Monday, June 27, 2011

milium / mila removal 3 options - DIY

When your skin regenerates, it is perfect (mostly).

Sometimes the skin might trap a little of the keratin when it regenerates.

There are essentially 3 options based on cost and squeamishness
  1. Exfoliate (burn a little of the skin off to release the trap)
  2. Laser treatment - hey to some this is a social visit - whatever.
  3. DIY with pin and water

Not for the squeamish - small amount of bleeding - cost zero:

Watching an episode of Lost at a friends recently, had me wondering what if we did not have access to some fancy alternatives.

It inspired me to get together a little DIY kit for this job:

I had four milia to remove - never made an effort at removal before.

Entire process took 15 minutes.

For a week I will have four blemishes on my forehead where the skin has been broken.

Warning: Doctors and Health Professionals will warn you against undertaking any procedure yourself that draws blood. Sound advice, as perhaps some folks do not sterilise what they use, and not sterilising is asking for infection.

The clean egg cup contains boiling water, and dipping the items in that water was enough to satisfy my own personal sterilisation standards.

Disclaimer: Whilst I myself might be happy to cut into skin to remove trapped Keratin, I do not advise you to do the same. Any action you take is at your own risk. 
Following options (1) or (2) given earlier might be better advice.

The location was important in my choice. If I were to get Milia on my forehead I would repeat my approach. However, if the Milia were close to my eye (they are for some folks), then that might change my decision. If a target Milium was within an inch of my eyelid, then I might not be so confident of working with pin and blade.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

firefox 5 on Ubuntu Lucid LTS

This household has at least ten installs of GNU / Linux on 5 computers.

In the mix are two older installs of Ubuntu Lucid LTS.

( End of life for Ubuntu Lucid 10.04 is April 2013 for Desktop and April 2015 for Server )

Doing security updates on a Laptop Dual Boot the other day, my Firefox was automatically updated to Firefox 5.

...what puzzled me was that another Desktop in the lounge was updated but still sits at Firefox 3.6?

The key appears to be an extra entry in /etc/apt/sources.d which exists on the laptop:

the entry of interest is shown below:

deb lucid main

This entry might have appeared on my system in preparation for Ubuntu 10.04.3 LTS point release, which is scheduled for July 2011.

( Failing that it might have been created by my using the Ubuntu 'alternate' cd in preparing a blog post, and hinting to my system that I might want to update to Maverick / Natty )

Firefox 5 is not on my system and I want it:

Just edit your source entry (using a text editor or the updates manager gui) to include a new entry for the mozilla team.

You can copy / paste the entry directly from the line above beginning deb http://

Firefox 5 is not on my system and I want to stick with Firefox 3.6 thanks:

It is not too difficult to 'hold' / 'lock' a package using dpkg / synaptic

The wording 'Lock Version' might be more familiar for graphical types, but a screenshot helps:

...and how to Package -> Lock Version...

System Administrators deploying to many machines, might prefer to issue the following using a deploy tool:

echo firefox hold | sudo dpkg --set-selections

Command line apt-get upgrade and complaints about key:

As a non-root user (aren't you always) run the following:

sudo apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-keys CE49EC21

The above will stop you receiving the command line complaint:
W: GPG error: lucid Release: The following signatures couldn't be verified because the public key is not available: NO_PUBKEY 9BDB3D89CE49EC21

( The observant will notice that the argument following --recv-keys is the trailing 8 digits of the NO_PUBKEY message, rather than the full measure )

My company has an upgrade policy - we schedule this with 200 users:

System Administrators deploying to many machines, can hold off on firefox version bumping, by issuing the following using a deploy tool:

echo firefox hold | sudo dpkg --set-selections

Perhaps you might want to arrange a quick training session, covering the minor changes since Firefox 3.6

If you are a company of 500 or a 1000 Ubuntu desktops, you probably run your own Ubuntu Mirror, and do a weekly review of new packages to aid upgrade planning. If you don't then hire me

( In this scenario, you are choosing the updates and timing and it really is worth the effort. )

Err .. we haven't got round to the mirror thing - can I rollback Firefox5?

Systems Administrators: The transitional package firefox-3.5 is your friend here, just select it using your deploy tool.

echo firefox-3.5 install | sudo dpkg --set-selections

...and later once everything is reverted, you place a hold...

echo firefox-3.5 host | sudo dpkg --set-selections

If you have just 5 or 10 machines to revert, then you might be quicker just running around each, and selecting the firefox version you want.

Quoting from Synaptic Package Manager:
Note: To install a version that is different from the default one, choose Package -> Force Version... from the menu.

What are the exact version numbers on your machine at time of writing?

...command line...

Notes and Further Reading:

I think of 'Transitional' packages as navigation aids or bump tools to help with renaming of packages / other packaging changes.

Sometimes when a package becomes too large or can no longer be distributed under a unified license, the packager might split things off.

Using transitional packages, is one way of helping your system remain logically the same despite the package split.

Of course if you have decided to upgrade to a non LTS version of Ubuntu (Wheezy / Natty), then firefox 3 is considered a little outdated, so you probably will not have the choice in that case.

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    touch sensitive - pressure sensitive - heat or pen

    Oooh look at my new precious - a shiny new device has arrived, but which kind of 'touch' is it?

    Touchscreen - heat sensitive - Samsung Galaxy and Apple:

    Promising a revolution in 'touch sensitivity', these devices work by detecting 'heat' from your finger.

    Supposedly this allows for greater accuracy, but there are caveats.

    Touchscreen - pressure sensitive - TomTom and Nokia N5800

    Great for general use and most devices, however you probably will not be happy if you are a pinch zoomer*.

    Also used by Nintendo DS gaming systems.

    *pinch zoomers is just my way of labeling folks who use portable devices, that make extensive use of touch gestures, rather than just point and press.

    Stylus / Pen / Nintendo DS pen:

    Touchscreens get dirty, touchscreens get greasy fingerprints

    My father likes to keep his touchscreen pristine, and often prefers to use a plastic stylus, to press the selections on his SatNav.

    Pros and cons - pressure sensitive versus heat sensitive:

    Cleanliness and hygiene - students pay attention:

    Fingers leave greasy, germ ridden prints on touch screens - try leaving your touchscreen uncleaned for a month and take a good look.

    Put the bag of crisps down, before you go playing your phone / tablet, and wash the grease off before you go to 'touching'

    Grease, the sort of cooking oil you find in crisps and fried snacks, is probably an ideal medium, for germs to stick to a contact surface ( keyboard / touchscreen ).

    Pressure sensitive:
    • Can (generally) use a wider range of screen protectors*
    • Allow the use of pens / stylus**
    • If you are in a hurry to answer the phone, you can probably get by without taking your glove off.
    • Can be thrown off by particles and grit, that might gather, where the screen and bezel meet.
    Heat sensitive:
    • Only very thin screen protectors are advised, so as to not block heat transmission
    • Older folks might find the screen less accurate / responsive.
    • Generally a little dirtier - as you are pretty much discouraged from using an inanimate object, rather than your finger to do the 'touching'
    • Where the screen is particularly crowded, might increase the chance of a correct selection (folks with ideal circulation)

    As you get older your circulation reduces very gradually.
    Extremities are usually worst affected, and that means fingers and toes. Any reduction in heat in the fingertips, will affect the ability of a heat sensitive touchscreen to respond correctly.

    *screen protectors can be slightly thicker if your touchscreen is working on pressure.

    **anything roughly pen shaped and non-sharp will do really, and quite often I'll use the wrong end of a biro.

    Using the ink end of a biro or ink pen nib on a touchscreen is a bad idea, however the blunt non-writing end is sometimes okay.

    Earlier I mentioned students ... in communal IT suites and learning resources, there are often free access computers. The keyboards (and no doubt soon touchscreens) have been used by johnny random and jillian surly.

    Do johnny and jillian wash their hands in the toilet, or are they head in the clouds type, too lazy to bother, or too distracted to remember.

    Well the next thing was that they used the keyboard on free access computer 1, right before you did.

    ( Unless you work in a University that is extremely vigilant about hygiene, those germs will be on that keyboard all week, or maybe the hands of the next user. )

    You just got your brand new 10 inch Internet tablet, and want to show it off.

    Is there someone in your group, that you are pretty certain never washes their hands on leaving the toilet? Do you pass them your tablet to play with?

    Notes and Further Reading:

    There is in fact a stylus / pen solution for some heat sensitive screens - seems fairly new. Quoting from the marketing:

    Nothing is less convenient than taking a GLOVE off just to answer your phone or check a text message. With the blah blah, you won't need to.
    The purpose of such a pen is...

    to simulate the touch of a finger on the Multi-Touch display.

    Here is a question on a forum, that might be related to the circulation in older folks issue I mentioned earlier:

    Forum Poster: My parents find it difficult to type on the iPhone but otherwise think it's ideal.

    Is there a special pen or pointer available to help them select the keys more accurately on the touch keyboard?

    Here is some marketing blurb from Samsung about the special pen you can buy to use with their tablets:
    The conductive tip of this stylus simulates a finger touch, tap or swipe to provide a full touch screen environment without leaving a single fingerprint behind.
    I am guessing the Samsung pen will work on the Motorolla Xoom and iPad2 also, but try it instore before you buy.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    vegetarian on the go - london buffet

    My diet is mostly meat free - there are various labels, but perhaps a useful description is 'rarely eats meat'

    When visiting London, I usually make an effort to take advantage of the opportunities to lunch vegetarian.

    The lunchtime take out buffet above is excellent value, and grabbing a tray, I can sit out in a public area, and enjoy London.

    I'll just repeat some of the items from the sample menu:
    • Basil salad
    • Singapore noodles
    • Lemon Grass
    • Seaweed
    • Spiced Aubergines
    I am not a mad Tofu fan, however, I usually taste a bit of most things from the buffet, and 9 out of 10 things hit the spot :)

    According to one reviewer, this type of buffet might be described as "Tai Chinese fresh veg style"

    There are many of these buffet style vegetarian restaurants across London, and I usually make an effort to find the nearest when booking a city break.

    Vegetarian to Vegan - what to leave out:

    Although my diet is not so easily labelled, you might consider me almost Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian, Pescatarian, or 'Flexitarian', that does not prescribe that I may not have an interest in animal additives in food generally.

    Gelatin is a substance made from boiling the skin, bone, and connective tissues of animals.

    Cheap low fat yoghurts might have Gelatin added, and apparently even some breakfast cereals and fruit juices. Can't see the point really so perhaps I should make an effort to read and avoid those.

    Fish is an important part of my current diet, however if I ever decided to alter my diet to contain less fish, then any real ale home brewing in which I engage might want to avoid using Isinglass as a finer.

    There seems to be a distinction made between 'bright' and 'cloudy' when it comes to any discussions about 'Real Ale' and Isinglass. I suspect this is more about habit, and like the colour grey, there is a whole shade of appearance between 'bright' and 'cloudy'.

    My guess is that Greene King IPA (which always looks really bright in the glass) would definitely have used a finer, however insisting on finer, is perhaps just a concession to aesthetics - a bit like insisting all apples are bright green and perfectly round - silly really.

    Certainly if I ever brew real ale at home, I would make an effort to produce a couple of batches, without fining just to test my theory.

    E120 or Cochineal as a colouring, perhaps that one is an easy one to avoid also.

    Notes and Further Reading:

    The reviews of Buffet V / Veg are not universally good. There are one or two folks who seem to have wandered in (maybe after a few drinks), and expected sticky sugar coated Chinese meat dishes.

    Buffet V as a advertising label, does seem to be downplaying the vegetarian aspect of what it offers (rightly or wrongly).

    Perhaps in avoiding the fuller 'veg' or 'vegetarian' in the signage, they might be opening themselves up to negative internet feedback.

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    power consumption - blacker the better

    Here I present an obvious fact that is easily overlooked.

    Having a large screen monitor, it is easy to save on power consumption - just work in terminal more often.

    I write this article on a 24 inch Iiyama Prolite B2403WS, which is rated at 65 watts maximum (specification given in the manual)

    However that that 65 watts is a peak load when watching a high definition movie.

    Running a normal graphical desktop and switching between programs will use nowhere near that amount, and uses 30->45 watts

    ( measured at the electricity outlet - monitor usage only )

    GNU / Linux types who are skilled in command line use, can easily cut that down to 15 watts.

    A black background terminal (the sort Linux folks prefer), will see the monitor consume 15 watts under normal use.

    That might increase to anything up to 24 watts, when watching fast console output such as strace, or significant compile output.

    What about a laptop - can I save there also?

    Same principle applies. Particularly for 17 inch or 15 inch laptops.

    It is easy to stretch your battery life, as a full graphical display that is being constantly updated, is taking a good dose of your battery and feeding it to the flat panel display half.

    Certainly when you get to the last hour of your laptop battery, switch off anything strictly unnecessary, and that includes a graphical display (unless you really need it).

    Have 30 minutes of battery time left, and working in terminal but within Xfce or Gnome?

    Switch to console using Ctrl+Alt+F1 or Ctrl+Alt+F2 and carry on working there.

    Your power management daemon is still sitting in the background, and should shut down when % battery life becomes critical.

    But you just doubled your working time remaining from 20->30 minutes to 40->60 minutes, by dropping down the display to almost idle :)

    What about the entire system - how much does an oldish desktop use?

    In preparation for a newer six-core AMD FX-6110 sometime next year, my desktop parts have been passed on, and gone backwards to an ancient AM2 Athlon, for the next 6 -> 12 months.

    It is not very power efficient (by todays standards), but it does okay for a 2GHz three year old.

    The third digit of the CPU model number for AMD Athlon processors details the power rating. ADD... or ADO... or ADV... for Athlon 64 dual core processors says 35, 65, 89 watts respectively. Sometime ADA will be used to represent 89 watts.

    Not having the model number to hand, but being fairly certain the processor is from the 'Windsor' family, my measurements were as follows:
    • 70 graphical desktop (not enough usually to stress either core above 1Ghz)
    • 85->90 dual cpu compression task - both cores maxed - system hits 90w
    • 70 watts when idle / grub
    • 90 system bootup - cpu is normally stressed during first 30 seconds bootup
    Note: These are at plug measurements that exclude the monitor, and include the motherboard, hard drive, and dedicated Ati 3450 graphics, giving total usage 70->90 watts, with 70w being more likely under normal load.

    The processor based on my measurements is either 90 watts peak (but overrated in documentation versus real usage), 65 watts peak, or 35 watts peak.

    My guess is cpu is 65 watts peak, and see little point in pulling the cooler off the cpu to check.

    Power consumption of this system at 70 watts is acceptable in my opinion.

    The Samsung Ecogreen hard drive is helping - it uses very little compared to other hard drives > 1TB.

    If I were not planning on and upgrade to FX-6110, my other choice would be to replace this entire system with a socket FM1 combined Cpu+Ati graphics.

    Such a socket FM1 system, when connected to that Samsung Ecogreen, would probably tick over at less than 30 watts!

    Using 1 kilowatt of power and that AM2 system + monitor:

    In the UK right now 1 kilowatt of power (for an hour) costs around £0.20 rewritten 20 pence.

    Translating that in power terms that could be considered 100 watts for ten hours.

    This system is used for business and word processing, and there is very little gaming / movie watching in any 1 month.

    System+Monitor uses 110 watts in normal use.

    So that says that running that system for 9 hours every weekday would cost £1.

    I can easily make an effort to reduce that power consumption further, by using terminal as describing earlier.

    Notes and Further Reading:

    If you are conscious of your power usage, and are thinking of buying a new larger hard drive, then do consider the Ecogreen or other lower power alternatives.

    Sata drives are so fast these days that reducing power by having a larger disk cache, but variable / lower spin speed is an option (Ecogreen)

    In 2012 and 2013, a 256GB solid state drive will be much more affordable, so there is an additional option for upgraders there also.

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    debian - update flash plugin - packaged script

    In Debian GNU / Linux there is a script named update-flashplugin-nonfree, that will take care of updating flash for you*

    Most of the time this works just fine, however if Adobe have several flash updates in quick succession ( like just now mid 2011), then there might be a small lag.

    *Run /usr/sbin/update-flashplugin-nonfree manually or put it in a regular cron.

    My flash version is and it is outdated.

    The command to check in a convenient form for copy / paste is below:

    strings /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/ 2>&1 | \
    grep LNX | sed -e "s,^,Flash Player version: ,"

    ...or an alternative version in two bulleted lines....

    • FSO=/usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/
    • strings $FSO 2>&1 | grep LNX | sed -e "s,^,Flash Player version: ,"

    verbose output from update-flashplugin-nonfree - version confirm:

    As root run the following:

    /usr/sbin/update-flashplugin-nonfree  --install --verbose

    In the output you should see a line that starts with Flash Player version: LNX , and tells you what version is being installed.

    The output is useful for debugging, but a bit lengthy to reproduce in full in this article. If you want an example of such output, then you can find that here.

    Adobe flash - an example:

    Here (above) we have a problem that we have manually detected, in that is not the newest version available from Adobe.

    ( Detailed output showing a sha512 checksum failure is available here )

    tar -O -zxf /var/cache/flashplugin-nonfree/install_flash_player_10_linux.tar.gz '' | strings 2>&1 | grep LNX | sed -e "s,^,Flash Player version: ,"

    ...or an alternative version in three bulleted lines....

    • TGZ=/var/cache/flashplugin-nonfree/install_flash_player_10_linux.tar.gz
    • tar -O -zxf $TGZ $SO | strings 2>&1 | grep LNX | sed -e "s,^,FVer: ,"
    Above are ways of checking the version in the .tar.gz file, that is cached on your system.

    The .tar.gz is cached on your system, I assume, to prevent the unnecessary repeated downloading of the same file.

    However providing that bandwidth is not an issue, you should be removing the cached version before running...
    rm /var/cache/flashplugin-nonfree/*flash*.tar*

    Alternatively run the three commands to be sure of avoiding caching and having a good way of automating things for a cron job setup:

    update-flashplugin-nonfree  --uninstall;
    rm /var/cache/flashplugin-nonfree/*flash*.tar*;
    update-flashplugin-nonfree  --install 2>&1 >> /var/log/update-flashplugin-nonfree.log;

    The human in the chain and wisdom of bandwidth saving:

    Automated update processes are often seeded and / or managed by humans.

    Having a pgp check as part of the update process for flash seems reasonable, providing the plugin does not need updating too regularly.

    If too many updates to flash are released, then the pgp check files are going to become tiresome to keep regenerating :|

    Bandwidth saving is a noble goal, however in a process that has human management, it makes sense to be sure that the user is somehow informed of an out of date cached file.

    Adobe would be less than happy if hundreds of thousands of daily crons were re-downloading the same .tar.gz daily.

    Conversely having cached copies of the .tar.gz and a delay in the pgp file regeneration, might mean that many debian desktop users are blissfully unaware that their flashplugin is out of date even if they have a weekly cron running update-flashplugin-nonfree --install.

    See my notes in earlier paragraph for cron suggestion and removing the cached .tar.gz file.

    Notes and Further Reading:

    strings is a program that finds and prints text strings, embedded in binary files such as executables.

    On Debian you can find an 'after the fact' copy of what update-flashplugin-nonfree downloaded in directory /var/cache/flashplugin-nonfree/

    • strings - description [ ]
    • Bug #629417 - No up to date sha512sum available [ ]
    The sha512sum for, which replaces flash:

    Having convenient Debian packaging should not lock you into a habit of expecting everything on your system, to just run automatically.

    Reporting bugs is important, however running an outdated flash plugin, when a simple untar and mv can make your system secure again, is not advisable.

      Tuesday, June 7, 2011

      you are not privileged to mount the volume - linux hal - my fault

      The GNU / Linux hal subsystem does an okay job for drive management.

      You insert a usb key and through thunar-volman on my Xfce system, the drive is mounted and browsed automatically.

      ...unless you inadvertently put a block in /etc/fstab through hacking around :|

      You are not privileged to mount the volume:

      There are several possible causes, but first the symptoms and clues:

      Here is a clue to the cause for my case...

      hald[1619]: 22:32:03.942 [I] hald_dbus.c:4169: failed with 'org.freedesktop.Hal.Device.Volume.Per
      missionDenied' 'Device /dev/sdb1 is listed in /etc/fstab. Refusing to mount.'

      Above was obtained from /var/log/syslog after switching on hal debugging.

      ...and here is the /etc/fstab entry causing the problem

      Now that /dev/sdb1 line was added manually by me post install. One aspect of GNU / Linux which can be a benefit is that it is infinitely configurable and can be tailored to your needs entirely.

      As with all file level configurations, you take responsibility yourself for manual changes.

      Simply commenting out that /dev/sdb1 line in /etc/fstab, returns my system to expected behaviour (automount of usb key).

      Responses to the cause - volman or install alternative automounter:

      There is no volman group on my system, your 'you are not privileged to mount' message may have a different cause. However in my case, the solution is clear above and does not involve creating any group or adjusting group membership.

      First things lots of folks do when they receive an error message such as shown at the top of this article, is hunt around for another way for the system to automount.

      Your mileage may vary, however if hal is giving you the error message then you might at least consider:

      DAEMON_OPTS="--verbose=yes --use-syslog"

      and rebooting your machine, to give you more information about what hal is unhappy about.

      Why are you even running hal - the thing is deprecated?

      In using an light desktop (Xfce), I try where possible to fit with it's default setup and work with it.

      Thunar -> thunar-volman -> hal a dependency chain that exists in Debian Squeeze, and gives a workable solution to automounting.

      There are other alternatives - different automounters, or relying on udev rather than hal.

      Notes and Further Reading:

      Recap on the cause in my case: No fault of the system, purely a manual configuration change which I made, that blocked normal functioning of thunar-volman+hal

      Sunday, June 5, 2011

      Natural Muesli - Wholegrain using your own ingredients

      Just what exactly is in shop Muesli?

      Well that depends where you buy, but here is one 'basic' ingredients list:
      • Wholegrain Oat Flakes (50%)
      • Wholegrain Wheat Flakes (40%)
      • Vegetarian Whey Powder (5%)
      • Raisins (3%)
      • Hazelnuts & Nuts (2%)
      If you visit a 3 or 4 star hotel, then the Muesli you will be presented with, will be quite different. But just how different?

      Whole grains and variety of fruit and nuts - luxury:

      Premium oat flakes will be whole and perhaps of a larger size.

      Whole hazelnuts or halved hazelnuts rather than a few chips scattered about.

      Dried Apricots and fruit which is a bit pricier, rather than the cheapest ingredients often glazed.

      Fruit which has not been processed to aid longer storage ( glazing )

      Perhaps fresh seeds, rather than seeds toasted / glazed to aid preservation.

      Note: I have used the term Muesli here, if you instead use the term Granola then please substitute as you read.

      Toasting Seeds - Makes for Tasty Muesli some folks feel:

      Dry Toast seeds over a textured heated surface for 2 to 3 minutes.

      Toss regularly during toasting and do not blacken the seeds.

      Evil head of Dentistry - Toasting and Oil:

      Toasting seeds is one thing, toasting flakes another thing entirely.

      If I were the [fictional] Evil head of Dentistry, sitting stroking my cat, here is what I would mandate adding to all muesli:
      • Glazed banana chips
      • Toasted oat flakes - toasted in oil
      • Toasted malted wheat flakes
      • Fruit all covered with a glazing agent ( vegetable oil )
      • Good old sugar ;)
      Why? Because all of these things will increase the pressure on a weak tooth, and make Muesli into a crunching exercise, rather than a mild grinding exercise.

      If you were Kwik Fit and wanted to sell more suspension parts, then one way is to persuade ordinary motorists to 'off-road' once every day.
      No different for [fictional] Evil head of Dentistry and your daily morning meal.

      Adding sugar to cereal is a great way of removing user choice.
      Most folks who are aware of their sweetener intake, would make a conscious choice to sprinkle a little sugar on, or pass - might depend on mood or fancy.

      Adding sugar to cereal it could be argued does remove that choice, and any extra sugar in your diet, is good news for the Dentistry business.

      Tesco 'Value' Muesli - how tasty, how healthy?

      'Value' ranges tend to ignore health as a measure of value and focus almost entirely on cost.

      The 'Value' Muesli ingredients list:

      Wheat Flakes, Oat Flakes, Barley Flakes, Malted Toasted Wheat Flakes, Raisins (4.5%), Whey Powder, Sugar, Hazelnuts

      Malted Toasted Wheat Flakes contain: Wheat Flakes, Barley Malt Extract.
      Raisins contain: Flame Raisins, Glazing Agent (Vegetable Oil).

      Some notable figures from the Tesco 'Value' Muesli Nutrition sheet:

      60% Carbohydrate
      15% Fibre
      10% Protein
      10% Sugars
      5%   Fat

      How healthy? Well it helps to have something to compare it to - see next section.

      Morrison 'Value' Muesli - how tasty, how healthy?

      Add you own dry fruit (Apricots / Raisins / whatever)

      Add you own seeds or whatever you think makes a great breakfast taste for you.

      ...and how healthy....

      Hints quoted from the Muesli Recipe at (below)
      It is best not to have too many nuts and seeds in your muesli mix as they are rich in proteins and oils - the mix can become rather a challenge to the digestive system!
      Chop the larger nuts into pieces. Almonds and coconut are best flaked.
      Soak Muesli for at least half an hour before you want to eat it.

      How about the Morrisons 'Value' and your Government recommended daily amount (GDA)?

      How about Morrisons 'Value' versus Tesco 'Value' summary values quotes previously?

      Carbohydrates and Fat - the two 'Value' Muesli are comparable.

      Slightly more Protein in Morrisons

      Bit less Fibre in Morrisons

      Can I make my own Muesli for £1 a Kilogram?

      £2->£4 per Kilogram is a more realistic figure.

      If you happen to live right near a supplier of staple goods, and have no transportation costs to consider, then you might just be able to hit £1 per kilogram.

      Supermarkets are really making no money at selling Muesli for £1 per Kilogram.
      My feeling is that it is a 'loss leader' intended to tempt you into the supermarket, rather than being a profitable line.

      At the top end of the market is £10 per kg "Ultimate" organic muesli

      Soak Muesli - Surely you can just eat it right after adding milk?

      Soaking Muesli helps break down the phytates in the fibre.

      Unsoaked Muesli (phytates intact) might prevent the absorption of Iron and other minerals by your system.

      If you don't like the idea of adding milk then waiting 30 minutes, then instead perhaps fortify your Muesli with iron rich additions such as:
      • Chopped Almonds
      • Dates
      • Prunes
      • Pumpkin
      • Raisins
      • Wheat Bran
      • Sesame Seeds
      Having a Muesli made of Wholegrain Oats and Wholegrain Wheatflakes is higher in Iron, but higher in Phytates also, so do soak if you can.

      Phytates are an anti-nutrient, and by soaking you are helping to stop those compounds from binding to your nutrients, thus allowing your body to gain the nutrients as intended.

      Notes and Further Reading:

      Most Health Foods stores and Supermarkets offer a 'Luxury' or 'Premium' muesli, and some are very good.

      The more pricier offerings, are probably little different to your 3* or 4* hotel variety, once you add some premium fresh / unpreserved fruit, seed, nuts to brighten further :)

      Waitrose Muesli takes an interesting approach with main ingredients being Barley Flakes (12%) and Rye Flakes (8%) and Spelt Flakes (8%)
      *Buying for a commune or social housing project, you might be able to justify a 25kg pack of Wheatflakes, however a single person might take 20 -> 50 weeks to eat there way through that pack!

      Ingredient amounts in cups / mugs - some examples to help with conversion to grams:

      Cup of Oats is 70 grams
      Mug of Oats is 100 grams 

      Cup of Morrisons 'Value' Muesli is 90 grams
      Mug of Morrisons 'Value' Muesli is 130 grams

      For dry cereals you can approximate using Mug = 1.45 Cups

      All figures above are approximate. Use your own cup and scales for exact figures.

      Saturday, June 4, 2011

      xfce4 themes - application icons examples

      Here is a default Xfce theme (Tango) from a Debian GNU / Linux install:

      ...and the next example (below) is the set of icons named GNOME:

      The icons represent the same things, you are just toggling between Tango and GNOME theme and you should be able to observe the difference.

      The 'applets-screenshooter' icon is an easy example to use to test which theme you have active.

      That icon is usually used on my desktop and laptop for the following command:

      /usr/bin/xfce4-screenshooter -w -d 2 -o /usr/bin/gimp

      and given a shortcut key of AltGr+Print

      Window manager themes and Xfce:

      The package xfwm4-themes will install themes for the Window manager in


      ...and similar locations

      Notes and Further Reading:

      The package gtk2-engines is a must if you want some alternative themes in Xfce.
      Crux, formerly known as the Eazel engine;
      ... is included in gtk2-engines

      There are some other packages with similar names, that you might also explore.

      By default a Debian Xfce desktop will install the package gtk2-engines-xfce which has some working, but basic looking themes.

      On any new system of mine I will execute the following after completing the initial install:

      apt-get install gtk2-engines gtk2-engines-nodoka
      apt-get install xfwm4-themes gnome-icon-theme

      None of the above installs bring in anything too heavy as there are few dependencies :)

      If you are choosing to use gnome-icon-theme instead of the default tango-icon-theme, then you could also clean up 10 megs of space by executing:

      dpkg --purge tango-icon-theme

      The gtk2-engines-nodoka package brings themes from Fedora.
      Nodoka-Rounded is a theme which freshens up my Xfce desktop nicely :)

      The xfce4-panel package, that would normally be included on your system, contains a simple clock which is perfectly usable*:

      ( Note: If you have your laptop clock set to UTC then getting above clock to show local time is not so straightforward and you might prefer the Orage digital clock on your panel in that case )

      The xfce4-mixer package will give you a sound control, which you can add to your panel:

      On a laptop I usually set 'PCM' as the control, whose setting will be displayed graphically (blue curved bars):

      "Xfce mixer application"

      This is the frontend for mixer settings delivered together with the Xfce4 desktop environment. It does the same jobs other mixer frontends do but is integrated into the Xfce4 desktop as a plugin for the Xfce4 main panel.

      It uses GStreamer as a backend.

      Xfce plugins - do I really all that are installed?

      Here is a list from a long standing desktop:

      Here is a list from a fresh install:

      Seems a little counter intuitive to have a fresh install showing a longer list, however the first (shorter) list, was from an install that did not use meta packages during installation.

      apt-get install xfce4-appfinder a command worth running, if you are interested enough to read up and explore the different ways, of adding launchers to your 'Customizable panel' on the Xfce desktop.

      Xfce launchers and % placeholders:

      %u is a useful placeholder, here are a couple of examples:

      • /usr/bin/wget "%u"
      • /usr/bin/curl -o curl.out "%u"
      ... and some more complex examples ...

      /usr/bin/curl -o curl.out --show-error --connect-timeout 35 --max-time 120 "%u"

      /usr/bin/curl -o curl.out --show-error --connect-timeout 35 --max-filesize 4096000 --max-time 120 "%u" 

      Xfce - Task list - Window list - Icon box:

      Icon box plugin is included in Xfce without having to add any additional package.

      Doing 'Add to Panel' then 'Icon box' gives something clean and minimal for window switching.

      Notes and install command list:

      Recapping the apt-get and dpkg commands below:
      • apt-get install gtk2-engines gtk2-engines-nodoka
      • apt-get install xfwm4-themes gnome-icon-theme
      • dpkg --purge tango-icon-theme
      • Blueish: apt-get install gnome-brave-icon-theme
      • Libreoffice: apt-get install libreoffice-style-galaxy

      Friday, June 3, 2011

      Debian on Laptops - 2011 experience Dell Inspiron

      It's fast :)

      Boot time is less that 30 seconds. Program startup times are impressive :)

      As with all manual installs*, I expect to make a few observations, and have one or two niggles.

      This install of Debian Squeeze is no different.

      *If your hardware has a GNU / Linux recovery cd, and has a distribution tailored exactly to your hardware, then you should have fewer / no niggles.

      ( My Dell Inspiron 1525 does have a GNU / Linux recovery cd, however I want a brand new 2011 system instead of the default system )

      Wireless and GB - this one is enough to put off a noob:

      cfg80211: Calling CRDA for country: US

      Above appears in /var/log/dmesg and is not strictly correct*

      However that did not stop my wireless from connecting fine at home using WPA2

      Wicd does a good job of managing wireless, however I needed a little manual intervention to get the wireless detection going:

      ...manually entering wlan0 into the box marked 'Wireless interface' was all that was needed :)

      Channel 6 seems popular in the UK and this is not barred by having CRDA set to US.

      *If you want to tinker and try and make your crda setting correct (GB, NL, or whatever), then you should maybe install the iw package.
      Plenty of writeups available by websearching regarding changing crda.
      Those writeups might suggest compiling iw yourself, however the package is in Debian Squeeze, so seems sensible to use that precompiled version

      What follows next are a result of reading /var/log/dmesg - something most users will [rightly?] not bother with.

      Entries in here (dmesg) are naturally a little chatty, which is why some distributions choose to hide this output during bootup.

      dmesg says Calgary: detecting Calgary via BIOS EBDA area:

      Nothing other than a chatty dmesg here.

      Calgary is, apparently, a piece of hardware that appear in some blade systems.

      Do desktop installs get installed on blade systems? They sure do.
      Thin client computing, and splitting of resources between light base and datacentre, is today a workable solution in plenty of UK businesses.

      Your kernel / hardware detection is just checking if it is present.

      When you share kernels between different form factors, say Desktop, Tablet, smartphone, Server you have two choices:

      1. Tailor the build to each individual segment 
      2. Rely more on detection routines 

      Ubuntu has recently decided to roll it's netbook edition into the main Ubuntu edition.
      This I suspect is a direct result of the cost (and 'marketing' complexity) of having different editions.

      Windows next year will have a small piece of the smartphone and tablet market. If the company opts for kernels tailored, to each individual segment, then the company will have similar considerations to that just mentioned.

      dmesg says Driver 'pcspkr' is already registered, aborting...

      In most cases this is just chatter.

      If however you are without a pc beep, and really want the beep in terminal (and elsewhere), then debian bug #604197 is worth a read.

      I have the opposite position, wanting no beeps whatsoever, which inspired the article here.

      Notes and Further Reading:

      In the next version of Debian (due for release in 2013) there is a package named crda, which should do a better job than simply basing crda zone on the main market, for the wireless hardware, detected in your machine.

      • Question #252354 about Calgary hardware detection messages
                   [ ]
      • Package crda in Debian Testing (Wheezy) [ ]
      • Really want pc beep bug #604197 [ ]

      Having wireless-tools package installed on my machine, I was able to issue the command:

      iwlist wlan0 channel

      ...and obtain a list of wireless channels which would be detected by my wireless setup. 32 channels showed up in that list (based on crda US), and in case you are interested, channels 6, 10, 11, 12, 13 are in that channel list.

      It would be theoretically possible (but not very considerate) of me, to now change my router to use a US channel, simply because I could, and the laptop might detect that signal.

      If your crda zone is being set as 'default' and you are missing the channels that you need, then here are a couple of links that might be worth a read:

      notifications - wait 30 seconds and X to delete

      Xfce desktops have a choice of notification system.

      Here is a notification from the default Xfce Debian GNU / Linux install:

      ... produced by xfce4-notifyd package, here is an alternative

      ... this second example (New updates) is produced by notification-daemon-xfce package.

      If you really like a square dialogue then you might prefer the results from notification-daemon-xfce.
      But wait - I like the ability to 'click off' a notification, so I should go with notification-daemon-xfce? Maybe.

      Xfce4-notifyd and 'click off' feature:

      Hover over the notification and an X will appear for you to 'click off' the notification so that it disappears.

      Prefer to have notifications stay around until you manually 'click off'?

      Increase 'Disappear after' to be 300 seconds, which means notifications stay on screen for 5 minutes.

      It is now up to you to 'click off' notifications yourself pretty much.

      The theme 'Smoke' is selected above, that gives the grey with rounded edges, that you see in first screenshot example 'Device is now safe to remove'.

      ( That colour is probably #4D4D4D which some folks label 'grey 30' )

      But my notifications options screen does not have all those options?

      If you have notification-daemon-xfce installed then your 'Notifications' options would instead look like this:

      Where are all these notification settings anyway - which menu?

      Xfce Menu -> Settings -> Xfce4 Settings Manager

      Notes and Further reading:

      About xfce4-notifyd package:
      Themable using the GTK+ theming mechanism. Visually appealing: rounded corners, shaped windows

      About notification-daemon-xfce package:
      Clone of notification-daemon but without GNOME dependencies. It permits doing passive popups notification on the user desktop to notify about events.

      If you are running Ubuntu, then do be aware that notification mechanisms for some applications might well be patched by Ubuntu to fit in with their particular way of doing things.