Thursday, 18 September 2014

Inspiron 6400 - Wallpaper of the Month

A stunning day in Snowdonia National Park yesterday has prompted an early change in my desktop's wallpaper!

This is taken on my phone (a Samsung Galaxy S3 Advance). The view of Snowdon (in the distance) is taken from the Nantlle Ridge looking (roughly) north east over Mynydd Drws-y-coed.

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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Rotten Apple - Your Data & The Cloud

Something for nothing is good right? Well, not always. Apple's recent decision to interfere with users' cloud accounts without permission has caused a little controversy: notwithstanding the Company's dreadful taste in music, foisting music on customers who didn't ask for (and who don't want) it demonstrates utter disregard for customers' privacy (not to mention the associated security implications).

Following the public outcry, Apple has subsequently released a way to delete the offending album, but the affair highlights a bigger issue: if you give your data to a third-party to look after, you no longer control you data! Hand it over at your peril.

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Friday, 12 September 2014

Another Careless Owner!

Last year I reported on finding an old Compaq C700 in the recycling skip: well, I've just found another in the same skip! This one's a Compaq Presario CQ60 & I managed to recover a working charger at the same time.

My first thought was that this would be suffering from a shot screen (all too common with Compaq laptops), but it's not and I can find absolutely nothing wrong with this little beauty. Apart from needing a new battery (I couldn't find the original) and hard drive (sensibly removed by the original owner), this laptop is perfectly operational right down to the webcam. There's no damage to the case aside from the marks and scuffs associated with normal wear & tear. That is, if you ignore the missing rubber bumper on the bottom of the case!

I've gone for a cheap battery (I don't expect it to last more than twelve months) but a 60GB solid state hard drive - I really do want to see how much of a performance improvement an ssd will deliver and I have no need for a massive hard drive. Total repair costs are circa £50.00 and it's a project for my daughter, Lozzy to cut her teeth on!

We won't be restoring the original operating system (Microsoft Vista) and the AMD Sempron processor probably isn't man enough to run Win7, so we'll run Mint 17 and keep this as a play thing.

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Sunday, 7 September 2014

NAS Woes

Some years ago I made the mistake of buying a Western Digital network drive - there's a reason that they're cheap! Anyway, this week the hard drive failed (or so I thought) and this morning I took the enclosure apart only to find that it was the capacitors that had given up the ghost.

blown capacitors in WD network drive
What's All that Goo?

Because the drive uses hardware encryption, the data is unreachable: I can't even mount the drive to attempt a recovery. Assuming that the drive is still healthy (smartctl -H results in an access denied error message), I'm faced with several options:

  • Try to recover the data by finding a replacement enclosure with the same model number (yeah, good luck with that!)
  • Try to recover the data by repairing the pcb (replace the burned capacitors)
  • Sacrifice the data and reuse the drive building my own NAS

Most (but not all) of the data is already safely on my file server. I've lost some video but everything else is either duplicated or replaceable so, option 3 is looking favourite! I'm toying with the idea of a low-powered box running FreeNAS or perhaps even a Intel's NUC. I even looked into using a Raspberry Pi!

I've accepted that the data is gone and that I should probably format the drive, but I really can't decide on (or afford) a replacement. I'll mull it over but, in the meanwhile, my advice is to avoid Western Digital drives if you value your data.

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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Quick Tip - Minification In Linux

Often, when building and testing a website, you may be working with two or more style sheets. However, before uploading your site it's best practise to merge your css files in order to reduce any lag between request and response. There are several tools available to achieve this but Linux has its own command line tool, cssmin.

To install cssmin, open a terminal and:

sudo apt-get install cssmin

Enter your password and allow the application to install. To merge your style sheets:

cat file1.css file2.css file3.css | cssmin > output.min.css

Where filen.css are the source files and output.min.css is the output file. Obviously, you will need to link your html files to the new style sheet.

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Saturday, 23 August 2014

Wallpaper of the Month - Inspiron 6400

You probably already know that I change the desktop backgrounds on my computers regularly - time for a change on the Inspiron 6400!

Another of my own compositions taken from (roughly) SJ 177 398 between Y Foel & Vivod, looking east. This is another photo taken on my mobile phone; a Samsung Galaxy Advance S4.

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Friday, 22 August 2014

More On Win98 & Ubuntu

Last year I built a bespoke system in order that a customer could run Win98! My solution was to build a modern desktop running Ubuntu and virtualize the legacy system using Virtualbox. Despite my business having long since failed, I've remained on friendly terms with my erstwhile customer and was happy to help him upgrade Ubuntu 12.04 to 14.04LTS.

I've always preferred clean installs rather than the in-place upgrades and I partition my drives accordingly (and did so on this build also): so, I decided that I would do a fresh install on the Win98 host machine and didn't anticipate any difficulties getting Win98 up & running. How wrong I was!

Installing the latest version of VirtualBox & the extension pack was simple enough, but whilst Windows ran inside VirtualBox without any drama, it positively refused to communicate with any of the hardware: this meant that there was no USB support so neither the dot matrix printer (a deal breaker) nor USB pen drives would work. It turns out that I'd missed a couple of key (but simple) steps to getting the virtual machine operating effectively.

The first was to add the user's account to the vboxusers group. This is straightforward in Ubuntu & its derivatives, simply add the gnome-system-tools package from the Software Center. You can access the utility from the Administration menu (Mint) or search via Unity (Ubuntu).

The second is to make sure that the USB controller is selected in the virtual machine's settings but that the USB 2.0 (EHCI) controller is deselected.

Once these two issues were rectified, Win98 was once more doing its thing!

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