Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Castiglione Tinella - possible bike routes

Here are some possible bike routes for the week at Castiglione Tinella! The four rides below are of increasing length and ascent. Click on the title at the top of each map to go to the original site - and you will see more data on the hill climbs. Even better click on the "full sacreen" icon on the map part, and you will see something like the next image - where you can colour code the pitches if you want a good idea of the steep bits. There are some in the latter rides - the last and longest is shown...

More normal text

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Epson x900 nozzle check automation

I have owned an Epson 4900 for 3 years and have been delighted with it. Outside a blocked ink line due to a sludgy ink cartridge (which admittedly was expensive to fix), it has been trouble free. It can however have long idle periods when I am traveling and this usually (actually, come to think of it, always) results in nozzle blockages - albeit ones that have always cleaned easily.

I have however always thought that a utility that regularly sent an auto-nozzle check would largely eliminate this problem - of course at the expense of some ink usage. "Just the job for an arduino project" thought I and started capturing IP packets to analyse the dialogues going on during maintenance and cleaning operations. At this point my son pointed out that I already had a NAS on the network that could run scripts to do this task - and took over the challenge of parsing the command data and writing the necessary scripts.

With amazing celerity, he has done in a few days what I probably would have only ground out over weeks. He has developed a python script that run under the (in this case Synology) NAS and which provides for auto-checks of the nozzles and reporting any blocks - and in addition from the unix command line allows for cleaning or power cleaning individual nozzle sets.
With the addition of some some further NAS scripts, my own system now runs the auto-check on a regular basis and emails me the results. If things are not OK it tells me so and I can SSH into the NAS from wherever I am in the world and invoke some cleaning.

Now, I have no doubt opinions will vary as to whether this is the optimal approach for maintaining clean nozzles. The guys who maintain my printer believe that as long as the head caps are in good condition, the printer should actually handle longish idle periods without problem. And my experience suggests that he is right; I do get blockages but nothing major / fatal. And it's clear that this approach requires the printer remain powered up and it will use ink; both costs (which are however irrelevant to me). But at least this provides a previously unavailable option and I will be testing it in the coming year and see how it goes.

For those interested:
  1. This is NOT FOR YOU unless you
    a) have a NAS that can or is running python and know your way around unix or
    b) want to (and know how to) implement this on a unix server / raspberry pi etc
  2. The python script generated by genius offspring #1 is available at github
  3. You will have to sort out your own mail reporting scripts depending on your own NAS. If you have a Synology NAS with DSM 5.x I can post the generic materials required to set that up
  4. A reminder that you will have to go into maintenance mode with the printer and disable the auto power off timer.
  5. We suspect this should work for all Epson x900 large format printers - but it has only been tested on an Epson 4900.
  6. Imagine every possible caveat to using and applying this - and consider they apply. You are entirely on your own here, there is no help desk, advice, warranty of performance, survival of your printer or any other technology near it, or implied happy ending.
That said, it's running happily on our network, "bumping" the printer a couple of times a week and letting me know the results. Because it's driven by the NAS which is always running anyway, it is independent of whether any other machines are active on the network - and it does not rely on difficult to maintain "homebrew" hardware kit. "Bonza Mate!" - as we say down here...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A new beginning


The maturation of HTML5 media publication tools and the demise of flash have converged to a point where my main web site can now host all my media properly and efficiently - and also not use any flash code! Huzzah!!!

The new site template also does a fine job of holding any blog posts too, making this site now redundant as the target for new materials. However, it still has lots of fine stuff, so I will leave it live and link to it from the new site. Click on the image or this link to enjoy the new multi-medial experience and blog!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Even more Crypto-paranoia

This class of threat remains very, very prevalent and extremely dangerous. The measures noted in my previous post remain relevant and helpful - but not 100% effective. Antivirus programmes remain essential; and the ones built into Windows for free are actually quite fine. If you really want to pay for something, then Kaspersky is probably the best option.

But; these do not protect you from “zero day” threats; i.e. ones that have not yet been categorised and profiled by the AV software. These are the main vector for crypto viruses. Further, it is quite possible to browse mainstream sites today and be hit by these viruses that have piggy backed on top of ads being shown on the site without you clicking on or doing anything actively yourself. (Known as “drive-by” attacks). Ensuring you are not running as an administrator (not always practical) and the registry policy changes noted in the previous blog are another level of protection - but also not infallable.

One means to mitigate this threat is to use a combination of ad blockers (uBlock Origin on Firefox is currently the best regarded) and script blockers (which prevent anything from the web site running on your machine). The latter can work well – but are extremely difficult to use; so much so that most people stop using them a couple of days after installing them as they are too much trouble.

At this point in time, the best way to deal with this class of threat is to sandbox your web browser. i.e. have it run in an environment that is actually separated from the rest of your computer, so that anything that “infects” it, actually only does so in the sandbox – affecting nothing in your “real” computer. Your AV software may or may not pick up the threat. But even if it does not, the infection is limited to the sandbox – and automatically deleted when you exit the browser.

http://sandboxie.com/The current programme of choice is Sandboxie (with a new version in beta form for windows 10 – for those who have upgraded). This works extremely well at preventing the crypto-viruses from getting to your system. I have bought their perpetual license bundle for all our computers – and it just runs now invisibly and automatically anyone runs a browser. You have to go into the sandbox settings and tell it that you want it to run automatically by the way!

I would note that if you are concerned about data privacy, Sandboxie in its current version and without AV does not necessarily prevent a very specialised virus exfiltrating data from your system. The sandbox only prevents data being written in your real system and data file areas. However, the risk of a virus just aiming to snoop your data and being able to sidestep AV systems is very, very low.

In summary:
  1. use an anti-virus programme and keep it up to date. Under windows, the free Defender programme is actually fine. If you want to pay $, then Kaspersky is probably the current front runner
  2. use an ad blocker with your browser. My current browser of choice is Firefox in terms of speed, resource efficiency, flexibility and security. Keep it up to date. uBlock Origin is my current ad-blocker of choice; Adblock Plus has been regarded in the past as the best - but it will let ads through if they are paid!  
  3. run your browser in Sandboxie; keep it up to date too! Ensure the settings make Firefox (or other browser of choice) run with it every time.
  4. additionally, if you are concerned about the privacy and security of your data online, the from the Electronic Frontier Foundation has two excellent Firefox add-ons:
    • Privacy Badger to stop sites tracking you, and
    • HTTPS everywhere to force secure connections to the sites you choose - to the extent that this is possible.