New things

Like most people, when new things come out I am immediately attracted to them, in the IT community you can often push this a little further and grab at things before they are ‘new’. I first started using gmail and windows 7 when they were both early on in their beta and was impressed with what I found, the same might be said for wordpress 3, it seems to improve on 2.9, in much the same way 7 improved upon Vista. I’m also looking forward to trying out the new Ubuntu 10.04, which I would expect to be even more impressive.

While personally I’m not a strong believer of linux on the desktop environment, I prefer it on my server and in my devices, I just don’t find it as useful on the desktop. It will however be interesting to see how well it fairs at work, when I install it on a currently unused server.

I won’t however be upgrading my server from 8.04 quite yet, I did a little trial run on a copy and found it to break quite a few things in the upgrade. I will probably be waiting ’til Virtualmin GPL officially supports 10.04, and then use the import/export tool to move users over to a fresh 10.04 install.

I also finally got around to picking up a new computer chair, my old one was doing no favours to my back or posture. Office images following. Continue reading

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For quite some time now I’ve been working on an IRC gamebot called iDM. Just thought I’d detail some of the project info for archival purposes.

The concept:
Quite often on IRC you will find large swathes of channels with very little actually going on. iDM’s purpose is to add a simple ‘verses’ game to these chat channels as a diversion, something to do to fill the lull in conversation or to pose as a standalone distraction that needs no further resources for anyone already on the IRC network.

The audience:
iDM is mainly aimed at people who are already on a certain chat network. The network mostly caters for teenagers and young adults playing online RPG’s who are also sitting on the network as a means of communicating with other players. Quite often gameplay can get repetitive or slow and further distractions would be useful. The game is designed with a specific game as inspiration in the hope that it means players wont actually need to learn anything to play.

The technology
As of today the game exists in a few components. Firstly there is the original chat client platform. The first version of the game was designed as a mIRC script, that is a script running on a chat client scripting platform. mIRC scripts are designed to automate processes for people using it as their chat platform. In this situation it means the bot has a fully working GUI which can be used to monitor spam and perform manual tasks which would otherwise need coded. I would prefer to move away from this platform due to overhead.
The next layer is sBNC. This BNC software allows the owner to load TCL scripts upon the BNC and upon BNC connections. In this case the BNC is used to handle many issues, mostly to do with multiple heads. The IRC network has certain limits which for example prevent users from producing large amounts of text. Using the BNC I can script a load balancer and extra heads which divide the traffic over multiple connections.
The next visible layer is the website. The more complex user management tasks, for both admins and users have been moved to a PHP website. The website allows staff to pull up all sorts of user and channel information, and also contains management tasks such as ban appeals. Other tasks of the website include displaying highscore tables and help docs.
The final layer of the project is the database. Almost everything relating to iDM has now been moved to the database. This is true to the point that even attacks and functions can be maintained from the database without having to edit a line of code.

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The danger is in real life.

Today while reading articles hidden deep in Google reader when I should have been polishing my CV or doing something more productive, I came across the girl who cried webmaster. The difference with this story is ‘the danger came from real life and salvation came from the online world‘. I stumbled upon the link within a coding horror article, and was pleasantly surprised, I generally don’t bother to follow those sorts of anecdotal links.

Entering the fiction world for a few moments, one of my favourite authors passed away just a few days ago. David Eddings wrote some brilliant fiction, including my favourite trilogy ‘The Elenium’ (the following trilogy tagging along shortly after). The Elenium follows Sparhawk and Aphrael two of my favourite characters exploits in a interesting world where some gods take a bigger role in peoples lives.

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Words referencing system

No doubt by now anyone in further education has come across the latest version of Microsoft’s word processor. The new ribbon layout has managed to confuse students to the point of reverting to previous versions. It isn’t however a step back. The new ribbon (after a little practice and adjustment to thinking) is actually easier to use, although it requires you to relearn where all the tools and buttons are.
One of the nice features of the ribbon is the easy access to the citing tool. It allows you to add sources and add citations to text easily, and can even produce a nice little bibliography at the end for you, taking away much of the work needed balancing references.
One of the down sides to this update is that there is only so many formats included with word, and my university uses a style that isn’t included. I quickly found the folder where word stores it’s reference styles, and used a little Google-fu to find a nice little site. This site has a nice selection of extra styles which include quite a few Harvard referencing styles. Although one problem is that word doesn’t fully support all the features of this style and a little ‘hack’ is needed (running a tool over the document after its finished). Other styles have been achieved with just the xml.

For people with a bit more XML know-how they could try creating their own with one of the tools on the site above or just editing an existing style in [Program Files]/Microsoft Office/Office12/BibliographyStyle/

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Living conditions

If you’ve been paying attention in #kh (on swiftirc) or other channels you might share with me, you’re probably aware that for the most part of the year I live in student accommodation. While I’m living at university all of my belongings in the family home get put inside a cupboard in what was my old room. The room now is occupied by my brother, and as such when I return although most the time we arrange to have him sleep in the old bedroom, the fact it no longer is my room is something of a hindrance. There is a smaller box room where my brother used to sleep but its not big enough to accommodate a computer or even the belongings I bring back with me.

A few people I’ve discussed this with offered suggestions and a few didn’t believe what I said about the box room so I took a few images.

Another thing I mentioned lately was my ‘suitcase’ of books, and since the topic of books came up a bit lately I decided to find my copies of Artemis Fowl. Since I had the suitcase unpacked I thought I might as well snap a few images off at the same time. I’m chucking in a freebie of my desk in the other room.
Continue reading

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Mozy Back

There is a post on lifehacker at the moment about different online backup services, and the leader in the polls seems to be mozy back. I’ve been using mozy back for a few years now, and for the most part there have been no problems what-so-ever. Having a look at the write ups on mozy and the lack of a mention on the referral codes seemed begging for me to leave a post.

Firstly why would anyone need to backup online? that should be the first question. There are a few reasons, first if you loose the data in the first place chances are something has gone badly wrong, that could include things like natural disasters, fires and theft. If the data is gone from your computer the hard copies you made on CD could also be gone. The next reason is someone similar, apart from being used as a backup, you can also access backed up data elsewhere. If you don’t have access to your computer for an extended period and need some data you can use the online service to download the data. Finally I’d say its easy. There is no burning CD’s or manually checking which files need backed up, the software will manage it for you.

The free version of mozy will let you backup up to 2gb of data (2.2 if you use a referral). The software scans your computer for files to backup, and using a quite simple interface you can select what you want using default file types and locations like “backup office documents”. You can also mark full folders/files/extensions to backup including future files. It is pretty much a setup and forget ordeal, might take half an hour, but you might never need to touch the software again.

I currently use it to back up two PC’s (under one account) and it does so with very little maintenance, a few times I’ve edited the rules to include/exclude files and folders but it was mainly out of choice.

Oh one final note, it uses an incremental backup system, it only backs up that which has changed since the last backup, so there’s no need to upload over a gb of data a couple of days a week, you instead will find it backing up odd mb when you’ve gone off and left your pc idle for a while.

If you want to get started I’d suggest visiting… If you struggle to find the free sign up, at the time of writing it’s centre bottom of the page linked. There is no need to sign up for the larger account unless your a business or intend to use it to back up a decent chunk of data.

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