Archive for category Compugeekery

MediaWiki: Creating a Private Wiki (2017 Update)

(This is an update of an article I wrote in 2011. Because so much has changed, I've opted for a re-write instead of just updating the original.)

MediaWiki is the software behind Wikipedia, but you can use it to create your own special-purpose sites. I've used it at work to build an internal company knowledge base, and at home to make a Wiki for the fictional worlds of a couple of roleplaying games I've been in.

It's a pretty polished software package, but out of the box it tends to assume that you are creating something like Wikipedia that is visible to (and editable by) the whole wide world. If that's not what you want, it requires some tuning, which I'll describe in detail after the jump.

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TM-D710 Internal GPS (de NF3H)

I've got a Kenwood TM-D710A ham radio transceiver. This handy device is a portable 50W dual-band (2m and 70cm) radio, with a built-in packet radio TNC and some native APRS features. What it does not have (unlike the new TM-D710GA model) is a built-in GPS receiver.

This is a problem that can be fixed with a surprisingly small parts budget, provided you're up for some fine-pitch soldering. Details after the break.
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Firefox Proxy Auto-Configuration

Consider the following purely hypothetical scenario: You do a lot of your work inside a web browser. Stuff on your workplace network (like the bug tracking system, the company Wiki and the source control system) you have to access directly. Stuff outside you have to access via a proxy (because the direct access is filtered in a haphazard way that blocks websites of your vendors and customers, as well as resources you need to do your job).

You can go manually change the network settings in your browser every time you go back and forth. You can set up two different browsers (one proxied and another not). You can use a browser add-on that lets you manually toggle proxy settings with one click.

Better still if you didn't have to do any of that stuff and your browser would just automatically do the Right Thing. With Firefox, you can achieve this result reasonably easily using a "Proxy Auto-Configuration File" (or PAC file, for short). Read on for details.
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BeagleBone Green Time Server

BBG-clockIf you need a local time server, a BeagleBone Green (or BeagleBone Black) with a battery-backed real time clock and a GPS receiver with a PPS (pulse per second) output can be a cost-effective option with surprisingly good performance. Read on for detailed information about how to set up such a server.

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Android CM12 LiveDisplay vs. Netflix

Cyanogenmod is a custom firmware distribution for Android devices. When I installed CM12.1 (based on Android 5.1.1 aka Lollipop aka API level 22), I noticed a problem with the Netflix application: When I tried to watch content, I'd get audio and see subtitles, but there was no video (just a black background).

Long story short: Netflix video playback doesn't work if the new CM12.1 "LiveDisplay" feature is enabled, which it is by default. (LiveDisplay is a feature of CM12.1 which adjusts the display to have a warmer color temperature between local sunset and sunrise.) To complicate things, the problem only manifests at night (when LiveDisplay is actually active).

If you're on CM12.1 and can't get your Netflix on when the sun is down, disable LiveDisplay and try again. Instructions after the jump.

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Securing Your Network vs. "Wi-Fi Sense"

lockMicrosoft Windows 10 contains a new behavior called "Wi-Fi Sense". If you connect to an 802.11 network encrypted using a pre-shared key, Wi-Fi Sense will offer to distribute that key to your Outlook contacts, Skype contacts and Facebook friends. While it is (nominally) opt-in for newly-added networks, this "sharing" is the default behavior for existing networks when migrating from earlier Windows versions to Windows 10.

As an administrator of an 802.11 network you likely would prefer that this "sharing" not happen with the credentials for your network. After the break, I'll discuss why allowing "Wi-Fi Sense" is such a bad idea, and how you as a network administrator can mitigate the risks it presents.

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Magnetometer VII: Word Compass Prototype

compass-headlineHere's another update in my long-running digital compass project. It's now sufficiently feature-complete to be a potentially useful end-user product. Major improvements including saving calibration data in EEPROM, improved display, error detection and temperature compensation.

Read on after the break.

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boxLayout: A Simple jQuery Layout Plugin

I'm not a web designer by any stretch of the imagination, but sometimes I have to pretend to be one. In a (forthcoming) project, I was looking for a way to divide up the available space within a window amongst various div elements, in a (buzzword bingo!) "responsive design" way. I got frustrated with the complexity of various layout tools I tried, and rolled my own.

It's ridiculously simple and (being written by someone with very little JavaScript and jQuery experience) may be buggy, but it's just the thing for the task I was trying to accomplish. It's yours for free after the break if you have a use for it.

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We Stayed Dry (This Time)

This is rumor control. Here are the facts: Yes, this site runs WordPress. No, to the best of my ability to determine, we are not compromised by the "SoakSoak" malware that has been infecting lots of WordPress sites. (The link in the previous sentence leads to a description of the malware in question, not an example of it.) No, we don't run the Slider Revolution plugin which apparently contains the exploitable vulnerability ("RevSlider") used by SoakSoak. We have no plans to migrate mythopoeic.org from WordPress to something else, given that 1) the security issue is in a third-party plugin, not WordPress itself and 2) the WordPress team seem to generally act like adults with respect to infosec.

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Spark Core Cloud Makefile

spark-icon-colorI recently acquired a Spark Core, and (after some minor hassle) got it connected to my network and walked through the examples. Neat product, though to some extent it suffers from problems of "trying to make it easier for the noobs, with a failure mode of making it harder for everybody" and "everybody wants to write features, nobody wants to write documentation".

Past the jump, I'll explain how to get around the 32-character wireless passphrase limit, and how to use cloud compilation but with a real Makefile, local copies of your source code and your favorite text editor.

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