You may have read my post on set­ting up the Rasp­berry Pi to access the desk­top remotely.  I got most of that accom­plished with a bit of deter­mi­na­tion and some help from the good peo­ple of Red­dit /RaspberryPi.   Once I’d sent red­dit my post, u/newdles and u/wittless both made some really good sug­ges­tions about using an SSH Tun­nel to route traf­fic from the browser on my cur­rent com­puter to the Ras­berry Pi. This elim­i­nates the need for any remote desk­top soft­ware like VNC which is inher­ently inse­cure because the data it sends isn’t encrypted.

SSH (Secure SHell) is a much bet­ter option than my orig­i­nal plan for a few rea­sons.  First as the name implies, it’s rel­a­tively secure.  The web traf­fic is encrypted while it’s trav­el­ling back and forth between my lap­top and the Rasp­berry Pi.  For the time being, short of the NSA, most peo­ple won’t have access to the traf­fic stream.

Sec­ond, it’s far faster than VNC.  Because VNC has to send graph­ics data between two com­put­ers it tends to be pretty slow and finicky when you’re try­ing to move about the desk­top, open files and appli­ca­tions, and manip­u­late set­tings. It’s always been like this and even with sig­nif­i­cantly higher inter­net speeds, it hasn’t dras­ti­cally improved in the 15 years I’ve used it.

I found a great walk through from Hey Stephen Wood on SSH Tun­nelling on the Mac, and since I was already set up for SSH ter­mi­nal access, it was really just the proxy con­fig­u­ra­tion I needed.   The only thing dif­fer­ent in my own setup was that I’d changed my default port from 22 to (some­thing else) on the advice of u/witless on that red­dit thread.

Stephen sug­gests using this to con­nect to your Pi:

$ ssh -D 8888 -vv

But when the default port has been changed, this is actu­ally what you’ll need to do.

$ ssh -D 8888 -p [YourNewPortNumber] -vv

I got a bit con­fused by his 8888, and tried to jam my port num­ber in there unsuc­cess­fully.  The –D 8888 spec­i­fies a port on the local com­puter where that tun­nel can tran­sit through. Obvi­ously my non-default port needed to be spec­i­fied separately. :)

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Apple’s iWork kept ask­ing me to reg­is­ter, and even after I did, it con­tin­ued to pester me.. Read on for the solution!

I use an admit­tedly old ver­sion of Apple’s iWork on occa­sion to make doc­u­ments that need to be pretty. It’s got some really ele­gant lay­outs and makes use of unique fonts that Microsoft’s Office pack­age just can’t com­pete with. I’ve always found that Office cre­ates doc­u­ments that have a clunky, designed-by-a-12-year-old feel to them. They work, but they’re not nice to look at.

Some­how with a recent rein­stall on top of OSX Yosemite, the iWork pack­age wouldn’t take the hint that I didn’t want to reg­is­ter, and kept pes­ter­ing me even after I capit­u­lated and fed it my stan­dard reg­is­tra­tion email address (

Turns out oth­ers have had this prob­lem too, and I found this thread on Stack­Ex­change relat­ing to the issue. The solu­tion is pretty sim­ple, but the proper step is tucked down at the bot­tom of the page, and you’d miss it if you don’t read all the way down.

Dis­able the reg­is­tra­tion dialog:

  1. Open (this should be in the /Applications/Utilities folder)
  2. Type the following:
     sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/ RegistrationHasBeenSent true
  3. Enter your pass­word (your account will need to be an admin­is­tra­tor of the computer)

How this works:

Sudo allows the com­puter to act as an admin­is­tra­tor for this ses­sion alone.

Defaults is a lit­tle util­ity that lets you edit .plist files (or .iwork09 if that’s what you’re using) is a .plist or Prop­erty List file that is built in XML and stores appli­ca­tion spe­cific data like Reg­is­tra­tionHas­BeenSent. We just set that to true and tricked the com­puter into believ­ing that it doesn’t need the infor­ma­tion any longer!

Pre­sum­ably (Accord­ing to Mark) this works on iWork ’09, and I’ve con­firmed it also works on iWork ’08 (at least on my machine). Let me know if it works for you on these or other ver­sions, or if it just doesn’t!

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Atten­tion: If you’re the type that gets hives think­ing about tech­nol­ogy, this post isn’t for you (and please don’t feel bad for just com­pletely skip­ping it!) 

I’ve finally man­aged to get myself a Rasp­berry Pi from the won­der­ful peo­ple at Solar­botics.  As a tech­ni­cal guy, I’ve long strug­gled with try­ing to get Unix com­put­ers up and run­ning.. I’ve always found the Unix doc­u­men­ta­tion and tuto­ri­als tough to get through, pri­mar­ily because they tend to make a lot of assump­tions about what the reader might know. (A lot!) Usu­ally I find this leads me in cir­cles and spi­rals try­ing to sort out a prob­lem related to some minor ver­sion change, or dif­fer­ence in con­fig­u­ra­tion.  Also, I think I’m pretty much checked out of dig­ging through obscure tech­ni­cal doc­u­men­ta­tion.  Thank­fully, because of this new class of hard­ware, there is a new class of writer build­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion now, and we have peo­ple like the Rasp­berry Pi founders, and count­less other mak­ers to thank for that.

So, now that I’ve got a spe­cific need to be addressed, I’m going to give this a shot.

The fol­low­ing are some of the tuto­ri­als and instruc­tions that’ve helped me solve the prob­lems I’ve encoun­tered in the con­fig­u­ra­tion.  The post is mainly a repos­i­tory for my own use (any name-calling is aimed solely toward me, myself, and I), but I’ll keep it posted here to help oth­ers who may have the same issues. Because this isn’t a tuto­r­ial or even a fully fleshed out arti­cle, it’s pos­si­ble that I haven’t fully explained some­thing that you’re strug­gling with. I may have cho­sen not to because it’s part of my own knowl­edge, but I rec­og­nize that it may not be part of yours. Please give me a shout or drop me an email if you’d like more clar­ity about what I’ve writ­ten. Hope this helps!

First things first..


I wanted a lit­tle tiny com­puter to tuck in to a cor­ner  and that could be remote con­trolled from else­where on the inter­net, mainly for web brows­ing.   Because this will be liv­ing at a bor­rowed off­site loca­tion, I didn’t want to take up a lot of space with an old lap­top or some­thing more intru­sive.  The Pi is a good choice because it’s itty bitty, and will eas­ily tuck in to a cor­ner with a wire­less router, and won’t con­sume a shed load of elec­tric­ity either..

RaspberryPi2 - an itty bitty computer

RaspberryPi2 — an itty bitty com­puter (With an SD card for scale)

So, there are two spe­cific tech­ni­cal chal­lenges that need to be addressed:

  1. How do I get access to the desk­top of the com­puter remotely?
  2. How do I con­nect to the com­puter when its IP Address may change at random?

The solu­tions are pretty straight for­ward in the­ory, but a lit­tle more com­pli­cated to put in to prac­tice but I’ll be using the fol­low­ing to reach my goal…:

  1. Vir­tual Net­work Com­put­ing (VNC) which I’ve been using for count­less years to con­nect to my old win­dows machines
  2. Dynamic DNS, a way of let­ting the com­puter update its own inter­net address so that I can always find it..


I’m using the NOOBS dis­tri­b­u­tion of Rasp­berry Pi.   It came pre­in­stalled on the Rasp­berry Pi 2 Bun­dle I got from Solar­botics.  While set­ting up, I man­aged to change the pass­word and fig­ured I messed up because on my first reboot, I couldn’t log in..  Crap.

For the record, the default user­name is Pi (not Rasp­berry as I was thinking..)

Unnec­es­sar­ily rein­stalled NOOBS on my SD card, learn­ing the following:

  • Don’t Panic.  Dou­glas Adams taught us this, and I’d for­got­ten the rule.   Rather than think­ing through the prob­lem, my first reac­tion was for­mat, reinstall.
  • When you for­mat the SD card through disk util­i­ties on a mac, you have to unmount each of the mounted par­ti­tions on the disk.

    Unmount a disk in OSX

    Right click the disk to reveal the unmount option. This is nec­es­sary to do for par­ti­tions of a larger disk when you want to save an image..

  • Rasp­berry Pi NOOBS requires a FAT for­mat­ted disk to run.  This infor­ma­tion is a bit scarce on the internets.
  • The above linked NOOBS dis­tro is a lit­tle larger than the Solar­botics sup­plied ver­sion.  Not sure how, but it includes a few more options to install.  Not nec­es­sary for a noo­bie, but may be use­ful if you want to play and explore with your new device.
  • Make sure you choose the right Key­board and region when NOOBS is installing your OS.  Chang­ing the key­board later is con­vo­luted and frus­trat­ing.  As is inad­ver­tently typ­ing the £ sym­bol instead of the # I was expecting..

Dis­play problems

I had a cou­ple of issues with my dis­play, one that was rel­a­tively straight for­ward, and the sec­ond that was a lit­tle more befuddling.

  1. Screen res­o­lu­tion greater than 700xSomething was dis­play­ing on a mon­i­tor that eas­ily dis­plays 1920 x 1080..
    Turns out, the HDMI cable was loose on the Pi con­nec­tion.   Rule num­ber 2 of com­puter trou­bleshoot­ing,  ALWAYS CHECK YOUR CABLES, DUMBASS.
  2. After muck­ing around with some VNC set­tings, some­how I man­aged to reduce the max­i­mum res­o­lu­tion of the Pi so that there was  black bor­der of unused pix­els sur­round­ing the dis­play area.  <sigh>

    Extra Pixels around the Raspbian Linux interface

    Extra Pix­els around the Rasp­bian Linux interface

  • Rein­stalled OS again after fail­ing google-fu and not find­ing a solution.
  • Prob­lem per­sisted with new OS install, so some­how I man­aged to change some­thing on the Pi Con­fig­u­ra­tion itself..
  • This turned out to be the solu­tion:
  • One thing the tuto­r­ial doesn’t men­tion is that the Over­scan set­tings in step 4 exist in TWO places in the con­fig file. The ones at the bot­tom were what fixed my prob­lem in the end.   I only learned this after sev­eral reboots and some head scratching
  • Also, the Pi Con­fig file is called /boot/config.txt
  • And, I far pre­fer using Nano to VI for editing..

Backup, backup, backup..

Okay, I’ve started from scratch enough times, I’d like to backup the 4Gb SD card and cre­ate some check­points when I install new soft­ware or make changes.

Unfor­tu­nately it wasn’t as easy as just mak­ing an image in Disk Util­ity on the Mac with­out first Unmount­ing the boot and recov­ery par­ti­tions.  Once you do though, you can click the SD card, and choose New Image from the icons at the top of the Disk Util­ity screen..

Install VNC on Rasp­berry Pi

There are loads of tuto­ri­als on this step, so I won’t record a com­plete step by step, but I find I always encounter issues beyond the pro­vided tuto­ri­als, so I’ll record any addi­tional issues I encounter.

I used this write up pri­mar­ily:

But I failed to make things work prop­erly..  Mostly because of my own igno­rance I think..

Try­ing this instead:

(It should be noted that Adafruit has been mak­ing a huge con­tri­bu­tion to the maker move­ment since they started out. they’re rep­utable, and well worth explor­ing if you’re at all smit­ten with build­ing electronics)


  • To SSH from another unix machine (like a Mac), you’ll need to pro­vide the appro­pri­ate user to con­nect use ssh pi@ or what­ever your address is to login as user pi
  • Start­ing VNC is as sim­ple as using vnc­server :1  This starts the server, and allows you to cre­ate dif­fer­ent ses­sions by incre­ment­ing the :[num­ber].  As you’ll see below, this is lim­ited by your router con­fig­u­ra­tion..
  • There are a few dif­fer­ent ways to con­nect to the Pi from another com­puter.  I chose to use RealVNC viewer and just con­nect.  You can use Mac Screen Shar­ing, but at the moment I don’t mind hav­ing another soft­ware pack­age do the work..
  • There were a cou­ple of things con­spic­u­ously miss­ing from the first tutorial..
  • When con­nect­ing to the vnc server with the viewer, use the for­mat [IP address]:[Session Num­ber].  In the case of the adafruit tuto­r­ial, we cre­ate ses­sion num­ber 1, so when I con­nect to my pi it’s address that I use to connect.
  • Annd Suc­cess!

    Raspberry Pi by VNC!

    Rasp­berry Pi by VNC!

  • Now to change the default res­o­lu­tion on my VNC win­dow to match my lap­top res­o­lu­tion 1680×1050.
  • The first tuto­r­ial sets up a script to auto­mat­i­cally start the VNC ser­vice when you boot your Pi.  If this is desir­able, it’d be worth try­ing out. After a bit of thought though, I’d rather not have a whole pile of access meth­ods hang­ing off my machine while it’s just sit­ting on the inter­nets.   So for now I think I’ll just start it using SSH (as is shown in tuto­r­ial 2) with the sim­ple com­mand vnc­server :1.  It’s pretty easy and gives me the option of run­ning it or not regard­less of who is mon­i­tor­ing it on the home side.

Dynamic DNS — Let­ting the com­puter tell you where it lives..

So, I’ve looked a cou­ple of options for dynamic DNS services.

  • was what I used decades ago, but they’ve since gone to a pay model.. This appli­ca­tion isn’t so mis­sion crit­i­cal that this is necessary
  • Looked at NO-IP but I wasn’t quite able to make things work cor­rectly at first try.. The ser­vice is actu­ally pretty good but I ended up look­ing at..
  • DuckDNS instead through the rec­om­men­da­tions of a cou­ple of kind Redditors.
  • If you haven’t had a chance to explore Red­dit, I would highly rec­om­mend it.   There are a tonne of sub­red­dits that you could while away a life­time with, but when you’re try­ing to accom­plish some­thing spe­cific or have unique inter­ests like the Rasp­berry Pi there is surely a com­mu­nity of other inspired users that are always will­ing to help..


  • Authen­ti­ca­tion through Per­sona, a Mozilla ini­tia­tive, will fail on the Pi’s Epiphany web browser
  • Red­dit Authen­ti­ca­tion works great though!
  • DuckDNS instruc­tions aren’t read­ily avail­able when you’re not logged in.  This makes it tough to research what steps you might have to per­form before you com­mit to log­ging in, but it’s not really too intrusive.
  • To get install instruc­tions for your plat­form, and once you’re logged in, choose the plat­form option (“Oper­at­ing sys­tem” in this case), then chose the drop-down menu item for the domain you want to configure.
  • If you get to the point where you down­load the Linux GUI ver­sion, make sure you move it to the home folder on your Pi (that’s the Pi folder by default).  Fol­low­ing the instruc­tions while it’s in the down­loads folder will fail your config!
  • I wasn’t able to get the GUI ver­sion to launch through the CHMOD line, but I could nav­i­gate to it with the file browser in the GUI and double-click, then choose execute.
  • Your Token is listed in the setup instruc­tions, sand­wiched between too screen shots look closely to find it, you may
  • I get the [Error] Duck DNS did not update cor­rectly when I com­plete the con­fig­u­ra­tion.  You also get an error when your IP address hasn’t changed so I’m hop­ing this may be the same issue as the machine has already been reg­is­tered with the cur­rent IP.
  • Also, I’ve changed my default CRON updat­ing to 720 min­utes (12 hours) because IP addresses on home inter­net pack­ages don’t update all that often.  If I’m locked out for a half day, this won’t kill me.   (I used the CRON instruc­tions on the DuckDNS web­site to learn that crontab –e will let me edit this)
  • To this point I’ve been using inter­net shar­ing from my lap­top because the router is in a bed­room and I didn’t want to sit on a bed to con­fig­ure this all.  Now it’s time to try this out prop­erly  and I’ll have to move it and see if I can get all this work­ing remotely.
  • Errrgh..    Turns out there are PI instruc­tions on the duckDNS web­site.  I didn’t notice them because the but­ton only says “Pi” and is really tiny.
    • On the “let’s test the script” step I get the error: Warn­ing: Failed to cre­ate the file /root/duckdns/duck.log: No such file or
      Warn­ing: direc­tory.  The file is legit­i­mately not there (because I didn’t fol­low instruc­tions from the start), so I just cre­ated a blank text file at /root/duckdns and called it duck.log (I also cre­ated the duckdns directory)…
    • Make sure you choose your domain from the drop­down box at the bot­tom of the page.  This will gen­er­ate all the instruc­tions for you.

Router Con­fig­u­ra­tion

In order for a dynamic DNS address to work, port for­ward­ing is required to make sure that the inter­net router and/or modem send inter­net traf­fic to the right device.   It picks up the pub­lic ip address of your modem and this just directs stuff from the router to the Pi..

For Tight VNC the fol­low­ing ports are listed as required:

Appli­ca­tion Start
TightVNC 5900 5900 TCP
TightVNC 5800 5800 TCP

But that’s not all..

If you start your VNC Server with some­thing like vnc­server :1, (as sug­gested by the Adafruit instruc­tions) the server will use port 5901 for your con­nec­tion, vnc­server :2 will use 5902 and so on.  So unless you use vncserver:0 and it actu­ally works (I haven’t tried) the above rules will prove insuf­fi­cient, so in prac­tice, this is actu­ally what I’ve set on my own router to ensure that it’ll take con­nec­tions from 1 to 5..

This is what I ended up using for port settings:

Appli­ca­tion Start
TightVNC 5900 5905 TCP
TightVNC 5800 5805 TCP
SSH 22 22 TCP

I should read the error mes­sages more thor­oughly, as they would have eas­ily pro­vided the solution.

VNC Error showing which port it actually connects to

VNC Error show­ing which port it actu­ally con­nects to


So, this has taken me the bet­ter part of 7 hours to muck around with and set up (with the odd inter­rup­tion for this and that)..    It seems like an inor­di­nate amount of time, but bear in mind I’m learn­ing all about linux and work­ing with the new hard­ware, and a com­pletely new flavour of Unix at the same time.

This is actu­ally a pretty straight for­ward and a great learn­ing expe­ri­ence. With this expe­ri­ence now,  I’m pretty con­fi­dent the exer­cise wouldn’t take more than an hour of manip­u­la­tion time to set up (not count­ing com­puter time for installing the OS and such)

Hope­fully this will be help­ful for those of you who’re going through your own setup process, and save you a bit of time your­self!  And seri­ously, try to fig­ure things out, but if you’re really stuck and google lets you down, drop me a note and let’s see if we can work out the prob­lem together!


As I hit send on my last post, a feel­ing of dread and doom passed over me…  The down­load of OSX 10.8 some­thing (Yosemite any­way) has fin­ished down­load­ing.   I’ve been blocked twice in as many weeks from installing new soft­ware that I need to com­plete some upcom­ing projects because my OS (10.7.5 some­thing) is outdated..

OSX Yosemite - Doesn't look good

OSX Yosemite — Doesn’t look good

Given the rat­ings I’ve seen pop up in the App store, I’ve been reluc­tant to try any sort of upgrade, con­tent to wait until the next ver­sion, but it doesn’t look like that will be pos­si­ble now.  So, if you don’t hear from me for a while, well, you’ll know what happened.. :)

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So, I reopened my copy of Fire­fox this evening to find that they’d done one of their back­ground updates. I’ve trusted Mozilla to have my best inter­est at heart for the most part (and for count­less years), but frankly I was a bit sur­prised by their announce­ment that they’ve bla­tantly mod­i­fied set­tings that I as a user have already set up in my software.

It’s been so long since I’ve actu­ally had to mod­ify the search set­tings in Fire­fox that I had to do a lit­tle Yah­Googling to fig­ure out how to re-brain my lobot­o­mized search capabilities.

Yahoo Search Screen Shot

Mozilla changes Fire­fox default search engine to Yahoo with­out user input.

Nat­u­rally, the first search result is com­pletely use­less to actu­ally solve the prob­lem, but luck­ily, c-net has posted a sim­ple tuto­r­ial here to help you get your Goo-I Mean, favourite search engine back..

As an added bonus, they added a wholly redun­dant search box to my tool­bar (which of course defaulted to yahoo).  If your browser has suf­fered the same fate, you may right click the tool­bar and choose cus­tomize which will let you drag the search bar in to obliv­ion.   Hope this helps.

And Mozilla, frankly that was a dick move. Shame on you.

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For the last few years, I’ve orga­nized my email Inbox by fil­ing mes­sages in a folder that will help me find the mes­sages later. I use one folder to hold indi­vid­u­als I deal with reg­u­larly, and another to hold fold­ers for com­pa­nies where I may deal with a bunch of ran­dom peo­ple, or if I don’t deal with them regularly.

Something like this:
   - People
      - Bob
      - Jane
      - Jim
  - Companies
      - Adobe
      - Dynatech
      - Grimm's

Doing this, I can use my Inbox as a sort of ‘to-do’ list that lets me know what I’ve got to accom­plish in a very dynamic fash­ion. Need some­thing from me? Send a quick email, and it’ll get done. I even send myself notes on occa­sion to keep a record of some­thing that needs to be done.

One down­side to this, is a long list of peo­ple and sup­pli­ers that end up mak­ing the fil­ing of these emails kind of oner­ous. Lately I’ve been deal­ing with a num­ber of com­pa­nies in the search for a new soft­ware solu­tion, and I find that Microsoft Out­look fold­ers all tend to look alike when you get a long list of them run­ning down the side of your screen.

The solu­tion I’ve come up with is to mark a sin­gle mes­sage as “read” in the folder that I’m reg­u­larly fil­ing to, to high­light it in bold and make the folder easy to find when I’m quickly scrolling through the folder tree.  This will work in Microsoft Out­look, Apple (Mac) Mail, on your smart phone, gmail, hot­mail, or any other email appli­ca­tions you’re using.


File list in Microsoft Outlook












I’d encour­age you to try this sys­tem and see how it works for you!

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I’ve been using a fan­tas­tic lit­tle appli­ca­tion called MAMP to develop my web­sites and do some work for clients over the past year or so..  How­ever, after a recent re-installation of my MacOS and sub­se­quent MAMP instal­la­tion I got a lit­tle excited about get­ting things cus­tomized and wiped out the MAMP Start Page URL in my haste to get the proper doc­u­ment loca­tion con­fig­ured. After count­less web searches with way more infor­ma­tion than was help­ful I wasn’t able to find a link with the default start page path.

Unfor­tu­nately, rein­stalling MAMP has no effect on the silly change I made, so I sus­pect the infor­ma­tion is stored in some ran­dom hid­den file..

So.  For the record (and so I don’t have to go search­ing for this info again).  The MAMP Start Page value should be /MAMP (and be sure to keep it upper case!)..

MAMP Start Page setting

MAMP Start Page setting

Also for the record, I store my doc­u­ments in a folder called MAMPserver­Data that lives in the doc­u­ments folder of my pro­file.  This ensures that when I do a backup I don’t have to go search­ing for the code behind my devel­op­ment sites..

MAMP alternate document root

MAMP alter­nate doc­u­ment root

And one more also.. If you’re look­ing for a good quick tuto­r­ial or refresher on how to set up MAMP, have a look here!

(Post-Edit: This link has been updated to point to a video tuto­r­ial Addi­son Berry has recorded for installing the new ver­sion of MAMP to get a Dru­pal instal­la­tion started.  I haven’t per­son­ally tried the new ver­sion of MAMP (the old one still works just fine), but it sounds like she’s nailed the per­ti­nent fea­tures and the finer points of the new ver­sion. Def­i­nitely worth try­ing to fol­low along. If you have suc­cess (or trou­ble) with it, please leave a com­ment and per­haps we can all explore it together. )