Apple Time Machine and Netatalk

Please note: This guide assumes you are using Snow Leopard. For Lion, things are a little different. I’m writing a new guide with Lion in mind but I haven’t got round to finishing it yet – the short version is: you need Netatalk 2.2 with its Avahi support built-in, and remove any manual Avahi service files you have created.

There are many guides on the Internet that deal with getting Apple’s Time Machine to back up to a network disk, however all of those that I managed to find rely on setting a hidden system preference to show unsupported disks – and hence don’t help with the problem of restoring from backup should the worst happen.

There is a way, though, to get Time Machine backing up to a Linux server without jumping through any hoops on the client. The backup volume just appears in the Time Machine preference pane, and the Mac OS X Install DVD’s restore mode also can see and restore from the network volume.
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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.

Electricity Monitoring & FrankenUPS

Overview of the server room with metering and FrankenUPS.

Overview of the server room with metering and FrankenUPS.

I just wrote up a page about my latest project that I’ve just about finished up now: monitoring the electricity usage in our house, and modding my UPS so it runs for longer than it’s designed to.


Since energy prices are constantly on the rise it would be wise to use as little of it as possible, but of course being a computer geek I run a server 24/7 in the house which makes up a large portion of our electricity use. I decided to monitor our electricity use at the server side and at the main fuse board so that, after figuring out what causes what spike and for how long, we can cut down our spending.

The other part of the project was to hack my UPS a bit to extend its battery run-time from 18 minutes to around an hour by adding some more batteries. The electricity board like to cut the power off for extended periods of time so the longer the server can run on batteries the better.


I got an iPhone! Rather exciting news I think you’ll agree. So far I love it! And O2 have even been OK, they originally put me on £35 a month contract (despite me telling the lady at least once I wanted the £30 a month one) but when I rang them up they said sorry, changed it and then gave me £10 credit. A nice change from them, then! Hope it will last!

We have had a rather pleasant weekend, including trips to Arlington Court and Rockham beach and now there are only a few weeks until we go to North Yorks/Matlock Bath for a little holiday. And I am looking forward to the new laptops from Apple, because then I can get my other present!

BBC iPlayer Rant

After struggling with trying to get the iPlayer Download Manager working on Jess’s PC for hours last night I gave up and used BitTorrent. Strangely enough I found and started downloading the programme I wanted in less than 5 minutes, and it was higher quality. Would this make you want to use iPlayer?

Didn’t think so. So I sent the BBC an email:


I just installed the iPlayer Download Manager (DM as I’ll refer to it) last night on my wife’s Windows XP SP3 computer so that she could watch the episode of “Mutual Friends” that our Sky box managed to mangle. I decided to try the download manager due to the higher quality audio/video that you get compared to streaming. This proved to be an extremely frustrating experience.

Once installed, I tried to download the programme, but the DM stated that there was a “DRM error” and that the web site would help me fix it. Unfortunately it told me no more about the error, and searching for “DRM error” in the FAQs yielded a variety of instructions to try to remedy the situation: resetting the Windows DRM folder, doing a “security upgrade”, re-installing Windows Media Player, re-installing the DM, none of it worked.

I’ve been using computers since I was 12, have a BSc in Computing Science, and have been a Systems Engineer for over 2 years now, and try as I might I cannot get the DM to even start downloading this programme.

It really saddens me that you found it necessary to over-complicate such a simple tool as a download system for TV with DRM and other measures that just make things very difficult to use. Around 2 hours after starting to wrestle with the Download Manager I gave up and turned to Google, found an “illegal” BitTorrent download and had that going within 5 minutes. This was far easier to download, will have no silly time restrictions on it and is higher quality than is available through iPlayer. I can also do this in good conscience considering I pay my ever-increasing TV license fee _and_ a Sky TV subscription.

I hope you understand that by using technological countermeasures such as DRM actually made me try to find an alternative source for what I wanted to find, simply because it DID NOT WORK. I hope you can convey this message to your trustees and suppliers of programming to help them reconsider their opinions and impositions.

Chris Boot


Nothing much to report on from here. A dead hard drive, a bit of overtime, swimming, and now Autumn is almost here. The geese were flying over the Taw estuary this morning when Jess drove me in to work, so it must be near at hand. As is my birthday, when I’ll turn the ripe old age of twenty-four!

Oh, I did manage to complete Zelda on the Wii, too. After about sixty hours of game play, that is…

Home from holidays

We got back from Brittany late on Friday night, having had a wonderful holiday. We stayed in Gouarec and Yvais. The first house was owned by some English people and was full of all the home comforts, Sky TV, table football and a well equipped kitchen. The second was decorated with a ‘sea’ theme but despite looking a little odd we came to love it and it was only a few minutes drive from the sea.

We went kayaking down the Nantes-Brest canal, where you went shooting down little slides, whilst at Gouarec. We moved to Yvais on the Saturday and went to the nearby town on Paimpol quite a bit, including seeing its amazing fish market on Tuesday, to Plage Bonapart (Jess drove in France! Well done her!) and another beach, to the coast and to look out of the Ile du Briten.

It was brilliant! And now we are back to real life… Oh well!

Doctor Donna

Not sure what to make of the finale of this latest series of Doctor Who. They just seem to roll out the Darleks and the Cybermen far too often, whilst the really frightening episodes – all by Stephen Moffet – feature instead mundane, everyday things like statues or the dark. At least Catherine Tate is gone, as Jess says! It was really annoying to tune in to see what happened with the cliff-hanger and get naff all, though. Well, no more Who for another two years, other than the usual below par specials, that is.

I didn’t get half the stuff I wanted to done over the weekend. I had to work late on Friday afternoon (just until 16:00, but it still felt really weird!) and then Jess worked on Saturday morning, so I had a long bath and tidied a bit in our spare room, which is currently a computer-part graveyard. It rained all the rest of the day, so we Diablo-ed for a some of it. Yesterday we relaxed, walked Ferris and saw an odd film called Paris Je’Taime which featured a number of big stars/directors doing short films about our favourite city.

I have next Friday off, which is nice, but for now it is working boy again.