The Setup

With apologies to the real “The Setup.

I posted my new desktop yesterday, and figured, in the spirit of sharing, it would be a good idea to write down how it’s setup. As much for myself (if I ever need to rebuild) as for anyone else.

This setup could be good for anyone running on an old/low power machine. I’ve gone for an “as light as possible” system, while still being functional and nice to use.

As I mentioned, I’m running Arch Linux, so packages are the Arch versions. Where I can, I’m linking to any Arch Wiki pages rather than the package themselves, as if you run Arch, you owe it to yourself to read the awesome wiki. You should be able to find most for the version of Linux you’re running.


The majority of these can be installed using pacman, the Arch package tool. Some of these are in the AUR though, so you should use an AUR helper to install them.


I've put my main UI-related configuration files on GitHub. Below are some direct links to the main files, and any applicable notes.

  • Openbox - rc.xml, autostart, menu-icons.xml
  • compton.conf - this one does contain a setting very specific to my laptop, as it works off screen-resolution. I've set shadow-exclude to exclude any maximised window, so the shadows don't overlap the panels at the top and bottom of my screen. You can adjust this to suit your screen resolution by following the comments in the file.
  • Tint2 - tint2rc
  • Conky - .conkyrc
  • Xorg - .xinitrc, .Xresources


My rc.xml contains quite a few key-bindings, so I can access common commands/applications without using the menu. For example, my web browser is on Super-W (Super == "super" key, aka the Windows key on most keyboards), taking a screenshot of a region of the screen is Super-Shift-F42, etc. I even have some nice features such as "Aero Snap" to the sides of the screen. Take a look at the keyboard section of the file to see them all.

Other Applications

On top of the foundation I'm running a few extra applications to complete my desktop experience.

  • Nitrogen - managing desktop wallpaper. Currently set to [this one][wall].
  • PcMan File Manager - file browser
  • Xarchiver - Handling zip files, etc. I initially used File-Roller, but it looked terrible.
  • Viewnior - image viewer
  • Evince - Document viewer (PDFs, etc)
  • Scrot - taking screenshots
  • Chromium - Web browser. I've set it to use the system GTK theme, rather than its' own UI style. I'm half-heartedly looking for something lighter, but I like my Google account sync (in absence of a nicer/easier cross-platform password sync + auto-fill), and a few of the extensions I'm running. However, feel free to recommend a lightweight alternative in the comments.
  • Terminator - Terminal, though I might change this once I get (finally) accustomed to screen or tmux.

Fonts with Infiniality

Out-of-the-box font rendering on Linux can be pretty poor (though it is a million times better than it used to be), but it's possible to make it pretty darn good by installing an optimised set of libraries known as the Infiniality Bundle. The instructions can be found on this Arch Wiki page. Once installed as per those instructions, I installed the optimised versions of Source Code Pro using the command pacman -S ttf-source-code-pro-ibx.

  1. Yes, there are lighter Window Managers, such as Awesome, but I've yet to find one which I like as much as Openbox. 
  2. In honour of Cmd-Shift-F4 in OSX. 
About these ads

Desktop 2014-04-23

Desktop - Terminal

When I moved to my new place, I had to leave behind my old computer. While I’ve written before about having an iPad as my only computer, I found myself needing to work on a lot of small development work in my spare time recently, which is one area where having a laptop was more efficient.

Not having the funds for a shiny, new Macbook, I had to find a way to make do… In the end I recycled an 8-year old, broken Dell Latitude D620 I found in a cupboard. I replaced the old hard disk drive with the SSD from the desktop I had resurrected when staying at my parent’s. After trying out a couple of different Linux distro’s I settled on my old favourite of Arch Linux, which I’ve tried to keep as light as possible to prevent over-taxing the mighty 1.6GHz Centrino Duo processor and 2GB of RAM. The results are in the screenshot above. It’s not a fancy machine, and it can’t be away from a power source for more than an hour, but it gets the job done.

Also worth mentioning is that I updated the look of this blog today, into something a little more content-centric. The header image is one of my favourite from my trip to San Francisco in November. Gratuitous screenshot of my desktop + blog below!

Desktop - with Browser + Blog

Accessing the WWE Network from the UK

The Why

I’m a “part-time” WWE fan. I dip in and out of the “universe” every few years as the mood takes me. Every so often I’ll catch the bug big time, watch a bunch of shows, then my interest will fade again. When I moved into my new place I spent the first couple of nights watching a bunch of WWE-related documentaries I found on Netflix, which kindled my current interest. On top of that, my son has recently started to get into WWE as well.

Plus it was time for WrestleMania 30. So naturally I wanted to watch the spectacle.

When I moved, I “cut the cable”; I have no TV service at all – no terrestrial TV (so don’t pay for a TV license), no Freeview, Cable, or Sky TV. I watch everything online, primarily through Netflix, YouTube, or BBC iPlayer. None of these services could let me watch WrestleMania, so something else was needed. A quick look at revealed I could stream it from their website for $59.99 (approx £37). Call me cheap, but for one Pay Per View that was not good value for money, even if it was for the “show of shows.” Then I remembered the WWE had recently launched their own streaming service, WWE Network. 24/7 streaming of WWE shows + Pay Per Views, for $9.99 a month. Even with a minimum 6 month subscription, it worked out the same price for the “all you can eat” channel as it did for the single WrestleMania stream. Done. Sold. Sign me up.

One problem – WWE Network is US-only for now. But with the right tools, this is not an insurmountable problem, though it is a little finicky to setup at first.

The How

What You’ll Need:

  1. A Account.
  2. A PayPal Account (with linked credit/debit card).
  3. An Account.
  4. A Device to Watch WWE Network on. I used an Apple TV.


Unblock-Us is the secret sauce which makes the whole process work; without it, won’t even let you sign up for WWE Network, let alone watch anything. The service costs, but it’s cheap (<£3 per month), and lets you access other services such as the US Netflix, or watch region-restricted videos on YouTube. I’ve been a happy paying customer for almost 2 years now.

Sign up for Unblock-Us, then use their set-up instructions for the device you want to watch the WWE Network on. You can set-up your router instead, but I prefer a per-device setup for maximum flexibility.

For the moment, you’ll also want to set your computer/laptop to use Unblock-Us, while we do the next step: Network

Sign Up for a account. During registration, set your country to the US. Once your account is created, if you’re set up with Unblock-Us, you can click the option in your profile to subscribe to WWE Network – if Unblock-Us isn’t working, you’ll end up in an endless redirect loop.

During the WWE Network sign-up, you’ll need to supply a billing address. This needs to be a valid US address, including zip code. You can use anything, such as the address of your favourite US-based company… For the payment option, I recommend using PayPal.


You might be able to get away with not using PayPal, but I used it to avoid entering a non-UK billing address for my credit card (which would risk it being declined). doesn’t validate the billing address of your PayPal account when you use it as a payment method for WWE Network. As a result, you can have a different billing address on than you do in PayPal. This lets you complete the sign-up process – thinks you’re paying from within the US, as those are the details you give them, but PayPal bills you with your correct information.

Once done, you should redirect back to and see a “success” message telling you you’re now a subscriber to WWE Network


You have a few options for watching on a big screen: there are WWE Network apps for most devices, though most of them require a US-billing address to access (certainly the PS3 one does). These are more hassle to work around than I was prepared to handle, so I haven’t tried yet. The easiest method I found was using an Apple TV.

Assuming you’ve setup the Apple TV to use Unblock-Us, the next bit should be easy. In the Apple TV Settings > General menu you have the option to change your iTunes Store. Set this to United States. You’ll be logged out of any UK iTMS account you have on your aTV, but it’s OK, as you a) don’t need it to watch WWE Network, and b) can easily sign back in from the same menu.

Returning to the home screen at this point will give you a lot more icons than normal – one of which is the WWE Network app. Selecting it will ask you to login or subscribe through iTunes. You want to login with your account from earlier. After thinking about it for a few moments, WWE Network should load up and you can start watching the library of content!

Another option, again using an aTV, is to configure an iOS device to use Unblock-Us through your home WiFi, install the WWE app from the App Store, then use AirPlay to stream it to your TV.

2014-04-07 00.04.35


The only real issue I’ve come across is that sometimes (every couple of weeks or so), loading videos on WWE Network will give you an error. This usually means your broadband IP address has changed and you need to let Unblock-Us know. Simply visit from another device on your network (it doesn’t need to be configured to use Unblock-Us), login, and click the message you’ll see about activating your new IP address. Try your video again, and it should work.

Changing the DNS on a (PlusNet) Technicolor TG582n FTTC Router

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= label=None metric=4 intf=Internet
# Add the secondary as above
dns server forward dnsset add set=0 dns= label=None metric=4 intf=Internet
# Save our changes

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.

RIP Winamp

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.


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.


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.

Setting Up Chef

I just finished setting up Chef, to have a play around with this DevOps stuff I keep hearing about. While Chef is quite well documented, I found myself struggling in places where things weren’t quite clear enough. So naturally, I’m posting how I got myself up and running.

[Note: I haven't actually done anything with this setup yet, other than get it working.]

Step One: Get A Server

There are 2 parts to a Chef install: client and server. You can run them all on one machine, but given how much Chef slows down my Joyent VM, I’d suggest keeping it off of your day-to-day workstation.

I used my Joyent credit to setup a new Ubuntu 12.04 64-bit server. Chef server only supports Ubuntu or RedHat/CentOS 64-bit. Once the server was provisioned, I followed this 5-minute guide to lockdown the server enough for my needs (this being just an experiment and all…)

Step Two: Set the Server FQDN

Once the server is prepared, make sure it has a resolvable, fully qualified domain name before going any further. While the Chef docs make mention of this, they do so after the rest of the setup instructions. This was one area I was banging my head against for ages, wondering why the built-in NginX server wasn’t working.

Setting the hostname on my Joyent VM was a case of running:

    $ sudo hostname ''
    $ echo "" | sudo tee /etc/hostname

As I wasn't on the same network as my Chef server, I added a DNS A record to match the server FQDN.

Step Three: Install Chef Server

This bit was really easy, probably the easiest part of the whole setup. In short: download the latest Chef Server package for your platform, install the package, run the reconfigure tool. In my case, this was:

    $ wget
    $ sudo dpkg -i chef-server_11.0.10-1.ubuntu.12.04_amd64.deb
    $ sudo chef-server-ctl reconfigure

The Chef installer will whirr away, using Chef to setup your new installation automatically. How cool is that?

Step Four: Copy Server Certificates to Your Workstation

This wasn't mentioned anywhere I could see, but I figured it out from some snippets written around the web. To successfully setup the Chef client, you need some security certificates from your new server. I used SCP from my local PC:

    $ scp ~/tmp/
    $ scp ~/tmp/

If you find you don't have permission to copy directly from their default location, SSH to the server and sudo copy them to somewhere you can.

Step Five: Install the Chef Client

Now we should be armed with everything we need to install the client tools. I'm using the Debian-derived Crunchbang, but any *NIX-based OS should be roughly the same as below. If you're on Windows, I'm afraid you're on your own.

Run the "Omniinstaller" for Chef:

    $ curl -L | sudo bash

Create a .chef folder in your home directory, and add the certificates copied from the server

    $ mkdir ~/.chef
    $ cp ~/tmp/*.pem ~/.chef

Configure Knife (the main Chef CLI utility):

    $ knife configure --initial
    WARNING: No knife configuration file found
    Where should I put the config file? [/home/chris/.chef/knife.rb] /home/chris/.chef/knife.rb
    Please enter the chef server URL: [https://localhost:443]
    Please enter a name for the new user: [chris]
    Please enter the existing admin name: [admin]
    Please enter the location of the existing admin's private key: [/etc/chef-server/admin.pem] /home/chris/.chef/admin.pem
    Please enter the validation clientname: [chef-validator]
    Please enter the location of the validation key: [/etc/chef-server/chef-validator.pem] /home/chris/.chef/chef-validator.pem
    Please enter the path to a chef repository (or leave blank):
    Creating initial API user...
    Please enter a password for the new user:
    Created user[chris]
    Configuration file written to /home/chris/.chef/knife.rb

Test Knife by listing all users:

    $ knife user list

Wrap Up

That's it! You now have a working Chef installation. Or at least, I do. Steps two and four are the steps I had to hunt out and piece together myself to get Chef up and running. Everything else is more or less as documented.

All that's left to do now is figure out how to use Chef!

Sunrise over San Francisco, and a Walk Along the Pier

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.

Hola San Francisco!

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! finally supports MarkDown natively! 

Games Workshop Trade Terms Force Beasts of War and Wayland Games to End Partnership

Source: Important Announcement (GW Coverage) – Beasts of War.

In June of this year, GW published a new set of trade terms that their trade customers must adhere too, in these terms was a clause that effectively meant that, Wayland Games would have been punished for any advance reporting of any GW release by Beasts of War Ltd (Article 9.4) despite Wayland Games not providing any such information to Beasts of War, and despite both companies being separate.

As a result we feel there is no option but to abide by terms set out by GW.

I’m as much a GW fanboy as the next guy, and I try to give them the benefit of the doubt in many of the questionable moves they’ve made over the last couple of years, despite how they treat the wider community.

But this is really a dick move as far as I’m concerned.

I’ll hopefully manage to post a more in depth entry about this later, but I’m super busy with work at the moment, so for now I just wanted to get this out there.

In the meantime, if you want to support Beasts of War, please consider buying a Backstage Pass.