common failure point and, as we'll see, is actually quite misleading.

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Migrating from HomeAssistant OS to HomeAssistant Container

We use HomeAssistant to help control our home automation and have done so for some time now. For those not yet familiar with HomeAssistant, it's an open-source Home Automation suite which comes with a variety of installation options:

HomeAssistant has 4 installation options: HassOS, HA Container, HA Core and HA Supervised

When first setting everything up, I chose to use HomeAssistant OS (HAOS) because it looked like the path of least resistance: It's HomeAssistant's recommended route and provides a low maintenance system with access to the Addons ecosystem.

Over time, however, I've increasingly found that HAOS isn't really a good fit for my needs and so I looked at migrating to using HomeAssistant Container instead (removing HAOS, Supervisor and their dependencies from the equation).

This post talks about how I completed the migration as well as a little more on why I decided to migrate between the two. The data move steps should also work for anyone looking at installing HomeAssistant locally rather than via a container (i.e. those using the "Home Assistant Core" option listed above).

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Linking Grafana Alerting to PagerDuty

I wrote recently about monitoring our aquarium with InfluxDB and Grafana, including sending notification emails if something doesn't seem right.

Use of email for alert notifications is fine for most things, but some events demand much more prompt attention.

For example, water temperature drifting out of range isn't great, but isn't usually a "drop everything now" event and can wait until I next check email. However, a sudden sharp change could be indicative of something serious: perhaps there's a leak and the water level has dropped, or perhaps one of the heaters is stuck on and trying to boil the tank.

Although hopefully, they'll never be sent, I wanted to add the ability to create more intrusive notifications for cataclysmic events.

Like many in the tech industry, I already have the PagerDuty (PD) app on my phone, so it made sense to make use of that (the mobile app can sign into multiple accounts at once, which is really helpful).

I created a free-tier PD account and went through their initial setup wizard, the steps in this post assume that you've already done at least the same and have a functional PagerDuty account set up.

This post details the process I followed to link Grafana's alerting to PagerDuty and configure a policy to only route certain alerts to PD, along with some notes on things I found along the way.

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Playing Local Media with a Roku Streaming Stick

We're primarily a Kodi household, with OSMC on Raspberry Pis playing content from a modest, and locally hosted collection of digital media. This collection is exposed to Kodi via http, requiring nothing more special than a web-server (my NAS) with directory listings enabled.

However, I've been gifted a Roku 3810EU and wanted to play around with using that a bit.

It's been a good few years since I last played with a Roku (we had one to help with monitoring and testing a few jobs back), but the interface feels as accessible as it did then.

For those not familiar: Roku use the term "channels" to refer to what might more colloquially be referred to as apps and their store contains a wide range of possible channels providing access to OTT content: everything from Amazon Prime Video to Rakuten TV.

The problem, though, is that the Roku is (understandably) very much focused on playing remote streams and I've got a local media collection that I'd like to access.

Roku's store includes a channel (Roku Media Player) which allows playback of local content, but playback of LAN hosted media relies on DLNA, meaning that my simple HTTP server isn't compatible on it's own.

There are solutions (such as Plex) which could be used to provide DLNA support, but I didn't really want to have to stand up an additional service just so that the Roku could play content from a source that our existing media boxes handle fine.

Thankfully, there wasn't actually a need to do so, as those existing boxes are the key: Kodi can be configured to expose its media library to other players via DLNA.

This post describes the (easy) process I followed to configure an OSMC box to act as a DLNA server, allowing playback on the Roku.

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Playing Around With Automating Syndication (POSSE)

You may or may not have heard the IndieWeb term POSSE, which stands for "Publish (on) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere".

Although the term itself is relatively new to me, the approach that it describes is one that I've preferred for a long time.

Syndication, though, has generally been something that I've treated as a manual task: tweeting/posts links that I think are likely to be of interest (often skipping more general posts like this) and otherwise mostly relying on search engines to help people find my content.

I recently wrote a bot to consume my RSS feed and publish it into Mastodon the use of which means there's been something of a change in my approach. It's also prompted me to think about whether I wanted to automate cross-linking onto other platforms.

The aim of this post is to discuss why and how I wanted to do that (as well as to hopefully put some of my thoughts into better order).

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Investigating An Abusive Email

This year brought an unusual start to my Boxing Day morning.

As I do most mornings, I sat down with a coffee and checked email. This time, though, there was an email which really stood out, carrying the subject line kill yourself nazi

Mail from an anonymous source: Kill yourself, you're a nazi, you don't deserve to live

What a nice start to a bank holiday...

I've been on the internet for a long time now, so I'm quite used to receiving abuse along with sometimes concerted attempts to pwn my shit, but such events do still occasionally elicit some level of curiosity.

The word Nazi obviously has a very specific definition and it's really not a term that I'd expect to be being thrown at me.

Which raises the question: what might have motivated someone to choose that particular term?

It's more than possible that I've upset someone. For example, I recently reported someone sharing pictures of teens alongside some very questionable commentary, resulting in them losing their Mastodon account. But, there are about a million insults that are more likely as a result of that than the word "Nazi".

With my curiosity piqued and it being a bank holiday, I decided to spend a little time to see whether I could find any additional context.

This post details my investigation, as well as extracting some important general lessons from its findings.

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Mounting S3 Compatible Storage To Provide Additional Offsite Capacity

I basically live inside text files: my notes are in text files, the systems I work with generally use text config files and this site uses Markdown under the hood. Such is my preference for plain text that some of my project tracking even has a hidden text format output.

As a result, I've acrued quite a collection of text notes over the years, even if most aren't in a form which could be published

Iceberg meme: refined published work vs angry sweary text notes

I'm not hoarding notes simply for the sake of it: I do occasionally refer back to older tasks (although sometimes it is for really odd things, like recently digging out my 2018 notes on the Mythic Beasts Job Challenge to see how it had changed over the years).

Plaintext has various advantages over something like OneNote, particularly in terms of ensuring ongoing accessibility and compatability. But, of course, also has it's own costs: searchability being a big one.

Searching with grep works, but only up to a point. Aside from not having things like stemming, once you've been keeping notes for over a decade, you do tend to find that at some point you crossed a line where grep is no longer able to quickly give meaningful results, particularly if you've also got non-text files mixed in.

I addressed the searchability issue by deploying a search engine: I initially used Sphider, then a self-maintained fork of it, before eventually rolling my own Elasticsearch based one. I wrote about some of my experiences with the latter a little while back, but generally does what I need

My search results page

Those years of content, although now searchable, consume space. Sooner or later storage gets tight (something that's only hastened by also storing media collections and the like).

Inevitably, an alert triggered this week: I'd consumed 86% of available storage so it was time to start thinking about adding (or freeing up) space.

After a very quick look, I decided that more storage was in order. But, I also didn't want to shell out for new hard-drives (or add to our power consumption) and so decided to look at the viability of mounting some remote storage instead.

This post goes over the process that I followed.

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Implementing Webmention statistics and moderation with Telegraf, InfluxDB and Kapacitor

I recently added webmention support to my site so that webmentions are sent for content that I've linked to (if the other end supports it), as well as displaying webmentions alongside content that's been mentioned elsewhere.

Webmention displayed on my site

As part of setting the site up to display mentions, I implemented a basic moderation mechanism, allowing me to easily prevent display of problematic mentions.

However, as I noted, the mechanism is inherently reactive: mentions are automatically embedded into pages, so any moderation happens after the mention has been available (potentially for quite some time).

My initial thinking was that addressing this would mean creating some kind of UI and notification system (so that new mentions could be received and reviewed before being approved for display). Doable, but very much on the "I'll get around to it" list.

In the meantime, though, I wanted to be able to collect some basic statistics:

  • when webmentions are received
  • where they're made
  • which page has been mentioned

Whilst thinking about how best to capture and record this data, it occurred to me that the same flow could actually be used to send notifications of webmentions, allowing more proactive (if technically still re-active) moderation.

In this post I'll describe how I built a simple workflow using Telegraf, InfluxDB and Kapacitor to retrieve webmentions, send alerts and generate aggregate statistics.

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Running a Mastodon Instance using docker-compose

I decided recently that I wanted to move from to running my own instance of Mastodon.

As well as giving me something new to play around with, the reasons behind this decision included

  • It provides another level of verification: you know my account is authentic because it's under
  • It gives me more control over which instances are (and are not) blocked
  • was getting a little slow as a result of intense load
  • I'm intending to create a bot or two at some point and didn't want to annoy anyone
  • Failures become mine to own (for better or worse)

Mastodon's documentation on installing from source is pretty detailed. However, for various reasons, I've generally moved away from installing software onto the host, and use containerised solutions where possible.

I assumed that deployment via Docker was quite well supported as I'd found

However, it turned out to be a little more complex than expected.

It's not terrible, by any means, but the process can be a little unintuitive (a few things have also changed a bit since Peter's post).

In this post, I'll describe the process I used to get my Mastodon server up and running using docker-compose.

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Getting KeepassXC Working with Snap Firefox on Ubuntu 22.04 LTS

Yesterday, I posted documentation detailing how to move Firefox back to using a native package rather than a Snap.

My motivation for needing to do this was that the move to snap had broken communication with my password manager (KeepassXC) and I needed it back up and running in a hurry.

Things broke as a result of a lack of support for NativeMessaging in snap, so any extension relying on this mechanism will have issues.

This, amongst other things, is something I previously experienced when Chromium was moved to snap a couple of years ago:

Chromium going snap broke a lot

Yesterday, I needed to get things up and running quickly, so looked at how to de-snap my Firefox install.

However, if NativeMessaging support is your only concern with snap, the good news is that help is coming.

There's an updated xdg-desktop-portal which adds support for NativeMessaging, and the beta version of the Firefox snap adds support for communication with local extensions via xdg-desktop-portal.

In this post, I'll run through the process of enabling this communication.

If you've already replaced Firefox with a .deb you can still follow these steps to test the snap support without overly impacting your current install.

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Overriding Issue Creation Date when raising a Gitlab Issue

If you're manually migrating existing issues into Gitlab, you may want to override the date that an issue/ticket reports as being raised on.

I wanted to do this recently as GILS's new label timelines functionality means that importing older issues is worthwhile (as it makes it easier to see the full history, even if some of it predates my use of Gitlab).

Unfortunately, Gitlab's UI doesn't provide a means to do this, but the API does.

When I was looking, there weren't any search hits on how to go about changing the creation date of an issue, so this post aims to correct that by detailing the process of filing a Gitlab issue with a custom creation date.

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Replacing My Adblock Lists

I started to curate my own adblocking scripts back in 2014, making them available in the directory /adblock/ on my site.

At the time of their creation the lists were poorly controlled and pretty sparsely documented:

Original Adblock list documentation

In 2018, I got my act together a bit: I moved the lists into a Github repo and implemented project management to track additions to the lists.

Whilst project management improved, the publishing of the lists continued to rely on some increasingly shonky bash scripts. Those scripts modified and compiled in third party lists, stripped duplicates and generated various output formats. They were never engineered so much as spawned.

Because the lists used third party sources, the compilation process needed to run at scheduled intervals: it couldn't simply be triggered when I made changes, because the lists were presented as near-complete alternatives to others.

Despite their awful hacky nature, those scripts managed to compile and update my block lists for nearly 8 years.

However, they've long been overdue for replacement.

This post serves as a record for the deprecation of my original adblock lists, as well as providing details of their replacement.

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Building a serverless site availability monitoring platform with Telegraf, AWS Fargate and InfluxCloud

I use a free Uptime Robot account to help keep an eye on the availability of

Every 5 minutes, UptimeRobot places requests to my site (and it's origin) and reports on how long those requests take to complete and updates my status page if there are issues.

The free tier only tests from a single location, but is usually a good indicator of when things are going (or starting to go) wrong. I use my uptime-robot exec plugin for Telegraf to pull stats from UptimeRobot into InfluxDB for use in dashboards.

Because I test against my origin as well as the CDN, it's usually possible to tell (roughly) where an issue lies: if CDN response time increases, but origin doesn't, then the issue is likely on the CDN.

Earlier in the week, I saw a significant and sustained increase in the latency UptimeRobot was reporting for my site, with no corresponding change in origin response times.

UptimeRobot reports increase in latency fetching from my site

This suggests possible CDN issues, but the increase wasn't reflected in response time stats drawn from other sources:

  • There was no increase in the response time metrics recorded by my Privacy Friendly Analytics system
  • The Telegraf instance (checking the same endpoints) on my LAN wasn't reporting an increase

Given that pfanalytics wasn't screaming at me and that I couldn't manually reproduce the issue, I felt reasonably confident that whatever this was, it wasn't impacting real users.

But, I decided that it would be useful to have some other geographically distributed availability system that I could use for investigation and corroboration in future.

I chose to use Amazon's Elastic Container Server (ECS) with AWS Fargate to build my solution.

This post walks through the process of setting up a serverless solution which runs Telegraf in a Fargate cluster and writes availability data into a free InfluxDB Cloud account.

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Прекратить войну (Stop the War)

Эта статья размещена как на английском, так и на (плохо переведенном) русском языках.

This article is posted in both English and (poorly translated) Russian.

Всю последнюю неделю или около того я (как и другие, гораздо более способные, чем я) пытался продвигать информацию в Россию, чтобы русский народ мог увидеть правду о том, что происходит. Несмотря на то, что он небольшой, я вижу русский трафик на этом сайте (и кто знает, откуда берется трафик скрытых сервисов), поэтому решил оставить сообщение и здесь.

Это сообщение доступно по адресу

For the past week or so, I (like others far more capable than me) have been trying to push information into Russia so that the Russian people may see the truth of what is happening. Whilst it's small, I do see Russian traffic on this site (and who knows where the hidden service traffic originates), so decided I should put a message here also.

This message is available at

Мы знаем, что российское руководство лжет своим людям о войне на Украине, даже отрицая, что война есть (а не «спецоперация»). Мы знаем, что подконтрольные государству СМИ повторяют ложь правительства, а те, кто осмеливается говорить хоть часть правды, удаляются из эфира (как «Эхо Москвы» и Дождь).

We know that the Russian leadership is lying to it's people about the war in Ukraine, even denying that there is a war (rather than a "special operation"). We know that state controlled media is repeating the Government's lies and that those that dare speak even some of the truth are taken off air (like Echo Moskvy and Dozhd/RainTV).

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Mailarchive has been discontinued

I launched back in 2014. As well as hosting mirrors of mailing lists such as tor-talk and cypherpunks, it also hosted mail based notifications derived from multiple sources (such as RSS feeds, lists etc) like my CVEs list.

However, I've taken the decision to take offline - this post details the rationale behind that choice.

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Tracking My Website Performance and Delivery Stats in InfluxDB

Earlier this year, I moved from serving via my own bespoke Content Delivery Network (CDN) to serving it via BunnyCDN.

It was, and remains, the right decision. However, it did mean that I lost (convenient) access to a number of the stats that I use to ensure that things are working correctly - in particular service time, hit rate and request outcomes.

I recently found the time to look at addressing that, so this post details the process I've followed to regain access to this information, without increasing my own access to PII (so, without affecting my GDPR posture), by pulling information from multiple sources into InfluxDB.

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New Site Live

I've migrated my site from Joomla! to Nikola - moving from having active code exposed to visitors, to simply serving static files.

As with any migration of this size, there'll be things I've missed, and there are a few things where I've kicked the can down the road a bit

  • Search is not yet implemented
  • The template uses Javascript (this will be made optional in future)

At some point soon, I'll write up a post detailing how I migrated, and why

Update: that post can be found at Migrating from Joomla to Nikola

Sparkler Bombs...

Firstly, to deal with the obvious: the term sparkler bomb is a bit of a misnomer, the burst isn't contained -  there's no explosion, just a large woosh. There are, of course, ways to contain them and make a bang, but doing so is (frankly) twattish and far, far less fun (even before it goes wrong and puts you in A&E).

Secondly: this post is offered as a bit of fun, not as an instructable - if you're silly enough to try and recreate (or better) my mischief, then the consequences lie with you and you alone.

Anyway, moving on...

One of my earlier memories of being on the internet, was delight at finding pages talking about creating sparkler bombs. Pages much like this post (in fact, I'm all but certain that was one of them, I remember the humour and definitely remember the imagery).

Much like any obsession on the earlier web, I only had photos to go on (Youtube wouldn't be created, let alone mainstream, for years - even where videos were recorded, they were shared as framegrabs).

The photos, though, showed some fairly spectacular results:

Sparkler Bomb Picture from

That blue line is an artefact of the CCD in the camera the image was captured on (i.e. it's not really there), but it does nothing but add to the effect.

At the time, I couldn't possibly have built a sparkler bomb myself - being too young to buy the things was a surmountable obstacle, but not having the funds to buy them in the first place was not. And so, some things that should not have been forgotten were lost - at least for a time.

Actually, I have periodically thought about them - usually when handed a sparkler - but the thought's slipped from my mind well before being able to act on it.

Recently though, I had need for a couple of small sparklers (think of things you put on a cake), and had the rest of the pack left over. Being mini sparklers it was never going to be anything near as spectacular as the image above, but nowadays we do have an availability of cheap video cameras to watch things in slow-mo so I figured it'd still be interesting to try.



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Making my books freely available

Nearly a decade ago, I self-published a couple of books on the Kindle store: Linux for Business People and A Linux Sysadmin's guide to mischief.

Since then, I'd largely forgotten about them, until sorting through some files today.

They're pretty outdated (and weren't that great back then), but I figured as they've served their original purpose, I'd make them freely available:


Linux for Business People A Linux Sysadmin's guide to Mischief

Both come from those happy, happy days before SystemD inserted itself onto our systems...

Musings on Home Automation

I've dabbled with elements of Home Automation in the past.

In a previous rental, we only had storage heaters, so I equipped each room with an Oil Radiator and an energenie RF plug socket (like these using a Raspberry Pi and the Energenie remote control header board to set up an effective heating schedule.

However, aside from that, and mild "wouldn't it be nice too..." ideas, I've not really been overly interested into it until relatively recently.

Having spent a bit of time dabbling, I thought I'd write a post on my experience - not least in case it helps people with some of the things I struggled with.



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A comparative analysis of search terms used on and it's Onion

My site has had search pretty much since it's very inception. However, it is used relatively rarely - most visitors arrive at my site via a search engine, view whatever article they clicked on, perhaps follow related internal links, but otherwise don't feel the need to do manual searches (analysis in the past showed that use of the search function dropped dramatically when article tags were introduced).

But, search does get used. I originally thought it'd be interesting to look at whether searches were being placed for things I could (but don't currently) provide.

Search terms analysis is interesting/beneficial, because they represent things that users are actively looking for. Page views might be accidental (users clicked your result in Google but the result wasn't what they needed), but search terms indicate exactly what they're trying to get you to provide.

As an aside to that though, I thought it be far more interesting to look at what category search terms fall under, and how the distribution across those categories varies depending on whether the search was placed against the Tor onion, or the clearnet site.


This post details some of those findings, some of which were fairly unexpected (all images are clicky)

If you've unexpectedly found this in my site results, then congratulations, you've probably searched a surprising enough term that I included in this post.




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(Hopefully) Rescuing a bottle of drink

With the change in weather, I'm having to take painkillers a lot more regularly, which means I can't drink.

I thought, as an option, I'd explore some non-alcoholic spirits - there seems to be quite a market for them, so there must be some good ones out there.

I did have some luck in finding some "gin". However, whilst searching, I stumbled upon "Xachoh Blend No. 7 Non Alcoholic Spirit", which lists the following tasting notes

Xachoh Blend No. 7 has a warm and richly spiced aroma. The prominent flavours of ginger root and blades of mace strike a perfect blend of warmth, spice and a subtle fruitiness. The luxurious aroma of cinnamon quills brings sweetness to the nose and palate, balancing perfectly with saffron & the other spices. Dark crystal malt adds delicious toasted notes and a real depth of flavour, similar to that of a well-aged dark spirit. All of these rich and dark flavours are balanced by a refreshing acidity of sumac on the palate, leaving the way for a long finish and an eagerness for that next sip.

Sounds good eh? As with anything on Amazon, reviews were incredibly mixed, some love it, some hate it.

So, as it sounded good, I took a risk and ordered a bottle.

It arrived this morning:


So having been looking forward to it's arrival, I had a little taste. 

It's got a nice and very varied aroma to it. But things go downhill once you get it to your mouth - if it was just a little less watery, I'd probably be looking to add Ribena to it. 

Disappointing doesn't cover it, the only trace of flavour it has is a somewhat unpleasant aftertaste. Unfortunately, if you mix it with ginger ale, it transpires that all you get is ginger ale with a horrendous aftertaste.

The answer for why lies on the back label (and in fairness *is* listed on the Amazon listing)

Free from:

  • Alcohol
  • Extracts
  • Gluten
  • Sugar
  • Calories
  • Sweeteners

With the exception of a tiny bit of salt, the nutritional information is just 0's. This stuff is literally water with some Barley Malt and a few flavourings.

It's "natural", it Gluten Free, it's vegan, it's... it's fucking shit and it's destined for the drain. Yuck

But, rather than pour a £30 bottle of water down the drain, I thought I'd have a go at improving it first - worst comes to worst I'm just pouring a slightly more expensive bottle of water down the drain, and it's not like I could realistically make it much worse.

As I'm extremely unlikely to try making this again, and there's not a lot of room there for snark, I figured this was better placed here than on my recipes site.


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Solution to my April 2016 Puzzle

It's been three years now, and although I've had many people complain about it giving them a headache, to my knowledge no-one has solved the puzzle I posted in April 2016. My other puzzles and crypto trails have all fallen in significantly less time, but I've watched people really struggle with this one, so I think it's fair to say that I made it just a little too hard.

It only seems fair, therefore, to explain the solution (while I can still remember it).

This post will do just that (there's a video of solving it below for those who don't want to read)


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Beware USB Quick Charge Ports

In order to power a couple of thermistor controlled cooling fans, I use a pair of USB to 3 pin Molex adapters.

I noticed the other day that one of the fans wasn't working, so I detached it from it's mounting plate and brought it and the adaptor out to check.

Access is a bit... tricky... so I couldn't really test the adaptor against the other fan (and didn't want to risk breaking it if something odd had gone wrong). The fans I use are about £5 each, and it's always worth having spares, so I ordered some replacements, which arrived today.

I plugged one of the new fans into the adaptor and tried to power it on. Nothing. So, I dealt with the access issues in order to plug the new fan into the other adaptor to check the fan worked - it did.

The last remaining check then, was to verify that the issue didn't lie with the USB port the adaptor was plugged into.

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All Digital Downloads Withdrawn From Sale

As I wrote recently, the EU definition of the Place of Supply with regard to digital services has shifted to the place in which the customer resides.

As a result of the change (and more importantly, the bureaucracy involved in both recording the place of supply and filing returns) all digital downloads within my Shop section have been withdrawn from sale.

You can read more about why this decision had to be made in my earlier post.

If, for whatever reason, you've a burning desire to purchase something that was previously on sale, please Contact Me to arrange a manual transaction.


Shop section closing 31 December 2014

The shop section of my site will be closing for business on 31 December 2014 and I'll be withdrawing all digital downloads from sale.

It's not something I actually wanted to have to do, but as the changes to the EU VAT rules come into effect on the 1 January 2015 (HMRC at least are calling it VAT MOSS), the additional overhead involved in compliance means that running the shop will likely no longer be financially feasible.

The closure will include everything in my (somewhat small) shop, so

  • Joomla Extensions
  • Ebooks
  • Credlocker Extensions
  • Photos


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Virtualisation: Google Play Music Manager cannot identify your computer

Although there seem to be an increasing number of things which irritate me about Google's Play Music, there's no denying that it's an incredibly convenient way to listen to music when not at home. Whether using the Android App, or playing in a browser, it makes your library available wherever you are.

It's a pity then, that Google have decided to make it such a royal PITA to upload music (I'm also not too happy about the requirement to have card details on file, even if you plan on using the free version - you should only ever need to provide card details when the plan is to actually use them, it reduces the likelihood of them being compromised).

As Google's Play Music Manager now won't run on my desktop (something I need more introduces a conflicting dependency , I figured I'd run Music Manager in a virtual machine and just point it at the right NFS share.

Turns out it wasn't quite so simple, as Music Manager returns the error 'Login failed. Could not identify your computer'.

After some digging, it's incredibly easy to resolve though.



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ON-Networks PL500 Powerline Adapters

Quite some time ago, I played around with some Computrend 902 Powerline adapters and found a number of different security issues - here and here

Those devices are long gone, but whilst the issues I found were relatively minor (if nothing else, proximity was required) it left me a little concerned about the security of any devices that might replace them. For quite some time, I didn't need to use any powerline adapters, but eventually the need arose again (no practical way to run CAT-5 to the location and the Wifi reception is too spotty).

So I bought 2 pairs of On-Networks' PL500S Powerline adapters. Depending where you buy them from, the model number may be PL500P, PL500-UKS, or even the Netgear part number - Netgear ON NETWORKS PL500-199UKS.

I've not got as far as giving them a serious hammering from a security perspective as yet, however there doesn't seem to be much information about these devices available on the net (and what is there is potentially misleading), so I thought I'd post the information I've pulled together from prodding the devices, as well as a few common sense facts that might be being missed. As I'd have found some of the information helpful had it been available prior to purchase, I suspect others might find it of use too.


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NTPD Refusing to accept time from GPSD

One of the (minor) drawbacks of the Raspberry Pi is the lack of a hardware clock. Normally, you'd work around this by configuring a good pool of NTP servers to connect to. What do you do though, if you can't guarantee there will be an Internet connection available when needed?

The solution is obvious, so obvious that many have already done it - use the time provided by a cheap GPS dongle. The gpsd daemon helpfully pushes the time to Shared Memory Segments (SHM) so it's a simple adjustment to the NTP configuration file to have NTPD pull the time from the dongle.

Except, it seems on Raspbian, it isn't quite so simple. You've followed all the instructions (simple as they are) but are still seeing an entry like this

# ntpq -p
     remote           refid      st t when poll reach   delay   offset  jitter
SHM(0)          .GPS.            0 l    -   16    0    0.000    0.000   0.001

No matter what you try, reach stays at 0.

Frustrating, and there's very little to give you a guide. This post will tell you what the issue is, as well as how to go about finding it should it re-occur

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The Storm Ate my Broadband

Like many in the country, the storm has left me feeling somewhat isolated - that is to say my broadband is down. Don't get me wrong, I'm just glad the power is (mostly) back, and I'm far better off than some who've had their lives affected.

The simple fact, though, is that I have things I need to do, and not having a broadband connection really gets in the way of that.

Living where I do, there's precisely one place in the house that gets a 3G signal, unfortunately that place isn't particularly conducive to sitting comfortably. Whilst the Wifi hotspot functionality on my phone helps, the range isn't great enough to let me sit somewhere that I might be able to concentrate.

So, somewhat convoluted workaround needed;

To get around the issue, we're aiming for best case scenario (I get to use the PC rather than having to use the laptop). Seems silly not to, given that some effort needs to be put in anyway, so the eventual connection will look like this

PC -> Laptop -> Phone -> Internet

For the pedantic, there is a link missing there, but it should be obvious (Phone -> Charger!).

There's no ethernet connectivity upstairs, and the Wifi interface will be in use to connect to the phone's hotspot (though I suppose I could have used USB tethering) so I've used a Powerline device pair to extend my wired network up to where it needs to be for this (somewhat rushed) project.


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My Volvo is Dead

It's been a sad week, on Monday I took my Volvo 440 for its MOT, knowing I'd get a few 'must fix' items back - emissions being the usual headache. This year, emissions passed with flying colours, but it was noticed that the sills have seen better days. Or as the garage I took it to for a confirming opinion said - if we remove the plastic covers to check, you won't have sills anymore!

So after 3 years of hard service, my car has finally gone to the scrapyard. I only ever expected it to last a year, so it's done well, but it's still quite sad to be left with nothing but spares to sell, especially as it was otherwise mechanically sound.

Still, on the upside, at least I'd gone in knowing there was a chance of a fail so it wasn't a complete shock. Life goes on, and cars don't last forever (parts were getting a little scarce too), though it's going to take quite some time to find a car that drives quite as well, something that's going to bug me for quite a while on my daily commute. - Something's afoot..

There's speculation that may have been compromised in some manner. A number of people (including myself) have noticed some very spammy links showing up in Webmaster tools as Itemtypes under Structured Data.

Rather than displaying (for example), there's an itemtype pointing to various URLs on domains including, and The only thing any of the sites have in common is their use of

Curiously, you can also reproduce the issue using the Structured Data Testing Tool and entering a small HTML snippet. The issue only seems to be affecting those in Europe though, with US users only able to reproduce by using an EU based proxy.

It appears to happen about 1 time in every 5 requests, and you'll need to modify the snippet slightly to be able to resubmit the form (I simply clicked after the closing span and inserted a space each time).

Try inserting the following

<div itemscope itemtype="">
<span itemprop="name">Badgers</span>

Submit, and then re-submit. If you're in Europe, within 5 requests you should see the itemtype change from

to something like

On the Google thread, a poster claiming to be from yalwa says it's nothing to do with them. I'm reasonably inclined to believe that given that it's not always a yalwa URL being generated (though they do seem to form the vast majority).

More concerningly, some of the URLs returned link to Adult material. There's a risk that a site may be wrongly classified by Google if they're taking the content of the linked 'schema' into account.

So what's happened? Has someone found a way to exploit the ability to 'extend' schemas? Has someone compromised or is something else going on here?

Aside from using 'Fetch as Google' and the Rich Snippets Testing Tool, it appears to be impossible to reproduce. Using Google's User-Agent isn't enough (nor that of the Rich Snippet testing tool) so if it is a compromise, there's some IP filtering going on as well.

You can follow the thread here.


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Creating a DOS Games Server

This post assumes you've followed my guide to Setting up Xen on Ubuntu 12.04. and will talk you through the steps required to set up a web-accessible server for playing classic DOS Games (I've got Commander Keen, Duke Nukem 3D and Quake in mind!).

Either create a new Ubuntu VM, or clone an existing one, launch and then connect via console.

First we want to install DOSBox

apt-get install dosbox

Next, we want to configure X-Forwarding (dosbox makes quite a mess of our console if we try and run it otherwise!)

nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config

Ensure X11 Forwarding is set to Yes

Add an unprivileged user (do you really want to be logging in as root to play games?)

sudo adduser gamesuser
sudo passwd gamesuser

Now we should be able to SSH into the VM (run ifconfig if you don't know the IP)

ssh -XY gamesuser@ip.address

We should get a window open on our local machine when we run


If that worked then we've got some very basic config to do, exit dosbox and then run the following

nano ~/.dosbox/dosbox-0.74.conf
#Add the following to the end of the file, in the autoexec section

mount c ~/.dosbox/drive/

#Save and close
mkdir ~/.dosbox/drive

Now, when you run dosbox, the C: drive is automatically mounted. If you're keen to start installing games rather than doing the last few bits of configuration, copy your installers to that directory, then call them from DOSBox.


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I've gone Joomla 3!

Joomla! 3.0 was released in September 2012, and I've been planning an upgrade of the site ever since. As should be obvious by the change in layout, the migration is now complete. 

There are quite a few changes that have been made at the same time, some obvious, some far less so...


I've gone for a far simpler template this time, though it is fully responsive and so should work well on mobile devices too (something the old site never really handled particularly well). I've stuck with my tendency for light on dark as I find it easier on the eyes (though as I spend most days staring at consoles, it may well be a personal bias), but have also implemented a color switcher for those who prefer to read black on white (See the link at the top right of the screen).

A little while ago, I wrote about my My love/hate relationship with Responsive Web Design. I've tried hard to avoid the pitfalls I've listed, especially the section about removing functionality from smaller screens. I'm sure over time I'll improve the experience somewhat, but I think the site works well on mobile - my only issue being that Adsense isn't responsive and so won't adjust if your viewport shrinks (perhaps because you've turned a landscape tablet portrait)

The old shop is gone (Virtuemart doesn't currently support Joomla 3.x) so if you had purchase history I'm afraid that's gone for the time being. I am planning on importing it into the new system at some point, and if you need in the meantime just drop me an email.

For me, the biggest change though, is that Joomla finally contains the option to not send you your password in plain-text when you first register. So now, when you register for the shop with a nice secure password, the site won't be compromising it by sending it to you via email (I've never, ever, understood the logic behind that behaviour). The only occasion where this happens now, is if you sign up with a social media account and your email address couldn't be retrieved automatically (which essentially means Facebook, Twitter and GitHub - Linking a Google account gives a far more seamless experience).

In summary, I've mad the following changes

There are more changes planned for the future (I'm still not entirely happy with the Shop, for example) but I think it's a good starting point. 

Having detailed the changes present in this version of the site, I'm now going to be a little self-indulgent and look at how my little corner of the web has changed over time.

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My Most Used Android Apps

My other half's new phone arrives today, replacing a very old and knackered Sony Erricson. Once the Galaxy S2 Mini gets here it'll be down to me to set it up, which has set me thinking about which Apps I use regularly (aside from games) and which of those will actually be of use to her (somehow, I can't see her using ConnectBot!)

I don't think any of the apps I use are too obscure, but then people's exposure differs so hopefully some of these will be of interest to other users!


Firstly, I always root Android phones, having that extra level of control is very important in my eyes as, amongst other things, it means you can install and use Apps that won't work unless the phone is rooted. The first of these being


Permissions Denied

Personally, I think this should be on every phone! You do need a rooted device to use it though, but if you fulfil that criteria the app allows you to revoke permissions from other Apps. Sometimes it'll cause issues (the app you're adjusting might start force closing) so it's largely a case of playing around to see what you can remove. If an App won't play nice when you revoke a permission you really don't want it to have, it's time to think about whether or not you want that app installed at all.

So far I've found that you can't revoke the following

  • Facebook App - Fine Location - App will force close 
  • Google+ App - Coarse Location - App will force close (you can remove fine location no problem though)

The one thing I would say, is don't get a false sense of security. Yes, it means you can download an App that's demaning permissions you don't want it to have and remove those permissions, but think about why the App might have those permissions in the first place. If you're downloading a game and it wants to be able to send text messages and make calls, is it possibly you're actually downloading malware?


Do Not Disturb Me

This app implements a 'feature' that I used to have on much older phones, but that appears to be missing from both Android and iOS. Basically it allows you to set schedules where the phone is in silent mode, incredibly useful if (like me) you sometimes forget to switch silent off the next morning.

Better (or worse) for those of us who are on-call, the app can be configured to allow the phone to ring after a threshold has been reached. So the first call you make to me won't make a sound, but if you then call back the phone will ring. The threshold is customisable, and the app can also send you a SMS after the first call to say "I'm busy, but if it's important call again".

It supports whitelisting and blacklisting (the latter being great for those who feel their call is always important!).

End result, I can sleep through the night without being woken by the sounds of my inboxes filling but not run the risk of missing an important call (or forgetting to turn notifications back on the next morning!).


Amazon Kindle

Even if you never buy books from Amazon, this app is worth installing. Why? because it handles PDF's far more gracefully than the built in PDF reader. Especially with long PDF's (think car service manuals), it just makes things ten times easier.

Obviously, if you do buy from Amazon, there are additional benefits. I have a Kindle, but it's still useful to be able to bring books up on my phone (mostly reference material, reading fiction on a phone just doesn't feel quite right!).



I find Twitter a convenient way to quickly add news links to my site, and occasionally have conversations with people on there. I'm not the most prolific of Twitter users (by a very, very long shot) but I have found that TweetCaster makes life a lot easier. It hooks into the system so that you can use it to 'Share' content, so if you're browsing a site and want to tweet about it (assuming the site doesn't have a webintent button, of course) just bring up the menu, choose Share and then select TweetCaster. It's not unusual for apps to allow this, but it is handy!

TweetCaster will also notify you of new tweets, mentions, direct messages etc. Personally, I've turned those off, but I assume there must be some who want to be notified of every new tweet!



Traditionally, you needed a rooted device to use OpenVPN, but the new Galaxy Note seems to let you get by without rooting. Whether that's a decision that Samsung have made, or something we can look forward to in future devices I don't know (not my tablet, can't poke around too much!). I suspect it's more likely to be a change in Android though, so hopefully it won't be necessary to root as the TUN device will already exist.

OpenVPN is great, it lets me connect securely to the work network. I originally set it up so that I could test the work VPN (why would I need access from a phone?) but actually it's amazing how useful it's been. If there's something up with the router, I can VPN in (assuming the router isn't dropping WAN traffic!) and access the router's web interface. Hell, with connectbot, I could access the shell but that's really a laptop job.

It also means that I can connect to the VPN and then turn my phone into a hotspot. Every client connecting to my hotspot will be routed through the VPN, useful if there's more than one of you out in the field!



I don't use this nearly as much as I first assumed I would, but it remains a useful tool. AndSMB allows you to connect to Samba (Windows file) shares. For me the added benefit is that it can be very verbose in it's output so if a fileshare isn't working I can test in more depth before I need to get my laptop out. 

On my old phone, this was my preferred way of moving media between my phone and PC, just connect to the PC's fileshare and then push/pull the data as required.



SSHDroid lets me start a SSH server on my phone so that I can log in remotely and do things that I can't be bothered to type into Terminal Emulator. It's another of those apps I installed to play around with, but now use far more than I ever expected I would. I guess if you're not into digging through filesystems to see how stuff works it's probably of little interest though!

Natwest - The Big Mistake

There's been a lot of talk (unsurprisingly) about the recent screw-up at Natwest, RBS and Ulster Bank. There's been a lot of people blaming 'outsourcing' despite RBS denying that the work was outsourced. Here's where the confusion lies though, RBS operates in India so although half the team weren't based in the UK they weren't technically outsourced. The term in these instances is 'off-shoring'.

Of course, it's a game of semantics and it's a little concerning to see RBS willingly playing such a pointless game. To most in the UK, if you are sending the work abroad (especially to India) then you are outsourcing (even if you're really off-shoring).

What's scarier, though, is that the failures at RBS could quite easily happen to any other company. It's easy to blame the bankers (we have a lot to blame them for!) but the practices there aren't that different to what's been happening in other companies around the globe. That it was a bank that fell over is probably just blind luck.

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Aesthetic Change to Site

Those who visit my site regularly will have noticed a quite substantial change in the last 24 hours, I've finally got around to migrating to 2.5. 

Not that all the changes are done quite yet, my old Attachments plugin didn't have a newer version so I need to manually re-add attachment to affected articles.

I do have a solution to the EU Cookie Law installed, but won't activate it until I've got more than the session cookie being set (i.e. once I've finished the migration) as if something doesn't work I want to be sure it's not the Cookie Banner interfering.

Enjoy the new look and feel!

Old Articles given new life

Before I took it offline, contained a vast number of articles on a wide range of subjects. The plan was always to filter through and republish those articles that may be of use to others.

I've previously republished a few of the articles, but efforts to skim through have largely been overridden by other commitments.

Having had a total of 1 hours sleep last night, I needed something easy to do with impaired mind, but challenging enough to keep me awake! As as result I've now republished the following articles



In my sleep deprived state, I've not been able to thoroughly proof-read all of the republished content. Some of the posted content dates back to 2006 when my writing style was.... let's say different..... so I can only apologise for any typo's or use of abysmal grammar!

I've also launched a new service in the Suffolk Area: Vehicle Fault Code Reading. This can cost up to £70 at a garage, but I'll come and read your codes for just £15.


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New Service: Vehicle Fault Code Reading

I'm offering a new service in the Suffolk (UK) area - Engine On Board Diagnostic Code (Fault Code) Reading.

I can read all fault codes on any Petrol or Diesel car newer than 1996 and also on some older cars. All cars manufactured since 2001 are required to support OBDII (OBD2) so any car newer than 2001 can definitely be checked.

I charge a fixed price (see below) for this service, no per-code charges! Price includes reading and resetting codes. Service Light reset is charged at a different rate, but is cheaper if I'm reading other fault codes.



I'm based in Ipswich, but can travel (for a little extra) if necessary (for example if you're unable to bring the car to me). No additional travel charge for the Kesgrave/Martlesham area.

Evenings and Weekends are preferred, but daytime checks may also be possible.

Reading fault codes can help in troubleshooting the following issues (amongst others)


  • Ignition Issues
  • ABS/Traction Control Issues
  • Emissions issues
  • General Engine Issues
  • Fuel-System Issues
  • Fuel Consumption Issues
  • Steering System
  • Some Braking Issues



  • £15 to read (and if you want, reset) all codes, no charge if I can't read the codes for some reason.
  • £20 to reset Service light (£5 if reading other codes anyway)



  • You'll need to know where the Diagnostic connector is on your vehicle (usually under the ashtray on newer vehicles), but if you don't let me know in advance so I can look it up.
  • Your car must have a working battery so that the codes can be read. If this is an issue, let me know and I'll bring one to connect for the duration of the check.
  • Please let me know the Make, Model and Year of the Vehicle in advance so I can look up the relevant DTC translation table.


Fault Resolution
  • Depending on the fault detected, I may be able to resolve the issue. This will cost extra (amount dependant on work required), but will not be undertaken until a price has been agreed!
  • If I'm unable to rectify a fault, you'll still be able to visit a Garage but will be able to provide them with details of all detected fault-codes.



Some garages are charging £70 for this service, so at £15 it's a bargain.

If you want me to read your DTC codes, then please contact me to arrange a time

Linux for Business People

It's taken some time and effort, but I've finally released my first book - "Linux for Business People". It's now available for purchase on the Amazon Kindle Store.


2021: You can access the book here.


Linux for Business People is aimed at Business Men and Women primarily within the Small to Medium Business sector. It examines the business case for using Linux based systems within business, highlighting any potential benefits or drawbacks. Although primarily focused on servers much of what is discussed will also apply to workstations. The experience of a number of businesses currently using Linux is also explored in order to highlight the real-life benefits and pitfalls that they have encountered.


Additionally, Linux for Business People also gives the reader some hands-on experience of the tasks a Linux SysAdmin is likely to undertake. Whilst many business men and women may have little interest in this area, the hope is to help demystify some of what the IT department actually does. This section of the book may also prove to be a useful resource for those new to managing Linux based systems. Due to it's simplicity, I doubt that the experienced sysadmin will find much of interest, though it does contain enough detail to allow those in small business to routinely manage a server themselves.


Whilst my writing style is almost certainly not that of a professionally writer, I believe Linux for Business People should be reasonably easy to read and follow. I've tried to keep all jargon to a minimum and have used footnotes extensively to help explain complicated subjects.


Linux for Business People is currently exclusive to the Amazon Kindle, however I do plan on publishing through other mediums at a later date. If there's sufficient demand, I may also consider a short print-run.


I've also made a conscious decision not to use DRM on any works I publish, including this. Please respect my rights as an author by only obtaining through authorised means just as I have respected the rights of readers by opting not to use Digital Restrictions Management to protect my work.


You can purchase Linux for Business People direct from Amazon and have it delivered to your Kindle reader or application.


Click Read More for a short snippet from the book!



Chapter 3: Which Type of Linux should you use?

There's a very good chance when provisioning a Linux based system that your IT Department has already selected the Linux Distro that they feel is most suited. This chapter, however, is intended to help you understand how to make these decisions. Whilst all Distros run the Linux kernel, many are built with a specific task in mind. With the wide variety of Distro's in the Linux ecosystem, it would be impossible to advise exactly which flavour is best suited, but it is possible to examine some of the assessments that need to be made before making a selection.

It's important to note that many distros maintain two versions of each release - one for Desktops and one for Servers. Although based on the same underlying software, the differences between the two can often be many. The easiest example is, of course, that many of the server focused systems will not run a GUI by default (although this doesn't stop one from being installed!)


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Republished: Amazon Kindle DRM Broken

Originally published on 23 December 2009

Amazons Kindle DRM has been broken by an Israeli guy. Quite what will happen next isn't clear though, will Amazon learn the lesson that Apple learnt after DVD Jon cracked the ironically named Fairplay? Or will they move to update and 'improve' their Digital Restrictions Management?

Companies with deeper pockets than Amazon have learnt that DRM is a very bad idea, but ultimately it may not be down to them. Most retailers that use DRM develop sloping shoulders when questioned, it's almost always the Publisher or the Manufacturer that requires the DRM. If this truly is the case then Amazon is in a truly un-enviable position, its suppliers want DRM and its customers don't. At what point does the balance tip in the favour of the customer? Could Amazon decide that it's not worth the development cost of devising a new DRM system, or will the Publishers be able to provide enough pressure to ensure that they do?

Even the publishers must know that DRM is incredibly bad for the consumer, it unfairly restricts what the customer can do with an item that they have purchased. It does nothing to inconvenience professional copyright infringers, and simply makes life hard for the customer (who remembers trying to migrate their iTunes database to a new PC?). Hell, in the case of the Sony rootkit fiasco, that attempt at DRM was even dangerous to the customers computer.

DRM serves one purpose, it allows the publisher to require that you buy one copy of the media for every device you plan to read/play the media on. It makes great business sense to try and force this, whilst screaming at the top of your voice about how 'Pirates' are killing your business. Unfortunately, the business logic begins to evaporate as customers leave you, whether on principle, or because your DRM has made life too difficult.

When people talk of boycotts on the web, you often read comments by naysayers along the following lines "they're a big company, do you think they'll really care if such a small group of people stop buying their products? They wont even notice!" This is a very pessimistic view, it doesn't really matter if they notice at first. Even if a company makes billions a year, if you stop buying their CD's at �13.99 then you have deprived them of some income. They may not notice it, but you are no longer funding their greed. The more people that look at it from this angle, the more likely it is that a boycott will grow to encompass a great many people.

As an example, I do not, and will never own a Blu-Ray player (I didn't buy HD DVD either) because it is a format designed for one purpose - DRM. The HD side of things is a Unique Selling Point designed to entice the customer, but make no mistake it was introduced to try and curb copyright infringement. It also means that to create a Blu-Ray player you need to pay the media studio's a license fee. If you don't, then you're not going to be able to unencrypt the discs. Once you've done that, if someone does crack your Players key, you may well find that the media studios move to block that key. The end result is you have a lot of very pissed off customers!

Of course as a consumer you don't really care about the above example, but it also effects you. If you own a Blu-Ray player (whether software or hardware) and someone discovers the player key for that make and model, the next time you play a new Blu-Ray movie, you could well find that your player disables itself. Not only will it fail to play the new disc, you'll also be unable to play all the discs you have already bought. Your Blu-Ray player will be useless, if it's a hardware player then you effectively have a very expensive door stop.

The Blu-Ray Consortium have already done this once. Luckily it was a software player who's key was discovered, so existing customers could upgrade once the manufacturer had made a few changes. But it still generated extra work and hassle for everyone who had that software player.

They also have the power to disable discs, the fact that you shelled out good money is completely irrelevant, if they feel the need you wont get a say. As far as I know, this hasn't happened yet, but it is possible.

And that nice HDMA cable you had to spend out on? You needed that because they decided that your HD TV needed to contain a certain chip to watch Blu-Ray in High Definition. If that chip isn't present, then although your TV is HD Ready, the player will still send the movie in a lower quality (admittedly slightly higher than Standard Definition).

Although I've made Blu-Ray a major point, there are a number of products that are crippled by DRM. Take a quick search on the internet and you'll soon find a long list, DRM pops up everywhere. The nice new version of Windows you bought is full of it (as is Vista for that matter). Even DVDs contain a form of DRM (DVD CSS), athough this was far more 'consumer friendly' than on later formats. DVD CSS was broken by DVD Jon quite some time back which is why you are able to rip DVD's to your hard drive for more convenient viewing.

Incidentally did you know that by ripping that DVD you are breaking the law? You don't even need to distribute a copy, you've already broken the law. That's right, as well as forcing DRM onto the consumer, the media moguls managed to get laws passed to support their greed. In both the UK and the US it is illegal to 'circumvent technical measures' and by bypassing the DRM on the DVD you have done just this. Worse, the combination of DRM and this law actually means it is illegal to watch DVD's on some computer systems!

As with Blu-Ray the manufacturer of the player needs to be licensed by the media moguls, and any workarounds are illegal. With more than a little bit of cunning the media companies have stolen your right to do what you wish with products that you have bought! They even go so far now as to try and convince the consumer that we don't actually 'buy' software/music/media but in fact 'license' it. By setting a precedent of these items being licensed rather than owned, the media companies believe they can set more or less any requirement. If you breach their terms, they will remove your ability to use the item that you paid for. Even if you consider this to be fair, keep in mind that they hold all the cards, they can change the requirements at any time, and if you object to the new 'rules' then they can easily stop you using that item. Would you sign up to, and pay for a contract knowing the other party could change the entire thing at any time with no deferral to you? So why should you have to do that to listen to music or use software?

It's not just home equipment that allows DRM to ruin peoples day. Recently 3D Screenings of Avatar were cancelled in Germany. Why? Because the key supplier failed to supply the cinemas with enough keys to decrypt the DRM. In their infinite wisdom the media company decided to require one key per copy of the film, per film projector and for each movie server. There are always leaks, but what real benefit is there in sealing the film to this paranoid level? The cinema's effected ended up having to offer the would-be customers the chance to get a refund, or to watch the film in 2D.

Part of this incident has been blamed on the cinemas showing the film across multiple screens, therefore using up a larger number of keys that was strictly necessary, but had the film not been encumbered with DRM it would not have been an issue. Had the media company responsible had the foresight to realise that most multiplexes would show the film across a number of screens, the issue could also have been avoided. Human error is a factor that cannot be eliminated, but the existence of DRM massively magnifies the impact that a simple error can have.

So what is the answer? Boycotts can be quite effective, but as noted above they can often lack the inertia to make any real difference. This doesn't mean you shouldn't boycott DRM encumbered items, in fact you should. Although you may lack popular support, by boycotting DRM you are protecting yourself from the numerous disadvantages. If you buy a CD and it's DRM encumbered, if you buy a DVD that wont let you skip the adverts, then return it and insist on a refund. Explain exactly why you are returning it, and consider e-mailing the manufacturer to tell them the same.

Boycotts will become more common as people become increasingly aware of it, so spread the word. The more people start boycotting DRM the quicker the media companies will realise that it is harming their business. If you want to buy music online as an MP3 use a site like 7Digital which is DRM free (except for a couple of WMA's). If you use a store that has two versions available - High quality with DRM and DRM free but at a lower quality, contact them and explain that you want the higher quality MP3 but are not willing to download a DRM encumbered file. Especially if they are charging more for the DRM free version, most of us are willing to pay (a little) more for a DRM free version, but not if it has been created at a lower bitrate. This practice helps to create the myth that DRM leads to better quality digital downloads.

Don't settle for something that isn't worth what you paid for it, DRM unfairly restricts consumers rights and has been forced onto an unwilling public in order to feed the media moguls greed. It's time that we all took a stand and reminded these monoliths that they operate in a market that depends on the customer. We are the customers, it is our money that they want spent so perhaps they should try offering something that benefits us.

If you want to keep up to date with the fight against DRM, I strongly recommend that you take a look at Defective By Designt and consider signing up to their mailing list. They regularly arrange protests and demonstrations to make the perpetrators of this Consumer Crime realise that their actions will not be tolerated.

Republished: Windows 7 vs Karmic Koala

Originally published on 01 Nov 2009 - (Images were missing at time of restoration)

Ubuntu 9.10 was released a couple of days ago with the codename 'Karmic Koala', there were plenty of reviews written immediately after the release, but this one is different? Why? Because I've taken the time to actually use the system.

I reviewed Windows 7 a few days ago, so let's start by taking a look at Koala. I'm using the Kubuntu release as I'm not a fan of Gnome.


The install was relatively painless, and is unlikely to cause issues for even the most tech-illiterate user. The defaults all work fine (although I do prefer to have my /home as a seperate partition).

I miss the days when you were asked which packages you wanted to install, but I guess it makes things less complicated for 'average joe'.

Booting from the install media to a useable system took about 20 minutes.

First Impressions

My first impressions were not that great. Koala has shipped with KDE4 which unfortunately defaults to the b*stard horrible launch menu found in Vista/7. You can however disable it and use the old style menu simply by right clicking on the K button.

KDE4 also uses widgets (known as Plasmoids) which has taken some getting used to. However, although I do miss the 'old style' desktop, it does have it's benefits. I've gone all nostalgic and laid my desktop out in a Windows 3.1 style, although i have retained my taskbar etc.

I'm used to working from a console, but for the purpose of the review I made the effort to rely on GUI's for everything possible. I don't like Kubuntu's Settings panel as Kcontrol used to contain a lot more. None the less it does seem to cover everything the average user might need to adjust. I notice it also has the ability to search.

Further use

After the initial playing around, I wanted to actually use the system. Koala ships with AppArmour enabled (older versions of Ubuntu did as well, but it's been brought more to the forefront). There's a sandbox for Firefox, but for one reason or another it's disabled by default. I couldn't find the option to enable it from within the GUI, but it can be enabled with one command (I used a console, but you could probably run it from the 'Run' option) - 'sudo aa-enforce /etc/apparmor.d/usr.bin.firefox-3.5'.

Enabling this was the only time I actually needed to use a console. Perhaps in the next batch of updates there should be an option added to the Settings  Manager? Or in the next release it could even be enabled by default?

To use the system, I needed to install the software I wanted. Synaptic seems to have been replaced (or heavily modified), but the new Software manager is simple enough to use. I did encounter one major issue though. Take the following scenario;

You want to install

  • Timidity
  • Rosegarden
  • Lives
  • Povray
  • Kpovray
  • Firefox
  • dvdstyler
  • Smb4k

So you search for each one and select it (my list was actually much longer) then you click apply to install. The system goes off and checks dependencies, but then returns an error saying it is unable to install dvdstyler. You click OK, but rather than continuing it dumps you back at the package selection screen. Worse than this, it has deselected all your packages, so you have to work back through and select them all again.

Could it not have a) continued or b) returned to the selection screen but maintained the list of your selected packages (minus the faulty one)?

It's a minor niggle, but if you've spent some time choosing your packages (and not made a note of what you are going to install) it's more than a little irritating!

There are no real changes in Keyboard shortcuts, however I do have a minor issue with Ctrl-Alt-Del. It displays a screen giving you an option to Logout, Shutdown or Restart. Where's the lock screen option??? The shortcut to lock the desktop is Ctrl-Alt-L which whilst logical does differ to that of Windows. When you're working with Windows all day you do get used to hitting Ctrl-Alt-Del followed by the space bar. On Kubuntu this will log you out. Like I say a small niggle, and probably something I could fix myself.

Alt-Tab is improved, much like In Windows 7. Similarly you get little previews of the window when you hover over the window on the Taskbar.

Beryl is in there as you would expect.

The Final Round: 7 vs Koala

So, which of the new releases do I prefer?

  1. Koala contains every single 'feature' of Windows 7, many of which are improved. It also has the added benefit that you can turn every single 'feature' off if you wish. Koala encrypts the users Home Directory (full disk encryption also available) , wherehas you have to pay Microsoft for Bitlocker.

  2. Microsoft still haven't implemented multiple desktops, a feature which I use regularly, so they lose points on usability.

  3. I'm not going to compare speed as I tested 7 in a VM and Koala on bare metal. Koala's memory footprint is smaller than that of 7 however, and Beryl runs quite happily on a system that MS's docs suggest couldn't run Aero.

  4. Both have bugs, although the Ubuntu ones should get ironed out a little faster.

  5. Windows 7 still maintains a traditional desktop, but I am beginning to like the Plasma desktop.

  6. Koala is far more configurable than 7, although it does seem to be missing a few options from the GUI.

  7. Hitting the 'Super Key' on Windows 7 opens the start menu, on Koala you can't seem to configure it to do that from the GUI.
  8. The default Themes on Koala aren't that great, Windows 7 has adopted quite a clean interface.

  9. Both seem to be stable and relatively secure (in 7's case once the 3rd party apps have been added)

  10. Windows 7 is built around DRM, Koala does not restrict what you can do with your purchases.

  11. Koala is free, Windows 7 costs more than it is actually worth (unless you're stuck on Vista)

On that last point, it's not a knock against Windows 7 as such. If you have XP there's nothing in Windows 7 that makes it worth the huge amount of money (why pay for soemthing that just works if you have something that jsut works?), unless you count the extra eye candy. if you have Vista which doesn't work, then 7 probably is a safe bet.

Ultimately Koala wins the battle, none of the purported 'features' of 7 are unique to Windows 7. You have a lot more flexibility with Koala, and can customise it to meet your needs. Windows 7 is a long way from being fit for the uses I require. I export a lot of apps from my server using X forwarding over SSH, something which still doesn't seem to be possible on Windows (RDP doesn't count, I just want the app not an entire desktop) without paying Citrix for their Xenapp metaframe server.

Amazingly, I'm planning on leaving Koala on the laptop for the time being. I've finally found something that can replace Gentoo, that in itself is one hell of an acheivement! I'll probably revert back to the command line for a lot of tasks, but the Karmic Koala has earned itself a place on my system.

Disclaimer: I am a Linux user, and many of the Windows Fanboys will claim that it has clouded my judgement. In a way it has, I expect certain functions from my OS that have never been available on Windows. That's the thing about having a choice, you discover there are things that you never even thought of. That said, I liked Windows 7 a lot more than I expected, and it is definitely a step in the right direction. It's unfortunate that it's packed with DRM, but other than that it is a reasonable operating system.

Republished: Windows 7: the Verdict

Originally published on 25 October 2009

Windows 7 has been released for all the world to use and abuse, so what do we think of it? You may recall that I wrote a review of the Windows 7 RC back in May I never got quite as far as writing a review of the RTM, which is a pity because there were a number of changes.

However, the final 'polished' version has now been released. So let's see what the final judgement is.

It's better than Vista

Seems an obvious and easy target, but Windows 7 is Much better than Vista.

However, I still don't think it compares to the Windows XP experience. New interfaces take time to learn, so this may be an extraneous variable.

It's still lacking functionality

Most of the competing Operating Systems have had extra features such as Virtual Desktops for quite some time. There's quite a few extra features I would like to see in Windows 7. Some of these features will probably appear in the form of freeware, but if you have to trust the security of your PC to an unknown third party purely to get the functionality you want, something is wrong. However I am a Linux user, and used to actually being able to customise my system, so we'll let this point slide.

Improved Install Process

For the avergae user, installing Windows has always seemed more than a little challenging. To be fair, it's a long time since it was that difficult, but with 7, if a user can actually get the balls to try, they should find it a breeze. Most of 7's users will probably never see the install screen, and will continue to buy PC's with Windows preloaded. However, it is nice to see that even this area has been looked at.

Dummification of the OS

This is an issue that bothers me, and some will label it elitist. With every release of the OS, Microsoft seem to be trying to make things simpler. Even the latest advert describes it as simple to use. This on its own is not a bad thing, it's the wider ranging effects. Although a valid business goal for the vendor, the last thing the rest of the world needs is for idiots to be able to use computers (which is what MS are aiming for). We need PC users to realise and understand that they actually have to maintain their PC's. Otherwise they become easy targets for malware etc. I'm not advocating a Computer driving license, more saying that complacency should not be encouraged. Don't make things too simple

Network Copying

When Vista was released, copying large files took an age. This was eventually fixed, however now that 7 is released there's a similar issue. Copying a file of more than half a gig across the network seems to slow everything down. It's a major pain, but one that I'm sure will be fixed quite quickly. Stole my background

In the RC and the RTM there was a rather nice Background of a fish. This appears to have been removed from the Retail version. Not a major issue I suppose, but it was a pretty good picture!

Renaming of files

This is a nice feature, on XP I often had users complaining that they couldn't open a file. It usually turned out that they had deleted the filename extension, and so Windows wasn't too sure what to open it with. In 7 when you click to rename a file, rather than highlighting the whole filename, it only highlights up to the dot. It's quite a nifty little feature, although it doesn't really go far enough. Why Microsoft haven't ended their reliance on filename extensions I don't know, do what everyone else does and take a quick peek at the MIME type. Still, this feature will at least save some heartache!

Overall Interface

This largely comes down to personal choice but, when I reviewed the RC I stated that I didn't like the look of the icons. Guess what, they still haven't grown on me. The whole interface is reminiscent of those childrens 'laptops' you can buy from Toys 'R' Us. It looks like a cartoonist puked over my desktop.
You can change the look, but I can't find the option to take my Start Menu, Taskbar back to how I like it. No-one else seems to have reported the location of this function, so it looks like users will have to learn to love the new interface. It does bring some improvements, but overall I don't consider it a winner.

XP Compatability Mode

God what a farce! Users with XP Compatability mode running will find that they need to install a second set of Anti-virus, and maintain the XP instance seperately. How many will realise that they have in essence, XP running on a second PC with Windows 7? How many will be willing to find the time to maintain both instances? Not many I'd assume. It's possible to run something similar in Apple's latest and greatest, so why have MS bundled the extra work?

I'm guessing the long and short is that MS do not want you running XP apps, they want you to upgrade to the native version. I imagine it's a tactic that may well pay off as well!

Control Panel

The Control Panel still sucks. I read a comment elsewhere on the ent that most of the new names for areas of the control panel looked like they had been chosen by a committee. This hits the nail right on the head, why 'Network Settings' wasn't deemed clear enough is beyond the understanding of any sane person! Given that most users won't venture too deep into the Control Panel (and will presumably continue to refuse to do so), could MS not have left this area alone? (or at least refrained from trying to apply Management Speak to everything.)

Overall View

As with the RC, I'm reasonably impressed with 7. I wouldn't choose to use it as my main OS, but I wouldn't object as strongly as with Vista, XP etc. It still lacks a lot of what I consider essential functions, but this is more to do with what I'm used to than anything. For those diehard Windows users out there, you've probably got the best featureset you've ever seen. For those who have stepped outside the Microsoft circle, it's an improvement, but it's still not quite there.

There's a few teething issues still, and I for one greatly resent the theft of the fish desktop. Most of these issues will no doubt be resolved in future updates (though I doubt the fish will be returned!), but for me 7 just still doesn't cut it. Perhaps Windows 8 will be the point when Windows offers the features I need and use?

Republished: A look at the Windows 7 RC

Originally published on 06 May 2009 (Images sadly missing at restoration time)

So, being a fairly well balanced person, I thought I would give Windows 7 at least the benefit of the doubt. So after a surprisingly quick download (either MS prepped their servers, or everyone else has been using Bittorrent!), I started installing Windows 7 Build 7100.

Full Disclosure: The recommended minimum requirements for the 32 bit version is 1 Gig of RAM and a 1 Gig processor. I installed it in a virtual machine allocated 600Mb of RAM running on top of a 2.6 Gig Processor.

Because I was using just above the minimum requirement for RAM, I'm not going to mention speed apart from where things were painfully slow (there were a few).

So, lets get started;

The installation process has a Disk partitioning menu that is far more user friendly than in days gone by. Anyone else remember the XP screen? That said, the increased processing requirements for the installer does mean that the installer runs more slowly than it necessarily needs to.

What hasn't changed however is the need to restart the system more than once. The user see's a section of the installer that mentions that the system may need to restart several times. Admittedly I didn't notice these as I had gone to make dinner whilst the system copied it's files. I did notice two restarts however, so it may well be that I didn't actually miss any!

After the first restart the installer runs from the Hard Disk, and the setup process quickly starts. The user is prompted to set a password. It's not necessarily required, but it is recommended. If the user enters a password they are required to enter a password hint to help them remember it.

So far all pretty standard stuff, with the odd tweak here and there. The system then asks the user what they want to do about Automatic Updates. I quite like this method, because it should reduce the risk of users not being aware its off/on by default. That said, as most Windows 7 sales will probably be OEM sales, many systems will probably have been configured beyond this section before the unit even leaves the shop. Still a nice touch none the less.

Next the user is asked to setup their network. The user is informed that Windows has detected a network (assuming it has of course) and asks them to classify it as either Home, Work or Public. There is a little note at the bottom telling the user to select Public if they are unsure. One of the examples given for a public network is a wireless hotspot, but one does wonder exactly why you would be installing Windows in a wireless hotspot. But then it's probably just the main Network wizard.

Now this is where the shock began, Windows 7 loaded the desktop (OK it took a little time doing the initial configuration) and rather than the screenshots we've seen in the Beta versions, XP's tellytubby hill or the God awful Vista default, the screen displayed this rather nice picture of a fish!

Unfortunately, this was about the best bit of my first impression. Most of the Aero features were disabled because of the lack of High end graphics card (indeed lack of medium end graphics card) within the Virtual Machine. I was prepared for that to happen, but what I wasn't prepared for is the awful style of the interface without Aero. The Taskbar icons are reminiscent of when Worms went Cartoony in Worms Armageddon. The icons are no longer refined (they were slipping in Vista though, so should have seen it coming.), and frankly the initial view was more reminiscent of a toy than a PC.
Still, these things are only cosmetic, lets not judge a system purely on it's looks.

Talking of cosmetics, apologies about the theme in a few of the pictures, I was trying to find one I liked.

I figured I'd try out Internet Explorer 8 as I've yet to play with it. Alas, it was a no go error, crashing almost as soon as it loaded. BUT, Windows stepped in, told me that a page had failed to load, asked me what I wanted to do about it. Sadly when I told it to close that page, IE 8 then crashed. Still it was a nice thought!

Once I had let the system sort itself out, I fired up IE8 again, and this time it loaded the default home page (MSN) reasonably happily. But of course, has had plenty of time to avoid the need for IE's Compatability Mode, so I pointed it at my own site. I've made no changes in the wake of the release, but then never implemented any hacks just to serve perfect pages to IE6/7. There have been complaints of IE8 garbling sites that are fully standards compliant, but as it turns out loaded pretty well.

Aside from the initial issues, IE seemed pretty solid, and does seem to load pages quite fast. Given that it's running on a system inside a VM I won't comment on Microsofts claims about page loading speeds. Needless to say, with a minimal amount of RAM it did take a while longer than I would otherwise be willing to wait.

So what else did I notice? Well the Control Panel has been dumbed down more than it was in XP even. But only by default, there is an option to view the Control panel by icons (either large or small, if you please!), and this has been expanded quite a bit. Things appear to be far easier to find than they were in Vista, and almost approach the accesibility found in XP.

This has been quite a basic view of Windows 7 Build 7100. One thing I will note is that the Beta is Windows 7 Ultimates, so some of the features noted will probably not be available in the cheaper versions. It is understood that the Final Release Versions in the UK will be Home Premium and Professional. However Ultimate will be available to Home Users for an additional fee and will contain the same features as Windows 7 Enterprise.

I have to admit, I installed Windows 7 expecting to hate it. I am a Linux user, and as such figured that the RC would contain (or fail to contain) many of the 'features' that older versions of Windows seemed to (fail to) deliver. That said, whilst I wouldn't use it as my main Operating system, I was pleasantly surprised. Compared to Vista, Windows 7 is a work of pure genius (Calm down, that's not saying that much!). The problem, as many others have noted, is that it doesn't really offer anything that XP doesn't. Or more to the point, nothing compelling.

OK so users have the option to encrypt their hard drive, they even have a candyfloss interface without the bloat of Vista, but what else have they gained? There's no way to change the Start Menu to the Classic Menu, and support contracts aside, I see very little to tempt businesses. Those businesses that steered clear of Vista and Office 2007 to minimise training costs will probably try and avoid 7 as well.

Although it is a step in the right direction, I suspect that the installed base of Windows 7 will consist of two groups. Those that have bought a new PC with 7 on it, and those who upgraded to escape Vista.

The Little Mouse

This content was originally posted to 5 May 2008. Only the PDF format has been preserved

With the benefit of hindsight, I'd say painkillers played quite heavily in the creation of this post.....

Perhaps it's the product of watching too many episodes of Black Books, or perhaps it's simply the product of getting bored on a Bank Holiday Monday. Whatever the cause, I created a Childrens book today. The storyline isn't thrilling (but then I'm not a child) and the graphics aren't great (I've never been much of an artist) but it does the job.

It's available under the Creative Commons Non-Commercial Attribution License (See the link in this pages footer for more information) so as long as you aren't doing it for commercial reasons, feel free to modify and re-distribute it.

In the unlikely event anyone wants it for commercial reasons, they can use the 'Contact Me' page to, well, Contact Me.

It's available in several formats;

  • OpenDocument Format
  • Portable Document Format
  • Shockwave Flash Format (click to advance)
  • HTML Format

  • It isn't much, but if anyone likes it, or improves it, it would be nice to hear.

    Republished: The Problems America Faces

    This content was originally posted on 25th Sep 2007

    "When the rich wage war, its the poor who die"

    This article is quite heavily inspired by some of the comments over on Sasha Abramsky's Comment is Free Blog. As many are already aware the United States of America is non too popular across the globe, but what has caused this? Many (I'll admit not all) of the Americans I have met/spoken to have been perfectly nice, yet the US is hated all across the globe.

    The question is why? The obvious response (and one given by many Americans) is that the current administration is responsible for the lack of respect across the globe. How much of this is true is debatable, but very few people would argue that current US foreign policy raises peoples hackles.

    The simple fact is that America acts as though it exists to enforce it's beliefs onto other people. Whether through military force or through whining to the World Trade Organisation about piracy. The issue is that America's beliefs have been corrupted by a Capitalistic attitude, many of America's actions appear to be influenced by corporate will.
        Very few countries are willing to change their laws simply to please American businesses. Certainly very few would be willing to see the US in control of all the worlds oil interests, but for the time being the US will continue to act as it see's fits, regardless of the beliefs of it's own citizens.

    Unfortunately the one thing that looks set to prevent the US from continuing to act in this way will also penalise it's citizens for being USians, the US's economy (and I might add the British Economy) appears to be teetering a little, and could be on the edge of a major recession. The US is spending a vast amount of funding on wars around the globe, and both the drop in value of the dollar and the countries foreign policies are leading to companies leaving US soil. The more of these companies decide to trade under the Euro or some other currency the more the value of the Dollar will decline. The citizens of the US will feel the crunch before their government do, however eventually the Government are likely to find that their power is declining, and some new power will step into it's place. Many have suggested that this power will in fact be China.

    Regardless of how you feel about 'superpowers' there will always be one, the assumption that it will always be the U.S.A is incredibly naive.

    Whilst I cannot defend the deaths of the innocent citizens on September the 11th, the countries foreign policy is at least partially responsible. The fact that the response was to take civillian lives is completely unforgiveable, however the US Government did play its part in shaping the fate of those who died. For quite a while now the US government has been meddling in the middle east, and unfortunately it's citizens and tax-payers are paying the price.

    Regardless of your views on whether the war is just or not, there are deaths happening over there. Both civillian and military, and whilst our propoganda friendly television stations paint a nicer picture, the fact is that the 'rebels' are not the only ones taking lives. Iraqi's are also being killed, and not just by other Iraqi's. Any loss of live will only serve to make people angry, whether it is Patriotic Americans mourning the loss of their countrymen, or whether it is an Iraqi father mourning the loss of his 12 year old son to friendly fire.

    The sad fact is that the fallout from the Iraq war is being felt all around the world, and not just through acts of Terrorism.  Throughout the world there are signs of racial unrest within communities,  people of Arabic descent are  being attacked purely fo their colour. Many of them are not even Iraqi, racism appears not to discriminate between Iraqi's, Iranians, Persian or Syrians. The racial fallout that could occur due to the occupation of Iraq could last for decades and will undoubtedly needlessly claim many lives.

    Whilst all of this does present a serious problem, it is important to understand that knee-jerk anti-americanism is not right. Whilst the current Administration (and most of the recent Administrations) have done some atrocious things in the name of capitalism, it is not necessarily the will of the US Citizens. Many will argue that the Bush Administration was voted in, but then so was Blair. It is more than possible for the majority of the country to not want Blair in, but if they do not agree on who should take his place the minority that want Labour in power could amount to more than the divided majority. The same is also possible in the US, the advent of the Internet also means that many US Citizens are becoming increasingly aware of the propoganda levied on them by their government.

    I expect their will be a change within the next Ten years, whilst it may be a case of 'Better the Devil you know' there are more than a few people across the globe who will be glad to see the US government humbled.

    McKinnon Loses Extradition Fight

    This content was originally posted on 3rd April 2007

    In the news today Gary McKinnon has lost his bid to avoid extradition to the US. For those who have not been following his story, he was accused by the US government of breaking into US Government Networks. He does not deny this, nor has he ever done so. However the US want him extradited to America for trial, despite the fact that he repeatedly states that he was only there out of curiosity, and the security on these networks was low enough to be trivial. Many feel that the US is trying to make a scapegoat out of McKinnon, whilst he did break through their security he did no harm, and the government should have ensured they had higher levels of security on these networks.

    I myself am very dissappointed that once again our government has bowed to the whim of the US Government in agreeing to extradite Mr McKinnon, he is likely to find himself serving a sentence of decades.
    It is alleged that one US prosecutor has told him he will 'fry'. The government has a duty of care towards Mr McKinnon as a british resident, and although he has indeed committed a crime, the government need to ensure that he receives a punishment proportionate to his crime.

    It is time that the US focused on its internal issues, and stopped policing the world. Whilst Mr McKinnon did break into their networks, it seems unfair that no-one in the US seems to be asking quite why these networks were so badly secured? Surely networks of such importance should have a very high security level attached to them?

    I hope for the sake of every British Citizen that the House of Lords does indeed overturn the decision to extradite Mr McKinnon, although the Governments steps to ensure that Mr McKinnon is protected in the following areas, is a good start, it's not enough.

    The US have agreed that;

    Mr McKinnon will not be tried by Military tribunal;
    He will be eligible for parole;
    He will not serve his sentence at Guantanamo Bay.

    This is simply not enough, that our Government can bend to the whim of the US so easily is a very disturbing thought. It is thought that Mr McKinnon could spend the rest of his life in a US jail were he to lose the appeal to the House of Lords. He may not be allowed repatriation as punishment for fighting the extradition.

    I for one will be following this story very closely after the next few weeks. Please go to and pledge your support.

    Please sign this in the hope that Tony Blair may intercede.

    There is more about this on my blog, please be aware that it's content may offend some users however

    Pearl Jam Release a Video under the Creative Commons License

    This content was originally published on 21st May 2006

    Pearl Jam have released the Video to "Life Wasted" under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No-Derivs-License This basically means you must give the Original Authors Credit, you cannot use it for commercial gain, and you may not make derived works. Other than that you are free to copy and share it. I think it is fantastic that Pearl Jam are giving something back to the fans, this is the first major record company to release under the Creative commons, and hopefully we will see many more.

    The Clip is available from Google Video from May 19th to May 24th. After that the clip will go on sale, but you are free to copy and distribute the clip once you have downloaded it. More information can be found on the Creative Commons site.

    I sincerely hope many othe record companies will replicate this, in my mind it makes sense to give away videos to some of the tracks, and then sell the CD/MP3 so that people can listen to it on the move. Admittedly most MP3 players can now handle videos, and you could just rip the audio from the video, but if the MP3/CD is the right place most people wouldn't bother. It all comes back to whether the Record companies overprice everything. I applaud J Records for this Fantastic decision.

    Even if you do not like Pearl Jam download this Video, it'll will help show the Record Company that this is what the community wants, and we may in turn see more releases like this.

    Shifty_ben 11:44 21/05/2006