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welcome

Turn off your email; turn off your phone; disconnect from the Internet; figure out a way to set limits so you can concentrate when you need to, and disengage when you need to. Technology is a good servant but a bad master.

- Gretchen Rubin


We're still in the first minutes of the first day of the Internet revolution.

- Scott Cook




Hi there! Thanks for stopping by! This is just another little leaf floating on the very big lake of the interwebs, mostly dedicated to techie rambling :)




tags:
category: welcome
by seiji
on 03.03.2016 at 13:24:00
90 words

latest posts


coding Here's a trick I figured out a few years ago. I thought I'd blogged it here but I can't find it in search so I'm making a post now for the record.

Here's an example of how to use different plugins to display different categories or types of content in different ways on the blog:

[%if(category,catid,2)%]
[%MultipleCategories(template/index)%]
[%elseif(category)%]
[%Ordered(blog,all,template/index,10)%]
[%else%]
[%Ordered(blog,all,template/index,1,welcome)%]
[h1]Recent Posts[/h1][br]
[%blog(headlines,10)%]


The above example works in the index skin. A similar method can be used to show different types of options in the sidebar menu as well. Just replace the square brackets with angle brackets in the code above.


tags: ,
category: coding , tips , software
by seiji
on 09.29.2018 at 15:06:25
123 words
coding This is another bunch of troubleshooting reminders for myself.

I've been restoring a lot of old Nucleus blogs lately - setting the sites back up on new webservers, upgrading them to the latest version of Nucleus, etc.

There are a couple of issues I ran into repeatedly so I'm going to note the fixes here for posterity:

1) Error 500. When the blog won't load at all and you just get the dreaded white page with the Error 500 message.
In the old days this was sometimes due to folder and file permissions, but lately my webhosts don't seem to have that problem anymore.
i never need to change the file perms on anything I upload nowadays, everything always just works.

Nowadays, the trick usually turns out to be a plugin issue.
When this happens, ftp to the site and move all the plugin php files into a temporary subfolder just to get them out so that Nucleus won't be able to see them and won't keep trying to load them.

Then move the plugins back out one by one, clicking on Update Subscription in the plugin admin page each time as you go along, to figure out which ones are ok and which ones are not working properly.

Then just try to find the latest versions of those plugins and see if those work.

Sometimes an old version may actually work better. You just have to go by ye olde trial and error method to find out what works.

2) File path issues

This is a basic one - sometimes if we're switching hosts or subdomains, we may miss a file path change here and there while prepping the site files for upload, eg. for the slider image paths, or the javascript paths, etc. So just make sure to double check all the possible locations where paths need to be updated, both in the Nucleus admin panel as well as in the skin files and templates.

3) The text content loads but the images are all broken, even in the admin panel sometimes.

Sometimes you can fix this by going into cPanel and checking to make sure that image leeching/hotlinking is disabled.
Sometimes this can be fixed by checking file paths.
Sometimes if you are switching to https but your old original copy of the site was set up for http, you may need to go back through everything (including one hardcoded line in the accesscontrol plugin php file) and add that "s" to the path.
Sometimes if you have referer blocking enabled in your browser you may need to make sure that the site is not blocked. The site may start loading properly once you disable the referer blocker.
Sometimes if it's an old site you're restoring, you may need to check all the .htaccess files in all the folders to make sure you haven't inadvertently uploaded an old htaccess file with old paths and settings that are different from your current one. (eg. the htaccess file may already have some old lines coded in there to block image loading from other sites, even though you disabled this in cpanel on your new server. This is the fix that worked for me this most recent time. The other fixes have also worked for me at other times in the past.)



tags:
by seiji
on 09.28.2018 at 16:41:26
550 words
linux Ok, this was so obscure it's worth blogging about :)

Project: Wipe a Dell XPS with Windows 10 Home and install MX Linux on it.

Problem #1:

As usual, Windows took over the system and wouldn't let us play :}

No problem, just use the F keys to get into Boot Options and BIOS setup, right?

It only worked once. After that, every time I tried to use the F keys, it went straight to black screen and hung there.

If I didn't use the F keys, there would be a black screen on boot for a short period and then it would load the Windows start screen.

Solution:

I finally realized that it was due to the video output cable, believe it or not! Who woulda thunk it?!

HDMI would show a black screen on boot and would only start displaying when Windows started up. It would not display anything BIOS related or anything that usually shows on the screen before Windows loads.

Switched to DVI output and lo and behold, there was the old Dell Logo and the two little lines with F2 and F12 in the corner, just where they should be!

Problem #2:

MX Linux 17 live usb failed repeatedly to detect the SSD drive, so it couldn't wipe Microcrap from the drive.

Solution:

Still in the middle of working on it! At the moment, I'm just trying to use live usbs from other linux OSes to see if any of them work.

Update: Nope, they didn't. The fix was much simpler - I only needed to go into the BIOS and change SATA from RAID to AHCI. That was it! Once that was done the SSD drive showed up just fine and I was able to proceed with the installation.

In the end, including all the troubleshooting time and dealing with getting around Microcrap's control freak issues, from receipt of PC to erasure of Windows and successful complete installation of MX Linux 17.1, it took less than 6 hours.

That's pretty damn amazing compared to some other OSes!

If you exclude the time spent on troubleshooting and dealing with Microcrap, it actually would have taken less than an hour from start to end.

And look, no endless "privacy" options to set! (I don't know why they call it privacy when it's all spying. 1984 adspeak FTW!) No more insane BIOS / boot overrides! Seconds to start up instead of staring at a circle for ages while it tells you to not shut down your PC while it's getting ready for you! No more advertising spam popups on your desktop from an OS you paid for!

Man I love Linux. And MX Linux is three billion times faster than Microcrap. Looks prettier, too. How times have changed :)



tags: , , ,
category: linux , tips , troubleshooting
by seiji
on 09.14.2018 at 15:20:05
462 words
updates Finally got around to making that new skin for the blog. This one is very bright ^^;; but I like it because it's so cheerful and colorful! Even if it might be a bit hard to read! LOL :)

I haven't properly mobile-friendly'd this skin. Just fixed a few basics. But the widths and menus haven't been taken care of yet. When I have time! :)


category: updates
by seiji
on 08.14.2018 at 17:28:43
63 words
coding Modifying the Nucleus skins to be mobile-friendly turned out to be less of a headache than I thought it might be.

There are still a lot of lesser details to fine-tune, including all the old hard-coded font-sizes from the Good Ol' Ancient Days of the Web (remember that phase when everyone had to have fonts that were as tiny as possible so you needed a magnifying glass to make anything out? :), but I at least managed to get the general layout and slider images to be more responsive, and it didn't actually need a lot of editing.

1) Update to the latest version of Flexslider, which is the free slider script that I prefer to use. It installs very quickly and easily and you can pretty much use the default settings right out of the box without having to tweak anything much at all, unless you want something extra fancy.

This takes care of getting the old slider responsive. (The old slider script was technically *supposed* to be responsive, but it never did work properly for some reason, and I don't think it was the fault of the script but rather something I probably messed with long ago and forgot that I had changed :)

2) To the head.inc, add to the [head] section:

[meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1"]

(I'll just use square brackets here for convenience to denote the regular angle brackets, as Nucleus tends to convert entities to the actual characters and then it'll end up trying to process any code I put here!)

3) To the skin stylesheet, add the following:

a) for the img tag, add:

max-width: 100%; height: auto;

This takes care of responsive images so they'll shrink and grow as needed, but never exceed their actual size.

b) For the wrapper divs (this is my own setup so it may not apply to your stylesheet), change the old hard-coded widths to a percentage.

Most of my blogs seem to work out reasonably well with:

width: 80%;

This seems to match the average size of my sliders pretty well. Just adjust up or down as needed.

c) For the container div, change the hard-coded width to 100 percent:

width: 100%;

This will make sure it fills up the whole of the available 80% space of the wrapper div.

d) Now we come to the sidebar, which is one of the biggest headaches, as I always seem to have trouble getting to be in the right place. I've temporarily settled on a not-so-great compromise between absolute positioning and float (!) - someday I'll actually get around to getting this sorted out properly! :)

For now, the sidebar container should usually have something like the following:

position: absolute; margin-top: 10px; float: left; width: 200px;

On some blogs we do not use the margin-top.

The problem is getting it to not suddenly show up in the middle of the content body on the right hand side, and getting it to start at the right position from the top under the slider without being too high up or too low down.

The present compromise makes it stay in place on the left at a proper position below the slider, but of course because of the absolute position it will fail to gracefully reposition itself on a small screen to drop below the content part of the body.

At some point when I have time I'll have to go through all the code with a fine-tooth comb to see where the problem is that makes it need the absolute positioning in order to stay in the right place (trying all the usual solutions that *ought* to work has never helped, so I'm guessing it's something else somewhere else in the stylesheet or templates that's messing with this).

Voila! That's pretty much it! Everything else is basically just fixing the font sizes, which I haven't had time to do yet but will eventually.

Update, Sat, 6-09-2018, 5:55:43 PM

Ha! It turned out that I had already fixed most of the font sizes at some point in the past! So I didn't have much to do there either, except for a few tags which were still hard coded.

I don't really like the mobile-friendly large font. It looks terrible to me. But oh well :)





tags: , ,
category: coding , tips , troubleshooting
by seiji
on 06.09.2018 at 17:36:31
708 words
troubleshooting Testing the NP Random plugin on Nucleus v. 3.71 with php 5.x, I could not get versions 1.3 and 1.4 to work.

However, when I resurrected a very old copy of NP Random (v1.1), it worked perfectly.

The newer versions require the quotes to be placed in a specific sub-folder in the plugins folder.
The old version requires the quotes to be placed where your index file is.

I finally found a clue in an error log today. All the webhosts nowadays seem to disable the error logs in cpanel, which is a pity since they were a great help for troubleshooting, but fortunately there are still the individual error logs that get saved in your account folders. The only problem with those is they are saved wherever the problem is, so you have to hunt them down because they could show up in any folder!

[05-Jun-2018 23:44:08 UTC] PHP Warning: file(): https:// wrapper is disabled in the server configuration by allow_url_fopen=0 in /home/user/public_html/test/nucleus/plugins/NP_Random.php on line 70

[05-Jun-2018 23:44:08 UTC] PHP Warning: file(https://test.test/nucleus/plugins/random/quotes.txt): failed to open stream: no suitable wrapper could be found in /home/user/public_html/test/nucleus/plugins/NP_Random.php on line 70

[05-Jun-2018 23:44:08 UTC] PHP Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/user/public_html/test/note/nucleus/plugins/NP_Random.php on line 75

I looked at the plugin file (v1.4 of NP Random) and could not find any lines in it that corresponded to http or https, so I couldn't change it to say https.

Line 70 actually just says:

$contents = file_get_contents($filename);

which I assume goes to the blog configuration and looks for the site url or path there.

(Ooh! I think I just found a possible reason! I did not change the config file when I upgraded the site from 3.70 to 3.71. The new config files are a little different from the old ones and sometimes they seemed to cause problems for my existing blogs, so this time I thought to just leave it as it was, especially as this particular installation was having problems with set up initially. I think I'll go potter around with that now and see if changing the config file makes a difference.)

Update, Sat, 6-09-2018, 4:10:56 PM:

Aha! It worked!

Still having problems with the new path requirements in the new config files - I seem to be getting them wrong somehow. But it seems to be ok to substitute the old path lines for the media and skin subfolders, you just need to have the new base directory line correct. Now I am able to use NP Random 1.4 without any problems. W00t!!!!!



tags: ,
by seiji
on 06.09.2018 at 15:57:51
456 words
troubleshooting I have a very old Sandisk USB 2.0 card reader (it's so old it reads Memory Sticks and CF cards. In fact, it might be so old that it's USB 1.1, I'm not sure! :) which I can leave plugged in. It takes up a few device slots (sdb, sdc, etc) but works fine. Just plug in a card and the system picks up on it and mounts it immediately.

I have two newer Transcend USB 3.0 card readers which read multiple newer cards including microSD cards. MX Linux does not appear to be able to pick up on them. I've tried them on MX16 and MX17 and neither gets recognized if you leave the card readers plugged in to a hub all the time and then randomly insert a card. The inserted card is never noticed.

As a workaround, I detached the card reader from its cable and left the cable plugged in, but without the reader attached. I can only do this with one of the card readers - the other one is in a flash drive shape that plugs in directly and has no cable. I found that if I put a card into the reader slot, and then plugged the cable into the reader, the system would pick up on the added card and mount it automatically. But it will never do so if the reader is always left plugged in to the cable.

I have no idea why this is the case, but this is the only thing that has worked for me so far. Basically you have to plug it in fresh every time you want to read a card. Leaving the cable plugged in all the time is optional, I just do it that way because it's easier than constantly having to untangle a forest of cables and hunt for a free slot to plug the reader into. This way I can just have the cable end sitting on my desk and add the reader to it whenever I want.

Moral of the story is, buy the kind of card reader that comes with a detachable cable! :)


tags: ,
by seiji
on 06.07.2018 at 15:40:51
357 words
coding Well damn. I've had an account on github for a while now, though I really only used it for posting bug reports. Recently I finally made a repo for the first time, just for fun, and was quite excited about it, but I haven't had time to go back and do much more since then.

Now I find out Github has sold out to Microcrap, so I guess it was a good thing I didn't have time to do much in github after all!

I'm not going to say much more about this as I may not be able to stop ranting otherwise. (Not a fan of Redmond, can you tell?!) (And now not a fan of Github, either!)

Anyway, I just deleted my one and only little repo. I'd close my account too, except that there are still a few coders with scripts there that I sometimes need to make bug reports on. If those developers decide to move to a different repo system before the takeover deadline, I'll be a happy camper.

Update, Fri, 6-08-2018, 5:02:55 PM:

Just closed all my open tickets in Github, as I don't want to leave any outstanding issues behind. I won't be going back to Github hereafter unless I have no other way to request support from a developer.

category: coding , thoughts
by seiji
on 06.05.2018 at 21:11:49
217 words
troubleshooting Not sure what happened but my MX Updater icon suddenly disappeared from my tray bar a little while ago. I like having that little box there as it's a handy way to access Synaptic. Actually I also have a launcher for Synaptic already anyway, but it also provides several other useful shortcut links, so it's a good thing to keep around.

For some reason I had difficulty finding the program and running it again. It did not show up on my application menu launcher, for one thing, or at least I couldn't find it there.

Today I finally managed to find it using search in all categories in the MX launcher menu. I had searched for it before in the MX menu and it didn't show up, so I'm not sure what the difference was this time. Maybe because I specifically went to "ALL" categories first before searching (hadn't thought it would make a difference, silly me)?

Anyway, on re-launching the program I discovered that there was an option to not show the icon in the tray if there were no updates. I thought this might have been accidentally checked at some point, thus resulting in the disappearance of the icon, but no, it was still unchecked. So it's still a mystery. I did have a crash the other day when some runaway process locked up my system and I had to do a hard reboot, so maybe that messed something up.

At least this was a quick fix! The little green box is now back on my tray bar and I am happy :)

tags:
by seiji
on 06.02.2018 at 14:46:10
268 words
linux I started trying to use MX Linux as my primary OS from v15 onwards. At the time I found I could not use MX15 due to certain issues - in particular, there was a heat problem which I couldn't get around (for some reason my computer always ran more than 10C hotter on MX15) and some features that I had difficulty getting to work (can't remember what those were now, but I think it might have been VPN or networking-related).

Each new version of MX has been much better than the previous one. I have been really impressed by how much this distro has improved. Also, I should mention that they have the best installer program I have come across to-date. (The installer for a certain other distro which shall remain unnamed is one of the worst, IMHO - I find it incredibly confusing and confused, and whenever I had to use it I always had my heart in my mouth worrying that I might accidentally overwrite the wrong drive or partition - thank goodness I never have to deal with that anymore now that I've moved to MX!)

The MX Linux installer is extremely clear and straightforward. You just can't get confused when you're using it. Except maybe for the part where they ask you about the MBR or ESP, which may be a bit confusing for some. Otherwise it is plain sailing all the way and works extremely well. It is also ridiculously fast compared to That Other Distro's installation process! :)

I was able to use MX Linux as my primary workhorse distro starting from MX16 onwards. There were a few minor issues but overall I found everything I needed was there and working pretty well. MX 17, however, is on a whole other level. I mean it has really improved by leaps and bounds. I am so impressed (I know, I'm repeating myself, but I say this every time I install MX :) I can't really put my finger on what's changed. It just seems to be better overall. Little things like how the menu has been categorized, the helper programs for tweaking your system and desktop, etc.

I also really like the fact that they give you both Synaptic and the MX Package Installer, and you can actually load Synaptic right from the MX package installer's tray icon. It's so nice that they don't force their package installer on you. I also really like the built-in repository manager. That is a brilliant and very useful idea, to have something like that where you can easily switch from one repo source to another with the click of a radio button. Awesome! :)

Wine works perfectly. VPN works perfectly. The tray icon for network connections works perfectly (on my previous OS it stopped working for me years ago and never got fixed as far as I knew). VLC is installed by default and works perfectly. I could wish Vivaldi were part of the repo, but I can understand why it's not (Vivaldi has its own repo). Firefox and Thunderbird are defaults - I don't use those so I usually remove them immediately after installation and replace them with Vivaldi and Claws Mail.

Chromium is in the repos and so is Midori - I usually install those too. The MX Package Installer also provides an easy, pre-packaged way to install KDE if you like. I usually do even though I actually use XFCE as my desktop - just for the sake of having Dolphin, which I can't live without! (How's this for indispensable: Dolphin is able to connect to file shares on Windows via Samba which Windows computers can't seem to connect to. Haaaa!!!!! :) The standard default file manager in MX is Thunar, but MX makes it very easy to change your default if you like. (I don't really bother, as I have Dolphin on my panel launcher and there is usually always one instance of it running in the background on my PCs anyway.)

Programs in the repos include Clementine, Geany, Gimp, Remmina, CopyQ, CherryTree, etc. Rednotebook is not available on MX 17 at present, if I am not mistaken, but it's easy to just download a copy from the developer's site and install it yourself. The MX developers seem to be very fast and responsive to forum requests, though - I often see people requesting for programs to be added and they are usually granted within a day or three. (Can't say I've ever seen things happen that quickly on my previous OS, ever!?! :)

Upgrading to MX 17 from 16 was very fast and easy, especially since I already had a pre-existing home drive. The MX installer smartly asks you if you want to keep your data and it will tell you very clearly that it will NOT format your home drive if you want to keep it. I find this incredibly reassuring compared to the blind man's buff feeling you get during the installation process on some other distros (cough cough) :)

I re-did my partitions this time around, as I wasn't very happy with how I had them before on 16 (possibly one reason why I used to have various shutdown/booting issues on 16). It's now much cleaner and better arranged. My only regret is that I left way too much space on the Windows partition (didn't want it, but sadly have to keep one in case of work). I could have easily siphoned off another 100GB at least for the Linux side. However, I can still mount that Windows partition and write in it from Linux if I really want to, so technically I suppose that space is still "usable" :)

The actual installation of the OS is very fast. I always forget to time it but it's really fast. Probably less than 20 mins or something. After that comes the long process of downloading and installing all the programs you want for your daily needs. In my case I usually have quite a lot of stuff, but once again this time around I found the installation to be incredibly fast. I was done with the basics in about 3 hours or so (downloading plus installation of programs). Another hour or two of tweaking and configuring after that, but very minimal as most of the programs just picked up my pre-existing config files in my home drive (from the previous MX 16 install) and worked right out of the box, which was very convenient and saved me a lot of time.

Sometimes keeping your home drive is not a good idea if there are incompatibilities between your new OS and the previous one - it might cause a program to choke if the old config files aren't compatible with the newer updated versions of the programs, but in this case I was lucky and everything worked very well.

This was the first time I had ever managed to complete a full Linux upgrade (complete OS re-install from scratch) in only a few hours, and the whole experience was a breeze. No errors, nothing. I actually went and cooked and had dinner while the main batch of programs was being downloaded and installed, and got back just in time to see it report successful completion :)

Upon first bootup of the new OS, I noticed an error message just before MX 17 loads. Something like error no symbol table, press any key to continue. The first couple of times I pressed the space bar and the system continued to boot as per normal, so I didn't worry too much about it. The third or fourth time, I wasn't around to press a key, and when I came back I found that bootup had automatically continued by itself even though I wasn't there. So now I don't bother to press a key anymore since it actually resumes automatically. It just saves you a bit of time if you press the key, otherwise it waits for a while before continuing. But I'm usually off doing something else while the system boots, so it doesn't matter.

I haven't had time to look up this error yet, but I'm assuming it's not terribly fatal as nothing noticeable has happened other than this short pause at boot time. Other than that, MX 17 has been a real pleasure to use, and remarkably error free. Not only is it amazing how far MX Linux has come in a few short years, but it is also amazing how far Linux has come! :) Now I'm just waiting for UBports to finish polishing their mobile OS - which I really think they should change the name of, by the way ;) - and then I will be a happy camper :)


tags:
category: linux , software , thoughts , reviews
by seiji
on 05.20.2018 at 17:49:57
1,444 words
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