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July 21, 2012

Photo Licensing Change


I use Flickr for storing my photos, though I also post some images on to various social sites and blogs.. But most of the photos I've taken with my various digital cameras and phones end up on Flickr at some point.

Up until a couple of days ago the license on all the images was restricted, though you could ask me for permission for a license. I'm not sure why I set the license that way, though I think it might have been a few years ago when I was constantly finding people ripping off my content..

In any case I've changed the license on most of my photos and images to be:

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

The only exception being the "Blacknight images" set, which is mainly made up of images that we have produced for marketing etc.,

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June 18, 2012

CD Ripping To Ogg Vorbis And Other Formats On OSX


If you use a Mac you get used to using its tools. Why wouldn't you? They're easy to use and pretty intuitive.

Unfortunately my iRiver H340 can't read audio files in the standard OSX / iTunes format. It'll happily take the files in, but then you can't play the audio, which defeats the purpose of the exercise.

There are quite a few software tools, both commercial and open source, for ripping CDs to mp3 on OSX, but I wanted to use Ogg Vorbis, as they tend to take up less space without a massive loss in audio quality.

Unfortunately a lot of the open source tools for Ogg on the Mac are pretty awful and I couldn't get any of them to work sanely.

Phile Audio, however, works really well.

Here's the official blurb:

Simultaneous encoding to 7 formats:
Phile Audio will encode to all of the most popular audio file formats: MP3, MP4-AAC, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, Apple Lossless, WAV and AIFF. You can specify one or more encoding formats before ripping, so you only have to rip once. Archive a copy of your CD collection in a lossless format, such as FLAC or Apple Lossless, and encode a smaller, compressed copy for your portable media player. Phile Audio will import iTunes-supported file formats automatically, saving you a manual step if you want to import to iTunes.
Simultaneous ripping from multiple CD/DVD/BD-ROM drives:
Phile Audio will rip from as many drives as you can hook up to your computer, simultaneously. While one disc is ripping, you can be entering the information for another one. This is a huge advantage for your CD archiving workflow, as you don't have to wait as long for discs to finish ripping to move on to the next one.
Retrieve CD information from the FreeDB online database:
Phile Audio automatically identifies and retrieves your discs information from the online FreeDB database. This huge resource is sure to find disc information for most of your CDs
Multiple options for cover art retrieval:
Phile Audio includes an online image search, pre-populated to the title of your CD to make finding cover art as easy as possible. In the unlikely event that you don't find something acceptable, you can drag and drop cover art files from a web browser or your computer directly into the application, or, import your images from a digital camera or memory card with the built-in camera device browser. There's even an interface to use your scanner to scan your cover art directly into your disc information! No other software offers this degree of integration for your cover art!
More information can be input up-front:
In addition to the extensive options for cover art, Phile Audio allows you to enter individual years per track, composers, groupings, gapless tags, compilation tags, disc numbering (if part of a multiple-disc set), comments and lyrics for supported encoding formats. You don't have to revisit your encoded files from other software to add these tags. You can do it all right before ripping, a huge time-saver!
Customizable file naming:
For those that are not importing into iTunes or to a non-taggable format, keeping file names in a usable format can be a real pain. Phile Audio allows you to customize the exact file name convention based on disc and track information to fit your needs.
Efficient encoding:
Phile Audio detects how many processors are in your computer and runs encoding jobs simultaneously on all multi-core processors. Encoding happens in the background, so your discs can rip as fast as possible without being encumbered by potentially slow encoding times. You can pause encoding if you need the extra processor power for another application. You can even close the application in the middle of encoding a batch of discs, and Phile Audio will remember where you left off. Very handy for users on-the-go!
Real-time status:
When ripping discs, Phile Audio gives you an indication of your drive's DAE (Digital Audio Extraction) or "ripping" speed. This serves as a benchmark for your drive. While encoding, the status of all of your encoding jobs are easily seen and understood.

What's really cool about it is that if one of the free music DBs can't find the album you can use iTunes to populate the track data.

Being able to rip albums to Ogg (and other formats) easily and quickly means that I'll be able to fill up my iRiver with albums I want to listen to for my next trip :)




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January 8, 2012

Working With SuPHP Permissions and Ownership

debian-openI switched one of my web servers over to use SuPHP a few weeks ago, as it's a lot more secure.

However moving from mod_php to suPHP does require a small bit of tweaking of files and directories.

Under mod_php you can easily end up with a lot of files and directories being owned by the Apache user, which on Debian / Ubuntu is "www-data". You'll need to change the ownership of all those files to the website user.

The other thing to watch out for is permissions - setting them to 644 should fix any errors you're getting.

Another issue I ran into was this error in the logs:

SoftException in Application.cpp:564: Directory "/home/www/www.xxxx.xx/web" is writeable by group

Solution is to chmod 755 the web directory.

After doing a default install and configuration of SuPHP you might run into difficulties running PhpMyAdmin, as the standard SuPHP configuration will forbid it.

The fix is to tweak the settings add the following to your main suphp.conf :

<Directory /usr/share/phpmyadmin>
        suPHP_Engine on


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March 4, 2011

Checking Which Ports Are Doing What On Linux

From time to time it's handy to be able to see exactly which process is using a particular port on a Linux system - especially if you're debugging issues.

This command will let you see exactly what's going on - you simply change the port number:

lsof -i:80

If you need the standard port numbers you can check this list

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October 23, 2010

Postfix Mail Queue Management

This is more as a reminder for myself than anything else since I tend to forget Postfix commands unless I use them regularly.

To see all mails in the current queue:


To flush the mail queue run:

postfix flush

To remove all the mail from the queue (ie. delete it) run:

postsuper -d ALL

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July 11, 2010

Tweaking Spam Filters

I've been running my own mail server for this domain and several others for a few years. I could have used our main mail servers, but I like messing around with the server settings and trying out new things.

One thing that I hadn't been checking too stringently on my inbound email was SPF.
Sure, I had it set up on several of my domains so that anyone else getting mail from me would be "happy".
Switching it to more stringent settings and checking SPF inbound, however, has proven to be worth the few minutes it took to set it up - over 100 mails blocked in less than 24 hours!

I opted to install postfix-policyd-spf-perl as I'm using Postfix. Configuration was pretty easy - just adding a couple of lines to the and (the man page gives you the most up to date configuration settings)

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March 4, 2010

Ubuntu Gets A Visual MakeOver

Ubuntu, which is one of the more popular Linux distributions these days, has unveiled a completely new look.

It's got a new logo:
blackeubuntulogoAnd a whole new range of styles for just about every other visual asset associated with the brand, both online and on the users' desktops.

The new look is very slick compared to the "old" image of Linux distributions as being ugly, yet functional

Full details here

Thanks to Laura for mentioning it earlier this evening

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March 1, 2010

Cleaning Up Old Configs On Ubuntu / Debian

Debian OpenLogo

Image via Wikipedia

This is more for my own use than anyone else...

If you remove a package in Debian / Ubuntu you often end up with legacy configuration files lying around.

Running the following command removes all the crud left lying around your system and may fix silly issues that you run into. As it's Linux, there's probably about 10 other ways to do this!

Here's the command:

sudo aptitude purge `dpkg --get-selections | grep deinstall | awk '{print $1}'`


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May 10, 2009

Playing With Lifestreams and SweetCron

sweetcron logoA few months ago Stewart mentioned Sweetcron as a "lifestream" solution (You can see his here).

A "lifestream" basically acts as an aggregator of all your online activities, as many of the online services that people use, such as Twitter, Flickr etc., publish your activity via RSS.

I'd already been experimenting with Movable Type's Motion, which is a pretty cool addition to an existing MT powered site, however having a separate, standalone, solution was not without its attractions. I registered a few months ago, but apart from using it to test our Exchange mail hosting I hadn't really done anything with it.

So last night (and very early this morning) I decided to setup Sweetcron on one of our shared hosting plans. Our hosting system allows you to split your domain up across multiple hosting plans and platforms, so while the main site is now on a Linux web server the email is still on Microsoft Exchange.

I chose to setup the webspace to use PHP5, since PHP4 is defunct. In terms of the database I opted for MySQL5, since it's also the more recent version.

I'll have to admit that I hadn't used FTP for a long time. I have a habit of just doing things from the command line, but once I'd got over that it was easy enough to setup.

The documentation for Sweetcron is a bit sparse, but the basic install is easy enough. On our system you just need to remember that the MySQL database server is NOT "localhost", as the basic configuration file assumes that you're running everything on a single server.

The one step that isn't documented clearly is how to setup a simple cronjob to automate it for you. Fortunately someone else had done that already, so adding the cronjob via the hosting control panel was fine.
You just need to execute the following command every few minutes (or hours):

curl http://your/true-cron/url

You can find the actual URL in the Sweetcron admin panel. So just set that command to run via the cronjob manager and off you go.

The basic install ships with two themes, but there are several other themes available which range from the very simple to the incredibly complex. I still haven't settled on which one I actually want to use, as they all handle parts of your "stream" differently. In order to avoid duplication issues I think I'll stick with a theme that doesn't pull in the full content from blog posts and just provides a link to the original source.

So if you're bored and want to know what I'm up to you can head over to my new personal space and see!

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April 27, 2009

Logging Email From PHP Scripts

This is more a note for myself than anything else ...

By default a lot of php scripts will send emails that appear as coming from the Apache user, which makes tracking down a rogue script really annoying and time-consuming.

You end up with entries in the mail logs similar to this one:

Apr 27 18:22:29 servername postfix/qmgr[23581]: 0F53421C1FA: from=<>, size=929, nrcpt=1 (queue active)

Which isn't particularly helpful if you have more than one site (vhost) on a particular server.

Making it a bit saner can be done via a simple addition to the Apache vhost config:

php_admin_value sendmail_path '/usr/sbin/sendmail -t -i -f address@domain.tld'

So now any emails sent from that vhost will reference the email specified instead of the Apache user:

Apr 27 19:40:34 servername postfix/qmgr[2469]: 16A8F21C1FA: from=<address@domain.tld>, size=358, nrcpt=1 (queue active)

There are other additions to Php that can log the path to the script itself, though until such time as someone makes it available for Debian / Ubuntu I don't really fancy having to compile it in manually

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