Monday 25 December 2017

Grinding Steel Balls

Subject: Re: Grinding Steel Balls For Mining and Cement Mills

Nice day.
My friend ,do you still in need of grinding steel balls ?

We are the manufacturer of high chromium cast grinding balls and forged grinding balls, our grinding balls used in cement plant and mining industry.

No thanks, I'm happy with the balls I already have.

Sunday 24 December 2017

Server problems

One of my servers was giving problems. It was reporting hard drive errors, in various drives, and it wasn't consistent about it. This came to a head when the system drive failed.

So I replaced the system drive, but then I couldn't load Linux on the new drive. Strange!

I thought about this for a while, and decided to replace the motherboard. The old mobo was a P4VP-800, and I've had a few of those, and they do fail. The new mobo worked fine with all the drives.

So I replaced the motherboard, and that seems to have fixed the problem.

But now another server is giving problems, and it's the system drive; when trying to boot, it fails. Fortunately, this isn't a customer-facing drive, so I'll sort it out after Christmas.

Friday 22 December 2017

Italian scam for VAT

I got an email, in Italian.

Nella tabella che segue sono indicate le somme, complessivamente, da versare per imposte,
sanzioni e interessi e le coordinate dei conti bancari sui quali accreditare i
Il contribuente รจ intimato ad adempiere, entro il termine di 60 giorni dal ricevimento
della presente, al pagamento dell'imposta o della maggiore imposta dovuta e non versata,
delle sanzioni e degli interessi.
In particolare, alle imposte liquidate, al netto di quelle versate, si applica il tasso
di interesse del 4% annuo ai sensi dell'art. 20 del D.P.R. n.602/73 dal giorno successivo
a quello di scadenza del pagamento.
TABELLA degli importi dovuti e intimati
| Descrizione tributo
Importo in Euro
| Interessi
| TOTALE (1)
| Sanzioni complessive (2)

Translation is, I owe them 3.47 euros in interest , for a total of 65.09 including penaties.
In the email, they give my correct address and VAT number.

Huh? I pay my VAT in the 27 EU countres via the HMRC VAT Moss system, and I always pay on time. So I called HMRC at 0300 200 3700, and spoke to them. They suggested I call the Italian people, and were sure they'd have soneone there to speak English.  "Could it be a scam?" I asked. "Not for such a small amount," they opined. So I phoned the number in the email, and no-one there speaks English except the telephonist.

So I called HMRC again. And I told the person I spoke to that I always paid my VAT on time, and via the VAT Moss system that is run by HMRC, so any lateness of payment is down to HMRC. So then this HMRC guy thought that this is probably a scam. My VAT number and address is not a secret.

I think they're right, and it is a scam. A lot of companies might just pay the 65.09 rather than spend time trying to find out if it's legitimate. So if an email earns them 65.09, that's an excellent return on the cost of an email.

... update ...

Three weeks later, a paper letter arrived. That was a surprise - it costs a *lot* more to send a paper letter than an email. So could this be serious? Maybe not a scam? So I read the letter.

They have the company name and address right, but that's not a secret. And they have my VAT number riight.  They are asking for 15% VAT on goods sold for 433.95 euros, in mid 2015.  Well, first of all, I don't sell anything for 433.95 euros, and secondly, VAT Moss started in December 2015.

So I still think it's a scam. But what I can't understand, is why someone should go to so much cost and effort, to scam me for 68.56 euroes.

Monday 18 December 2017

New screen

The Sony 4K TV didn't work out; I might be able to make it work, but ladysolly has snatched it to replace her old TV. And I let her do it because I got an Acer 4K monitor for a good price, £500. And it's lovely! 3840 by 2560 pixels, and 43 inches diagonal. The screen is so large, I can get everything on it. I might be able to pair it with the Sony, but really, that Acer is so big, I don't need anything to add to it.

The old 2K (2560 by 1440) monitor is now spare, but I'm trying to use it as a second monitor for the laptopp which also has a 2560 by 1440 screen. To do that, I've acquired an external port thing. That should arrive soon.

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Caps lock

I hate caps lock. I've never found it useful, and if my finger hits it when
I'm aiming for the shift key, my typing from then on is ALL CAPITALS and I
don't notice because I look at the keyboard when I'm typing. And then I have
to backspace it all out and retype it.

So I normally disable the CAPS LOCK key on any computer I use regularly. There's a few ways to do that, you don't need to lever it out with a crowbar.

The usual way is with xmodmap.

xmodmap -e "clear Lock"
xmodmap -e "remove lock = Caps_Lock"

Another way is with  setxkbmap

setxkbmap -option caps:none
setxkbmap -option ctrl:nocaps

But none of those worked on my lovely new Lenovo Thinkpad X1. So I Googled.

The first thng I found out is that the keyboard doesn't actually have a caps lock key. That, I heartily approve of. If you want to set caps lock, you hit the shift key twice, an led comes on, and you're in CAPS LOCK.

But I don't want to use the laptop's own keyboard. It's a bit minging. I want to plug in a decent keyboard, with the standard layout that I'm used to.

I remember once I was looking at a new car, and the layout of the controls was ... different. The salesman explained to me "You'll soon get used to it" to which my reply was "I guess you only ever drive one car, right?" Well, I use lots of computers, and my fingers know where everything is on the keyboard, and I do *NOT* want to be fumbling all the time because the layout is different.

So I want to put one of my beautiful old (vintage 1983) IBM "buckling spring" keyboards on it. But they have a PS/2 interface, so the first thing I had to do was use a converter for PS/2 to USB. No problem, I have a couple of those.

Then I wanted to disable CAPS LOCK and that where I ran into trouble. Eventually I found an answer. It's the gnome-tweak-tool, which is useful for all sorts of tweaks to Gnome (the Linux user interface I use). What you have to do is choose the "Keyboard" option, then "Additional layout options", then change Caps Lock key behavior from "Disabled" to "Caps Lock is disabled".

No, I don't have an explanation about why "Disabled" is different from "Caps Lock is disabled". It's just one of those mysterious things.

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Tuesday 5 December 2017

Service Unavailable

Service Unavailable

The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems. Please try again later.

This is what I saw when I tried to access my server. So I looked at the log.

Permission denied: AH01257: unable to connect to cgi daemon after multiple tries: /home/drsolly/pub/dbwebmin.cgi

Html files worked OK, it was only cgis. I spent about an hour faulot-finding and trying to diagnose, and I'm pretty sure it was the result of a Fedora upgrade. And I couldn't see how to fix it.

Eventually, I decided to re-download, recompile and reinstall Apache (my web server). And that fixed it.l

Oops brexit

One of the biggest problems about Brexit, was always going to be Ireland. Before I explain the problem, I need to explain a bit about the history.

It all started about a thousand years ago. But moving rapidly past all that (and there was a lot of history, which you can read up on if you want), In 1922, The Republic of Ireland (Eire) came into being. That was the whole of the island of Ireland, except six counties in the north, which we call "Ulster" or "Northern Ireland" which remained part of the UK.

The Irish weren't entirely happy about that, but a majority of Ulster folks wanted it that way, so that's how it went. the usual British understatement. It was absolutely beastly, a civil war.

We had a situation in the 1970s when the IRA, supported by donations in North America (Noraid), was bombing Belfast (the capital of Ulster) and also places in England, because they wanted Ulster to be part of Eire. Meanwhile, the majority of Ulster folks wanted to stay in the UK.

We call this "The troubles", with the usual British understatement. It was absolutely beastly, a civil war.

This went on for years and years, and pretty much everyone was heartily sick of it. In 1988, an agreement was made, called "The Good Friday agreement". This was a compromise between the UK, Eire, the IRA and the UDF (the protestant version of the IRA). By the way, this wasn't really about religion.

And everyone breathed a sigh of relief, coupled with crossed fingers and toes, in the hope that peace would hold. It might not have - there were people on both sides who really didn't like the compromise, but there were a *lot* of people who were fed up with living in a war zone.

And it did hold. From then until now, Ulster is at peace. You can go shopping in Belfast. You can drive from Belfast to Dublin without being stopped for passport, customs or anything else. It's great! We went to Cork (right at the south of Eire) for a holiday this summer, and had a great time. And one of the things we learned there, is that the EU has been really great for Eire.

So, now Brexit. The UK (including Ulster) leaves the EU, but Eire is still EU. Suddenly there's a land border between the UK and the EU. And when we leave the EU, there won't be free movement of people between the UK and the EU, or of goods, or of services, or of capital. So how do we handle the border?
The Eire folks are *very* keen that the border be totally open. We don't want a return to the Troubles. Customs posts would make prominent targets for bombing.

The Ulster folks want totally open borders with the rest of the UK, and you can see their point - they are part of the UK, and want to stay that way
But you can't have totally open borders between the UK and the EU. That's the whole point of leaving the EU. So we have mutually incompatible requirements.
Can we just ignore what Eire wants? No, because Eire is part of the EU, and they can veto any arrangement we make with the EU unless they're happy, and they won't be happy unless there's an ironclad agreement for open borders with Ulster.

Can we ignore what Ulster wants? That's what we usually do, but in this case, Theresa May messed up the recent election so badly that the government is dependent on the ten votes

by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) who will not be satisfied with anything less than open borders between the UK and Ulster.

So how did we get ourselves into this pickle? It was always obvious (to some of us) that the Eire/Ulster border was going to be a problem, and we were looking forward to seeing what rabbit Theresa would produce from her hat.

Now it turns out there's no rabbit. And no hat.

Friday 1 December 2017

New laptop, continued

The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon arrived. I started it up and it booted into Windows 10. I spent a few minutes fruitlessly trying to play with Cortana, then decided to install Linux without further ado.

First, I copied down the product key, so I could put Win 10 back on if I needed to (and I downloaded a copy from the Microsoft web site, and burned it onto a DVD). Then I powered off and on again ... and it went straight into Windows without offering me a chance to interrupt the boot up process. And there are no function keys; they are all soft keys. Um. I need to get in to the Bios to tell it to boot from the DVD.

I powered up the external DVD drive, and put a Fedora 27 64 bit net install CD in the drive. Then I did a bit of rooting around the internet. I found that what you do is power it off, then power it on and hold down the power button. Oh joy! Oh rapture unconfined - the boot menu came up, and it was easy for me to find where it lets you boot from an external USB DVD drive. So I did.

Fedora 27 installed like a piece of cake.

I don't like the touchpad (it's a very good touchpad, I just don't like them much) and the little stick thing in the middle of the keyboard is even worse, but it was happy to use my Microsoft optical mouse.

I'm not keen on laptop keyboards either, the geometry is all wrong compared with what I'm used to. It's good enough for a bit of work, but for any real amount of typing, I want a full sized keyboard, in the layout that my fingers expect. The Thinkpad will accept any USB keyboard, so that's not a problem.

Overall - I'm delighted. For £299 (more like £240 before VAT, £1300 when new)) I have a laptop that's pretty much as good as my usual desktop. 8gb memory, 240 gb of SSD storage, a 2560 by 1440 screen, although slightly cramped on the screen size at 14 inches.

I notice they are still some on sale but the price is now £399.