PiLarm snrkl style

So my 8yo and I have decided to build a variation on the 

PiLarm by Jeff Highsmith

Instead of the keypad though, we are going to use a wireless RF transmitter / receiver pair from adafruit that works a bit like a car alarm system for arming and disarming the PiLarm.  My reasons for choosing the wireless remote is mostly because the python code for driving the keypad is a little more complex than I was looking to do (I am still pretty n00blike in my python skills!)

So here are the hardware designs that I have pulled together (in PowerPoint of all things as I don’t currently have a windows VM handy for Visio!) and the breadboard / permaproto design (created in fritzing using the adafruit fritzing parts library to start laying it out for real:

The schematic:


The permaproto / breadboard design:



What D&D Character am I?

True Neutral Human Druid/Sorcerer (2nd/2nd Level)

Ability Scores:

Strength- 13

Dexterity- 15

Constitution- 15

Intelligence- 16

Wisdom- 15

Charisma- 13


True Neutral- A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.


Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Primary Class:

Druids- Druids gain power not by ruling nature but by being at one with it. They hate the unnatural, including aberrations or undead, and destroy them where possible. Druids receive divine spells from nature, not the gods, and can gain an array of powers as they gain experience, including the ability to take the shapes of animals. The weapons and armour of a druid are restricted by their traditional oaths, not simply training. A druid's Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that they can cast.

Secondary Class:

Sorcerers- Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.

Crikey on Climate change policy of LA Times

Should Crikey follow suit? An interesting debate on the letters pages of the Los Angeles Times following a throw away line (in italics below) by the paper's letters editor in an explanation for not featuring some points of view:

Regular readers of The Times' Opinion pages will know that, among the few letters published over the last week that have blamed the Democrats for the government shutdown (a preponderance faulted House Republicans), none made the argument about Congress exempting itself from Obamacare.

Why? Simply put, this objection to the president's healthcare law is based on a falsehood, and letters that have an untrue basis (for example, ones that say there's no sign humans have caused climate change) do not get printed.

That reference to humans and the cause of climate change brought forth a harsh reaction from some readers and conservative bloggers.

Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters blogged about it over the weekend:

"It's one thing for a news outlet to advance the as yet unproven theory of anthropogenic global warming; it's quite another to admit that you won't publish views that oppose it.

"As amazing as it may seem, that's exactly what the Los Angeles Times did Saturday ..."

To which the letters editor responded:

As for letters on climate change, we do get plenty from those who deny global warming. And to say they "deny" it might be an understatement: Many say climate change is a hoax, a scheme by liberals to curtail personal freedom. ...

I'm no expert when it comes to our planet's complex climate processes or any scientific field. Consequently, when deciding which letters should run among hundreds on such weighty matters as climate change, I must rely on the experts -- in other words, those scientists with advanced degrees who undertake tedious research and rigorous peer review.

And those scientists have provided ample evidence that human activity is indeed linked to climate change. Just last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- a body made up of the world's top climate scientists -- said it was 95% certain that we fossil-fuel-burning humans are driving global warming. The debate right now isn't whether this evidence exists (clearly, it does) but what this evidence means for us.

Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published. Saying "there's no sign humans have caused climate change" is not stating an opinion, it's asserting a factual inaccuracy.

I especially await the views of my regular correspondent Tamas on whether the LA Times' policy should be followed by others.

codeacademy.com thoughts...

After six months with codeacademy.com

Learning Python

So I have been using CodeAcademy for about 6 months on and off to learn python.  It is quite handy and I find the way they break up lessons make is easier for me to squeeze time in for coding around other things. Apparently I have done over 200 exercises.


The whole platform essentially being a SaaS offering means you just bring a browser and write code. Which is handy to jump right in.  No messing around getting the right version of python or the correct libraries installed. It is about as simple as it cold be.


The whole platform being SaaS is also an issue - when I decide to put my coding skills to use, THEN I have to go through the rigmarole of getting all that stuff sorted out which is still a PAIN.

Also, I have had issues with some modules that still feel a little "beta-like" where the "check my code" fails on working code and refuses to let you progress. This only effected maybe  5-8% of the modules I have completed, but when the errors happen, they happen in clusters...

Business Model

Interestingly, the weird part came when I thought to myself: "I think we need corporate access to codeacademy.com for my colleagues to be able to use - it would be cool, there could be a manager dashboard that lets him/her see how everyone is progressing etc.." but no… There is _no_ way to pay for their services apparently.

So I figured I would ask - surely someone asking to pay money would be something they might be interested in…

but no… the only email contact details on the whole site is a press contact… (this *REALLY* bothers me…)

So I have *zero* idea on what their business model is, but apparently me giving them money is not part of the program…


All in all, as a resource for an individual to learn to code, codeacademy.com certainly has its benefits.  It is still a startup and a little rough around the edges, but I think it is well worth the time investment if you are looking to learn to code.

Request For Enhancement - Changing Master Password in 1Password


I want to change my 1Password Master Password more often.


Forgetting the Master Password would have catastrophic effects on my life.

Proposed Solution: if 1Password supported a "change password practice window" with the following:

  1. You click "I want to change my Master Password" in 1Password

  2. You enter your new password

  3. There is a tick box you can tick that says: make me practice this password for n days/weeks before changing it.

  4. Now for n period, whenever you unlock 1Password, with the password you want to change, 1Password unlocks but makes you practice typing in your new password.


You get n period of practice typing and remembering your new password before the change is actually effected.

Mutual Authentication - when will the banks learn?

So here is one of my pet peeves - you get a phone call on your mobile from a caller with no caller ID. 

The call goes something like this:

          Caller: "Hello, it is <somename> from <bank name> calling."

          Me: "Uh, ok, what can I do for you?"

          Caller: "Before I begin, I need to verify you are actually <your name>.  

                    Can you please provide me with you full name, date of birth 

                    and secret phone password"

This is where I have to reign in the rage and hold myself back from yelling verbosely at the person at the other end of the line:  I am not in the practice of just giving out personal information to random people who call me on the phone!

So the call continues.  

          Me: "No."

          Caller: "But I need to verify your Identity…"

          Me: "And who exactly are you?"

          Caller: "My name is <somename> and I am calling from <bank name>."         

Now this is where I really like to work the person on the other end of the line:

          Me: "Ok, before I can give you any information, I need to verify your identity. Can you please

                    provide me with your Full Name, Date of Birth, Employee ID number and manager's name."

          Caller: "Why do you need that?"

          Me: "Well, I don't know you from a bar of soap, so I am going put you on hold, call the number on the back of my ATM card, and ask the operator to connect me to your manager.  Once I confirm that there is someone with your name and date of birth  and employee ID working for the bank who is indeed calling me right now, then I can be confident that I am giving my personal data to a bank representative in good faith."

Now after a few seconds of silence, you either get two responses.  The most common one is:

     Caller: "Please hold for my supervisor"

The most humorous one is:

     Caller: "That is my private information, I'm not giving you that!"

The sheer stupidity of this situation is incredible and I truly believe until the ID thieves are caught using this process in BULK to harvest your personal details, they banks won't do anything to change stupid process.

I will say this (credit where credit is due):

Only one bank that I work with has ever answered this challenge correctly, and that was American Express:

     Caller: "Sir, if you flip your credit card over and call the number on the card, press #<some option> and key in my extension ID <NNNNNN>, I will be waiting for your call.

Some retailers really **DON’T** understand the online world…


For whatever reason, >jbhifi.com.au

decided that me buying a $194 tablet and shipping it to the Canberra office of the company I work for suddenly made me a scammer…

To complete this purchase online, they wanted:

>1. Colour photo ID

>2. A colour scan of a bill with my billing address on it

>3. a letter from the company with a delivery address confirming I worked there, or a PAYSLIP with the address on it.

Can we spell “G.E.T L.O.S.T”? Why would I jump through so many hoops? buying this thing online was supposed to be easier than buying it in a store and mailing it…

For what it is worth, that will be the last time I buy anything from jbhifi online…

PRTG Enterprise Monitoring


Pre Note: I have been meaning to write this post for a while now. Paessler have incentivised me to get my arse into gear by offering me an upgrade to my freeware license for either a banner or a blog post. So, understand that there is something in this for me by writing this little post, but hopefully those who have read the things that I wrote know that this kind if thing would not sway my opinion… and besides, I could have just posted a banner ad but decided to add some value anyway… regardless, you are all smart, you make your own mind up, on to the post:

Many of my customers ask me on a regular basis:

"What is the easiest way to set up system monitoring?"

Now I have been an advocate for Nagios for many many years. Back when I was in an operations role, I used to run the typical “workhorse” Nagios system under my desk on an underpowered desktop that was one hundred percent more reliable and gave better visibility of the customer network than a multi million dollar HPOV and CA Concorde e-health system was able to achieve.

This Nagios investment came at a price though… not the price of the software, that was free (as in beer). It was the time it took me to get the whole thing just right. It took me the better part ofsix months of tweaking before it was cranking out useful info.

So here I am now, working at RVBD and I have a lab environment that has become part of my day to day life. I have been putting off setting up that Nagios system for a while now, but I got to a point where I needed visibility of core systems on a day to day basis. So I went googling for an easier way to solve this problem and I stumbled over PRTG

All I can say is that I was impressed. Setting up PRTG is about as easy as it gets. Literally within about 15 minutes I was actively monitoring the core infrastructure in my lab (2 ESX servers, a VCentre server, AD Domain Controller, mail infrastructure, routers, switches, load balancers and even the mine craft server I set up for my son.

Now not everything was as I would have hoped: it seems thatPRTG seems to like being run on Windows, which is not my preferred platform for such a critical piece of infrastructure. I would much rather run systems like this under Ubuntu.

Also, the user interface 1-2 layers deep is not as intuitive as the apple loving beast that I am has come to expect. Setups more complex than mine will require a little sleeve rolling with the product. Given the market segment they are in though, they are still many leap years ahead of the competition IMHO…

I will say this though… Damn… these guys make setting up monitoring about as easy as it can be…

If you are in the market for a monitoring system, I would strongly suggest you check them out…

Latest News...


Got my approval email for GCE last night!  Spent this morning reading the docs and tutorials getting set up to launch my first instance only to be greeted with this:


          error QUOTA_EXCEEDED

looks like my tinkering to get Stingray Traffic Manager up and running will have to wait till my account has been allocated some initial GCE quota love from the GCE team…

Email to the team dispatched… now I guess I wait…

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