Sunday, 31 December 2017

A bit about me

Born at a very early age in 1959 in Cardiff, moved to Gorseinon, then to Pontardulais or Pontarddulais as it s now spelt for my formative years.

Lost contact with some good friends including Dai Bone or Eric or The Arab, Torque Wrench, Downing or Eric,  Phil, Dai Miles, Greg Davies and  his brother Steven Davies, Keith Ivy, Steve Williams or Station 22, John Llewellyn amongst many others.

Moved about a bit and settled down in Lancashire for a while and then after some promotion, change of job ended up back in the Swansea area via Runcorn and Rotherham

Things I miss most about the Bont are the taste of the tap water, Double Dragon, The Dulais Glen, Hillman Avengers, Franks chip shop, my mothers Welsh Cakes, the word cwtch, Tiswas, Not the Nine O'Clock news, being able to laugh at jokes without worrying if they are racist, sexist etc, being able to say Golliwog and mean the label on a jam jar and nothing else, the Bont Carnival, singing Baa baa black sheep and not thinking it would in any way be connected with dark skinned people and of course Noake's pasties.

What can I say, I'm a self confessed Geek and computer Nerd, I also enjoy electronics and technology in general.

What you have here is a brief history of why i became this way inclined .

I suppose it all started with my father who used to work on communications gear and repaired our first TV and modified it so we could get ITV. I read his Admiralty Wireless Telegraphy handbooks with mentions of things called Leyden Jars or capacitors as we now call them and Spark Gap transmitters and became hooked.

I eventually ended up with a chemistry set and an electronics kit, but it was the electronics and electrical side of things that got me hooked.

With the kit I made some marvellous pieces of equipment such as a light that came on when it went dark an amplifier and a crystal radio.

I eventually lost interest until that fateful day when I left school and got an interview at my cousin's TV shop. I then became employed by Holt Hi Fidelity with a starting salary of £12.00 a week and enrolled in Llanelli technical college.

I wasn't sure how I would get on but the wonderful lecturer Peter Williams with his talk of transistors getting turned "hard on" inspired me and I came away with distinctions.

Money and problems at home meant I didn't finish my training and I went to work for British Steel earning more there in a day than I did in a week as a TV engineer.

I became involved in CB radio in the early days in the UK and became a rig doctor as they were called, then passed my Radio Amateur exam and got a class B licence and eventually finished my training off in Hull Skillcentre with the help of the excellent Mike Overend.

Then various jobs came and went including work on Sound and Light systems, large screen TV installation, and computers.

Normally in computer repairs, you start with stand alone machines and work you way up to networks. My introduction involved over 1700 desktop PCs on a wide area network, about 50 Novell file servers, several Unix boxes including the largest in Europe at the time, ICL Drs 300s and an ICL mainframe and all the associated peripherals and wide area network stuff so I had to learn quickly.

Since then I have worked on all sorts of equipment including satellite broadband and have recently moved away from Windows into the world of Linux. Using Linux takes me back to the old Amiga days as it puts the fun back into computers.

The list of computers I've owned is something like this.

ZX81, Vic 20, Spectrum, Commodore +4, BBC Model B, Toshiba MSX, Commodore Pet, Amiga 500, Amiga 500+, IBM XT (actual IBM), Amiga 600 since then it's been a PC of one sort or another. I've used Dos from version 2, Windows 1 and upwards, OS2 version 1 upwards, DR Dos and now settled on Linux.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Holiday Accommodation

Holiday accommodation should be comfortable and if you're booked into a hotel with a twin or double room, that indicates there are two of you and two seats should really be available. But now we move onto the most important things, toilets and showers.

A toilet should have ample space around it for you to sit comfortably. there should be room for you to spread a bit for those difficult movements and in an ideal toilet there should be pieces of wood that you can use to bite on when the going gets tough.

I propose a toilet quality indicator called BMI, that Bottom Movement Indicator, the only way to get a 10 is to provide the pieces of wood. At the lower end of the scale we have portaloos and such like, to get a zero it would have to be quite bad and would mean you have to push yourself into am incredibly narrow gap and then have to dislocate an arm to be able to be able to reach around for the paper. I have encountered a toilet which went below this in Kenya, when I say toilet I mean a structure with a hole in the ground, the structure being moved whenever the hole filled up.

The other important thing with a toilet is the flush, several years back in Kefalonia we had a toilet which would have reached a BMO of 8 if the flush had been any better. When the handle was pressed a small whirlwind was created above the water level, unsecured objects in the room were dragged into this maelstrom and after about 20 minutes it died down. Nothing had moved in the toilet itself. At least twelvty flushes were required.

Now we move onto the Orkney scale for showers, to achieve a 10 the water pressure should pin you to the wall and cleanse you completely without the need for soap. A score of 0 started this off with a shower we had on holiday in Orkney. You turned the shower on and after an hour or so a few dribbles would emerge from the shower head at a temperature close to freezing. The shower was fixed and went up to an Orkney 1, the newly repaired shower vibrated furiously before discharging a luke warm driblle over you. The vibrations from the air were more likely to clean you that the water.

Just bear these things in mind when you go on holiday and all will be well.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Chrome Book Stuff

I bought a Chromebook, there, I said it, at the same time we also got a Windows 10 version of the machine. Both Acer R11 machine, Chromebook has 2Gb of RAM, Windows one has 4Gb, both have 32GB solid state drives.

Turned the Chromebook on, I could work on it within a minute, an hour later the Windows 10 machine was nearly ready to start installing updates.

There are things missing from the Chromebook, I can't run Libre Office without paying a subscription and my spreadsheets although not complicated don't want to play with the Chrome office suite unless I do a lot of tinkering. That aside it's absolutely wonderful.

I was reading an article about these little things the other day from Forbes magazine, it compared the three laptop operating systems available. No mention of Linux desktops at all, just Windows, Mac and Chrome. The writer praised the Chromebook but said it was very limited as it had no local storage and you can't install any applications, only "widgets that diddle with the operating system". I realised at this point the writer was a moron.

I take my Chromebook away with me, I take my camera with me, I can put my SD card into my Chromebook and copy the pictures onto the local storage it hasn't got, I can then use an application that I can't install to back these pictures up to my cloud server.

I can also install the Android play store application which give me access to loads of Android applications that I can install too.

If you want a lightweight, fast booting machine with great battery life, just browse the Internet, do some banking and basic office stuff, the Chromebook is for you. It's always up to date, incredibly safe from malware and this one also doubles up as a tablet.



As an side, I put Linux Mint on the Windows version, that was up and running fully up to date with all apps and data in less time than it took the original Windows installation to boot up.

More NewzNab Stuff

My Raspberry Pi running NewzNab is suffering, it really hasn't got enough power even when running from an SSD so I',m putting an old laptop back into use and I'm going to get NewzNab running on Ubuntu 16.04, it's not worked before due to changes in php but I've found some new instructions which didn't work so I modified them and put together some of my own.

I'm writing this article as I setup the server itself, I won't go into how to install Ubuntu 16.04 server, you should be able to do that yourself, the only package I'm going to add initially during the install is SSH server so I can do the rest of the install remotely.

I'm also setting up my router to assign a static IP and forwarding on the relevant ports so I can access the server from outside the house. Again, this is something I'm not covering here due to the different ways to do this on different routers.

Once the initial install has finished it's time to ssh into the server with:

ssh servername

And then we'll get started with some updates and installation of the required packages.

sudo -s

apt update && apt upgrade

apt install ssh screen apache2 php mysql-server libapache2-mod-php php-pear php-gd php-mysql php-curl php-json unrar lame mediainfo subversion ffmpeg memcached mc nfs-common -y


Once that's all finished we will tighten up the SQL security with this:

mysql_secure_installation

Now it's time to create the SQL database:

mysql -u root -p

CREATE DATABASE newznab;

exit

And then we edit the mysql config

nano /etc/mysql/conf.d/mysql.cnf

Add the following to the bottom

[mysqld]
group_concat_max_len=8192
innodb_flush_log_at_trx_commit = 2

Save that and then edit this file

nano /etc/mysql/my.cnf

Add this to the bottom

[mysqld]
sql_mode = "STRICT_TRANS_TABLES,NO_ZERO_IN_DATE,NO_ZERO_DATE,ERROR_FOR_DIVISION_BY_ZERO,NO_AUTO_CREATE_USER,NO_ENGINE_SUBSTITUTION"



Now we make the directory structure:

mkdir /var/www/newznab
mkdir /var/www/newznab/htdocs
mkdir /var/www/newznab/logs

Now it's time to get Newznab, you can get it here, I suggest you get the paid version, it's cheap and it's much better and these instructions are written with it in mind.

We're going to make an update script that once completed will install the latest version of Newznab when run, we start this with:

nano /var/www/newznab/svn.sh

Paste this lot in replacing the starts with the username and password you got when you signed up for Newznab.

svn export --no-auth-cache --force --username **** --password **** svn://svn.newznab.com/nn/branches/nnplus /var/www/newznab/htdocs/

#rm /var/www/newznab/htdocs/*.txt
#rm -rf /var/www/newznab/htdocs/www/install
#rm -rf /var/www/newznab/htdocs/www/lib/smarty/templates_c/*

cd /var/www/newznab/htdocs/misc/update_scripts
php update_database_version.php
cd /var/www/newznab/htdocs

service memcached restart
service apache2 restart

Now we make it executable with:

chmod +x /var/www/newznab/svn.sh

And then run it with:

/var/www/newznab/svn.sh

Now we make sure all the directories are writeable:

chmod 777 /var/www/newznab/htdocs/www/lib/smarty/templates_c
chmod 777 /var/www/newznab/htdocs/www/covers/movies
chmod 777 /var/www/newznab/htdocs/www/covers/anime
chmod 777 /var/www/newznab/htdocs/www/covers/music
chmod 777 /var/www/newznab/htdocs/www/covers/tv
chmod 777 /var/www/newznab/htdocs/www
chmod 777 /var/www/newznab/htdocs/www/install
chmod -R 777 /var/www/newznab/htdocs/nzbfiles/

And then make a config for Apache to use

nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/newznab.conf

Paste this into it:

<VirtualHost *:80>
    <Directory /var/www/newznab/htdocs/www/>
        Options FollowSymLinks
        AllowOverride All
        Order allow,deny
        allow from all
    </Directory>

    DocumentRoot /var/www/newznab/htdocs/www
    ErrorLog /var/www/newznab/logs/error.log
    CustomLog /var/www/newznab/logs/access.log combined
</VirtualHost>

You can change the port in the top line to something else if you want but you have to add a line to

etc/apache2/ports.conf

That says

Listen 8080 or whatever port you choose.

Now some config file changes with:

nano /etc/php/7.0/apache2/php.ini

Find these values and change them as shown below, they are listed in order:

max_execution_time = 120
memory_limit = -1
date.timezone = 'Europe/London'

Now we activate the server and deactivate the default one with:

a2dissite 000-default.conf
a2ensite newznab
a2enmod rewrite
service apache2 restart
service mysql restart

We can now uncomment some lines from an earlier file

nano /var/www/newznab/svn.sh

Remove the # from these lines

#rm /var/www/newznab/htdocs/*.txt
#rm -rf /var/www/newznab/htdocs/www/install
#rm -rf /var/www/newznab/htdocs/www/lib/smarty/templates_c/*

And then run it to get any updates:

/var/www/newznab/svn.sh

Now point your browser to:

http://server:port to finish setting up Newznab itself

Once you've finished the initial setup, go the admin section and click on edit site, find these options and change the values to the ones shown below.

default home page : /browse
newznabID : <provided in signup email>
unrar path : /usr/bin/unrar
mediainfo path : /usr/bin/mediainfo
ffmpeg path : /usr/bin/ffmpeg
lame path : /usr/bin/lame
integrated cleanup : yes
save audio preview : yes
check for password : deep
delete passworded releases : yes


Activate one group, probably alt.binaries.teevee

Then let's try running an update


cd /var/www/newznab/htdocs/misc/update_scripts
php update_binaries.php
php update_releases.php

Once completed you should see some articles appearing

There's a lot more information here on how to get Newznab running to continuously pull updates here, the one thing that you shouldn't do is use a cron job.



Monday, 5 June 2017

Reality TV

There is some good reality TV, Springwatch is a good example of intelligent TV showing wildlife at it's best and closest with some stunning photography. 

Unfortunately, we then we descend into the depths with the likes of Big Brother. The first series was different and entertainingg for about 3 seconds but how can you get excited about watching people, and I use the term people loosely, sleep.

It's utter crap and a complete waster of energy and bandwidth, static noise is more entertaining so here's my plan. 

Advertise that you need contestants from every city in the world for a new series, collect all the people that want to be on it in a big room in every city, once they are inside seal all the doors and fill it full of concrete. You then use the rooms as a big concrete block to shore up the coastal defences and you have at a stroke improved the overall IQ of the planet, reduced the amount of food required to feed these people and made some houses vacant to ease the housing issue.

Now we move onto Celebrity Love Island and similar, once more advertise for the contestants, take them to a remote volcanic island and leave them there with the only source of food being Ant and Dec. 

Now here's an idea called I Used To Be A Celebrity and I Want To Be Back On TV, get some has beens of the Timothy Mallet level, take them into the jungle and let the lions loose, nice and easy idea really.

Then there's the cooking ones, some are interesting but there's far too many, let's have a series called Soylent Green Master Cooker. As you may know, Soylent Green is people, so the chefs have to cook meals using parts of the other contestants, the one who is still breathing at the end wins, if more than one is breathing, then the winner is the one with the most limbs intact. The prize is a trip to the jungle mentioned above.

We also have the lack of talent stuff, X Factor where we find the contestant with the most damaged X chromosomes and irradiate them. Britain Thinks It's Got Talent is another one, applying for this garbage should automatically ban you from any record deals, a frontal lobotomy, sterilisation  and regular trepanning.

Finally and I leave this to the last, that complete and utter waste of dna that they call Jeremy Kyle, a waste of an ejaculation. Neanderthals that want to go on this show to prove that they really are the offspring of their aunty and the postman with three legs could become quite useful by converting them into compost, it would probably increase their IQ too.

Yes it's harsh but so is life.




Saturday, 27 May 2017

Modern Day Music

I've done my best to listen to the stuff that's in the charts these day and let me tell you something, overall it's absolute rubbish, generally there's some talentless person featuring another talentless person, one shouts and the other warbles like a canary on speed in a helium filled mine.

Most of the dross that's in the charts these daycs can be blamed on Sparky the Magic Piano, Cher,  Deborah Harry Beyonce and Mariah Carey.

Let's start with the wonderful Deborah Harry who gave the world one of the first hit tunes with a bit of rapping in it, I refer to the tune Rapture. This spurred people into making more records, I won't say tunes as there generally isn't one and went onto create the genre known as R.A.P. This stands for Rubbish Angry Poetry and the C at the start for Complete is of course silent. There's the odd exception to this such as Gangsta's Paradise featuring the stupidly named Coolio, which I believe is a make of a Welsh refrigeration unit. Most attempts  at C-RAPping rhyme Rolls Royce with Voice somewhere in the lyrics or use the same word in the next line as it's far too hard for the scribbler (I can't say writer) to come up with another rhyming word, I use an extract from the Pussy Cat Dolls feat Busta Rhymes here.


You're the very reason why I keep a pack ah the Magnum
An wit the wagon hit chu in the back of tha magnum

You may notice that there are some words in these two lines, I'm not really sure why someone would like to keep some Walls Ice Cream in the back of their Dodge, it won't take long to melt.

The videos for this rubbish generally feature stupidly dressed people wearing absurd amounts of gold with baseball caps on the wrong way round moving around in way that suggest that they are getting insufficient air to their armpits. They generally have stupid names like Snoop Doggy Dog, I remember him as a puppy and then of course there are people like M & M, named after a sweet and a complete an utter waste of an ejaculation.

We'll now move onto Sparky the Magic Piano, basically with sparky, his sounds were fed down a hosepipe into someones mouth, the mouth sang a tune and a sort of bit of music happened. This was expanded on by people like the Electric Light Orchestra and then Cher came out with Believe, which took her vocals and send them to some equipment which changed the pitch, this switch around made it possible to make a song and I use the word song loosely, in which a talentless tone deaf person appeared to be singing. But of course you know that a machine has changed the pitch of what they are trying to say, it may also help them breathe and lick windows. This was taken to a new height by someone called Bill.He.Is. That's not his name of course, his real name is Tosser.I.Am.

Beyonce decided that as she can't hold a tune together she would wear as little as possible and shout, making people think she has some talent, this of course was taken up by other people such as Katy Perry and other annoyances.

And lastly we have Mariah Carey, why use one note when twelvty can do. The queen of annoying warblers who completely wrecked Without You, so many other male and female artists have decided to copy her and warble like a demented budgie who has just overdosed on some alchohol soaked millet. 

There are still some good bands and artists out there that can actually sing and produce good music with having to add the word explicit to their track to encourage sales. I have just looked at the UK top 40 and to be fair, it's not easy to spot anyone in that list but there must be.

I really do wish the world would go back to proper music where people were musicians, where they could sing and you could understand things, where the word ask is pronounced as ask and not aks.

And so, I have a musical venture in mind, I want to get a group of musicians together who are now suffering from an ailment that comes from sitting on cold walls for too longs and having a diet too low in fibre. I'm basing the concept on a George Harrison idea, the name of the band will be...

The Travelling Dangleberries

Some of the tracks will be reworkings of the original bands hits such as.

The Dangleberry Twist, referring to the movement carried out to help release.

Handle With Care, referring to the delicate cleaning carried out following release.

Inside Out, an accident that can happen due to too much pushing.

Heading For The Light, the tale of the journey of a motion from it's beginning to it's emergence.

Like A Ship, what happens when bran starts working.

You Took My Breath Away, the happy outcome of a successful motion.

And lastly a rework of the Pink Floyd classic, The Dogs of War, this track will be the title track of the new album.

The Grapes of Wrath by the Travelling Dangleberries.


See what happens when I've had too much wine.



Monday, 22 May 2017

Going Posh at the Wetlands

I like going down the local wetlands to do some bird watching, there I've said it. My wife and I are amateur twitchers and joined up the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust at Martin Mere. We moved back to South Wales and of course the nearest place is the Llanelli Wetlands, it's a wonderful area with places you can take the kids to so they can see wildlife close up and some areas and hides for the dedicated bird watcher. 

And then there's the cafe area, it was really quite good, not that expensive but the food was good and the staff are very friendly, they even had a rack you could take your dirty dishes back to. And now they have modernised to bring it in line with Slimbridge.

We went there on the weekend after the modernisation, I ordered the pizza as the description of it was good and my wife wanted a toasted sandwich. In the past, they made the sandwiches, now they are wrapped in a box which means there's more waste with the packaging. They didn't have what we wanted on display which wasn't too exotic so we ordered a baked potato instead and then sat down.

In the past, the potato would have arrived on a plate, with some salad on the side, knives and forks would have come out of a tray and mayonnaise out of a sachet. 

You now get a potato in a bowl, on a triangular plate, coleslaw is in another container and the salad is in jar with a resealable lid, the knife and fork are now presented in a expensive looking bit of cardboard. 

The pizza arrived not on a plate, but on a plank of wood, not an easily washed plate but a bit of wood that soaks up any grease and as there was a pizza on it with cheese, it happily obliged with the soaking. This has all greatly increased the amount of washing that needs to be done and in my opinion the amount of waste produced.

There is now more room and more seating space and this was sadly lacking before but the prices have gone up and the cafe was considerably quieter than we normally expect on a Sunday afternoon. The staff are still very happy and helpful and they now come round to empty the tables.

It seems crazy that a place that is trying to encourage responsible behaviour towards wildlife has, in my opinion increased it's wastage, use of water and cleaning materials for no real reason.

Come on WWT, stop being pretentious, your loyal visitors come there to see the wildlife, take pictures, have some good quality food in a nice environment and argue about who has the best and most expensive camera or lens, they don't want food on a plank of wood, they want it on a plate, like normal people do.