A New Day – A New Dawn – Welcome to 2018

So for the second and last time it is a case of bringing out the festive bunting as I take a quick look back on the trials and tribulations of 2017 and look forward to the new push of 2018.

Flirtly…. Happy New Year.

May 2018 bring you everything that was good about the last twelve months and more. May you leave the old and bad behind and grab the new day with a glass of Prosecco and / or alcohol-free beer.

I celebrated earlier than many yesterday and had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc with my dinner. Some of us had to be in bed early last night ready for the 4am alarm call and the 40 minute meander to the office. For someone who spent the start of 2017 trying to find an excuse not to go to the gym, starting 2018 with a 2.5 mile walk to work is one way to try and push ones-self to… not go to the gym.

SlowPsycho

What has stopped me going to the gym is my latest project of Gaming with SlowPsycho, where I basically stream most of my gaming to an audience of one man and his guinea pig. Well I have had some success I suppose, I had to have so that I could become affiliated with Twitch. It was mostly thanks to one game that seemed to gain traction and developed a small following.

The problem was then that the game, being in Early Access, did not really pan out as quick as I would have hoped to prevent the burnout that a partial game can bring.

How Can You Support SlowPsycho?

Do you have Amazon Prime? Did you know that Amazon Prime is more than just free next day delivery? You can also use it to support streamers on Amazon’s recent acquisition Twitch.

You can link your Amazon to a Twitch Account Here and you obviously need to create a Twitch account. You can then subscribe directly in your favorite streamers channel; like mine!

I am also working on a website reviewing the games I play, at SlowPsycho.tv where I will … ermmm…. go slowly psychotic.

My Compromised Skype *embarrassed face*

You know it can happen to anyone, right? You load up a program you have not used in a while and BAM! you find you are spamming everyone on your contact list. Today I have turned on *embarrassed face* Skype to find a friend sending me the inevitable 

I guessed something had gone wrong earlier this morning. I had an e-mail from the Microsoft Account Team telling me that my account might have been “accessed” and I should change my password. You know as well as I do that there are many good e-mail scams out there and so I resisted clicking the link and logged into my Microsoft account independently.

Microsoft let you access recent recorded activity of your Microsoft account, along with a glossary.

It will ask you to confirmed your account by sending an e-mail or a text , to be fair I found using a text message faster and easier, although – disclaimer time – your mobile phone provider may charge you for it.

Uh-Oh Skype Got Accessed

skypeaccess1

Now for those of the uninitiated let me give you a hint. If you want to hack my accounts, I am a very firm Marmite person when it comes to anything from Apple… I will only use it under protest.

So as you can see, I have a Skype account, which was accessed from Brazil on Sunday. There you can find the detail of what accessed it and where it thinks that it was, unfortunately I am not very experienced in tracing the IP to either a ISP or company.

You will also see I locked down my account before writing this blog. This was because I reacted to the Microsoft e-mail and changed all my passwords before looking at what happened.

A Quick Idea – Check Your Settings!

So what I think my failure might have been was to forget a small setting on my Skype software. Enabled by default – or so it would seem – Skype can load a preview of any web links that are sent. Now this is great if you have a contact list where only your contacts can , err, contact you; but when one gets infected, you can see the inevitable chain reaction.

Skype Settings Preview

So this is what I have turned off. I found it, on my Windows 10 edition of Skype Preview, simply in the first settings page. As you can see I have now turned it off. I am not sure, but I would expect that the Baidu link, which when sent to me even had my username in the URL, was previewed in Skype which somehow gave it access.

Now I Don’t Use Skype

I use to use Skype back in the day when it was popular, I even had one of those funky Skype phones that you plugged into your computer using USB. I don’t use it anymore though, I can easily get a cheap “burn” SIM for a mobile phone and I have a couple of old Blackberry handsets in the house.

If you must know – an old Torch 9800 (touch screen, with a full keyboard hidden under a slider) and the Z10 (all touch screen) 

So, I really don’t need Skype anymore; I tried to remove it.

Problem 1: Skype is Connected to My Windows Account

Can't Unlink Skype

Problem 2: Cancel Skype and You (Apparently) Cancel Your Whole Microsoft Account

Let's Cancel Everything

Problem 3: I have Windows and Office 365 connected to that Microsoft Account

That is the problem with the joined up digital infrastructure though, you need to be able to add and remove subscriptions, like my old XBox Live – unsubscribed for a while – and Office 365.

…. and while I remember

Make sure, for the Meaning of Life, that you have kept your account recovery up to day! With my own problems, I heard from a friend yesterday (he is probably now thinking “That pillock is no friend of mine”) that he was spending his evening on Microsoft Live Chat because he could not get into his account… and his recovery e-mail was now defunct.

I feel; been there on other accounts before and had an ex-girlfriends name as the recover password.

Update: The great customer service at Microsoft meant that in order to recover access to the Microsoft account; my friend had to buy the expired domain and re-create the recovery e-mail. Additional cost for what should be an easy to solve problem.

So In Conclusion

  • Check your Microsoft / Apple / Android activity
  • Change Your Passwords regularly (I do that at least once a year anyway)
  • Don’t click on Skype links from me
  • Turn off Web Preview (for every damn thing)

*embarassed face*

Publishing From FitBit to Facebook

When I invested in my FitBit Blaze four months ago I wanted to do one thing; shame my body into shape. I wanted automation to stop me intervening in the process of telling all my friends how bad I was at eating, boozing and not exercising and it looked very promising. The problem is that FitBit was not as social as it is cracked up to be, and that was a dilemma.

What I am going to do here is show exactly what FitBit can, and can not, embarrass you with. I will also tell you how to get the rest in place.

Social Media and the FitBit Dashboard

So I use the FitBit dashboard mostly on my Samsung Note4 smartphone but you can use it on any Android device as well as a Trusted Windows App – I am not sure if it is ‘Trusted’ in the same way as Apple screen apps in their AppStore; but hey, it’s all marketing gimmicks.

Don’t Rely on Your Apps

The first really confusing issue that you can not manage your social media accounts through either the Android or the Windows Apps. What you have to do is log in to your FitBit account though the good old trusty web browser and in my case Google Chrome.

So I am going to skip through all the process of logging in and showing you how to do that… if you have a FitBit and you are already using an App of some kind then I am not going to teach you how to suck (healthy, good for you and great sunny-side up) eggs. The URL that you need to edit your sharing settings is

https://www.fitbit.com/user/profile/share

and you will come to a screen like this, albeit without my Twitter account information…. of course:

Sharing on the FitBit Dashboard

At this point you can go ahead and link your FitBit account to your Twitter and hey presto, select a daily or weekly tweet and it will be posted automatically to your Twitter account using the script that it shows you. Here is one of mine from recently:

Thankfully I don’t think that anyone really reads my Twitter account as I know some of my followers are FitBit users themselves, but they have never thought to become friends on my FitBit. It is kind of embarrassing when you still struggle to reach the dizzy heights of 10,000 steps on a daily basis!

Don’t Rely on FitBit at all!

Have you noticed what is missing though? Facebook! Apparently you used to be able to connect the two accounts together and automate the embarrassment process between your exercise ad your friends. I have as few interested friends on Facebook as I have on Twitter, so lets work out how to annoy them all.

Most importantly you are going to need another third-party software to help you, called IFTTT.

IF This Then That

IF This Then That (IFTTT) is a free web service that for the very basic can help you automated a few things, but for the more complex can help you automated your whole life and make things not only more productive, but give you more time about more things to be more productive about… still with me?

Good!

So, if you want to delve into the world of productivity and automation with IFTTT then have a good rummage as there are over 200 different channels (aka connectable apps and devices) that may interest you from your e-mail account and social media, to MailChimp, BMW and GE Appliances…. yes all that home automation you hear about taking over the world is almost all on IFTTT!

A Simple IFTTT Recipe

So what we want to do is post some FitBit information daily to our Facebook account. Well I do, so that is what I am going to show you to do. Just like with FitBit Dashboard, you need a new account for IFTTT, it does not need to be a matching e-mail address or the same password as you will be connecting your various accounts very shortly.

First Screen of a New IFTTT Account

If you are brand new to IFTTT then this is what you see. It looks really easy and you might want to explore the random first recipe that it generates for you (mine was IF the weather forecast says it will rain tomorrow THEN e-mail me)

The place where we want to start though is at https://ifttt.com/channels because we already know that we want to create a recipe with our FitBit and our Facebook accounts.

So to demonstrate how to connect your accounts, simply type FitBit into the search bar on the channels page and click on the FitBit icon when it appears and it will either already see your FitBit profile on your Windows App, or prompt you to connect with a bit Connect Button:

IFTTT & FitBit Connect

If you have not previously logged onto FitBit on your computer and allowed it to remain logged on, nor you use the FitBit App; then you will need to log on to your FitBit account and authorise IFTTT to work.

Likewise you need to connect your Facebook account to IFTTT, authorising it to post to your wall so that it can publish what you want everyone to see…. or not.

 

One Month – Four Drupal Install Failures – Lousy “webmaster”

I am at one of those crossroads. I have a website I want to experiment with on a development server but after one more more I still can not install a Drupal / CiviCRM server onto anything.

For those that do not know, I became the “webmaster” of a charity website when it launched 15 months ago. I use the term loosely as I took over the role because I knew the most about the website when we had professional developers build it; I have known for a long time though that I have struggled to really understand a lot of it.

So what I wanted to do was take a copy of my Drupal website and put them on a locally stored server, which only I have access to. It is a far safer prospect than hosting a copy on web-hosting somewhere and even after wiping the database of users, having our systems somewhere.

So what have I tried to do?

  • Install a XXAMP server on Windows
  • Install a WAMP server on Windows
  • Install on VirtualBox
  • Install on a cobbled together Linux box

None of them have really worked. The closest I ever got was with VirtualBox, which will be great fun for you to decipher and probably laugh at if it is something obvious!

Why Not Install Drupal on the Cloud?

There are some very good reasons why I do not want to install it on the cloud and access it remotely:

  • When I signed up for a programming course (on Udemy) I got a years free hosting, I then upgraded the course and got a second year. The problem is that I can not verify the integrity of the hosting, there is no indication where in the world the servers are based and with a substantial amount of database and website I doubt the hosting was designed as a dev space for something so large.
  • I would pay out for a dev space somewhere but I am completely clueless how to go about it. I installed some test folders on the web-hosting for the Golden Blog and did what I thought was protecting them, but I could still access them from the outside, not worth the risk. To go one step further and pay out for hosting that is then exposed to the outside world is not thinkable.
  • I also have to consider the cost. I am a volunteer for a charity and I don’t want to be costing them more money than they can afford. They spent a lot of money on this new website that we really should make good use of, but I have not got the skills to get this far, so how can I ask for more expenses?

 

Installing to a VirtualBox

VirtualBox is really good in that you can install it on a Windows 10 computer, install Linux on it and then access the “computer” from your computer. I tried this the most as I have a reasonably powerful gaming laptop (an MSI GS70-2PC if you are interested) but I can never get it working right.

So setting up an installation is easy, you define the sizes and it creates a space. You then install Linux (in this case the Ubuntu 14.04LTS 32 Bit) from an image you download from your Linux provider of choice. I can easily afford it 4GB of RAM and 100GB of HDD while doing this sort of thing so it has a good system to install on. Installing Linux is actually very similar to installing Windows so it is nothing too taxing, but that is where the ease ends.

Packages

Ubuntu Package SelectorThe first thing I had to work out was which packages I need to install.

I can’t find the source again that I originally read this on, but it made sense that I needed a file server, the Linux, Apache2, MySQL and PHP (LAMP) server and SSH so that I could upload everything as a Superuser. Okay, so I probably don’t need SSH as it is installed on a local machine.

I am happy to learn the Linux command line, I can be a bit of a script monkey at times so it is not that difficult to understand things one I have seen them a few times. The thing I have to make sure I do though is limit the connection to to VirtualBox installation to host-only rather than give it access to the internet.

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

Importantly, I at least know how to update everything. I am learning how to run things from the command line as I go here! Thankfully I also have a free Udemy course to get through although to be honest some of it is already familiar.

I also had to then install phpmyadmin because…. well…. I forgot.

 Importing the Database

Amazingly, for the first time, while I have restarted from scratch so I can document the process; the two databases have both created as they should and I have managed to import them using phpmyadmin.

I have been getting a number of errors, the easiest of those to fix has been where I needed to increase the file upload and post size in /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini

Importing the Drupal Files

So the next thing on my list is to move the files into the Linux virtual machine. Firstly I have made sure that I have ownership of the /var/www/html directory rather than root, using

sudo chown -R username:username /var/www

and then copying the files from the extracted backup using FileZilla.

Making it All Work

to try and make it all work I needed to make a few changes that I know of, namely in the Drupal settings.php and civicrm.settings.php files to use the root access for my SQL install – …. yes I know…. it’s dangerous, but it is a local machine, I am going to have no personal information on there and my laptop and VM is password protected and encrypted.

So in settings.php I changed:

  • The username and password for the db array
  • Note: I used the same db names as on the production install

and in civicrm.settings.php I changed:

  • The username and passwords in
    • define( ‘CIVICRM_UF_DSN’
    • define( ‘CIVICRM_DSN’
  • The absolute paths for
    • global $civicrm_root;
    • ‘CIVICRM_TEMPLATE_COMPILEDIR’
  • Changed define( ‘CIVICRM_UF_BASEURL’ to the IP of the VM (on host-only)

So in theory when I go to the IP of the virtual machine I should be able to see a copy of the website back-up; but it simply directs to the Apache2 “welcome screen” and so I know I can see my server, but not my website.

Thanks also go to a Drupal specialist from the Netherlands who pointed out:

and prompted me to check my sites.php

install.php

So I know that I can now see something. I think that the install is having difficulty seeing settings.php or something because I am now getting prompted to install Drupal. A quick search of the Drupal manual made me realise that for some reason sites/default had not copied across, so doing so, changing all the various settings above again in sites/default/settings.php and civicrm.settings.php (and a few clicks later when I realised I had put in the new db username) and I get…..

A 500 error on Google Chrome

 

Installing on a Linux box

I have lots of computer parts that are simply lying around the house. So I assembled the best that I had spare to create something that I could at least install a minimal Linux installation on, knowing that it would certainly be much slower than VirtualBox, but accessible on my home LAN network.

The problem is… well it was not powerful enough for Ubuntu:

Core2Duo 1.86Ghz Processor
4GB RAM
250GB HDD
An old video card

Ubuntu apparently now needs a minimum of 2Ghz CPU in order to even install from a USB, let alone run. So I tried installing Ubuntu MATE, which is apparently a stripped down version. I managed to do a few things to get it running but I realised I was on a losing battle when I tried to remove the GUI – I don’t need it if I am running it as a server – and it simply stopped booting.

Once I re-installed Ubuntu Mate though it should be good enough for the wife to do some surfing from the lounge TV and stream media from the web.

 

So Drupal at the Moment

I am still no closer to what I should be seeing. I made a monumental mistake somewhere with the changes I made when I re-uploaded sites/default and that is where I am heading next. For now though, I am going to work; this voluntary webmaster business is good for the brain taxing, but doesn’t earn any pennies!

Review | FitBit Blaze – First Impressions

It’s rare that I get the chance to indulge in some tech spending, but I have just gone and bought myself a fitness tracker-come-smat watch to try and sort out my distinct lack of exercise.

Fitbit Blaze

Yes I know I go to the gym (and still usually three time a week) but I know I can do more.

So while I stress from trying to work out how to be a webmaster (yes I know…. I have not blogged on that for a while ) I de-stress by lifting weight.

So this is where I start ranting about things.

Continue reading “Review | FitBit Blaze – First Impressions”

When A Scheduled Announcement Goes Wrong

This morning I woke up with a headache. It was not because I was partying in London for the New Year, I am long past partying, but because a planned announcement on a website fell over.

Needless to say I did have a bottle of Prosecco open at 23:55 and it took me until 01:30 to finish it all.

So what was I trying to do with my Drupal? I thought it would be quite simple;

  • Unpublish four or five pieces of content – older things that simply got in the way
  • Publish 2 pages – both time sensitive
  • Use CiviMail to send out a mailshot to around 440 addresses
  • Re-direct an existing page to one of the new pages, on a 302 basis, for about a month.

On the basis of it, although that is a lot going on around the same time, it should not be that taxing for even a shared server.

What I was going to do was simply leave out the re-direct and push our social media efforts to promote the URL of the news article itself. I wish I had.

After posing the question in the Drupal Answers Stack Exchange forum, which is a really useful place to look if you are relatively green to Drupal, I was pointed towards using the rules module. I read it, I actually could see the logic and understanding of what the contributor Pierres Vriens was doing.

I tested it a number of times with test pages and it all seemed to work. So I implemented it for the live event.

When a User is Not A User – CiviCRM Woes

I was, almost hypothetically, talking to one of my users during the week about contact records in CiviCRM and when to change them.

They were asked to change the contact details for an organisations representative. So they went into the contact record for the individual concerned and changed the contact details; the name, the address, the e-mail and the telephone number.

So who was the old rep? I don’t know, it has just been wiped. Rather than set up a new individual and associate them with the company, this individual had chosen to change the details for the one already set up. For those of you who don’t know CiviCRM, you can set up relationships between an organisation and an individual; adding, removing and depreciating as required.

Limiting Access

This brings up a whole new range of issues though. At what point do you stop “managers” from messing around with contact records? Those learn’d members of staff who are in charge of you and demand access to everything, yet should get access to virtually nothing.

The level of risk increases every time you do something. In this case I allow a relatively small number of users access to contact editing; something which there is actually a facility to:

  • allow the user to register a new user account
  • allow the company rep to remove themselves and empower a new rep as the primary point of contact

Instruct Before Empower

I am in the midst of writing a range of guides using the Drupal Book option. I think that this must be one of those times when you need to drop whatever you are doing and produce something before the same mistake is made again, and also making a screen shot video, converting it to three different formats to quell the needs of every level of technology user, and making sure that it is secure enough.

Either way, I am not going to be able to bring back the old rep.

I was, almost hypothetically, talking to one of my users during the week about contact records in CiviCRM and when to change them.

They were asked to change the contact details for an organisations representative. So they went into the contact record for the individual concerned and changed the contact details; the name, the address, the e-mail and the telephone number.

So who was the old rep? I don’t know, it has just been wiped. Rather than set up a new individual and associate them with the company, this individual had chosen to change the details for the one already set up. For those of you who don’t know CiviCRM, you can set up relationships between an organisation and an individual; adding, removing and depreciating as required.

Limiting Access

This brings up a whole new range of issues though. At what point do you stop “managers” from messing around with contact records? Those learn’d members of staff who are in charge of you and demand access to everything, yet should get access to virtually nothing.

The level of risk increases every time you do something. In this case I allow a relatively small number of users access to contact editing; something which there is actually a facility to:

  • allow the user to register a new user account
  • allow the company rep to remove themselves and empower a new rep as the primary point of contact

Instruct Before Empower

I am in the midst of writing a range of guides using the Drupal Book option. I think that this must be one of those times when you need to drop whatever you are doing and produce something before the same mistake is made again, and also making a screen shot video, converting it to three different formats to quell the needs of every level of technology user, and making sure that it is secure enough.

Either way, I am not going to be able to bring back the old rep.

I’m Not As Good As I Thought I Was

Words like that are inevitable. Sometimes you have to acknowledge yourself as at the pinnacle of your Peter Principle and I think I have managed to do that.

The Peter Principle is quite simple; get promoted to the point of incompetence. I am probably not alone in being able to name at least one person to whom the Peter Principle applies; but I think I have finally found my own.

So where does it all begin?

The Damned Website

Where would it always begin? I am currently in the process of fire-fighting what was a poor understanding of what we wanted, and let the development overrun for what seemed an eternity.

Now though I am stumped in something that seems so simple that a six-year-old probably knows the answer. I probably do know the answer but I am heeding one of those big warning notices, you know, like a Snickers may contain nuts.

So, each of our member radio stations have their own public profile; one they can update with all kinds of information like website, address and social media profiles.

All this was set up and looked good. I thought I had tested it’s ability to react to changes, but whenever we add or change a link to a social media profile it’s like nothing wants to update it.

What should happen is quite simple, someone pastes in a link to their Facebook profile in the appropriate box and Views reads that and links it to a Facebook icon. We already have profiles with it in place, so updating to it should not be an issue. The problem I have found though is that although a user can change the link, and it shows up in CiviCRM as present, their little f icon never appears.

The Oddities of CiviCRM Custom Fields

You know what? I am not even sure where the problem lies here. Usually I have a good idea and will seek clarification, but I am not even sure where to begin!

  • Cache Updates can’t be an issue – core contact information is readily updating.
  • Malformed Links are not the issue – I have checked the link myself and checked the format against other profiles.
  • Pre-launch links work which would indicate that there is either an issue with Views not searching for new content in that field.

Sitting on the train though, I am struggling to suss out any other possibilities about this. To be honest my day job is taking much of my focus than my voluntary work at the moment, the mortgage would suffer otherwise, but I really must check how the Twitter custom field reacts as well as when I change a profiles link that was already there.

Work awaits for now though and I don’t think the answer to delay a train at a signal is well Drupal views is throwing up this problem boss where…….