Standing Desks update

It's been about a year since I started standing at work, time for an update, mainly so I can show off the desktop I built a few months ago, which is working out quite nicely.

Spacemacs for 2016

I've been an Emacs user for more than 15 years and I've been keeping my emacs configuration ever since February 2000 (when it was just a simple ~/.emacsrc) until it evolved over time to something quite complex and hairy. Since the past couple of years it's developed a will of its own, to the point now that I cannot easily maintain it: if I make a change to something, three other things will unexpectedly break.

I tried last year to overhaul my ~/.emacs.d structure and I had some success, but it's still an awful mess.

So, in December 2015 I declared Emacs Configuration Bankruptcy.

Import Library eBooks into Kobo

I was asked by my neighbor (a second time) to help importing eBooks that she downloaded from the state Library into her mother's Kobo eReader. Much scratching of heads and drinking of tea ensued, but we sorted it out, in the end. This post describes some of what I learned, though not the DRM bit: we worked that out the first time and it was so painful I have driven it from my mind.

Resetting Firefox

I just survived my first Firefox Reset and lived to tell about it.

I was experiencing some weird cross-site stuff for one of work's web tools, and decided to give Firefox's Reset a try. It actually worked!

My concern was that, because it deletes all your add-ons and customisations, I would lose them. Fortunately, I also use Firefox Sync already. So that meant, after Firfox had cleaned itself up, it re-downloaded all my custom goodness and re-installed it.

One caveat: you do have to Restart Firefox after Sync has done it's bit to re-install Addons. After that, everything is as it should be. Hurray.

The steps to Refresh Firefox are:

1. Go to about:support
2. Press the Refresh button in the top right
3. Wait for Sync to finish (you can check how it's going by looking in about:addons to see if your Extensions are all there yet)
4. Restart Firefox (either from the addons page, or by pressing Alt-F2 and typing restart)

It's really handy to have all my SSH authentication be passwordless, but in a secure way. In openSUSE, the ssh-agent is started for you automatically, but you still need to add your identities manually (and enter passphrases when you do this). That's a bit of a pain to do every time you login.

Here are some simple scripts and steps I use to set up my KDE session so that it will automatically load my SSH identities when I login.

4-bit Rules of Computing, Part 2

Here is the third part of my blog series expanding on my 4-bit rules of computing.

In this installment: Rules 5, on comments. Rule 5 is a bit contentious and I've taken too long in writing my thoughts on it — which is probably telling. Nonetheless I still want to press ahead and get these words out. I also wanted to include Rule 6 with this post, but I'm taking my own advice and breaking the post into two, because it really was getting quite long.

Meta: Setting up Nikola blogging

Tonight I thought that I'd sit down at my home server, Tesla, and do a bit of blogging. This server's recently been rebuilt after a bad run-in with a hard-drive problem and I had not got around to putting my blog onto it. Instead I was blogging with work's laptop.

After spending an hour cloning and installing my blog repositories and the necessary software through trial-and-error, I thought it best to write down what is necessary to bootstrap my blogging environment, and save myself some trouble in the future.

Ideally I will make a script to get most of this going soon … but in the meantime, you are treated to a meta-blog.

4-bit Rules of Computing, Part 1

Here is the second part of my blog series expanding on my 4-bit rules of computing.

In this instalment: Rule 4, on keeping a notebook or journal.

I had planned on including Rules 5,6 and 7 as well (that is, all of the third bit, out of 4 bits), but it is taking me more time to write up my thoughts about those other rules, and I want to get something out roughly every week.

Hacking Minecraft with Python

I'm having a play with Minecraft and Python, using the mcpipy library, a Minecraft server called CannaryMod, and a plugin-in for that called RaspberryJuice.

You can do all this out-of-the-box with Raspbian on a RaspberryPi, but I wanted to set up my home computers also. Here's a quick run-down of the steps I followed.

What are those J and L characters in email?

Do you receive email with a mystery "J" or "L" in them?

Fabulous! Thanks very much Mike J


What the heck are they? It's actually not much of a mystery: they are automatic emoticons inserted by MS-Outlook when someone types :-) or variants.

Outlook substitutes the string for the letter J or L, and formats that character with Windings, which in that font maps to the smiley or the frowny glyph.

I guess if you look at J and L sideways, and pretend only half their mouth is working, it kinda makes sense for a J to be a smile and an L to be a frown...?

Well, anyway, now you know.