Downtime

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Over the next three days (Friday 7th through Sunday 9th September) this blog is likely to experience periods of downtime during upgrades to associated systems and software.

If you try to access the blog during these periods you may see some error messages, or simply be unable to access to blog.

First 18 months at Aberystwyth University

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Back in late September last year I started my first year at Aberystwyth University studying BSc Computer Science and now just over I month into my second year I think a retrospective of my time so far would be a good idea.

Before beginning my first year, having mainly been investing time in networking (taking the Cisco Network Academy CCNA course at my Sixth Form) and Linux, I had little experience with programming and was understandably a little concerned about this. But ultimately this has turned out very well, having finished my first year with final marks of 92% and 84% in the perspective programming modules of the first and second semester. Besides some Perl used in the first week or two of the first year for introducing very basic programming concepts, the primary language for the main programming modules at the University is Java; I’ve found the language to be great to work with and we were also introduced to the Eclipse IDE which I’ve used for the majority of software development since. In the first year the programming modules involved a number of assignments including a group assignment in which we developed an application for creating Cartoons in a Swing user interface, as several individual projects. In the main programming module in the second year our first assignment was focused on making good choices of data structure and designing an efficient algorithm. In the second year I have also opted to branch out by taking the ‘C and Unix’ module in the first semester and a module involving C++ in the second semester. Please see my ‘Portfolio’ page here where I have provided some samples of my work so far, including for the aforementioned assignments.

Aside from the main programming modules in the first semester of my second year I am also taking the Web Programming module which builds upon last year’s Web Development Tools module (which looked at XHTML, CSS and JavaScript), introducing PHP and its use with a database backend, primarily via the SQL language; the assignment for this module involves us writing a web shop in PHP which pulls data from a PostgreSQL database providng the user with the ability to add a chosen quantity of items to a basket before placing the order. Also in the first semester I am taking the Introduction To System And Network Services Administration which covers a wide array of topics around server and desktop hardware, Linux/Unix and Windows server software and administration in addition to network security; this module will be useful to cement my existing networking and Linux server administration knowledge.

As you can see with these and my other module choices for the second year I’ve tried to give myself a broad coverage of software development, web programming and system/networking administration. I think that the knowledge gained in all of these modules/areas will be applicable to most roles even if they specialise in a specific area.

Outside of University, in Boys’ Brigade having earned my Queen’s Badge last year, with my 20th birthday coming up soon I’ve decided to work towards becoming an Officer in my Boys’ Brigade company; I’ll start as a Warrant Officer and there’ll be training to organise at some point in the coming months where possible. On a related note the website I develop for the company is currently based on Drupal 6 and I’m looking to migrate to Drupal 7 in the coming months but I’ll first need to plan how to migrate camp/event pages from the Event module – which is no longer supported in Drupal 7 – to (most likely) a combination of the Date and Calendar modules; I’ve also recently created a Twitter feed, Facebook and Google+ pages for the company.

LugRadio Live 2009 and OggCamp

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Yes, it’s happening again – LugRadio Live 2009 at The New Hampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton will be second LugRadio Live, and second time in the Crew. This year the event will only run for one day, but not to worry, the guys at the Linux Outlaws and the Ubuntu UK Podcast, have OggCamp, an ‘unconference’, which will be held at the official LugRadio Live hotel, which I also to be able to attend.

LugRadio Live 2009

The first ever OggCamp

Getting Spotify URIs recognised system-wide on GNOME distros

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Note (added 2013-11-01): this guide applies to running the Windows version of Spotify using Wine; however Spotify nowadays provide a native client for Linux (see here), albeit in Preview form it still works well. Additionally from my experience, such URLs work out-of-the-box with the native client (including Ubuntu), without having do anything like that described below.

One of the first things that actually triggered my interest in Spotify was that although they did not have an official Linux client, they did seem to try and assure it worked well in Wine, even recommending using Wine to Linux users, with this page dedicated to assuring the experience is complete as possible (although it generally works out the box).

One of the most useful parts of that page is where they provide a nice, simple script to allow native Linux applications to call the Spotify client running under Wine with Spotify’s URIs that are used to share playlists, tracks, etc. They also provide instructions on how to get Firefox and Opera to call this script for those URIs (for example using an entry on about:config in Firefox).

This works great, until you try to use the URIs outside Firefox or Opera, say in Pidgin or a Chromium alpha, neither of which appear to provide their own methods for supporting custom URIs, instead they depend on either Gnome or ‘xdg-open’ (which in turn can ask Gnome). So I thought it might be a good idea simply to tell Gnome to use the script, and let everything else depend on Gnome; sadly I could find no graphical way of doing this, but after a bit of searching, I found this page, which revealed it was a simple as adding a few keys to GConf. So I adapted to method for the Spotify URI and script, and sure enough it works fine (certainly in both Chromium and Pidgin, on Ubuntu 9.04).

Below are the normal commands need to create aforementioned script:

echo '#!/bin/sh' > ~/.browser2spotify
echo 'exec wine "C:\Program Files\Spotify\spotify.exe" /uri "$@"' >> ~/.browser2spotify
chmod 755 ~/.browser2spotify

And here are the commands for adding the GConf keys, but be careful, the tildes and shell variables (such as $HOME) didn’t appear to work here, so you will need to manually modify the address in the first command to reflect your username:

gconftool-2 -t string -s /desktop/gnome/url-handlers/spotify/command "/home/<your username here>/.browser2spotify %s"
gconftool-2 -s /desktop/gnome/url-handlers/spotify/needs_terminal false -t bool
gconftool-2 -s /desktop/gnome/url-handlers/spotify/enabled true -t bool

Fingers crossed, all applications that call on Gnome or ‘xdg-open’ for unknown URIs (such as the aforementioned Pidgin and Chromium), should now be able to call Spotify; in fact, Firefox too calls either Gnome or ‘xdg-open’, so this method can suffice for Firefox too.

Chromium alpha calling Spotify via 'xdg-open'

Chromium alpha calling Spotify via ‘xdg-open’

Update 1st May 2010 regarding other points on Spotify in Wine:

  • As of the current Wine release, the new Facebook social function works, but you must first associate (‘connect’) your Facebook account by running Spotify on Windows, as the login page only half works under Wine at the moment.
  • This guide is great for doing the reverse: allowing apps running in Wine –  like Spotify – to call your native browser (Firefox, Chromium etc.) – just one note though: on the second step, you should only need ‘xdg-open’ as the string value. (I wonder why Wine doesn’t call xdg-open by default)

Update 1st August 2010 regarding Spotify for Linux Preview:

  • The awesome news is that Spotify have now released a Preview of Spotify for Linux. This is great and seems to support most features very very well (just waiting on multimedia keys support, local file support and ads to allow non-premium members) – now I was initially unsure whether the developers had considered handling URIs, but they have – but if you have already followed this guide, you will find that it has ‘broken’ the URI support of the native client – to fix this, you need to press Alt+F2 and run ‘gconf-editor’ and navigate in the left pane to ‘desktop > gnome > url-handlers > spotify’ and right click the ‘command’ entry in the right pane, and select ‘Unset Key’, which should allow the key included with the native package to restore. Just to note: if you haven’t followed this guide before, the URI support in the native client should ‘just work’.

Update 22nd December 2011 regarding Spotify for Linux Preview:

  • Although I’ve yet to see this officially announced, OMG!Ubuntu! is reporting that Free/Open users can use the Linux preview too and I can confirm this is the case – they appear to have succeeded to implements the ads that were holding back wider availability. Just so happens I listen to far too many podcasts today to have time to listen to much music.

The fourth attempt…

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Well perhaps hosting my blog at WordPress.com should be a bit more reliable. I’m now using my own paid hosting – should certainly be more reliable.

Anyway I’ve been attending Sixth Form since September and this has generally been going quite well, particularly Cisco’s Certified Networking Academy (Discovery) course; we’ve already completed the first (of four) semesters and should be getting certificates soon.

Additionally I recently rewrote the website for the BB compayny I attend using Drupal and so far this is going very well – now just to get everybody their logins.

LugRadio Live UK 2008

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Well other crew members seem to be doing this…

So yeah, it’s my first time at the event, and I’m going to be helping with the crew, should be fun.

LugRaidi Live Crew Member Badge

Just noticed the great full page ad on page 29 of LXF107, it would seem Ron’s been busy.

Another update….

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Well I’m now on study leave, with this week and the generally the next 4 weeks coming into school only for exams and revision sessions, with the only exception being BB camp at half term.We had our leavers prom on Thursday 8th (initial photos can be found here and here) and our ‘final’ day was Monday 12th.

Now all that’s required is to do well in English, Maths and to a less extent Geography (Science is already ‘in the bag’) to assure I get into Haybridge to do CCNA.

Just a quick update…

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I’m not dead (in terms of posting), I just haven’t found the knack to find to write about that I feel people would be interested to read about. I’m going to give it ago anyway.

Recent things in my life that might be of some interest:

  • In late November I started attending WolvesLUG meetings and all I can say is awsome… The people I have met there have been really friendly and welcoming (to what seems to be there youngest member, other than Rowan of course).
  • I attend the 1st Lye company of the Boys’ Brigade, for which I do the website.
  • I’m currently in the final few weeks of secondary school, with my final/real GCSE exams coming very soon. I hope to pursue a career that is in some shape or form Free/Open Source related (either programming, or server/network administration). I’ve received some helpful advice from people from the LUG. Currently I hope (grades dependent) to go to the only college that would provide a suitable course for my ambitions This college is Haybridge, who provide a CCNA course. If this fails I’ll probably look into courses with external course providers (such as Ubuntu Certified Professional, etc), rather than attend another college as most IT/Computing courses made avalible from colleges are too content creation/Microsoft focused to be of any use. For example, I’m currently taking a course called DiDA at GCSE, which is horrible, I’m consider writing a repot on my problems with it that would eventually be published here.
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