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Node framework: login authentication

My simple node framework now supports password protected areas, with a username / password authentication scheme based on passport.js.

You can see this in action here

Next on the to-do list is an automatically generated admin framework, to enable simple manipulation of the database backend based on the models your app defines.

I’m also going to integrate the Aloha editor for front end content management.

The end goal is going to a be fully functioning content management / blogging platform that also has the capacity to be extended into…well, just about anything you can imagine.




Node.js app framework demo site

I’ve started running a test site for the new framework here

There’s not much there yet, a couple of pages (dynamically loading content from the database, ooooh!) and not much else… but I’ll add more to it as I add features.

It’s currently running on an old laptop in my front room, so don’t expect too much in the way of performance!




New project: Node.js application framework

So I decided to learn a new language / architecture last weekend and since Node.js has been getting a lot of attention lately I thought I might as well go with that.

I’ve put maybe 6 hours into it so far, and you can see the fruits of my labour over at github: https://github.com/Tall-Paul/node-framework

I don’t have it up and running anywhere yet, and there’s still some work to do but so far I have:

  • A routing system that takes a json config file and routes requests to ‘handlers’
  • A packaging system that allows related code to be grouped together
  • An ORM based on sequelize that lets you easily define database backed models for data
  • Automatic Ajax loading of models.

You can see an example of this in the ‘blog’ package that comes with the framework.

Currently there’s a model (/packages/blog/models/post.js) that looks like this:

module.exports = function(sequelize, DataTypes) {
  return sequelize.define("Post", {
    title: DataTypes.STRING,
    content: DataTypes.TEXT,
    author: DataTypes.STRING,
    slug: DataTypes.STRING,
    category: DataTypes.INTEGER,
  })
}
A custom handler / route that currently just takes any request of the form /blog/foo/bar.html and returns the first blog entry (this obviously needs work so it translates the request into the correct blog post) and finally a simple template that looks like this:
<html>
<head>
{{{js_includes}}}
{{{framework_get_object("blog_post",post_id,"post")}}}
</head>
<body>
<div id="post_id"></div>
<div id="post_title"></div>
<div id="post_content"></div>
</body>
</html>
It may not look much, but that template is doing some pretty funky stuff behind the scenes, it embeds some javascript on the page that trundles off and gets the blog post you asked for (post_id in that function call is a template variable that’s set by the handler, but it doesn’t have to be… you can get any content you want with a similar call) and then puts the data from the object into the page in the divs you specify.  Pretty neat (if I do say so myself).  Remember that Ajax stuff is built for you by the framework, just by defining a model of ‘post’ in the package ‘blog’ we automatically get the ability to load instances of that model via ajax.
This is clearly still a work in progress, and doesn’t actually ‘do’ very much yet… but by the weekend I hope to have automagic ajax searching of data in place and then I’m going to think about moving this site over to the new framework, possibly hosted on Engine Yard (depending on how pricey that turns out to be).  So check back soon for a demo of the framework in action.
Also, if anyone can think of a better name for this than ‘node.js web framework’ drop me a line



Enabling ExpressCache on the Asus UX32A

One of the perks of my job is that I get to work from home and, as a result I managed to talk my boss into forking out for a new laptop for me.  After some consideration I went for the Asus UX32A, which is a halfway house between an ultrabook and a standard laptop.

 It’s much cheaper than an Ultrabook, but Asus have obviously cut some corners to meet that price point.  The screen is a little disappointing, and it only comes with 4GB of RAM (although you can upgrade one of the modules for a total of 6GB).  More importantly though, instead of an SSD Asus have opted for a ‘hybrid’ disk approach with this model.  It has a standard 500GB hard disk, and a 24GB SSD which is used as a cache or buffer between the disk and the rest of the machine.  The theory is that this allows much quicker access to things that you use regularly, while still aloowing the relatively huge storage space of a disk.

The only problem is, this isn’t enabled by default!

I was struggling to find out how to activate this feature on my new machine, but some quick googling led me to realise that I needed to install the ‘ExpressCache’ software from Asus  (it’s actually a piece of software by a 3rd party company, but you need to Asus licensed version to run on the UX32A).  However, here I hit another problem:  the only link I could find to this software was a dead one.

Luckily Asus actually include this software on the hard drive (it’s just not installed, for some reason that I’m sure made sense to somebody) but if you’ve formatted your disk worry not, I’ll include links to the software at the bottom of this post.  Here’s how to install it:

 

1: first off, you need the intel ‘Rapid Storage Technology’ Driver to make Expresscache work.  Helpfully, Asus also include this on the hard disk at:

C:\eSupport\eDriver\Software\Others\Intel\IRST\Vista64_Win7_64_Win8_64_11.5.0.1207

So install that (your computer probably needs a reboot after that install).

 

2: Now install the expresscache software which you can find at:

C:\eSupport\eDriver\Software\Others\other\ExpressCache\Win8_64_1.0.86

run the ‘setup_x64’ executable in that directory.  And then do another reboot when prompted.

 

When your computer restarts you should be running expresscache (yay!).  However, there’s nothing in your start menu (or start screen, whatever) to indicate you’ve installed something new, so how to check that expresscache is installed and working?  Well, for that you need to run a command line program.  Open up an administrator command prompt, navigate to:

C:\Program Files\Diskeeper Corporation\ExpressCache

and run ‘ECCmd.exe -INFO’

you should hopefully see some output like this:

Capture

 

As promised, here’s the files you’ll need:




Pad project day 5: pushing through

Today I finally got my work desktop set up how I want it, so I thought I’d share my experience.  My main desktop PC is a great hulking beast of a machine, that was originally built to play games on.  As such, it uses quite a hefty amount of power to run and sounds not unlike an aircraft taxiing for take-off.  Luckily, I also have a laptop that (amazingly) has dual display outputs on it.  So that’s what I use now.  However, I couldn’t just install windows on it and have done with it… that would be far too simple, no instead I decided to return to my love of Linux.

In the past I’ve tried various flavours of Linux.  I started (as do most people) with Ubuntu which is generally seen as a starter verions of Linux.  It’s easy to set up, but eventually you find yourself chafing at some of the design decisions… and it’s pretty slow compared to other distros.  So after tinkering around with various distrobutions (slackware, gentoo etc) I eventually settled on Arch linux which was fantastic… if you like spending at least 25% of your work time tinkering with your desktop rather than actually working.  Unfortunately, I’ve long since lost my desire to spend hours trying to get various bits of uncooperative software working so for my current day to day work machine I went with something a little more stable…. so, behold my Debian desktop:

Screenshot - 100113 - 21:55:35

 

That’s the ‘Mate‘ desktop environment running with the ‘Gray Revenge‘ theme by the way, which is a lovely blend of simplicity and elegance.  Incidentally, the gnome 3 desktop is just…well, it’s a mess to be frank.  It seems like everyone is trying to invent new desktop paradigms at the moment.  Gnome has it’s Gnome 3 effort, windows 8 introduces the new start screen, Ubuntu has its Unity thing… I really don’t see what’s wrong with the tried and tested desktop paradigm that everyone knows.

For comparison here’s Unity which seems to offer revolutionary new program launchers and docks and…so on and so forth:

 I can understand the concept of trying to push the desktop experience forward but really…at this point, I’ve become so used to working in a certain way that my entire thought process is structured around the way my desktop works.  I shouldn’t have to change my thought process to change to a different desktop environment…and in fact I don’t, because there’s alternatives out there.  For windows there’s freeware available to get your start menu back (and so away with the touch centric start screen) and for linux there’s something like Mate.

Mate is everything a modern desktop environment should be in my opinion, it takes everything that was good about Gnome 3 and continues to add to it with new visuals and so on.  I was originally going to use xfce4, which I’ve tried in the past…and that’s also a really good desktop environment.  However, my main problem with xfce4 is something really trivial but really annoying: the panels are made up from the same widgets used in the rest of the environment.  Since it uses the GTK widget toolkit for everything (including the panels) and the window switcher buttons on the panel are just that (buttons), you can’t get a really good dark theme for xfce4 that doesn’t also completely screw the look of basic window elements.  Most annoying.  I’m sure there’s some way around it, but during my experimentation to try and figure it out I stumbled onto the Mate desktop and stuck with it since it does everything I want.

Most of my work involves PHP in some for or another, so rather than hand editing files in Vim (which is just…well, it’s not my favourite pastime  I use the rather excellent Aptana studio.  It’s basically Eclipse, with a load of php centric plugins offering code completion, hinting and so on.  Other than being slightly more heavyweight than I feel is really necessary, it’s brilliant.  There is a slight tendency to hang occasionally, especially when selecting multiple remote files but its ability to connect to sites via ftp and work on remote files (uploading automatically on save) is a godsend.  Much easier than downloading sites, editing them then re uploading the finished articles. I’ve also recently discovered the joys of using a black on white theme in my ide and have to say, it’s really helped with eye strain and general alertness late in the day.

So, that’s my desktop really.  I use a pair of Benq 24″ monitors which (handily) have selectable inputs on them, one each of DVI, VGA and HDMI…which means I can switch from my main desktiop to my work laptop easily by pushing a couple of buttons and swapping my input devices over.

Hmm,. I think that’s enough rambling for today…I’m really not sure this post a day project is actually accomplishing anything while I’m posting random crap like this.  Maybe posting less frequent, but more informative or useful posts would actually be better for my general productivity.  Hmm, might be time for a rethink.  Although I’m off to my first therapy session tomorrow, so I might actually have something worthwhile to post.




Pad Project Day 4: Random brain dump

Today, let’s talk about some good old random crap.  Here’s what’s on my mind at the moment (excluding stuff that…well, isn’t suitable for a public venue).

1) Facebook.

I disabled my facebook account a couple of days ago as part of my attempt to actually do something productive with my time.  Before that I would spend literally hours each day just sort of…looking at facebook.  Maybe occasionally posting random thoughts onto it but generally just looking at it.  It’s truly insidious how facebook has wormed its way into our lives to the point where it seems to have become a fundamental part of how we interact with each other.  I’m genuinely shocked now if I meet someone and they don’t have a facebook account.  In fact, I’m convinced that the rise of facebook has something to do with the global economic meltdown of the last few years.  I bet if you correlated the rise in facebook users against inflation (or some other measure of economic worth) you’d see some pretty interesting results.  Also (since I just thought of it) guess what the fastest growing economy in the world is?  That’s right, China.  And guess what website (among others) is blocked in China?  Hmm.

2) Pets

I’m currently the nominal owner of 4 animals.  3 cats and a dog.  None of which I wanted in the first place, and everyone one of which gets right on my tits to a greater or lesser extent.  The dog is… reasonable.  Apart from the fact he smells.  A lot.  I don’t know if there’s actually something wrong with him, but a few days after having a bath he…well, he smells like a tramps socks basically.  Not pleasant.  Other than that he’s pretty amenable.  Oh, except when you take him for a walk you have to be constantly vigilant for other dogs.  God forbid another dog should dare to walk within 100 yards of him.  Despite being the size of a handbag, he’ll happily try to fight anything on 4 legs.  Anyway, that’s the dog and like I said I can deal with him.  Other than walking him and feeding him (and shutting him in the kitchen at night so he doesn’t decide to lovingly leave his ‘scent’ all over my carpet) he’s pretty easy going.

The cats though just piss me off to an amazing degree.  To be fair, I’ve never really been a cat person… I’ve always had a very stand offish relationship with them.  Then, a few years ago I was talked into getting a cat due partly to the mouse problem we had in the house we lived in.  That worked brilliantly, the cat we got (a little black thing) was a kick ass hunter and within a couple of weeks we had a mouse free home.  I kind of made my peace with that cat, I’d occasionally play with her and so on…all well and good.  Then my partner decided we needed another cat.  I have no idea why.  He’s the stupidest fucking animal on the planet.  But again, after a number of years I grew…not fond, but tolerating of him.  Yes it pisses me off that I have to get up at least 15 times a day to let them in or out of the house, but I can cope with that.  Anyway, the third cat comes from another failed relationship… he’s currently lodging with me while my ex tries to find somewhere permanent to live.  He’s…fairly docile actually, doesn’t really both me too much.

So…individually we’ve seen that any of those animals is actually not much of a bother.  However, 4 of them in one house is just a 16 legged route to madness.  The original cats don’t get on with either the new cat or the dog.  The dog will eat any cat food that isn’t immediately eaten by the cats.  The new cat hisses at the old cats whenever he see’s them.  One of the original cats will take any opportunity at all to leg it upstairs and go to sleep on my bed (I don’t like cats upstairs, so I try to stop this happening whenever possible).  The only time they’re not pestering to be fed is when they’re outside, and at that point they’re usually pestering to be let in.  Pets man, they’re a complete nightmare.

3) Social anxiety disorder

This is actually preying on my mind quite a bit at the moment.  Ever since I can remember, probably for at lest the last 15 years or so, I’ve had serious issues with social situations.  To the point where I find it incredibly difficult to leave the house some days.  Walking down the street turns into a game of ‘which ridiculous panic attack type symptom will I have today’.  Will it be the legs that suddenly forget how to work?  The sudden intense sweating?  The amazingly embarrasing blushing?  Not fun at all.  A couple of months ago I decided to actually do something abut all this and got in touch with my local NHS service since, as well as making it difficult to actually get out and do stuff, this combined with working from home meant I was actually getting quite depressed and turning into a bit of a recluse.  A depressed, reclusive hermit with 3 cats and a dog.  Not good at all.  Anyway, rather annoyingly since doing the mental health assessment (no, I’m not going to top myself.  Really.)  and finally getting an appointment to see a counsellor I’ve actually found that I’m finding it much easier to go out.  I mean, I still don’t choose to go out if I don’t have to… but on the occasions when I do have to venture into the outside world I’m finding it much easier to cope with.  Which is kind of annoying, because…well, what if the counsellor thinks I’m just making shit up or something?  Or what if I’m somehow cured myself and don’t actually need counselling any more?  Well, my first appointment is the day after tomorrow (ha, that’s the film that’s on telly at the moment) so we shall see how things transpire.

Well I could actually carry on ranting about random stuff, but I think I’ll leave it there for today and actually save some for tomorrow.  So…that’s all folks!




Pad project day 3: on the giving up of things

So…I doubt I’ll make it to 1000 words today, not feeling particularly inspired to write anything.  But I guess that’s the point of this little project so let’s persevere.  Today I’m going to talk about my life goals for 2013, and specifically about the giving up of dependencies.  At the end of 2012 I decided to make some major changes in my life.  I signed up for therapy to treat my long term problems with social anxiety disorder (I’ll probably dedicate a post to this at some point, but not today) quit smoking (more on that later) and also decided to quit coffee to truly make myself independent of any chemical dependencies.  In addition I’m hoping to get some work done on my house in preperation for either selling it in 2014…or more likely continuing to live in the same, but slightly gentrified house.

Quitting smoking was easy.  I’ve tried to quit cold turkey in the past with varying, but inevitably poor results.  I think the longest I’ve ‘quit’ for using the cold turkey method has been about 6 months, but even then it was interspersed with the odd cig here and there.  I mean, if I wasn’t buying them it wasn’t like proper smoking right?  Eventually I’d have some major life crisis that I’d use as an excuse to start again… an argument with my girlfriend, or a particularly bad day at work.  It was irrelevant what the trigger was really, the end result was always the same.  That one packet I bought to see me through the rough spot turned into 2 packs, then 3…then well  I might as well smoke til the end of the week right?  And at some point I just gave up and started smoking again.  At one point I even tried Alan Carr’s stop smoking book.  Not the camp alleged ‘funny man’ off of the telly, but the self help guru who’s ‘Easy way to quit smoking’ has “helped millions of people become happy non smokers”.  Apparently.  I think the key word there is ‘happy’.  Whenever I’ve quit smoking in the past I’d always felt like a smoker who just wasn’t smoking at the moment.  I may not have constantly craved cigs, but the longing was always there in the back of my mind, waiting to resurface.  Until I got rid of that longing, I think I always knew I’d never be a non smoker… happy or otherwise.

For this attempt to quit I decided to stop messing around and see what the NHS offered.  It turns out they’ve got quite a good service dedicated to helping you quit.  After getting in touch with the service I was given an appointment with my local stop smoking counsellor (a lovely lady named Sue) who talked me through the types of Nicotine replacement therapy that are available and offered advice on which ones would be best for me.  To be honest, I’d already decided to go with patches and that’s what I ended up with.  I also walked out with some inhalators… which are sort of like the e-cigs that are booming in popularity at the moment, but a bit crap.  I haven’t really used the inhalator much at all, despite being told I can use up to 6 capsules a day, I rarely get through one a week.  They are nice for those moments when the habit kicks in (after meals etc) but with me smoking was never really about the habit, it was purely about the addiction.  I never even really liked smoking, it made me feel sick and lethargic.  Anyway, after 8 weeks on the patches I can honestly say I’ve lost the urge to smoke.  I’m on stage 2 of the patches, which is step down in dosage from step one… but sometimes I’ll go a whole day without realising I haven’t put a patch on, which bodes well for being able to stay off the cigs once I finish my patches.

So that’s smoking knocked on the head, time to tackle my other big addiction: caffeine   Since I started working from home, I’ve been averaging a cup of coffee every hour or so… which doesn’t sound like a lot, but I guess it soon adds up.  I’ve not been sleeping particularly well at night (those cups of coffee in the late afternoon do tend to linger) and generally feeling pretty rough when I wasn’t on a caffeine high…so the time has come to do something about it.  This weekend I made the leap (prompted by the fact I ran out of coffee) and spent most of it feeling pretty bad.  On saturday (my first full day without any coffee) I had a pounding headache most of the day, and felt really nauseas, however on Sunday most of that had passed and on monday my caffeine replacement therapy arrived (courtesy of Twinings teas):

 

2013-01-08 22.47.48

 

On the left there is my early morning pick-me-up of ‘lemon and ginger’ which…does the job pretty well actually.  Unfortunately it also tends to upset my stomach (seriously, I have the digestive system of a small child) which is where the one on the right comes in.  The Nettle and peppermint is a really soothing blend, that does actually make me feel more relaxed and definitely helps settle my stomach.  Before those 2 arrived I was finding caffeine much harder to quit than nicotine.  I’d crave cups of coffee 4 or 5 times a day and be constantly feeling ill.  Now however I think I’ve turned a corner.  Whether it’s just a placebo effect or the teas are actually helping is hard to say….but whatever they’re doing it works.

Hmm, still 70 words left to the target so I guess I can mention the other thing I want to get sorted this year…I want to at least try archery.  It’s been a long time aim (ha, archery pun) of mine to give it a go, and this is the year it’s finally going to happen.  There’s an Archery club just down the road in Bolton that does beginner courses, so as soon as they start up again (I missed the last one at the end of last year) I’m determined to get down there and give it a go.  As well as being something I’ve wanted to try for literally years, it should be a good way to get out of the house and meet people (neatly tying in with the social anxiety thing) and I think it’s generally good for me to have a hobby that doesn’t involve computers for once.

 




Pad Project day 2: a blast from the past.

Yeah, I’m going with ‘Pad’ project as the shorthand for my ‘post a day’ project.  Although now I’ve actually written it I realise it looks like I’m doing a project on feminine hygiene products.  Which is really not what I’m going for.  Anyway, for today’s little snippet of brain fodder I decided to revisit my past and lookup a project I’d released into the wilds of the internet many years ago.

First though, to pad this out and meet my self imposed 1000 word per post limit, some background.

In the winter of 2009 Relic entertainment, a fairly new games developer released their much anticipated debut game ‘homeworld’.  Although taking obvious cues from previous RTS games like command and conquer and total annihilation, Homeworld was a true innovator of the genre and even today hasn’t really been surpassed (in my opinion anyway) in the field.  For a start, Homeworld looked years ahead of anything else on the market.

This is command and conquer Tiberian sun, released in 1999:

And this is homeworld, released the same year:

Homeworld was a true revolution in RTS games.  It was set in space, something that I don’t think any other game of the genre had attempted.  As well as allowing the developers to not worry about rendering trivial things like the ground (which no doubt aided the gorgeous graphics engine) the addition of that third dimension meant that the tactics of playing homeworld were completely new.  In games like C&C much of the game would focus around tactical ‘choke points’ like bridges over rivers, or gaps in walls… places through which the enemy could be funnelled to meet your army.  Homeworld did away with that, the battlefield was truly open and enemies could come at your from all around.  In addition Homeworld also did away with base building, allowing you to turn your mined resources directly into new ships to deploy against your enemies.  The ships themselves where truly magnificent.  I can still remember the thrill of finally being able to produce a destroyer, a massive step up from the corvettes and frigates of the early game.   The addition of a compelling storyline which was a world away from C&C’s “bad guy tries to take over the world” ensured homeworld’s place as a true classic, and a game that any RTS fan should take the time to hunt down and play.

Another thing that made homeworld such a hit was the active community that sprang up around it.  There was a well populated multiplayer ladded (which wikipedia informs me had 18,000 players registered at its peak) and a hugely inventive modding community… and that’s where we finally get round to the project this post is about.

The way modding worked in homeworld was simple compared to todays’s games like skyrim, which come with a whole construction set for you to play around in.  All of the resources (models, textures, scripts) that make up the core game of homeworld came bundled in an custom archived file format.  Eventually, after a lot of hard work this format was cracked open (although the name of the guy who did this escapes me, he was massively popular in the modding community at the time) and people realised that any of the extracted files from this archive which were placed in the homeworld directory would override the archive, enabling you to edit the behaviour of ships, their models and pretty much anything else that took your fancy.  Soon editors for the various file formats were released and an incredibly active and inventive mod community sprang into life.

The only problem with this rather simplistic method of overriding game assets comes when you want to switch between multiple mods… you need some way of bundling up the assets into one directory and swapping between them as required.  Which is where I came in.  In the summer of 2000 I released ‘ModMan’ a tool for doing just that… it kept track of which files belonged to which mod, and allowed you to swap between them with the click of a button.  I wrote it in Borland Turbo Pascal, in the days before I (and just about everyone else) switched to the .Net framework for windows development and to my suprise you can still find copies of it online now.  A google search for ‘homeworld modman’ turned up this page which has a link to the latest version.

And here it is in all its 13 year old glory:

Capture

Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of homeworld (and it isn’t available on steam 🙁 ) to try it out with, but it runs and you can get a vague hint of its capabilities.  As well as the core functionality of swapping mod files around, it also includes a series of configurable buttons for launching other modding programs, options for binding filetypes to programs and…well, that’s about it really.  Still at the time I was hugely impressed with myself.  Unfortunately ModMan never really had the uptake in the community I would have liked, mostly because I didn’t even have a website to distribute it through at that point…I was reliant on word of mouth and people sharing the program with each other.  Still it’s the first program I ever really wrote for other people to use and I seem to remember there were tens if not dozens of people who used it at the time.  It also taught me a lot about software development, error trapping and so on that’s stood me in good stead since then.

Since I’m still a few words short, here’s the readme file as written by a 21 year old me at 23:20 on the 30th of November 2000…obviously I was much more passionate about software development in those days… now I think I’d leave writing the readme file til the next day.  Maybe that way it wouldn’t have quite so many typos in it:


Modman 5.1
Heres the latest version of modman for you. This improves quite a 
lot over previous versions. Unfortunately I haven't been able to write 
atutorial for it yet (University work interfering again!) but if you have 
any problems E-mail me (use my hotmail address -
######@hotmail.com, not this one). Heres some of the new 
features:-
-Filetypes
 Modman now allows you to associate filetypes with several 
applications, so you can perform any number of operations on a file 
using a simple right-click sub-menu. You can set these options by 
pressing the 'options' button and selecting the 'File types' tabbed 
page.
-auto generate ignore list
 The ignore list is a list of files and folders that you want 
modman to ignore when moving mods around, deleting mods etc... 
You can now edit this list from the options page.
-Homeworld + cataclysm support. 
 You can now switch between homeworld and cataclysm with 
one mouse click and keep a seperate set of mods for each.
INSTALLATION
unzip modman to a new folder (eg c:\modman) and run 
mmsetup to select which games you have and setb the paths 
accordingly. Homeworld mods go in the homeworld directory, cat 
mods in the cataclysm directory
eg:
c:\modman\homeworld\mod1
c:\modman\homeworld\mod2
c:\modman\cataclysm\mod1
etc...
have fun!



The ‘post a day’ project

So, new year new start and all that.  For 2013 I’ve decided I’m going to try and kick start some writing by using the ‘write something, doesn’t matter what it is but write something every single day’ method.  So from now on I’ll be making sure to post something every day.  It probably won’t be very interesting, sometimes it will be techy and sometimes it won’t.

Today’s post is going to be about DIY, and what I hope to do to my front room.  The house I currently live in is still decorated in the style it was when I moved in, and doesn’t look like it’s been touched since the early 80’s.  Here’s a shot of how it looked before I started doing anything (more on this later):

The cute kid didn’t come with the house by the way, that’s my daughter chilling out in the 80’s haven that is my house.  And not the ‘good’ 80s (danger mouse, fraggle rock etc).  You can’t really see the full horror in that rather dingy picture, so here’s some close ups of the carpet and the walls.

hmm, not too bad…. I mean, it’s not going to win any ‘best home’ awards, but it’s reasonable I guess.  But wait, what’s that on the wall?

 

Holy Jesus.  That’s… not good.  What you’re looking at there my friend is artex, probably the worst thing to come out of the 80s (and yes, I’m including hairstyles in that assessment).  The fact that this covers every wall (and the ceiling, because bad taste apparently isn’t limited to 2 dimensions) means that I’m going to have to either strip all the walls back to the brickwork and get them replastered, or smooth them over (and lose about 6 inches of space in the room).  However, then I started thinking about what I want the room to look like.  This is seriously new territory for me, I’ve never really paid much attention to decorating or anything even remotely related, but I started hunting around for things that looked good.  I decided I liked exposed brickwork, and wooden floors so I narrowed my search a little bit and then I found this:

I can’t even remember where I got that picture from now (if you know, give me a shout so I can include some credit) but it’s pretty much exactly what I want.  Except for the deers head mounted on the wall… that would seriously freak me out.  But the general concept of exposed brickwork on the chimney breast, simple plain coloured walls and wooden floors really hit a nerve with me.  So I decided to start working towards that.  The first job I took on (because it didn’t cost anything to do) was to have a look at the brickwork around the fireplace.  So I started chiselling.  And then chiselled some more.  Seriously, whoever put this plaster on wasn’t fucking around, this stuff is literally 2 inches deep.  But I persevered and finally, after a couple of days (well, a couple of hours spread over a couple of days) here’s the result:

Well…it’s more of a work in progress than a finished article.  The 3rd wall of the chimney breast (the one you can’t see due to my artfully angled picture) isn’t done yet, since it will mean taking down the bookshelves which itself entails a whole load of fun… but I’m reasonably pleased with the effect so far.  There’s some areas need touching up, and maybe a bit of repointing (can you even repoint interior walls?  I have no idea) but other than that I think it looks pretty good.  I’m not entirely sure what to do about the top of the wall, where it currently meets the (rather hideous) edging that runs around the room.  I’m going to have to replace all that at some point I guess, but I’m not entirely sure what with.  Also still left to do is removal of the current gas fire.  I’ve had the fire off, and the original coal…pit?  is still there behind it, but I need to get the gas supply capped off before I can permanently remove it.

Once that’s done it’s on to the floor.  I’m slightly torn on what I want to do about the floor.  I know I want wood flooring, and the cheapest / easiest way to get that is some kind of laminate…. but laminate always looks vaguely plasticky to me.  Even the fancy end of the market still has that telltale plastic sheen to it.  I do have a couple of other options though.  The first is to just go with the original floor boards… sand them down and varnish them.  There is an added complication with that though…. let’s take a look at what’s under the carpet:

Oh lovely… you probably can’t really make it out from that picture, but those are individual tiles of lino that have been glued to the floor.  That top corner that’s broken off is my attempt to level up one of the tiles.  It didn’t go well.  So going for the original floor boards would require chiselling off each bit of tile, then sanding the floor, then varnishing.  Something that would take a huge amount of time and effort, and at the end of it I don’t even know what the floorboards will look like.

The final option is similar to the laminate, but real wood flooring.  The only problem here is cost. My room is 4.5 by 3.7 metres…so something like this for example, ends up costing me over £500 for the room.  Which might not seem that bad, but is more than I can really justify spending on it.  So… it looks like the ‘chisel each little bit off’ approach is the only way forward, and I’ll just have to hope that the boards are in decent condition once I actually get down to them.




Spotify on Debian ‘Wheezy’ (testing)

Hello! Long time no post…. I’ve recently(ish) started working from home as head of IT for a small web design firm… which means I get to use a linux desktop again.  I’ve settled on Debian testing (which is currently ‘wheezy’) but have found a few niggles (always the way) so my next few posts will be discussing how to set up various things on Wheezy.  Just as an aside, I’m using xfce4 as my desktop environment..I like to keep things fairly clean and simple.

If you try and install spotify following the instructions given here:

http://www.spotify.com/uk/download/previews/

You’ll hit an error complaining about libssl… basically the spotify client is compiled with a hard link to libssl 0.98, which isn’t available from the debian testign repositories… since it’s been updated to 1.0.

To fix this, download the correct package for your architecture (so amd64, i386 etc) from here: http://packages.debian.org/squeeze/libssl0.9.8

Install the package using dpkg (double click on the downloaded file, or run dpkg -i /path/to/file.deb from the command line)

then follow the instructions from spotify:

# 1. Add this line to your list of repositories by
#    editing your /etc/apt/sources.list
deb http://repository.spotify.com stable non-free

# 2. If you want to verify the downloaded packages,
#    you will need to add our public key
sudo apt-key adv --keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com --recv-keys 94558F59

# 3. Run apt-get update
sudo apt-get update

# 4. Install spotify!
sudo apt-get install spotify-client
And that's pretty much it.  Enjoy!