Mar 192013

I realised it’s been a long time since I wrote anything here. I’ve been rather busy reinventing myself.

I still own but I’m not developing it any further. If you want to buy it, I’m open to sensible offers. I think I’ve written everything useful that I have to say about the translation industry – for now. 😉

I’ve been teaching ICT (computers) to Year 5 kids at my son’s school one afternoon a week for the last few years. You know I’ve always been keen on computers, right? About a year and a half ago I heard about a rather cool sounding new computer called the Raspberry Pi and thought it was something I needed to be in on at the start.

So I was one of the “nutters” up early on launch morning 29 Feb 2012. It didn’t arrive until May, but since then I’ve been blogging about my experiences over at my newest venture http://RasPi.TV and making videos like this one…

…on my YouTube channel RasPiTV

I’ve also been involved with software and hardware development and it’s likely there will be a book or ebook in the offing at some point too.

I’ve had a lot of fun at a time when I really needed a change of direction. Sometimes you just have to follow your interests.

I thought some of you might like to know. 🙂

Nov 152010

Offer by email to renew McAfee subscription…

That’s one copy on one machine for £40

On Amazon you get a lot more for a lot less…

Three copies on three machines for £24 (and I bought the same thing last week for £15). Now I understand special offers, and Amazon does have some mad special offers from time to time. But I wouldn’t normally expect to see an 8-fold differential in prices. 😯 Of course you wouldn’t see an 8-fold difference unless you actually had 3 machines to install it on, but we do.

Just goes to show. It pays to shop around for software. :yes:

Nov 132010

What looks wrong with this photo?

Wall-mounted, widescreen 23″ TFT monitor displaying Windows 98? 😛 Talk about ancient and modern! I’m having an office clearout and decided that I no longer require a 12 year old disused mini-tower Windows 98 PC, when I’ve got a Win 7 laptop, a dualboot Ubuntu/XP laptop (2003 vintage – I use for teaching), and another pentium 4 Ubuntu desktop machine (that one’s just for fun).

A couple of months ago we part-exchanged out oldest laptop (1997 – with Windows 95 on it) and got £50 off the price of Tomek’s Acer One netbook.

But the point of this little story is a doubly ironic twist. Irony 1 – windows 98 in widescreen flat panel TFT. Irony 2 was that in order to get my data off this machine before dumping it, I had to update it to SP2 and then install some drivers so it could communicate with a flash drive. Get that? Update a machine so you can throw it away :silly: . The only other options were to…

  1. go in the loft and dig out the external CDR drive and burn a couple of CDs.
  2. try to get a win 7 machine to talk to win 98 via a CAT5 ethernet cable (rather you than me)

So I found a useful site which told me that you can use USB flash drives with Windows 98. 😀 I gave it a go and it worked. Now the windows 98 machine is in line for recycling. I took the PSU out. They’re useful little things. And also the hard disk (2GB :rotfl:). But the rest is out of here. It served us well in its time, but now it’s just taking up valuable space – well not any more. But I just had to get a shot of the ancient and modern combination for old times sake. Look at this photo. It’s not the photo that’s grainy, it’s the Windows 98 graphic.

Windows 98 on a widescreen TFT. :)

Windows 98 on a widescreen TFT. 🙂

The nice thing about declaring a machine obsolete, is that all the manuals and floppy disks that went with it can be disposed of as well. This frees up quite a bit of space. 😎

Nov 022010

For reasons I won’t bore you with, I had a need to start all over again with my web server. The only valuable item on there was my blog. So I looked into how to make a complete backup as painless as possible. There are several things to backup though, not just your database of posts, replies etc.

  1. themes wp-content/themes
  2. plugins wp-content/plugins
  3. all your media content (photos, mp3, videos) wp-content/uploads

(If I tell the truth though, I downloaded the whole WordPress folder to my local PC, as well as the gzipped database backup. I don’t trust computers an inch, having worked with them for >30 years.)

Those are doubtless the things most people are likely to forget about or miss altogether. I have quite a lot of photos in my blog and if I hadn’t backed up the /wp-content folder, the photography section would have become utterly worthless. Since a lot of time and effort went into it, I backed it up.

Backing Up
Having not done much SQL work before, the database part was the most scary. So let’s start with that…

The good news for the actual backup is that there are plugins that will do this for you. I used WordPress Database Backup. And on my installation (WP 3.01) it worked fine. The only sight niggle is that one or two special characters got substituted, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay for not having to recreate or simply dispose of 50+ content-rich pages. It might even have been down to me for not choosing the correct character set when I created the new MySQL database (who knows/cares?).

So this plugin will allow you either to store the backup file in a sub-folder on your server, or to download it to your PC. It can also schedule automatic backups to be emailed to you as well. 😀

So, in addition to database backup, I downloaded the entire file structure of my WordPress blog in the hope that I would avoid losing anything vital.

Server Rebuild and New WP Installation
I followed the WordPress Installation documentation, which is really good. No need to reinvent the wheel by duplicating that here. The only niggle I had was that my new installation (Ubuntu 10.04 server and Virtualmin) wouldn’t allow WordPress to create an .htaccess file in the WordPress folder, so I had to do that myself before permalinks would work. But I’m getting ahead of myself. You’re dying to hear what happened with the database restore aren’t you? :doctor:

Database Restore
Having rebuilt WordPress, it was time to restore the database. :skeleton: I uploaded the gzipped backup file into a sub-folder of the WordPress directory. Using SSH, I navigated to that folder and unzipped it with
gunzip backupfile.sql.gz

This unzipped the file to backupfile.sql Next came the hocus pocus MySQL bit
From within the same folder I keyed…
mysql -h localhost -u DB-username -p New-DatabaseName < backupfile.sql

Where localhost is MySQL host name, DB-username is the username you set for your new WordPress MySQL user, New-DatabaseName is the name of your new WordPress database and backupfile.sql is your unzipped backup of your old database.

It then asks for the password for your WordPress database user. Type that in and your backup database contents will be dumped into the new empty database. Hallelujah O:-) it works.

But still couldn’t see any content in the blog apart from on the main page and in the admin control panel. There were two reasons for this…

  1. I hadn’t yet set up permalinks – and all my old blog entries were permalinked. WordPress itself told me that an .htaccess file was needed to set up permalinks properly and that the new system wasn’t allowing it to create this override file 8-). That was easily solved by uploading the .htaccess file from the old installation, after checking the directives in it were the same as the ones WP was telling me to use
  2. I hadn’t uploaded any themes and the database was telling WP to use Suffusion themes that weren’t yet on the server. Easily solved by uploading the suffusion folder into wp-content/themes For some reason it changed my background colour back to the default settings, but I can live with having to change that back again.

After that, the basic blog worked fine, but no media and no plugins. So it was necessary to upload all the media files back into wp-content/uploads (134 Megabytes in my case – hurrah for broadband).

So having uploaded all the media, the photos appeared fine, but the audio and video didn’t. That’s because they use plugins to play them. What remained to be done was to upload selected plugins from the wp-content/plugins backup folder. After reactivating the appropriate plugins, everything worked as it should. You can’t possibly know how much of a relief that is. (Athough I did have an XML backup copy as well.)

There’s one thing I’ve forgotten to do, so I’ll go and do that in a minute. That’s to increase the upload limit on php so I can upload larger files to the blog.

I’ve documented this so it might help someone else and in case I need to refer to it again myself. :rotfl:

Oct 232010

I had a need to be able to remove accented characters from a string in order to be able to make order ID codes which will work properly as filenames in a unix system.

Now, strictly speaking, the unix system has no problem with accented characters in filenames. The problem arises when you try to use them in browsers as GET arguments at the end of the URL. e.g.áàß

My old WS-FTP software copes with these as filenames. My newer SSH software doesn’t – can’t see them, can’t delete them, just can’t cope with them at all. :no:

But the biggest problem of all is that when I give clients their download URLs, if their surname had accented (diacritics) in, their downloads usually wouldn’t work because of the way their browser or email client translates the url. Perhaps it’s a unicode thing? Who knows/cares?

Well, having spent a large part of the day failing to install a PERL module called TEXT::UNIDECODE, which is meant to be a red hot fix for this issue, I hit upon an incredibly simple way of getting the job done. In fact, using PERL pattern matching and substitution, you can get the whole job done very elegantly in one line of code. And it is indeed a beautiful line of code. :-*

$surname =~s/[^A-Za-z0-9]//g;

Which translates into English as. “If any character in this surname is not A-Z, a-z or 0-9, substitute it for nothing. This should make the system more robust, avoiding disappointed clients and extra product support emails. :yes:

That’s what you get when you write your own systems. You get the good and the bad. Still it was very nice to get a working solution in just one line of code (if you discount the lines above it that substitute á for a and a lot of others manually, so the surname reads OK in the order ID – it also prevents Mr áàßáàßáàßáàß from having a blank at the end of his OID :clap: ).

I was so pleased I blogged it.

Oct 132010

Just putting the finishing touches on a new publication due out next week. I’ve got to the stage of needing to package the download files into a self-extracting .exe file. In the past I’ve always used WinZip Self-Extractor, and the old faithful (paid for version) has served me well.

I installed it on my Windows 7 machine, but it doesn’t work properly (they don’t make ’em like they used to 😉 ). OK, it’s a 9 year old version, so it’s hardly surprising. I checked out the WinZip site and a much more up to date version is available, but it’s about £40. Not a huge amount, but before coughing up I decided to check what else might be out there that could do the job. I was vaguely hoping there might be some freeware out there that could do this by now, since .Zip functionality is pretty much incorporated into Windows these days. 😎

It just so happens, there is. :laugh: I found a nice little app called ZIP 2 Secure which does quite a nice job of it. :yes: It also offers 256 bit AES encryption :yes:
And the price is the best part of all. 😀

Update: 17 October 2010
Just a quick update to say that, this software behaves a little bit strangely in Windows 7 pro. Although it packages up the .exe files beautifully, it seems that, on my computer at least, you have to reinstall it each time you run it. Not a major issue, since it’s very quick. Also I have very occasional need for creating .exe files. If I used it every day this would be annoying. Mind you, if I used it every day, I’d probably stump up the £40 for the WinZip .exe file maker, which offers slightly more functionality. For a free download though, you can’t really go wrong with Zip 2 Secure.

Oct 072010

On 30th September, ICANN pulled the plug on domain registrar (Blueberry Hill, Bluehill, as they are insolvent. They owe ICANN $6k.

I got an email from the registrar that is taking over their domains on Tuesday 5th Oct.

From: “ Corp.” To: “ Corp.” Subject: Domain migration from 4Domains to Corp.
Dear new customer,
In accordance with a recent ICANN decision, your domain/s has/have been transferred from 4Domains to Corp.
For further details please refer to:
Welcome aboard and thanks for giving us the opportunity to serve your business!
PS: you might receive the same notification twice as we are purposely sending it from two separate locations in order to make sure you receive it.
Regards, Marco Rinaudo ­ CEO Corp. ­ ICANN Registrar

This was the first I’d heard of it and I was suspicious, so I googled around to see what might be happening. I found this blog entry and it started to look like the real deal.

There’s also this PDF on the ICANN website itself, which is the notice of termination to

I have (had?) a domain, virtual server and VDNS server with I noticed the billing details changed for the servers a couple of months ago and wondered what was up.

Anyway after a couple of days it seems that the servers are now managed by another company called hostingpen. I got an email from them last night…

>To: Mr Alex Eames
Subject: Your 4Domains Hosting Account
From: HostingPen Admin
Dear Mr Alex Eames,
As of Oct 6, 2010 Your 4Domains Web hosting Services are now under the management of (DS Technologies).
You Will Continue to Manage Your Accounts as you have the past couple of Months at: or You Can login from our website at by clicking on any of the My Account or Login Links. This Transition DOE NOT involve any additional Migrations of your servers or websites.
If You Have any questions Regarding your Domain Name Registrations or your 4Domains Backroom please DO Not Contact us.. You MUST Contact the gaining registrar   For additional Information Please go here:
We Welcome You To and We Look Forward to providing your Web Hosting services.
Thank You
DS Technologies

I logged into the hostingpen site and was able to see my VDNS control panel (although the data was about 48 hours old – coincidentally I made a change in the 4domains control panel on Monday night, just before they took the site offline, and that wasn’t reflected in the new control panel).

It’s all very alarming, and at a time when I’m busy trying to get a new ebook launched. Hopefully nothing will be shut down in a hurry. But it’s been an uncomfortable period of uncertainty for those with large numbers of domains and servers at 4domains.

I’m hoping this article will be able to help out anyone who finds themselves “out of the loop” with regard to the email correspondance from the two companies taking over the “assets” of 4domains. I’d been with 4domains for >10 years. I’d already bought a new dedicated server recently in the UK with the idea of transferring all my sites onto it to consolidate and save a wodge of cash. Now I’ve got the incentive to get on with that and make it work. :-))

Oct 062010

I had a fairly scary experience yesterday when I was making a new index for the latest version of my ebook Business Success for Freelance Translators (the new title for How To Earn $80,000+ per year as a Freelance Translator.) Basically what happened was, after updating the index with the new concordance file, some of the links in the book were mangled.

And after generating a PDF of the text, the original Word file could no longer be opened. 😥

“Eek.” 😮 I hear you say. All that work lost? Well not quite. Only about an hour’s work lost actually. I’ve been using computers for over 30 years and I don’t really trust them an inch. So when I’m working on something really important I usually save a new version of the file every time I make substantial changes (say more than an hour or two of work). Consequently, I had a version of the file that had been spell-checked, but not paginated or indexed. So all I had to do was repaginate, save the file as a new version and then do the indexing again.

Once indexed, and saved, the file wouldn’t open. :teeth: No problem. Back to the spell-checked and paginated version. I found a macro to strip out all the previous index entry codes, applied this, made a new index from scratch, saved the file, made a PDF version et voila. PDF version is fine, but the indexed file still will not open in Word 2007.

I’ve got no idea why this is, and it’s not the end of the world, but it is a bit of a nuisance. Perhaps it’s something to do with it being a legacy file that’s been updated and updated since the orginial version in 1998 through various different versions of Word (including Mac versions from my US editor).

It doesn’t really matter. No significant amount of work has been lost, and I got to my destination (a publishable PDF). But it was a bit scary for a while, until I thankfully realised I had oodles of older versions to go back to.

Computers are great, but don’t trust them an inch when it comes to valuable work.

Aug 202010

Seriously chuffed with the solution to the HDD clicking issue. I felt like I was on a bit of a roll. So I thought…

“I wonder if I can solve the problem of the manic menus when the computer is tilted?”

…What? I hear you say. Well it’s the wierdest thing. Occasionally, I like to use my laptop lying down, either in bed or on a sofa. Sometimes if I have a document to read, I like to do it lying down. Sometimes I like to watch a video clip in bed. Well with this laptop, when I tilt it, the menus go crazy. For example, Firefox will work fine, but as soon as I try to use a menu, it’s as if the cursor buttons are held down and the “selected” menu item keeps moving from one to the next. It only stops when the laptop is moved back to level position. The best way for you to see it is on a video clip. So here you go…

[webplayer id=2]

I used to think is was an issue with the touchpad. But I found out it’s something else entirely. There are some very clever people out there in cyberspace, and if you will only wait several months, before long, someone else will come up with the same problem and publish a solution. As it happens, this is what occurred here. Just in case that link disappears, the text is here…

I have a Studio 1557 core i7 laptop, which started to exhibit strange behaviour when the laptop was tilted in any direction other than level. When tilted windows (v7 64bit) would automatically switch between menu options and tabs with no user input. After going through a lengthy diagnostics session, I identified an issue with windows update installing the wrong driver for the ST Micro Accelerometer. Windows update identifies the device as an ST Micro ScreenDetection Sensor. If this driver is installed, Dell’s FreeFall application (HDD shock protection) no longer functions, and windows goes ‘wonky’ if the laptop is tilted.

Because the hardware is buried in amongst the Systems Devices section of the device manager, some people may not even know they have an issue.

To confirm if windows update has already installed the wrong driver, you can either :-

a) launch Device manager, expand System Devices and check to see if you have ‘ST Micro ScreenDetection Sensor’ listed (‘ST Micro Accelerometer’ is correct).

b) launch control panel, and select FreeFall Data Protection. If the application fails to launch or you get an error, then its likely the wrong driver is installed.

Now, when I bought my Dell Studio 1557, I didn’t go for the upgraded freefall HDD, so it would never have occured to me that my pc has a freefall sensor onboard. But it does. Not only that, but it appears that Windows 7 “updated” the driver on a windows update and that has caused this issue. If I uninstall ‘ST Micro ScreenDetection Sensor’ drivers, the problem ceases.

I tried installing the proper drivers for this accelerometer, but it gave an error message every time I boot up (which is more annoying than having to occasionally uninstall the drivers, which reinstall themselves when you reboot). So if I want to read lying down, all I have to do is uninstall the ‘ST Micro ScreenDetection Sensor’ drivers and then it works normally. I could delete the drivers permanently, and if I need to, I will. But for the moment I don’t feel the need.

Hey – I think, after 10 months I’ve finally got this laptop working the way it should. 😀

Update: I ended up permanently deleting the driver and the error message came back, so this morning I installed the driver from the Dell site. Let you know how it goes next time I reboot.

Aug 192010

Hurrah, Hallelujah esplendidos. 😀

I have finally resolved (I think) an issue I’ve had intermittently since I bought my Dell Studio 1557 in November 2009.

Hard Disk Clicking and beeping in a disturbing manner.

Every once in a while (seemed to be worse in hot weather) the Hard disk would make a clicking noise accompanied by a beep from the system (like the beeps you get at startup). If you’ve ever had a hard disk crash, you’ll know the clicking sound. And it is a sound that makes you think your hard disk is going to crash – which instills fear into the heart.

You may remember in May I discovered the cause of the DVD drive not working well. Well this HDD noise was the next niggly issue. It hasn’t stopped me from doing anything, but it has made me fearful for the life of my HDD.

This week I happened across this forum thread which has 157 pages of chatter about the Studio 1557. It also gives insight into some of the problems people have had with them. Some a lot worse than mine.

Although I didn’t specifically find the noisy HDD issue solution there (I didn’t read the whole thread – it must be there somewhere) a few people made remarks about it, which made me search for a solution. The solution was buried in the drivers update page of the dell web site. Basically, it’s a known issue with a certain batch of Seagate HDDs. All you have to do is update the HDD firmware.

Firmware 4SDM1 or 5SDM1 fixes clicking noise on Seagate 2.5″ 7200RPM HDD’s Model #’s:

160G – ST9160412AS DP/N J423T
250G – ST9250410AS DP/N K556T
320G – ST9320423AS DP/N F729T
500G – ST9500420AS DP/N G629T

So that involved

  1. Backing up some vital data in case the update failed
  2. Downloading a boot disc image file for the update.
  3. Burning a CD of the disc image (in Win 7, right click the iso file and choose “burn disc image” )
  4. Rebooting and pressing F2 to go into setup to change the boot sequence so I could boot from CD
  5. Booting from the CD and letting it do its stuff, (<1 minute)
  6. Removing CD
  7. Switch off PC and switch on again
  8. Rebooting again after Win 7 asks you to

And here we are, next day and I have yet to hear the horribly nasty sound that makes me think my Hard drive is about to crash. I think it’s worked. Hurrah, Hallelujah esplendidos. 😀

I don’t know if it’s my imagination, but the computer seems to be running slightly cooler as well.