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Sunday, March 17th, 2013
10:41 pm - Using Raspberry Pi to host an alternative to Google Reader
I'll leave the wailing about the demise of Google Reader for the wild early morning hours where there are tears and a keening liable to wake the neighbors  But to be positive I thought I would find an alternative and quite a few of the pre-canned solutions on the cloud don't really seem that great. The best I could find was http://netvibes.com which provides widgets but also a Reader style interface at a push of a button.

The alternative I thought might be interesting to try is to use a Raspberry Pi running Raspbian Linux with Lighttp, PHP and MySQL providing the back end to an application called Tiny Tiny RSS (TT-RSS). It has a web interface but there is also a basic Android app that can connect using the API as well.

Build Raspbian
I found a 4GB SD card wasn't large enough and I'm now running on an 8GB SD card (Raspbian kept failing install before I could actually check the disk usage but a new card did the trick).

Raspbian was pretty easy as you just copy the appropriate files onto the SD card and boot it in the RaPi. It does a network install so you need the network up and DHCP running on the LAN. http://www.raspbian.org/RaspbianInstaller gives a quick walk through.

Install Underlying Software
You'll need MySQL installed (apt-get install mysql-server). Once done you'll need a new user (ttrss but what you like) and a new database (ttrss but again call it what you like).

I don't know a lot about Lighttpd, I used it because it's less intensive than Apache (which was the alternative) and using new software is always good for learning something new.

PHP5 is pretty easy to install (apt-get PHP5) but you'll also need PHP5-mysql, PHP5-cgi, PHP5-cli.

Lighttpd calls modules listed in /etc/lighttpd/conf-enabled and I ended up enabling 10-accesslog.conf 10-cgi.conf 15-fastcgi-php.conf and a version of 10-simple-vhost.conf (which was amended to allow me to define DNS for the server and deliver traffic directly to the approriate directory). All of this is in the Lighttd install instructions (http://www.lighttpd.net/ was less useful) http://redmine.lighttpd.net/projects/1/wiki/TutorialLighttpdAndPHP did prove useful.

Installing tt-rss was easy, it's documented well on their website (http://tt-rss.org/redmine/projects/tt-rss/wiki) and just involved unpacking tt-rss into a directory in the web root. I renamed it from TinyTinyRSS-x.x.x to tt-rss in /var/www. Once that's done you need to copy config.php-dist to config.php and enter your DB user/pass and database name etc. This is all documented here: http://tt-rss.org/redmine/projects/tt-rss/wiki/InstallationNotes . You also need to create the MySQL database scheme using the script in /var/www/tt-rss/schema/ttrss_schema_mysql.sql. (This is done with 'mysql -u ttrss -p ttrss < /var/www/tt-rss/schema/ttrss_schema_mysql.sql' and then giving the password.)

At this point you should, if you restart the lighttpd server and everything it working you should be told to chmod a few files if you browse to http://yourserver/tt-rss. Once that's done you should be able to log in as admin/password (and immediately change the password).

Try it out
At this point you probably want to add a couple of test RSS feeds so you can tell if it's working, although I actually just imported all my RSS feeds and hoped for the best. I was lucky.

Get the Feeds Updating Automatically
The bit I found harder was the daemon to update the subscriptions. The documentation in tt-rss is here http://tt-rss.org/redmine/projects/tt-rss/wiki/UpdatingFeeds. Basically you cannot run the update daemon as root so I ended up using a very basic shell script while I try and work out the correct way to do this.

su - www-data -c 'nohup /usr/bin/php /var/www/tt-rss/update_daemon2.php&'

It used to be much easier to write start / stop scripts in debian but I haven't caught up with the start-stop-daemon yet.

Import Google Reader Subscriptions
I managed to export my Google Reader subscriptions easily (I can't find the documentation I used but it was easy). It produces a OPML file that can then be imported into tt-rss using Actions/Preferences/Feeds/OPML and selected the exported file.

Post installation followup activity
I only got this running this evening so I will have to hope the disk doesn't fill up, the RaPi doesn't over heat and set fire to the curtains and that PHP isn't quite as vulnerable as it used to be.

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Wednesday, February 27th, 2013
5:14 pm - Reviewing media online
Bear with me I'm just knocking about an idea.

This afternoon I was listening to a (now oscar winning) director talking about the changes that have taken place in terms of the production and distribution of film / video content. It occurs to me that this follows a similar issue with self publishing for novelists. While there are great online tools for viewing content, video or text, finding quality content is not easy for consumers, as demonstrated by the issues with the YouTube comment and rating system which could never be used to find quality content in your field of interest.
Perhaps rather than review sites, where individuals are able to submit pages and pages of verbage giving their opinions at length (much like this journal entry), what we need is an index of curators who would submit their views in Twitter identified by tags and including a URL. The advantage of Twitter has always been that you are stuck with 140 characters, less if you need a tag to identify a reviewing scheme, and perhaps other tags categorizing the content.
The advantage of the scheme would be that the index of reviewers would be very light, and that once a reader had selected the team curating reviews they would just be able to coral them in Twitter and potentially limit which reviews they see using search terms.

@bluebus Bladerunner Blues Great music. 10/10 #busreview #SF #music #vangelis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RScZrvTebeA

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Sunday, October 23rd, 2011
4:12 pm - Martin Stewart: Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

I spent a great day at Bletchley Park yesterday. We were for about 6 hours and I don't think we saw half of it. The grounds are beautiful on a nice day, there are lots of trees around the Mansion House and the huts in the grounds. We didn't do the tour, but I've done it maybe four or five times before and it's really worth spending some time hearing more about the war time history of the place. Visiting Hut 8 where Alan Turing worked is poignant, it is one of the few huts that has been restored and looking at the other huts the Trust really could do with the money to get work started.
I spent too long looking at the ICL 2966 in the National Museum of Computing and waffling on at some poor volunteer about my memories of operating one back in the mid eighties. They have it running and without aircond or running disk drives that's quite an achievement.
I got some great photographs of the lake and buildings but we didn't go to see the model railway, the enigma exhibition, we didn't even go into the mansion house (although we did go into the cafe twice). Bletchley Park was instrumental in saving so many lives during World War 2 and the use of Colossus in cracking Lorenz is so important in computing history. The museum must be one of the most important sites in this country in terms of computing and how it can be used.

Bletchley have been offered a grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund but only on condition that they raise £1.7 million themselves. The website for more information about that is here:


You can see my photographs of the site here:


Published by Martin Stewart on 500px

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Wednesday, October 12th, 2011
2:37 pm - Martin Stewrat: Setting off with 500px

Setting off with 500px

After reading about it in PCPro I thought I would give 500px a try as it is being touted as an alternative to flickr. It's been very easy to get started and I already have an account with an avatar uploaded and a couple of photographs.

I have noticed a lot of content marked as premium which is fine as the service looks to be fairly cheap. I will be interested to see what interaction I can have with the site from Android however.

I have noticed that EXIF type information isn't appearing along with my photographs and I was a little worried about the 30Meg upload limit / image. Perhaps it's superior formatting would make it a good place to exhibit photographs I am particularly proud of.

The blogging facility is an interesting development and I'll be trying it again.

Have fun.


Published by Martin Stewrat on 500px

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Thursday, October 1st, 2009
2:57 pm - New phone remorse
I bought a shiny new Samsung Galaxy I7500 from O2 recently. And despite it being a lovely phone I think I'm going to have to return it.

It's an Android phone that I have enjoyed using but while I am able to return it I am going to have to take it back as I have had some problems and there is no guarantee of a fix being issued.

For a start it has been resetting itself randomly at least once per day which means at some point the phone will need new firmware to fix the problem.

The worst issue is that the supplied PC software that allows you to flash the firmware and to backup the phone recognises the phone but then says that the device is "unsupported" and will not  function at all. This surprised me as any rudimentary testing at all would have picked this up.

I have phoned O2 twice and gotten little joy and was referred to the O2 shop I bought the phone from. Eventually I spoke to someone from the returns department who suggested I  contact Samsung.

So usnig the number they gave me I phoned Samsung who quite readily admitted that the software they were sending out with the Samsung Galaxy didn't work and could offer me no fix.

Since there are no end of reviews of this phone I am surprised that this issue was never uncovered and shows how superficial many reviews can be.

Hopefully O2 will cancel the contract and I'll have to go back to searching for a new device again with a week of time wasted trying to get the Galaxy sorted.

current mood: annoyed

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Tuesday, March 18th, 2008
12:46 pm - Keeping up with NASA
I've been having difficulty keeping up with what is going on with the ISS and Space Shuttle missions as the times given by NASA tend to be regional times for use by the US domestic audience. Dave Lermit came up with a tip which I've found very useful, which is to use the NASA PDF of the mission schedule found here: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/mission_schedule.html.

The schedule lists activity on the ISS and Shuttle Missions in GMT which is very handy if you're trying to keep on top of what is going on up there.

We also suggest SomaFM for listening to while viewing the great footage they are broadcasting of the earth spinning slowly in the background behind the ISS.

current mood: thoughtful

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Friday, March 7th, 2008
5:14 pm - Converting a spare PC to a NAS
After virtualizing some of my applications at home using Xen I have found myself with a free machine and I thought making that box into a rough and ready filer might prove useful. After discovering that IDE really does appear to be on it's way out (1Tb disks aren't available in IDE flavour) I ordered a PCI 4 port SATA card and a 750Gb disk. 500Gb is probably the sweet spot but if you're limited in terms of how many disks you can fit into a machine bigger is probably better.

The first software I tried was OpenFiler. It was easy to install and has a good web interface for configuring disks and sharing partitions. Only there is one problem. Despite having facilities like snapshotting and LVM it doesn't allow for local users to be set up. So if you're planning on running in a domestic environment you're going to need LDAP, NIS or Active Directories set up to allow you to authenticate to mount shared partitions. It was a real shame to have to give up on as it looked like well featured software.

Freshmeat (http://freshmeat.net) lead me to FreeNAS, a FreeBSD based live CD that can either be installed on HDD or run from CD, writing config information onto a USB stick or floppy. While being less fully featured than OpenFiler it supported NFS, SMB and appeared to have local user authentication (although I'm not convinced that was working and the documentation seemed to back that up). FreeNAS allowed media on the machine to be played on UPnP devices, allowed backups using Rsyncd and was very easy to use from the web interface. However I ran into a problem. One of my disks (which appeared fine under OpenFiler, Debian and Ubuntu) just didn't show up at all. Also there was not journalled file system such as EXT3 or ReiserFS available, I'm not familiar with FreeBSD and don't know if this is a "feature" of the underlieing operating system or not but in the event of a power failure I could see the prospect of waiting nervously for a file system check to complete..

After striking out twice I'm still looking around, I can see myself having to install Debian and configuring up SMB or NFS manually. Its such a shame not to be able to use either of these two distributions, I'll be keeping an eye on them to see if any of the issues I experienced are resolved. If anyone knows of other ways to do this let me know.

current mood: blank

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Monday, March 3rd, 2008
8:30 pm - From Russia
I took the day off specifically to go and see the From Russia exhibition at the Royal Academy. I'm really glad I braved the crowds, on spec as the online booking was sold out for months in advance. The queue moved quickly but inside it was as crowded as any exhibition I've ever been to.

Some how once you've fought your way to the art the crowds and noise just fade into the background, distracted by the amazing art from Russia, or great Russian collections.

I love the painting of Tolstoy barefoot, Gaugin with his beautiful colours, Alexander Golovin's picture of an opera singer playing Boris Godunov in gold robes and holding out a staff. I saw the Tatlin tower while at the state art gallery in Moscow and it was odd so see this delicate model so far from it's home.

On occasions I wondered if well known, great artists were being exhibited next to equally talented Russian artists to contrast their skills and celebrity. On several occasions Picasso shown against other artists. I have never seen so much cubist art, including George Braque who I am already familiar with along side a number of other Russian artists.

If my house would fit it in, the one painting I'd have liked to take home was a cubist painting of Moscow by Aristarkh Lentulov in 1913, an artist I've not heard of previously. The exhibition catalog is to be recommended also for it's section of biographies of the russian artists. I hope we will see more of their art in the UK.

current mood: contemplative

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Friday, January 25th, 2008
12:02 am - Why I reverted back to OS2007 from OS2008 on my Nokia N800
I know a lot of hard work goes into a release of the OS for my N800 and I'm grateful that there is someone to do it because I not at the stage where I'm going to be able to do it. After a month or so of persisting with the issues I've had after upgrading to OS2008 on my Nokia N800 I finally snapped and reverted back to OS2007.

The final straw was not being able to sync my Nokia folding bluetooth keyboard with it. The N800 is a fantastic bit of kit and I must use mine daily for surfin, listening to old episodes of radio programs on Radio 7, chatting on MSN or IRC, but I do liek to have a bluetooth keyboard for any prolonged typing and under OS2008 I could not get mine to sync up, and after a fair bit of searching found a lot of people still had that problem outstanding.

After reverting back to OS2007 I realised there were a number of issues that had been bugging me, the N800 did run quicker on the older version of the OS.

I also found that switching off bluetooth, which I did often to save the battery, suddenly required opening the bluetooth settings to dissable rather than being able to do it directly from the desktop.

The RSS reader showed only four or five articles in the new version where I could see nine or ten headlines under OS2007.

The menu system in the new system used big chunky finger sized buttons, they looked great, but in the end I still needed to whip out a stylus and I think I prefer the original.

I found the applets floating around on the desktop could be moved accidentally when trying to select an RSS feed article or clicking on something else. One slip of the stylus and you're back into trying to tidy up your desktop again.

I'm not a naive user and I've even used Google a few times too but I didn't manage to find a way around the issues I've been having. So for now I'm going to stick with OS2007 and see how things look in a few months.

current mood: content

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Sunday, December 9th, 2007
7:14 pm - This week
This week Paul is doing electronics.

I'm trying to get some christmas shopping done and the cat isn't eating it's food.

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Saturday, November 24th, 2007
9:40 pm - Louise Bourgeois exhibition at the Tate Modern
I loved the enormous sculptures that filled the turbine hall shortly after the opening of the Tate Modern so I made a special trip down to see the Louise Bourgeois retrospective.

I would have missed the spider but there it is, this time outside, rather than up on the mezzinine floor. Inside the exhibiton was a hugely diverse collection of materials, carved marble, shining gold metal, sewn cloth, carved wood. I enjoyed the paintings of women houses and carved post groups representing people. Perhaps the most surprising were the phallic sculptures, finely carved in marble or cast in bronze, my favourite the two headed Janus which just has to be seen.

The installations, a series of cells had a solid, real feeling, lots to see and so much to think about, a series of huge old doors spiralling in to reveal various scenes. Like most exhibitions I go to there is normally one piece I'd like to take home. In this case a woman flying, carved in marble, arms outstretched her body an angular house, not even a foot long and would look great on my coffee table.

current mood: tired

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Saturday, November 17th, 2007
9:58 pm - Using GPRS on my Samsung U600 with my Nokia N800
I'm posting this really for the benefit of anyone else using the same combination of gadgets. It took me ages to find an entry in the Maemo wiki that refered to all the other Samsung phones and mentioned a quick fix to the options on the N800 ppp that allows the N800 to dial out onto the internet via gprs on the U600.

From the wiki:

DUN seems to be broken, PPP connection is failing. Power users can fixthis manually by adding receive-all flag. Add 'receive-all' to'/etc/ppp/options'. You may or may not want to disable PPP compr

To do this you need the dropbear ssh client and server, and also the xterm terminal client.

Install both and run xterm, ssh to localhost as root, password "rootme". Change the root password now.

Then edit /etc/ppp/options to add "receive-all". Reboot the N800 once this is done.

I found this fixed my Nokia N800, allowing it to work with the U600 which is really handy (although a bit slow over GPRS).

There are better descriptions of how to do this and it's probably something you should only do if you have a idea what you are doing.

Good luck,


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Tuesday, September 25th, 2007
3:28 pm - Lermit Day
This is going to come as a shock but on 24th September 2007 Dave Lermit got himself internet access. I propose that this day is forever known as Lermit day and all internet dates from now on be measured in days before or days after LD.

He's even on MSN.


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Sunday, August 26th, 2007
8:30 pm - Cornwall

Sunset Hoodie
Originally uploaded by bluebus.
I'm just back from a camping trip to Cornwall with some mates. There's something great about spending so many days living in a field in a tent. We stayed in a small campsite on Bodmin Moor with hot showers heated by solar power and long walks around the farm around iron age hut circles and views off the edge of the moor.
Somehow everything cooked while living outside tastes great although I know from my baked bean stew recipie that these meals don't often translate into dinner party food. I think it must be all the exercise that makes me so hungry that anything tastes great.
Cornwall is beautiful, I managed to visit Tintagel twice. While the village above the castle is tacky and primarily aimed at fleecing tourists the castle itself is still believable as the fortress of King Arther (although the books claim he had nothing to do with the place). Anyway I've put my photographs up on: http://gallery.polaris.org/main.php?g2_itemId=48417


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Sunday, July 15th, 2007
4:04 pm - Has Google stopped being useful?
Put in a search for a product you own into Google. Or even qualify it and try and get hold of some technical information about a product. Do you find page after page of useful infomation? While I assume the information is actually out there on the net I am finding more and more that all I get back are adverts and pages from people trying to sell me the product.

Take for example my Samsung U600 mobile phone. I'm trying to find out how to connect my Nokia N800 to the internet through it using GPRS. So I stick in a search:

"Samsung U600 GPRS bluetooth"

Of the first page of results 8 are adverts for a particular company trying to flog me a U600, two are "reviews" along with numerous links offering to get me a good deal on buying one. Has the commercial world removed the useful content from Google.

I remember the original Yahoo search engine, it didn't search through weighted spidered web content, it seached through indexed web pages that were included by people. Perhaps reviving that approach, or even letting a small core of moderators vote links up and down, might even help produce more useful search results. I'm pretty certain the marketting people who have rendered the various search engines usefuless would create a huge stink if Google decided to do something like that, but Google relies on their ad revenue.

Just like there is Open Source software, encyclopedia and CD information perhaps open source searching would produce something equally useful.

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Friday, July 6th, 2007
12:28 am - Alan Johnston release
It's been raining non stop for weeks, there's been flooding in the UK, India and Texas.Gordon Brown's inherited the post of prime minister and finally there's some good news. I was just setting off for a meeting in Sevenoaks when I heard Alan Johnston had been released and I'm really pleased for him.
I can't believe how much work he's done in the few hours since to thank people, the BBC news has had a story every day to keep his story in people's minds. I especially like his comments about getting rid of his "just kidnapped look". I hope he can get home soon and get some time off.

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Sunday, June 10th, 2007
5:01 pm - Getting Organised
I'm probably the most disorganised person on the planet, my house is a mess, I write copious notes at work which I find in random stacks and drawers. I have no idea where to find anything. Which is odd since I've been using PDA's since they were invented, I must have about four or five scattered around the house and none of them have really helped me to be more organised. OK I can find someone's address, and I know where I'm supposed to be on Monday but they really haven't helped me to keep all the things I'm in the middle of moving.

My latest attempt however is beginning to look like it works. I've been reading odd articles from www.lifehack.org and ocassionally they have a great tip for getting some small aspect of your life in hand. Well I realised that a great deal of lifehack appeared to be based on a technique called GTD, or Getting Things Done. It's basically a method of recording and organising your objectives to ensure that they aren't bouncing around your head. It sounds simple and I think if it was more complicated I wouldn't have time to actually implement it.

So I've got the book, "Gettig Things Done by David Allen" 0-14-200028-0 and I'll report back on how it goes.

current mood: relaxed

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Wednesday, January 17th, 2007
12:42 am - Getting my Nokia N800 to connect to O2
I have an O2 XDA Mini S which is a great little PDA, the keyboard isn't too bad either. But now I have a Nokia N800 I want to connect via bluetooth to GPRS via the O2 phone.

I finally managed it using the following page:


So I can now use gaim and Google Talk while out and about.

Gaim is great for connecting to ICQ, MSN, yahoo messenger and IRC.


current mood: cheerful

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Friday, January 12th, 2007
1:07 am - My New Nokia N800

My New Nokia N800
Originally uploaded by bluebus.
I've just received my N800 and I'm very pleased with it. They came out on Monday and mine is here already. It's an internet tablet, an upgrade from the Nokia 770. It's working really well with the WLAN at home and it's a great size for mobile browsing around the house.
I'd rather use graffiti than the basic handwriting recognition built in but there is a useable keyboard that pops up when you need it. The screen is great (the same as with the 770) and viewing photographs is great.
I've already tried streaming music to it and even using the built in stereo speakers it sounds good. I'll test out the headphones that came with it later.
It's so new there aren't any web sites or software downloads for it yet so I will have to wait. Or just set up a site myself which might be fun.
I've just got Google Talk working on it and I'll update you how I'm getting on.


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Monday, November 6th, 2006
1:28 am - Filming

Originally uploaded by bluebus.
I shot this on 5th November in Drury Lane and shortly after taking the picture I realised that the actor they were filming was Simon Pegg. I'm a big fan of Spaced and Shaun of The Dead so I thought I'd take a photograph of him. They were filming in a public street outside one of the theatres down there. As I was about to take a photograph I massive guy interposed himself between me and the "star" and walked over and said "You can't take photographs". Now I'm not into taking photographs of people who don't want it and I didn't cause a scene but some how an actor having security to prevent amateur photographers from getting a quick shot has left me somewhat disappointed.

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