Jelly Blackpool is GO!

Just a quick post to say that I have set a date for Blackpool’s first Jelly co-working event.

I’m a freelancer, and sometimes it can be quite boring working from home, I’m sure there are many like me, who live in the Blackpool area.

At Jelly, we offer you free wifi, power and a desk to work from. All in a private space, with access to a bar stocked with coffee, tea, juice and of course beer. You can also order food via the bar,  to be delivered to your desk.

During the summer we can also work outside in a private roof terrace, which is also suitable for any smokers to use.

All you need to do is grab a ticket, bring your laptop and tweet about it using #jellyblackpool.

So make a date in your diary for  Friday March 14th,  at Gillespies Bar on Topping St, from 10am to 5pm.

 

Upgrading to WordPress 3.8

Recently I upgraded this blog to WordPress 3.8 but during the upgrade process I hit a snag.

I run this blog on a Digital Ocean VPS, which installed WordPress on my behalf. When it came to upgrading, I chose to try out the automated update option but I then hit the following snag.

“The update cannot be installed because we will be unable to copy some files. This is usually due to inconsistent file permissions…”

So, it looks like I need to sort out the file permissions for my WordPress install.

So being a system admin, I used SSH to remotely connect to my VPS, and used the following command as root to change the permissions.

chown -R www-data:www-data /path to/wordpress install/

(Change the /path to/wordpress install/ to where you WordPress install is located)

What this command achieves is to change the ownership of the directory /path to/wordpress install/ and all of it’s contents to the user www-data, which is a user created just for the web server (normally Apache).

By making this change and then retrying the auto update option you should now be updating your blog to WordPress 3.8.

 

Spam emails

(Disclaimer, the email received WAS NOT from Virgin Media, it is a spam email, and I have no issues with Virgin Media, I just wanted to highlight the spam email issue)

This morning I checked my inbox and in the spam folder there was a curious email from someone alleging to be from “Virgin Media”.

Vm Spam

The email address had been spoofed to look like it had come from Virgin “[email protected]” but spoofing email is an easy hack.

If you follow the link (don’t do it, I’m a trained professional / idiot) it sends you to this url.

http://www.customkitbarns.co.nz/redirect.htm

Which contains this HTML

<meta http-equiv="Refresh" content="0; url= http://www.hobbycom.com/virgin/virgin/httpjaycomarketing.comwp-contentpluginssubscribemod_system/index.html">

Anyway, with a secure live DVD Linux distro and a spare sacrificial machine I visited this link and found a carefully recreated Virgin Media sign up page.

VM fake page 1

The form accepts any old random info, so using a trusty spam username I went a bit further

The next page asks for your home address and credit card details, all a clever cracker would need to take lots of money and your identity.

vm address vm card vm old card

 

Naughty naughty, but a good attempt, pity they didn’t think to mask the URL in the address bar. But then, how many people check those details on a regular basis?

So it looks like we have two sites that have been compromised.

www.customkitbarns.co.nz & www.hobbycom.com

With these two sites, the clever hackers have created a simple trap to capture user details.

Keep safe on-line, if it looks dodgy, it probably is.

 

Raspberry Pi Foundation Q&A

I recently uploaded a video I recorded for Ben Nuttall’s last ever Manchester Raspberry Jam Event.

I was there, along with my AV team consisting of

  • Dan Lynch – PA and mixing desk.
  • Oliver Clark – Backup recording systems & field microphones.
  • Tony Hughes – Photography
  • Me – Video and logistics.

We recorded the audio and video for all of the talks, and the video is available via my Youtube playlist.

One video I am especially proud of is embedded below, and features Eben and Liz Upton along with Clive Beale from the Raspberry Pi Foundation talk about the project and it’s future goals.

 

Digital Ocean, WordPress and Contact Forms

I’ve recently been setting up a couple of sites for clients, and they wanted the ability to use a contact form on their WordPress site. No problem I said, and I duly installed the necessary plugins to make it work.

When I tested the form, it took over 30 seconds to send the email, which was unacceptable, so I did a bit of Googling and found an interesting solution.

 

  • SSH in to your server.
  • As root edit the /etc/hosts file using vi or nano.
    • The first line should contain
      • 127.0.0.1 localhost <YOUR HOSTNAME>
    • Change it to read
      • 127.0.0.1 localhost localhost.localdomain <YOUR HOSTNAME>
  • As root run the command
    • sendmailconfig
  • Answer yes to any questions you are asked.

That’s it, try the contact form again, and it should be a lot quicker than before.

 

2013 – A Year In Review…or how the Raspberry Pi Changed My Life!

It’s traditional at this time of year to reflect on the past 12 months and to see how much you have changed in that time. In 2013 I went from being in full time employment to becoming a freelancer and I have to say that it has been the best career decision of my life.

So dear reader, I take you through 2013 from the point of view of Les Pounder…that’s me :)

January to March

Well the start of the year was busy busy busy for me. I was still working at FARM Digital as a Project Manager, and I was managing some epic projects for the company. Some projects for large multi-national organisations and others for smaller businesses. Here I learnt to control projects using a more Agile approach, focusing on delivering the requirements set by the customer using test driven methodologies.

I also managed the logistics of Alan O’Donohoe’s first Raspberry Jamboree, along with my good friend Dan Lynch. I was playing the role of “Mr Wolf” from the Pulp Fiction movie, basically solving problems before they happened and Dan was in charge of A/V. Great time was had by all and I made lots of good friends there.

The Manchester Girl Geeks asked for the Blackpool LUG Special Projects Team (aka “The Screaming Penguins”) to document their “Bracamp” event at Madlab. This event turned the tables on a traditional tech event, and had a 90% female attendance and talks featured issues and projects from a female developers point of view.

April to May

April saw Jon Spriggs and I hand over our UCubed event to new blood, and the event is in the best shape ever, with lots of talks and interesting projects on show.

In May I left FARM Digital to try my hand at being a freelancer, and this is where the adventure begins.

May to July

In May, I registered as self employed with HMRC, not an easy process but I received some great advice from Rosie Slosek - thanks Rosie.

I worked with Linux Format and Linux User & Developer Magazine on some great content, such as voice controlled Raspberry Pi and a simple internet radio streaming device for the kitchen (way before PiFace Control and Display allowed you to do it ;) )

I also worked with Cefn Hoile to promote the Shrimping.it range of Arduino compatible devices called “The Shrimp”, and you should buy some of his kit, not because I get commission (I don’t) but because it is a cheap way to get electronics into the hands of eager children.

In July I took the Shrimping.it kit to Salford University for a two day exhibition. Where I showcased the use of the Raspberry Pi, Arduino and “The Shrimp”.

Also in July I started teaching Raspberry Pi and Maker Culture to Primary and Secondary School teachers, a full day of learning Linux, Python, electronics and maker culture for those teachers new to the concepts. This was the best decision that I ever made and it has opened up myself to new ideas and concepts, as well as teaching other courses such as Python for KS4, Crash Course in Programming and Advanced Raspberry Pi courses.

Lastly in July, we had the epic Barcamp Blackpool which was the BIGGEST one ever with nearly 200 people in attendance. Barcamp has evolved into a Makerfaire + Barcamp + social gathering and that is just brilliant

August to September

I worked on a number of articles for Linux Format, reviewing the recently released ZTE Open Firefox OS phone, a number of Linux distributions and wrote copy for a number of corporate blogs that required someone with commercial experience of using Open Source technologies.

I also wrote a few blog posts for Safari Books Online, which talked about using the Raspberry Pi and it’s GPIO pins for simple beginner projects, such as Flashing an LED using Scratch and creating a push button control for the then recently released Raspberry Pi camera.

I wrote two features for Linux Format, the first an in-depth look at the rise of the Raspberry Pi “Jam” events, and the second was a guide on how to run your own technology event.

In September, I was approached by a client to create something beyond my wildest expectations, a Raspberry Pi powered, Python controlled fortune telling machine!

This was a great project, and involved about 8 weeks of work with the client and lots of electronic components. I used PiFace to control the components as I needed to control 12V devices and PiFace handily comes with 2 relays which were more than ready for the job. You can take a look at the project in more detail here and the final product here

I took part in PyConUK and was part of the team that ran the Education track. This track covered many aspects of teaching Python and Raspberry Pi to children across all key stages. We used Minecraft, Python and electronic components to show how much fun learning to code can be.

October

I started working for the Workers Education Association, teaching adults how to use computers for basic tasks, such as word processing, spreadsheets and online safety. This was an immeasurably rewarding experience, and I was very sad when it ended.

In October I wrote my first tutorial for Linux Format, which was led you by the hand to make your first Firefox OS application and then test it in a handy simulator (or real hardware if you had it..which I did :) )

Oggcamp, the massive tech / open source / social geeky gathering was in Liverpool again, and it was a runaway success. Well done to the team behind it, but especially my crew, who I cannot thank enough for their hard work and dedication.

I worked on an interesting project which was to create an operating system image for use in customer kiosks and digital signage across the UK, basically the advertising screens that you see dotted around train stations and shopping centres.

The Linux Voice team asked me to take part in their podcast, so I gladly stepped forward and brought my old mate Dan Lynch along for the ride. It was a great podcast and we covered lots of great content, have a listen.

November

This was a busy month, I was teaching Python, Pi and Programming for at least 2 days a week and writing a series of reviews and tutorials for Linux Format. I did manage to squeeze in a holiday to London with MrsP, and we enjoyed a weekend full of Doctor Who related fun at the 50th birthday celebration.

I started work on my first book, the title is still to be decided but at present it is “Google Coder for the Raspberry Pi” and I bet you can guess what it’s all about? Well if not, Google released a coding environment for the Pi. The environment is to enable the learner to quickly learn and develop web applications in a supportive manner. The book has now been finished and is being proof read, with release to be in early 2014

December

I had so much to cram in to December it was amazing!

Linux Format asked me to write two features back to back due to the Christmas break. The first feature covered Raspberry Pi add on boards from various companies around the UK. Great feature as I got to play with a dozen cool boards. I also wrote an in depth guide on using PiFace and a tutorial covering Scratch for beginners.

My second feature was a complete guide to the Raspberry Pi, from knowing nothing to building simple projects and gaining the confidence to tackle another, slightly larger project. I also wrapped up my Scratch tutorials with a simple arcade game.

 

And here we are, you made it through all that text, I don’t know whether to congratulate you, or just feel sorry for you ;)

2013 has been an amazing year for me, and it’s all thanks to the Raspberry Pi.

Happy New Year to you all!

Les

Writing about the serious side of Open Source

A few months ago I was asked to write a series of blog posts for a well known Linux consultancy company.

 

The company was Linuxit.com and I was given three topics to work on.

 

  • Black, White and Embedded testing, with Black box testing referring to a closed source “proprietary” code base, White box for open source code, and Embedded which refers to open source code being used in a closed source product.
  • Public Sector technology purchases via the UK Government’s PSN Network.
  • And lastly, monitoring tools for Linux based systems, a handy guide for sys admins.

 

I’m happy to say that all three have been published and here are their links.

 

Black box, white box and embedded testing… our view

Calling the Public Sector – What’s Your PSN Path?

Best Practice Linux Guide: Monitoring Tools [INFOGRAPHIC]

 

Enjoy!

DIY Fruit Machine…using Python

I’m not a gambler, but I do remember playing Vegas Jackpot on the Commodore 16 (back in 1985).

Tonight, while MrsP was watching Mock the Week on Dave I had an idea to make my own simple reel using a list and the random library that is available to python.

I simply created three lists called reel1, 2 and 3 and then used random.choice to pick a value from each and the print them side by side on the screen.

If you get three of a kind, the game prints “Jackpot”.

To start the game you type “p” and press enter.

Simple as that, and only took five minutes. You could add this code to any code that works with the Raspberry Pi GPIO.

You can get the code from here https://github.com/lesp/fruit-machine

 

from random import *

from time import *

reel1 = ["cherry","lemon","bell"]

reel2 = ["cherry","lemon","bell"]

reel3 = ["cherry","lemon","bell"]

while True:

    if raw_input() == “p”:

        for i in range(0,3):

            r1 = choice(reel1)

            r2 = choice(reel2)

            r3 = choice(reel3)

            print (r1) + ” ” + (r2) + ” ” + (r3)

            sleep(2)

            if (r1) == (r2) and (r1) == (r3):

                print (“Jackpot”)

            elif (r2) == (r1) and (r2) == (r3):

                print (“Jackpot”)

            elif (r3) == (r1) and (r3) == (r2):

                print (“Jackpot”)

    else:

        print (“End of game”)

Raspberry Jams: why Raspberry Pi is going back to school

A few months back, I wrote an article for Linux Format magazine, the article focused on the Raspberry Jam phenomenon.

 

 

Raspberry Jams are a place where Raspberry Pi enthusiasts get together to show off their projects, learn new skills, and socialise with like minded geeks.

 

“The Raspberry Pi has been available for over 12 months now. Its launch was met with feverish excitement, but once the initial scramble for stock was over and people had a precious Pi cradled in hand, many turned to the question of what to do with all its potential. ”

Head over to TechRadar.pro to read the full article