Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Ubuntu catch-up

It's be a long while since my last blog post. Have to say that I have mostly been commenting over on the time sink that is Facebook. Anyway I had a few days off over the Xmas break to catch up on a few housekeeping tasks. I don't mean re-roofing the shed, pulling leaves out of the pond, adding compost to the sinking vegtable patch or clearing the accumulating kibble from the office book shelves. What I mean is getting the Ubuntu linux machine up to date.  I have this hotrod machine that has a fairly complex set up that includes being able to boot into Windows 7, Windows 10 and Ubuntu Linux, used ocasionaly for various digital exploring and research projects.

In a fit of reckless enthusiasm the upgrade to 14.04 Ubuntu was triggered. After the usual process a reboot launched. This was where the fun started, the GUI login screen shows but in a low resolution version. Logging in gave a few flashes then back to the login screen. This is not a uncommon issue that relates to having an Nvidia plug-in graphics card that needs updated drivers.

First step was to get console access to the system using F1 or ssh in from another system (if previously configured).  

Next was update the Nvidia driver using

$  sudo apt-get install nvidia-current

However this ended with

Building for 3.2.0-68-generic and 3.13.0-61-generic
Building for architecture x86_64
Module build for the currently running kernel was skipped since the
kernel source for this kernel does not seem to be installed.
Building initial module for 3.13.0-61-generic

IE a successful build for the latest kernel version but not he one running on the system, which was rather old as shown by...

$ uname -a
Linux bb02-u910 3.2.0-68-generic #102-Ubuntu SMP Tue Aug 12 22:02:15 UTC 2014 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux

3.2 being much older than 3.13.0

This was not expected, I had no particular need to run an old kernel on the updated system.  Indeed looking at the version table 3.2 is well behind the rest of the system, dating back to Ubuntu version 12.04

The kernel version is loaded during the system start up sequence by GRUB. Looking in /boot shows the configuration files and menus file that offer the kernel version during the start up sequence. The update-grub command should be adding the latest built kernels to the menu offered during the start up sequence. Update-grub appears to be working but the new kernels were not offered, it was instead showing a list of older kernels. Some research showed that GRUB needed updating. After checking which actual device is used the update sequence went through first time.

With Grub updated, the new kernel version 3.13.0-61-generic loaded and the graphics driver was in place. Success.

Notes and Links:

To get console -  use
  • Ctrl-Alt-F1 shortcut keys to switch to the first console.
    To switch back to Desktop mode, use the Ctrl-Alt-F7 shortcut keys.
    Or ssh in from another system,
Update Nvidia driver   or this way if you have a working GUI login
Check the Kernel version against name -a
Grub version update from 0.97 to 1.96 - Did not need to use boot recovery disk as the MBR was fine.

Whilst the above may seem quite complicated the main message to understand this that there is help out there especially on the Ubuntu forums.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Whatsapp Spam direct to your mobile and in ur face deception

This single image shows the whole process of Whatsapp spam process. Get a WhatsApp account (free) Load up a load of random or guessed phone numbers into a group. Send a cheesy message and then unload the group. Simples. A pain in the a***e international spam in short order. Cheaper than international SMS and no blowback.

And what is WhatsApp doing about this - nothing I as far as I can tell. 

Who who'll have guessed that a free messaging app would be used for spam ? Where's the president for that ? Just about the last 30 years of internet, Usenet, Email, worms, Viruses, Facebook.


Here is another ugly face of the net - pop up deception right in your face. Triggered from from a random interesting post on Facebook this javascript dialog box locks out your browser.  The use of a deceptive domain name ""  preceded by apple. gives the impression of legitimacy.

Action to take - Force quit Safari then restart Safari holding down Shift to avoid dropping right back into the same issue.  This and other similar scams are discussed on the Apple support forums. domain is a part of nothing to do with

Monday, 13 April 2015

Engine Complexity in 30 years

Engine bay from a Ford Escort 1600 - mid 1980 vintage..

Nissan WER Nismo LP2 2015 race car engine bay

Nissan photo from Marshall Pruett on FB.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The gods of Google are fickle and don't look at what you expect.

I write this blog as a place to push out ideas, describe topics that interest me and practice writing skills. There is little danger of finding fame and fortune from a random collection of posts with little topic focus and absolutely no publishing schedule.

"Art is nothing without an audience" and for a blog that means looking at the viewing stats provided by Google. Generally this is low traffic blog with a few 10s of views on most entries, and a couple 100s of hits on the more popular entries.

Up to the start of this year the most popular entry was "The seven habits of successful technical support." with almost a 5000 views. The the start of a new career, fame at last ? Sorry no all the searches leading to the page were looking for the colourful 7 logo.

Last month the blog viewing stats suddenly went through the roof with over 1000 hits a day.
All the traffic was going to a Feb 2014 entry based round a picture of a maths question that had previously been circulating on Facebook. The blog has some added value describing the maths behind the question and adding some humour on the end. I was surprisingly pleased by the number of page hits and even added an advert for my sisters new book on the end of the entry.

 The joy did not last long and the stats tailed off quickly. A recent search for "old time maths question" shows why.  The image and the article are still at the top hit but the image link goes to a Pinterest page. No added value on that Pinterest page, it just redirects back to my blog entry.

However the traffic is stolen and the link to the blog is lost behind a sign-up click wall.

What I learnt from this, make an eye catching image and don't rely on great content to find traffic. There is little sense of time in search with derivative works valued as much as original content.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Apple Watch the distance from an original prediction to actuality

Lets have a look at an early prediction of the watch sized computer and how it turned out after 34 years of development.

Byte Magazine cover from April 1981
Apple Watch advert from March 2015 ( 34 years later )
Detail changes:
Keyboard -> Touch screen
Removable media -> Wireless connection
Text screen - > Full graphics screen
Stainless steel strap -> Stainless steel strap ( or leather etc)
Nothing -> Sensors for heartbeat, location, time, motion
Nothing -> Communication connection to iPhone
Text based adventure - > Angry Birds.

Software from early version would have been text based, limited by the lack of sensors, communication and 10 years of smartphone software development.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

BT Openreach - Fails to provide phones lines to new houses in over 9 months.

Today yet another email from BT Openreach arrived with confirmation of yet another failed connection date at Torridge View new house site in Bideford EX39 4HH.

After BBC Watchdog castigated BT Openreach  for long delays connecting new housing developments back in November 2014 I contacted Openreach directly to track when the installation date was set.  We really hoped things would change as the site had already been waiting for connection for at least 4 months by that time.

After some delay the reply came….

> we expect to have all of our work completed at that development and to be able to provide your site with service by 16/02/15. 

On 19th January this changed to ...

>provide your site with service by 04/02/2015. 

be able to provide your site with service by 18/02/2015.

>provide your site with service has changed and is now 10/03/2015
then today ….

>provide your site with service has changed and is now 19/05/2015.

Broken promise after broken promise.

This repeated failures to stick to connection dates and deliver a basic service is both annoying and exceptionally poor service for the residents of the site.  It has been mentioned that some of the houses have been provided with temporary lines but this fails to address the core problem of lack of site connectivity. The length of delay at over 8 months was previously enough to cause Watchdog to run a report and yet this length of delay continues. 

Having a moan on behalf of a couple of residents on the site. We will be asking for free line rental for the same duration as the delay in installation.

This failure has already made the local paper back in October 2014 to little apparent effect.