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I recently had fiber broadband installed at the house. This meant switching provider, and getting a whole new router. ISP routers, by-and-large are terrible, and this one was the type which only allows changing a limited set of options through the web-based admin page.

For a while it was working fine enough, but I started getting lots of DNS issues; accessing sites was terribly slow due to looooooong lookup times – when the lookup succeeded at all! I looked for the option to switch to using the OpenDNS servers, but there was no way to do this through the UI.

Of course, I figured someone had to have run into and fixed this problem before, and with a little hunting around, I was proved right – Pete Cooper had documented how to change these settings through the archaic and arcane wonder of telnet.

Logging into my router through the console, using Pete’s instructions, it soon became apparent his steps had been broken by a firmware update – only a couple of the commands worked. But now I had a lead, I was sure I could figure it out. With a little digging around, and judicious use of the help command, I was able to put together this sequence of commands to update the DNS settings:

# To list your current DNS servers
dns server forward dnsset list
# To a new primary DNS server with higher priority than the default
dns server forward dnsset add set=0 dns=208.67.220.220 label=None metric=4 intf=Internet
# Add the secondary as above
dns server forward dnsset add set=0 dns=208.67.222.222 label=None metric=4 intf=Internet
# Save our changes
saveall

With the commands entered, my web surfing instantly got a massive speed boost as the DNS issues went away :) I should point out that I left the default PlusNet servers in there as back-up. If for some reason I can’t connect to OpenDNS, the router will fall back to the PlusNet DNS.

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RIP Winamp

Chris McLeod —  Dec 22 2013 — Leave a comment

Winamp shutdown yesterday. Even though I hadn’t used it in years, this makes me a little sad, as Winamp was iconic. It was a hero of the early world-wide web, helping to kick-start the internet music age for a great many people like myself.

Winamp1.006

I first discovered Winamp around 14 years ago, during my first year at university. Back then, you could run Winamp from any old folder without installing it, so everyone used to have a copy in their network profile. This was the early days… MP3s were still a rarity here in the UK, so you would listen mainly to CDs (Windows Media Player was a world of suck on Windows NT), or the 2-3 MP3s you had downloaded from Napster.

As time went on, MP3s became more and more common, and Winamp became the defacto music player for a lot of people. Imitators sprung-up elsewhere. It was small, customisable, and with plugins was able to do almost anything – like managing an MP3 Player, if you were the early-adopter who splashed out a few hundred for one of the early, pre-iPod devices. Ahem.

Then the iPod happened, and with it, iTunes. Once iTunes for Windows hit, that was the end of Winamp’s glory days. Owned by AOL, it sank into irrelevance. Full-blown music library management, with integrated store and device management, was the order of the day – all things Winamp was woeful at, even with plugins – relegating Winamp to a niche of nostalgia and a small number of users who couldn’t do with out some feature or other. Winamp 3 was a mess, Winamp 5.5 moved away from the minimal UI. There was even an Android version. It was terrible.

By that time, we had all moved to streaming music services. Why store gigabytes of music files on your computer, when someone else can do it for you, and high-speed access is increasingly common? The need for an application like Winamp was increasingly shrinking. At least Spotify has honoured your legacy by releasing Spotiamp.

spotiamp

And so yesterday, Winamp ceased to be. The site is still there, and for now at least, it seems you can still download v5.666… but that will be turned off soon.

So long, Winamp. You really whipped that ass for as long as you could.

Thanks to the travelling, my body-clock was a little on the fritz, which meant I was wide-awake at around 4am local time. Not ideal, but it meant I got to see a fairly spectacular sunrise, coming up over San Francisco Bay. Feeling a little inspired, I set my camera up on its tripod, opened the window shutters, and experimented with a few long-exposure shots. I need a little more practice (sunset, anyone??), but I’m pretty pleased with how a couple of the shots came out.

The remaining photos are from a walk I took along the pier-front (Embarcadero). I didn’t go all the way along – I was tempted to walk right around as far as Fisherman’s Wharf (I started at South Beach), so I might get a few snaps of the Golden Gate Bridge, but I decided I would cut back into downtown at Market Street, so I could get a few things for my stay. I think I’ll make my trip up that way on Tuesday, perhaps taking in a ferry ride of the Bay, and maybe a tour of Alcatraz.

As I’m writing this, I’m 36,000 feet over Canadian airspace, on my way to San Francisco (you may have guessed this already, from the title). By the time you’re reading this, I should be safely on the ground again (no in-flight wifi to let me post from the air. It’s a little bit of a impromptu visit; I certainly hadn’t dreamed I’d be making this trip, even as recently as a couple of months ago. But that’s by-the-by at this point – there’s no turning back now!

This will be only my second trip to the United States – my first being Houston in 2011 – so I’ll be very interested to see the (no doubt many) differences. It’s only a short trip too, as I fly back to the UK on Wednesday, so I’ll need to try cram a lot in to make the most of it!

I have one particular bit of business to do while I’m in town1, but the rest of the time is mine, and to be honest, it’s a very welcome break. Things have been so hectic and stressful over the last few months (and not entirely in a good way) that I’m in desperate need of some “R&R”. Hopefully this trip will provide some of that!

As this trip might be a once in a lifetime thing, I’ve packed my full set of camera equipment, so hopefully I can get some memorable photos while I’m here. If I can manage, I’ll try post them up while at the end of each day.

Now, if only I wasn’t missing the live broadcast of The Day of The Doctor, this trip might’ve been even more perfect. Guess what my first priority is, when I land?


  1. That’s a story for another day.2 
  2. Huzzah! WordPress.com finally supports MarkDown natively! 

Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably know I was a Games Day 2013 in Birmingham, yesterday. There’s a photo gallery coming later with the many pictures I took through the day, but I’m still waiting on those to transfer off my iPad and upload to the server. In this post I’ll give a a bit of an overview of the day, and recount my experiences.

I’ll mention up front that this was my first Games Day in a long time. The last time I attended, I was still young enough to enter the Young Bloods painting competition, so it’s been 18-19 years at least!

This entry is very long, so it’s behind a “Read More” link. Photos will be in a separate gallery post. Continue Reading…

Ten

Chris McLeod —  Sep 17 2013 — Leave a comment

Today is my son’s tenth birthday. How time flies! It’s a little scary to think that 10 years ago I was nervously pacing the corridors of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, mind completely blown at the thought of being a dad.

It feels like yesterday, and yet like a lifetime ago.

DSCF0064

For someone who’s primarily a developer/support person, I spend a lot of time setting up and configuring – or fixing – servers. I guess this came from an eagerness to learn and I got tarred with the “Linux/Server” Guy brushes at some point!

My interest in Operations has had an uptick again recently, so I’ve been doing a bit of reading of late. This morning, while waiting on news about some work-related activities I’ve come across a couple of interesting articles:

My First 5 Minutes On A Server; Or, Essential Security for Linux Servers by Brian Kennedy is a fantastic little quick-start for securing a Linux server. It’s not everything you need to do, but as noted in the article, it sets the foundations for a secure server which is easy to keep secure. Do these steps first, then go about securing any additional services you need to run.

One thing I’ve been wondering about, is setting up my own email system, rather than run on Google Apps. As convenient as the Google platform is, I do sometimes think I’m trusting them with a bit too much of my information. Recent revelations about the NSA/GCHQ, PRISM, and whatever-comes-next, from Edward Snowden haven’t done much to allay those worries.

But Google Apps is convenient. It wraps my mail, calander, contacts, and many other things into a nice package that is available everywhere and syncs across platform, with Push notifications, search, and other modern conveniences… but never the less, I’ve been thinking about how I could move away from the “Do-No-Evil” Empire, which is why Drew Crawford’s excellent, in-depth article “NSA-proof your e-mail in 2 hours” was a great find. I might spin up an instance on my dormant Joyent account and give it a try on one of my spare domains, so I can evaluate the process and benefits before deciding on moving my primary mail domain.

Other topics which have crossed my path this weekend are system configuration, maintenance, and automation using tools such as Chef and Puppet. The idea of taking a known-good environment and replicating it with just a few commands is definitely appealing – particularly when it comes to tasks such as setting up development/test environments! I haven’t gone too far into these topics yet, but I’m hoping to find the time in the next few weeks to go through some of the articles I’ve found.

3 Fallacies About Working From Home

This is just a bunch of stuff I’ve wanted to link to over the last few days, but didn’t get around to doing individual link posts for:

On Dating

Chris McLeod —  Sep 10 2013 — 1 Comment

Alternative titles considered: “My Love Life (or Lack Thereof),” or the Blink-182 inspired “Story of a Lonely Guy”

Perhaps this is a silly/odd topic to be writing on what would have been my 8th wedding anniversary, but it’s on my mind, so why not? Sorry, this might come across a bit “woe is me.” It’s not really meant to be.

Anyone who has met me would probably be able to guess that something like dating doesn’t come naturally to me. At all. But given my circumstances, I recognise it’s something I’m going to have to get back into eventually… and the thought is a bit scary.

That’s not to say I haven’t dated since my separation. I have, but it’s not really been all too successful. In the last 2 years I think I’ve been on a small handful of dates, and the one meaningful relationship I’ve had in that time didn’t even come from any of them!

But it is something I’m going to have work on, so what are my options?

Online Dating

I’m not sure what it is, but online dating seems to inspire a particular type of self-loathing.I can’t quite put my finger on whether it’s the “window-shopping” aspect of it, the mechanics of how most sites work, the fairly small cross-section of local + interesting + looking for someone that sounds-vaguely-like-you, or something else. Then there’s the stress/anxiety of moving from chatting online to actually meeting in person…

I’ve tried online dating a couple of times. Each time it’s ended with me deleting my profiles. The most recent attempt was only a month or so ago, thinking it would help me get over the break-up with Sarah. It didn’t. First, I had one date which was a disaster. That nearly put me off completely. Then I actually got to the point of having two arranged dates before I had a freak-out and wiped myself completely from all the sites I had joined and skipped the meet-ups.

Yes, I’m quite aware I have “issues,” thank you.

Bar-Hopping

This is actually where I had been most successful, immediately after the separation. It’s how I met Sarah, in fact. Back then I had no problem heading out for some drinks on a Friday or Saturday night by myself. For some reason I don’t seem to have that now. It might’ve been because I’m sure when I looked around in the last place I was out to, I was a good 10-12 years older than most of the other patrons.

Why by myself? Well the number of friends I have available to go out on any given weekend (especially without weeks of advance notice) is scarily close to zero. Sucks to be the single guy in his 30′s when everyone around you is settled down!

That would just leave work social occasions, but less face it, we’re all a little bit more reserved at an event related to work. Speaking of work…

Work/Colleagues

No. Just no. I’ve never seen any good come of it. No.