Mar 12 2014

Classic Games: Jet Set Willy

Published by under Computer,Games and Gaming,Geek,Retro

Just by chance something earlier today made me think of the 80s computer game, Jet Set Willy (IIRC this was also known as Manic Miner in some places). So I ended up watching some YouTube vids of the game and the old Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer that was popular back in the 1980s.

Below is a video of someone completing the game on darnkitty.com  – please note that there is no sound with the video, which is probably not a bad thing as it could drive you nuts after a short while!

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Brings back a few memories, mainly of frustration and me pulling my hair out. But it was one of the most popular games back in the day.

And there is an American’s review of the old 48k Speccy, looking at it as a retro toy and the problems of running it on US power and NTSC displays.

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Mar 12 2014

Oops

Published by under Misc,Personal,Site

Just checked by chance and realised it’s almost a year to the day (well, just two days short) that I last posted here. Doesn’t seem like it’s that long ago.

I’m not sure if anyone much actually finds this site, let alone reads it, but I will try and update a bit more often. Maybe at least try and manage once every six months…

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Mar 14 2013

Google Reader being “retired”…

Published by under Geek,Internerd

Update: March 2014:
Well, I ended up going with Feedly.com – I don’t like it as much as Google Reader as I feel it’s not as easy to use (even if it looks “prettier”). But it seemed like the best option and moving over to it was a doddle, so it won out in the end.

The only thing is, where I used to check Google Reader several times a day, I often forget about Feedly, and can go a week or two without checking it. It is something that is probably due to me not getting on with it as well as GR.

Damn you Google. *shakes fist*.

Original post:
Just found out today via a pop-up message on Google Reader that it will be retired on 1st July 2013. This disappointed me as I use this RSS feed aggregation service to follow and read a s**t-load of web site updates that I would not normally get around to reading.

It’s something I use several times a day, and will miss this service. Now I need to find a suitable alternative.

Do you have any recommendations for online RSS feed aggregator services similar to Google Reader?

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Mar 13 2013

Book read: Stephen King’s The Stand

Published by under Books

This is the first post where I dump thoughts about the current book I am reading.  I’m currently around two thirds of the way through Stephen King’s The Stand. Okay, I admit, I would probably have been better off starting these posts with a new book, but I like to live life on the edge…

Be warned, though, there will be spoilers in this post for those who have no read the book! Because I am starting this so far in, I will only be doing a very brief intro as to what has happened so far.

For those who do not know, The Stand is a horror/fantasy book by Stephen King. I bought it second hand on a whim for a princely sum of £1, and I’m glad I did – it’s not what I was expecting at all and I am enjoying much more than I would have thought. Anyway, it’s set in a post-apocalyptic America where most of the population (presumably world-wide as well) has been wiped out by the accidental release of a really nasty super-flu bug (nick-named “Captain Trips”). Think “man-flu” on steroids, and we all know how bad man-flu is, don’t we, lads?

At the start we follow the pre-flu lives of several groups of survivors and follow their journey where they (and later many others) congregate and start to build new lives in Boulder, Colorado. The only problem is Randall Flagg AKA the “Dark Man”, the embodiment of evil on earth who is building an army to crush our good guys.

In the good guys corner, we have Abigail Freemantle, also known as “Mother Abigail”. She’s kind of an apparent conduit for God and Flagg’s direct opposite. Only she’s 108 years old and has just kicked the bucket. Oh dear. For some reason, I wasn’t that upset by her death – maybe because she was so old and it was obvious she wasn’t going to be around that long. I was actually more saddened by Nick Andros’ death than anyone’s so far – possibly because I thought he would make it to the end. In fact, I am wondering if he is dead (he was killed in an attempt to assassinate the committee members who now run Boulder) as his whole body was not found.

However, Mother Abigail has passed the word on to four of our heroes that they have to drop everything – that means leaving the committee, lovers, new homes, and more – to go to Las Vegas and face the Dark Man. And to top it off, God (if He exists) has said (Via Mother Abigail) that they must go on foot and not take any food or water with them, because they have sinned. Lovely.

Yes, well, a very brief posts, really. There’s so much I should have added, really.

I’ll try and post as often as I can with this, then it’s on to book five of Stephen King’s Dark Tower, which I will do from the start of the book. As a side note, the Dark Tower series does briefly cross over with The Stand where the characters end up in this world.

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Jan 14 2013

Security: Disable direct root SSH login

In the Linux/Unix/*BSD and their various flavours, the “root” user is the most powerful user on the whole system. If anyone gains access to this user, they can literally do anything, including wiping the whole installation with one short command.

So it’s important to protect this user as much as possible. There are a few things that you can do, including changing the standard port that SSH runs on (22), and using SSH keys to identify yourself, but these two things aren’t always suitable for all people.

One of the very first things you should do when setting up a Unix based machine that has any kind of access to the Internet is to disable the ability to log in directly as root. This will mean that people will not (or should not) be able to “brute force” their way in.

Please note: I am using the user name “admin” as an example – this will be too obvious to guess for potential “hackers”, so choose a user name that is a bit more random and/or unique to you.

1) Add an “unprivileged” user

First, we add the user – by default it will be unprivileged, which means it won’t have any special permissions the same way root does, for example.

adduser admin

Then we give the new user a password (one is not set by default).

passwd admin

So you should see something like:

Adding user and changing password

Adding user and changing password

2) Give your new user permission to change to root

You will need to “change” user to root, by default you can’t do this as an unprivileged user. You do this by adding your chosen user name to the “wheel” group. Using usermod with the “-G” switch will allow you to add your user to the “wheel” group. In the following, change “admin” to your user name.

usermod -G wheel admin

You can also do this in your favourite text editor by editing /etc/group. Find the wheel user line:

wheel:x:10:root

…so it look like (again, change “admin” to your user name):

wheel:x:10:root,admin

If you are also logged in as your “admin” user, you will have to login again for this change to take effect.

Now test that you can change your admin user to the root user. You need to test this as you could get locked out of root otherwise. You do this by typing:

su -

If all is well, you should be asked for your root password, and you will then, if there are no error messages, be the root user. Adding the dash “-” to the su command simply changes you to the root homedir, otherwise you stay in the say directory you are currently in.

If you now type “exit”, you will end up back as your original user.

3) Edit the SSH server’s config

As root, you now need to edit the SSH server’s config file.

In your favourite editor, open /etc/ssh/sshd_config (note the “d”, so not ssh_config – if you try editing this you will end up spending ages wondering why it doesn’t work…)

Locate the line with “PermitRootLogin”, by default it should look like this:

#PermitRootLogin yes

The hash (or pound if you’re American) means that it is “commented out” (used in this case to tell the software to “ignore this line”), we need to remove this and change “yes” to “no”.

PermitRootLogin no

4) And finally…

Before you close your current root connection, try logging in as root in a separate window – it should fail. And now try logging in (su) from your “admin” user. If all is well, you can now safely log out.

And that’s it, it’s quite simple to do really, and adds an extra layer of security.

As a side note, and while I personally prefer to “su” to root, many people recommend  using “sudo” to carry out commands as another user with their permissions, such as root. More on sudo will follow in a separate article.

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Jul 09 2012

Wireless Desktop 3000 review

Published by under Computer,Hardware,Review

MS Wireless Desktop 3000

MS Wireless Desktop 3000

I’ve been using a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse for over 4 years now, and while they both still work, they have seen better days. Mostly the keyboard was scruffy, with many of the keys missing the lettering and generally just dirty (not easy to clean, really). The mouse would also get a little reluctant to work at times.

So it was time to look for an upgrade. I went straight to Logitech again, but seriously, the mice in the wireless kits are basic with no “forward” and “back” buttons for example. What are they thinking? They do, however, have a range of separate mice and keyboards that can share the same receiver, but it does work out relatively expensive.

It’s because of this I looked at the competition. Because I work with the keyboard on my lap (I sit on the settee with a laptop), I need a full size keyboard with an area to rest the palms of my hands, which also help steady the keyboard. After some research, I plumped for the Microsoft’s Desktop 3000, which consists of a wireless full sized keyboard with a kind of rubberised palm rest and a wireless mouse with scroll wheel and forward/back buttons. It was also in the price range I was looking for, which at the time was about £35.

I’ve been using this for 2 or 3 weeks now and the keyboard took a little bit of getting used to as the delete key is smaller and in a slightly different place to the old Logitech’s. But otherwise the keyboard is nice to use. It also has the extra function keys you expect from anything better than the very basic of keyboards. Of course, there is also the rubberised palm rest that makes it a bit nice to use.

While it is quite solid, it does feel more “plasticy” than the Logitech’s, especially the base (which is white).

As for the mouse – it is advertised as having “Blue Track” technology, and is supposed to work on just about any surface. I tried it on the back of my 4 year old Labrador and it did indeed work, even if I did get strange looks from the dog…

I don’t have small hands, nor are they that large, but I do find this mouse to be very wide (more so than the Logitech mice I have). It may improve with use, but I find it uncomfortable.

However, the real problem with the mouse is the scroll wheel — it is “free wheeling” unlike other mice wheels. In other mice they click as you rotate them, this usually means that one click is a turn of a page in a document, or a slider goes up or down by 1/5/10 units for example. I use Adobe’s Lightroom v4 a lot — with the Logitech mouse you select an adjustment that can be +/- 50, then rotate the wheel that will then go in 5 step increments.  With the MS mouse, you turn the wheel, nothing appears to happen, then suddenly the adjustment whizzes up by 30 steps. It is generally really hard to control.

Conclusion
Overall not a bad set, but for me the mouse width makes it uncomfortable and the wheel is a deal breaker as I use this a lot. The keyboard is generally good, but unlike the Logitech, it doesn’t appear to have any encryption unless this is an automatic undocumented feature, although it is listed as a feature in another MS wireless keyboard. Perhaps I am a little paranoid, but I do type out a lot of passwords and personal details.

I think I will have to look again at Logitech’s offerings and perhaps buy separate wireless keyboard and mice. The lack of encryption on the keyboard and the scroll wheel on the mouse are let-downs for me and means that I probably bought the wrong products for my needs, although someone else will probably find these not to be issues.

Rating
The mouse I will give 2/5
The keyboard is better at 4/5
Overall: 4/5

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Jun 23 2012

How to find which package an application is in

Published by under Geek,Linux/Unix

I recently installed a minimal version of Centos 6, which meant that many of the basic tools were not installed by default.

But how do you find which package a tool or application is in? Sometimes it’s as easy as just giving the name of what you want, but often this isn’t possible if an application is part of a package that has to be installed to use it, and that package name is different.

So how do we find out what package provides a file/application/feature? We could Google it if the internerd is available. If it’s not, you can simply use the whatprovides command in Yum (this should also be faster than Googling for the answer!)

In this case, we provide the filename and path, but because I’m not sure where the file usually resides, I’ve used a wildcard to search with.

Below is the output from the above command:

You may get several results, and may have to work out which it is you need. However, in this case the result most obvious is the last – jwhois (on a side not, you do not use the version numbers, etc., just the initial filename.)

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Jun 22 2012

How to install Dig on Centos

Published by under Geek,Linux/Unix,Uncategorized


Screen shot
It’s been a while since I last updated. A very long while, but I will try and post stuff a little more often.

Dig is a DNS tool used to grab information about DNS records – it’s usually used for diagnosis — for instance, making sure that the IP address is correct for a given domain name.

Dig is usually installed by default if you choose one of the more “complete” installation options, but if you choose the minimal install in Centos 6 (and possibly earlier versions) like I did, then like many things, it won’t be installed.

Luckily though, dig is easily installed as part of the bind-utils package on Centos (this may be different on other Linux distributions such as Debian).

From your command line prompt, simply enter:

Yum will then go off and check stuff such as whether you need to install extra software/packages required by the application you’re installing (known a “dependencies” in Linux speak),

You will see something like the code below (don’t worry, you won’t have to enter all of this – it’s only there to give you an idea of what to expect):

In this case, bind-libs is depended upon by bind-utils and also needs to be installed.

You are asked if this is OK. If you are happy to continue, type “y” and enter.

You will see something like this:

And that’s it, job done!

Of course, you can also install other software this way and not just dig!

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Dec 15 2009

Windows remote Desktop

Published by under Computer,Geek,Tech

I use Window’s built in RDC (Remote Desktop Connection) on a daily basis. I sit downstairs using my laptop connected to my main PC upstairs – it means I can sit in comfort, not have the noise from the PC and watch my better TV, and stuff.

Anyhoo. There are always a few questions people have when using it, including how do you restart the main machine. or even shut it down.

The two main keyboard commands that you will find useful are:

ctrl-alt-break

The ctrl-alt-break (this means pressing the CTRL (Control), ALT and the BREAK keys at the same time) will shrink the full screen display down into a window, allowing you to alt-tab and/or navigate your local PC without having to use the mouse to minimise the window.

ctrl-alt-end

This key press combination will bring up a screen on the remote PC where you can do a number of things – this includes starting the task manager. On the bottom right of this screen there is a right icon where you can choose to restart, put it into sleep or shut down the remote PC (remember that if you do put the remote PC into sleep mode, or shut it down, you will not be able to restart it again without physical access!)

Those are the two main key press combinations you will need to know.

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Aug 07 2009

It’s time to kill off IE6

Published by under Computer,Geek,Site,Tech,Web Site Dev

Anyone who has ever designed a web site has more than likely hit the old problem with cross-browser compatibility – in other words, trying to get your web site to look the same (or as close as possible) in as many of the various web browsers as possible.

With the advent of XHTML and CSS, things have gotten better compared to the days of HTML v4 and its older iterations. The problem is that too many people are still using Internet Explorer version 6, which is around 8 years old now, and quite ancient in terms of computers and computer software.

Because IE6 is still so popular, web designers still have to support it, which gives them major headaches. As a result, a new movement is afoot to try and get people to update their browsers to IE8, Firefox 3.5, or one of the other alternatives such as Google’s Chrome.

This movement is called IE6 no more, and is gaining more and more (major) sites at a fast pace (currently at 70+).

If you want more information, and code snippets, you can visit their web site at http://www.ie6nomore.com .

Floppy Dog supports this initiative, and has added the code to the site’s template, so if you visit us with IE6 or older, you should get a warning notice just above.

FloppyDog IE 6 screengrab

FloppyDog IE 6 screengrab

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