Windows 7

My work machine runs Ubuntu, as does my netbook. But my primary desktop is used mostly for games and web-browsing, so it tends to be in Windows. Chrome is currently my browser of choice when not developing (because I can start it, check my email and close it again in the time it takes Firefox to load). Microsoft sent me an email – along with most of the rest of the world – saying I could try the Windows 7 RC for free for a year, so I decided to give it a shot. Mostly because Windows 7 has DirectX 11, and I wanted to see if LOTRO‘s support was shiny.

Now, last time I attempted a Windows 7 install, it didn’t go so well. (This article contains occasional Naughty Words).

This time it worked perfectly. It installed cleanly, recognised all my hardware, and everything’s working fine. LOTRO found its DirectX 10 mode, and looks shinier, and the interface is snappy and responsive, and has stolen just enough from OS X to be shiny without being a ripoff. The “gadgets” bar is off by default, and it Just Works.

Which is a shame, because the other article was a lot more fun to write.


A Good.Ly Launch

Good.lySo, my first new project for Skimbit has launched in the form of, which is a URL shortening service (and what a great time to launch one) with a twist. The twist being that clicking on a link to a product (Pretty much any product sold by any website with any kind of affiliate program) gets money for a charity, or possibly several.

I’m not really willing to get too far into the arguments that “URL Shortening services kill the Internet”, although I maintain they’re not (obviously), and that there is a difference between the requirements for archived and “permanent” articles like some blog entries and the more ephemeral stuff that floats around a group of friends for a while before never being clicked on again, which is how I treat shorturl services (Obviously, these are my opinions and not those of anyone I currently or have ever worked for). Into this latter category I place Twitter and such, anyone mining twitter for non-realtime stuff is possibly missing the point.

But’s up, and I’m pretty pleased with it in the end. Yes, it’s blue. Well, it’s blue during the daytime. Maybe you should try later…


To remove a host that denyhosts has banned

Denyhosts is a utility that automatically bans IPs who attempt to ssh in to your server and get three wrong passwords. This is great when people are dictionary-attacking your SSH server, but less good when you have actual users who might get their password wrong.

The FAQ for denyhosts says how to fix this if it happens and your users are banned, but it’s a bit faffy, so I’m putting my script here. It works for me, it may screw your life up. Backups are your friend.

/etc/init.d/denyhosts stop
cd /var/lib/denyhosts
for THISFILE in hosts hosts-restricted hosts-root hosts-valid users-hosts;
	mv $THISFILE /tmp/;
	cat /tmp/$THISFILE | grep -v $REMOVE > $THISFILE;
	rm /tmp/$THISFILE;
mv /etc/hosts.deny /tmp/
cat /tmp/hosts.deny | grep -v $REMOVE > /etc/hosts.deny;
rm /tmp/hosts.deny
/etc/init.d/denyhosts start

Needs to run as root or someone with access to all denyhost’s files (plus hosts.deny).

2015 Addition:

As time has moved on, service management’s changed a bit. For Debian derived distros (ubuntu, probably mint?) you’ll need to change the /etc/init.d/denyhost lines with “service denyhosts stop” etc. Slackware uses “/usr/share/denyhosts/daemon-control”. Look it up for your own system, everything else should be fine, still. Thanks to Bill B and Velimir Kalik in the comments.



I’m sitting on a tree in Cambridge Reading books and waiting for people to arrive so I can hit them with rubber swords. It is a beautiful day.

Life could be worse.


On subnotebooks

Sometime around mid-March, I was in the market for a subnotebook of some kind. My existing laptop – a swivel-screened Toshiba known as Touchstone – is a bit bulky for day to day carrying, plus it was second hand when I got it, and every single netbook on the market blows it out of the water for specs.

A number of people I know have Asus Eee netbooks, but I’m not fond of them, mostly because the 80% of full size keyboard is a little too small for me to use comfortably (The 1000 model has a 92% keyboard, which is better), but also I’m not that fond of how the machines actually look. Mac user, remember.

Eventually I went for the Compaq Mini 700 (which is a variation of the popular HP Mini 1000, sold only in the states) because it has a 92% keyboard, looks nice, and was being given away free with a 3 3G mobile broadband contract.

I had it just over a week before it – along with my bag, iphone, keys, wallet etc – were stolen, but for that week it was a really nice laptop.

This week I got around to replacing it, and after careful and due consideration I got exactly the same model. It still doesn’t have a solid state hard-drive, but makes up for this by having a decent amount of space. It arrived Thursday morning, and first thing I did was to put the latest Ubuntu Netbook Remix on it. 

I’m not a great fan of the Netbook Remix interface, prefering a more standard Gnome setup (though stripped down a great deal), though I’ve kept the addition that automatically maximizes all the windows. 

Sound was broken by default, but that’s a known thing, and a kernel linked from that thread fixed it.

So now I have a netbook, can get online from anywhere (once I replace the 3G modem) and have no excuse not to update this.

Oh yes.