Looking ahead

I’m leaving Napier for 6 months at the end of tomorrow to pursue some personal interests. However, it’s very reassuring to know that I have some work to come back to. I’ll be working with Peter Cruickshank and Hazel Hall, investigating levels of digital and information literacy within Scotland’s Community Council system in a project entitledInformation Literacy for Democratic Engagement (IL-DEM). The award has been granted by the CILIP Information Literacy Group.

Hazel has blogged about the project’s aims and objectives, so it only remains for me to say that I’m looking forward to venturing into a slightly different research focus, while still working on aspects of Scotland’s hyperlocal democracy.

There may be some different research methods too, thus increasing my research skills, although the work will centre on understanding how people learn to use technology away from conventional education. In that sense, the work is likely to of interest to anyone concerned with helping people who struggle to make the best of their personal IT.

So I’ll be working with great colleagues, on interesting and practically useful things. What’s not to like?

Speed demon, but cheap and cheerful

My 2009 Mac Pro is getting long in the tooth. IGGY still works just fine of course I feel the need for speed. I don’t want to replace him with a garbage can. No matter how many cores and Thunderbolt ports they have, they only have one storage unit. The base model has 256 GB of PCI-E-based SSD, and I need at least two units of 1TB each. (One for normal use, one for CarbonCopyClones).

Continue reading

Personal storage conundrum

The computer storage devices in my flat are

  • My desktop mac
    • 1 TB SSD for boot drive
    • 640 GB HD for clone of boot drive
    • 500 GB SSD for secondary boot drive
    • 500 GB SSD for clone of secondary boot drive
    • 2 TB HD
      • 1 TB for extra clone of boot drive
      • 1 TB scratch drive (video-editing etc)
  • My laptop
    • 120 GB SSD for boot drive
    • 250 GB external HD for clone of boot drive
  • My partner’s desktop mac
    • 500 GB HD for boot drive
    • 500 GB HD for clone of boot drive
  • two 2 TB time capsules
  • a pile of smaller external HDs and SSD

Sometimes it feels like too much, sometimes too little.

The next addition will probably be a 1TB SSD for cloning my desktop mac’s boot drive. Then I can devote all of the 2TB HD to scratch disk.

Storage becomes /dev/null

A terabyte HD in my main Mac (‘IGGY’) has died, so now the Mac has only four storage devices. Fortunately it’s no threat to my data – this HD was used until a few months ago for TimeMachine backups of this mac but now all the Macs here do TimeMachine backups to a very new 2TB TimeCapsule.* The TM sparsebundles were copied to the new TimeCapsule so we’ve not lost any backup history.  Continue reading

2014_02_22: almost a day off and hubris

So no project work today – instead meeting up with spinning folk to finalise details for our trip to Bolzano next month. Because some folk will be off road-cycling before we spin, I thought it might be worthwhile everyone having everyone else’s cellphone numbers. The trip is being organised though FaceBook. It’s a worthwhile tool but there’s no way I’m giving it such contact details. So I suggested I set up a secure website on my domestic web-server, an old mac laptop.

So I dragged out the code from my web-design module and copied it across, intending to hack it down to a simple DB where people could enter names and numbers and view previously entered details, then set about ensuring PHP and MySQL were running. Not much work to find and install the latest versions of PHP and MySQL that will run under MacOS 10·4. Tiny bit of work (remembering how to use nano) to hack the apache config file to enable PHP. Even found GUI tools for MySQL. All fine and funky – except the mysql_connect command fails at the first fence. I know it’s deprecated, so I try mysqlreal_connect. This version of MySQL is too old to understand that command. Over and out!

And of course the simple solution, suggested by the lead spinnerette, is that she knows everyone’s cellphone numbers and can just email them around…

HUBRIS in large lumps.

Monkey magic

Code Monkey

As of Friday morning, there is a verbal agreement between a client and Edinburgh Napier University that the university will create some code for the client. And I’m to be the main code-monkey! I’ll even be paid. Not much, which is fitting because I am a very new code-monkey and this will be my first ever paid coding project, and because the project is really quite small – just proof that the concept can work and that Napier can do things the client wants. Nevertheless I’m very pleased.

Domain devilry

It’s also pleasing that 1&1, the providers of the domain to which I’ve mapped this blog, have finally fixed the fault which was preventing this domain mapping. I bought the domain on 12 January and it’s taken until today to get the issue sorted. There’s also an email address (bruce AT bruceryan.info) but it’s simply a forward to my main personal address.

Community Council news 1

I’ve had another meeting with the community councillor who wanted to set up a website for his CC. There appeared to be two copies of http://<name of CC>cc.wordpress.com and one copy of http://<name of CC>.wordpress.com. Each of these had bits of the most up-to-date material but none had all of it. So we copied the most recent content to separate text files on his laptop, deleted the errant blogs from WordPress, started a new blog at http://<variant of name of CC>.wordpress.com, reset the them, remade the pages, tags and categories, then remade the posts. Setting up widgets went quite quickly. He was very pleased to see that WordPress blogs can include Twitter widgets. While his CC doesn’t yet have a Twitter account, he has a personal Twitter account and a personal blog. Adding the widget for the former to the latter took about 2 minutes.

He now has to take his efforts back to his CC for their approval, comments etc. We’ll then implement any desirable changes, set up and train a co-editor. Then I’ll keep a watching/mentor brief as the site develops. I’ve also interviewed the community councillor about his aspirations for the website, his level of ability and similar. In a few month’s time, I’ll interview him about what actually materialised – and that should be the basis of a research paper. It will also be of interest to others who need proof that the CC system is worthy of further investment in training.

Community Council news 2

I’ve been asked to take minutes for another Edinburgh CC. It will pay a small amount but will knock out one Wednesday spinning session a month, but that’s not a problem – I could replace it with a spin on Tuesday or thursday evenings. This CC also wants a website similar to the one I help run for Leith Central CC, so that should be easy enough to start off.

Research news

On Tuesday I’ll meet with my supervisor to plan some further research into community council websites. This will be an update of research we did in summer 2012. We’ve won a small grant for this research, enough to pay me for about 8 weeks. This should lead to a couple of research papers, I believe.

Physical space

My old G4/800 now has a new home way out west. It’s good to keep old silicon running.

Not yet started

  • a good practice guide for community council websites
  • writing papers based on my MSc dissertation
  • a serious attempt at setting up a domestic server

Watch this space.

Unicodswallop

One of my friends’ duties include setting up electronic billing for her employer. She recently told me

I am creating a new payment file (as European standards are changing) for the equivalent of BACS, and am somewhat upset to discover they won’t accept supplier names with accents in – which for a European bank, strikes me as remarkably inconsiderate.

I enquired further and she replied

The reply I got back from the bank included the line ‘In characterset UTF-8 special characters like Ö, & , é… are not declared.‘ See page 7 of  http://www.febelfin.be/sites/default/files/vademecum/Standard-XML-SDD-Initiation-v20b-EN.pdf.

While that page indeed does not have accented characters and Latin-1 is just ASCII (no accents), UTF-8 does include accented characters. It’s a way of representing every character in Unicode!

Hardware weirdness

I’ve wanted a domestic server for a long, long time and I think it’s about to happen. I’ve had a TiBook for a couple of years – this is the last Apple laptop that can run MacOS9 natively and MacOS X (to be specifically, 10·5, aka ‘Leopard’). I’d installed 10·4 and 10·5 from retail installer disks that I already owned, but original installer disks for MacOS9 are hard to come by. I obtained one in early December, created 3 partitions on the TiBook’s HD and installed MacOS9 and 10·2 on the first, 10·4 on the second and 10·5 on the third.

Why? Because I could. I don’t use this computer very often – just when I have a hankering for playing MacOS9-based games. But this still left the TiBook without a regular job.

In the middle of December, I found an affordable eBay listing for a 10·5 server installer disk. The snag was that 10·5 server requires 1GB of RAM, and TiBook only had 256 + 512 = 768MB. So I bought a supposedly new 512MB lump on eBay. That took over 2 weeks to arrive – and didn’t work in either my TiBook or my Pismo (my current web server), both of which take PC133 SO-DIMMs. I’m still in dispute with that vendor. In the meantime, I partitioned the TiBook’s hard disk as

  • 7·5GB for MacOS9 and 10·2
  • 7.5GB for 10·4
  • 22GB for 10·5
  • 22GB for 10·5 server

and reinstalled MacOSes 9, 10·2, 10·4 and 10·5.

My next step was to buy a new lump of RAM from OWC. That arrived yesterday and was installed in a feverish hurry. Hurrah – all the installed OSes reported 1GB of RAM, so the machine should have been ready for 10·5 server.

Not so – repeated attempts to install crashed out with the same error message about being unable to install the base system. Yet I knew the installer disk was OK – it worked just fine when used with a VirtualBox virtual machine. Also, following this process, I could install 10·5 server onto a Dell Mini 10v.

Relief has arrived in the shape of a replacement lump of RAM bought from a LEM swap-list vendor. It’s now in TiBook, while the OWC lump is in Pismo – so both machines are at their maximum of 1GB – and the installation of 10·5 server has just completed on the TiBook. SO now I have configuration to enjoy.

But I still don’t understand why the installation failed with the OWC RAM. It should have either not started – and reported that there was not enough RAM – or just worked. Bah!