Well, it’s a portfolio of Gareth Halfacree’s work, silly. He’s the former systems administrator to the left, currently earning a living as a full-time technology journalist and technical author. You may know him from his best-selling book the Raspberry Pi User Guide, which has sold over 100,000 copies and has been translated into numerous languages, or his contributions to national magazines, radio programmes and books including Imagine Publishing’s Genius Guide and Tips, Tricks, Apps & Hacks series and his eponymous “Gareth Halfacree’s Hobby Tech” feature, a five-page spread in Dennis Publishing’s Custom PC Magazine each month. Read more
Imagine Publishing’s popular range of Bookazine titles – they’re not quite a book, nor quite a magazine, but they are a competitor to Dennis Publishing’s MagBook range – is one entry larger this month with the launch of the latest volume of Linux Tips, Tricks, Apps & Hacks.
As with its predecessor, the content of the Bookazine is culled from the pages of Linux User & Developer magazine. Due to my prolific contributions to said magazine, it’s therefore no surprise to find my work republished within the pages of Linux Tips, Tricks, Apps & Hacks Volume 2.
The highlight of the volume is an investigation into the best Linux distribution for a given user’s needs. It’s a reprint of last year’s Ultimate Linux Distros 2013 feature I wrote for Linux User & Developer Issue 130. The feature takes a look at various categories of user – home user, gamer, hacker, coder, office user – and makes a recommendation of the best distribution to suite that given use case.
The volume is, naturally, filled with additional material including tutorials and software reviews, and makes for a fascinating précis of the year for those who do not subscribe to the magazine itself.
Linux Tips, Tricks, Apps & Hacks Volume 2 is available at newsagents and supermarkets around the country now, or for direct order from Imagine’s webshop.
There’s something rotten in the state of Bletchley, but exactly what is up for debate. A BBC News film crew brought – frankly, much-needed – light on internal disputes between the Bletchley Park Trust, which operates the bulk of the Park, and the CodesandCiphers Trust, which operates the National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) housed in Block H. Video footage of a long-time Bletchley Park Trust volunteer being apparently sacked secured the report a place on the national news, and has been responsible for more column inches than either party has ‘enjoyed’ in quite some time.
But what is actually going on?
My monthly Custom PC column, Gareth Halfacree’s Hobby Tech, continues with a look at the toys and projects that have been entertaining me over the past four weeks including the acquisition of a core memory module, the Raspberry Pi GertDuino add-on board, and a guide – teased on the cover splash – to mining the Bitcoin cryptocurrency on said Pi.
First, the GertDuino. I won’t repeat myself with a summary of the device’s features – which are readily available in my review summary for Linux User & Developer Issue 135 – except to say that, as is usual for reviews in Hobby Tech, the review is written from a very personal perspective. As a result, the reader can enjoy a summarised version of my first few days with the device – including the heartache I had getting the blessed thing to work with the Arduino integrated development environment (IDE).
For the usual vintage computing portion of the column, I took a look at a new – to me – acquisition: a core memory module, pulled from a Soviet-era industrial computer of some description. The predecessor to modern transistor-based memory, magnetic core – literally a mesh of magnetic toroids which can be flipped to hold either a 0 or a 1 – has had an inestimable impact on modern computing, to the point where even today the process of saving memory contents to permanent storage for review is known as a ‘core dump.’
Also, the thing looks amazing under a microscope.
Finally, this month’s semi-regular tutorial section looks at using a USB-connected application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) to rapidly mine the Bitcoin cryptocurrency on a low-power Raspberry Pi. Prompted by my good friend Martyn Ranyard – the joint owner of a considerably more powerful mining rig than the one I created – the tutorial walks the reader through the exact steps I took to add Bitcoin mining facilities to my multipurpose Pi-based home server.
All this, plus a bunch of interesting stuff written by people who aren’t me, can be yours with a trip to your local supermarket, newsagent or a digital purchase on distribution services like Zinio. If you’d rather not risk missing an issue, Dennis Publishing is currently offering subscriptions at 50 per cent off the normal rate until the 31st of January.
In addition to my regular four-page news spread, this month’s Linux User & Developer includes a two-page review of a cloud-based backup service dubbed Securstore.
Cloud backup is a hot-button topic these days, whether people are warning you off the concept due to concerns over NSA and GCHQ intrusion or hailing it as the next big thing. Certainly, the recent growth in average broadband speed – my personal connection recently enjoyed an upstream boost that sees files uploading more than 20 times faster than before – makes the concept more accessible for those without deep enough pockets for leased line networking.
Securstore’s no stranger to the market, but it is one of the few cloud backup services that promises full cross-platform compatibility with support for all major operating systems – including Linux. The company also offers all the usual buzzwords required for enterprise backup systems – in particular ISO 27001 accreditation.
But how’s the software? Well, Securstore hasn’t actually written the software itself; instead, it has partnered with backup giant Asigra, who started in the market way back in 1986. Although not the most user-friendly of packages, Asigra’s software is powerful and Securstore offers training and one-to-one support throughout a company’s subscription.
What’s my overall opinion? Well, you’ll have to buy the magazine to find that out – and if you do, you can also catch up on the latest happenings in the worlds of open source, open hardware, open governance and the maker communities.
Linux User & Developer Issue 134 is available at most good newsagents, a few bad ones, the occasional supermarket and digitally via Zinio and other digital distribution services now. French readers can also look forward to seeing this issue in translated form as Inside Linux in the coming months.
In this most recent issue of my eponymous column, Gareth Halfacree’s Hobby Tech, I take an all-too-rare field trip to my local Hackspace, investigate a “sold as seen” Famiclone, and review the Dangerous Prototypes ATX Breakout Board.
First, the review. Kindly provided by the lovely people at Phentopix, the ATX Breakout Board was designed by Dangerous Prototypes to address the biggest issue surrounding bench power supplies in the hobbyist market: they’re all either crap, or frustratingly expensive. By tapping into a standard ATX PSU – the exact same type you’d fine inside any desktop computer from the last decade and more – the kit provides a range of voltages at a surprisingly capable amperage, and all for a fraction of the cost of a true bench power supply.
Each major rail of the PSU – 3.3V, 5V, 12V and a handy -12V for audio components – is broken out to screw terminal banana sockets, to which the user can connect bare wires or their own test leads. For those lucky enough to have a working ATX PSU from the 90s, there’s also a -5V connection – but, sadly, this rail was removed in most modern units. That said, it’s still a wide range of voltages, and the board includes over-current protection, a dedicated power switch and even room for a bundled resistive load to be soldered on for the rare PSUs that won’t start unloaded.
I have to admit, when the board arrived – complete with very attractive transparent housing designed by Phenoptix and cut on the in-house laser – I wasn’t sure it would be up to the job. It’s small, it’s simple, and it’s cheap – but it has also all-but replaced my real bench-top PSU for everything that doesn’t need precise current control or strange voltage steps.
Next, the Good Boy. A ‘Famiclone’ – the colloquial name given to unauthorised replicas of Nintendo’s Family Computer, or Famicom – purchased from eBay for a few quid ‘untested,’ I wasn’t expecting much and boy did I get it. The Good Boy proved a perfect example of why it’s important to do a physical check before powering up second-hand machines of unknown provenance: someone somewhere had given it far more power than it could handle, and several components had quite literally exploded. For now, it’s on the to-do pile awaiting replacement parts.
Finally, my visit to Leeds Hackspace. A community-led club for programmers, hackers, gamers, electronics enthusiasts, engineers, makers, and the plain curious, Leeds Hackspace is one of a growing number – known in the US as Hackerspaces – around the world. Every Tuesday, the club runs an open evening where non members are welcome to attend, use the equipment, chat and receive help – as do most other Hackspaces.
If you’re hacker-minded, going to a Hackspace is like being let loose in a sweet shop: there are oscilloscopes, laser cutters, 3D printers, drill presses, and a variety of other pieces of equipment most of us don’t have room for in our houses or wallets; there are projects on display like converted arcade machines, automated Nerf turrets, kids’ toys, railway station display boards, and Bitcoin mining rigs; and there are the people.
It’s the people, in fact, that really make a Hackspace. Welcoming and inclusive, the guys and gals at Leeds Hackspace are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met and always willing to show off their latest projects or give a newbie a hand. It’s convinced me, in fact, that in the new year I should really investigate a paid-for membership – even if it is annoyingly far away, there being no Hackspace yet founded in Bradford.
All this, plus the usual snippets of news from the world of the maker, can be found in Custom PC Issue 125 at your local newsagent, supermarket, delivered by subscription or digitally via Zinio and similar services. Oh, and if you’re quick you’ll be able to use the team’s annual Mince Pie Megatest to make your Christmas dinner go off with a sweet treat.
Since I wrote the Raspberry Pi User Guide over a year ago, the project has changed dramatically. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has grown in size and stature, a new hardware revision has been released, the Model A finally hit the streets and users have been treated to dramatic improvements in the quantity, accessibility and quality of the software available.
As a result, I’m pleased to announce the release of the Raspberry Pi User Guide Second Edition. Significantly longer than the original release, the book has been thoroughly updated to cover the Model A, Model B Revision 2, and the Camera Module. Additional new features include step-by-step instructions for using the Raspberry Pi Software Configuration Tool, the New Out-Of-Box Software (NOOBS) installer, and various other tweaks to bring it bang up-to-date.
For those who haven’t taken the plunge into the world of Raspberry Pi yet, congratulations: you can now pick up a considerably better book to help you get started. For those who have already bought a copy of the First Edition, a consolation prize: I have negotiated with the publisher, Wiley & Sons, to produce an updated ‘Second Printing’ of the First Edition in eBook form. If you’ve purchased the First Edition in electronic format, delete and re-download the title to receive various free updates including Model A and Model B Revision 2 details. You’ll know if your particular store has updated the title, as there’ll be a sash at the top-right explaining the updated content.
The Raspberry Pi User Guide Second Edition is available from all good – and plenty of not-so-good – book sellers throughout the world and is also an official stock item of the Raspberry Pi Swag Store, profits from which go to help the Foundation complete its work in pushing the envelope of computing education both at home and abroad. High levels of interest in the title – the First Edition has at this point sold around 100,000 copies world-wide across its various translations – do mean that you may have a short wait for stock, though – so if you’re hoping to buy it as a Christmas present and see it available from somewhere, I’d advise against delaying your purchase.
Electronic copies of the Second Edition are at the time of writing hard to come by but, as with the First Edition, expect to see it in Kindle, Google Play Books, iBooks, PDF, ePub and various other proprietary and non-proprietary formats – as well as DRM-free via O’Reilly in the US – in the very near future.