A Change Of Coffee

Friday of last week I enjoyed my final Costa Cappuccino from the WHSmith at work.It is undergoing a two week refit. I like the taste of Costa coffee. Starbucks tastes awful. Other large coffee chains I can't say I have sampled enough to form an opinion on.

The news of a possible change of coffee (and two weeks without!!) left me troubled (and decaffeinated). Who would be providing my caffeine hit? Today I found out. Wandering past the construction site I noted the name on the sign outside. It would appear we are getting a Coffee House. This is the WHSmith brand of coffee as a little research found a recent article on the subject.

The plus side is that it is not a Starbucks. What will Coffee House coffee be like? I will get to find out in just over another week.

The Case of the Ghost Whistler

Over the past couple of weeks I have noticed on occasion a faint sound. The best way to describe it would be a child playing a single note on a recorder, gradually increasing in intensity before decreasing. Knowing that a family with children of recorder playing age lived next door I thought little of it. Other than being frustrated by continually hearing it and wondering when something more tuneful would be produced.

I began to question what was happening when I began to notice the sound late at night. Not the kind of time once would associate with household attempting to sleep. But it was a bank holiday weekend, maybe the usual enforced bedtime of the children was being ignored.

Tonight I noticed it a little more, always around the door between the kitchen and the lounge. Something must be causing it, the sound was too repetitive. It couldn't be the normal musical talent of a child. I had just finished making a mug of tea when I made the discovery. On pondering tomorrow nights meal based on the dwindling contents of the refrigerator I was struck by the realisation that the sound had reoccurred and was louder. What had I done. Put milk in the fridge? I opened the door, nothing. I closed the door, nothing, no squeaks or creaks or buzzing or whirring. Back to my tea, it was time for a stirring. There it was again, the whistling sound. A thought did sink in whilst my tea I was drinkin'. I opened the fridge door, closing it once more. With my head to the door I counted to four. Then there it was the whistle once more. What seemed to be ghostly was a pressure equalisation; mostly.

6.5 Years

It has been a long wait, a day that I never thought I would see. This week I was finally able to obtain a parking permit and actually park on-site at work during the week. 6.5 years I have had my name on the waiting list. For all those years I have had an additional commute to a off-site parking spot, walking from and to the car before and after work.

Early indications show that I am saving around 30 minutes a day. Not being stuck in as much queuing traffic is going to result in a slight fuel saving. None of this comes for free however. I get to pay for the privilege of saving myself some time. I suspect the real reason for finally getting a pass is the extra income generated by charging more people. I may have a permit but I am not guaranteed a space to park. So far I have not had a problem finding a place.

To all those people who find that I have taken their parking spot and now park off-site; enjoy the walk!

Termux – Custom Prompt

Termux is a terminal emulator and Linux environment for Android. I wanted to customise my prompt in the same way that I have done on my desktop/laptop machines. Ordinarily I would have a .bashrc in my home directory where I would make the changes to the prompt (PS1). However Termux doesn't recognise this.

I found a reference to configuring this: http://blog.ataboydesign.com/2015/12/01/termux-is-the-one-for-android/

Following this method the changes to PS1 are made in "/data/data/com.termux/files/usr/etc/bash.bashrc". I had been successfully using this method for a while with no ill effects. That was until today when I realised an update to Termux had overwritten the changes. Not what I wanted.

So after some searching I have found a solution that should survive future updates. In your Termux home directory save the following as ".profile". This will be run when Termux is started and make Termux look for a ".bashrc" file in the home directory.

# .profile
if [ -n "BASH_VERSION" ]; then
  # Echo msg to indicate file is run - can be removed later
  echo "Profile load.bashrc"
  # include .bashrc if it exists
  if [ -f "$HOME/.bashrc" ]; then
  . "$HOME/.bashrc"
  fi
fi

Create and edit ".bashrc" with any custom options. Exit and restart Termux and your custom configuration should be loaded.

WordPress Theme Frustration

I have been using WordPress for this site since I set it up. Over the years the platform has developed significantly. I used to spend hours creating a customised site from scratch. I abandoned this approach a few years ago due to the focus on 'responsive design' allowing the site to be viewed on mobile screen sizes and aspect ratios. I moved to the pre-created templates and modified them.

Trying to make a few small changes today has been frustrating. In part due to the limitations of the parent theme being used. While the overall appearance of the theme I am happy with it is the interaction on the back end that is the problem. Whilst the administrative interface provides customisation options for certain features it didn't allow access the fine grained modification I wanted. I only wanted to change the maximum number of featured posts to display. Ideally this option should have been included when the original theme was created. I suspect however the theme styling was the main thing on the developers mind rather than what functionality was going to be given to the end user. I resolved my issue with a few little tweaks, but a good bit of time wasted in doing so.

ARM Research

ARM Logo

This month I have been spending some time putting together a simple development set-up for 32bit ARM devices. Whilst not yet fully complete I am making steady progress and have begun to document the process. This is easier said than done. I set out to do the simple task of making an LED blink to test my set-up. There is a lot more to learn than what I had originally expected. The 8bit Atmega 328P was simple by comparison.

What I have discovered is a lack of resources based around my set-up & understanding. Hence why I feel the need to document it where I can. My documentation is taking shape HERE. It is likely to evolve over time but it is better to make it available as I write it in the hope it proves useful to others.

The Accidental Screenshot

Whilst having a clean up of files I noticed a number of screen shots I had taken over the past 12 months. In total 12 screen shots, only one of which I actually intended to take. So what is the big deal about 11 unwanted screen shots? Well those 11 images add up to 16.3MB in size. Not a huge amount when you think of hard disk sizes in the terabytes but its still additional unwanted data that gets included in my backups. It is interesting however that I seem to accidentally hit the print screen key about once per month on average.

Tidying Up

Starting off a new year always seems a good time to get a few things in order for the months ahead. Today I have tacked my email inbox. I have been building upon my list of filters for years such that most of the mailing list items, special offers, online order confirmations etc. all get sorted automatically. The filters never remain perfect as a company might change the email address they are sending from or retitle a newsletter. The result has been a spam folder filled with things I want and an inbox full of clutter.

I have spent 30 minutes today updating my filters and sorting out the mess. Since putting the majority of the filters in place a few years ago the annual maintenance is now minimal. I will of course go along and bulk delete old news letters in future but having the vast majority auto sorted mean even this task takes a few moments per folder.

Email wasn't the only clutter I found myself with. My browser downloads folder and my home directory have accumulated a great number of files. Going through and having a good tidy up means not only can I find things again but I don't end up downloading files multiple times. Tidying files is never as easy as email as the filters aren't available. Downloaded files especially PDFs seems to have obscure file names which have no resemblance to the content, meaning each one has to be opened, assessed and renamed. Perhaps a little more regular maintenance on this front is needed.

AIMS FOR 2016

It's that time of year again when I look back over the goals I set myself over the previous year and decide on some new ones for the year ahead.

What I intended to do in 2015:
  • Contribute to some open source projects – I only contributed a single bug report. The only open-source projects I contributed to were my own. Needs more work. Failure.
  • Put more time into electronics projects (Raspberry Pi/Wireless Sensor System) - I have been working on my Wireless Rat Trap Notification System and experimenting with a small OLED display. A variable dummy load is waiting to be built. Success.
  • Tackle the rodent menace in the loft - All the insulation was removed, the holes plugged with wire wool and expanding foam. Re-insulated and as far as I know still rodent free. Success.
  • Clear out Garage – I did clear out the garage but filled it with bags of old loft insulation whilst tackling the rodent menace. Still need to get rid of the stuff. Partial Success.
  • Buy a new Android Tablet – I bought a Pixel C, a vast improvement. Success.
  • Write an android application for my tablet/phone – Didn't get around to to it. Failure.
  • Build a new PC – I am still waiting to find a new case I like and instead spent the money on a Tablet. Failure.
  • Repave Back Yard – Main paved area complete. Needs the edges finishing off and a step putting in. Partial Success.
  • Buy a new kitchen bin – Still got the old one. Failure.
  • Cook a good Lamb Pathia – Haven't had another attempt. Failure.

2015 was another mixed year. Plenty of successes, but too many failures. On the positive side the successes were in bigger/more important projects. The failures are things that can be addressed in the future.

What I aim to do in 2016:
  • Contribute to some open source projects – Other than my own this time.
  • Put more time into electronics projects – More experiments, more fun.
  • Clear out Garage – Time for another attempt.
  • Write an android application for my tablet/phone – I have an idea for something simple.
  • Build a new PC – Current systems are around 7 years old.
  • Do something useful with a virtual machine.
  • Finish Back Yard – A little bit of finishing off from 2015.
  • Buy a new kitchen bin – I still need one that matches.
  • Cook a good Lamb Pathia from scratch – I like a good curry.
  • Eat more fruit and veg – Might have long term benefits.
  • Perform more off-site data backups.
  • Read more books – Didn't get through many in 2015.

2016 has fewer big projects, so hopefully I will have more time to tackle my list. The three I need to get done are the Garage Clearout, Finishing the Back Yard and building a new PC. All should be achieveble and it will be a bad year indeed if I can't manage them.

Who Broke My Toolchain?

It has been a few weeks since I felt like sitting down and working on a few of my projects. Tonight I decided to put in a little more work on trying to get text displayed on an OLED screen (DN2015-001). Imagine my frustration when I attempted to compile my code only to be presented with errors. Now my code will generate a few errors at the best of times due to the odd typo, but even after correcting these I was still having no luck. Time to Google the error message.

This time it seems I am not at fault. The search revealed that during my upgrade to Fedora 23 I gained a new version of avr-gcc (5.1.0). This version however appears to be broken and has been for a few months. So if I want to continue I have to downgrade to version 4.x. Not something I can be bothered to do when the clock is approaching midnight. I guess that's all I'm going to get done tonight.