Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Return of The DokuWiki

For some years Dokuwiki was Marcus' secret weapon in making sense of the almost infinity of Computer configurations, data, plans, daily logs and just about everything complex in this Information Technology world.

But since leaving the Enterprise Computing environment I am a little ashamed to say that I have neglected using my DokuWiki server.

But no more!

This is a post to document its return and why it is a truly indispensable tool for those trying to record complex information sources that they want to refer to later, and that they can cooperatively share for viewing and or collaborative editing.

Read on to learn more & about Raspberry Pi too.

Why Use a Wiki or DokuWiki
I covered this in 2012 with this article:

- A Wiki is a Documentation system running on a server, that you access over a Web Browser interface

- Typically you type in the data using tags, which is a bit of a pain compared to Microsoft Word or other visual editors.

- It is akin to writing a baby version of HTML, er. but annoyingly using different tag names!

- A good Wiki will have the ability to embed links (obviously), but also audio and graphics and video and arbitrary media files.

- The great differentiator for DokuWiki is that it's fully self contained.  Data is stored in flat files not in an external database.  Once you hit the Save button your data is safely stored, there is no external database to crash, no referential integrity problems.

As such the installation and maintenance is much simpler.  Backup a set of directories and you are good.

Different to A Set of Word Documents?

- The main difference is that your documentation is stored in a set of Pages which are linked together.

A Word document by comparison contains text, pictures and perhaps some links to Webpages or even other Word Documents.

But the links will be rare and the Wiki aka Dokuwiki structure is Links first, and free form pages joined together with these links.

So just like a database in 3rd normal form, if you have a common procedure you write it once and link to it from all the other documents that need it.

DokuWiki in 2019

For 2019 I uncovered a fantastic resource at which I will point to so that you too can professionally setup your own DokuWiki

The documentation is so brilliant that I can't really improve on it.

But First The Raspberry Pi Angle

- I've been running my Dokuwiki server on a powerful Intel webserver I use for other larger things

- This setup enables me to use DokuWiki outside of the home

- But conversely the security issue is that Dokuwiki personal technical datastore is sharing the same machine as my public webserver.  I'd like to separate it, and then for example they can be running (up and down) independently, plus backups can be separate too

- The master plan is take a Raspberry Pi 3B+, install Raspbian OS as usual, then install PHP and Dokuwiki.

- And by a stroke of genius this is what Chai Heng at already documented.  So I am simply pointing to his excellent documentation. 

The Software Bit
Installation of DokuWiki with Nginx

At the end of this you can fully use DokuWiki in your home.  It's not connected to the wider world and so is ultimately secure.

But suppose you are a hard working IT professional  (other professions are available) and you'd like web access from your phone or laptop whilst out of the home ...

Aside and Caution about CGNAT
If you use a mobile Internet connection to service all your home Internet needs or a tether from your mobile you may find that you cannot host any home website using that connection, in which case the following Website Domain Hosting will not work.  CGNAT Carrier Grade Network Address Translation or similar means that your home Internet connection shares it's IP address with others in 'groups' and is not unique.  So you can't host your own Webserver (in this case a DokuWiki Server) and connect to it from outside of the home.

Most often this can be detected whereby although your public IP address seems to routeable  (i.e. typically not 10.x address) your router shows otherwise.

For UK readers it is worth noting that Three Mobile HomeFi, now available with an unlimited dataplan,  did not suffer this limitation when I was its customer until a few months ago.

These steps allow external access of the Dokuwiki using a domain that you create, and allow for Dynamic DNS updates of the domain, so that when your home IP address changes, you can still access everything consistently

Always Make a Backup

I have literally over 1000 pages of technical information written over 7 years on my Docuwiki server.  I desire a full systems backup.  So if the server is stolen, or the underlying microSD card on which everything is running is corrupted I can restore the last backup and continue.

Full Bare metal backup is described here

I find it easiest to do this under Windows.  So the procedure is this

  1. Download and Install Win32DiskImager 
  2. Shutdown your Raspberry Pi
  3. Remove your microSD card from the Raspberry Pi and insert it into your PC slot  (e.g. via a USB to SD adapter)
  4. Start Win32 Disk Imager
  5. Choose the drive of the first FAT: disk that appeared when you inserted the microSD card.   (In my case E:)
  6. Click “Read”
  7. Win32DiskImager backup up the whole device, i.e. not just the Windows visible drive, but all the partitions, to the file that you gave
  8. Now you have a single file in DiskImager format that you should store safely offsite somewhere
  9. In the even of a disaster you restore this image from the File to a new microSD card, ideally of same size as the screwed one, after you first formatted it as FAT32 (via SD formatter)
As noted earlier I can make a simple tar backup of the single root directory containing all the Dokuwiki configuration, Text and all Media files.  This is a single tar command and can be automated to run daily in cron for example. Because DokuWiki does not use any external database you don't need to (for example) pause the database, make the backup, resume the database etc to prevent integrity issues.

To Conclude
For literally the price of buttons  (I mean less than 100 GBP for everything ) you can buy a Raspberry Pi, install Raspbian and Dokuwiki and enjoy a world class Wiki documentation system.  Included in that price is also: buying a WebDomain and changing your Nginx webserver to SSL and thereby allowing secure access of your Wiki to yourselves and others remotely from your home server.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Running with the Salomons

My ever vigilant and generally amazing wife Agata somehow spotted that Salomon were doing a SpeedCross 5 trail shoe night running promo event.

And yes, we are away from our home in England.  Marcus would never have found this!   Which reminds me, last year in Switzerland, we found a similar event

So the chosen runners met at the corner of an important City park.

We had already filled in an online form giving our shoe sizes and so we were expecting something to wear.  Luckily we turned up early because they did in fact run out of suitable shoes, and a few runners were denied a SpeedCross 5 testing.

With this full on red colour I did ask if these were pre production of SLAB variants.  But no, just regular Salomon Speedcross 5, trail running shoes, coloured red.

 The shoes are so minimalist looking, and no doubt quite aerodynamic, but for running  (as compared to cycling) wit its lower speed means that I don't really think this has anything but an aesthetic benefit.

 Before the trail running part of the event we all had to do a 3km run and then a series of warm up exercises.  This seemed to take forever, but in retrospect it was a good thing.  I can imagine the negative publicity if anybody had twisted or stretched something by not being fully warmed up.

 The trail part of the evening was running a 125 metres ascent descent loop and doing this as fast as possible for about 15 minutes.  It was tough.   I forgot to count my total, which turned out to be okay as there was no prize for the best totals as I had though there might be.

Soft Marketing
Marcus and Agata don't need much convincing as to the effectiveness of Salomon trail running shoes.  They do a good range for dry trails and steep trails  (e.g. Switzerland),  wet trails  (e.g. England) and the in between.

But although we are somewhat loyal customers already, we do appreciate the extra effort that Salomon puts on to help introduce us to their new best products.

We found the Speedcross 5 to be

- Comfortable
- A definite plus from the existing Speedcross 4
- Super cool looking, I mean smooth and aerodynamic
- Not sure Red would be my first choice of colour, but it is sold in other colours
- Surprisingly good on tarmac.  It is not a road shoe but I could use it for general town walking without issue

Thanks Salomon, it was a great night out.


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Not so Cool for Cats

Cool for Cats

Marcus and Agata love cats, but our nomadic lifestyle has until now prevented true ownership.  But in 2019 we hope that we will settle down enough for this to change.

And so we took the opportunity to attend a large kitty show.

Mixed Feelings

Cats generally like affection but they have their limits.   I can understand how being constantly petted would freak kitties out and consequently show cats are often partly sedated.  Not good!

And naive people, often children unadvised by parents, pester the poor animals thru their cages

And the cages.  So they are mostly not on display, but doped up in cages, many un-meshed, so kids make efforts to attract their attention, often un-intentionally harassing the cats. Not always, but pretty frequently.

I suppose the same thoughts go thru my mind about the advised nature of this show as one does when you visit a zoo.   You want to see the animals, but in cages is not the best way.  But if not in cages then perhaps not at all.  It's a dilemma.

Anyway,  we pestered no cats.  We just looked and said soft words, and tried to decide whether we are going to go for a UK 'rescue cat' or a 'pure breed'.   Some pictures from the show

Monday, February 25, 2019

microSD Express and SD Express

It has been in discussion for almost 9 months now but the recent press announcments from Mobile World Congress regarding the SD 7.1 have fully announced microSDHC Express, microSDXC Express and microSDUC Express

To cut the chase we are talking of speeds upto 985 MB (MegaBytes) per second.

Now that, is fast.

Press Release

microSD and SD Express

SD Express Whitepaper

Additional SD Express Whitepaper

A Memorandum of Missed Understanding

What I saw when I watched this clip from the negotiations between Robert Lighthizer, Donald Trump and China's Vice Premier Liu He it was immediately a classic, but unfortunately not in a good way.

Donald Trumps words were saying to me

Look at Me

I am special

Whatever you think the established norms are, I know different,  I know better

Whatever my chief negotiator says, I can override him at a moments notice

In business to me a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) is an outline framework for a deal.  A large deal is complicated.  Perhaps tens of people will spend hundreds of person hours writing, checking and cross checking an agreement in fine detail.

So when the negotiating parties have a deal in principle they write up a MOU and then work towards a final deal.

In a rare circumstances if one party is seen to be significantly diverting from the terms agreed so far then the MOU cannot be implemented and it is back to the drawing board.  But this is supposed to be an exception.

To Marcus a MOU is in brief terms 'A Moral Contract'  a 'Deal in Principle'.  After it the poor minions are tasked with making it legal and proper.

Working for or with Unpredictable

If you have ever had the fortune to work for a boss who can countermand or contradict all of your long hard efforts at one stroke you know what I am about to say.

Additionally if you are the counterparty to a trade deal; to the other side who overturns established negotiating norms and principles, you know what I am about to say too

You think along the lines of

Why Me?

Is there any possible or conceivable way we can go elsewhere

Perhaps if we really have to we will do some sort of deal now, but we are going to strongly look for deals in the future with anybody except these people.


An End to Sunday Trading in our Time

By Sunday trading Marcus means being able to goto the Supermarket to buy Food (and perhaps Wine) or maybe to a Furniture store and the like.

Agata and Marcus have experienced a variety of countries that fully allow  (England / America), partially allow (Hong Kong), or fully discourage (Switzerland) Sunday trading.

But this article is all about   Poland

The current fundamentalist government  Pis  (as in taking the Piss) has made a number of changes that most thinking people living in Poland are deeply opposed to.

This includes a dramatic rollback in the terms and conditions for Sunday shopping.

The basic history is

- Prior to the 1990's there was a general shortage of any goods to buy in Poland!

- Certainly from 2000+ Poland's economy was totally and utterly transformed to a Progressive, democratic, capitalist economy.   

By 2015 you might be more likely to see a Porsche on a Warsaw street than in Birmingham England.  The choice of goods and services from Polish Shopping malls has in 15 years, and I say this as a direct witness, gone past anything that I see in England or Switzerland.  Again I see this from direct experience, spending months not just days or weeks in each country

- From 2015 when Pis became the majority, right wing party, it has made strong judicial changes,  example: advocated an anti abortion strategy, and an end to Sunday Shopping, presumably aligned to its belief in  'Christian principles'

No Sunday Shopping

- My understanding is that in Poland, Sunday shopping is being banned for Religious reasons.  That is to say it's got nothing to do with protecting the rights of workers, well not first and foremost.  It is about promoting the idea of Church worship on a Sunday

- In Poland over 85% of the population is registered as Catholic so having Sunday as a prescribed Religious day is fair enough, let's just say other Religious days of the week are not considered at all

NB: The 85%+ figure is heavily disputed. Simply being baptised adds you to the official Catholic register.  And unless you officially withdraw you are counted as Catholic for life.  And still the majority of parents, even those who don't regularly attend any Church, feeling the need to conform get their children Baptised, therefore keeping this statistic high.

Yes to Sunday Shopping

+ In 2019 we live in a 24 hour economy.  Many goods and services are expected to be available 24x7.  The IT (Information Technology) industry forms a backbone for Banking,  Online Transactions of all Types, Retail, and the Internet. And the Internet is now increasingly used for the Supply of not just Facebook and other services, but TV and Audio distribution.

Society is quite happy for us IT folk to endure unsocial working hours and I think 7 day Retail shopping falls into the category of desirable and a necessary part of 21st century living.

Marcus' Summary Opinion
I am not going to make any slippery slope arguments as to other types of shopping,  many traditionalists have argued for example that any and all online shopping leads to inhuman working practices.

+ I am very much in favour of Sunday trading.  In fact, if demand is there then 24x7 shopping is on my list of OKay

+ I am not in favour of railroading staff into working stupidly long hours.

So this applies to Doctors, to my work in Information Technology, and to people working in Retail

(In Information Technology, in the doing part of the business, it is sort of expected, well it was for Marcus, that anything under about 50 hours a week was un-acceptable.  So there)

+ In the context of Poland I'd even argue for Positive discrimination in favour of committed Catholics.  I mean that those who profess a need to abstain from working on a Sunday, for Religious reasons, for example to attend Church should have this granted.  Of course, they would need to also ensure they abide by the major teachings of the Church in other areas.  For example, contraception should not be made available for these devotees.

By the end of 2019 Sunday Shopping in Poland will be changed to illegal unless ...

the owner is the sole worker in the store, stores located in train stations, airports, ports, as well as florists, bakeries (until 13.00), ice cream sellers, sellers of religious items, ticket sellers, newspaper sellers, post offices, tobacco sellers.

To Marcus this is a retrograde step, a step in the wrong direction.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Park Run

On Saturday February 23rd it was time for Marcus, Andrzej and Agata to once more step out into the cold for a Saturday morning

Marcus has mentioned this event before.  But today I would like to re-emphasise it, as its simplicity and brilliance continues to amaze me.

For additional information, consult Wikipedia

+ Park Run is simply a free 5km running race held internationally on a Saturday morning

+ It is staffed entirely by Volunteers and whilst it started in England, it now extends to many countries including Australia, South Africa, Poland and many more

+ You have to register with the website and print out a barcode that you need at the end of the run  (only, i.e. not the start).  If you become a regular you can purchase a wrist band or other gizmo that contains this barcode.

+ You turn up on Saturday, in our case at 09.00, listen to the security briefing and then run.   

After completing the 5Km run; you finish and take a small printed barcode number from an official.   You then take this barcode together with your personal barcode for scanning, handing back that second barcode you were given at race end.

This enables the organisers to calculate your running time and place and publish it onto the website.

+ As usual we had a wonderful time although this morning the -5 degree weather made for movement rather hanging around before and after the race

+ Some parkruns allow you to run with dogs, some parkruns have special provision for disabled runners, there is also a juniour shorter distance parkrun in some countries.

The Brilliance of it All

+ As advocates of Health and Wellbeing, Parkrun is a powerful motivational tool.   It is simple to understand, free to enter,  and caters for runners fast and slow.

+ Parkrun only works because of the Volunteers and the technology that has been enabled thanks to the Web and modern scanning and timing technology

+ If you currently do not run, Parkrun can be an easy way to get started with running, because 5k is quite a modest distance

+ To get you started from scratch, to enable you to get to a 5km finish I also recommend this application Couch to 5km  which aims to get your fitness level up from Couch Potato, zero km runner.   Please try this first

And there you have it.  Whatever your running level from beginner to competitive Athlete, the Parkrun can be of value to you.

It can help you achieve a sense of community,  aids to basic health and wellness, and can be a way to make new friends, even in a foreign country by taking part in the common activity of running.  Simply brilliant.