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Thursday, 16 October 2014 23:45

Goodbye Gallery2, hello Ignite - it was a nice 10 years.

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Before I started using Joomla! I had a website with a photo gallery for my travel/food/other photos. Due to not wanting to create a PHP photo gallery from scratch I used Gallery1 which did a fine job. Later when Gallery2 became available I migrated to that. At some point I realized that creating my own HTML website was a lot harder than just using a Content Management System so I rolled out Xoops and a couple of other CMSes and each time I realized they were buggy and/or limited. When the Mambo development team forked Joomla! I installed it and thought that it had enough promise to stick around for a while. I went from Joomla! 1.0 to 2.5 over the years (and my other sites - Recessionchef.com, xenapiadmin.com and xenmagic.com are running newer versions still).

It's been a struggle to keep Gallery2 embedded inside of Joomla!. During the Joomla 1.x series I had a connector made specially for Gallery2 but the developer decided not to update the component when Joomla broke the old code with 1.5/1.6 so I had to find a new connector which I did in JFusion. JFusion connects a lot of outside software to Joomla and it was successful in embedding Gallery2 in Joomla!. It wasn't perfect though and Gallery2 was starting to look very old and slow. Web2.0 happened and Gallery2 didn't notice so I started looking for replacements knowing that moving 10,000 photos wasn't going to be easy so I took the job very serious. Each year I'd look for a native Joomla Photo gallery that supported hierarchies and every year I patched Gallery2 up a bit more to keep it running. This year things became critical because the developers of Gallery2 abandoned it. They realized that a complete rewrite would have to happen and there was no reason to do it. This also meant that vulnerabilities wouldn't be fixed. The search intensified. 

This year I ran into Ignite Gallery which is native to Joomla, supports galleries in galleries and looked fairly nice. The download cost was $40 for one year of support and the code is GPL which I'm willing to pay for. After installing it and testing a few galleries I decided to go all the way and migrate Gallery2 to Ignite. In hindsight I should have written migration software to do it for me but it seemed so easy - create galleries, select my gallery2 photos in the Ignite file selector and upload - voila!  Come to find out I had 550 galleries and 11,000 photos. About halfway though I'd invested too much time to quit and I pushed through. Two months later I'm done with the migration. 

As of now all photos have been uploaded into Ignite. There are some issues with the software that I have to work through as well as theming but for the most part I'm happy. The gallery runs fast on the front-end (slow as heck on the backend though) and it's easy to browse. 

So without further ado may I present my photo galleries. 

Travel Gallery

Photography Portfolio

 

Sunday, 12 October 2014 00:00

Going back to Canon

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I haven't done a proper review of my Sony RX-100 yet as I haven't really felt like writing about it. I've used Canon Point and shoot cameras for years (s230, sd500, sd870, G7, s90) but Sony just plain outgunned them in every aspect short of one - usability. The RX-100 is a phenomenal piece of equipment with a sensor 3 times larger than the Canon S120 and a much faster lens too. This thing just plain creams the competition in the hardware department and it's small enough to put in my pocket too. 

However, there's that usability issue.

 

I saw DPReview's complaints about it but I thought I'd just customize the buttons and move on. However, it's more complex than that. I'll pull it out of my pocket and it may or may not decide to take photo depending on how it feels. You see, it's a computer with a CPU, memory and operating system and sometimes it's just busy doing something else. Sometimes it will take my auto-exposure bracketed 3 photos, and sometimes it just takes one until it gets warmed up. Sometimes my thumb will hit the help button which brings up the help menu.... when I'm in the middle of shooting and I have to cancel it before I can go on.  Sometimes I want to adjust my white balance with a plain piece of white paper and I haven't yet been able to figure out how. Also why does it have a video mode AND a video button? When you put it in video mode and press the shutter you'd expect it to take a video but it doesn't because you didn't press the OTHER video button. You get all of this for only $700!

This camera drives me insane. I've never had a love hate relationship with a camera before. The RX-100 has truly amazing hardware and truly incompetent software. I've come to the point where I realize Sony just doesn't get it. 

When it comes to buying a new camera I'll be going back to Canon because after several years of sitting on the sidelines they've decided to compete with Sony. The new Canon G7X has the same 1" sensor as the Sony RX-100,  an amazingly fast lens (1.8-2.8) with more zoom than the RX-100.  It's shortcomings seem to be that the battery life is mediocre at best and it doesn't have a viewfinder. I can live with both. I'll carry extra batteries, a solar charger or even drag around a 1982 delorean with a backpack full of plutonium if necessary as long as I can have Canon's wonderful ergonomics.

For those folks who live in Cologne and Dusseldorf and love airplane food you can now get it delivered to your door!

I'm not entirely sure why anyone would want to eat airplane food when they could just go down the street to a real restaurant where the food is made of.... food and cooked fresh. If you attempt going down the street on an airplane you'll create a great deal of havoc when the passenger compartment decompresses and oxygen masks drop followed quickly by you plunging 40,000 ft to your grisly death. This I believe, is the main reason people eat the food their served on airplanes - they have very little choice.

However, if you long for those wonderful little plates of textured vegetable protein poorly pressed into familiar shapes resembling McDonalds' attempt at a chicken pattie then you're in luck because the catering arm of Lufthansa Airlines has announced that residents of the two aforementioned cities can order the very same food and have it delivered to their door. I have an idea, how about having Lufthansa carry out the reverse and have land food delivered to your airplane while in flight. Now you'd have something news worthy.

https://www.allyouneed.com/magazin/airfoodone_menukalender

Thursday, 14 August 2014 23:48

Automated install of CentOS 7 VM (64 bit)

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Install Type

  • Non-interactive
  • Network boot
  • Commandline
  • Paravirtualized

Prerequisites

  • XCP/Xenserver
  • Access to Internet
  • Working DHCP server
  • Working DNS name resolution

Introduction

This tutorial was written in the spirit of my CentOS 6 virtual machine (64 bit) installation on Xen howto. In that tutorial I created a disk, downloaded a kernel, kickstart file plus a xen config file which installed CentOS using the kickstart file. This has proven very popular since you can't install a paravirtualized domain using an install disk. This has been a very nice installation howto because you don't have to download any install CD/DVDs and you could create VMs using nothing more than a commandline login. It's also very nice because it can be mirrored locally if you're doing a bunch of them just by rsyncing a CentOS mirror locally then downloading my files and editing them.

I now use Xenserver and it's a very different animal indeed. However, I still needed a system of creating CentOS Virtual Machines in that same manner. I didn't want to download a CentOS install DVD or need a graphical login to install the OS thus this tutorial was born.

This tutorial is for CentOS version 7. 

 

Monday, 12 May 2014 23:09

Jolla smartphone case

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I've had my Jolla Other Half for a couple of months but I've held off on using it as my main phone due to my Nokia N9 still working fine and the Jolla is super slippery. Yes, the phoneback might as well be made of ice. I'm fairly sure that if I carried it that way it would last all of a week so I set out to do something about it.

Introducing what the guys at work call my "hipster phone" - a faux leather covered Jolla Other Half! It turned out pretty good and I hope to put up my pattern if anyone else wants to do this but it will have to wait until I have time to finish it.

I've never had a phone that got so much attention as the Jolla and that was BEFORE I skinned it. To me it looks like a big flat rectangle, not that exciting but for some reason people are drawn to it and people ask me several times a week what kind of phone it is. It goes something like this

Me: It's a Jolla

Them: A what?

Me: A Jolla, it's a Finnish company

Them: I've never heard of it.

Me: It's new, they just started making them last November and they became available in Europe in January.

Them: I've never seen one before.

Me: They're not sold here yet.

Them: Is it Android?

Me: No, it's SailfishOS but it can run Android apps

Them: <confused look followed by silence>

That's pretty much how it goes. A couple of times I've gotten so far as explaining that a bunch of folks from Nokia started a new company called Jolla. Twice I got that it was Linux based out and once I got to show them how the back comes off and that it's modular who which they exclaimed "That's flippin' cool!". Yes, yes it is but currently it's more of a gimmick than anything as there's not much to plug into it.

 

Note: This has not really been tested yet. I wanted to get it up here so people can start using it and I can work on it.

Install Type

  • Non-interactive
  • Network boot
  • Commandline
  • Paravirtualized

Prerequisites

  • XCP/Xenserver
  • Access to Internet
  • Working DHCP server
  • Working DNS name resolution
 

Introduction

In this tutorial I create a disk, download a kernel, preseed file and install Kali LInux using the preseed file. This has proven very popular since you can't install a paravirtualized domain using an install disk. This has been a very nice installation howto because you don't have to download any install CD/DVDs and you could create VMs using nothing more than a commandline login. It's also very nice because it can be mirrored locally if you're doing a bunch of them just by rsyncing a Ubuntu mirror locally then downloading my files and editing them.

 

 Note: This tutorial is designed so you can copy and paste the text inside the boxes. I don't actually type any of this in and neither should you.

 

1. Getting the network info

This line gets the Network UUID for xenbr0. If you're using a different bridge you will want to insert it here. Get a list of XCP networks with xe network-list. This network is connected to the outside interface. This tutorial requires there to be a DHCP server on this network answering requests and providing network access to the Internet.

NETUUID=$(xe network-list bridge=xenbr0 --minimal)

2. Creating the VM and setting parameters

Here we create a new template from the Debian Squeeze template. Then we create the VM from the new Debian template, create a network interface and add it to our network from step one. Additional settings are for configuring the install repository and specifying thepreseed file from my site. The last setting turns off VNC so we can watch the install via a text console (very important in my environment).  Even if you can't see all the text below just highlight and paste. The text is there even if it's not visible.

 

TMPLUUID=$(xe template-list | grep -B1 'name-label.*Debian.*Squeeze.*64-bit' | awk -F: '/uuid/{print $2}'| tr -d " ")
VMUUID=$(xe vm-install new-name-label="Kali Linux" template=${TMPLUUID}) 
xe vif-create vm-uuid=${VMUUID} network-uuid=${NETUUID} mac=random device=0
xe vm-param-set uuid=${VMUUID} other-config-install-repository=http://http.kali.org
xe vm-param-set uuid=${VMUUID} other-config:debian-release=kali
xe vm-param-set uuid=${VMUUID} other-config:install-methods=http,cdrom,ftp,nfs
xe vm-param-set uuid=${VMUUID} PV-args="netcfg/get_hostname=Kali debian-installer/locale=en_US console-keymaps-at/keymap=us console-setup/layoutcode=us console-setup/ask_detect=false interface=eth0 netcfg/disable_dhcp=false preseed/url=http://grantmcwilliams.com/files/preseed-kali-linux.cfg console=hvc0"
xe vm-param-set uuid=${VMUUID} other-config:disable_pv_vnc=1

3. Starting the VM and watching the install

The VM installs without any interaction from the user at this point. It is however, nice to watch it using xenconsole. Once it's done installing it will shutdown.

If you're using XCP 1.0/1.1

xe vm-start uuid=$VMUUID
DOMID=$(xe vm-list uuid=${VMUUID} params=dom-id --minimal)
/usr/lib/xen/bin/xenconsole ${DOMID}

If you're using XCP 1.5b/1.6

xe vm-start uuid=$VMUUID ; xe console uuid=$VMUUID

4. Starting the VM and configuring settings

We need to boot the VM up again and using xenconsole log in to reset the finish configuration.

If you're using XCP 1.0/1.1

xe vm-start uuid=$VMUUID
DOMID=$(xe vm-list uuid=${VMUUID} params=dom-id --minimal)
/usr/lib/xen/bin/xenconsole ${DOMID}

If you're using XCP 1.5b/1.6

xe vm-start uuid=$VMUUID
xe console uuid=$VMUUID

Now that your Kali Linux VM is running you can login. The password was automatically set by the preseed file.

  • Username: root
  • Password: password

Reset the root users password.  If you want to keep the IP assignment dynamic note the ip address.

5. Shutting down the VM and re-enabling VNC

If you're going to use XVP or some other method of connecting to the VMs direct VNC connection you'll need to enable it.

xe vm-shutdown uuid=$VMUUID
xe vm-param-remove uuid=${VMUUID} other-config:disable_pv_vnc
xe vm-start uuid=$VMUUID

7. Export our VM for safe keeping

Before you start modifying the base Kali Linux image you should back it up.

xe vm-export uuid=$VMUUID filename=Kali-Linux-base.xva

Be aware that you may not have enough space on the Control Domain's disk to export it. A good solution (and shorter than explaining how to add disks to the control domain) is to mount an nfs volume and export it there.

mount nfsserver:/share /media/share
xe vm-export uuid=$VMUUID filename=/media/share/Kali-Linux-base.xva

This would mount the NFS share on nfsserver to /media/share. The exported disk would be saved on the NFS share.

 

Wednesday, 05 March 2014 23:47

Screen protectors for your Jolla

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I got my Jolla TOH (The Other Half) a couple of weeks ago and I'm still not using it as my main phone for a couple of reasons - 1. It's so very slippery 2. It has no screen protector. Yes, it has Gorilla Glass 2 and people in the Jolla forums keep saying you don't need a screen protector but that's what they said about my Nokia n9 too and I managed to scratch that screen. To put my mind at ease I wanted to put a screen protector on my Jolla but currently nobody makes one. I imagine since the phone still isn't available in the States it will be quite some time before there's accessories for it. With that in mind I went looking for an alternative.

Most screen protectors for other phones have cutouts for front facing cameras, buttons and microphones all in the wrong places or their screen is a completely different size. The Jolla has a 4.5 inch screen but the glass area is closer to 4.9 inches. One one end the front facing camera and microphone take up a bit of space so ideally I need a protector 4.7 inches long with no cutouts. The HTC One ended up being my best chance so I ordered a three pack of plastic screen protectors for the HTC One and boy do they fit the Jolla. I'd say there's NO room side to side as it's a perfect fit. Lengthwise there's about a 1/4 of an inch or less of uncovered space where the camera and mic are. I couldn't imagine a better fit from a screen protector that isn't designed for the Jolla.

With that I installed it and am very happy with the fit. However, what I really want is a tempered glass screen protector which Amazon has for $25. Now that I know the HTC One protectors are perfect I'll probably order one. Stay tuned.

Thursday, 13 February 2014 09:10

Accessing SailfishOS with SSH

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How to access your Jola Other Half via ssh

 

On your Jolla Phone

  1. Go to Settings -> Developer Mode and tap Developer mode at the top.
  2. Tap Remote connection - Allow signing in via SSH
  3. Type in a password and tap Save
  4. Note the WLAN ip address below

On your Computer (Linux, Mac OSX or Windows using putty)

  1. Open a terminal and ssh into your phone as the user nemo and the password you set in step 3 above.

        ssh This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Accessing via file manager

  1. Run your ssh enabled file manager (Nautilus, Nemo, Konqueror or WinSCP on Windows)
  2. Enter the IP address of the phone
  3. Enter the username and password
  4. Connect!

 

Monday, 13 January 2014 18:19

Install xe on CentOS6

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Sometimes you want to control your XCP/Xenserver pool from another host. In my case it's my firewall/iSCSI SAN box which is CentOS 6.5 X86_64. I could just remote execute xe using SSH but this doesn't allow me to set $XE_EXTRA_ARGS. Setting $XE_EXTRA_ARGS allows me to run xe commands remotely without having to specify the server, username, password or port number every time I run xe.

 

export XE_EXTRA_ARGS="server=${POOL},port=${PORT},username=${USER},password=${PASSWORD}"

 

A better choice is to install xe on the CentOS 6.5 host. 

Install pre-reqs

Install stunnel

yum install stunnel

 

 Install xapi-xe rpm from Xenserver CD

Because the Control Domain in Xenserver is 32 bit the xe command included is also 32 bit. If you have 64 bit CentOS you will need to install 32 bit glibc. The best way is to just let yum worry about it as apposed to using rpm.

If you already have a XenServer CD available you can copy the xapi-xe rpm to your CentOS host directly. If not follow the directions below.

wget http://downloadns.citrix.com.edgesuite.net/akdlm/8159/XenServer-6.2.0-install-cd.iso
mkdir xsiso
mount -o loop XenServer-6.2.0-install-cd.iso xsio
yum install xsio/packages.main/xapi-xe-0.2-5669.i686.rpm

 

 Control remote poolmaster using xe

 Because the poolmaster is remote you'll need to include the server, port, username and password in your commandline. 

xe -s <poolmaster> -p 443 -u root -pw <root password> vm-list

You can set these items in the XE_EXTRA_ARGS variable to make using xe easier.

export XE_EXTRA_ARGS="server=${POOL},port=${PORT},username=${USER},password=${PASSWORD}"
xe vm-list
Sunday, 01 December 2013 11:02

Goodbye Canon, hello Sony?

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It's been a really long time since I wrote about photography. Generally I buy new cameras every year as new technology comes out and the driving force behind that is travel. As you probably know I like cameras that are able to fit in my pocket so it's always been a struggle to get a camera that's portable, takes good photos and has the features that I want.

Previous point and shoot Canons

My first digital camera was a Canon S230 with a 3.2 MP sensor and a 2x zoom. It was good enough for the time. That got replaced by a Canon SD500 with a 1/1.7" sensor (large for a Point and Shoot), a 3x zoom but no wide angle. I added a Canon G7 to that mix with the optional (and massive) wide angle lens. This lasted one trip until I knocked it lightly against some asphalt at while trying to take a photo of the Space Needle in Seattle. I never got it fixed.

The SD500 was replaced by an SD870 which got me Image Stabilization and a wide angle lens in a small package. The sensor was smaller but due to improved technology the image quality was equal to the SD500. That camera lasted me a few years until Canon reintroduced the S series. 

Canon S series

The Canon S90 almost single handedly created a new category of point and shoot cameras for more serious photographers. It had amazing low light performance, a wide angle lens, full manual controls, auto exposure bracketing and raw mode. The lens was reasonably fast on one end and not so fast on the other. All of this in a very small package. The S90 was replaced by the S95 which mainly fixed usability issues I outlined in my review. The S100 got a wider angle lens with a bit more reach. The S110 got wifi and a touchscreen (meh). The brand new S120 is almost exactly the same but with a better video mode. Note that every change since the S90 4 years ago has been very small. 


The problem with the incremental improvements Canon has made is that the world hasn't stood still in the last four years. Panasonic keeps churning out new LX cameras, Fujifilm's XF1 has a sensor that's 50% larger than Canon's. Sony has really changed the game with their RX100 which has a 1 inch sensor with nearly 3x the area of Canon's. Yes, these cameras cost more than Canon's but still occupy the same market. Sony's RX100 ii is being sold along side the previous generation RX100 with $150 separating them. This puts the new RX100 ii at $750 which is very high in my opinion. The good news is the original RX100 is now selling for $550. This is still quite high for a compact camera and is $150 higher than Canon's S120, Panasonic's LX-7 or Fugifilm's XF1. The RX100 ii customer is an odd one because that person could have bought a DSLR.

Sony RX100

The secret here is that I just purchases the previous generation RX100. The difference between the RX100 and the RX100 ii is a tilt LCD screen and a bit different back lit sensor. Are those things worth $150? I really don't think so. Is the RX100 worth $550? I'm not sure but the fact of the matter is it's the only compact camera with a sensor that large and I'm excited.

I already ordered the Richard Freniac grip for it. His grip for my S90 made it usable and cut down on my stress level drastically as I no longer had to worry about dropping it.

Comparison table (thanks to dpreview for the data)

 Sensor area, mm2
(dimensions)
Focal length rangeFocal length range (equiv.)Aperture rangeAperture range (equiv)*Dimensions (mm)
Canon S110 41
(7.4x5.6)
5.2-26mm 24-120mm F2.0-5.9 F9.3-27.4 99x59x27
Sony 
DSC-RX100
116
(13.2x8.8)
10-37mm 28-100mm F1.8-4.9 F4.9-13.4 101x58x36
Fujifilm XF1 58
(8.8x6.6)
6.4-25.6mm 25-100mm F1.8-4.9 F7.0-19.1 108x62x33
Panasonic DMC-LX7 34**
(6.7x5.1)
4.7-17.7mm 24-90mm F1.4-2.3 F7.1-11.7 111x68x46

The major advantage the RX100 has over these other cameras is the sheer size of the CMOS censor. At nearly three times the size of the S120 or Panasonic LX7. This allows more light to hit the sensor so you can take photos at a lower ISO resulting in a better photo. It makes a huge difference in low light situations. The lens on the RX100 is very fast on the long end (F1.8) but slows down just like the Fujifilm and Canon although the Canon is the worst.  It doesn't have the same amount of zoom but I find myself needing wide angle more than zoom so I'm OK with that.

I'll do a real review after I've had some time with it.

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