Friday, 11 November 2011

Easy DNS mistake with TXT and wildcard records

I recently discovered that it's actually quite easy to get your DNs settings wrong and potentially take your site offline. Especially if you've got a lot of domains and subdomains. This issue is specifically to do with having a wildcard set up for your domain and also having TXT records for subdomains.
I thought I'd better share this to stop any one else making the same mistakes I have.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

More Laughable Future Smart Homes

You may have noticed before I don't take current smart home technologies very seriously mainly due to their pointlessness (5 Things All Future Smart Appliances Should Do3 Pointless Smart Appliances). Well here's another reason for me to continue to not take them seriously. This is not smart! You can get this future right now by attaching bells to things and listening for the bell ringing.

Watch this BBC video ad see what you think:

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Top 7 Fictional Geeks

Mr Spock - Live long and posper
I like to think of geeks as clever people, people with skills who are a bit too obsessed with their skills to be normal. Perhaps border on their skills taking over their life. Rather than nerds who are just wanna-be geeks. No real skills just obsessed.

With that in mind here's my top fictional TV geeks:

Monday, 17 October 2011

Top 10 Command Line Shortcuts

Terminal logoHere's the top 10 shortcuts I use on the command line. THese should speed up your productivity quite nicely. If you're using the Gnome Terminal on Ubuntu (possibly other distro's too) you might need to enable ALT+f and ALT+b in the preferences.

  • ESC + .
    Escape key and the period/full stop at the same time will insert the last argument from the previous command. For example if your previous command is:

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Top Command Line Tips: Apache Access Log

I said I should do some top command line tips. So I thought I'd start with some useful Apache access log monitoring and analysis commands.
These can come in useful if odd things are happening on your websever and maybe you think there are dodgy spiders or your need to only see requests from your IP, that kind of thing.

I'm assuming the path to your access log is /var/log/apache/access.log. So adjust if it's different.
Also assuming your access file's LogFormat is 'combined' and that you actually have permission to view the logs.

Commands Overview
Commands and options we'll be using are:

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Top 5 Command Line Tip Posts

Linux CLI cheat sheet from Pixel Beat
I'm a big fan of 'Top X Command Line Tips' type posts and I keep meaning to get around to doing my own I've now done my first couple on Apache Access log tips and Top 10 Shortcuts. In the meantime I thought I'd share 5 of my favourite. Numbered but not really in any order.

Actually my favourite of these is 9 ways to recover your screen. that has come in useful countless times.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Richer Rounds Vouchers > Free headphones, 10% off WiFi Dongles & 10% off Pink Floyd Albums

All vouchers have moved to Vouchers Baby Yeah.
Here are the Richer Sounds Vouchers.

Here's the latest vouchers from Richer Sounds again. As usual you can just click on the image and then print it. Take it to your nearest store to use it.

This time we have Free headphones again (don't forget to see if you can get a free mug and/or keyring as well), 10% off WiFi dongles and 10% off Pink Floyd albums (online voucher code)...

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Best Domain Registrars

We have a lot of domains registered for work and we often need to have good control over the zone records. Unfortunately not all registrars make this easy for you. So I thought I'd do a comparison of some of the ones we use or have used to help decide where to keep all of our domains.

In this comparison I've included the following sites:

I've used all of these except UKFast. But where I couldn't test the interface myself I just asked their support team.
Here's the data table:

Friday, 16 September 2011

Evaluating Recruitment Campaigns

Previously I'd posted on the best IT job sites and given some tips for getting the best value for your money. This post is an update to the method used to evaluate which site performed the best. Even though I'm looking at IT job boards here, it could work just as well for any other industry or if your using multiple recruitment agents.

How The Scoring Works
I've tweaked the scoring system slightly since the last post, to make it a bit fairer.
The formula is this:

Richer Sounds Vouchers > Free Headphones Are Back!

All vouchers have moved to Vouchers Baby Yeah.
Here are the Richer Sounds Vouchers.

The free headphones are back. This time I'm actually going to go and get some myself. Especially after the reports on MSE saying lots of people also got a free mug and keyring as well! Last time got to the local store only to find it had been looted.

Richer Sounds are fast becoming one of my preferred places to buy TV/Hi-Fi equipment. They're priced very competitively, although I probably still end up buying from Amazon most of the time. If Richer Sounds would accept Nectar Points it would be a game changer :)
I bought my Humax Foxsat HDR 500G from there a few months back, which I'm very pleased with. Unfortunately I wasn't as pleased with the channels available on Freesat, see the Freesat channel comparison to find out why.

Anyway here's the voucher....

Thursday, 8 September 2011

[SOLVED] Drupal db_query and date formats

Here's small issue I came across and didn't find many answers online. When using Drupal's db_query method to execute some SQL that contains dateformats in it the weekday always comes out as a zero.
for example:

db_query("SELECT DATE_FORMAT(from_unixtime(changed), '%Y-%m-%d') lastmod FROM node LIMIT 10");

This will return dates like 2011-09-0. The month day will always be zero. It will also match %s (seconds), %f (microseconds), and %b (abbreviated month name) Don't worry there's a simple solution.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

How to Create Secure Passwords

As a web developer or any kind of internet professional, you naturally end up with loads and loads of logins. Maybe you use LastPasss, KeePassX or MyPasswordSafe or some other service/program, as long as you don't store them in a password protected word/spreadsheet file, or your browser! You don't do you?
Anyway I recently had to create a new password for a particular online service, one that I want a good secure password for, but starting to use a new secure password can be tricky.
How can I make a password long and include several special characters, upper and lowercase letters and numbers, and still make it memorable?
I had a brain wave that resulted in a really easy to remember password that is 21 characters, has plenty of special charecters, numbers and letters.....

Friday, 19 August 2011

Richer Sounds Vouchers > 10% off Cambridge Audio CD Player & Free Headphones

All vouchers have moved to Vouchers Baby Yeah.
Here are the Richer Sounds Vouchers.

Some more vouchers for Richer Sounds for you. Click on them to get a full size version then print off and take to your local store.
Click here for the Richer Sounds Store Finder

Saturday, 6 August 2011

How To Take Advantage of Recruitment Agencies

Trying to recruit IT staff directly can be a challenge. It's not helped by the constant calls from recruitment consultants telling you're wasting your time, and that they have the worlds most amazing candidates, and they all dying to apply for your vacancy, right now! for a big fat fee, of course.

Well here's one way of  using them to your advantage:

Friday, 5 August 2011

Richer Sounds Vouchers > Free Head Phones & £50 off Receivers over £400

All vouchers have moved to Vouchers Baby Yeah.
Here are the Richer Sounds Vouchers.

Here's a couple of vouchers from the Richer sounds VIP email. One for free Maxell BUDZ headphones and another for £50 off any receiver over £400. Just print them and take them in store.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Best IT Job Sites

Recruiting IT staff can be difficult, especially if you're trying to avoid extortionate recruitment consultant fees. We've been trying the direct approach for a while now so I thought I'd share some tips and stats on how the some of the IT job sites perform.

There's quite a lot of job sites to choose from, you might want to consider local sites, non-IT specific sites, european sites, global sites, social media, etc, etc. One thing that's garuanteed is that as soon as you raise your head above the parapet, by posting and advert, you'll be bombarded by recruitment consultants. You'll likely also get call from the sales guys at various job sites too. but which to choose.

Here's a couple of tips to help you choose and the table of statistics for a position we are currently advertising.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Freesat from Sky with Humax Foxsat HDR

Following on from my previous post on Freeview vs. Freesat vs. Freesat from Sky - Channel Smackdown I thought I ought to post some more information on what your options are in you've already switched from Sky to Freesat and paid out the cash for a new box. In my case the Humax Foxsat HDR.

Can I get Freesat from Sky using my Humax box?
According to Humax: "Yes; your sky card can be used in the Humax Foxsat HDR CI Module slot. This can be bought separately. This will give you give you Channel 4, Five, Five Life, Five US and Sky 3." But there issues, lots of them, see below....

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

5 Things All Future Smart Appliances Should Do

So after my post about pointless smart home appliances, I thought I'd come up with some ideas on how all future homes and smart appliances could be better. So rather than adding cool but useless features, finding poor excuses to connect something to the internet, we should have good reasons and focus on costing less to run not more, in a financial sense and a ecological one.

  1. Use Less Energy (and any other resource)!
    The most practical thing any new appliance can do is save you money over your current one! But most of the smart appliances look like they'll just put our bills up even more.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

3 Pointless Smart Kitchen Appliances and How They Could Be Improved


During every tech show there's always a bit where some company will show off their latest inventions for 'smart home' technology. Sounds brilliant, but why are they always such pointless products.

Take for instance the LG appliances from this  BBC Click video  Smart kitchen appliances connected to the Web. So what's LG's vision of the future kitchen.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

[SOLVED] How To Stop XSL Outputting Unwanted Namespaces

Unwanted namespace in transformed XML
I'm using XSL quite a lot now and several times I've had an issue with namespaces in the output XML/XHTML. In particular if you're using xpath-functions then you might have the xmlns:fn namespace finding it's way into your output. I've finally found the solution and though I'd better post it before  I forget it.

Lets see some an example of the problem.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A Note On HP Setup Ink Cartridges

Just installed a new printer cartridge and getting the "Incompatible Cartridge" message?

It may not be obvious, but when you buy an HP printer (and likely other brands) the cartidges you get in the box are SETUP ones. These are not the same as the standard size ones you'd buy from a shop. Apparently they have about the same amount of ink (although I'd question that), but the key thing is you have to use them the first time you use the printer and you can never use them again.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Freeview vs. Freesat vs. Freesat from Sky - Channel Smackdown

Comparison: Freeview vs. Freesat v.s Freesat from Sky
I recently made 'the switch', not the switch from analogue to digital TV, but from Sky to Freesat. I thought saving £30 a month for just TV (just TV!, not including phone and broadband) would be a snap.

I already had a dish, I thought that there were more/better channels on Freesat than FreeviewSo I bought the Humax Foxsat 500G (£250), thought I'd get a good box, as I didn't want to feel like I was in the dark ages after using a Sky HD box.

However, I was totally taken by surprise by the rubbish selection of channels on Freesat. I can't believe that after searching around the net and talking to friends and shop assistants, that no one had pointed out that there are major channels missing from the line-up.

The kicker is that I then found out that Freesat from sky with an HD box (although I'm not sure it records) is only £175! Or I can buy the viewing card for a one-off £25 quid and I could use it in my current Sky HD box, although again I'm not sure I can use the PVR features.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Solar Electric Cars

Flickr / Frankh
There's been quite a bit of buzz about electric cars this year. With several manufacturers releasing one. With promises like running costs of 2p per mile, why wouldn't you get excited. Maybe it's the low range, and long charging time. Here's a solution, why not have solar panels on the car (dashboard, roof, bonnet, etc)

The Problem
So several cars are stating a range of about 60 miles on a full charge. Which is great, unless you journey to work is close to 30 miles. If so you've got to start thinking, how many hills are there, how will the cold affect the battery, am I going to have to drive without the radio, heating air-con, etc to save battery power so I can get back home. Not to worry I have the solution.....

Monday, 13 June 2011

[SOLVED] VPN: short read (-1): 'Message too long'

While working from home I've had a really annoying problem for a while now. I've set my VPN to only use VPN for local addresses. So normally surfing and stuff is fine.
But when send an email through the MS Exchange web interface, or browse a development site on the office network, my VPN fails with this message:

nm-pptp-service-7067 warn[decaps_gre:pptp_gre.c:331]: short read (-1): Message too long

It disconnects any SSH sessions using the VPN, and is generally very annoying.
Finally I think I may have got the answer....

Friday, 10 June 2011

World Travel Atlas iPad App

We've just launched a new iPad app at work. Although I didn't get to build it, my team and I did develop the XML feeds powering the information in it.

We really think it's better than the equivalent apps from our competitors, like Lonely Planet and National Geographic.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Geek Avatars

Geek Avatars
I often find that I'm not that comfortable with having a picture of myself as an avatar. But I would like something that represents me as an individual, and a geeky one at that.

So I've made a set of geeky avatars, simply by adding my glasses to the default avatar.
When I get round to it I'll post on how to make geeky avatars, starting with how I made an SVG of my glasses.

Anyway here they are:

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Dancing Geek: Stephen Hall

There's hope for all Geeks, maybe one day we can dance like this man.
here are the videos of Stephen Hall on Britain's Got Talent, such a shame he didn't win. Oh well at least Ronan Park didn't :).

Check out the videos below...

Friday, 3 June 2011

Chav Phonetic Alphabet

Charlie, Hotel, Alpha, Victor! Way too hard.
We need one much easier to remember than the normal phonetic alphabet. Turns out it's quite hard to get a good word for each letter.

Still refining the list:
  1. Asda or ASBO or Argos
  2. Bruv or Benidorm or Burberry or Benefits or Bluewater or Blud or Bianca or Bling
  3. Chav or Coppa or Clinic or Cider or Chatham
  4. Drugs

Reduce The Risk of Human Error on Live Servers

This is another quick and easy tip, this time help to reduce human error when working between live, development and staging environments.

In short the tip is to visually distinguish between live/staging/dev environments; the idea being that you don't accidentally run something on the live environment instead of staging or testing. Assuming you're connecting via SSH, you should be able to configure your console program to use a background image and you should be able to customise your command prompt.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Enabling Alt+f and Alt+b shortcuts in Gnome Terminal

I though each time I find a solution to a problem I have I should blog it to make sure the knowledge is out there for everyone. This is a super simple one to start with.

I've been switching from KDE to Gnome in Ubuntu, but been finding it hard to let go of Konsole.
Then I realised the the Gnome Terminal allows background images the way Konsole used to. Anyway, that's another post, standard terminal shortcuts weren't working, like Alt+f to skip forward a word and Alt+b to go back a word, as they were conflicting with the window menus, as in the image above.

There's a super simple fix.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

How To Interview A Web Programmer

So you've got a vacant Web Developer position, you've advertised on the best IT job sites, (you didn't use a recruitment agency did you?) you've got an interviewee. But how do you know if he can actually do the job? You need to test him. But how do you write a good test that is fair? Here's how...

No one likes a surprise test. Least of all when at an interview. So let him know there'll be a test. Even let him know the topics that will be covered in the test.
For example you might say the test will cover:

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Fixing Ubuntu 11.04 Partial Upgrade

I use Ubuntu at work and at home and normally the upgrade process is very smooth.
However, the upgrade from 10.10 to 11.04 has been a pain to say the least.
In fact I'm still grappling with it. (Haven't even started it at work yet.)

So I thought I'd share some tips to in case they might help anyone else.

Best Economical Small Cars

My car is dying and I need a new one. So I've taken a very geeky approach to finding a new one.

The Costs
I realised the main cost from running my car are from:
  1. Fuel
    By my calculations, I spend about £40 a week on unleaded petrol. Which works out at quite a large yearly cost. 40 x 50 (52 weeks minus a couple of weeks holiday) = £2,000
  2. Maintenance
    I checked my credit card statements for last year and I spent just under £1200. So about £100 a month. I've spent about £300 already this year.
So it's costing me about £3,200 a year to run my car. Not including tax, which is relatively small compared to these 2 factors.