Saturday, November 07, 2015

Yet another broadband rant!

So, Mr "Call Me Dave" Cameron announces that all UK homes will be able to request and get a minimum 10Mb/s broadband connection by 2020 - and it will be - in his words - "affordable".
Not exactly sure what affordable will be. I guess the ISPs will add a premium on for us poor rural types - even though I pay for "up to 17mb/s" now..... Of course, I don't get that - in fact, this morning, in a somewhat ironic way, I get this -

It has been pouring down here and that always affects the internet in the rural backwoods, but seriously? 

And does Dave really consider 10meg a decent guaranteed speed? Yes, its better than my usual speed and better than the 2meg we are all supposed to have had by now (do you see a pattern?  Promiser a faster speed, move the promised date forward then no need to deliver it ever! Just keep moving the date on!)
The problem with any increase in speed is that many websites simply add extra media and crap to their sites which need more speed and it becomes a vicious circle. I am from the era of 14.4k modems. Sites were just text - or, if really cool, they may have had a rather low quality picture. No videos etc. Media might have included a tinny looped tune but nothing much else.
Now, many sites expect you to sit through HD video before you can even use them....

As the connections improved, so the websites became more "featured". This always happens. Designers try to cram in every trick they know - to the detriment of those with slow internets. We are already punished - for example, the various streaming services are not available to us. Even the good old TV catchup services - which incidentally used to allow you to download them overnight so you could watch an episode of a programme - are unavailable because they just buffer and buffer until you give up.

Bored of the internet now. When we all had 56k dial up, everyone was on an even field.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ha Ha Fecking Ha!

"Average download speeds in the UK are still around 23 megabits per second (Mbps), so viewing SVOD on more than one device at the same time can lead to jerky, stuttering pictures, says Michael Underhill, an analyst at media consultancy Enders."

That hilarious quote is from the Beeb.

23 Meg? And that means jerky, stuttering pictures?

Try less than 1 megabit per second you clever arses!

Fuck You.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

All Pis in action!

All three of my Pis are currently up and running.

Following some issues with our stupid BT broadband, I have had no internet for a few days. This coming less than a couple of weeks since the last outage. Fortunately, this was fairly quickly (for BT anyway) resolved. Apparently, they were working on line faults and one of the engineers cut out line when installing another one....

So back to the Pis.

The blue Pi - which was my first Model B Pi - is currently up and running a fairly standard Raspbian install. By "fairly", I mean that I have removed stuff I personally don't use which has no bearing on the functionality of the Pi - so the programming Scratch tools and the Wolfram stuff. I don't use it, so no point in it being there.
The blue Pi is my "test" box. I like to try things out on it, so from time to time, it gets the SD card re-written from a stock image or from a backup. It runs headless, but I use VNC to see the GUI if I so wish on my main PC. It actually works quite well - and, just for fun, I also installed the VNC viewer on my Android tablet and I can use that as a touch screen interface for the Pi! Yep, it really works!

The clear Pi (and the blue and clear Pi's are named after their cases in case you were wondering!) is also a B and runs completely headless and is used as a simple server. Until recently, I ran lighttpd on it but, when the BT problems all occured, the SD card somehow went south and I had to spend quite some time trying to get the card to work again. It refused to allow me to use the wifi - or ethernet - which meant corruptions each time I wanted to edit the card...
Eventually, I had to reformat and re-install the system. Again, it is Raspbian, but this one is far more cut down. All x11 related graphical desktop stuff has been removed and I use SSh to work with this PI. At the moment, all it is doing is running a small database of my family tree, which runs in a program called geneweb. Geneweb runs a small server of its own, so I don't need to install a server for that. It is actually a pretty impressive program - I must write something on Linux genealogy programs soon. There are some really good ones.

The third Pi is one of the latest Pi 2 models. Quad core, twice the RAM of the Model B...
Originally, I had Raspbian on that and used it mostly for doing time lapse video with the Pi camera module. I did the processing on my computer though!
Currently, I have installed Ubuntu Mate on this Pi and, the odd niggle aside, it works quite well. It certainly looks lovely - especially compared to the LXDE of the standard Raspbian install! It even comes with LibreOffice installed - which, to be fair, runs quite well on the Pi!
Not sure if I shall keep it on the Pi or not, but for now, it is staying.

Only snag now is that I need another Pi 2 to stick the camera back on so I can do more time lapse and some stop animation!

Tonight, we have forecasts of thunder and lightning, so I suspect all Pi's will be off tonight to keep them safe.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Raspberry Pi and external USB drives

OK, for no other reason than I can, I wanted to add an external hard drive to my test Pi (I have three Pis - two of the older Model B and one of the latest version).

The test Pi is a Model B in a blue case (to identify it easily!). Originally, I considered moving the Root partition to the hard drive and just booting from the SD card as this is supposed to be quicker, however, I rarely reboot the Pi and to be honest, they don't take very long to get up and running anyway.

So the plan was to simply connect the USB HDD to the Pi and use the extra space for whatever my latest crazy idea may be. All the spare USB HDDs I have lying about are those ones which don't have their own power supply - i.e they are those "portable" type ones with two USB connectors which need to be plugged in to a USB source to get the power needed to run the things and to take the data to and from.

From my own experiments, some research and of course common sense, I knew that the Pi - with its two USB ports (one of which has the wifi adapter in it anyway) would not have sufficient power to run the drive - and that I would need a powered USB hub to do this.  Luckily, I happen to have two spare!

Armed with all the bits I needed - Pi and power supply, powered  hub and power supply, connections and the USB HDD - I connected it all together and fired things up.

Looking good - lights all on and I could ssh into the Pi.
However, nothing showing under the "dmesg" command to suggest the USB HDD was there.
Perhaps faulty kit? After swapping the powered hub for my other one, I repeated the command - still nothing.  Although the USB HDD worked when connected to my PC, maybe it was faulty? It was, after all, just an old SATA 2.5" drive from a laptop in a cheap caddy. So I swapped the HDD for a "proper" one - a Maxtor as it happens. This time, when I fired things up, I got a clicking noise from the drive whenever access was tried. As a techie, I know this means either the drive is failing (which was unlikely) or a lack of power.....

Surely I had checked all the kit - tried different powered hubs - and no luck. Then, as I was pulling it all apart, I just happened to pull out the powered USB hub power supply and casually looked at the power output. 1000mA. That doesn't sound a lot to me I thought. I know these external drives need a fair bit of power. This was the power supply from the more generic of the two hubs I have, so I dug out the other power supply - 2000mA, twice the power.

Using the more powerful power supply, I connected all back up and .... hurray!  Success!

Moral:  Be wary of using cheap, generic kit with the Pi. Yes, some works fine but these things are very low power and need all the help they can get to ensure stable running.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Raspberry Pi "UPS" experiment

My daughter recently bought one of those "power bar" things to charge her mobile whilst on holiday. As these are simply a rechargeable battery with some circuitry to avoid overcharging etc, they caught my eye as both an external power supply which would allow me to use the Pi outside without access to mains power and also, more intriguingly, as a form of UPS to keep the Pi running when there is a power cut (in much the same way that I use an EeePC as my weather server because it has a battery for these occasions.

Right, the first power bar she bought was an Anker Astro E1. Very pretty, small device which claims to supply 5v and 1A output. It has a capacity of 5200mAh, which is plenty to run a Pi and its ancillaries for a while!

A quick test and I ran my Pi, with wifi and a USB stick attached to take the images recorded by the Pi camera which was also attached.
I left it running for over three hours and all was fine. I am sure it would handle a bit more, but I didn't want to push things to start with.

When daughter returned from her holiday, having taken the Anker with her, she brought me a smaller power bar to play with for my very own! This one was from a very large store in the USA and carries the brand name Dynex. It is a model DX-1122 and supplies 5v and 1A output - although below that it gives 3.7v and 2200mAh. 3.7v sounds a bit iffy for a Pi, but having tested it with the Pi setup as above, it ran and completed a two hour imaging session without any problems.

So, onto the second part of my experiment!  I have read various reports that these power bars work as UPS devices - but also read that they don't!
Each has two plug holes - one for the little micro USB sockets for charging it and a standard USB socket which takes the lead to plug into your phone/Pi.
Theoretically, if I plug a lead from a power supply into the charging socket and also plug in the power out into my Pi, it will act as the UPS I am after....

No..  Neither of the power bars will work if both leads are plugged in. I have read this is the case with many of these devices. Not that I am terribly bothered (although a UPS would be nice) as I still have the power when outside functionality.

More research needed to see which ones get a mention as being able to fulfill this purpose.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Wine and *buntu

First of all, let me state here and now that I am not in any way knowledgeable about the way the Nvidia drivers and Wine interact - otherwise, rather than rambling, I would look into fixing/assisting to fix this. But I am in the dark pretty much here.

Installed Wine on my machine (running Xubuntu 14.04) a week or two ago - and it forces you to uninstall something called libOpenCl or Nvidia-opencl-something or other. As soon as I spotted that Wine intended to remove a library which was related to the graphics driver, I knew it was going to be a problem. And sure enough - the machine became unstable and I had to spend many hours fixing it.

Afterwards, I spotted this article from AskUbuntu which suggests a workaround (which I am installing as I type - but it is massive and my internet sucks).

The sad thing is that this workaround - assuming it works - has been online since April 2014 - well over a year!  Yet no fix has appeared in the *buntu repositories to deal with what must be a fairly regular issue (this article alone has had almost 34,000 hits!)

Quite surprised that a popular piece of software like Wine (and yes, I do note that the issue is more with the nvidia stuff than wine, but really...) isn't sorted more quickly than this!

Update:  Typically, this doesn't work with my old Nvidia card - I get dumped into a low res screen and have had to revert back. Ah well.  I guess I could spend hours more on this but I can't be bothered. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

TV Licensing - little Hitlers

Here at Kernowyon Towers, we don't have a TV. In fact, we haven't had one for a couple of years now (and only watched the thing once or twice a month when we did have one after the kids grew up.)

Apparently, even though I told TV Licensing about that (and oddly, they seemed to accept it and I had no nasty letters or snoopers turning up, which we had many years ago when we didn't have a TV....), the Licensing folks have to send you a letter every couple of years - just in case you really are watching TV! It seems that TV Licensing cannot believe that anyone can survive without their daily dose of whatever crap appears on the telly.
Why would I want to pay £145.50 (that is the current cost of a licence they tell me) to see Big Brother or TOWIE (which, incidentally I have no idea what it actually is - just that it gets a mention from time to time on websites etc)?

Anyway. so they sent me a letter. All very polite, asking me to just confirm again that I don't have a need for a licence because circumstances change in two years and I may now need a license or someone else may be living here.

Being the upright citizen that I am, I head over to their website. All very much trying to make you buy a licence, less easy to find the no licence bit.
Anyway, I find the relevant button and click. Next I come to a button about my address. Fine, I click that, but instead of asking about the address, it asks for my name - which I duly enter. I ignore the Email address box and the phone number box and click Next.... FAIL! You MUST enter a valid email address. Really? You intend to email me on a regular basis?  Well, sorry TV Licensing, but have you not realised that we can set up throwaway email addys? Idiots.

By that way, if you call them instead, the hard sell is even better!  "You are legally obliged to buy a licence ..... buy a licence you cheapskate commie scumbag...." Well, not quite, but pretty close.

Why should I spend my time responding to these idiots just because they believe most non licence holders are criminals. They are basically calling me a liar.
Yet they seem to have some legal get out clause so they can contact me each couple of years and make me waster my time answering a letter which I answered years before.

If - and it would be a huge if - I decide I cannot live without a TV, then I shall pay for a licence. Just the same as I pay for my car tax, my internet connection, my mobile phone contract etc etc.
Until then - please feel free to piss off TV Licensing.

Suppose they will arrive on my doorstep next. That is fine, the dog loves the exercise. Hope they are bloody good runners!