Bog Roll ::

It's Not Magic, It's Work!

03 Jul 2022


My current desktop computer is getting a little old. I bought it over 8 years ago and while it's still fine, it is getting old now. The graphics card in it was a Nvidia GeForce GT-640 (GK-107) Kepler era, which was entry level when new 10 years ago. There is nothing wrong with the card for the use I made of it, but it was old which means Nvidia will stop updating the driver and the card had a fan on which makes an annoying noise under load.

This week I installed a passively cooled Nvidia GeForce GT-1030/GDDR-5 (GP-108) Pascal era, which is several generations newer and uses half the electricity. Graphically it's quite a bit more powerful but it's also crucially passively cooled with a big heat sink instead of a fan, so makes no noise. The case and CPU fans on my desktop and home server still make a lot of noise, but now I don't have the extra noise of the GPU fan and driver support should last a few years longer.

29 May 2022


I've used many programming languages since starting with Commodore BASIC V2 on the Commodore 64. BASIC Lightning was a more structured version and quite nice. I also dabbled with 6510 assembly, which is very RISC like and rather tedious.

On PCs I first used Microsoft BASIC which was okay, but I much prefered Borland's TurboBASIC which was really quite powerful. At university I taught myself Pascal from books in the library and used Borland Turbo Pascal quite a bit. I then tried Borland's Delphi which was all visual, but basically Turbo Pascal at heart.

I then started to do web things and and at the time Perl was the language to use, so I started to use that. I quick look at PHP and came back to Perl, which I used for several years.

When working with SAP I initially worked with Perl outside of SAP, processing data from within. I later migrated to programming SAP in ABAP - another static language like Pascal and quite different from Perl. I realise that I've not done much in Perl for about 12 years - I tinker now and then, but I've not written any serious.

Years ago I thought about learning Python but never did, but for the last few weeks I've been following the OpenSAP course: Python for Beginners which was quite interesting. Don't know if I'll ever use Python again, but it has been interesting and other than missing the first week (no credit possible) I've consistently been scoring 100% on the tests and exercises.

15 Apr 2022

Upgrade cycle

Last May I started the process of upgrading all my Debian systems from version 10 to 11. I completed all the desktop and laptop systems pretty quickly and by the summer only my home server and cloud server remained on the older version.

In the autumn we moved into my mother-in-law's while the major work on the house was done and it wasn't habitable. As a result the upgrade to the server was delayed as we were somewhat at sixes and sevens, and a server upgrade wasn't the best thing to do.

The house rebuild isn't complete, but it's getting closers and I really should look at upgrading my servers from Debian 10 to 11. It's mostly that there are a few changes that this upgrade introduces and I don't want to rock the boat too much if I need to make changes to accommodate the upgrade.

21 Dec 2021


After months of feeble and insane excuses have now connected my mother-in-law's house up to a fibre network. They were so useless that we actually had ADSL activated over the old copper line, to which they then complained that ADSL isn't available in areas with fibre - to which we said okay then install fibre...

Yesterday two blokes from the subcontracting firm arrived and ran a new fibre from the pole to the bracket on the house for the old phone line, and then installed a new fibre run, tested it and hooked it up to a new Orange router box. All this while the old ADSL was still working, so no loss of service.

06 Nov 2021

Canon PowerShot G5X mk II

After nearly two years of waiting I've bought a new Cannon PowerShot to replace my old one that died at the start of 2020. The G5XII has a much larger Sony sensor instead of the Canon one in the S110. The electronics are all newer and the screen is both higher quality and higher resolution. It costs more than the camera it replaced, which is okay as it's a much higher spec, but annoyingly to fit the optics into the camera it is quite a bit thicker - which is annoying...

The most annoying thing in practice at the moment is the secret squirrel file format that Canon have developed to replace the CR2 of the old camera: CR3. At the moment I can read the EXIF file data with one tool, and open it with another - that can't read the EXIF data - and then save from GIMP. It's all a bit of a faff, but it's better than it was a year ago.

24 Oct 2021


At the moment we are camping at my mother-in-law's while the builders do things to the house. Last week I was able to work all week from home as only the electrician was working and I was able to use his live line while other bits were off. On Friday afternoon the heating engineer took out the old hot water tank, so now the house as no water as well as only some electric and no heat...

My mother-in-law moved into her house this August and ordered standard PON fibre from once she had a confirmed move date, and in late August we collected the Orange live box. While we've the box for a while we don't have any fibre and Orange have now made and then cancelled on the day three appointments to install about 50 m of fibre optical cable from the pole in the street to my mother-in-law's house.

So while she is paying for a 1 Gbit/s Internet net connection, all she has is a 4G WiFi puck, which works and is quicker than our old ADSL connection, but it's got no wires and every now and they she has to go back to the shop to be given a new SIM as the bandwidth has been used up....

The architect says we may need to be out of our house for about a month, while things are done, so it's going to be interesting. I had hoped to take some time off while out of the house, and got some DIY done at my mother-in-law's but work needs me to do some REST interfacing work, so that's currently not possible...

26 Aug 2021

Debian GNU/Linux 11.0 "Bullseye"

I've now upgraded or installed Debian Bullseye on all my non-server systems. The upgrade this cycle was one of the easiest of all, and overall I'd say the change was the most evolutionary rather than revolutionary to date, in my experience since I started with Woody.

Most things seem to work in the same way as before, only things are a little newer and a little better, a few bugs have been fixed and a few new features have arrived. There are a few visual improvements, but it's very much more of the same - which is a good thing, I think.

I'll upgrade my servers last, even though they actually have way fewer packages on them (not having a GUI or any desktop allocations) there have been major changes to Exim, so I don't want to break my email system...

25 Jun 2021

Brexit VI

We are now 6 months into Brexit and 5 years since the fraudulent referendum that has plunged the UK into a self inflicted crisis that I fear it will not emerge intact from.

Basically every promise that the Leave campaign made has turned out to be a lie that Remain said it was. The fishing industry has been thrown under a big red bus, Northern Ireland has been cut of from Great Britain, citizen has been abandoned, and the new trade deals are either basically the same as before or as for in the Australian one, worded as to kill off the British beef and lamb industry...

All the fears of the Remain campaign are slowly coming true, jobs have left, imports are down, exports are down, the pound is down, skilled people have left, costs are up, business are drowning in red tape, the economy is growing slower than it was previously, and inward investment has dried up. Northern Ireland and Scotland are pulling at the very fabric of the Union...

How things will actually pan out I don't know, but while the Brexit fruit cakes are enthroned in Westminster I don't any change in direction. Long term I suspect that Scotland and Northern Ireland will break away. Eventually England will be forced to rejoin the EU, but on much less favourable terms than the UK had, but that will still probably be a good thing...

More Debian GNU/Linux 11.0 "Bullseye"

Though still not officially stable I've upgraded a further spare laptop, a lightly used desktop and a virtual system from Debian 10.10 to 11.0. In all cases there was even less than usual that needed any manual attention. In most cases I reset to standard where I could and then checked afterwards if I wanted to put back any customisation. I've also built one new system directly on Bullseye, and that's a pretty neat system too, given it's age and low spec.

Superficially everything is a bit newer and a bit more polished, and the like most recent upgrades it's evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Compared to the 9 to 10 step, so far there was even less to worry about, and things have just got a more polished. While the KDE 4 to 5 transition was a big technical change, as was the move to systemd, I feel the last noticeable change was versions 7 to 8. A decade ago the move from 5 to 6 was very noticeable as KDE jumped from 3 to 4, which was a more noticeable change than the later KDE 4 to 5 transition.

The biggest step change I remember was 3 "Woody" to 3.1 "Sarge". Sarge had been in gestation for quite a while, and though it was only numbered 3.1 it was one of the biggest jumps, which saw a whole range of changes and also gave Debian a reputation for slow release cycles, which is unfair as post 3.1, most versions have actually come out with an even cadence of about 2 years per release...!

Dull upgrades are always good, but other than a few changed splash screens and some new graphics it mostly feels the same, just a bit better, which is good.

20 May 2021

Debian GNU/Linux 11.0 "Bullseye"

Yesterday I test upgraded an old/spare laptop from Debian 10 to Debian 11. The upgrade process has changed for this release cycle, it now uses apt instead of apt-get, but seemed to go well other than a few minor cases when I needed to press Y for it to continue.

I'll probably put some new systems I'm building directly onto Bullseye, but I won't upgrade the rest of my systems until the formal release rolls round later this year. It looks pretty good already, and I've noticed fewer changes on a virtual system that has been shadowing Bullseye for a while.

07 Apr 2021

NFSv4 over a VPN

Over the Easter weekend, we were visting (fully vaccinated) family. So we were away from the house. Using my WireGuard VPN I was easily able to read email from my home server on my laptop without having to do much to make it all work. I still need to tweak the dynamically generated /etc/resolv.conf file, but I can live with that.

For a laugh I tried to see if NFS would work over WireGuard. Other than adding my machine's VPN name (already in BIND) to the exports file, nothing actually needed to be changed, and autofs started working as if the laptop was at home, and I was able to stream FLAC files over NFSv4 fom home to my laptop away from home...!

I think that's a result!

07 Mar 2021

Le chat mange un croissant

I have been with a French person for quite a while. While I did make some effort to learn French, there wasn't much point really while we lived in England, worked in English and all our friends were English. Since we decided to move to France, learning French became more, critical, so I started lessons, and used various resources physical and on-line.

For nearly three years, I have been using Duolingo every day. I've pretty much got to the point that some stupid design flaws in French don't bother me anymore and I they come naturally. English has its own design flaws too, but you don't notice them in your first language until you try to learn another one....!

Every day before bed I plug away at the site, learning something new and repeating something I've done before. To be fair I've got faster, and lots of things come naturally without thinking, and I can now watch French TV (with French subtitles) and follow most of what's going on.

One thing that does bug me though is that in its limited form and to try to create some level of variety Duolingo varies the sentences a bit but that does mean you get a fair share of the silly ones, my favourite being Le chat mange un croissant.

29 Jan 2021

Further adventures in IPv6 land

Now all my systems at home are running IPv6, and have been renamed I'm having fun with the way IPv6 works relative to IPv4.

With IPv4 my computers had one IP address per interface, which usually means just one, except when a laptop is connected via wires and wireless at the same when it is multi-homed. For the machine that has more than one address it's not a problem, but it's a pain to connect to as means duplicate records in DNS and more faff with DHCPD. Most of the time it's not a problem, but once I added WireGuard everything had at least two IPs.

To solve the VPN address, I reorganised my domains. The external machines have their own unique IPv4 and IPv6 addresses at the top of my domain, and the home systems are on their own home sub-domain and the VPN addresses in a different VPN only domain, which makes the name resolution easy, and the domain search order simple.

IPv6 is inherently both more complex and simpler than IPv4... Every machine makes up a non routeable local address based on its own MAC address (unless privacy in enabled), and it normally takes a prefix from the router and adds that to the local address to create a globally unique and routeable address. You can also allocate a local non-routeable, private address which is static and can easily be used in your local DNS. The global address is basically based on something given to you by your ISP, so can change at any time so no use for DNS, and the local address is no use if privacy is enabled as instead of a static MAC address base, it becomes a random number...

For my immobile systems, you can tell the system to allocate a static IPv4 and IPv6 address, and let the automatic IPv6 address happen as well. I can then put the static address into my DNS, and not worry about the global address. On the mobile systems it's a bit more confusing, but it turns out you can merge the static allocation, and let network-manager deal with the automatic stuff as well... Win!

22 Jan 2021


Linux has worked fine with IPv6 for years, but while in the UK I only had an IPv4 connection to the Internet, so I just ignored IPv6. In fact I disabled it on most of my machines to make my life easier.

Since moving to France, my Internet connection has dropped from a half decent VDSL connection at ~35 MBit/s to a more meagre ADSL2 connection at ~6 MBit/s. However I have gone from one static IPv4 address to one semi-static IPv4 and one semi-static IPv6 block. I've started to turn IPv6 back on and it has had some interesting results....!

03 Jan 2021


I've run a VPN at home for a while. Initially I used SSH to create ad hoc tunnels which work but aren't practical in a regular way. I then tried OpenVPN, which is mature enough to have books about it, and was easy enough to set up. Performance was so-so, which is important as the ADSL into the house is poor, so I can't really afford much of an over head.

At the end of 2019 I installed WireGuard and ran it side by side with OpenVPN. The VPN part is actually the easy bit, the more challenging part is making sure that NAT/firewalls and such are all configured too. After a while it became clear than WireGuard is more efficient, and I migrated everything over to that. Until we are upgraded to FTTP the lower overhead of WireGuard is pretty important to me, even if OpenVPN is a good solution too.

As of 1 January 2021 companies like Sky have stopped roaming of their UK contracts within the EU, so lots of Brits suddenly discovered on New Year's day that their British TV services are no longer valid. Another gift of Brexit. It's relativly easy to get round these GeoIP restrictions with a VPN, so we can expect the commercial VPN providers to pick up some new business from Brits residing in the EU unable to watch local TV, buying VPN contracts so they can continue to watch British TV...

My French isn't good enough to watch French TV and follow everything that happens, so at the moment I download programmes using youtube-dl, which also downloads the subtitles, from the TV company in France, and then run the French subtitles through a translation service into English, and then I hand correct them the best I can. It's not perfect, but it means I can at least hear French and absorb some of the meaning as I watch more and more French TV.