Maintenance late on a Sunday night. It’s like rushing to get your homework done before school.

So, what did you do tonight? watch something on the dodgy box? Read a book? Go for a walk?  As the dark nights role in, I’m a bit at a loss as to what to get up to when I get back from work and put the children to bed. But I’ll leave all that for another post.  Tonight I decided that it was way past time that I go looking around the various servers I run outside of work to make sure everything was running properly.  Some of these servers hadn’t been touched in 200+ days.  That’s not to say that they aren’t getting updates and that I don’t check in on them, I have a great system called Pulseway that I use for all that kind of thing but there are tasks that you should really check in from time to time and with 2019 being a very busy year, I haven’t really been keeping on top of everything. I’ve been trusting that the scripts and tasks I put in place were running as expected and if there was a failure, something would have notified me by now.

Right, let’s get to it. What did I check.  For the one or two people who might read this and be in any way interested.

  •  Database backups.  I use a tool that does exactly what it says in the name.  It’s called SQL Backup and FTP.  I love this tool. It’s simple, fast, reliable and just does what I need without any fuss. It cost me about €36 to subscribe for the year and in my opinion, it’s money well spent.  I keep database backups indefinitly for most databases.  Yes, this uses a lot of space, but some of the data changes regularly in the applications that I’m hosting so having the ability to go back and restore data from a year ago is very useful.  Of course, there are systems that can’t have backup retention for this long because of GDPR rules so their backups get tipically kept for a week or two at most.  I logged in tonight to make sure all the schedules and retention rules were working as expected.
  • File system backups.  I’m hosting around 4tb of data.  Every night I do a full backup.  I would only normally keep most of these backups for about a week. But I ship every weekly backup off to another server outside Ireland.  I’ve scripted all of this using powershell for the most part.  My bash scripts for backups that I wrote a good few years ago are still working with a few improvements here and there. But again, although I have monitoring and alerting uilt in, to reassure myself that everything was working as it should, I logged in to be absolutely certain.
  • It might seem absolutely crazy, but I also logged into the virtual machine hosts to make sure all their volumes, all the RAM and all the CPU’s were still present and accounted for.  I also checked the system, security and application logs for any weirdness.  Pulseway and other monitoring tools are fantastic but sometimes they can be a bit weird.  For example, in Nagios, you can lose an entire disk and not know about it unless you explicitly add that check in.  So, I always sleep a little better when I’ve checked the basics myself just to be absolutely certain.

So there you have it. I really am a complete and utter bore with nothing better to do on a Sunday night but check the health of my servers. In work, nearly 20,000 students are coming back to university tomorrow so when I’m in my 9 to 5 job, I really can’t afford to have something go bump in the night in my non 9 to 5 activities.  In saying that, all the checks in the world can’t account for someone allocating the same IP address as I’m already using to another customer. Yes. this happened twice to me in the past month and once before in the past year. Someone has also done an A and a B test on the main core switch in the datacentre and forgot that the switch is a temporary replacement and only has an A feed.   Oh, and because it was a temporary replacement, the brilliant system administrator working for the hosting company forgot to commit his changes when he configured the switch so I was off line for two hours while they fixed their silly mistake.  Sorry. I’ll stop ranting.

So, what did you do this evening? walk the dog, watch television, start a new series on Netflix, get the children’s lunches ready? Tell me in the comments. Or don’t. Because most sane people by now would have stopped reading this absolutely mind numming rubbish. 🙂

Appearing on the RTE Fleadh program.

So between you me and the wall, I’ve appeared on national television in Italy which would have many times more viewers than in Ireland, I’ve played on massive stages and I’ve entertained some very important people over the years. But nothing compared to the honor of featuring in the Fleadh program on Friday 12th April. To say it is probably going to be the highlight of my year is not even coming close.

My grand father is 90. I went over to visit him today and he put it better than I could. Unfortunately I forget exactly what he said but he knows the real reason that I play music. It’s the effect it has on people. Especially with the pipes, they can make you sit back and think when you’re sad but put them with a driving beat on a guitar and they can make you want to get up and dance. But it is the same for me as the player. When I’m performing something sad, I can sit back and just listen and enjoy the sound of the notes and the harmony with the regulators and the drones.

It could be considered that I’m really pushing self promotion here. I can certainly see how anyone and everyone would think that. I’ve started Music at the Gate, ceol FM and a few sessions in Drogheda. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say I’ve grabbed the animal by the horns when I heard the Fleadh was coming to Drogheda and I’ve done a lot to get music going in my town. But believe it or not, it’s actually not for direct personal gain. A friend of mine has a daughter who’s about 17 now. I’m envious of the social circles she has been involved with from a very young age. Not envious for me right here and now, but envious because if we don’t do something in Drogheda, my own children won’t get the opertunities that children have had in Dundalk, only a few miles away. There’s a potential legacy of the Fleadh but it’s not going to happen without musicians in the area putting in the work to make it happen. That legacy could be to bring a return to Drogheda of traditional Irish music. My name is out there a lot. But it’s mainly because outside the hard working people of the Fleadh committee, I’m the only person getting out there getting music back into the pubs and out onto the streets of this town. I don’t want to be. It’s a lot of pressure but I gladly take it on because I want nothing more than to let my children have the chance to enjoy playing music as much as I do. Of course, if they don’t play, that’s entirely up to them, but I want to give them that choice. Even if they don’t play, other children in the next 10 to 20 years could benefit so that’s enough for me. Jasus. That sounds like I have an offel big head and that I’m not enjoying every second of this. That’s not what I mean. Maybe I’m just lucky. I have amazing supports around me. Annie McGinley, Anne McVey, Aine Walsh, Graine Berril, Eoghan Darcey, Karen Devine, Maria Clarke, Eimer King, Eimear O’Cane, the Order of Malta, the Design gallery, the Highlanes Gallery, North East Marquees, The Grey Goose, Sarsfields, Barney Macs and of course, my wife, father and my entire family. I have had support from day one when I started gathering speed in preparation for the Fleadh in 2018. I also love every minute of playing music so I’m incredibly fortunate.

There are musicians in Drogheda and the surrounding areas that I couldn’t do this without. Noreen McManus, Malachy McArdle, Roisin Ward Morrow, Sean Conway, Bríd Dunne, Mick Dunne, Feargal Barnes, Brefney Hoolahan, Maria Clarke, Daithi Carney, Gerry Breen, John O’Reilly, Brendan Matthews and many many more.

I really can’t do this without the support of local musicians and I know they all have their own lives and their own responsibilities. Hopefully they will be able to join me for Music at the Gate again this year or all of this will fall very flat very quickly.

All quiet. On the tech front anyway.

It’s brilliant. Nothing has gone terribly wrong lately so I haven’t had much to write about here. The servers hosting the various website including this site, Ceol FM, Music at the Gate, Computer Support Services and others has been up and running now for a few days short of two months with no major problems. I hope I’m not going to publish this to find that the whole thing has just fallen on it’s face but so far the new system is running really well. All the work to get it into production has payed off.
The most recent and major undertaking that has been completed is the launch of the brand new Ceol FM streaming service. This entirely new version of Ceol FM is built from the ground up to bring features that are specific to people who want to listen to traditional Irish music such as:

  • Browse by album or artist
  • Search by track, album and artist
  • Filter by instrument, tune or song, genre or mood
  • Create custom playlists and save them for future use
  • There are thousands of tracks to choose from

The old streaming service is still available too but now it’s encrypted! IF you’re in to that kind of thing. I don’t suspect many people will care about having their music encrypted as it’s in transport but hey. Who am I to guess such a thing.

March weekends – Podcast

It’s been ages since I’ve gotten stuck into creating a nice long detailed podcast. We had a few nice weekends during March. In this podcast you’ll hear anything from cooking, to a mad session, to children playing to children trying to swing out of me. You’ll also hear the dogs, and Nama walking me through a street in Ennis. It might be entertaining. It might not. If your into audio, you might enjoy how it all hangs together. Or you might find it a complete waste of your time. But in any case, please leave a comment so I know what you think of this.

VSCode setup for accessibility.

I quite like the stand alone Visual Code Editor.
Here are the steps to follow to set it up for optimal accessibility.

Installing Visual Studio code and configuring Jaws for best accessibility.

Download and install VS Code

  1. Download VSCode from the official site.
  2. Run the downloaded installer.
  3. Step through the various screens of the installation wizzard. Check the box labeled Add “Open with Code” action to Windows Explorer file context menu to have the code editor available in the windows explorer context menu.
  4. Click Install when ready to proceed.

Configure Visual Studio Code to enable screen reader support

  1. Press alt plus f to move to the file menu.
  2. Press p for preferences.
  3. Expand this menu.
  4. Press enter on Settings.
  5. Press the letter e to jump to the settings search edit field.
  6. Type screen.
  7. Tab over until you hear Editor Accessibility support.
  8. Expand this with alt and down.
  9. Arrow down to enabled.
  10. Tab off the field then close the settings screen with control + F4.

Accessibility support would generally have been enabled for you by default with the auto setting but there is currently a limitation in the built in console. accessibility support must explicitly be set to Enabled for the console to be accessible.

Jaws settings.

It is useful to have Jaws turn off the virtual cursor when you set focus to vSCode by default.

  1. Modify your ConfigNames.ini file.
    1. From within VSCode, press Jaws key plus 0.
    2. Close the default Chrome script file.
    3. Open the open window by pressing control + o.
    4. type the following full path and press enter.
      “C:\ProgramData\Freedom Scientific\JAWS\2019\Settings\enu\ConfigNames.ini”
    5. Press page down and create a new line.
    6. paste the following into the new line.
  2. close the script editor then restart Jaws to be certain.
  3. Press Jaws key + 6 to open the configuration settings.
  4. Tyep virtual into the search field and press enter.
  5. Press tab then press end.
  6. Uncheck the box that you have landed on “Use virtual PC cursor”. THen tab to OK and press enter.

You are now ready to start efficiently using the Microsoft visual studio stand alone code editor.

Jaws scripts for Audacity.

I like using audacity. I would probably do something in it at least once a week. So I’m quite happy to stumble across these scripts on Git hub.

I haven’t tested them yet but they look great.

DIY Smart Kitchen Planner

Emma was quite rightly pointing out to me that it’s impossible for her to keep track of where I am from one day to the next. Between work and gigging, I have a busy life! She wanted to put a horible paper calender onto the fridge but the geek in me just thought that was far too retro. Lol. I hate that word.

So I built this. It takes my Office365 calender and a family to do list and it displays them along with the time and the local weather on a tiny 7 inch screen that sits nice and tidy on a shelf in the kitchen. Here’s a quick demonstration.

Error in IOS: Unhandled Promise Rejection.

This is less of a solution blog post and more of a rant against the fucken stupidness of Apple and how they are driving me absolutely crazy. The problem is, developers put up with their shit because let’s face it, their app store is incredible, they give reasonably good shares of proffits and people think their devices are sexy. But for a developer working outside the Apple Ecosystem, I.E. outside the app store, Apple is a thunderous pain in the ass. Excluse my colourful language but this is the second time in six months that Apple’s deliberate curtailment of web applications running in IOS browsers has caused me serious problems and massive time investments.

The first problem was a few months ago. I found that the .play Javascript event wouldn’t trigger when the screen was locked. This problem isn’t in Android. But on IOS, when a screen is locked, Javascript no longer runs. It’s a simple solution to a complex problem with the aim of improving battery life. It’s not so bad. I’ve been able to get around it.

The second problem though is more complicated.
Here’s the main problem. I’m creating a complex application where thousands of valuable audio tracks will be available for people to listen to using a web interface. Without decent security, it would be possible for someone with some basic scripting skills to download every single track. So therefore several layers of authentication are required. Here’s what happens in summary. I’m leaving a lot of information out because of course, I don’t want to give away my secrets and I also don’t want to tell would-be thieves how to get around what I’ve done.

  • A user clicks play or play all.
  • The browser asks the server for permission and sends on a password that’s unique to that session along with some other identifiable information.
  • The server responds with the required authentication that will enable that track to be streamed.
  • the browser then uses that information to request the track.
  • The server receives a correct request with all of the security information so it sends the track to the browser for streaming.
  • The browser streams the track.

The problem is, technically, the user hasn’t directly made the request to listen to that track by clicking or tapping something. Technically for IOS, the user made the request to validate the security information. But as there’s a conversation going on in the background between the server and the browser, the browser made that request without the intervention of the user. Therefore, the browser stupidly considers the audio streaming step as an automated action so doesn’t actually play the audio.

How am I going to get around this?

I’m not completely sure. I have ideas. Some involve reducing the security which isn’t an acceptable course of action. But instead of authenticating eaach streaming request, I could authenticate the page then use that authentication for the streaming requests on that page. It’s not as nice or as solid as the other method but for damned IOS, it will likely have to do.

I use IOS every day. The iPhone is my primary mobile device. I like the interface and the Voiceover screen reader is just brilliant. But from the perspective of a developer, I have developed deap and justifiable frustration toward Apple. They are trying to fource me into developing a native app for Ceol FM. It’s definitly in the plans to do this but there’s only so much time I can spend on this.

There have been others who have had this problem. Here are a few related forum and blog posts:

Trialing out cut aways in video.

I’m amazed by the advancements made that now allow seriously complex content creation and publishing right from a phone. In such a short space of time, the potential has become huge. I can’t help wondering, if the expectations of blog readers has grown in paralel? Are text based blogs relegated to the history books in favor of multi media rich blog content?

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