Tag Archives: computers

Link

Just a super-quick post here.

If you’re looking for addons or plugins for Microsoft Outlook to help you organize your emails and extend the functionality of Outlook

(note Outlook is very extensible, as with all Microsoft Office applications you can write Visual Basic code for Applications to hook into it’s functions. Absaloutely fantastic for hacking excel as I have been doing for the last few weeks – my work needs to invest in a proper database program for sure *sigh*)

You’d do no better than looking here

Snapfiles Outlook Add-ons

http://www.snapfiles.com/freeware/comm/fwoutlook.html

 

They have addons that are useful – and unlike most of the sites on i’ve found so far – up to date and compatible with recent versions (2003+) of Outlook.

Hope this helps folks!

 

Rfduino Chip vs Thermometer

Well, I’ve now debugged a few issues with my scripts from my last post.
(made them a bit more fault tolerant and actually take notice of $? exit statuses) .
Recap: Temperhum (USB) -> Raspberry Pi -> Xively chart, now also
RFDuino (bluetooth wireless) -> Raspberry Pi -> Xively chart

Tip:  If you’re struggling with the bluetooth on linux giving rx timeout errors (check the syslog if it’s not in the console),
update the software with the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

The Rfduino has been sitting next to my usb Temperature and Humidity sensor for a few weeks collecting data.

IMG_20140514_223244041r

RFDuino and Temperhum

Since it had been both collecting data for a few weeks and sending them to Xively / Pachube / Cosm, I had a quick look to see how closely the readings match.

Rfduino vs thermometerr

The graphs do show correlation, thank goodness, but it looks like the RFDuino’s temperature scale isn’t right. The RFDuino is only updating the graph once a minute whereas the Temperhum is 2x a minute.

I didn’t really expect great accuracy for the RFduino thermometer seeing as it’s measuring from the chip. But this would still be useful in some more basic cases.

I think next on the roadmap for the RFduino is connecting sensors/remote controls (it would be cool to attach my RelaySockets to this and control the 2 connected relays via bluetooth from my Pi and Android smartphone!

 

My Humidity and Temperature sensor

A Temperhum from PCSensor.

A great little bit of kit – once you work out the conversion values for the C++ USB/i2c/HID code that lets linux talk to the thing!

Mythubuntu 12.04 and Radeon 9200

Hi all, I was having trouble installing Mythubuntu 12.04 on an old PC I had lying around.
Mythubuntu is based on Ubuntu 12.04 so if you’re struggling with the ATI Radeon 9200 on there these steps should help.

(Since I have a Hauppuage Nova-T 500 dual freeview pci card from old projects, and a 2tb drive from new ones, I wanted to see about recording some films!)

Basically, when booting it would come up with a garbled, black or blank screen.

If this happens during the livecd boot, preventing you from installing, when you see the logo:

Logo that appears when first booting ubuntu from livecd.

Logo that appears when first booting ubuntu from livecd.

Hit enter, and F6 for other options, select nomodeset, hit enter to enable then Escape and enter to boot.
If operating from a laptop, you might want to try noapic too.

 

In the latest grub setup – grub 2 – the boot menu is hidden, making it near impossible to access.
Might make it look pretty but is major frustrating for troubleshooting!
The script /boot/grub/grub.cfg it uses is supposed to boot in textmode if it has failed to boot, but this does not work.

The fix:

Note: you can login, type

sudo su

and then skip typing sudo with every command below (it gets quite annoying I know!)

  1. To access the grub bootmenu, hold down shift – after all your pc’s bios and add-on cards bios screens have disappeared and until it pops up – it takes a while to appear!
  2. To access the console – textmode, insert the word text and remove ‘splash quiet’ from the kernel options,
    also insert the word nomodeset
    then press F10 or Ctrl-C to boot with the new settings.
  3. Connect to the internet, if using Wired connection you may need to connect (hopefully you connected ok during the install)

    sudo nmcli -p con up id “Wired connection 1”

    If that doesn’t work check your wireless connections names with and edit the above command appropriately

    nmcli con

  4. Install xserver-xorg-video-ati

    sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-ati

    (don’t freak out when you see ‘Removing Mythubuntu-desktop’ it seems to come right in the end.

  5. Create a new link for the X server
    (Not sure why this breaks after the upgrade but it won’t work without this step!!)

    sudo ln /usr/bin/Xorg /usr/bin/X

  6. Edit the default bootmenu script
    Add nomodeset to the default grub bootmenu

    sudo nano /etc/default/grub.cfg

    Change this line near the top:

    GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash”
    to
    GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”nomodeset”
    #”quiet splash”

    The # tells it to ignore this bit, it’s a backup so that we can make it quiet again later. You’ll notice text streaming by as the system boots instead of the cute (Myth) Ubuntu …. logo

    Ctrl-X to exit, type s and Return to save

  7. Update grub

    sudo update-grub

  8. Reboot and Revel in the shinyness

    sudo reboot

I actually ran this command to to start the windows manager, (and I haven’t tried rebooting yet, shhh)

sudo start lightdm

If you have any extra trouble, comment below, check the ubuntu forums and google.
I managed to work this out on my own as I couldn’t find the answer!

 

I also created a script to set the resolution of lightdm at boot, following the guide here:
LightDM Resolution

This did not work as when I started lightdm, the resolution was set higher than I’d set in lightdm, so I don’t think this was part of the fix.
Thankfully it was within my monitors capabilities. I think I set the output name wrong.
I need to figure out the display outputs are available but couldn’t query it from the command line without x running, which seems kinda silly.

Hope this has been helpful!

Prevent Adobe Acrobat Crashing Firefox

I’m using Adobe Acrobat (for compatibilities sake only, please post your favourite PDF program in the comments below!), but I’ve been rather annoyed recently at it having a tendency to hang Firefox if I tried to open more than one PDF file from the internet.

Simple fix/hack – make Firefox save PDF files rather than open them.

  1. Open Options (Tools \ Options in Windows and Edit \ Preferences in Linux)
  2. Open the Applications tab
  3. under ‘Adobe Acrobat Document’ change the value of the dropdown to ‘Save file’

Firefox Applications options tab. Vista I know!

  1. OK the change
  2. All done. Hopefully that’s one less annoying crash to worry about!

Ps get Session manager to save yourself loosing a window full of tabs or having to do a horribly manual procedure like recovering tabs from a accidentally closed Firefox window.

Help firefox wget and ssh shell script

I’m trying to create a script to allow me to command a remote server to download a file from firefox.

There are various reasons for this, mainly todo with connection speed.

What I have at the moment is:
#/bin/sh
terminator -x ssh user@site.com wget -qc -t 3 -o ~/wget_testlog ftp://anothersite.com/file.ext \\& \& &

I want it to kick off, ask for a password to login via ssh and then go away…
I would like to be able to set the location for the download to ~/www/files/

I was planning to place this script in /usr/bin and install it in firefox using the code/link provided on this blog: Wget from firefox

Can anyone complete my solution with the correct syntax, or provide a better solution (preferably KISS)?
I’m more of hacker than an expert IMO and I know when I’m out of my depth!

Cheers,
Garreth

People are strange

We have a lot of customers. A few, whilst emailing us at tech-support can be rude. It’s interesting, visiting their sites, and seeing whether that is just because they’re stressed, under the effects of caffeine, or are just naturally rude.

Take one example… one person just kept ignoring what I said, treating it as if I didn’t know what I was writing about. Turns out, I did, and I fixed the immediate problem (if not the whole one, but that’s something different altogether). He still insists on treating me as if I’m not worth listening to.

Surprise surprise, if I am given the choice (and at the end of the day, when I’m just doing support tickets to stop them needing to be done tomorrow, I often am,) I will delay answering the tickets of those who have been rude. They’ll get done at some point, but I won’t prioritize them; what’s the point? I’d rather help someone who will be grateful! I will go all out in my own time on a problem that interests me, or a customer who is kind. I will go all out if you are rude, but you are stressed and have an excuse. I may force myself to go all out if you pay us a lot of money (but it won’t be on my own time 😉 )

I’ve stayed in the office till 10pm, on a ‘I’m not getting paid right now’ problem, because it interested me, and I liked the people running the website involved. I will gladly spend my free time trying to help them.

If you talk to tech support, be nice! Say thank you, treat us with respect, and you’ll find we’ll be inclined to help you a lot more. Ignore what we say, treat us rudely or as if we don’t know what we’re talking about, and we’ll get dispirited. The last thing you want is dispirited sysadmins. They tend to go home on the dot, and they won’t go out of their way to help you.

If you’re angry, worried, stressed, take a deep breath and a calming moment before speaking to us. We, like anyone else, don’t like people shouting at us for something we can’t help. If your website goes down, because the server it’s on has blown up, and you didn’t pay for a fail-over system, we can’t help you any faster by you shouting at us, and you shouting at us will not make us like you 😉

In the end, just remember, we’re human too! That person you call up because your email is broken has emotions, and they’re likely busy fixing problems, or helping others already. Don’t let the frustration of the problem blow into anger at the people who try to fix it for you 🙂

The effects of sleep deprivation

Or what happens when you have to stay up for 22 hours, because a server has suddenly decided it doesn’t like life, and would rather die, as I had to this morning.

Managed to recover it in the end, but this would be the downside of my job 😉

Weak, managed to strain my legs, so both were aching, but oh, did bed feel nice when I got to crawling in!

In my case, sleep deprivation results in:

  1. getting sillier
  2. getting grumpy
  3. trouble accessing memories
  4. eye-hand co-ordination beginning to degrade

I guess, that over time, you can train yourself to deal with these sort of symptoms (though for me, being silly is a bit strange 🙂 )

Fail.

Example one – forgetful screenshots

screenshot-fail

A couple of screenshots. Firstly, every now and then, people send us screenshots. They do this by sending them in word documents, which is bad enough. (Please, just send us an image file!) This example though, is quite fun.

Make sure you actually copy the screenshot in, instead of just linking it 😉

Example 2 – Infect yourself, and pay money for the privilege

Stupid-Script-Kiddies

My second example, is of a website trying to extort money, by making you think your computer has been infected with a virus. These are nasty sites, and I hate them with a passion. They feed off of people’s fear of computers. The interesting thing here is, this computer can’t be infected in this way… it’s running ubuntu, their silly antivirus software looks very, very out-of-place!

(See my first post this month if you’re afraid of computers.)

Click on the image for the full screenshot. It is quite large. As you can see from the timestamp, I’ve been meaning to post this one for a while 😉

p.s. Does anyone know how to force formatting in wordpress? This post took about 10 minutes of fiddling to get the images to go some-where near where I wanted them :/ If you do, please comment! If you don’t please comment. In fact, please comment, comments make my day!

Day 1: NaBloPoMo

What a strange name for an event. Anyway, yes, this is my second attempt at the interesting experiment, of posting once a day, every day during this month.1 I expect quite a few of these posts will be small, random and useless. Sorry about that, just to warn you!

Anyway, onto more interesting things. Book review 🙂

Completed the “The Business” By Iain Banks the other week. Good book, though not one of his best… Gripping read from about ~60-70% of the way through. Predictable up to that point.
All about a large, democratic company, and the machinations and politics within it, as it looks to buy a small country, to attain a seat on the UN council.

Interesting and enjoyable enough read, but not spectacular by any stretch. I’ll not keep it for my book collection 🙂

Some other thoughts I had whilst talking to someone at church today… Working with the people I do, it’s easy to forget the fear and lack of knowledge a lot people have with computers. For me, they’re simple, far easier to understand than a human by any stretch of the imagination!

If you are ever afraid of a computer, the best thing you can do is to make a backup of all your files onto a USB stick, and then just play with your computer. Don’t be afraid of breaking anything, let your fear go. Just explore all the menus, options and settings, see what happens when you change things around. Right click on everything!

Current Cost – watt hours and pachube

This is an email i sent to JT  so I apologise if it doesn’t make sense to y’all. Please ask questions if you don’t get me!

So we have this ‘Current Cost’ meter thing (free from Southern Electric) at the house. It’s a small wireless electricity meter. Well it’s more of a monitor or display actually but you get me….[insert pic].

Long story short, I’d noticed the RJ45 on the bottom and it’d got me wondering. A few google searches later and whammo i’d found what I needed. A bit of hardware, a bit of software (links on manyfacturers website!) and whammo….

I wired up the current cost (enegry meter) at the house to my laptop and it’s uploading to this Pachube (bless you) website:
http://www.pachube.com/feeds/2196

The graph is a bit useless atm (no history or dates on it 🙁 ) but the program here:
http://apps.pachube.com/google_viz/
Could probs snazz it up a bit.
There seems to be a binary pattern from some device that is turning on and off at regular intervals and using ~100w… i wonder if it’s the compressor on the fridge/freezer as it goes on thru the night lol.

Graph of peak watts and temperature from current cost and excel

Graph of peak watts and temperature from current cost and excel

The long jittery spikes are the washing machine/dishwasher/tumble dryer (the last being the biggest draw lol).

One guy is even trying to record signatures for each appliance and then work out from the data which appliance is causing the spikes.
http://chrishodgins.tumblr.com/post/33810511/via-chart-apis-google-com-so-its-the-bank
The idea behind this is if you can work that out, you can make a pie chart of the biggest consumers…

I have more results than are uploaded; i created a funky excel file which Should update from the mdb created from one of the apps i’m using but atm i think the file is locked or summat :(. Made a pretty graph to! Also predicting the future temperature based on a polynominal curve or something lol.

All gd fun. Now i jus want one of these tiny minuture computers:
http://www.fit-pc.co.uk/fit-pc-slim.html
or this awesome plug pc:
http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/258238/plug-sized-pcs-arrive-in-uk.html (sweet) (Ubuntu on a plug [ via Youtube])
to record/upload the results, although it would make more sense to use the ipcop or home server since they are always on and the current cost device is wireless. (unfortunately our model does not have internal data logging 🙁 ). Don’t know how to work out kwh from current usage of watts every 3 seconds… i might be able to put something from averages tho. Any suggestions  anyone? I might just be being dumb lol.

Now all we need is the x10 plug thru devices to monitor electricty usage (by appliance) and bobs your uncle – we know exactly where the electricity is going.

IMO  (as a soon to be Building services engineer in training) this technology should be wired into all new houses in the actuall plug sockets. Want to know which of your kids (or indeed partner) is using the most electricity? 😉

The trickle usage these measuring devices could be designed to run on could easily be offset by a small(ish) solar pv installation too! (i’m talking around 10-30wh/day here 😉 ).

Oh and here’s how to connect the current cost to pachube:
http://community.pachube.com/?q=node/100

On the upside i’ve also unplugged the fancy pants MPPT  solar charge controller and hooked the install back up to the basic on/off controller, and now it’s definetly shifting amps! I was a bit worried that in full sun 53watts of panels was ONLY putting through 0.3-0.1a @11.7 (i know, discharged). Hmm gonna have to find out whats wrong with fancy pants, he wasn’t cheap! :'(