Field notes: OST cache, shared mailboxes and SSD drives

As we’ve been running all our staff and students on Office 365 for the best part of a year now we’ve found a few tweaks that may be of interest to a wider audience. Here’s one of them from experiences earlier in the week…

SSD vs HDD

hdd-154463_1280Like many of you out there all our recent machines have been specced with SSD drives as the performance difference is incredible (can you imagine going back to HDD now?!) but the downside being that the size of drive isn’t as large.

This has become less of an issue on newer builds as 120GB drives have dropped right down in price now but for the first-gen machines with 60GB drives we have hit some space issues, mainly due to…

Shared mailbox caching behaviour

In a previous post I’ve mentioned the hybrid cache in Outlook 2013 that makes working with large mailboxes much easier; however what’s hidden away in the small print is that the hybrid cache doesn’t apply to shared mailboxes or other peoples’ mailboxes that you have access to.

That has some knock-on effects that aren’t immediately apparent but have began to manifest themselves recently in a couple of ways:

Low disk space

We’ve had a few calls coming in recently with machines running out of disk space, an issue we’d pretty much consigned to the history books after being spoiled with 160GB+ drives being more than spacious for most generic desktops.

Upon running the old but incredibly useful WinDirStat tool we could see where the space had gone… OST files! The worst case thus far was 35GB in a single file but other machines have had numerous ~7GB files (multiply that by a factor of 3-4 on a machine used by multiple staff and you can soon see where the space goes)

Calendar entries not syncing

Another recent call involved staff responsible for managing other users’ calendars not seeing updates when new entries were added or moved, yet when viewing on another machine or via OWA there was no such problem. What seems to happen is as the OST grows it corrupts and eventually the sync behaviour becomes a bit erratic.

Emails stuck in Outbox

Similar to the calendar scenario above some users have had random emails getting stuck in their Outbox and refusing to send. This particular issue has occurred on smaller OSTs as well as the huge ones above so it seems to be a corruption issue that can pop up from time to time.

Resolution steps

The quickest way to fix a corrupted cache is just to delete it. If, however you don’t want to do that for some reason (slow connection, user doesn’t want to wait for cache to reload or has unsynchronised items) you can run the scanpst tool that’s included within Office. It’s not something you’ll find in the Start Menu so run it manually from:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office15\scanpst.exe

Ref: https://support.office.com/en-za/article/Repair-Outlook-Data-Files-pst-and-ost-25663bc3-11ec-4412-86c4-60458afc5253

In the scenario above where emails were getting stuck in the Outbox scanpst resolved the issue without needing to delete and repopulate the cache so it’s worth a shot as a quick fix

Disable caching for additional mailboxes

Some of our users need to have 10+ additional mailboxes open, others have shared mailboxes with many attachments and have tended to be the ones hit hardest by the caching and disk space issues. If money was no object we could just get them all 250GB+ SSDs but seeing as that’s not the case we need plan b)

Ref: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/982697

The solution is to enable an Office 2013 GPO setting under User Configuration > Administrative Templates:

Outlook 2013 > Outlook Options > Delegates > Disable shared mail folder caching

Once this applies you’ll notice a change in the status bar along the bottom of Outlook, non-cached mailboxes will show up as “Online” (confirmed at the end of the KB article above)

status bar

The slight downside is a bit of lag when first opening the folders. For a secondary mailbox that isn’t used as regularly it’s an acceptable compromise, given the issues that users were experiencing with the oversized caches so we’ve rolled it out across the board.

The only thing we’ll have to wait and see is whether the large OSTs reduce in size or if they need deleting to remove the cache that was previously stored for the shared mailboxes.

 

ZCM PXEMenu: TFTP Read File failed

Just a quick post but could prove useful to anyone who heavily customises their ZCM 11 imaging servers:

When I first started working on our imaging system we only had a couple of entries in the boot menu, which was pretty much the same as the Novell out-the-box menu bar one added option for our own image.

As I started customising further we gained more and more options until I got to the point of making a couple of submenus to house the various scenarios I’d built up, including:

  • standard single image (clear existing ISD data)
  • multicast image (master and slave machine options)
  • OOBE image (run the first couple of imaging scripts to pre-install drivers but shut down leaving the machine ready to use just needing a name)
  • various diagnostic options (basic VGA for unsupported chipsets, imaging manual mode etc.)

The error

The other day I went to add another line to try out some new code then to my surprise got a call from one of our technicians saying the PXE boot was broken – sure it enough it was:

ProcessPXEMenu: TFTP Read File failed


The fix

Initially I thought I’d made a typo on one of the new lines I’d added, or perhaps forgot to upload a matching config or script file that the menu was calling. Checking back I couldn’t see any errors but did notice in WinSCP that the file was now 76 lines long.

I removed the new line, back to 75 lines total and rebooted… PXE boot worked again!

I then removed an old comment line I didn’t need anymore and replaced it with the new option I tried to add initially and sure enough the PXE boot still worked. Adding the comment line back caused the error again.

It seems that there’s some sort of size restriction on the pxemenu.txt file, whether it’s file size or a 75 line limit I can’t say for sure but definitely one to watch out for if you like to customise your imaging menu.

Office 365 DirSync experiences: synced OUs and user deletion

DirSync

We experienced an interesting situation the other day with DirSync that doesn’t seem to be documented elsewhere, so thought I’d write it up here for future reference in case anyone hits the same issue…

Our Active Directory is set up to sync users to Office 365 via specific OUs, rather than the entire directory (that includes system users and so on).

In our case we sync staff, students and a spare holding container. This has worked well for us until now with no need for any intervention and users appear in Office 365 once created in AD.

Ref: http://office365support.ca/directory-synchronization-filtering-ous-to-synchronize-to-office-365/

Deletion threshold

We also set up the “prevent accidental deletes” threshold to ensure we had a safeguard in place should a mass deletion event occur. In our case we went for 50 as our limit, which in day-to-day use tends to be about right.

Set-PreventAccidentalDeletes -Enable –ObjectDeletionThreshold 50

Sometimes we have to temporarily raise (then reset) the threshold if a batch of student accounts expire at once but it’s something we don’t need to do that often.

Ref: http://blog.hametbenoit.info/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=596

Our situation

The trigger for our particular issue was related to a scheduled database job experiencing an error, which led to a batch of users being moved from a synced OU in Active Directory to one that holds expired accounts and as such wasn’t ticked in the Management Agent in DirSync.

As a result on the next run DirSync acted as you’d expect it to and tried to delete the affected accounts from Office 365. Fortunately the PreventAccidentalDeletes threshold kicked in as it should and stopped the action from taking place, then sent a warning to our Network Support email group.

What happens next?

Microsoft have a lot of documentation on setting up the threshold to prevent accidental deletes but don’t expand on the various situations that could cause sync deletions and how to resolve them. For instance, the link below talks only about accounts being deleted from the source Active Directory but this didn’t apply to us; our accounts were still there but had ended up out of scope due to being moved.

Ref: http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/24544.dirsync-how-to-avoid-syncing-accidental-deletes-to-the-cloud-directory.aspx

We resolved the initial issue and moved the affected accounts back into scope via their original OU; however DirSync still wanted to remove the accounts. We ran the standard sync command line…

Start-OnlineCoexistenceSync

…but to no avail. After each run the warning email was still being sent, with the same number of users to be deleted. We also noticed that any new account creation seemed to be stuck in limbo until we either resolved the situation or raised the threshold (second choice wasn’t an option!)

Searching around for suggestions didn’t give much away, although this older article did spark a thought in my head

Ref: https://exitcodezero.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/how-to-force-dirsync-to-perform-full-synchronization/

The point about DirSync running Delta syncs made sense in our context; basically the sync engine was no longer looking for the affected accounts because on the next Delta sync it would assumed they’d been deleted. What I suspected we needed was some sort of Full Sync that would look at all accounts and then decide what to do with each one.

Resolution

At this point although the theory made sense I didn’t want to take any chances so raised a ticket with Microsoft Support to explain the issue. To be fair to Microsoft the speed of response from their support team was excellent and we were soon on a remote session with an engineer.

Initially the suggestion was to re-run the DirSync configuration wizard and start a Full Sync that way. However I didn’t want to do this as we’d made quite a few custom attribute mappings (for GAL separation etc.) and I didn’t want to re-do all of that if at all possible.

The Microsoft support engineer then said he’d trigger a Full Sync another way and opened up PowerShell to run a slight variation on the usual command…

Start-OnlineCoexistenceSync -FullSync

The process took about 10-15 minutes to complete but the next email we received showed the deletion threshold had gone right down, to a level we’d expect. We were able to verify that the accounts left to be deleted were expected (expired accounts) so we then raised the threshold, ran another sync and set it back to 50. New users in the queue were then created as expected and all was calm again in the office :)

1427666199_WarningDisclaimer: the information and commands above worked in our situation but are provided for reference only. Given the business-critical nature of mass user account changes in Office 365 I’d always recommend opening a case with Office 365 support before doing anything that could have potentially nasty side-effects!

BETT 2015 tech highlights

bett15small

After what felt like a very quick year the BETT show has come (and gone) around once again.
This year a couple of things caught my eye so thought I’d summarise them below…

SMART Kapp

Created with Nokia Smart CamNever saw this one coming! I originally went to the SMART stand with my colleague to check out their E70 replacement interactive screen but saw the curiously-named Kapp mounted on the wall behind us. Intrigued we had a look and found a product that’s almost done a full 180-degree spin back to its low-tech roots yet looks rather useful!

The basic premise of the Kapp is the simplicity of a dry-wipe (yes, marker pen!) whiteboard but with the benefits of technology. Tutors can write on the board without worrying about a PC, screen orientation or specialist software but can still save notes at the end of their session to store on Moodle, Office 365, Google Apps etc.

The cost of the board is much lower than your average IWB setup (£849 for the 84″ model) and much less to go wrong as well, which could be ideal for less technology-friendly environments. SMART do catch you on software licensing if you want lots of students watching a “live” view of the notes but I think we can live with the free 5-user limit for now.

Check it out at http://smartkapp.com

Updated interactive flat panel screens

As mentioned above we’ve had some interactive panels installed in a couple of classrooms to compare them against the traditional IWB + projector setup. The new 6000 series did seem to have a smoother surface and better pen than the E70 although writing still had a bit of lag, which I was surprised about as it can be a bit off-putting at times.

Interestingly the best writing experience I’ve seen so far came from a smaller manufacturer’s board where there was no lag at all, plus they’ve even invented a telescopic pen for those hard-to-reach corners!

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Office 365 Moodle plugin

I’ve been hoping for a complete integration for Moodle and Microsoft’s cloud services for nearly 5 years now (going all the way back to the Live@Edu days!) and it seems finally Microsoft have delivered with the help of Moodle partner Remote Learner. Single sign-on with Office 365 and the ability to upload assignments directly from OneDrive for Business will make the two platforms knit together much more closely, which can only benefit the end-user experience and help increase take-up of both services.

From skimming the documentation it looks as though we may need to do a bit of work to set it up so will spin up a test instance of both Moodle and Office 365 to try it out and hopefully report back ;)

Check it out at the Microsoft Open Technologies blog https://msopentech.com/blog/2015/01/19/moodle-office365/

Enhanced Planet eStream Moodle integration

A nice new addition from the eStream development team is a video assignment plugin for Moodle. This allows students to upload a video then have the tutor watch and grade it all within the Moodle interface, plus it means no more fiddling around with permissions and schemas in eStream, making life much easier!

Also looking forward to have the updated interface rolled out across the eStream product so it matches in with the lighter, clean look of the Boostrap-based theme we use on our site.

See more on the Planet eStream blog http://planetestream.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/moodle-gradebook-assessment-plugin.html

Intel Compute Stick

intel-compute-stick-pcNoticed these a week or two back but was good to see some in action, basically a PC in nothing more than an HDMI-sized stick.

Makes for an ideal low-cost machine to use for low-power tasks such as kiosks, digital signage or even basic office tasks. The pricing looks very competitive too, might end up with one for home as well!

Stone hyper-converged server

The infrastructure part of the Stone Computers stand had some interesting items last year and this time round they brought along a hyper-converged storage \ compute system they’ve built.

Along with the rapidly-improving Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V Replica \ Storage Replica it looks an interesting route to consider for future systems. Dependent on how slick the end-user side of a pure Microsoft solution would be perhaps it could also be a base for a more cost-effective VDI system?

Surface Pro 3 joins the fleet

Image from Microsoft Store UKOK Microsoft I give in… after a year of watching the tablet market waiting for an OEM to come along and make a product that comes close to the Surface I finally bit the bullet and went for the SP3.

A few challengers have come and gone (particularly disappointed at the odd asymmetric design of the Lenovo ThinkPad 10) but in the end the Microsoft device won my custom. Having used the first-gen RT for a year or so I wasn’t expecting to be surprised by what the SP3 brought to the table but the first couple of weeks with it have done just that.

Originally I was just looking for a companion tablet, really in the Atom mould but after running the Windows 10 beta on my X100e soon realised that I was going to need a new laptop as well. Sadly the single core AMD Neo really struggles with Windows 8 \ 10 so suddenly Microsoft’s “the tablet that can replace your laptop” mantra started to make sense.

Also having the chance to try one out at Future Decoded helped realise the enlarged size of the SP3 vs SP2 isn’t as unwieldy as it first appeared. More importantly Microsoft have somehow got the thickness down to the same (or less) as the original RT and that was a real winner for me.

Buying choices

What really swung my decision to buy was Microsoft lopping £100 off the price of most models in the range, the offer started around Black Friday but seems to have reverted back to original price now. It made the sweet-spot i5 \ 128GB model come in at a slightly more palatable (but still expensive) £749. Obviously there was still the matter of the overpriced keyboard to add but the overall price didn’t feel quite as painful as before.

Although there were cashback offers around I chose to buy my SP3 from John Lewis, mainly due to the 3-year warranty included in the price. Having seen the teardown report I wanted warranty on this device for as long as I could get!

A black Type Cover 3 soon followed from the Microsoft Store to complete the set.

First impressions

Unboxing the device was a similar experience to the RT, sliding out the main section of the packaging followed by a nervy moment tipping the tablet out of the middle section. The charger is now more of a classic power “brick” rather than the large-plug variety on the RT. Truth be told I prefer the older style but it’s not a deal breaker.

I’m still amazed how Microsoft have managed to get a full i5 machine into such a thin and (relatively) light form factor. Before trying out the device I thought the 12″ 3:2 ratio screen was going to be too bulky but after using it for a while it does seem to have hit that sweet spot between portability and productivity.

Starting up goes through the usual Windows 8.x first run process then ran it through Windows Update to get the latest firmware and drivers. What really struck me was the display, so much contrast and vivid colours that truth be told I’m not used to on most PC monitors. Combined with the high resolution it took a few minutes to get used to, as did finding a desktop wallpaper that actually filled the the 2160×1440 screen.

Startup speed is really impressive; given that this is my personal device it doesn’t get used during the day so I’ve been shutting it down completely rather than using any of the sleep features. Even then from a cold start it gets to the login screen in under 10 seconds, so little time I barely even notice it.

On a related note I’d recommend setting up a picture password if using a Windows 8.x tablet, makes life a lot easier if your Microsoft Account password is of the long & complex variety as typing it in on each wake-up \ unlock gets very annoying very quickly.

Kickstand & keyboard

Probably my favourite feature of the SP3 thus far has been the improved kickstand. Now it can go in pretty much any position using the device on your lap is much easier. Likewise on a table it goes to an angle that suits the user, rather than the user having to conform to the device as was with the previous two iterations.

This is where the surprise bit comes in, so far I’ve preferred to use the SP3 without the keyboard rather than with, almost the complete opposite to my experience with the RT.

surface-pro-3-stand-on-box

In this situation I’ve tended to decouple the keyboard from the tablet rather than fold it underneath. Somehow I don’t think the keys sitting upside down and the hinge bent back will be doing either any favours in the long run, although Microsoft do show it as an option in the box. Maybe they’ve been engineered better than I’m giving credit for?

The keyboard is a nice step up from the original RT unit, backlighting is great and using the angled dock position feels much more sturdy to type on. The increased size also allows for a bit more palm rest space, which feels a bit more comfortable to type with than on the previous versions. The touchpad again is also a bit bigger and works well.

One minor change I hadn’t spotted until I started using the device was that the material used to surround the keyboard has changed from a smooth rubberised material to fabric. It’s something I’m going to have to get used to as I liked the smoother surface of the RT keyboard. I guess it was swapped due to the larger surface area of the Pro, either for cost or durability reasons (as the original material did pick up fingermarks quite easily).

Windows 8 experience

As a result of using touch more than previously I’m also breaking a habit of 10+ years and using IE on a regular basis (!) The native touch version of it works rather well when used in tablet mode, in particular I like the swipe gestures to go back to a previous page which just feels natural after a while. Using Snap View I can easily run web browsing and other apps side by side, although there have been some oddities with video playback stopping when switching apps when desktop mode is on one of the panes.

I was hoping for something similar to Metro IE using Chrome’s “Windows 8 Mode” but that’s basically ChromeOS on Windows, very disappointing. That said I’m not really surprised given the battle going on these days between Microsoft and Google’s OS and cloud platforms.

In terms of apps I tend to work more in Desktop mode but I have grown to like (!) the Start Screen and live tiles. The Mail tile is useful for keeping up-to-date and the News app is comfortable to read (if a little slow to update when launching, could do with a tweak there). I’ve already written about how much I like the OneNote app in the past so no need to revisit that ;)

I haven’t needed to use the pen as yet but to save battery life disabled Bluetooth, meaning I lose the click-and-hold activation for OneNote. Not a problem though as it’s on my Start Screen anyway. As a random aside it seems Apple might want a piece of the stylus party after all judging by these patents!

It’s not perfect…

However as with everything there’s some annoying niggles that need improvement:

    1. penThen pen holder really does look like an afterthought from the bargain bucket school of design. A sticky pad , really? The next version of the keyboard cover should have pen storage integrated neatly into the design for sure.
    2. The pricing difference between the 128GB \ 4GB (£749) and 256GB \ 8GB (£999)  i5 models is way more than the cost of the supporting components. It’s certainly one way for Microsoft to ensure they make some profit on the SP3 line but along with the keyboard does seem a bit of a rip-off. I wonder how many more they’d sell with more realistic pricing.
    3. The Windows 8.1 UI has come a long way since the mess of the original 8.0 release but does still jar in places, especially when it touch-only mode. It will be very interesting to see what improvements arrive when the Windows 10 beta gets the new Continuum interface. I wonder if the next preview release will have it in?
    4. The Metro IE design team need to tweak the UI for Surface users, at the moment the (tiny) activation area for the URL bar is tucked away in the corner which is nigh on impossible to hit when the SP3 keyboard is docked in the slanted position. Back to the drawing board with that one!

address-bar
whoever came up with this idea probably didn’t do well in their performance review…

f.lux users beware!

One of the first programs I install on any Windows device I use these days is the excellent f.lux utility. It adjusts your screen colour over the course of the day and helps reduce eye strain and improve sleep when using screens at night. Soon after I got the SP3 up and running I installed the program as normal and thought nothing more of it. After using the device for a couple of days on and off I’d counted 2-3 screen lags and one full-on crash where the machine locked up. At the time I was wondering if I’d bought a lemon but a quick Google search (via a forum) soon found this:

https://justgetflux.com/faq.html

Uh oh, my Surface Pro 3 is freezing! (or my Intel-based laptop is slow with f.lux).
Early-2014 Intel HD Windows 8.1 drivers have some bugs that give problems with f.lux, and you may not have the latest one (Surface Pro 3 does not as of September 2014).

Given that there’s no Microsoft-approved driver update out yet I’ve removed f.lux for now and will try it again once a newer version of the Intel driver is released via Windows Update. Hurry up Microsoft and get that done please!

Conclusion

4.5-out-of-5

So far so good. I’m happy with the SP3 so far and the quality of the work that went into the design clearly shows. It’s brilliant that technology has come on to such a point where an i5 CPU  and supporting components can be crammed into a case not much bigger than the original iPad. Yes it’s not cheap but if you’re after a Windows hybrid device then I don’t think there’s anything else on the market that comes close.

Today’s challenge: Raspberry Pi print and scan server

raspberry-piEver since the Raspberry Pi came out I’ve wanted to try it out but couldn’t find a compelling reason to actually go and buy one. The other day my family needed to print some documents from an iPad, which got me thinking that a wireless print server might be a good mini-project.

A quick trip to Amazon ended up with a small pile of boxes arriving this morning:

I decided to run the Raspbian OS and set up an SD card using the method listed on the Raspberry Pi site.

After doing the basics and configuring networking I had a look around for some apps that could help manage the RasPi remotely. First up was the RaspCTL web interface and in addition a mobile app for my Android phone called RasPi Check Although the RasPi can be left on drawing minimal power I still want to shut it down when not in use; the lack of a power button means an app to send it into halt state is essential.

Setting up the print server

The first part of the setup was pretty straightforward, thanks to two excellent guides from makeuseof.com. The AirPrint support was pretty much the key selling point for trying out the RasPi approach and works seamlessly.

Ref: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/make-wireless-printer-raspberry-pi/
Ref: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/add-airprint-support-raspberry-pi-print-server/

I did make a couple of changes in addition to the steps in the guide

  1. Run the remote admin command below to allow the CUPS web interface to be accessed from my desktop (as the Pi hasn’t been connected to a screen or any input devices at any point in its life so far)
    cupsctl --remote-admin
  2. Although adding the printer via the CUPS interface works fine I found that my specific device (HP PhotoSmart C4400) needed a slightly different method to get all its features working – more on that below

Network scanner

Although I was very pleased with the print server I also wanted to try and add scanning functionality as well. A quick search found another excellent guide:

Ref: http://blog.pi3g.com/2013/04/raspberry-pi-sharing-a-scanner-with-the-network-even-windows/

Following the guide was going well until it came to running the scanimage -L command where I just got an error saying no scanners were identified. Not so good :( A bit of research suggested not all printers are compatible with SANE but a lot of HP ones are via the HPLIP driver library:

Ref: http://hplipopensource.com/hplip-web/index.html
Ref: http://hplipopensource.com/node/128

Fortunately my PhotoSmart was on the list so the mystery deepens.

Troubleshooting commands

It turns out HP include various tools and utilities in the HPLIP package that can help identify what’s being detected (or not as the case may have it)

Ref: http://hplipopensource.com/hplip-web/tech_docs/man_pages/index.html

Running hp-check suggested the printer hadn’t been set up using the HPLIP drivers so I removed the existing object and re-installed it using the hp-setup utility instead. Looking at CUPS after using the setup method showed a different connection string, clearly now using the HP drivers:

hplip cups
However even after this running any of the scanner tools still failed all pretty much saying they couldn’t see a scanner, including:

  • hp-scan
  • sane-find-scanner
  • scanimage -L

By chance I decided to try running scanimage -L as sudo (rather than just the pi user) and there it was, one scanner detected!

scanimage

Permissions issues – solved

A quick Google search for sane only working as root threw up a few more clues as well a workaround.

Ref: http://superuser.com/questions/298298/scanning-only-works-under-sudo-ubuntu

However that did involve running saned as root, which would get around the sudo issue but felt a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a nut as well as being a poor choice from a security point of view. OK it’s only a print server but best to not get into bad habits!

Ref: http://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=50694&p=392524
Ref: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/sane-backends/+bug/229343

A few more posts expanded on the permissions issue so I decided to check what was set on my RasPi’s USB devices. Firstly run

lsusb -v

to find where on the USB bus the printer resides:

lsusb

then run

ls -alh /dev/bus/usb/001

to view permissions on all devices connected to USB Bus 001

ls dev bus usb

Now the problem becomes apparent; the 005 entry (aka our printer) only has write permissions for root and the lp group. Interestingly the SANE documentation says to add the saned user to a group called scanner but no mention about the lp group. Further reading suggests it’s a peculiarity that often occurs with HP all-in-one devices.

I then added the saned user to the lp group and checked membership

usermod -a -G lp saned
groups saned

groups saned

To be sure all changes took effect the RasPi was rebooted and I tried connecting through my SANE client again, this time the printer was listed correctly in the devices list and scans worked perfectly :D

SANE clients

On Linux there’s plenty of SANE clients to choose from but not so much for Windows. Some guides suggest using SaneTwain but it kept crashing on exit so I looked around for something else.

A better option looks to be SANEWinDS, which although listed as an alpha product has been pretty stable, certainly more so than SaneTwain.

In terms of Android apps SANEDroid seems to be the best one I’ve seen so far so that gets my vote for mobile use.

CUPS admin

This morning I went to use the Pi for printing and nearly sent myself crazy trying to figure out why I wasn’t able to manage the printer. Instead of being able to Pause \ Resume \ Cancel \ Delete jobs I kept getting met with a “Job operation failed Forbidden” error.

The last part of https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/CUPS led me to the answer; somewhere along the line I’d missed the -a argument when using usermod and deleted some of the original group memberships that the pi user was given. One of those was lpadmin which was the only entry in the cups-files config entry with ability to manage the CUPS system.

A quick tweak with usermod and I’ve got my admin powers back!

Whilst searching I also came across http://www.penguintutor.com/linux/printing-cups which is also a good introduction to managing CUPS and administrative permissions for it.

RasPi speaker and startup sound

Although I can tell roughly when the Pi has finished booting up based on the internal LEDs and Wi-Fi receiver activity I figured it’d be nice to have something a bit more obvious there as well. I figured it must be possible to quickly rig up an old PC speaker to the RasPi and sure enough there’s another guide for it:

Ref: http://computers.tutsplus.com/articles/creating-a-speaker-for-your-raspberry-pi-using-a-piezo-element–mac-59336

Fortunately amongst my piles of old PC parts I had a piezo speaker and some spare pin header connectors so hooked it up as per the guide. Since I have a Model B+ there’s more pins than on the guide but the top half of the GPIO connector is the same across all models.

There’s a great image overlay showing all the pin-outs on this site but for some reason the image has been mirrored so unless you’re adept at reading back-to-front it’s best to download it and flip it back the right way around!

a small screwdriver or pick tool comes in very handy for releasing pin head connectors

a small screwdriver or pick tool comes in very handy for releasing pin header connectors

I’ve stuck with the Mario tune used in the example for the startup sounds as it fits pretty well, once compile to run it I’ve edited /etc/rc/local as per the instructions here. I’ve also added a small wait before the program starts as initially it was a bit laggy, as if another process hadn’t quite finished before handing over before rc.local ran.

(sleep 5;sudo /home/pi/wiringPi/examples/newTone)&

After restarting with sudo reboot the sound loaded as expected.

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