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Spectrums, rubber keys, parking fines, OpenLDAP and replacement windows

The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Although come to think of it, I do feel a bit of rigor mortis settling in, could be something to do with the fact that last night was the first time at the gym for nearly 3 weeks. Anyway, much has happened, I lead an army, stormed through Europe, conquered Asia and now rule half the world... oh wait, that was Alexander not me, another life, another movie maybe. When the morning comes and you wake up realising that you are not the one to start the revolution, you are not the one to find the undiscovered species or the missing link, you are not the one to write the book that will fundamentally change the beliefs of and unite the peoples of the world, that you are not the one to positively change humanity with the invention of costless, abundant, pollution free energy, when that time comes, do you feel it? I think I had that revelation this morning, so I cleaned my teeth, took a shower, got dressed and made my way down stairs to make a cup of tea and slice of toast, with marmalade of course!

With absolutely nothing to do with the above and for anyone that actually reads the blurb spewed in these blogs I can inform you that I was not compelled to run naked down the high street with a traffic cone on my head singing "my old man’s a dustman", suffer copious amounts of Mr Patel's extra strength vindaloo, but I did enjoy the vast quantities of Guinness. Yes, the installation went fine (in a roundabout sort of way). Oh yes, there were the niggles and gripes, teething problems, times that I had to resort to the beating the insolent teenager of technology with a hammer to get it to work, but in the end it did just that. What on earth am I talking about? Well... the customer of mine, Mr Windows, is now Mr Linux (apart from a couple PCs) and so is his network of around 100 or so workstations. Working like a charm (or curse?). Open office is in full swing, OpenLDAP proved a complete bitch to install and configure but perseverance is the key and if I had persevered that much in my marriages I'd be a far richer man! Anyway, as far as a viable alternative to a windows network, Linux does provide the goods. I really thought I would lose the bet when I hit the user accounts/validation brick wall but on reading and tinkering, getting it wrong, getting bits surprisingly right, abundant scratching of head, reading and posting, it was eventually sorted. A couple of the PCs were running some 3rd party software controlling a couple of manufacturing machines so these stayed, I wasn't prepared to get that messy and totally balls it up. As far as the experiment is concerned, I think I will mark this one up as a success. The office admin have just about everything they need to work, databases, spreadsheets, fax, scanners, word processing, card games, internet and email. I had to tweak quite a few lines of JavaScript to get the intranet working properly, basically copy and paste to modify the DOM object running under Mozilla. Luckily I had previously written his website and intranet on apache and used Java/Jsp so plugging it in wasn't a problem and some of the C# work was moved to run under Mono, again, some tweaking and configuring but we got there in the end. I moved across most of the MS SQL databases to MY SQL with a few tweaks to the scripts and data transferred through an amalgamation of ODBC queries, BCP and brute force to prise it all in. It all took longer than I thought to complete but some valuable lessons were learned. I’ll keep the patient under constant observation for a while until it can be taken out of critical care but the prognosis is looking good and the transplant is looking to be a success. Wipe please Nurse! Scalpel, backup tape, CD.

The poisons of choice were Kubuntu for the desktops/laptops, Ubuntu LAMP server, and another Ubuntu lamp minus the AMP but running OpenLDAP. The configuration worked fine for this installation and, after the initial demo, has been accepted by the customer as a good alternative and a huge saving on licenses that, for a small business, is a godsend. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I was learning this stuff as I went along, that would have probably put the fear of God into his chequebook and his writing hand.

Whilst all this was going on, and it was a lot considering I'm contracted to big blue 5 days a week, I (we, my wife and Sleepy had the outlaws (in-laws) over from Moscow. It was a bit of a squeeze to play the dutiful son-in-law that was lazy and didn't learn Russian properly, but showing his face and taking the chauffeur role. And, as luck would have it, my new HTC arrived whilst they were here so I had to fit in the configuration of that, getting everything to work under windows mobile 5! I tried to put it to one side and leave it to not be so ignorant but, I am weak, I have no will power... (apart from kicking the nasty cig habit, but that re-emerges when the alcohol level increases). I was magnetically drawn to the study... why is it that I can't leave things alone, it came with a nice Vodafone branded ROM, one visit to xda-developers.com and voila, a bastardisation of HTC, TMobile, O2 and Vodafone and 8 hours trying to get it to work again.

Final note, on trawling through eBay I had a bit of a nostalgic pang, so now I am the proud owner of:
1 x Sinclair ZX81
1 x Sinclair Spectrum 48k (rubber key of course!)
1 x Sinclair Spectrum +
1 x Sinclair Spectrum +2
1 x Sinclair Spectrum +3
Lots of bits, microdrives, thermal printers etc etc.

Why? Because I could! I wanted to feel that "new" feeling again, that time when I got my first computer, a Sinclair ZX81 in 1981(ish), closely followed the next year by the 48k rubber key Spectrum, and an insatiable need to know how the computer and its programs worked. If only I could go back and bash that youngster around the head with the Kempston interface, Just look at the life it lead me too!!

What else? Hmm, erm, well had an argument with a traffic warden about a parking ticket. £30 they wanted and I had paid the parking meter! Pay and display, I did just that. Paid my £2, stuck it on the windscreen and meandered off into Blackpool with the in-laws in tow. On returning, big yellow notice stuck to the aforementioned screen. "You have not paid and displayed, pay in 2 weeks for £30 or £60 if left to run". The pay and display sticker had come unstuck and dropped on the dash, upside down. The notice said illegible and believed to be an infringement to clause 82. On calling Blackpool council and speaking the Vogons there, I concluded that it was better to pay the damn fine, only my wallet was in wife's handbag (well if she buys a wallet that won't fit in my pocket then she can bloody well carry the suitcase!). I called the Vogons again yesterday and paid and while I was waiting for the payment to be authorised, we exchanged polite pleasantries, some poetry and I joked about a refund of the £2 for parking. Then I was informed that if I had the original pay and display ticket I should have written in and explained the case to have the charge waived. Thank you very much Blackpool council. So now I have paid it and have written a pleading letter to get my money back. Snowball in hell.

If you're still awake and have read this far then you should really be a software developer as you can really take the boredom and huge amounts of confusing drivel! For those with the head on the desk and drool pouring out between the snores.... WAKE UP! It's home time!

Good night and good luck!

More in Tux Machines

today's howtos

Leftovers: Ubuntu

  • IOTA: IoT revolutionized with a Ledger
    Ever since the introduction of digital money, the world quickly came to realize how dire and expensive the consequences of centralized systems are. Not only are these systems incredibly expensive to maintain, they are also “single points of failures” which expose a large number of users to unexpected service interruptions, fraudulent activities and vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malicious hackers. Thanks to Blockchain, which was first introduced through Bitcoin in 2009, the clear benefits of a decentralized and “trustless” transactional settlement system became apparent. No longer should expensive trusted third parties be used for handling transactions, instead, the flow of money should be handled in a direct, Peer-to-Peer fashion. This concept of a Blockchain (or more broadly, a distributed ledger) has since then become a global phenomenon attracting billions of dollars in investments to further develop the concept.
  • Return Home and Unify: My Case for Unity 8
  • Can netbooks be cool again?
    Earlier this week, my colleague Chaim Gartenberg covered a laptop called the GPD Pocket, which is currently being funded on Indiegogo. As Chaim pointed out, the Pocket’s main advantage is its size — with a 7-inch screen, the thing is really, really small — and its price, a reasonable $399. But he didn’t mention that the Pocket is the resurrection of one of the most compelling, yet fatally flawed, computing trends of the ‘00s: the netbook. So after ten years, are netbooks finally cool again? That might be putting it too strongly, but I’m willing to hope.

Linux Devices

  • Compact, rugged module runs Linux or Android on Apollo Lake
    Ubiqcomm’s 95 x 95mm, Apollo Lake-based “COM-AL6C” COM offers 4K video along with multiple SATA, USB, GbE, and PCIe interfaces, plus -40 to 85°C operation. Ubiqconn Technology Inc. has announced a “COM-AL6C” COM Express Type 6 Compact form factor computer-on-module built around Intel’s Apollo Lake processors and designed to withstand the rigors of both fixed and mobile industrial applications. The module offers a choice among three Intel Apollo Lake processors: the quad-core Atom x5-E3930, quad-core x5-E3940, and dual-core x7-E3950, which are clocked at up to 2.0GHz burst and offer TDPs from 6.5 to 12 Watts.
  • Internet-enable your microcontroller projects for under $6 with ESP8266
    To get started with IoT (the Internet of Things), your device needs, well, an Internet connection. Base Arduino microcontrollers don't have Internet connectivity by default, so you either need to add Ethernet, Wi-Fi shields, or adapters to them, or buy an Arduino that has built-in Internet connectivity. In addition to complexity, both approaches add cost and consume the already-precious Arduino flash RAM for program space, which limits what you can do. Another approach is to use a Raspberry Pi or similar single-board computer that runs a full-blown operating system like Linux. The Raspberry Pi is a solid choice in many IoT use cases, but it is often overkill when all you really want to do is read a sensor and send the reading up to a server in the cloud. Not only does the Raspberry Pi potentially drive up the costs, complexity, and power consumption of your project, but it is running a full operating system that needs to be patched, and it has a much larger attack surface than a simple microcontroller. When it comes to IoT devices and security, simpler is better, so you can spend more time making and less time patching what you already made.
  • Blinkenlights!
  • Blinkenlights, part 2
  • Blinkenlights, part 3
  • [Older] Shmoocon 2017: The Ins And Outs Of Manufacturing And Selling Hardware
    Every day, we see people building things. Sometimes, useful things. Very rarely, this thing becomes a product, but even then we don’t hear much about the ins and outs of manufacturing a bunch of these things or the economics of actually selling them. This past weekend at Shmoocon, [Conor Patrick] gave the crowd the inside scoop on selling a few hundred two factor authentication tokens. What started as a hobby is now a legitimate business, thanks to good engineering and abusing Amazon’s distribution program.
  • 1.8 Billion Mobile Internet Users NEVER use a PC, 200 Million PC Internet Users never use a mobile phone. Understanding the 3.5 Billion Internet Total Audience
    As I am working to finish the 2017 Edition of the TomiAhonen Almanac (last days now) I always get into various updates of numbers, that remind me 'I gotta tell this story'.. For example the internet user numbers. We have the December count by the ITU for year 2016, that says the world has now 3.5 Billion internet users in total (up from 3.2 Billion at the end of year 2015). So its no 'drama' to know what is 'that' number. The number of current internet total users is yes, 3.5 Billion, almost half of the planet's total population (47%).

Leftovers: OSS and Sharing

  • Rewriting the history of free software and computer graphics
    Do you remember those days in the early nineties when most screensavers were showing flying 3D metallic logotypes? Did you have one? In this article, I want to go back in time and briefly revise the period in the history of computer graphics (CG) development when it transitioned from research labs to everyone's home computer. The early and mid-1990s was the time when Aldus (before Adobe bought the company) was developing PageMaker for desktop publishing, when Pixar created ToyStory, and soon after 3D modeling and animation software Maya by Alias|Wavefront (acquired by Autodesk). It was also a moment when we got two very different models of CG development, one practiced by the Hollywood entertainment industry and one practiced by corporations like Adobe and Autodesk. By recalling this history, I hope to be able to shed new light on the value of free software for CG, such as Blender or Synfig. Maybe we can even re-discover the significance of one implicit freedom in free software: a way for digital artists to establish relations with developers. [...] The significance of free software for CG On the backdrop of this history, free software like Blender, Synfig, Krita, and other projects for CG gain significance for several reasons that stretch beyond the four freedoms that free software gives. First, free software allows the mimicking of the Hollywood industry's models of work while making it accessible for more individuals. It encourages practice-based CG development that can fit individual workflows and handle unexpected circumstances that emerge in the course of work, rather than aiming at a mass product for all situations and users. Catering to an individual's needs and adaptations of the software brings users work closer to craft and makes technology more human. Tools and individual skill can be continuously polished, shaped, and improved based on individual needs, rather than shaped by decisions "from above."
  • ONF unveils Open Innovation Pipeline to counter open source proprietary solutions
    ONF and ON.Lab claim the OIP initiative to bolster open source SDN, NFV and cloud efforts being hampered by open source-based proprietary work. Tapping into an ongoing merger arrangement with Open Networking Lab, the Open Networking Foundation recently unveiled its Open Innovation Pipeline targeted at counteracting the move by vendors using open source platforms to build proprietary solutions.
  • [FreeDOS] The readability of DOS applications
    Web pages are mostly black-on-white or dark-gray-on-white, but anyone who has used DOS will remember that most DOS applications were white-on-blue. Sure, the DOS command line was white-on-black, but almost every popular DOS application used white-on-blue. (It wasn't really "white" but we'll get there.) Do an image search for any DOS application from the 1980s and early 1990s, and you're almost guaranteed to yield a forest of white-on-blue images like these:
  • More about DOS colors
    In a followup to my discussion about the readability of DOS applications, I wrote an explanation on the FreeDOS blog about why DOS has sixteen colors. That discussion seemed too detailed to include on my Open Source Software & Usability blog, but it was a good fit for the FreeDOS blog.
  • Building a $4 billion company around open source software: The Cloudera story
    Dr Amr Awadallah is the Chief Technology Officer of Cloudera, a data management and analytics platform based on Apache Hadoop. Before co-founding Cloudera in 2008, Awadallah served as Vice President of Product Intelligence Engineering at Yahoo!, running one of the very first organizations to use Hadoop for data analysis and business intelligence. Awadallah joined Yahoo! after the company acquired his first startup, VivaSmart, in July 2000. With the fourth industrial revolution upon us—where the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres are blurred by the world of big data and the fusion of technologies—Cloudera finds itself among the band of companies that are leading this change. In this interview with Enterprise Innovation, the Cloudera co-founder shares his insights on the opportunities and challenges in the digital revolution and its implications for businesses today; how organizations can derive maximum value from their data while ensuring their protection against risks; potential pitfalls and mistakes companies make when using big data for business advantage; and what lies beyond big data analytics.
  • What we (think we) know about meritocracies
    "Meritocracy," writes Christopher Hayes in his 2012 book Twilight of the Elites, "represents a rare point of consensus in our increasingly polarized politics. It undergirds our debates, but is never itself the subject of them, because belief in it is so widely shared." Meritocratic thinking, in other words, is prevalent today; thinking rigorously about meritocracy, however, is much more rare.
  • A new perspective on meritocracy
    Meritocracy is a common element of open organizations: They prosper by fostering a less-hierarchical culture where "the best ideas win." But what does meritocracy really mean for open organizations, and why does it matter? And how do open organizations make meritocracy work in practice? Some research and thinking I've done over the last six months have convinced me such questions are less simple—and perhaps more important—than may first meet the eye.
  • OpenStack Summit Boston: Vote for Presentations
    The next OpenStack Summit takes place in Boston, MA (USA) in May (8.-11.05.2017). The "Vote for Presentations" period started already. All proposals are now again up for community votes. The period will end February 21th at 11:59pm PST (February 22th at 8:59am CEST).
  • [FOSDEM] Libreboot
    Libreboot is free/opensource boot firmware for laptops, desktops and servers, on multiple platforms and architectures. It replaces the proprietary BIOS/UEFI firmware commonly found in computers.
  • Three new FOSS umbrella organisations in Europe
    So far, the options available to a project are either to establish its own organisation or to join an existing organisation, neither of which may fit well for the project. The existing organisations are either specialised in a specific technology or one of the few technology-neutral umbrella organisations in the US, such as Software in the Public Interest, the Apache Software Foundation, or the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC). If there is already a technology-specific organisation (e.g. GNOME Foundation, KDE e.V., Plone Foundation) that fits a project’s needs, that may well make a good match.
  • ESA affirms Open Access policy for images, videos and data / Digital Agenda
    ESA today announced it has adopted an Open Access policy for its content such as still images, videos and selected sets of data. For more than two decades, ESA has been sharing vast amounts of information, imagery and data with scientists, industry, media and the public at large via digital platforms such as the web and social media. ESA’s evolving information management policy increases these opportunities. In particular, a new Open Access policy for ESA’s information and data will now facilitate broadest use and reuse of the material for the general public, media, the educational sector, partners and anybody else seeking to utilise and build upon it.
  • Key Traits of the Coming Delphi For Linux Compiler
    Embarcadero is about to release a new Delphi compiler for the Linux platform. Here are some of the key technical elements of this compiler, and the few differences compared to Delphi compilers for other platforms.