What Jessie Did Next...

...being the inane ramblings of a mundane Yorkshire bird.

Tag: geek (page 1 of 13)

I know I’m not alone in that I optimistically thought 2021 would perk up sooner than it did, however it’s still been full of interesting and fun things despite the spectre of COVID.

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I finally got sick of my Apple Airport Express network not quite behaving, and having to jump through hoops to play from the big fileserver holding my MP3 collection, and having to deal with sodding iTunes. My current workplace has a pair of Sonos units which are used in the office as a jukebox for the staff to play whatever music they want, and that seemed to tick most of my boxes.

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I finally got sick of the blog spam under my very hacked up version of Nucleus, so I’ve shifted myself to using WordPress. Apologies if the RSS feed has just given you the past 10 articles as being ‘new’, or whatever.

Anyway, in porting all the data from Nucleus I happened upon nucleus2wordpress.pl which purported to be a hack to shift all the posts from old versions of Nucleus into, er, WordPress. It didn’t work first time since the categories system within WordPress has changed so I’ve frigged it to work with the new WordPress taxonomy system.

You can download my updated version (which works with WordPress 3.3) here – no guarantees implied etc. and it depends on your Nucleus database being the same as your WordPress database (I just copied the tables over and then removed the Nucleus ones when I was happy). Enjoy!

I’ll be back blogging soon. ‘Interesting times’ over the past six months have taken priority…

Addendum: After running this script and becoming more familiar with the concepts involved in the WordPress database, I discovered the comment counts were incorrect (even though the imported comments themselves appeared within the posts). To correct this, run the following on your WordPress database (remembering to back it up first!):

UPDATE wp_posts wpp
 (SELECT comment_post_id AS c_post_id, count(*) AS cnt FROM wp_comments
 WHERE comment_approved = 1 GROUP BY comment_post_id) wpc
 ON wpp.id=wpc.c_post_id
 SET wpp.comment_count=wpc.cnt
 WHERE wpp.post_type IN ('post', 'page')
 AND (wpp.comment_count!=wpc.cnt OR (wpp.comment_count != 0 AND wpc.cnt IS NULL));

This worked fine on WordPress 3.3 and corrected the comment counters on the front page and search results.

Once again in a contract I find myself writing a small search engine, this time for an internal Intranet content management system. The client has several use-cases of which several contain words 3 characters long such as ‘cog’ and ‘net’. Additionally, they’ve got a couple of abbreviations with punctuation in (‘H&S’ being one). And once again I find myself explaining to the boss why the MySQL fulltext search doesn’t return a full set of results because (out-of-the-box) the fulltext defaults aren’t very useful.

So here’s why, and how you might be able to fix the issues (and ‘don’t use MySQL’ is not going to be an answer here, dolphinistas)…

For a start, it only indexes words of 4 characters or more, so if you’re trying to index ‘cog’ or ‘net’ then it won’t unless you explicitly configure MySQL to enable this behaviour using the ‘ft_min_word_len config parameter. Perish the thought if you’re search for your own name and you’re called Bob, because MATCH(keywords) AGAINST(“bob”) will always return nothing, as will searching for the classic album ‘Let It Be’.

Then let’s take the stopword list. Stopwords in MySQL are words which won’t be indexed – common words such as ‘the’, ‘and’, ‘or’, etc. (there’s a full list here if you’re curious). However, it also prevents indexing of words such as ‘will’ – a real bugger if you’re indexing a list of users: pity the poor guy in sales called Will who can’t find his own name. You can give MySQL an alternative stoplist in the config, or disable it completely using ‘ft_stopword_file‘.

(It’s not looking good for poor Will or Bob is it!)

Finally, we’ve got the punctuation. This one is a little bit more silly because of the MySQL boolean search which uses various forms of punctuation to specify which words are mandatory, optional, grouped, and so on: the default list is ‘+ -><()~*:””&|‘ (note that we’ve got & in there). Personally I change & to ? since I’m less likely to index with the latter, using ‘ft_boolean_syntax‘ in the config file, and things like ‘H&S’ will get indexed.

Therefore your my.cnf gets the following extra bits:

ft_boolean_syntax=+ -><()~*:""?|

So, mostly sortable right? Wrong: these are server-wide variables and if you alter them you must reindex all fulltext-indexed tables using REPAIR TABLE (or the dreaded myisamchk if you have a lot to do). Now read that again: it’s server-wide so will affect all databases on that server… As an example, the client I’m working with right now shares the CMS database server with a MediaWiki installation which has configured in some places therefore it comes under the banner of ‘service-impacting’ straight away. It also means if you’re on a shared hosted service, no matter how much you lick your ISP it’s unlikely that they’ll change the config on a shared box full of users (with all the reindexing that implies) just for you.

I understand that the InnoDB engine is getting fulltext capability in the next major version of MySQL – about time too: I hope that will herald fulltext configuration changes on a per-database (or even more usefully a per-table) basis.

(Postscript: Nowadays I tend to tackle most of this by creating a search index from data I need to make searchable, a simple script which assembles data and removes unneeded words in a self-configured stoplist table (that way I can also write something which warns the user that not all their search terms were used). I still need to do the changes above but it affords me a lot more control over index sizes, etc.)

I’ve recently noticed a spate of problems with a keepalived install which I’m using to distribute load over several application servers, manifesting itself as:

[874439.982041] keepalived[7079]: segfault at 0 ip 0804d5fe sp bf976e80 error 6 in keepalived[8048000+20000]
[874439.987336] keepalived[7081]: segfault at 0 ip 0804d5fe sp bf976e80 error 6 in keepalived[8048000+20000]
[874439.992815] keepalived[7083]: segfault at 0 ip 0804d5fe sp bf976e80 error 6 in keepalived[8048000+20000]
[874444.956732] __ratelimit: 534 callbacks suppressed

This is using Debian 6.0.1 (squeeze) on i386 architecture.

After lots of digging around it seems the answer is simply that the module ip_vs isn’t loaded.

To fix, just do:

# modprobe ip_vs

It’ll stop the segfaults and all will be returned to sweetness and light.

(This post is intentionally Google-fodder. Hope this helps someone else with the same issues.)

A while back I acquired a dirt-cheap secondhand pair of SoundLAB Gyroscan units (G017X) for use on-stage as spotlights in combination with my ENTTEC DMX-IS computer-controlled DMX interface. The idea being that I can set them up for each song, mark a cross on the stage and that’s where the singers stand – cheap computer-controlled spotlights, yay.

There’s a couple of gotchas with this:

First, the Gyroscan DMX interface is inverted – that is to say, hot/cold are the wrong way round on the DMX pinout. While professional establishments tend to have DMX inverters to sort this stuff out I didn’t have any and it seemed to be a simple matter of popping the back off the unit and swapping the cables around. Ten minutes with a soldering iron and we’re in business.

Second, there’s no DMXIS fixture file which will deal with them properly. The Prosound Smart Scan II file comes close but wastes a few (possibly precious) channels which makes it unsuitable if you want everything on one screen. Thus I’ve put a DMXIS fixture ‘macro’ together which if you’re using Windows you can save in C:Program FilesENTTECDMXISDmxLibrarySoundlab and it’ll automatically find it:


This seems to work fine for me and also makes the positioning trackpad work in the bottom left corner of the DMXIS control panel.

The only real comment I have on the Gyroscan units (bear in mind here I’m still an amateur at this) is that they’re a bit slow to cue up a gobo. Other than that they seem fine!

I’ve got a new MacBook Pro – one of the Intel i7 ones, 17″, nice piece of kit. I’ve also re-evaluated my external disk requirements on my desktop and bought a dual eSATA/USB RAID0+1 array for storing my Lightroom library.

Sick of running it on USB (and I’m running out of USB ports anyway) I purchased a LaCie SATA II ExpressCard 34 adaptor via Amazon. Today’s been the first chance I’ve had to switch it over as I’m working from home, and installed the drivers as per the instructions. I plugged the card in… instant kernel panic on Snow Leopard. Oops.

No problems, reboot. Except it won’t – not at all. A reboot of the machine hit a kernel panic within a few seconds, not even enough for it to bring up the OS tail. The error is: “thread wants credential but has no BSD process” – a completely unusable system.

I eventually got it down to out-of-date drivers supplied with the CD accompanying the card. The correct drivers are here, and you will not be able to boot your system unless you do the following:

  1. Reboot holiding down the shift key, so you enter ‘safe boot mode’. This will take a while to boot so you might want to make a cuppa.
  2. Download the drivers from here.
  3. Install the drivers and immediately reboot.

I haven’t had any problems since.

(Apparently this is to do with the SIS chipset not addressing 64-bit memory space correctly, but booting into 32-bit compatibility mode doesn’t work either.)

Last Saturday was Wakefield Acorn Computer Show, run by Wakefield RISC OS Computer Club.

There’s not much really to report as I don’t use RISC OS, but the highlights for me were an O2 Joggler running Netsurf and the current (maturing) status of RISC OS Open on Beagleboard hardware (photo).

I took along the Domesday Project of course as well as a couple of other machines. It was quite good having the Domesday running on a large 32″ flatpanel (photo) given the small crowds which would occasionally gather. I am also very pleased to report that the gentleman from Archive magazine brought along some more correspondence from the 1984 ‘Domesday Submission Kit’ with letters acknowledging difficulty in surveys and other things. I’ll get them scanned in as soon as I can.

Alongside the ‘normal’ BBC Master 128, I’d got my ultra-pimped Beeb running: a Master 128 with ARM7TDMI coprocessor, USB interface, CF card storage, 100baseTx Ethernet, and switchable 3.2/3.5 MOS.

There was also a Chuckie Egg incident – I thought I’d hit the high-score for the show (and indeed had red mist while playing it) but then got thoroughly beaten later on with a score of over 200,000. Boo! Need more practice!

Nice to see some of the 8-bit enthusiast crowd there again including Dave Moore from Retro Software and Ian Wolstenholme (I wonder if Ian made it home in one piece on the train, carrying an A7000, an A3000 and three Technomatic Winchester hard disks?).

Finally, I was a good boy and didn’t spend piles of cash on the charity stall (not that there was much of interest), coming away with a replacement monitor for the Domesday system for the princely sum of £2.

My full set of photos from the event are here.

Next Acorn ‘presence’ will be at Bletchley on 19th and 20th June as part of the Vintage Computer Festival. Mind, I won’t be there for most of the Saturday (as OP have a gig in Wakefield) but I believe on the Sunday there is a major ‘project day’ effort to try and get the Domesday Community Disc properly archived. Maybe see you there!

After a period of quiet not least because I couldn’t get from one end of the garage to the other, I’m back fiddling with 8-bit machines and preparing for several ‘appearances’ at retro computing events throughout the UK.

Sat 24th April: Wakefield Acorn & RISC OS Computer Show 2010 is a regular in the calendar and although it has been more on the brand new RISC OS side in recent years, this year there will be a stronger 8-bit presence. I will be there exhibiting ‘new things you can do with your BBC Micro’ including some of the flash-based storage units, new coprocessors, and the latest version of Sprow’s Ethernet interface.

Sat 19th June – Sun 20th June: Vintage Computer Festival at Bletchley Park. I’ve been asked to demonstrate the Domesday Project and discuss its impact and history with visitors – it’s also likely there will be a small Econet setup with some interesting bits and bobs, alongside vendors and a fleamarket in case you fancy spending some of your hard-earned on ancient rigs.

Sat 20th November – Sun 21st November: R3play in Blackpool. I’ve no idea what the Acorn presence will be at this show, but given that Arcadian’s on the organising committee it’ll probably feature some of us!

Some of these events will be very busy so if you want to have some old Acorn fun you probably should put these in your diary and organise tickets now. I know the recommended hotel for the VCF is almost full, so get your skates on.

Edit: Dave just mailed me and corrected on the dates, R3PLAY is now 6th-7th November.

Given my recent post on IPv4 exhaustion, I read with interest that has been reallocated (to APNIC) as part of the efforts to debogon and reuse address space.

Previously there’s been discussion on which /8 should be allocated. A good read, and covers issues I’d expect to become more important as the IPv4 space is depleted. IANA keep a document on /8 RIR assignments here.

I don’t do much networks stuff nowadays, but what’s important from my programmatic point-of-view is IP address validation within user interfaces – I know at least two systems I’ve been involved in developing have IP address input validation; consequently I think you can probably expect to see older (poorly programmed) routers thinking erroneously ‘oh, that IP address is invalid!’.

According to iNetCore (via Trefor Davies’ blog) the IPv4 address space will finally be exhausted on 5th September 2011.

Available IPv4 address space dropped below 10% yesterday 19th January 2010 as announced by the Number Resource Organization. So, everyone ready to take IPv6 seriously now? 😛

(To be honest it sounds like a good excuse for an ‘end of the world’ type of party – anyone in Hollywood fancy making a disaster movie out of it?!)

I’m giving my ‘Teaching Old Micros New Tricks’ talk tonight (Wednesday 20th January) at the RISC OS North West User Group (RONWUG), covering some of the new projects to expand and enhance your BBC Micro. I’m hoping to have a few toys to demo with and have a look at as well as the talk itself.

This is effectively the same talk I gave in Wakefield last year – the presentation is already online in a PDF format here (although there are a few bits altered such as mentioning the Classic Gaming Events Union). Links to most of the products I’ll be discussing are here.

I understand these meetings are open for anyone to attend – it takes place in Sale in Cheshire, postcode M33 6LR. Starts at 7:30pm-ish tonight, depending on when I get there (yay rush hour M62) 🙂

Forwarded from a friend:

In the end, the resources required to keep publishing its much-loved content pages has proved too much. DMGT’s A+N Media is shutting down all of loss-making Teletext’s editorial operations Monday and Tuesday, after 15 years.

That means news, sport, entertainment and other content is disappearing – not just on analogue TV, but also on Freeview and Teletext.co.uk. But A+N is keeping a raft of commercial operations…

Teletext Ltd took over from ORACLE in 1993 on the UK’s ITV and Channel 4 TV stations. I have fond (!) memories of the final minutes of ORACLE where the pages shrunk down to a white dot in homage to 50s and 60s television sets.

Full article is here.

On Sunday 15th November there’s a retro gaming convention in Coalville, Leicestershire brought to you by The Retro Computer Museum. There’s also some info on the Stairway To Hell forum.

There’ll be an Acorn-specific room which (although small) will have some interesting bits, and quite a few other systems as well. To see some pics of the last RCM event take a look here.

I’ll be going, although I probably won’t be taking any systems along with me to demonstrate.

I posted last week about Hotmail breaking email headers – it’s starting to be noticed a little more, and unfortunately there isn’t a solution yet. I’ve looked at rewriting the headers on my own (exim-based) mailservers but frankly it’s a pain in the arse and I don’t really want to frig something when it’s Hotmail that should be fixing it.

More links (including info on Roundcube and Thunderbird):

It’s bloody annoying, and tedious Microsoft won’t actually fix it. Do they not have a QA dept?

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