Breaking the silence; new wiki!

It has been a very long time since I posted anything here. I’m still alive! Work has kept me very busy and joining the Debian Project has obliterated any spare time I previously had. We’ve also recently moved. If I were you I wouldn’t expect to see an update here for another few years!

I’ve created a sort-of wiki which I hope to keep more up-to-date than the articles in this blog. Some of my articles, particularly my travels with GnuPG, seem to be used as references by various people—but these are growing increasingly dated. A wiki should help with this.

The “wiki” is in fact documentation generated using Sphinx from reStructuredText files stored in Git and hosted on GitHub. To edit wiki pages, clone my repo and submit a pull request!

Why do I have so much storage at home?

Every time I mention how much storage I have at home, someone inevitably asks what I use it for or comments how big my porn stash must be. So, this post sets out the whys and hows of my rather vast home storage system.

As of 2013-08-04 I have 32.86 TiB of storage in my home server, with a relatively luxurious (for me) 16.28 TiB free.
Continue reading

Royal Mail are Thieves

I have been sent a package from the US, for which I need to pay £22.34 VAT and Duty. That’s fine, that’s the law and while it’s never nice to have to pay extra to bring something in from abroad you kind of expect it. Fine.

What you don’t expect is to have to pay an extra £8 to Royal Fail for their “handling” of it going through customs. They should be utterly ashamed of themselves; this is daylight robbery.

Of course this is the only company that will refuse to even deliver the item until the fee is paid, so you can’t even dispute it after you get the item – you either have to cough up or do without the item you paid for.

No wonder they’re profitable again if they pull tricks like this.

Generating a new GnuPG Key

I have recently started to become much more involved in the Debian project, maintaining my own package (ulogd2) and doing a pair of uploads to other packages. Debian uses GPG / OpenPGP keys widely for signing the archive, authenticating uploads by developers and so on, so I needed a secure GPG key that I could use for my interactions with Debian.

I have had a key for some time now which has been signed by a handful peopleand thus reasonably well trustedbut I hadn’t taken the best care to keep it secure. I have no reason the believe the key has been compromised at all, but the fact is that I copied the key around to several of my machines so that I could use it on all of them, and instead of using sub-keys as is common best practice I just copied the whole key across. If someone had managed to take a copy of my key and crack its pass-phrase, I would have no choice but to revoke the entire key. Continue reading

Media Centre PC Hardware

A while ago, I built a Media Centre / Home Theatre PC (HTPC). In my case it’s a small Mini-ITX computer that sits under the TV, whose sole purpose is to play DVDs and other media from our extensive collection. People have been asking me to write up about the hardware and software and how it’s all built, so here is the post about the hardware.

Continue reading

Raspberry Pi XBee PCBs

Picture of XBee PCBs

During the course of this week, I have received my XBee PCBs (right) and started playing with them!

First of all, I’d like to say thanks to the folks at Seeed Studio / Fusion PCB whose service I used to fab these boards. I went for the slightly more expensive ENIG finish on these, but they were still very reasonably priced and have come out very well indeed. I would definitely use them again.

So anyway, after a quick order for some extra TC2117 regulators that I found I ran out of, and a fistful of LEDs and that sort of thing, I built two backpacks up complete with XBee modules and set out to get them to talk. This was my first foray into the world of XBee / ZigBee so was a very interesting process!

XBee Backpacks on my two Raspberry Pis

Continue reading

Treatment of Alan Turing was “appalling” – PM

Gordon Brown has apologised for the treatment of Alan Turing following the war, after over 30,000 virtual signatures were added to a petition asking him to do so.

[Alan] Turing is often considered to be the father of modern computer science. He provided an influential formalisation of the concept of the algorithm and computation with the Turing machine. In 1999 Time Magazine named Turing as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century for his role in the creation of the modern computer, stating: “The fact remains that everyone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word-processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine.” – Wikipedia

During the Second World War he was part of the effort to decrypt messages encoded using Enigma machines that the Germans, Italians and Japanese used to communicate securely. He built machines capable of decrypting these messages much faster than would ever be possible by human beings, and it was during this work that he developed his ideas that later led to computing.

He died very young, at the age of 41. He committed suicide two years after being convicted of ‘gross indecency’ – because he was gay. He was subject to an experimental treatment of chemical castration during which he was injected with female hormones in order to reduce his libido, which understandably led to severe depression followed by his untimely death.

Without Turing, the War would definitely have had a different outcome. Computers and the Internet may never have been invented. The world as we know it would be a very different place. Thankfully we no longer treat homosexuals in such horrible ways anymore, and let us hope such a tragedy never gets repeated.

“Unlimited” broadband internet access

There is a petition on Number 10’s web site about banning the use of the word Unlimited in advertising when the subject of the advert is not, in fact, unlimited. This is a common untruth, nay a lie, used most commonly in advertising broadband or other Internet access in the UK. If you have ever bought Broadband in the UK labelled as Unlimited, check your T’s & C’s and you’ll most likely find that you’re limited to a certain amount of usage every month. That’s not what I call unlimited!

Ban the use of the word ‘Unlimited’ if the subject in question is limited.

Swimbridge WiFi

Well, most of you know I’m not complete without a “project” of some sort, so here goes my latest one: Swimbridge WiFi. The big idea is to provide the whole of the village with wireless internet access that’s cheap, fast and reliable. It won’t be for everyone, but I suspect it’ll be more than suitable for anyone who isn’t an afficionado of peer-to-peer downloads 24-hours a day, and should be very handy for visitors just like the RHBMesh was invaluable for a geek like myself during our holiday in Robin Hood’s Bay.

At the moment I’m just getting it set up and trying to find out how much demand there is for it, so there’s nothing to show yet other than the web site at the above link, but hopefully it’ll get started properly soon. I certainly have plenty of encouragement from various folks, including Cliff from RHBMesh / Social Enterprise Europe.