All posts by Mike Dixson

Mike Dixson has been working in the IT industry since 1999 and has always been innovative in his approach to technology and life, looking for ways to solve and make more efficient all aspects of life from the mundane to the magnificent.

Moving….

I’m aware that I’ve let this site fall by the wayside a fair bit, in part because I’m improving my web presence somewhat and aligning my real self with my web self.

All in all is a fancy way of saying I’m now blogging at http://mikedixson.com

Today I’ve copied all the blog posts from this site over there, so no content will be lost.

I’m not sure what I’ll put up here yet, but it’ll be much easier for me to post in one location and maintain that.

Thanks
Mike

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Could 3D Printing be Internet Dating’s Next Step?

It’s occurred to me that it doesn’t matter how many photos you see of a prospective Internet date you see the reality on date night can often be a very different one indeed.

Whilst reading about some 3D printing technology recently I thought that a possible next step for Internet Dating could be for dating websites to require a front and profile shot uploaded and they could then render a 3D model on the website for prospective partners to view. Going one step further you could make a 3D print of the face, maybe at designated 3D print house which are spreading rapidly, the prospective partner could then get a real sense of the person before meeting them and avoid any awkward first dates.

Alternatively it could just be really creepy to print off strangers faces.

Self Imposed Poverty – How to force yourself to save more

Most people would say money burns a hole in my pocket, that’s not entirely true, I’m not as frugal as some, but I enjoy the money I do have and have enough to get buy on.

But, I’m trying to save to buy a property and so every penny counts. Changing your spending habits takes discipline and saving as much as I need to in the time that I want to takes a lot of saving, thus a lot of discipline.
So I’ve been trying out self imposed poverty.

As with most of you, in the last week of a month I’m pretty poor, and start spending more frugally, watching what I spend more, making the cheaper choices and so on. So what if I move the poverty line? What if I shift the date when the pinch hits forward to midway through the month?
So the last couple of months after I get paid and my regular transfer to my savings occurs, I transfered an extra £100 to my savings.

So now I’m poorer sooner, but start spending more frugally sooner. Even if I need grab that money back towards the end of the month I’m not dipping into my regular savings, and I’ve already started spending more frugally by then anyway, so will have still made some in roads to spending less that month than I otherwise would have.

So what do you reckon? Think you can try and impose some poverty on yourself for your own greater good?

 

Apache mod_rewrite Redirecting Directories Without Looping

Wow! It’s true what they say, mod_rewrite rules are a dark art, and whilst I’ve combed the Internet to find, what I thought would be a simple redirect, I’ve found countless examples that didn’t work.
So now I have one that does work I’m sharing.

Goal

To redirect hits to a subdomain sshwindows.webheat.co.uk to a subdirectory (in my case cause that is the link to the page within my wiki) /display/sshwindows/

Traffic to any other domain hosted on this same server should not be redirected.

All without looping.

Solution

Check two conditions not just one. Check the host header and the uri to ensure the root had been hit, and only then redirect.

Code

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^sshwindows\.webheat\.co\.uk$ [NC]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} /$
RewriteRule ^(.*)?$ http://sshwindows.webheat.co.uk/display/sshwindows [L]

For me I put this into my /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default file, but you can equally put this into a .htaccess file. For me this was to be a global thing.

Additional Notes

The [nc] is the no-case flag to make the host header match case-insensitive.
The [L] is the Last flag, so after this rule no further ones will be processed. In all honesty I don’t need this here, but that part came from another source and it’s 4am so I’ll be damned if I’m going to remove it now when it’s all working :-)

SOPA and PIPA Alternatives

SOPA and PIPA seek to prevent and punish piracy thru law and technical obstruction. Piracy, is wrong, most of us have pirated something in our time, even if it was copying a friends cassette or cd so you could have a copy of an album your mate owns, in our hearts we all know we’re being a little bit naughty when we do it.

Here’s the thing, the music and film industry don’t care too much if you are recording a film off TV at home that they own the rights too, or record a copy of a song off the radio. It’s small scale, it’s not really affecting their bottom line.
They care when it starts to make their fat wallets thinner and makes them look inaffective at protecting their intellectual properly.

However the gist of it is that as long as the amount of legal plays/buys of a song/movie Vs the amount of pirated copies of a song or movie is in their favour and keeps their wallets fat they won’t really give a rats arse.

So why not embrace the new digital landscape, why not make music and movies so easy to get and reasonably priced that piracy seems like idiocy?
Since buying a Spotify premium account subscription I’ve been lovingly listening to more new albums than I ever did before. I’ve been able to share these tracks via Spotify to friends and colleagues, and instead of a radio playing in the office now we have Spotify playing with a collaborative playlist that we all add tracks to. We have our own, very eclectic, radio station thru Spotify and it’s exposing colleagues to new tracks continually.

With the recent launch of Netflix in the UK, I’ve watched films and tv series, old and new, much of which is shared on my Facebook timeline and I’ve recommended films, and Netflix to friends.

So why is the film and music industry trying to make it so hard for me to get a hold of the product that they want me to have. Just make it easy and cheap enough and we’ll take the deal.

The downside to this streaming, legitimate consumption of movies and music is that some labels and/or artists choose not to release their product this way, and some major labels release their latest products.
I look forward to watching Netflix deal grow in the UK so their provision grows, and I look forward to being able to get hold of the latest albums immediately on Spotify.
Why record, movie companies and artists feel the need to be so prohibitive and restrictive in this I don’t know. They seem to be scared of technology.

The message is simple, make the gatorade taste nice and we’ll gladly gulp it down.

Tablet’s will not cure all that ails you

As I read the article Tablets Will Transform the Classroom [OPINION] I found myself getting increasingly frustrated at this article’s view on what Tablets like the iPad, Galaxy Tab, etc would bring to the classroom.

Scraping texts books is one thing, though I suggest that many publishers are still dragging there heels into this century, afraid that everyone will automatically pirate all books and their cash flow will disappear. Text books are heavy and dull, and largely in some ugly typeface that is hard on the eyes, so by all means makes them available as an ebook.
However  believes that tablet computers will enable teacher to facilitate teaching at different speeds/levels in a single class. I’m unclear how this magic would happen, unless the under paid teacher is likely to want to spend three times the amount of time working on class plans for three different levels that all tie in together at key points so that the teacher can orate on them.

I’m all for students learning at their own levels, I believe that it encourages great growth and keeps students interested in their studies, instead of waiting for everyone to catch up with you or feeling like you are never going to catch up to others.
But this is more an argument for virtual learning environment(online learning), and having the whole class plan/notes available and having students progress at a pace that is comfortable to them. In this case the teach becomes almost like a project manager, ensuring that the students stay on schedule for their milestones, but allowing students who are so inclined to zoom ahead.

This would also allow for some learning disabilities to be catered for, larger text for people with learning disabilities, colour schemes adjusted for accessibility, etc.

I do agree that this is an excellent opportunity for academia to get with the times, but in order to do that teachers/lecturers need to get up to speed, and be completely competent with the Operating System and Office applications at least.
Students need to emerge out of  secondary school completely familiar with computers and, perhaps more importantly, the ability to investigate and work out how to use a new applications or systems without having to be walked thru it.

The tablet is not a magic bullet, no bit of technology is really, but how people use technology and continue to do so is important, and the future of computing in the classroom depends on all parties involved investing themselves in the technology, not being afraid to work with it and to be creative in the ideas that they come up with for how the can get more use out of the technology in the classroom.

Reverse Timesheeting

I’m lazy and forgetful, not in a bad way, but I don’t like to do more than I have to if I can simplify something and streamline it, and I have a bad memory for the more mundane things.

So when I was asked to keep a work log I cited some problems. I’ve no issue with keeping a work log or time sheeting but if I try ad start a timer at the start of a task, or make note of the time, when I remember I’ve already been doing some other task too and don’t know how long for.
And if I keep a sheet next to me or a text file to log what I’m working in I’ll forget to fill it out after a while so the data becomes useless.

So I figured there must be a way to passively capture that data, like maybe I could record my screen all day. The problem with that is it’s going to be a nightmare to scrub thru and take up loads of hard disk space.
I thought, what if I could just capture my screen every once in a while, a snapshot of what I was doing.

A quick check and sure enough Mac OS X has a screencapture command to do just that.

Here’s the script

picdate="whatIworkedOnAt-"$(date +%Y%m%d%H%M)".png"
outputdir="/Users/Mike/Documents/WorkCapture/WorkCapture-"$(date +%Y%m%d)
if [ -d $outputdir ]; then
/usr/sbin/screencapture -xS $outputdir/$picdate
else
mkdir -p $outputdir
/usr/sbin/screencapture -xS $outputdir/$picdate
fi