16/03/2015

Nest Smart Thermostat Can Be Hacked to Spy on Owners

Credit: Paul Wagenseil/Tom's Guide

In view of my previous post this may be of interest. A report on the Toms Guide Blog reveals that Google's Nest "smart" thermostats may not be the most secure devices in the "Internet of Things," it can be hacked into, three researchers showed today (Aug. 7) at the BlackHat security conference in Las Vegas.

Read more...

15/03/2015

Nest v Hive v Tado: tech firms tussle over UK energy market

Nest v Hive v Tado: tech firms tussle over UK energy market

Original post see The Telegraph

 Young Britons can't bleed a radiator

Re-blogged from: The Telegraph

Heating has always been regarded as a dumb utility. Some people may have a thermostat in their home, but after programming the thermostat when they first move into their house, most people promptly forget about it and never touch it again.

Over the past few years, however, the price of electricity and gas in the UK has skyrocketed, rising by more than a third since October 2010. Many consumers are now taking a fresh look at their energy consumption, exploring new ways to save money.

Around 60 per cent of the energy consumed in the home is for central heating, which has traditionally been controlled by unintelligent technology. However, a new wave of smart energy management systems is starting to transform the market.

more...

British Gas' HiveGoogle's Nest LabsPassivSystemstado°Honeywell Evohome

18/02/2015

Operate the Raspberry Pi B+ or 2 using Remote Desktop

This article is for those interested in using the Pi for .NET development but there is useful information about how to use tour Pi remotely using Remote Desktop or via alternative options. I reblog the article here with due respect for the authors, Jen Teilans, copyright....

Getting started with the Raspberry Pi 2, for .NET developers

So you got your shiny new Raspberry Pi 2 (or the slightly older, original Raspberry Pi), and you want to do something with it as a .NET developer. Of course you’ve read the news yesterday that Windows 10 will run on the Raspberry Pi 2, but today it’s not yet available. However, even today it is possible to leverage your .NET super powers and write some code that runs on the Pi. In this short walkthrough I’ll show you how to get started.
Things you will need:
  • 1 Raspberry Pi or a Raspberry Pi 2 (obviously)
  • 1 4GB or bigger SD card (for the Pi) or MicroSD card (for the Pi 2), this will be the Pi’s “hard disk drive”
  • 1 UTP cable to connect the Pi to your router/hub/switch (so it can connect to the internet)
  • 1 Windows laptop/desktop/hybrid/tablet (of course not necessary to use the Pi, but I’ll use the Windows machine in my guide to write the SD card)
  • Optionally: USB mouse and keyboard, HDMI screen. As mentioned, this is optional since you can also run your Pi headless (without monitor attached). In that you’ll connect to it via remote prompt (SSH) and/or remote desktop (RDP, VNC …). In this guide I’ll show you both options.

Step 1: download and write the Raspbian Linux image

Since Windows 10 is not yet available for the Pi, we’ll use the typical Raspbian Linux operating system, which is based on the Debian Wheezy distro. Go to http://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/ and download the latest zipped Raspbian image. When done, extract the ZIP file, which should contain 1 .IMG file.
Now we need to write the .IMG file to the SD card. The easiest way to do this on a Windows machine is by downloading and installing the free Win32 Disk Imager tool. When you run it, select the extracted .IMG file, select the drive which corresponds with your SD card reader and click Write. The writing of the image file will take a couple of minutes, so it’s a great time to get a coffee.
step1_win32diskimager

Step 2: Boot the Pi for the first time

When the image is written, insert it to your Raspberry Pi and plug in the UTP cable. If you’ll be using a mouse, keyboard and HDMI screen (instead of the headless setup): plug in those things as well.  Check the Raspberry Pi site to see where can find all the connections on your board. Finally give the Pi some power via the Micro USB cable. After a minute or 2 the Pi will be booted. If you have connected a screen, you’ll be able to see the progress. When you are running it headless, the waiting is less exciting and always feels a lot longer. :-)

Step 3: (optional) Connect to your Pi remotely

If you have connected a mouse, keyboard and screen you can skip this step. To be able to connect to your Pi remotely, first we’ll need to figure if it’s successfully booted and connected to your network. By default your Pi will have the hostname raspberrypi, so on your Windows machine open a command prompt and type ping raspberrypi. If everything is ok, you should see the Pi replying (and you’ll know its IP address). If the hostname doesn’t work, you can also check your router’s Local Network client list to find the IP address.
step2_ping
On your Windows machine, well need to install an SSH client. I’m a big fan of the free Bitvise SSH Client, but there are other clients as well, like Putty for example. Once your SSH client of choice is installed, make it connect toraspberrypi (or the IP address) on port 22 with username pi and default password raspberry.
step3_sshclient
When successfully connected, automatically an SSH remote command prompt will open and you can move to the next step.

Step 4: Configure & update your Raspberry Pi

The first command we’ll execute, either using the attached keyboard/screen or the remote SSH prompt) is sudo raspi-config which will configure Pi. (FYI: sudo is the command to run an application with elevated privileges.)
step3_config
When the config tool has started, select 1 Expand Filesystem and hit enter. This will make sure the entire size of your SD card will be used. It’s not necessary to reboot when prompted. Secondly it’s probably wise to change the pi user’s password using option 2 in the config menu. Next, move to the fourth config optionInternationalization Options, to change your locale, timezone and keyboard layout (unless you are ok with the defaults). Finally you can choose Finish to close the config tool (you can always run it again). When prompted choose Yes to reboot the Pi.
Once the Pi is rebooted, connect to the command line again (either via SSH or locally). We need to make sure our Pi is running the latest and greatest packages, so execute the following commands:
  • sudo apt-get update (to make sure your source list is up-to-date)
  • sudo apt-get upgrade (to upgrades all installed packages)
This is quite important since if you source list of packages is not up to date, the apt-get install command could fetch older versions of the packages you going to install in the next steps!

Step 5: (optional) Enable Remote Desktop connections and/or VNC

When you are running headless, it’s very interesting to be able to connect to the GUI via the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). When you are using a connected screen, you’ll be able to see the GUI on the screen of course, but you can still enable RDP. So in the remote SSH command prompt, or in the local prompt via the keyboard/screen, type sudo apt-get install xrdp. When prompted hit enter or Y to confirm the installation of the XRDP package.
Additionally we need to do the same for the XTERM package, so type sudo apt-get install xterm and confirm again. Now we are ready to connect to the Pi using RDP: on your Windows machine you can open the Remote Desktop Connection application and tell it to connect to raspberrypi (or its IP address). When prompted enter the pi username and your chosen password. If everything goes ok, you should be able to see the Raspbian desktop.
step5_client
Instead of RDP, it’s also possible to use VNC to connect to the GUI remotely (and in some scenarios I actually prefer this since VNC leaves your session open when you disconnect the client, so you can easily connect to it again). To install a VNC server (optional for this guide) type sudo apt-get install tightvncserver. When this is done, you need to start the VNC server by typing vncserver (the first time you run it, it’s going to ask you to choose a password). On your Windows machine you can download the VNC Viewer (or another VNC client) to connect. By default, the tightvncserver will be running desktop 1 on port 5901, so from the VNC client connect toraspberrypi:5901.

Step 6: Install Mono and MonoDevelop

If you want to run .NET code on the Linux OS, we need to install the excellent open source Mono .NET Framework. To make sure you will get the latest version of Mono, we need to add additional package repositories. First add the Mono Project GPG signing key by typing in the (remote or local) command prompt  sudo apt-key adv –keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com –recv-keys 3FA7E0328081BFF6A14DA29AA6A19B38D3D831EF. Then typeecho “deb http://download.mono-project.com/repo/debian wheezy main” | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/mono-xamarin.list for the first repository. Now enter echo “deb http://download.mono-project.com/repo/debian wheezy-apache24-compat main” | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/mono-xamarin.list for the second repository.
Cool, now we are finally ready to install Mono: enter sudo apt-get install mono-complete. When prompted hitenter or Y to confirm the installation of the complete Mono framework. Give it some time to complete, it takes like 5 minutes.
Of course you can use your trusted Visual Studio to write .NET code for the Pi, but there is also an open source IDE from the Mono project: MonoDevelop. Let’s install this one as well, just because it’s fun. :-) In the prompt typesudo apt-get install monodevelop. Again when prompted hit enter or Y and wait for the install to complete.

Step 7: Use MonoDevelop to write some C#

Now let’s use the MonoDevelop IDE to write the traditional Hello World console application. If you’ve done step 5, you can connect via RDP to the Raspbian GUI. If you are using a connected screen, type startx in the command prompt to start the GUI. In the Start menu, you can find the MonoDevelop IDE in the Programming category.
step7_start
Once started, you can choose FileNewSolution to create a new Console Project (don’t forget to give it a name). The template already gives us the Console.WriteLine, so you can just hit F5 to start a debug session and see the output. Pretty cool isn’t it?
step7_hello

Step 8: (optional) Use Visual Studio to write code

If you want to write a bit more code, you probably want to use the goodness of Visual Studio, instead of the limited (but nice!) MonoDevelop IDE. It’s actually very easy: on your Windows machine fire up Visual Studio! Remember Microsoft recently made Visual Studio Community edition available for free, individual developers, small organisations, students … so there is no reason to not use it!
Create a new Console Application (targeting .NET 4.5.1), write the code and build the project. Now we just need to copy the compiled .EXE of the Console Application to the Raspberry Pi. Using the Bitvise SSH Client, this is pretty easy since it contains an SFTP client as well. From the Bitvise SSH Client main window, click on the New SFTP window button which will then show you at the left side your local Windows file system and on the right side the Raspbian file system. Copy the .EXE file for example to the Raspbian Desktop folder.
step8_sftp
Once copied, go back to the GUI session (either locally or via RDP) and double click on the copied .EXE, which should show your code in action.
step8_hello
If you prefer to run the Console Application in the command prompt, navigate to the location of the .EXE file and type mono NameOfYour.exe.

Check back to the original post for update information and comments.

16/02/2015

Creative Suite CS2 FREE Download

I needed a copy of Illustrator for a small job involving vector images. I normally use Photoshop but there are some things Photoshop cannot do. I tried to use my usual alternative vector editor, Inkscape but it would not do what I wanted.

The only answer was to get my hands on a copy of Adobe Illustrator. Whilst searching for an answer to my problem I discovered an old link to a free copy of Creative Suite CS2. I remembered the link as there was a lot of noise on the internet when it first appeared. Adobe were apparently giving away a FREE copy of Creative Suite CS2 which in its CS6 version cost in the order of £900. Creative Suite contains Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and a few other bits and pieces.

My investigations resulted in a download of Creative Suite 2 onto Windows 7 (64bit), so ignore all the rubbish on the net about compatibility and availability. There are a number of locations for downloading, but I used this link on the PC Advisor Mag website.

I downloaded the files from the Adobe website, you do, however, need an Adobe identity. They even supply a Product Key that works.

The only snag is the installation is a bit of a nightmare and the instructions on the Adobe site are less than helpful but the info to help is out there, this is the main link for the advice I followed.

Only problem I found with using Illustrator CS2 is it will not open .eps files from the more recent versions of the software. However, I did  discover a workaround for this. Open a new document and "Place" (import) the old .eps file in it.

This whole Creative Suite package offers a great solution for those who are short of cash. Despite being over 10 years old, these versions of  Adobes flagship software have plenty of mileage in them.


Useful contacts & links for making stuff via - process.arts

This is such a useful resource I have taken the liberty of reproducing the information in full with due recognition of the brilliant blog at process.art

24/01/2015

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Options

This information on OCR is reblogged from computers.tutsplus a really useful source of tutorials on all things computer...

Google Drive OCR

Google Drive makes it painless to go paperless. Its collaborative documents, spreadsheets, and presentations already help curtail paper usage, but its OCR feature helps curb the paper mess even more so.  

OCR, or Optical Character Recognition, is the most important tech to help you go paperless. Scanned documents on their own are only glorified pictures of your documents, but let your computer recognize the text and they instantly become a ton more useful. 

http://computers.tutsplus.com/tutorials/how-to-ocr-documents-for-free-in-google-drive--cms-20460

Abbyy Fine Reader On-Line 

Perhaps one of the most well-known OCR developers is ABBYY, which produces many different paperless management programs. In this tutorial, I'll show you how you can use their web app FineReader and its OCR technology to convert PDFs, scans, and other image files into editable text.

http://computers.tutsplus.com/tutorials/how-to-ocr-documents-online-with-abbyy-finereader--cms-20785

18/01/2015

Raspberry Pi B+ SD Card Format Problem - Solved




I had considerable difficulty getting the 8G Micro SD card required for my recently acquired Raspberry Pi to format. I was using the recommended SD Formatter utility via a micro SD card adapter using the Card reader slot on my monitor and the slot on my PC front panel. In both cases I received the error message "SD Formatter disc not supported". I eventually the penny dropped, I tried using an external SD card reader, worked straight off, problem solved.

The question is why?

Link to Raspberry Pi - Getting Started

15/01/2015

Disable Google Auto-Backup

I recently reinstalled Picasa and in doing so inadvertently turned on Google Auto-Backup. As I have rather a large number of images on my HD I quickly ran out of space in my Google Account. As this includes storage of emails for Google Mail that proved rather irritating. 

I searched for a way to turn Auto-Backup off but clearly Google don't want you to turn it off so the advice is hard to find. Lots of red herrings with links to "How to turn of Google Auto-Backup " only to discover when you open the link the info tells you how to turn it ON but not OFF!!!

Eventually I found the advice I was looking for  at this location link

Here are the instructions:-

Google+ AutoBackup? can be disabled, Uninstalled, or set to only back up certain folders. 
AutoBackup gets installed automatically when you install or update to the latest version of Picasa. 
To Adjust Google+ Auto Backup settings: 
Look for the AutoBackup icon in the system tray on the bottom right. It is pinwheel with 4 blades in the Google colors. It may be hidden, if so click on the up-arrow to the left of the system tray to show the hidden icons.
It is bottom left in the image
Click on the pinwheel an select Settings...



Make sure it is signed in to your Google account associated with Picasa
Make sure the folders you want to backup are listed and selected, or unselect all of them if you don't wish to use autobackup at the moment.
You can also Pause AutoBackup if it is slowing something down too much. 
To Uninstall Google+ Auto Backup:
If you don't want to use Google+ AutoBackup at all, uninstall it as follows:
Go to the Windows Control Panel.
Select Programs or Uninstall Programs.
Find and select Google+ Auto Backup in the list of installed programs.
Uninstall it.

15/12/2014

This computer is not running genuine Windows - My Solution - Updated

Have you had a warning that your Windows 7 operating system is not valid? (I think you can also get this message with W8) See screen grabs below. If so this may be a Windows update problem. If you follow the links it leas to a page offering you a genuine copy of Windows for a fee! Which looks like a Microsoft ransom scam to me. I know my Windows version is legit so what is going on. I think it is to do with the last Windows Update I installed. If you get this message I would suggest that you make sure you have the latest Windows Update installed. Reboot using a Rescue Disc (you know you should have one cuz they work, make one now) or from the Windows CD if you have one. Some PC's and Laptops have a rescue or recovery option on the hard disc which can be activated by pressing an Function key. Your original instructions should tell you which F key. There are other options but this one worked for me.

UPDATE - 15.12.14: My celebrations were premature. The pop-up returned. I am working on it and will post a further update when I have a solution.

UPDATE 2 - 17.12:14 If all else fails try the simple approach. This is the solution posted on the Microsoft website... and it worked, I think...

To activate by using a direct connection
Open Windows Activation by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, right-clicking Computer, clicking Properties, and then clicking Activate Windows now.‌ 
If Windows detects an Internet connection, click Activate Windows online now.  Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation. 
NB if Windows detects that your copy of Windows is valid this may be as far as you need to go. If your activation time has expired it may be necessary to enter the product key as below.
Type your Windows 7 product key when prompted, click Next, and then follow the instructions.



First message screen...


2nd screen, seen if you click the Resolve option...


3rd screen shows "Buy Genuine Windows" tab when it opens, this is the "Troubleshoot" option...

If your Windows activation period has expired your computer functionality will be reduced and the desk top will become black with a permanent message shown in the bottom right-hand corner.




To make a system repair disc, click the "Start Button" and type System Repair in the search box, click "Create a System Repair Disc" option and follow the instructions. You will need a blank CD to hand.

09/12/2014

Terry Gilliam - Monty Python animations

It looks simple but I suspect it is much more difficult that TG makes it look. This is great advice from a creative genius. Worth a try, lets get snipping and clicking...

05/12/2014

Google Chrome - Restore Last Session

If you have come to Google Chrome from say Firefox you will find the difference in the user interface irritating to say the least particularly when it comes to restoring your last session after an unexpected or accidental shut down.

This worked for me: Open Chrome and Right click on a New Tab, the first option should be a clickable option to Restore, Click and your last session should be restored. I have had the Restore option appear greyed out. If this happens go to Settings> History and click the most recent activity, when this opens repeat previous advice. Hopefully your last session should open.

This was a bit of a suck and see effort on my part as the advice in the various forums I checked were very confusing. If you know a better way post a comment.

01/12/2014

Solid State Drive (SSD) - Optimising Drive Space

Re-bloged fron ZDNet

Solid-state drives are wicked fast. They can breathe new life into a PC whose performance is being dragged down by a slow conventional hard drive. They’re also expensive and (at least for now) limited in total capacity. So how do you get the performance benefits of an SSD upgrade without breaking the bank?

Read this article on the ZDNet website to discover how.

Windows 7 and SSDs: Cutting your system drive down to size



30/11/2014

iTalk Recorder App on iPone 4S - Deleting Files

iTalk
I use the excellent Griffin Technology iTalk app in my iPhone 4S and my iPad to record mainly interview and meetings. The only problem is the files can be large and soon eat up storage space. I use the related iTalk Sync app on my Windows PC to download recordings. The reason for this post is to clarify the process for deleting files from your phone.



I connect the phone to PC open iTalk on the phone and open iTalk Sync the software finds the phone, double click the name of the phone and accept the message that appears on the phone. You can drag and drop the files that appear in the desktop app into a folder to store them. The download process can be slow depending upon how many and how large the files are, so don't be in rush. The app will tell you the sync speed. I find occasionally that this does not move but the files do download. Have a look in the receiving folder to check progress. If there is none  close everything and start again.  To delete files, click the edit option on the phone and you will see a red stop sign against each file tap these and then the Delete option that appears. Repeat for all the files you want to delete. The next step isn't obvious, the app keeps a backup copy of the file so if you want to delete the files completely you need to delete the backup. After "deleting" the files in the list a message appears "Deleted Recordings (?)" tap this message and a list of the deleted recordings appears, at then click on the words "Clear All" in red bottom right of the screen, a pop up asks you to confirm "Clear All". You are returned to the Playback Screen. Exit the app by pressing the phone Home Button.

To Summarise:-
  1. Turn on your iPhone or iPod Touch.
  2. Open the iTalk app.
  3. Select the recording you wish to delete.
  4. Touch the "Edit" button at the top of your screen.
  5. Touch the red "Do Not Enter" button that appears next to the recording you want to delete. 
  6. Touch the "Delete" button that appears.
  7. Open the "Deleted Recordings" folder to view your deleted files. Touch "Clear All" to permanently remove those recordings.

18/11/2014

Synchronize Folders Between Computers and Drives with SyncToy 2.1

Re-blogged from How-To-Geek

I was about to write a blog post on syncing files and folders to other computers and drives when I came across this brilliantly written article by Brian Burgess on How-to-Geek. I hope Brian will forgive me for re-posting it here in full.

I have been searching for an effective alternative to the now defunct Microsoft "Live Mesh" for syncing files and folders to a variety of storage locations. This Microsoft utility is the best option I have found so far. Unfortunately it does not work in real-time, it has to be scheduled and the most frequent option is daily. However it gives another layer of protection.

If you have a few different computers and drives, it can be annoying making sure the same data is each one you need. Today we take a look at making folder and data synchronization easier with the Microsoft SyncToy 2.1 utility.
You might have a flash drive that you use to carry files and documents from the workplace to your home office and vice versa. Sometimes though, you might forget to copy the files you need over to the drive. With Microsoft’s SyncToy it allows you to easily make sure the data between drives and folders is synchronized everyday. There are a lot of reasons you might want to synchronize folders. For example, maybe you want to sync your My Pictures folder with the one at work, or sync your music at home with music on another computer. This is a free tool from Microsoft that was once part of the XP Power Toys but has continued to grow and improve.

When you install SyncToy it also installs Microsoft Sync Framework 2.0 Core Components, which is their sync platform that enables offline access to apps, services and devices.
1sync
On our Windows 7 (32-bit) system there wasn’t an option to create a shortcut for the desktop or Quick Launch Bar, but you’ll see it in the Start Menu and create a shortcut from there if you want.
2sync
When first launching SyncToy, there is an option to participate in the Customer Experience Improvement Program. This is up to the user and participation is not necessary to use it.
3sync
Using SyncToy
When you begin using SyncToy, you’ll need to create a new folder pair to sync your data. You can choose a pair of folders on the same machine, external drives, or over a network.
4sync
Browse to the location of each of the folders you want to keep synced. In this example we’re syncing the contents of my home office folder and work files folder to an external flash drive.
5sync
In the next step choose the actions you want to take place between the two folders. Synchronize is checked by default and should be fine for most users. According to the SyncToy help file, these are the differences between each action:
  • Synchronize: Updates files both ways…keeping changes like renames, deletions and edits to either folder contents the same between the two.
  • Echo: New and updated files are copied left to right. Renames and deletes on the left are repeated on the right.
  • Contribute: New and updated files are copied left to right. Renames on the left are repeated on the right. No deletions.
6sync
Now type in a name for the synced folders and click Finish.
7sync 
A sync job has been successfully created. You’re shown the details of the job including options which you can change if you want. The job hasn’t been run yet so you can preview it or if everything looks correct click on the Run button.
8sync
If you preview the job first it shows the files being synced and from there you might want to exclude certain ones.
11sync
If everything goes right you’ll get a screen telling you the sync was successful.
12sync
Here is an example of a non-successful synchronization where you can go in and see what errors had occurred.
9errors 
Also notice from the main GUI you can rename a folder pair, create a new pair, or delete a pair.
10sync
Schedule SyncToy Tasks
While setting up the folder pairs and syncing them up manually is a great start, what you really want to do is schedule this to run automatically. Here we’ll take a look at how to schedule it to run automatically in Vista or Windows 7. We need to use Windows Task Scheduler, so click on the Start Menu and type task scheduler into the search box.
13task
When Task Scheduler opens click on Create Basic Task under the Action pane.
14task
Next type in a name and description of the task.
15tasl
Select how often you want the Synchronization to occur. This is entirely up to you…but to be sure it’s done and files in both folders are ready when you need them, go for Daily.
16task
Choose the date and time for it to start and keep 1 entered if you want it to occur everyday.
17tas
Next make sure Start a program is selected.
18task
Finally browse to the location of SyncToy.exe where in this example it’s in C:\Program Files\SyncToy2.1\SyncToy.exe Then in the Add arguments field enter in –R by which by itself will run all folder pairs you have set up to be synced.
19task
You will be given an overview of how the task will run and if everything looks correct click finish.
20finish
There are a couple of ways you can verify the synchronization task was successful. You can go into Task Scheduler and under Task Status see the last time it was executed and if it was successful.
21task
Or you can just look in the lower left corner of the SyncToy GUI and see when it was last run.
22task
Conclusion
You can create basically any amount of folder pairs you need to be synchronized. It will allows you to synchronize 2 folders across a network, on the same PC, or to USB flash or external drives. It works on XP, Vista and Windows 7 where there is a separate version for 32 & 64-bit versions. If you’re looking for a free and effective way to synchronize data between two folders on different devices, SyncToy 2.1 will get the job done.
Thanks again to How-To-Geek for a great article...