Left 4 Dead 2 – Frying Tonight!

Earlier today I was introduced to the Left 4 Dead 2 Trailer from Valve.

I’m not sure what to make of this. It’s a wholely separate game to the original L4D which although probably the best in the Zombie-Survivor genre, gets tired quite quickly. Valve did promise free downloadable content patches (DLCs) for L4D which have so far comprised the ‘Survivor’ mode which introduces one mini-map and an extra mini-campaign will be coming in September.

I can’t help thinking the rest of the aforementioned free DLCs have been packaged up and had a price stuck on their head to cash-in on L4D’s original popularity.

The redeeming feature me is frying-pan-armed combat 😉

Piano Booster – Midi Piano Tutor

I just came across this FOSS Midi Piano Tutor program which I thought rather shiny.

The premise of Piano Booster is similar in concept to games like Guitar Hero only it turns the note path on it’s side, adds a proper musical stave and just might inadvertently help you to learn to play a real piano. 😉

I was going to say how it probably isn’t as ‘cool’ as Guitar Hero but then again, if we’re honest, games like Guitar Hero actually make you look like a bit of a prat when played infront of your friends and I suggest that with the necessity for a Midi keyboard, Piano Booster is probably something you’d use on your own anyway.

Although I don’t have any special desire to be able to play the piano, with Midi keyboards now as cheap as $40, it’s a bit tempting to get one just to try out this software 🙂

Using PHP to detect SSL per page

If you’ve ever run a site which uses an SSL certificate, you may have found a problem when your site calls information (images perhaps) from a third-party website which does not use an SSL certificate. The user’s web-browser will often display an icon or some other form of indication that part of the transaction is no-longer encrypted.

Ideally you want to avoid calling the external content on any page which is SSL secured or rather (for the purposes of this statement) only call the content when on a non SSL secured page.

Thankfully, if you’re using Apache and PHP, you’re on to a winner. The following statement checks with Apaches as to whether the current page is being served as HTTPS or not and renders the page with or without the third-party content as appropriate.

this is where you make HTML calls to your external content”;}  ?>

This should hopefully get rid of those pesky browser warnings for your dynamic pages.

Fixing “locales” error on Ubuntu

On a Ubuntu 8.04LTS server, I recently had an annoying case where the system would spew an error out seemingly every time a command was executed.

The error format was thus:
perl: warning: Setting locale failed.
perl: warning: Please check that your locale settings:
LANGUAGE = (unset),
LC_ALL = (unset),
LANG = "en_US.UTF-8"
are supported and installed on your system.
perl: warning: Falling back to the standard locale ("C").
perl: warning: Setting locale failed.
perl: warning: Please check that your locale settings:
LANGUAGE = (unset),
LC_ALL = (unset),
LANG = "en_US.UTF-8"
are supported and installed on your system.
perl: warning: Falling back to the standard locale ("C").

Clearly something wasn’t happy and that something appeared to be my ‘locales‘. They are actually quite self-explanatory, they define the language and location of a user in order to allow the correct presentation of the user interface. Great if you want to avoid having to read Kanji on the command line but not so much use if it’s just Crontab talking to the root account and filling up the mailbox with errors.

With a bit of searching, I found a simple enough answer. Obviously, as the error states, the locales need to be set. To do this issue the command:

sudo locale-gen

You can add your preferred locale to the end of this ie:

sudo locale-gen en_US.UTF-8

…which will generate the US English interface language with UTF-8 character formatting.

Then issue:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure locales

Hopefully, your locales will be set and that annoying error will be banished both from the console and your root inbox.

Credit to this thread at Ubuntu Forums

WordPress SSL Administration

If you’re a WordPress blogger who finds themselves out and about while blogging, you may benefit from the addition of secure/encrypted SSL logins and administration of your blog.

Lets say you are in a hotel for the night after a conference and you want to post an update on the days proceedings for your readers. The delightful 5-star hotel you booked yourself into has thoughfully provided free WiFi internet access in the rooms and your laptop can see the access point and has connected. Well, this is great but consider what that connection actually is for a moment.

The chances are that the connection used no authentication and is entirely unencrypted. Any data you send or recieve over the connection goes in the clear; including your WP login and password. Remember that wireless internet is a radio connection. Anyone with ill deeds on their mind a ‘radio’ of their own (ie: a wireless laptop) can record your data transmission and pick through it at will. They probably wont even have to spend much time or effort at it; I am lead to believe there are tools which specifically search packet streams for login credentials.

The hotel may have provided you with an authenticated WiFi link or even a Cat5 drop in the room but this may still cause issues. Can you trust the hotel’s own network? On at least one occasion when connecting to a wired connection in a hotel, I have discovered myself to be on a LAN consisting of all the other guests.

What you need is encryption.

If you establish and maintain an SSL connection with your blog’s webserver, the risks of digital eavesdropping are negated. If your server/host already has SSL installed, reconfiguring WordPress to work with it is pretty trivial. You can ask your host to install SSL and assuming you’re not on a shared host, this shouldn’t be a problem. You don’t even have to buy a certificate as you can sign your own. Self-signed certificates do have a drawback in that they cause an initial error message in the browser until you import the certificate. You should ensure that you import your self-signed certs over a trusted network.

To get WordPress (2.6+) configured for SSL, open your wp-config.php file and add the lines:

/** Force SSL login and administration */
define('FORCE_SSL_ADMIN', true);

…and save the file back on the webserver.

This forces the login window to go straight to an SSL connection and maintains the admin interface in one too. All data passed between your client machine and the admin interface, including your login credentials will be encrypted.

Have fun & be safe 😉

Gitso: Cross-Platform Reverse VNC

I just came across Gitso on Google Code.

I haven’t tried it yet but it is rather interesting in that it allows reverse VNC connections ie: A client requiring assistances fires up Gitso on their machine and ‘requests’ help from their support service via VNC.

As stated by the project page, this would greatly simplify the process of getting someone connected to offer them support via VNC.