Rob's Ramblings

Saturday 26 April 2008

Coffee and keyboards

Well I can now state that spilling coffee into a laptop keyboard is not a good idea. Despite being cleaned out quickly, turned upside down, drained, and dried with a hair dryer on low, I can't get the damn thing to work any more.

And the trackpad is, at best, intermittant. I'm having to use an external USB keyboard and mouse just to use the laptop now - not quite so convenient any more.

It's only a 'cheap' medion laptop, bought from Woolworths some time back. I'm glad it wasn't my wife's Dell machine. (Twice the price but half the weight.)

Next thing to try is to clean all the connectors, I guess. The keyboard was sort of working (if you can accept long strings of n's in your posts) before I disconnected it to dry it off further.


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Sunday 20 April 2008

"What I Did on My Holidays"

OK, I think it's time I gave a list of some of the few computer related things I've got on the boil at the moment. Apart from this blog, anyway. This is an incomplete list..

The Streamlist - an attempt to produce a website hosting a list of live video streaming servers, which will actually monitor them and ensure that the list is kept up to date. Intended to integrate with a plugin for XBMC, or however you wish to view them.

I've got an OpenWRT based router that I'm trying to configure up to replace the firebrick I'm currently using. Only because the firebrick has a max throughput of about 6.5Mbps, and I've got almost 18Mbps of available external bandwidth on two ADSL lines.. The tricky bit is trying to get my head around the firewall and routing under linux. (I've only really played with FreeBSD before.)

I'm working on business idea for a telephone based service that will necesitate getting my head around asterisk configuration files. I've got a trixbox server running all the household telephony, but the FreePBX GUI configuration isn't flexible enough for what I want to do.

I keep meaning to backup and catalogue all my old BBC Micro software, bulletin board data, and other miscalaneous files. I spent ten years writing software and using the Beeb, so there's a fair bit to sort out. I did manage to restore a fileserver backup onto an A5000 and get a two station econet up and running on my desk, but it's moving on from here that's taking some getting around to..

I run a website devoted to solving the puzzles featuring on UK TV Quiz Channels. Of which there are no dedicated channels left, so it's a little quiet there now.

And I'm over a year behind on updating the photos on our baby daughter's website! (Oh and looking after her and the family takes the majority of my time!)

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Saturday 19 April 2008

Sky broadband router woes

Here at irrelevant towers we have two broadband connections, one from ukonline, and one from Sky broadband.  (They are both easynet brands, and actually connect to pretty much the same kit at the exchange.)  I have  a router/firewall device that does some basic load balancing between the LAN and each WAN link.

Sky supplied us with a customised version of the netgear DG834GT. Part of their customisation is to make the router poll for firmware updates, and install them automatically.

The other day, it updated.  And broke that internet connection. The firewall could connect out to any internet host it liked, but not any of the LAN based clients.  It seems that there is an issue with it routing incoming packtes according to the user specified routing table.  Or maybe their firewall settings are too agressive.  Either way, replies to packets sent to it from outside it's immediate LAN connection don't make it back to the firewall.

Netgear Tech Support have said to speak to Sky, as it's customised.  Sky, after the usual initial crap responses, have eventually decided to throw a replacement router my way.  It's here and in and working.  On the old firmware.  I'm just waiting to see what happens when it updates.. I'll keep you posted.

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We had a powercut a few days ago. Sort of.  The main circuitbreaker tripped, although none of the individual ones did.  It was with some trepidation that I turned it back on again, since I didn't know what had caused the fault.  Everything came back ok OK, though, or so I thought at the time.

I eventually found what had caused the fault; the washing machine had been on at the time with rather a full load of towels in it.  When I turned it back on, it was refusing to turn the drum.  With a baby in the house, it's one of those essential pieces of household equipment.  It's a good few years old now, but had been a good workhouse.  However in the last four years it's broken down twice, and cost us an arm and a leg to get fixed.  The first time needed a new motor, but the second time just new brushes.  I thought it might be worth, therefore, checking the brushes to see what they were like this time.

After decanting the soaking towels into the baby bath (biggest bowl I could find!) I pulled it out and took the lid off. It was a little tricky working out how to get the brushes out of the motor, but I did it in the end. They looked a little short, but when I tried pulling the carbon bits out, they didn't go back in as far. Iffy springs, I guess. So I put it all back together, turned it on, and it turned the drum!

I did go out and buy some new brushes for the thing, but it's done half  dozen complete loads so far without needing them.  And I bet I'd have still been charged £60 for 'fixing' that if I'd called out the repairman.

Anyway, after power was restored, it was a few days later that I discovered that I'd lost access to some of the networked kit in the bedroom.  Upon investigation, I found the remote switch up there was just cycling through it's power on test. It was one of two sub-£10 cheapie ones I'd bought in a cost saving exercise about a year ago, and the other died some time back, so I had to replace it quickly. With a switch that must be almost 10 years old - it was one of the first 100Mbps switches we'd bought at work, and cost well over £100 at the time. It's been a little unreliable, which was why I wasn't using it any more, but will do for this location. That kit doesn't need constant network access.

OK, that's it for post#2.

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Friday 18 April 2008

Thoughts on blogs

OK, let's try this again. I've never been able to keep a diary more than about two days, so I don't know if I'll manage this one, but I'm going to try again.  

There are so many things I find I would like to note down, but have nowhere to put them. Maybe this will help.