I’m running Raspbian (Wheesy 2013-05-29) under QEmu just to make dev a bit quicker. The problem goes that the Raspbian image is 2GB which leaves only 200Mb free for apps/data.

To resize the image, start by resizing the image and giving it an extra 2GB (this is run on the host):

> qemu-img resize 2013-05-29-wheezy-armel.img +2G

Now boot into Raspbian and issue the following to resize the partition (from within linux):

1. > sudo fdisk /dev/sda
2. Print the partition table ("p"). Take note of the starting block of the main partition
3. Delete the main partition ("d"). Should be partition 2.
4. Create (n)ew partition. (P)rimary. Position (2)
5. Start block should be the same as start block from the original partition
6. Size should be the full size of the image file (just press "enter")
7. Now write the partition table (w)
8. Reboot (shutdown -r now). After reboot,
9. > sudo resize2fs /dev/sda2


When that’s all done, run “df -h” and you should have plenty of space.


Like most things in life, our current software project is powered by Git, and historically we’ve been using git to generate the version numbers for our builds by sucking it out from the tags in our repository via git-describe.

$ git describe --tags --long --match v*

This works wonderfully well when you have a single-line commit history, as the tag for versioning is the most recent tag.

Recently, however, we switched to using Vincent Driessen’s Git branching model, which opens up a serious hole in the simple versioning system. When you prepare a hotfix release for master, you tag the hotfix branch at the point the hotfix is being applied. This has the unfortunate side-effect of screwing up the way git describe determines the “nearest” tag.

I’ve created a sample repo demonstrating this problem. If you’re not keen on grabbing the repo, follow along with the screenshot below.

Basically what we see here is a hotfix being applied for release v0.1.0 while development continues on v0.2.0. The hotfix is merged back into develop (but decided not to be merged into master as the hotfix could wait until the next release).

Running the git-describe command above *SHOULD* yield v0.2.0-4-gba68c2f as the tag for develop in order to be true, however it comes back as v0.1.1-4-gba68c2f, which leads to our builds being completely mis-versioned. (We just versioned 0.2.0 code as 0.1.1 – how shit are we?)

Okay, so why is git picking up my v0.1.1 tag instead of the v0.2.0 tag? Turns out it has a lot to do with the explanation of how git-describe works:

If multiple tags were found during the walk then the tag which has the fewest commits different from the input committish will be selected and output. Here fewest commits different is defined as the number of commits which would be shown by git log tag..input will be the smallest number of commits possible.

Which is all well and good, however the describe algorithm ended up traversing a merge-branch down from develop and erroneously (for our purposes) finding v0.1.1 because it was closer to HEAD than v0.2.0 (well specifically in this example case they have the same number of commits, but the depth of the merged branch seems to be more appealing to git)

Digging around a bit more, I found that the git log command actually has an argument to have git-log search only the first (oldest) of multiple parent commits (ie: merges). enter –first-parent

Follow only the first parent commit upon seeing a merge commit. This option can give a better overview when viewing the evolution of a particular topic branch, because merges into a topic branch tend to be only about adjusting to updated upstream from time to time, and this option allows you to ignore the individual commits brought in to your history by such a merge.

…and when you use that to find the appropriate tag, it does!
$ git log --oneline --decorate=short --first-parent | grep '(tag:' | head -n1
b4aa13c (tag: v0.2.0) continued work on develop

So first-parent history search behaviour is what I want, but it’s not available on git-describe. Turns out, i’m not the only one who’s come across this…It’s a shame, really because describe does everything else perfectly, except for the algorithm to find the closest tag.

Unfortunately there’s no clear work-around or even a solution as to when a –first-parent argument will be made available for git-describe, which meant I had to come up with this monstrous flake of rake script to get the build version identifier (formatting doesn’t do it justice):

def git_version_identifier
  tag_number = `git log --oneline --decorate=short --first-parent | grep '(tag:' | head -n1`

  version_number = /v(d+).(d+).(d+)/.match(tag_number)

  `git describe --tags --long --match #{version_number}`.chomp

which (in a nutshell):

  1. Finds the appropriate tag number for the current branch as per the bash-fu you saw earlier
  2. Parses the previous output for the tag identifier (vx.x.x as per our convention)
  3. Fires THAT tag id into git describe to get it to generate the identifier properly, bypassing its search mechanism

Seems convoluted and i’m not really happy with the result. Hoping that someone out there knows something I dont.

When it comes to software tools, i like to spend my time bleeding on the edge, where possible. One of the downsides to this, however is when you hit the carotid artery and bleed your tech heart all over the place. Having recently experienced this problem while using the dev channel build of Chrome, i’m fairly cautious of all the tabs I have open and losing them was a (queue Elton John…) sad sad situation, to say the least.

More recently I became the custodian of an older generation MacBook Pro as a challenge to see how much of my life could transport over to OSX from Windows. One of the things I wanted to make sure of was that (at the very least) I managed to keep a backup of all my open tabs, should the shit hit the fan and a dev build of Chrome for Mac bit the proverbial. The nice thing about Chrome is that when your normal life is replaced with a gLife, you can sync all your bookmarks with big brother and they’ll keep them around for you to access anywhere.

So after a few tweets and pointers in the right direction, I learned that Mac has long had this thing called AppleScript – basically a language which can be used to automate any part of the operating system and programs which it hosts. After a lot of googling, reading help files and finding the incredibly useful Ukelele i managed to scrounge together the following script (saved here in case i ever need it again)

tell application "Google Chrome" to activate
tell application "System Events"
	-- bookmark all tabs
	keystroke "d" using {command down, shift down}
	tell application process "Google Chrome"
		repeat until sheet 1 of window 1 exists
		end repeat
	end tell
	keystroke ((current date) as string)
	-- tab to bookmark folder list
	key code 48
	keystroke "Other"
	key code 124 -- retain focus on "Other..." folder
	key code 125 -- down arrow for "Tabs" subfolder
	keystroke return
end tell

It’s not a highly dynamic or robust script, but then again nor does it need to be – it’s running in a controlled environment and does the job of what I need (near) perfectly well.

Scheduled an iCal event to execute the script at 1am, and hey presto i’m happy to be playing around on the edge once more.

Notice in a previous paragraph I said the script is near perfect. One of the limitations of AppleScript is that its higher-level functions require a library of commands to be built into any application you intend on scripting. Currently, the script library for Chrome is pretty average, so everything has to be done by simulating keystrokes. The only thing I can’t do (or at least couldn’t immediately see how to do) was to prune old backups – the only way I’ve found I could do this was to highlight the bookmark folder from the bookmarks bar and right-click to delete.

Either way, im happy with the result, and it’s another language I can add to my arsenal.

I’ve been writing a little bash script to wrap up the functionality in the JIRA CLI, and i’d noticed that sometimes, my script was spitting out the following error:

sh.exe": [: too many arguments

The code in question was:

j () {
if [ -z $3 ]; then
echo jira --action progressIssue --issue "$1" --step "$2";

It turns out the problem was that the variable $3 in the second line was being substituted directly into the if statement, without being quote delimited. So Bash is treating any input in $3 with spaces as multiple arguments (hence the “too many arguments” error). Duh.

Solution is to quote the $3 variable in the conditional to treat it as a single argument. Shouldn’t make this mistake again…

The marketing of the LaCie Network Space 2 claims that the device is Time Machine compatible, but when you try and dig for instructions on how to get it to work, the tubes becomes very very empty.

If you’re connecting your Network Space via USB, I imagine the device works out of the box. i.e. you just connect it to the Mac and Time Machine will find the drive and use it. In my case, my Network Space is connected to a wireless router, and I wanted to use it as if it was a Time Capsule.

Ordinarily, when you try and set up a Time Capsule, Time Machine will try and search for the Time Capsule over Bonjour, but because the Network Space doesnt identify itself as a Time Capsule it doesnt show up in the list. As it turns out, you can still do this, but you first need to tell Mac to chill out and show Time Machine capable devices which AREN’T the Time Capsule. In Terminal:

defaults write com.apple.systempreferences TMShowUnsupportedNetworkVolumes 1

Now, when you “Show Supported Devices” in Time Machine, the OpenShare share is discovered and you’re good to go.

It’s no surprise I love git. To date, the worst part about git however, was the lacklustre downright shithouse  state of the pre-packaged GUI tools – git gui and gitk.

Well here’s a command-line replacement i’ve devised for gitk which does a reasonable job at visualising a project tree.

git log --oneline --decorate=full --graph --remotes


Hopefully Don will forgive me for the creative licence I’ve taken in bastardising on the title of his book, but it seemed quite fitting given my recent experience with my Ryobi impact drill.

Basically what we’re talking about here is a standard, off-the-shelf drill with two operating modes: Drill mode and Impact/Hammer mode

Without getting into the detail of why you need two drill modes, the point remains that the drill itself contains a switch to flick between both modes.

(click the image to see a bigger version)

So the question is – which way do you need to flick the switch in order to engage hammer mode? Do you flick it right so that you can see the Hammer glyph, or do you flick it to the left so that the Hammer is covered up?

I asked a number of people this question, and interestingly NOBODY got the answer right. If you answered “flick it to the left so that the Hammer is covered up” then you got it WRONG. The switch actually needs to be flicked to the right. I cant explain why it was done like this and it seems completely counter-intuitive to me. There are much better ways of representing this modal change – the most obvious being if the glyphs themselves were shown on the side of the switch rather than at the bottom, and they swapped positions. This means the switch is then used to “engage” a particular mode, and the ambiguity is now removed by having to physically move the switch closer to the appropriate glyph.

So in the course of typing this blog-post, I thought about giving Ryobi a chance to respond and sent them a brief description of the problem and my proposed solution. Sadly I haven’t heard back from them. Shows how much they care about customer feedback in general. Ryobi fail.

In the last few weeks I happened to come across Chrome web-apps. This feature of Chrome 6 obsoletes the Create Application Shortcut feature and replaces it with a more featured (or at the very least better thought-out) system for hosting a web-application within the browser. Just like Chrome Extensions, the web-applications are packaged in .CRX files and are installed using the Extension Manager (chrome://extensions)

At their heart, the web-apps can run in one of two modes:

  1. Server-less App – All of the content required for the web-app is self-contained within the package. All code and images are stored on the local machine, and there’s no network access required by the plugin. These plugins can be installed by anyone, from anywhere
  2. Hosted App – On the other hand, if you have a website/webapp already written, you can easily package up the relevant URLs, give the app a few hi-res icons and you’re good to go. The only catch here is that the only domains able to serve the extension are those registered in the app itself.

Upon finding out about this feature, I found the two default apps which come with Chrome in the %AppData%LocalGoogleChromeApplication<version>Resources* folder. Here you’ll find apps for GMail, GDocs and GCal. To install them, just open up the Extension Manager and select Load Unpacked Extension. The new icons will be shown on your New Tab screen.

Recently, i’ve become a big fan of Evernote, and have been using it a fair amount for both taking notes and just sharing content with myself across several computers. I figured it was an opportune moment to create an Evernote web-app extension for Chrome. It was pretty easy too – just whack in the right URLs and create a nice transparent icon.

Installing the plugins:

Firstly, you need to be running Chrome 6 (any build from the dev channel), so it’s immediately not suited to non-techs (at the time of writing). Secondly, you need to enable app mode in Chrome by running it with the –enable-apps command line option. Easiest way of doing this is to modify the shortcut you use to run Chrome (here’s a more detailed description of enabling apps in Chrome)

Now as a developer, it was easy for me to create this extension and install it myself. Providing it to others, however is not so simple. As mentioned previously, hosted app extensions can only be installed by downloading them from the website for which the app is written. This means to use my Evernote plugin, it would ideally need to be hosted on www.evernote.com. There are other ways though, and you can install the plugin by right-clicking the file and saving it to disk and then drag-drop the extension into Chrome from where you saved it.

Below i’ve attached the extensions for both Evernote and a quick one I whipped up for Google Reader. I’m looking forward to creating more of these 🙂

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All content here is written in relation to WordPress 3.0 self-hosted

Amazingly I failed to find a single page on the net describing this problem, or how to attach any files to WordPress.

It seems that the main problem is that the Content Uploader is geared towards uploading media – GIF, PNG, JPG, PDF, DOC etc… But if you want to upload other files (eg: .ZIP files) then the uploader will error out with a very useless File type does not meet security guidelines. Try another..

The problem here is that WordPress is looking at the extension of the file, blocking the content from being uploaded, but then provides no system to update the list of allowed extensions/MIME types.

Eventually I found a plugin (pjw-mime-config) which allows you to modify the registered MIME types supported by a WordPress installation. Simply install the plugin, visit the config section (Settings -> MIME Types) and add your extension/MIME type to the list.

Whenever i’m teaching my class, my laptop is connected to the projector and i’m running through an example on the screen, I make a conscious effort to NOT use ReSharper because its refactorings do so much and the keystrokes are so fast that my students are unable to keep up with the content i’m presenting. Remember in most cases, these are students who don’t know how to create a property or a field or variable, so my “Extract Field” refactor just completely loses them. Just because I make a conscious effort not to however, doesn’t mean I subconsciously make the mistake every now and then. And almost every time I make the mistake I have to explain what just happened, what the tool was, and what it did for me. Most classes just nod their head and placate me so that we don’t run overtime (again). Keep the loud, talky-talky man happy and we might all get out before 10pm…

Except this semester. For the first time, I had students come up after the class and ask me about ReSharper, and what it did. I gave them a 5 minute whirl-wind tour of the tool, showing them the extract field/variable/method refactorings, move file refactoring, live templates and the integrated unit-testing. It seemed like they were hooked. In the weeks following, I was inspecting code they were writing on their personal computers, and noticed the ReSharper menu in the VS toolbar. Seemed like a victory! One step closer to bridging the gap between academia and industry.

This got me thinking about ways I could further motivate my students to put more effort into this subject, and had an idea of getting in touch with JetBrains to see if they’d be interested in partnering by providing a licence for ReSharper to give away to the student who performs best in the subject. The idea would be for me to dedicate 10-15 minutes at the start of my lesson to actually explain the tool to the class, why it’s important for them to use this particular tool and give them the demo to blow their metaphorical pants off. This all started to brew about 2 months ago…

Well as of last night, the first part of my plan fell into place. After long discussions with JetBrains, I’m pleased to say they’re happy to award a personal edition licence of ReSharper for C# to the best student in the class, for each semester as an ongoing initiative! I really wasn’t expecting such a committed outcome from them, but thoroughly pleased with the result!

Now all I have to do is evangelise…I figure that the students who get the best marks are the ones who have put genuine care and effort into the project, and one of them deserves to be rewarded with a tool which makes them more productive and helps them enjoy what they do more.

Just wanted to shout-out here to anyone who reads this blog and hasn’t used ReSharper – you really are missing out.