articles in 2006

@media2006 - day one



Today I was attending the first day of the @media2006 conference in Westiminster, London. Stephen (from Front) was also over for the 2-day event – and he has already posted a decent round-up of the today’s talks.

It’s been thoroughly enjoyable so far, the highlights for me being – Eric Meyer’s keynote address and Jeffrey Veen’s talk on ‘Designing the Next Generation of Web Apps’. After much messing around with finding a decent audio tool, and working with a very poor wifi connection, I managed to record all of Mr. Veen’s talk – which you should be able to get here;

Veerle Pieters, who does some outstanding work, was also present talking on ‘Good Design vs. Great Design’. I managed to snap some shots of the event with my camera phone – and I may add some more to this pool tomorrow.

The day rounded off with a trip to Picadilly Circus – where the England vs. Trinidad and Tobago match was available for everyone to watch at a bar booked for exclusively for @media attendees.

Im looking forward to tomorrow, and hopefully I’ll have mastered podcasting enough to offer a feed with more than just one presentation.

Stepping over the boundary

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Im half way through Steven Levy’s Hackers, book (published in 1984) – A quote from Steve Wozniak caught my eye. In finally telling Jobs, he would quit his job at HP and work for Apple full-time;

Steven Levy

But even as he agreed to quit HP and work with Jobs full-time, he told himself that what he was doing was no longer pure hacking. The truth was that starting a company had nothing to do with hacking or creative design. It was about making money. It was ‘Stepping over the boundary’ as Wozniak later put it.

Its a very enjoyable read if your interested in where things began. Im heading to Spain next week for a short break, and should get a run at finishing this book.

(buy the book 2nd hand at

Just start something ...

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Frank Tibolt

We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.

Theodore Roosevelt

Far better it is to dare mighty things to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered with failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that know not victory or defeat.

Heathrow to Paddington, passive Wardriving on the Express

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Spending a lot of time travelling these days, (to and from Belfast), I was bored on the Heathrow Express and decided to turn on KisMAC on my MacBookPro – Before I knew it, I was participating in some casual ‘Wardriving’ and the results confirmed 52 wireless networks detected in around 15 minutes (across ~14 miles). The scary stats in more detail;

  • 19 were completely unsecured
  • 24 were WEP encrypted – easy to crack
  • leaving 9 with WPA encyprtion
  • 23 had the default SSID assigned
  • all but 8 used the default channel ‘11’
  • only 1 was detected with it’s SSID hidden

Its clear the majority of people seem to be uneducated on the level of security their wireless networks are capable of providing. Generally opting to leave thier box running with the default settings untouched.

Had the train being going slower – I have no doubts KisMAC would have recognised a lot more networks with lower signal strengths.

@media 2006

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  • #cabal
  • [15:26] beowulf: matt: @media is soon
  • [15:26] matt: yoohooodle!
  • [15:26] beowulf: we’ll be on the bleeding edge of web 2.0
  • [15:26] matt: we will
  • [15:26] matt: yes
  • [15:26] matt: rather than the rusty dagger of web 1.0
May 23, 2006 04:00 by

Ghostland Observatory - live in NYC

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Excellent set from Ghostland Observatorygrab the mp3 directly or subscribe to the podcast from

New lick of paint


Another month another redesign for the blog, this one I am happy with and
it will be here to stay (for a while at least) – A lot of gumpf has been
removed from the side bar, and the whole thing should be a little faster
to load.

I have also switched to FeedBurner – for all
my feed needs. Redirects are in place, but update your RSS bookmarks if
you’ve got ‘em. (see the ’feedTower’ at the bottom of every page)

I’ve even created a little css block to publish up conversations from

Somethings up with submitting comments and (as usual) there is one
annoying CSS bug I still have to iron out in IE – but thats life.

Anyone like/dislike the new look, comments appreciated.

May 11, 2006 13:00 by

Installing your own Ruby Gems on Dreamhost

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I came across this problem when trying to setup Capistrano on my dreamhost box.

Capistrano (orginally SwitchTower); is a standalone deployment utility that can integrate nicely with Rails. It allows you to deploy your apps across multiple servers from a subversion; Its handy for any shared environment (such as dreamhost), since you can use it to migrate databases and reset running fcgi processes.

Checking the Dreamhost Gemlist (or; gem list —local) I found that Capistrano wasnt installed – so I had to go about setting up my shared box so I could install any Gem I liked, in my home directory.

Its easier than I thought, but I had some trouble searching Google to find an answer so Im posting it up here; share the knowlegde and all that …

First up, create a new .gems folder in your home directory;

mkdir ~/.gems

Next open up your ~/.bashrc and ~/.bash_profile files and make sure to add the following lines as new environment variables;

export GEM_HOME=$HOME/.gems
export GEM_PATH=/usr/lib/ruby/gems/1.8:$GEM_HOME

Also adjust your PATH variable to include your new ~/.gems folder;

export PATH=~/bin:~/.gems/bin:$PATH

Thats basically it ! – For any gems you want to install you’ll need to grab them from somewhere online; I picked up Capistrano from here with


Then ran this command to install the gem (from my home dir)

gem install ~/capistrano-1.1.0.gem

Since we added the ~/.gems folder to the PATH variable in your bash files, you can simply type cap -V to check capistrano is installed.

Although this is not nessecary for Capistrano – in order to get your rails app to use other gems installed in your home directory, you first have to unpack them in RAILS_ROOT/vendor. Therefore, to be able to require them in your code, enter the RAILS_ROOT/vendor directory and do the following:

gem unpack gem_name

Auto-syncing your local database from a remote MySQL Server (Dreamhost)

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While redesigning this blog (which I still havent finished), I thought it
would be a good idea to setup an automatic synch; from my Live Typo
database at Dreamhost – through to my local Windows machine. Setup as a
daily cron, I now have all my Typo data fed through to my windows machine,
including all the posts, and settings I add and change here on the live

My local Typo install runs on Apache with FastCGi and MySQL. The cronjob
on dreamhost runs daily at 9pm (when im sure that my local machine is
turned on) – and simply calls this mysqldump command.

mysqldump --add-drop-table remotedatabasename -h remotehostname -u
remoteusername -premotepassword | mysql -u localusername -plocalpassword
-h localdatabasename

In order for this command to work, you’ll also have to setup the following;

  • Your local MySQL server must be configured to allow incoming connections
    from remote machines.
  • The MySQL user on your local server to access the database, should be
    configured to allow login from a remote connection, or a specific IP (e.g.
    your Dreamhosts box, IP address or hostname)
  • If you use a hardware firewall/router on your local machine, it must be
    configured to port forward on MySQL (usually port 3306) – to your local
    machine that has MySQL running.
  • Unless your firewall or local machine has been issued with a static IP,
    your going to need to use a service like
    - that gives your local router or PC a hostname you can always reference -
    and that is automatically updated when changed. After registering, offer this as a free service.
April 24, 2006 09:13 by

Multiple SVN users on Dreamhost

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I recently recieved an email from Jonathan Arthur of OpenWebDesign, asking how I had managed to setup Subversion on Dreamhost with multiple SVN users. The Dreamhost SVN wiki page goes some way to explain the process, but heres what I did (with success);

The process is a little tricky, due to folder permissions and the way dreamhost sets up users and groups.

This mini-guide assumes you already have one repository setup and are able to access it with a single subversion user – as described in the dh SVN wiki page

To start, create new users (with shell accounts) to your server; I created ones with usernames like mattsvn etc. Do this in your dh web control panel, under Users→manage users→Add New User. Each of these users will get their own home directory on the dreamhost box.

Now (still in the web panel) create a new group; (Users→Groups→Add New Custom Group) call it something like devteamsvn – and add all your new svn users into this group (also add the user you already had svn working for)

Next – follow dreamhost’s instructions to create ssh public/private keys for each of these users in turn. (doing this in each of the users new home directories)

Take a note of all the passphrases you use – and also keep the public session keys you generate for each user – So they can be handed out for use with “Putty Pageant”: later.

Now, terminal into your dh box (as the orginal ssh user who created the repository to begin with) and change the group ownership (recursively) on the subversion repository folder; ie.

chgrp devteamsvn -R ~/path/to/your/svn/repository

And make sure that this group has full read/write/execute access to all files inside here with;

chmod 775 -R ~/path/to/your/svn/repository

Also – if you have a live web accessible folder online that you want everyone to be able to checkout into; you’ll need to change the group there as well;

chgrp devteamsvn -R ~/path/to/your/web/folder/you/plan/to/checkout/to
chmod 775 -R ~/path/to/your/web/folder/you/plan/to/checkout/to

Your now ready to try it all; Use Putty / Tortoise SVN and Putty Pageant with one of the new users details – Try connecting to the repository and committing a simple change or add.

For this user to checkout/update from the repository on the dreamhost to the dreamhost web folder – simply terminal into the dreamhost box using the new svn users details and run the command;

svn up /home/orginal_ssh_users_name/path/to/your/web/folder/you/checkout/to
April 24, 2006 05:56 by
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