Category: <span>Life of Blake</span>

I will write things that are going on in my life here.

Social Media Detox

Over the last 3 months I started tracking a list of daily task that I would like to adhere to. One of those tasks is 1 hour of social media per day.

At first this was easy to do. I broke my Samsung S8 phone and had to switch to an old iPhone 7 we had. I decided to only install the apps I deemed essential. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter did not meet that essential criteria.

I found my concentration was up and I was able to complete more projects at work. It’s amazing what a hole day of not scroll through Facebook can do. During this time, COVID was in full swing here in Canada. Facebook felt toxic with all the fears and “crazy talk” from some of my Facebook”friends”. Instagram was filled with pictures of text?! That’s right, pictures of sentences. I thought Instagram was for photos?

Limiting social media to 1 hour a day really changed my perspective. I realized my primary news outlet was Facebook so I decided to login to my Feedly.com account and setup some good old RSS feeds but reduced my selection to my local news paper (not actually a paper anymore) and international news from the CBC. I do have a few personal blogs I follow but posts are few and far between.

Since the beginning of August, I have felt my self slipping. In the evenings, I’m scrolling past the 1 hour limit. I justify this by saying “well the days over so what does it matter”. It matters! As I write this post, my productivity has dropped, concentration has dropped. I still don’t check social media on my phone, but when I get home, there I am, scrolling through Facebook and Instagram on my tablet.

I see my son developing the same bad habits as his parents. He comes home and just wants to sit in front of a laptop and watch endless episodes of Peppa Pig. He doesn’t even like to go outside and play with his toys. I’m almost at the point where I sell everything in our back yard.

The Goal

For me, it’s time to be more present. Stop scrolling and stop wasting my time reading what crazy conspiracy theory aunt Helen is sharing on Facebook. I’m sure if this photo gets 100 likes, God will send me $1000.

What are your theory’s on social media and what its doing to you? Do you find it helpful or is getting in the way of living your life?

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Pi Project Update

Over the last few years, I decided to make my “Outdoor automation” a little more permanent and indoors. The Pi lived outside in my garage or screwed to a floor joist in my basement. My goat was to provide the same functionality but in a safer case, and have it permanently installed. The tasks the solution needed to perform were as follows.

  1. Water the lawn during the summer
  2. Control the Christmas lights during the winter
  3. Play music for Halloween on Oct 31.

I controlled the watering with a 4 bank relay. My plan was to have the ability to control 4 watering zones. I still only have the one water valve but I do want the ability to add up to 4.

During the month of December, I wanted to control the Christmas lights. 1 relay for the eve lights and 3 more for the floodlights on the lawn. The floods alternate colour ever 30 seconds.

The Hardware & Software

Pi Model B

I already owned most of the hardware for the Pi. It was the outdoor box to house the outlets and pipe. I also wanted a box inside to mount the relays, transformer and the Pi.

I used an 8 channel relay board. I soldered 4 relays together for the 25V AC side and the other 4 for the 120V AC side. If at any point I need to change the board, I will be replacing this one with 2 x 4 channel boards. This will then separate the high and low voltage.

Relays are wired up.

The Pi was always the best candidate for these tasks. The Christmas lights and Sprinkler projects were built in Python3. You can find the code for these here.

The Halloween project just plays some scary music to a speaker I place just near the door. I ordered a 15′ 3.5mm cable extension to get the audio from the Pi out to the front lawn. This cable I run through the window because it’s used once a year for one day. The code for this is available here.

Photos

Setting up the layout.
High voltage is hooked up.
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The Audio Chain

As most of you know I am a huge audio file. The other day I was having a discussion with a friend of mine concerning audio chain and what he did in the studio vs what I do on live setups

As a bed room DJ I don’t see very many large venues. Most of the time I am playing house party’s. I do like to have a proper balanced setup for any gig I am performing wither it’s from my bed room to the internet or to 50 people in a house.

House parties can be tricky because audio maybe required in other rooms or outside on a patio. Some houses have built in home audio system. Most will have the power amps for each room in one location. I normally patch into this to provide listening experience in all room but also have it adjustable for each room. Not every room has to be the dance floors. Be sure to discuss this with the host of the party before tearing apart there house.

On the output side I like to have a few key peaces of gear either on the master effects chain or between the main mix and the power amplifier gear.

  1. Compressor / limiter / gate
  2. Equalizer

I normally run light compression just to normalize the audio some. I then set the gate to eliminate any added noise from the mixer (normally set low). The limiter I set appropriately to the venue and the sound system I will powering. If the venue is small but you have a powerful sound system, you might want to consider setting the limiter high to prevent deafening your crowd.

The limiter is when I save myself during DJ events. With the limiter in the chain I find I am more aware of the audio levels of the room. Have to remember, people do not want you driving the audio to the max all night. I find myself adjusting the master output just slightly. Play the good songs loud and the less popular quieter. You do want to avoid abrupt volume changes. Be sure to practice this before hand. I often use this when I want to emphasize the first drop in a song. Using this technique is where the limiter can save you from blowing speakers.

The last device in the chain is the equalizer. Some engineers would say well that’s stupid, shouldn’t it be before the compressor? Well yes and no. In my case I am running a set of vintage Rotel speakers when I’m DJing house parties. I know these speakers have bad low end without the help of an EQ. This comes back to the idea of knowing your equipment before taking it out. My equalizer is normally set to bring 30 – 60Hz up by about 1 or 2 db.

During bigger gigs, I will run the compressor through the master effects loop then the output into a crossover then out to the proper amps for that venue. The reason I run all effects through the master effects loop is so I can monitor levels using the mixers VU meters. I am able to listen to a song, set its gain based on the PPL VU and then know exactly where it will end up on the master output meter. This guarantees clean audio output to the power amplifier section.

I hope this has helped you understand what a DJ can do with out bored equipment. Remember none of that is set in stone, so experiment and let me know what you do in the comment section below.

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Apache VirtualHosts

The following tutorial will explain how to configure one Apache server to resolve for multiple domain names. We assume you already have install Apache on you Linux based server. Check your distribution for where the configuration files are stored. For this example I am using Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS.

Make sure you have the DNS A records pointing to the external IP of your server.
We will setup the following domains:

  • example1.com
  • example2.ca

First step is to create separate directory’s for each website. Apaches default web folder is /var/www so we will make the folders in there.

cd /var/www
mkdir example1.com
mkdir example2.ca

Now that the directory’s are made you can upload the sites into each of them.

Next step is to make some configuration files for each of the websites. For that we are going to switch to the /etc/apache2/sites-enabled and create a new file. You can use another text editor if you wish.

cd /etc/apache2/sites-enabled
nano example1.com

Inside this file, you will want to insert the following config.

<VirtualHost *:80>
        ServerAdmin webmaster@example1.com
        ServerName example1.com
        ServerAlias www.example1.com

        DocumentRoot /var/www/example1.com

        <Directory /var/www/example1.com>
                Options Indexes FollowSymLinks MultiViews
                AllowOverride All
                allow from all
        </Directory>

        ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/example1.com-error.log

        # Possible values include: debug, info, notice, warn, error, crit,
        # alert, emerg.
        LogLevel warn

        CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/example1.com-access_log.log common

</VirtualHost>

You could keep the logs in there default directory, but I like to know if one site has an issue that others are not. In this configuration we have not included CGI for security reasons.

The next configuration file is simple. Just need to replace example1.com with example2.ca.

<VirtualHost *:80>
        ServerAdmin webmaster@example2.ca
        ServerName example2.ca
        ServerAlias www.example2.ca

        DocumentRoot /var/www/example2.ca

        <Directory /var/www/example2.ca>
                Options Indexes FollowSymLinks MultiViews
                AllowOverride All
                allow from all
        </Directory>

        ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/example2.ca-error.log

        # Possible values include: debug, info, notice, warn, error, crit,
        # alert, emerg.
        LogLevel warn

        CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/example2.ca-access_log.log common

</VirtualHost>

After you have created all your configs, it’s time to restart Apache.

sudo service apache2 reload

That is it. You have now configured multiple domains on Apache.

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IIS7: What a change

In the next few weeks, I am required to use one of my most scariest server products I have used. IIS. I use to manage a small network that used IIS for hosting internal mail interface and other web based products our company used. Back then, we were running IIS6 on Server 2003 R2, and what a scary machine that was. IIS6 wasn’t very intuitive compared to other Microsoft server products at that time. When you needed to add a site or add a CGI extension, it always felt you had to hack it to get something to work and you never went back to it after it was working.

I was required to install it for a programming class and what a change. For someone that never had proper training on IIS, the new interface has defiantly been improved and is now very intuitive.

To install IIS7 was open Control Panel -> Programs and Features -> “Turn Windows feature on or off”. I checked the “Internet Information Service” in the list and that was it. Windows installed the service without needing the disks.

It was that easy to get the new web server up and running on my local development machine.

IIS7 Main screen
Browsed to http://localhost to make sure my new IIS server was running.

I remember spending hours in the server room trying to get PHP installed on the old IIS6 machine we were running. I thought, I wonder how easy it will be on IIS7? Turns out very easy! Microsoft now has an installation you can download that installs PHP 5.3.13 into your IIS.

A few things need to be done first. Make sure you have installed CGI. Windows does not do this by default.

CGI Installation
Be sure “CGI” is checked.

IIS is now ready for the PHP installation. Go to php.iis.net to download the executable. Once you have it download, run it and follow the on screen instruction.

That is it! You have now installed PHP on your IIS server. Create a phpinfo() file on the root of your web-server to make sure everything is working.

My phpinfo().

If you run into the error “Handler “PHP53_via_FastCGI” has a bad module “FastCgiModule” in its module list” it means CGI is not installed. Go back into Windows Features and check “CGI”.

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