Monday, November 04, 2013

Podcast Sync

I listen to audio books and podcasts using a SanDisk Sansa, I prefer this over using my mobile phone for a few reasons. The main ones are:

  • battery life; the sansa lasts weeks with out a recharge

  • it clips onto my collar and I use a very short set of headphones

I use the Juice podcast receiver application to download and manage my podcast subscriptions. I have it rigged up to download new podcasts every day and delete any file over 14 days old (for some podcasts I set up a longer purge time).

I then have a batch file which calls xxcopy to sync the mp3 files from the podcast download folder on my laptop onto the sansa. Here is the batch file:

[code]@echo off
set SN=19088743
set "extDrive="

for /f %%D in ('wmic volume get driveLetter^, serialNumber ^| find "%sn%"') do set extDrive=%%D

if not defined extDrive echo Error finding external drive & pause & exit /b

xxcopy C:\Users\fuzzy\Podcasts "%extDrive%\PODCASTS" /KS/H/E/R/Q/BB/ZE/oD0/ZY/YY/EXC:\Users\fuzzy\Utils\podcast-exclude.txt[/code]

Now there are a couple of things which you'd have to edit if you were going to make use of this:

  • plug in your mp3 player

  • check what drive letter has been assigned to it

  • open a cmd window (start -> run -> cmd)

  • execute the following: wmic volume get driveLetter, serialNumber

  • copy the serial number listed next to the drive letter of your mp3 player

  • edit this number into the line in the batch file to replace my serial number: set SN=19088743

You'll also need to edit the paths to your podcast directory on your PC and the output directory.

The C:\Users\fuzzy\Utils\podcast-exclude.txt part is the location of a text file which contains a list of any folders which I don't want to include in the sync.

Windows 8.1 Upgrade

I had a few issues while attempting to upgrade my laptop from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1.

  1. If your harddrive is encrypted with something like TrueCrypt, you'll have to decode it, apply the upgrade and then re-encode it.
  2. A batch file script I use to sync podcasts between my PC and mp3 player had once gone a little nuts and written some files to my system reserved partition. This meant that there wasn't enough free space in there for the 8.1 upgrade to do its thing. I had to use a GParted Live CD to work out what was wrong and clean up the podcast mess.

Once the install of the 8.1 upgrade was completed the first thing I attempted to do was connect to one of the servers I manage via remote desktop. I usually do this by selecting the appropriate entry from my start -> run history. Imagine my joy to find out that all the entries for all commands had been removed. Thanks MS.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mobile Phones

I've posted previously about how I was very late to the smart phone "revolution" and as my experience of living with an Android device in my pocket has continued I thought I'd give a little update.

As quick Too Long; Didn't Read update, here the 5 key reasons I'd continued using an old nokia handset while the waves of the smartphone sea crashed around me:

  1. I'm at a computer for around 12 hours a day.
  2. When not at a computer I actually like being disconnected from email, the web, etc.
  3. Simplicity. I don't waste brain cycles on apps, updating, upgrading, replacing, recharging.
  4. Size. The nokia 6100 I used back home in Australia was the smallest and lightest phone nokia have ever made. It was also practically unbreakable.
  5. Cost.

The change came when my new employer declared that they'd pay all the contract fees of a phone plan, including the upfront cost if it was under $50. Therefore, if I was happy with an older handset it would cost me nothing. If I wanted a new shiny Galaxy S4 or HTC One, I'd have to fork out the $200 upfront cost.

I can report that I've had my 1st taste of the "upgrade cycle", just this week I moved from the HTC Droid Incredible which I had been given by my employer as a temporary phone until I worked out what I wanted for a longer period. The Droid was a good entry point for me, not large enough to annoy me as I carried it around in my pocket.

My plan was to wait until the Galaxy S4 was released and cross my fingers that the S3 would drop down into the $50 upfront bucket. Initially verizon lowered the S3 from $200 to $100. I was disappointed, but I'd got used to the Droid and even though it was running the old version of android I figured I'd just stick with it and keep an eye on the $50 bucket.

The S3 had a special draw for me, beyond being an excellent handset; a barometer. This would allow me to use the BASEline flight computer app to track my skydives.

Color me surprised when on one of my random checks of the verizon page I noticed that the S3 was now $50. I organized to get switched over to the S3 and have been wonderfully surprised. Yes it is bigger in my pocket but it is lighter, which is more important. I'll accept the size increase because the screen is so much better to read from. Android 4 is really quite an improvement and the overall speed increase is huge.

I've also got to admit that I've become extremely addicted to Real Racing 3. I did not expect to find that one of the best racing games ever made would be for a mobile device.... and free.

In other mobile phone news, if I had ~$700 to blow to buy a handset outright, I think I'd be very interested in the Ubuntu Edge. I think they're on the right path and that the end game for mobile devices is that they will become true "convergence" devices which can replace desktop computers for general computing tasks.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Thursday, June 06, 2013


Ubuntu Dynamic MOTD

I'm just finishing off moving all my web sites and related things from one VPS host to another. The new host had customized the message of the day on the Ubuntu 12.04 LTS image which I had installed. It had helpful links to support and what not, things that are only actually helpful the first time I logged in.

As I went through the process of removing all this I had to learn about the update-motd system, since I quickly found that the solution wasn't a simple:

[sourcecode language="bash"]$ sudo echo "" > /etc/motd[/sourcecode]

So I cooked up a bash script to spit out some information about the system every time I log into the server. The output looks like this:


Create or edit update-motd's 00-header file.

[sourcecode language="bash"]$ sudo vi /etc/update-motd.d/00-header[/sourcecode]

And here's the source of the bash script:

[sourcecode language="bash"]#!/bin/sh

[ -r /etc/lsb-release ] && . /etc/lsb-release

if [ -z "$DISTRIB_DESCRIPTION" ] && [ -x /usr/bin/lsb_release ]; then
# Fall back to using the very slow lsb_release utility
DISTRIB_DESCRIPTION=$(lsb_release -s -d)

UPTIME=`uptime | awk '{if ($4 == "day," || $4 == "days,") print $3, $4, $5; else print $3}' | awk -F: '{print $1, "hrs", $2, "mins"}' | sed 's/,//g'`

LOADAVG=`uptime | awk '{if ($4 == "day," || $4 == "days,") print $10, $11, $12; else print $8, $9, $10}'`

PROCCOUNT=`ps -l | wc -l`
IP=$(/sbin/ifconfig eth0 | grep "inet addr" | awk -F: '{print $2}' | awk '{print $1}')

echo -e "
==============: System Info :===================
Hostname: `hostname`
Address: $IP
Kernel: `uname -r`
Uptime: $UPTIME
Load Avgs: $LOADAVG
Processes: $PROCCOUNT
==============: Memory Info :===================
Total: `cat /proc/meminfo | grep MemTotal | awk {'print $2'}` kB
Free: `cat /proc/meminfo | grep MemFree | awk {'print $2'}` kB
Lowest: `cat /proc/meminfo | grep LowFree | awk {'print $2'}` kB
===============: Disk Info :===================="
df -h[/sourcecode]

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hyper-V 2012 Failover Cluster: Live Migration Fails

I love hyper-v. I especially love hyper-v running on windows server 2012 in a failover cluster configuration. It truly is a wonderful environment to administer windows servers. With this said, the error logging leaves a lot to be desired.

I've just spent the better part of two days trying to work out why live migration of servers between cluster nodes wasn't working. The error message which Microsoft helpfully give you when this happens is simply:
Event ID: 21502
Source: Hyper-V High Availability
’Virtual Machine <VM NAME>’ Live Migration did not succeed at the destination

And over on the hyper-v host you were trying to migrate the virtual machine onto you'll get the equally as amazing Microsoft-Windows-Hyper-V-High-Availability-Admin log entry of:
Source: Microsoft-Windows-Hyper-V-High-Availability
Event ID: 21111
Live migration of 'Virtual Machine <VM NAME>' failed.

Oh thanks, it didn't work because it failed.

Finally after reading many a technet article and support thread I stumbled onto the fix. It was simple. Here's the details for anyone else who suffers this problem:

  • On any node in your hyper-v cluster, open up Failover Cluster Manager

  • Select the cluster name

  • In the bottom right corner of the manager window, click Take Offline

  • Again in the bottom right corner, under More Actions, click Repair

  • This will bring the cluster back online and magically fix the mysterious problem causing live migrations of VMs to fail

Best of all, it will do this with out any disruptions to running VMs. Enjoy!

Monday, April 22, 2013


I recently posted a long ramble about being very late to the smartphone "evolution". One reason, of many, which I'd held off for so long was because I could predict the amount of time I'd "waste" messing around and tinkering with the phone and the apps installed on it. I was right.

I'm sure that it won't really be news to anyone that Flipboard is an amazing app. I'm such a fan of feed based news and information ingestion that I have used my own rss aggregator for years, so obviously one of the first apps I needed to find was an rss / news reader. Flipboard won out over Google Currents and the handful of other rss readers I checked out.

With that said, I had to put together my own specially crafted rss feeds to be truly happy. What I've done is create new feeds of my favourite sources using yahoo pipes which have images included in the body of each post, so that Flipboard displays the image, headline and snippet in a good looking way. I then added these rss feeds to my Google Reader account. While Google has announced that Reader is being killed off in July, it is currently the best way to get new feeds added to Flipboard. Just add your G.Reader account in the accounts settings in Flipboard. Then you can add each separate feed to an icon link on the main Flipboard screen for easy access.

Here's the list of feeds which I've created:

Friday, April 19, 2013 Goes Responsive

Since I've finally got a smartphone I figured I should finally get around to haxing together a responsive design for So now you can visit my crappy site on your phone. Yay!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Late Comer to Smartphones

I can still remember quite clearly being rather jealous of my manager when he first got his nokia 6100. It was 2002 and I had been given a nokia 5110 to be in contact. The difference between the two phones was remarkable, it really was a huge leap in terms of size, weight and features.


Around the same time I was tasked with a project looking into PDAs such as the iPaq. And to recommend if the University where I worked should look towards these style of devices. Long story short, we knew smartphones were on the horizon - though back then we used the words "convergence device" - and figured it was silly to have staff carrying around both a mobile phone and a PDA.

So at one point in my life I was really eager for smartphones.

When the iPhone came out I wasn't interested in having one. I thought the hardware was amazing, but there was no way I would ever infect a PC of mine with itunes and I had no interest in becoming locked into an Apple walled garden. The Android devices did excite me, but when I stopped and thought about it, I couldn't see any reason I needed a smartphone.

I'm a geek who is generally at a keyboard for around 12 hours a day. When I'm away from a computer I'm generally pretty happy about it. By this stage I actually had a nokia 6100 of my own, as it was and still is the smallest and lightest phone nokia has released. The battery lasted for around two weeks and it could make and receive phone calls and text messages as well as had WAP support which I made use of every now and then for geeky things I'd set up like rebooting servers.

I have a tiny mp3 player (a Sansa Clip) which I use to listen to music and audiobooks, which also has a battery life of around two weeks. The other upside is that I just clip it onto my collar and only require a short cable on my headphones.

One large reason why I'd held out from getting a smartphone was that I know I'm a tinkerer. I'd seen my friends spend hours getting their phones set up just right. From jail breaking iphones to creating personal android apps, I could foresee myself losing whole chunks of my life doing things which I quite rationally decided I didn't actually need.

Also, back home in Australia smartphones aren't cheap. I was happily getting by on a pay as you go contract which normally cost me around $15 a month. I was quite happy spending the $60-$70 I was saving each month on important things like beer.

Maps was one feature which I could imagine I could make use of, but even though I was now working as a travelling geek and driving all over the city to client locations I got by using the old fashioned idea of preparation and a memory.

Among my circle of friends I've become well known for my love of my old phone and my reluctance to get a smartphone.

Now I've taken a job where the company provides a phone. They want me to be contactable via email and generally be a modern geek and actually have a smartphone.

So I've just spent about 5 hours over the last two days tinkering with the HTC Incredible which I'm using temporarily until the Samsung Galaxy S4 is released later this month. It took me about another hour of research to decide to go with the S4 over the soon to be released HTC One.

As expected I do really like having a little computer in my pocket. I've already fallen in love with flipboard, google music, instagram and evernote. However, I'm still using my mp3 player to listen to audio books on the light rail on my commute to and from work.... its just easier.



Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Outlook 2013 Reading Pane Header

I found the 1st thing I detest in the Office 2013 suite today; the fact that you can't hide the reading pane header in Outlook 2013. MS have removed this feature which was available in Outlook 2010 because apparently some users would hide it and then not be able to find how to re-enable it.

What a ridiculous reason to force all users to have nearly 30% of their screen real estate (if they prefer to have the reading pane at the bottom of the window, like me) taken up by superfluous information.

Systems Center Operations Manager 2012

My 1st project in my new job is shaping up to be the installation and configuration of Microsoft's System Center Operations Manager 2012. While this system will allow a range of monitoring features which will be very helpful in our environment, the main use case which is driving the project is auditing.

The company I'm employed with needs to get an accurate picture of exactly what systems they have out in the wild, what operating systems they're running, what patch levels are they at and what are the specs of the hardware. We also need these details to be easily checked again in the future, so that manually doing an audit "just this once" isn't a good plan.

So in steps SCOM 2012. Here's the promo copy which MS use to explain what operations manager does:

Businesses, small and large, are typically dependent on the services and applications provided by their computing environment. IT departments are responsible for ensuring the performance and availability of those critical services and applications. That means that IT departments need to know when there is a problem, identify where the problem is, and figure out what is causing the problem, ideally before the users of the applications encounter the problems. The more computers and devices in the business, the more challenging this task becomes.
Using Operations Manager in the environment makes it easier to monitor multiple computers, devices, services, and applications. The Operations console, shown in the following image, enables you to check the health, performance, and availability for all monitored objects in the environment and helps you identify and resolve problems.

I'm currently reading through the SCOM 2012 survival guide.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Back To Work

My ~6 month holiday from work is officially over today. I'm back in cubical land, this time employed as a Senior Systems Administrator. I've just spent the morning getting my new Lenovo L412 laptop all set up and figured I'd drop some thoughts about it and about Windows 8, which has been installed on it.

So far I quite like the laptop. When I accepted the position I knew that they used Lenovo laptops and I was kind of dreading receiving one of the new models which has removed a lot of the features from the thinkpad machines which I've always liked. Luckily I got an L412 rather than one of the newer L430 models. The main difference with the newer L430 is the "chiclet keyboard", where the keys are separate little "islands" rather than the more traditional keyboard which I prefer.

One thing which I'm not a huge fan of with the L412 is that the power cable connects on the right hand side of the laptop, along with the two USB slots. This tends to interfere with my mouse hand when I'm using an external mouse.

Another downer which thankfully I was able to overcome was the fact that the keyboard has the function key in the position where a standard keyboard has the left control key. I quickly found that in a recent BIOS update lenovo added an option to switch the function of these two keys around. So I don't have to retrain my left pinky.

Onto Windows 8..... I like it. Well, I like it now that I've installed Windows 8 Classic Shell and won't ever need to look at the new Metro Start Screen ever again. I think the flat UI in Win 8 is really nice and clean and beyond that I haven't found anything which either isn't basically the same as Win 7 or an improvement. I'm sure with more time I'll find more things to comment on.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Falling From The Sky

I've planned my 1st skydiving in 5 years planned for tomorrow morning, which will be at one of the biggest drop zones in America; Eloy, AZ. To say I'm pretty excited is somewhat of a massive understatement. Hopefully my plan for overly tight leg straps will prove successful in avoiding the incredible amount of pain I was left in last (when on opening my leg strap had slipped below my bone tumor and "grated" across it, causing huge bruising). Because, hot damn I miss falling.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Goodbye Posterous

As with all things which are too good to be true, posterous is going the way of the dodo. They were bought out by twitter a while back and finally twitter are pulling the plug on the best free blogging service I'd found. It was so simple!

I've now exported my content from posterous and imported it here to I've never been a huge fan of wordpress but it had been some time since I'd checked it out. Since they offer a free hosted blog service and they seem to have a solid business model which should mean they'll be around for at least a few more years, I decided to move to it.

This is really just a test post to check that my code to integrate the feed from the new wordpress blog into my system on