Author Archive: Callam McMillan

Speaker Cable Sizing – By the numbers

During a recent reshuffle of all the rooms of the house, I found myself going through the laborious process of moving my office, and all the equipment therein. Part of this meant rewiring my monitor speakers. While I was doing this, I didn’t have enough speaker cable, it was too late to go out and get some, and I was too impatient to order some on the internet and wait for it to arrive. What to do? I went into my store cupboard and grabbed myself a length of 1.5mm2 flexible cable, and hooked the speaker up using it. Having plugged in…
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WordPress: Looking at the Activity Log

When I last wrote about the site at the end of January, I mentioned that I’d installed an activity monitor. Logging is not a standard feature of WordPress, so you’ll need a plugin. The one I chose is the Aryo Activity Log. It’s now been running for two months, and I have drawn a number of conclusions. The information below uses data gathered since January 31st 2016. The conclusions are: Updates are frequent, so don’t ignore them In two months there have been two core updates, and 16 plugin updates. If we extrapolate that out to cover a three year period,…
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The cheapest PC revisited – March 2016

Early in January, I wrote about the cheapest PC I could build. It came to just under £200. Since then, time moves on, new products come onto the market, and older ones are discontinued and retired. Surely though, not much can have changed in 10 weeks? Using scan.co.uk, who are my goto place for computer supplies, I decided to find out. Last time I specified two machines – the first being the very cheapest thing you could build, the next being something that you could possibly live with. What we’ll do this time is attempt to duplicate these setups, making substitutions where…
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Why you can’t rely on redundant

Some months back I spoke about setting my friend and partner in crime up on a pfSense router. Part of the reason for doing this was that he had dual WAN links and we could put them into a redundant configuration. I stress now, this wasn’t the primary reason, more of an added bonus. It was therefore with some surprise that I got the following text message on Tuesday: And my internet is down My first thoughts were that there had either been a power cut or some muppet had put a digger through the BT wiring. So, away from…
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Three months of WordPress: A review

In October I’d had enough of this website. I had topics I wanted to talk about, but getting them onto the screen was so difficult thanks to a half finished editor and a lack of motivation on my part to finish getting the site working. For the first eight years of owning this website, I’d steadfastly refused to use WordPress or any other CMS system. Then I decided to give it another go. It’s amazing what a few years of development on a product can do. The experience went from being impossibly annoying, to being relatively straightforward. Three months on,…
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How low can you go? The cheapest PC

I was having a chat with a friend about about cheap PCs the other day. We began to wonder, given the massive drop in the cost of components, what’s the cheapest PC you can build? Using scan.co.uk who are my goto place for computer supplies, I decided to find out. First, we need to work out what this machine will be used for. If we’re going for cheap, then gaming is out, meaning it’s going to be used for a bit of web browsing and perhaps a bit of word processing / spreadsheeting. In reality, if that was all the…
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Time for a new approach to password security?

The password. It’s been used for thousands of years and today represents the key security token in modern computer systems. Despite its ubiquity, the password is not well loved. Attitudes towards passwords vary from apathy to downright contempt. Very few people would ever stand up and argue that the password is a good method of securing a system. IBM predicted back in 2011 that the password would be dead within five years. However, while the giants of the technology industry are rushing to consign passwords to the dustbin of history, nobody seems to be asking whether the problem is with passwords…
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Physical Security: How to cause mayhem!

I have a number of rules I use in a professional and sometimes personal capacity. This is number 1: Always assume the worst about everything. You’ll rarely be disappointed. When you apply it in a security context, it means given a choice, users will always choose the stupid option. Take passwords, if you don’t mandate a certain password quality, then they’ll choose crap passwords (No, Pa55w0rd does not could as a good one!) If you make the password rules too difficult, well… With a little patience and technical expertise though, it is possible to secure your systems effectively. Password policies,…
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Review: Ubiquiti UAP-Pro

As I mentioned previously, I’ve said goodbye to Cisco and so has my partner-in-crime when it comes to all things technical. The only problem is where do you go from there with regards to wireless networking? Around the same time, Ars Technica did a review of the Ubiquiti UAP-AC range of access points. The AC range has two main problems though. Firstly, it’s not available in the UK at the moment. Secondly, it doesn’t yet support zero handoff roaming, which allows you to move between two separate access points without needing to reconnect. Given 802.11ac wasn’t a pressing requirement though,…
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Review: Toshiba Satellite Click Mini

The big thing in computers between 2007 and 2010 was the rise of the Netbook: Small, low powered, low cost computers, running either Linux or Windows. The first Netbooks had a mere 7-inch screen at a stupidly low resolution of 1024×600. Then came 9-inch models, same poor resolution, but a more useful screen. Then came 10 and 11-inch variants. The price also started to rise as more powerful processors and components were installed. Then, just as quickly as they burst onto the scene, the Netbooks fizzled away. Until recently, the smallest you could go was 11-inches, which is a shame…
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