Formatting a brand new harddisk for a Sky+ box

If you go out and buy a brand new harddisk and plug it into your SKy+ box it is likely that it will refuse to start up, i.e. never get a green light on the front.

To format the harddisk you need to

1. Unplug power

2. Hold down the right and left key (on each side of the “select” key) while :

3. Plug in the power cord

4. Wait until the “ring” starts flashing, let go of the 2 keys

5. Press select (The green power light should now come on)

6. The “ring” should start spinning, wait until it stops spinning

7 Wait 2 minutes for the box to restart itself, press the power button

And hopefully the box should now start up correctly.

WiNet – Arduino remote data logging – wireless

Another new kit built on the Arduino – especially for remote data logging. I like it:

Introducing a new wireless kit, called the WiNet Kit. This kit makes it super simple to setup remote user input and wireless sensor logging.
The WiNet allows you to wirelessly communicate between a Arduino attached to your PC’s USB port and an Arduino TouchShield device.

The pair of XBee Shields are directly pre-paired with each other so serial communications are super simple.

This is the base module that talks directly to the pc, it’s an Arduino and a Xbee Shield.

[From WiNet]

Varnish 2.04 – maybe this can help others to avoid problems

I downloaded and compiled Varnish 2.04 and compiled it successfully on OsX today – so far so good.

But then I tried using some of my old VCL snippets and the code errored out with messages like this :

sh-3.2# ./varnish_test.csh

Expected action, ‘if’ or ‘}’

(active.vcl Line 54 Pos 9)

   return (pass);


and so on.It turns out that a bug seems to have been introduced, and contrary to what is in the “default.vcl” file you can not use the “return (pass)” but just “pass”, and things start working again…


This following article seems to have a good set of tips on how to get the best out of MySQL when using ZFS as your filesystem:

One of the cool things about talking about MySQL performance with ZFS is that there is not much tuning to be done :-) Tuning with ZFS is considered evil, but a necessity at times. In this blog I will describe some of the tunings that you can apply to get better performance with ZFS as well as point out performance bugs which when fixed will nullify the need for some of these tunings.

For the impatient, here is the summary. See below for the reasoning behind these recommendations and some gotchas.

  1. Match ZFS recordsize with Innodb page size (16KB for Innodb Datafiles, and 128KB for Innodb log files).
  2. If you have a write heavy workload, use a Seperate ZFS Intent Log.
  3. If your database working set size does not fit in memory, you can get a big boost by using a SSD as L2ARC.
  4. While using storage devices with battery backed caches or while comparing ZFS with other filesystems, turn off the cache flush.
  5. Prefer to cache within MySQL/Innodb over the ZFS Adaptive replacement cache (ARC).
  6. Disable ZFS prefetch.
  7. Disable Innodb double write buffer.

[From MySQL Innodb ZFS Best Practices]

Google and their Friend Connect

Google’s Friend Connect seems to be taking off – I may have to look into this:

When we started building Friend Connect, we wanted to provide a fully open system — one that lets you join any website and interact with the people there in a meaningful way, regardless of where they come from. To enable this kind of engagement, we used open standards like OpenID, OAuth, and OpenSocial as underlying technologies, enabling any other service to plug into Friend Connect.

Today, we’re excited to share that Netlog has used these open standards to integrate their social networking service with Google Friend Connect. Now, Netlog’s more than 45 million users across Europe can:

  • Sign into any of the millions of sites and blogs using Friend Connect with their Netlog credentials
  • Use their Netlog profiles on these sites
  • See if any of their friends are already members of the same sites and invite other Netlog friends to join
  • Share their Friend Connect activities with their friends on Netlog, and
  • Send messages back to their Netlog friends

Additionally, for sites that are already using Friend Connect, one of the benefits of this standards based model is that they can take advantage of any new service that chooses to join this open ecosystem, like Netlog, without any additional work. The new network option simply appears.

Any social network or service, whether they are large or small, regional or global, niche or general audience, is welcome to take advantage of these open standards to integrate with Friend Connect, and participate in an open social web.

[From Netlog integrates with Google Friend Connect]

Motorlight Wall – by the other Dyson

Hm! = the first invention I have seen from Dyson jr. – and it does not come cheap, but the design is at least impeccable!

The Motorlight Wall is the next generation in variable angle uplights

A wall mounted light, it can be used singularly or as a series. It uniquely allows the owner the flexibility to choose a beam angle of between 10 and 120 degrees, providing a narrow or wide shaft of light to suit different illumination purposes. The light change is achieved through motorised shutters which smoothly cycle between maximum and minimum angles every 45 seconds.


The Motorlight Wall is operated via a remote control, which can interface with up to 30 lights simultaneously. The remote allows you to control the shaft of light and brightness of each luminaire, individually or as a group. Both Motorlight Wall and its remote have a clean, modern aesthetic and have been designed with stylish homes and commercial buildings in mind.

The Motorlight Wall is available in five different colours – Red Glow, Blue Glow, Black Gloss, White Gloss and Clear Glow. It will retail at around £249, plus £28 for the remote and be available from and selected interiors and lighting retailers from November 2008.

[From Description – Motorlight Wall – Jake Dyson Products]

Updating my understanding of VmWare’s new offerings

VmWare is a annoying company in that it changes the names of it’s offerings at frequent intervals, leading to the need for a translation facility to make sure you are talking about the correct technology.

But there is no avoiding them if you run sizeable infrastructures – therefore this article is a good introduction to their newest releases:

VMware vSphere 4, out today, is a big release, with plenty of new features and changes, but it’s not your run-of-the-mill major update. The new features, which range from VM clustering to agentless VM backup, are especially significant in that they may mark the moment when virtualization shifted from the effort to provide a stable replica of a traditional infrastructure to significantly enhancing the capabilities of a virtual environment.

In short, if you’re running a VMware infrastructure, life should get easier. For anyone who’s ever tried to provide rock-solid OS-based clustering services, the new VM clustering feature, called Fault Tolerance, should be a vast improvement. Hot Add of CPUs and RAM has never really been an option for most shops, but it suddenly is (with the right OS, of course). These moves show that VMware is still pushing the virtualization envelope.

[From VMware vSphere 4: The once and future virtualization king | Virtualization – InfoWorld]

AOP Digital Landscape Report

So it would be interesting to see how accurate Forrester’s 5 year report looked like 5 years ago to satisfy my curiosity on how valuable their research really is:

The latest edition of AOP’s monthly aggregation of research, trend and forecast information is available for members to download from today. The May edition includes a new report from Forrester looking at the expected transformation of social networks and the impact on brands over the next 5 years. Ecommerce, affiliate marketing, search, social networks, B2B and email marketing are all also covered in this month’s report. [From AOP Digital Landscape Report Vol. 4 – May 2009]

Schneier on This Week’s Terrorism Arrests

As usual Bruce Schneier is (IMHO) spot on in his analysis of the latest round of “anto terrorist” arrests in the states – so following the link to his blog is highly recommended:

This Week’s Terrorism Arrests Four points. One: There was little danger of an actual terrorist attack: Authorities said the four men have long been under investigation and there was little danger they could actually have carried out their plan, NBC News’ Pete Williams reported. […] In their efforts to acquire weapons, the defendants dealt with an informant acting under law enforcement supervision, authorities said.

The FBI and other agencies monitored the men and provided an inactive missile and inert C-4 to the informant for the defendants, a federal complaint said. The investigation had been under way for about a year.

“They never got anywhere close to being able to do anything,” one official told NBC News. “Still, it’s good to have guys like this off the street.” Of course, politicians are using this incident to peddle more fear: “This was a very serious threat that could have cost many, many lives if it had gone through,” Representative Peter T. King, Republican from Long Island, said in an interview with WPIX-TV. “It would have been a horrible, damaging tragedy. There’s a real threat from homegrown terrorists and also from jailhouse converts.” Two, they were caught by traditional investigation and intelligence. Not airport security. Not warrantless eavesdropping. But old fashioned investigation and intelligence. This is what works. This is what keeps us safe. Here’s an essay I wrote in 2004 that says exactly that. [From This Week’s Terrorism Arrests]

Entrapment springs to mind – these guys were uncommonly stupid to boot.