New Startup – Traversys

I once asked a friend who had ran a few businesses in his spare time how easy it was to start up a company. He told me it was very easy, cost as little as £10. I was a bit taken aback. I’d always wanted to start a business, and had a few ideas here and there, but I was held back by my thoughts and fears about all the costs, the legal mumbo jumbo and how to market.

For many years I’ve had ideas for solutions, integrations that I’ve developed for my employers (sometimes in my own time) in order to solve a specific problem I was having. I wasn’t asked to do it, I wasn’t sponsored to do it – I did it because I needed something. The problem is that once you build something for your employer – the intellectual property becomes theirs – despite the fact they never commissioned it (and in some cases they don’t even care).

The best I got for my contributions was sometimes a pat on the head, the worst, would be that it was completely ignored or not understood. I can’t say what’s more frustrating but what I can say is that I’m ready to end those frustrations.

Fast forward a few years, and I’ve decided to partner with a long-time friend and start Traversys.

From now on, the tools that I need are going to be built on our own time, with our own hardware, and with free license for us to use them in our employment. Crucially, the IP will be owned by Traversys – and in many cases will be Open Sourced.

My friend was right. Starting your company is actually very easy, but starting a company when your business partner lives overseas, and you intend to keep working the day job (which influences and funds your ideas) is not.

The chance of success is there, but more importantly this is about finding a place for our ideas to become tangible products, that others may find useful, and be prepared to pay for.

Mixing history, food and drink in London

If you enjoy discoverying little known historic locations and also places to eat and drink, Etain attempts to combine the two by creating a directory of London bars and restaurants where historic events took place.

I recently did some work for the owner of Etain using data taken from English Heritage and cross referencing it with Foursquares venue data.

Shall definitely be using this site next time I have to entertain friends in London!

Spooning with Pentaho Data Integrator

Pentaho Data Integrator is a neat open source, cross-platform tool for making light work of ETL. I have it set up on my Ubuntu laptop and can run it directly from the command line, or as part of a chron job.

However I found a couple of annoyances when running it from CLI, one was in having to keep a terminal window open, the other was having to run it from it’s install directory – particularly when it comes to relative path names for kettle jobs.

So I created an alias that runs PDI in an interactive shell allowing you to run it from one a word command, and it occurred to me that this might be useful to share. Here you go:

alias spoon='sh -c '\''cd /opt/pentaho/data-integration; ./spoon.sh&'\'''

 

New BMC ADDM tpl pattern writing as a service

I’ve noticed a small amount of demand recently from businesses seeking a specific technical requirement, such as some database integration. Normally they will shy away from hiring a consultant as the price for this small requirement is difficult to justify.

As a freelance senior certified ADDM consultant I’m offering one-off TPL pattern authoring for any of the following:

  • 1 Deep-dive database integration
  • 1 Application model – no additional discovery elements other than what is discovered OOTB.
  • 1 Fix or enhancment of an OOTB discovery pattern.

This is intended to be an express service with straightforward problem-solving where the problem is already identified.

If you have such a requirement and don’t need full professional services, please visit my profile at http://pph.me/wafitz and see details.

Copy Files to Pogoplug Without The Pogo Software (using scp)

I recently picked up a Pogoplug on sale from John Lewis and thought I’d give it a whirl with my media.

Although it is a neat little device, one of it’s biggest benefits is also it’s biggest flaw in terms of design – and that is how it requires you to sign into pogoplug.com and maintain an account there. It also requires you to mount the pogoplug with their software for transferring and viewing files, rather than acting as a NAS.

Whilst it’s nice to have easy access to media outside of home (without having to fiddle with setting up port forwarding on your firewall and whatnot) it’s a bit of a drag when you’re on your own network. I noticed a severe performance degradation copying media to my pogoplug device using pogoplugfs rather than through a standard means. So I learned that Pogoplug does appear to have a Busybox install and along with that SSH access. In order to enable SSH access, Cloud Engines have been gracious enough to allow this through your my.pogoplug.com portal. You simply go to Security options and enable SSH, and change the password. From there it’s just a simple,

ssh root@<pogoplugIpAddress>

The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be any support for sftp and therefore I couldn’t use ssh in a file manager. Thankfully however ssh provides scp protocol and from there it was just as short script in order to zap files across over local lan without worrying about signing in.

When you attach an external harddrive to the Pogoplug, your files will be installed in a directory similar to ‘/tmp/.cemnt/mnt_sda2/’ where ‘mnt_sda2’ will be the mount point of your media device.

Be aware this script utilises “expect”, but you could use private keys instead.

ppsend.sh:
#!/bin/bash
#set -x
# Provide a list of media extensions to send to pogoplug
extensions=("mp4" "avi" "mkv" "jpg");
ppip="192.168.1.10" # The local ip address of your pogoplug
echo ""
echo "Sending video files to PogoPlug ($ppip) for the following extensions..."
for ext in "${extensions[@]}"; do
echo ${ext}
done
echo ""
for ext in "${extensions[@]}"; do
 expect -c "spawn bash -c \"scp -p *.$ext root@$ppip:/tmp/.cemnt/mnt_sda2/\"
 expect assword ; send \"mysshpassword\r\"; interact"
done

I think the next step for this is to translate it to another language and wrap it up in a GUI for easy access. So watch this space perhaps.

Live Backup of Minecraft

I use Minecraft on Linux, occasionally I find java crashes whilst I’m playing and I lose my world save. I think it has more to do with some buggy hardware currently than the OS after a discussion I had with someone in meatspace.

Anyway, yeah, no matter what’s at fault, losing a Minecraft world is no pleasant thing, so I created the following script to incrementally backup whilst I’m playing. I run it from my home directory:

#!/bin/bash

# Live backup of the game for java crashes
# Author: Wes Fitzpatrick

if ! [ -d .minecraft_live_backup ]; then
 cp -pr .minecraft .minecraft_live_backup
fi
if ! [ -d .minecraft_current_session ]; then
 cp -pr .minecraft .minecraft_current_session
fi
mv .minecraft_live_backup .mc_last_session`date | awk '{ print $1 $2 $3 $4 }'`
while true; do
 rm -fr .minecraft_current_session && cp -pr .minecraft .minecraft_current_session
 sleep 120
 rm -fr .minecraft_live_backup && mv .minecraft_current_session .minecraft_live_backup
done

What this does is first backups up your current .minecraft folder, so your last game is preserved, then creates two alternate backups. One is your current (minecraft_current_session) up to the last 2 minutes of play, the second is the previous current (minecraft_live_backup) in case the failure occurs during backup.

I’ve tested the backup copies and both work in event of a crash. This means rather than losing the entire castle, I’ve only lost the last few block placed.

The Patent Proof Tablet

A patent proof tablet design

I’ve uploaded an image to G+ here. I drew it on my EeePad Transformer and it pretty much sums up what I think to the whole “rounded corners” design patent crap that Apple is flogging

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Every time I use Skype

Skype 2.2 Beta is just a buggy piece of crap, but I have to use it because my family are on it, so here’s a small script I use when it blows up (which it does almost every chat session):

#!/bin/bash

proc_id=`ps -ef | grep "/usr/bin/skype" | grep -v "grep" | awk '{print $2}'`
kill -9 $proc_id
/usr/bin/skype &

Google+ vs Facebook

I have a G+ and Facebook account. Whilst I still log into FB to check on what friends are doing, I find the automatic upload feature to G+ incredibly useful so I’ve stopped uploading photos to FB. I think G+ is better than FB, like it’s circles feature, which FB badly needed for a long time. I don’t think the implementation is quite there, but it’s a logical and necessary feature.

I remember when most of the FB friends I have now were on MySpace and all had headache inducing, eye-bleeding home pages. I didn’t bother, but when FB came along and was relatively obscure I joined because it was a bit like LinkedIn is now, low key and mostly professionals.

Of course, G+ is always compared to this and I have also used the analogy when people say it’s not going to beat FB. However there are some key generational changes between now and then which put FB at an advantage to G+ now but the most important one is email.

Up until FB came along many of us were still communicating and relying on email for socializing and events. Whether you came from MySpace or were new to social networking, signing up for FB was made easy by the fact it would trawl your email address book and add your contacts as they joined – rarely have I had to look someone up in the last 5 years of using it. In any event if FB couldn’t read your address book, your address book was considerably smaller and more manageable than it is now and you could feed it in manually.

The difference now is that many people no longer store their contacts in their easily accessible email account – instead half of them are stuck in a proprietory FB directory because we reconnected with lost friends (and lost email addresses) this way. FB does not share emails and makes efforts to kill plugins that attempt to do this. FB knows that the key successful ingredient is email addresses, and being able to pair those up automatically.

This is the most likely reason why Google stopped sharing email accounts with FB, it’s the reason migrating out of FB is for the foreseeable future, difficult (I have family who don’t even log into their email accounts – my only way of digitital contact is via FB).

Facebook benefited from social networking virgins, and being able to trawl email. Email address books have migrated to Facebook accounts and therefore G+ cannot trawl for contacts in the same way. There are also less social networking virgins to plunder, and these people see it as a hassle to migrate all those photos and personal notes that they spent time uploading manually, despite browser tools that are available.

I really hope that G+ is successful in the long term, I hope it reaches that point at which the dam breaks and then all the FB holdouts rush to sign up because enough of their friends have left. But this is probably only going to happen when people stop sharing on FB. Even as a pro-G+er I have trouble not posting to FB directly – to get my friends’ reactions. We need more tools like Extended Share to come to fruition – and we need them to be automated, so that I don’t have to post something from my mobile or my tablet, and have to log in from a PC to click share.

Using PrivatVPN on Ubuntu Linux

After the Hide My Ass fallout and niggling doubts about AceVPNs logging policies, I’m trying out some recommended VPN services I found via TorrentFreak. The great thing about VPN providers is most of them allow you to purchase a limited time from 1-12 months, I decided to try out PrivatVPN who state apart from username and password, they don’t log anything.

PrivatVPN appears to be a small outfit operating out of Sweden offering servers in Sweden, US, UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands. I can’t tell if they are owned by anyone or just hosted by iLandsgruppen however their service is very barebones, with a small control panel, software download and instructions. The service is relatively cheap to – about £4 for 30 days.

They technically don’t have a Linux client, only configuration files to download, which seem to be outdated. Unlike that ‘other’ OS – where they offer a full client and countries to connect to, Linux only contains the address of their Swedish server and the wrong port number (21003). I found this out after the OpenVPN connection not working on Ubuntu so instead fired up my Windows VM just to see if it worked and it did. A quick gander at connection logs showed me the different port.

I notified their tech support, but for anyone who had problems like me with the following error,

read UDPv4 [ECONNREFUSED]: Connection refused (code=111)

Here are the correct IP address and Port numbers to connect to PrivatVPN servers. Let’s hope they update their documentation and config files:

Sweden: 80.67.10.138:21001
US: 108.59.1.216:21000
UK: 83.170.109.247:21000
Switzerland: 31.7.62.130:21000
Netherlands: 85.17.122.222:21000

PrivatVPN provide instructions for starting from the CLI, however if you prefer the GUI (I do purely for the networking icon to remind me I’m connected with a tiny lock) simply follow these steps:

  • Go to Network Manager, VPN Connections, Configure VPN…
  • Click on Import
  • Navigate to “/etc/openvpn” and select “privatevpn.conf”.
  • Then add your username and password
  • Check the IP address is the same as the one above and the port no. (under “Advanced” option)
  • You may want to configure multiple vpns so change the name too, to something like “PrivatVPN Sweden/US/UK…”
That’s it, you’re done. Enjoy your anonymity and freedom!