Saturday 18 December 2021

Dimming an RGB lightstrip using a Tiny2040 (Pi Pico)

 This is just a simple experimental project to try out Pimoroni's Tiny2040 for the first time.

In order to dim LEDs we have to use PWM; change the duty cycle of a square wave. The 2040 chip handles this and so this program is really simple, it just sets up PWM on one pin and handles two inputs, one for brighter, one for dimmer. 

The harder part was controlling 12v LED strip using a 3.3v output. I've used a small transistor to amplify to 5V and then a mosfet to step that up to 12v. A 7805 gives us a 5v supply to power the microcontroller and to use in the amplification circuit.

It would be possible to generate three square waves with independent duty cycles, and thus have smooth colour changing with the RGB LEDs.

Friday 17 December 2021

PicoTerm, terminal application for Raspberry Pi Pico, supported escape codes and user-definable characters

PicoTerm is an application for the Pi Pico which provides a serial terminal with VGA output and USB keyboard input.

It was developed for the RC2014 and therefore is configured for that computer; eg 115,200 baud and the RC2014 logo at startup. However, if you'd like a custom version, please get in touch.

The Pico has resources that allow for a 640*480 output with a character mode, or 320x240 with full  32,000 colour.

I've recently added support for uploading user-defined character data. I've made this page in order to document the escape codes currently supported, along with information about the new UD character functionality.

Here is the list of supported escape codes, followed by the information about defining characters.

  • \ESC[?25l | Cursor invisible
  • \ESC[?25h | Cursor visible
  • \ESC[H | Move to 0-0
  • \ESC[s | Save the cursor position
  • \ESC[u | Move cursor to previously saved position
  • \ESC[-Row-;-Col-H | Move to -Row-,-Col-
  • \ESC[0K | Clear from cursor to the end of the line
  • \ESC[1K | Clear from the beginning of the current line to the cursor
  • \ESC[2K | Clear the whole line
  • \ESC[2J | Clear the screen and move the cursor to 0-0
  • \ESC[-n-A | Move the cursor up -n- lines
  • \ESC[-n-B | Move the cursor down -n- lines
  • \ESC[-n-C | Move the cursor forward -n- characters
  • \ESC[-n-D | Move the cursor backward -n- characters
  • \ESC[0m | normal text (should also set foreground & background colours to normal)
  • \ESC[7m | reverse text
  • \ESC[0J | clear screen from cursor
  • \ESC[1J | clear screen to cursor
  • \ESC[3J | same as \ESC[2J
  • \ESC[nS | scroll whole page up by n rows (default 1 if n missing)

40 col colour only: (sequence is ignored, no effect in 80 col b/w)

  • \ESC[38;5-n-m | Set foreground colour to -n- (0-255)
  • \ESC[48;5;-n-m | Set background colour to -n- (0-255)
  • \ESC[38;2;r;g;bm | Set foreground colour to r/g/b (values 0-255, scaled by picoterm to 0-31 to give 32,000 colours)
  • \ESC[48;2;r;g;bm | Set background colour to r/g/b (values 0-255, scaled by picoterm to 0-31 to give 32,000 colours)
80-col textmode version only: (from version 1.1)
  • \ESC[1L | Insert line at cursor position, scrolling down from the cursor's row
  • \ESC[1M | Delete line at cursor position, scrolling up to the cursor's row

User-definable characters

C/PM (which is widely used on the RC2014) uses 7-bit ascii characters, which means that there are 128 characters (128-255 inclusive) unused and available for defining by the user. In the case of the colourmode  version of Picoterm, the character data is simply stored as pixel data (foreground colour/background colour, 8 bytes per character) and drawn to the screen when needed, which means that the 'reverse graphics' doesn't rely on those reverse characters being defined, and therefore works on the default fixed characters and any that you define.

Note that this functionality is present in picoterm colour v0.2.0 onwards, which is available here.

  • \ESC[?-n-U | followed by 8 bytes, which will be inserted into the user-defined character space for character n (n can be 128-255 inclusive)

When displaying custom characters, the current foreground and background colours apply, these being reversed if reversed graphics is on.

Here is the simple basic program used in the screenshot above to display pacman: (yes, it's possible to use a loop to define the four characters, but beware of MS Basic's tendency to add a space when using STR$. It's expanded here for readability.)

10 PRINT CHR$(27);"[?128U";

20 FOR C=1TO8




60 PRINT CHR$(27);"[?129U";

70 FOR C=1TO8



100 NEXT C

110 PRINT CHR$(27);"[?130U";

120 FOR C=1TO8

130 READ A

140 PRINT CHR$(A);

150 NEXT C

160 PRINT CHR$(27);"[?131U";

170 FOR C=1TO8

180 READ A

190 PRINT CHR$(A);

200 NEXT C

205 PRINT CHR$(27);"[38;5;11m";

210 PRINT CHR$(128);CHR$(129)

220 PRINT CHR$(130);CHR$(131)

230 END

1000 DATA 15,63,127,127,255,252,224,252

1010 DATA 0,192, 224,224,128,0,0,0

1020 DATA 255,127,127,63,15,0,0,0 

1030 DATA 128,224,224,192,0,0,0,0

Thursday 9 December 2021

Inconsistent results with Integrity

 Running the existing release alongside a potential new release is a great sanity check to make sure that any new changes haven't had any undesirable effects on the results.

Today this happened (the new Integrity Pro and existing release are showing different results):

It was a head scratcher and I had to sort the sitemap tables and carefully compare them to find the differences.

The reason is that I'd put some A/B testing in place, there are a bunch of pages with differences and A or B in the querystring. It's in an area of the site I'd normally ignore for reasons, but didn't today.

Therefore, the list of pages may feature both the A version and the B version (because the url of the page is the unique key for Integrity). So those pages may be duplicated in the results, or maybe not, and that's a matter of chance. 

Ignoring querystrings fixed the problem, and now gives consistent results every time. (Querystrings aren't used for any other reason on this site, so it's fine to ignore them).

Electronic Dice with the Pi Pico

This was my first project with the Pi Pico. It's a 'Hello World' for hardware/software.

The real reason for two buttons is that I already had the box drilled and fitted with the two buttons for a different project. It made sense to switch the power using an arcade button, because it's automatically switched off when you let go of it. The second button grounds the 'run' of the Pico, which means that it performs the shuffle and display once more. In reality, just the one power button would do, because letting go of that and pressing it again does the same thing as the 'run again' button.

I wrote the software in Micropython because this was my introduction to the Pico. More recent projects use C which suits me much better.

* That should probably be electronic die, because one die is shuffled and displayed. The pico has enough pins to shuffle and display 3 dice, and probably many more with a bit of logic to decode the binary numbers 0-6 (3 GPIO pins) to 7 LEDs.

Monday 29 November 2021

'Not allowed to load local resource' error with Safari

 If, after archiving a site in 'browsable' / 'processed' form using WebArch or Website Watchman, parts of the page aren't visible, it may be because of Safari's security restrictions.

If a page uses a js file and that file has been properly saved locally, the browser may still not allow access to that file.  Open up your browser's console and check:

Here you can see my browser isn't allowing access to mmenudom.js, even though that file exists in the same folder as the index.html file. 

The answer is simple, from the Developer menu, select 'Disable Local File Restrictions'. 

I should add that this restriction exists for a reason, and that you shouldn't leave it disabled permanently.

Sunday 7 November 2021

Terminal software for the Raspberry Pi Pico

 I am very proud to have been involved in this hardware / software project with Spencer, creator of the RC2014.

The Pi Pico is a powerful microcontroller, it runs at 133 Mhz by default but can be overclocked to 400Mhz. It has two cores and eight state machines. The state machines have their own assembly language and can independently manage i/o or dma tasks.

It is capable of buffering and generating a video signal, VGA or DVI. Using the TinyUSB library it's capable of receiving USB input.

With these features, it's the perfect candidate for this task. With a few supporting components and the software/firmware installed, it's acting as a serial terminal with USB keyboard input and VGA output. 

The RC2014 is a retro-style computer running a Z80 at up to 7.372Mhz. It does require you to use some kind of terminal for input and output. Usually this is a terminal program running on a modern computer and that's where this new module comes in. It allows the computer to be used standalone, as seen here with CP/M running on the RC2014. It communicates with the computer using UART serial via two of the Pico's GPIO pins and the Rx and Tx lines on the RC2014 bus. It receives keyboard input via the micro USB socket on the Pico (with an OTG adaptor. NB TinyUSB on the pico seems to work with some keyboards and not others.)
The project required custom software to be written for the Pico in C. 

The video output is taken care of by libraries, although the example code certainly did take a while to understand. That part of Textmode PicoTerm largely draws on the text mode example code. 

The USB handling uses TinyUSB. The Pico must act as a host (with the keyboard connected via an OTG adaptor). 

That leaves the terminal functionality. You need to maintain a buffer to store the characters (because the video functionality makes callbacks, requesting the data for each scanline as it's generated). Scrolling is an important  feature of a terminal, so I created a structure to store the character codes for each row of characters, and an array of pointers to those rows. So scrolling is a matter of shuffling 30 pointers rather than 2400 characters. 

One of the Pico's cores can handle the scanline generation for the video while the other listens for characters sent from the computer and from the keyboard, buffers and handles those. [update - with the textmode Picoterm, polling was fine and works without dropped characters. With the newer colourmode PicoTerm, because of the increased load of putting characters on the screen, it was necessary to implement interrupts on Rx to receive and buffer each incoming character].

As well as just feeding characters to the screen and scrolling when necessary, it's also important to parse and handle certain escape sequences.  These codes can position the cursor on the screen or change the attributes (eg reverse characters). The full list of sequences that we've implemented so far are here on the module's documentation page.

Tuesday 26 October 2021

Submitting page changes to Bing Webmaster Tools / IndexNow

IndexNow was recently brought to my attention. It seems that Bing are trying to gain some ground on Google by promoting IndexNow for fast indexing as well as a 'one-stop-shop' - submit once to Bing and 'participating search engines' (which I assume won't ever include Google). Read more

With a well-established and open 'XML sitemap' schema, naturally Microsoft have decided to invent their own xml format and submission protocol. To be fair it's very simple, it is no more than a list of urls and doesn't include the last modified and priority fields, which may not have had any effect anyway. 

To submit your xml to Bing can't be done by web upload or ftp, but by http POST request. I guess the idea is that content management systems can submit page(s) as soon as they're edited or created, which is a terrific idea. 

It's very easy for Scrutiny / Integrity to generate this XML and make the POST request. It's a simpler variation on what these apps do already with sitemap XML files. 

This functionality will appear on Scrutiny 10.4.6 (Scrutiny isn't always the first to get a new feature, it happens that the user who has been helping me with this with is a Scrutiny user). Here's the relevant part of the updated manual:

Exporting and submitting XML for Bing Webmaster Tools / IndexNow

IndexNow is designed to allow faster indexing of your page updates by multiple search engines. 

From version 10.4.6, Scrutiny can generate the xml in the correct format, split into batches of 500 if necessary, and submit them to Bing for IndexNow.

In Preferences > Sitemap, the options for saving locally and ftp'ing have been altered slightly to read 'transfer' rather than ftp, and these options apply to both traditional XML Sitemaps and the Bing Webmaster Tools XML format.

Bing Webmaster Tools require a http POST request, which contains an API key. To use this feature you'll need to enter your key in this box in Preferences. Here's where to find your key:

As before, you'll need to scan your site and go to Sitemap results. Examine the list to make sure that it contains the pages that you expect. This time the last modified and priority are irrelevant (The Bing format only allows for a list of urls).

Find "Bing Webmaster XML" in the Export button above the Sitemap table, or use File > Export > Bing Webmaster XML.

Tuesday 21 September 2021

First look at new app LinkDoc (for testing links within locally-stored pdf or docx documents)

One of the most frequently-asked questions on the Integrity support desk is how to test the links within a local document (.pdf or .doc). It should be possible with Scrutiny, it can parse a pdf or doc but only when Scrutiny encounters it as part of a website crawl.

Rather than shoehorn the functionality into the existing apps, this sounds more like a job for a 'single button' app built for this one purpose. Here it is.

It happens that I'm well into a ground-up rewrite of the Integrity / Scrutiny crawling engine. It's at the point where it runs. There's plenty to do, but for parsing a single page (document in this case) and checking the links, it should be fine. Of course as the 'V12 engine' develops, then any apps that use it, such as the new LinkDoc will receive those updates.

If you'd like to try it, it's available for download now. It's free but in return, please contact us with any problems or suggestions.

Tuesday 14 September 2021

Frustrating loop with NSURLSession when implementing URLSession: task: willPerformHTTPRedirection: newRequest: completionHandler:

This isn't really a question, I think I've solved the problem. But I think I've seen this in the past and solved it then. So I'm posting this here in case anyone else - most likely future me - has this same problem and wants to save some time.

Context: I'm working on the next version of my crawling engine - it moves to NSURLSession rather than NSURLConnection**. Therefore (with the connection stuff at least) it's a ground-up rewrite. 

Here's the problem I hit this morning. A Youtube link is redirecting from a shortened link to a longer one. But some unexpected things are happening. 

My URLSession: task: willPerformHTTPRedirection: newRequest: completionHandler:   is being called and at first I simply put in the minimum code needed to simply continue with the redirection:

According to example code found in various places, that should work. The documentation suggests that this is fine: "completionHandler: A block that your handler should call with either the value of the request parameter, a modified URL request object, or NULL to refuse the redirect and return the body of the redirect response."

As you can see from the screenshot above, our url is being redirected over and over, each time with some garbage appended to the querystring. 

Integrity and Scrutiny handle this fine. (Though at this point they are using the old NSURLConnection.) However, they have a lot more code in the redirect delegate method than my new one. Notably, they make a mutable copy of the new request and make some changes. Why do they need to do that?

I've a funny feeling that I've seen this problem before. Indeed, adding code to make a clone of the new request and modify it is what cures this problem.

It's not enough to simply clone and return the new request.  This is the line that makes the difference:

[clonedRequest  setValue: [[request URL] host] forHTTPHeaderField: @"Host"];

(There's more to it than that, but there are reasons why my code isn't open source! Also, I use Objective C, apologies if you're a Swift person*).

In short, when we create the original request, we set the Host field. In the past I have found this to be necessary in certain cases. In fact, the documentation says that the Host field must be present with http 1.1 and a server may return a 4xx status if it's not present and correct.

If we capture the header fields of the proposed new request in our delegate method, the original Host field appears unchanged. Therefore, it no longer matches the actual host of the updated request url. Here, the url is being redirected to, but the Host field remains ""

As I mentioned, I've written the fix into Integrity and Scrutiny in the dim and distant past, presumably because I have spent time on this problem before. 

I'm guessing that this isn't a problem if you don't explicitly set the Host field yourself in your original request, but if you don't then you may find other problems pop up occasionally. 

If future me is reading this after starting another ground-up project and running into the same problem: you're welcome.

** The important delegate methods of NSURLSessionTask are very similar to the old connection ones. Because I'm seeing similar behaviour with both, I do believe that beneath the skin, NSURLSession and NSURLConnection are just the same. 

* I'm aware that many folks are using Swift today, and it's getting harder to find examples and problem fixes written in Objective C. I'm expecting that (as with java-cocoa) Apple will eventually remove support. But I won't switch and I'm grateful for Objective C support as long as it lasts.

Thursday 9 September 2021

429 status codes when crawling sites

I've had a few conversations with friends about Maplin recently. I have very good memories of the Maplin catalogue way back when they sold electronic components. The catalogue grew bigger each year and featured great spaceship artwork on the cover. They opened high street shops, started selling toys and then closed their shops.

The challenge with this site is that it would finish early after receiving a bunch of 429 status codes. 

This code means "too many requests". So the server would respond normally for a while before deciding not to co-operate any more. When this happens, it's usually solved by throttling the crawler; limiting its number of threads, or imposing a limit on the number of requests per minute.

With Maplin I went back to a single thread and just 50 requests per minute (less than one per second) and even at this pedestrian speed, the behaviour was the same. So I guess that it's set to allow a certain number of requests from a given IP address within a certain time. It didn't block my IP and so after a break would respond again. 

I managed to get through the site using a technique which is a bit of a hack but works. It's the "Pause and Continue" technique. When you start to receive errors, pausing and waiting for a while allows us to continue and make a fresh start with the server. A useful feature of Integrity and Scrutiny's engine is that on Continue, it doesn't just continue from where it left off. It will start at the top of its list, ignore the good statuses but re-check any bad links. This leads to the fun spectacle of the number of bad links counting backwards!

On finish, there seems to be around 50 genuinely broken links. Easily fixed once found.

Saturday 4 September 2021

Crawling big-name websites. Some thoughts.

Over the last couple of weeks I've been crawling the websites of some less-popular* big names. 

I enjoy investigating websites, it gives me some interesting things to think about and comment on, and it allows me to test my software 'in the wild'.

Already I'm feeling disappointed with the general quality of these sites, and I'm noticing some common issues. 

The most common by far is the "image without alt text" warning. As someone with a history in website accessibility, this is disappointing, particularly as it's the easiest accessibility improvement and SEO opportunity. Above is a section of the warnings from the RBS site. Every page has a list of images without alt text, and I see this regularly on sites that I'm crawling.

Next are the issues which may be the result of blindly plugging plugins and modules into a CMS. Last week I saw the issue of multiple <head> tags, some of them nested in the Shell UK website. This showed up a small issue with Scrutiny (fixed in 10.4.2 and above). 

One of the sites I've crawled this week, Ryanair, showed a different problem which may also be the result of plugins that don't play nicely together. 

The content page has two meta descriptions. Only one of them is likely to be displayed on Google's search results page. Don't leave that to chance.

Before getting to that point, the first black mark to Ryanair is that the site can't be viewed without javascript rendering. It's all very well for js to make pretty effects on your page but if nothing is visible on the page without js doing its stuff in the browser, then that is bad accessibility and arguably could hinder search engines from being able to index the pages properly**

This is what the page looks like in a browser without JS enabled, or on any other user agent that doesn't do rendering. This is what Integrity and Scrutiny would see by default. To crawl this site we need to enable the 'run js' feature. 

This aspect of the site helps to mask the 'double-description' problem from a human - if you 'view source' in a browser (depending on the browser) you may not even see the second meta description because you may see the 'pre-rendered' page code.

 Scrutiny reported the problem and I had to look at the 'post-rendered' source to see the second one:

I hope you enjoy reading about this kind of thing. I enjoy doing the investigation. So far no-one from any of the companies I've mentioned on blog pages and tweets have made contact, but I'd welcome that. 

*less-popular with me.

** It used to be the case that no search engine would be able to index such a page. Now Google (but not all search engines) does render pages. To some extent. 

Saturday 28 August 2021

Problems with Shell UK website show up 'enhancement opportunity' for Scrutiny

 I'm used to seeing a lot of 'image without alt text' warnings. It now seems almost normal, despite the fact that it's a HTML validation error as well as an SEO black mark. It's a quick win, why are we so lax?

In this case there are many other html warnings; missing closing divs, p within h3, closing p with open span. (There are a lot of warnings, just a small section is shown in the screenshot below.)

Multi-headed monster

The SEO results showed up 'missing title' on many important pages. This was hard to believe and indeed it shouldn't be believed - the title tags are present. However (I might call this a bug in Scrutiny) some pages seem to have multiple <head> sections, some even nested! 

This unexpected issue tricks Scrutiny into 'body' mode rather than 'head' mode, and it's likely to miss other meta data and <link> tags. I will see that Scrutiny gets an update so that it handles this situation properly - correctly reports the multiple <head> tags and doesn't miss the titles.

Another important issue is links to insecure http:// pages from secure https:// pages - including an http version of the contact form.

The bad links report is juicy. Some are deceptive; it's not unusual for a redirect to a login page to give a 4xx status, we could find out the reason for that and adjust settings. But there are many links here that really are 404. Again, this is a quick win. 

This all adds up to very poor quality. It surprises me that one of the top brands is putting so little into its website upkeep. (site: crawled using Scrutiny 28 Aug 2021).

Friday 27 August 2021

The future for Integrity and Scrutiny

[update Feb 22 2022]: Integrity, Integrity Plus and Pro v12 are out of beta and available here.

[post originally written August 2021, updated in the mean time.]

It feels that the various flavours of Integrity and Scrutiny have reached a plateau, they do what they do and judging by their popularity, they're doing it well (all comments welcome).

That's not to say that they're dormant. Far from it. You can see from the release notes that they've all received frequent updates. But these now tend to be improvements and updates rather than new features.

The biggest news recently has been the HTML validation, and work on that will continue.

Work has already begun on v11 of Integrity and Scrutiny, and it'll necessarily be a deep rewrite of the engine. Which will of course be called the v12 engine, because who's heard of a v11 engine?!

Futureproofing is needed. Partly to keep up with changes in the MacOS system, partly to revise the internal structure of the data and partly to replace some tired stuff with newer stuff, for example our current 'sitesucker-like' archiving system.  

One feature of Integrity and Scrutiny that has been a bit slack is the archiving. Originally this was simply a dump of the html files during the crawl. It developed a bit, but the archiving and processing in Webarch and Website Watchman have left Integrity and Scrutiny behind, so Integrity and Scrutiny will be brought up to scratch with Webarch-style archiving.

There are long-standing issues that need deeper rewrites in order to fix properly. And parts of the interface that could do with a facelift, particular Scrutiny's website / config management screen.

On the business front, it's more than likely that there will be a price increase, but as usual, no upgrade fee for licence holders of v7 or above. (hint: now is a very good time to buy!)

[Update 28 Nov 2021]

I've just posted a video showing the new Integrity Pro in action.If you use Integrity Pro, this won't *look* tremendously different. The changes are as outlined above; much is under-the-hood, for efficiency or just to keep up-to-date with the changing system and web standards. There are one or two important features missing from the interface in this video.

Friday 20 August 2021

Many 'soft 404s' found on the KFC website

One way to 'fix' your bad links is to make your server send a 200 code with your custom error page.

Google frowns upon it as "bad practice" and so do I. It makes bad links difficult to find using a link checker. Even if a page says "File not found",  no crawling tool will understand that, will see the 200 and move on.  Maybe this is why the KFC UK website has so many of them.
The way that Integrity and Scrutiny handle this is to look for specified text on the page and in the title. Obviously it can't be pre-filled with all of the possible terms which might appear on anyone's custom error page, so if you know that you use soft 404s on your site, you must give Integrity / Scrutiny  a term that's likely to appear on the error page and that's unlikely to appear anywhere else. Fortunately with this site, WHOOPS!  fits the bill. The switch for the soft 404 search and the list of search terms is in Preferences (above).
And here we see them being reported with the status 'soft 404' in place of the actual (incorrect) 200 status returned by the server.

[update 29 Nov 2021] To be fair to KFC, that long list of bad links is now mostly cleared up, although the soft 404 problem still exists, which isn't going to make it easy to find bad links:

If anyone from KFC reads this, we offer a subscription-based monthly website report and would be very happy to include the 'soft 404' check at no extra charge.  

Monday 21 June 2021

If ScreenSleeves doesn't appear to work

If ScreenSleeves Standalone doesn't appear to realise that there's music playing, then the answer is almost certainly linked to permissions.

With each release, MacOS has become more secure. As a general rule it won't do anything unless you've given permission. 

Since Catalina, ScreenSleeves won't be able to find out what music is playing without you allowing it to access 'System Events' as well as whatever app(s) you use to play music. When you first run SS, you should see a dialog, and it's important to agree to these things. 

Regardless of whether you remember the dialog(s) and what your answer was, you can always grant the necessary permission with a checkbox or two.

You need to go to System Preferences > Security and Privacy > Privacy > Automation

Thursday 10 June 2021

First Apple Silicon (ARM / M1) builds of our apps

Late to the party, I know. Being at the cutting edge has never been in our mission statement, and no problems have been reported with our apps running on Big Sur under Rosetta (Good job Apple).

This was the first attempt at building Integrity as a UB (which contains native binaries for ARM and Intel based Macs). Of course it was going to be more efficient but I didn't realise just how much faster this would run as a native app on one of the new machines.

The UB versions of Integrity, Integrity Plus, Integrity Pro and Scrutiny are all available on their home pages. They are still in testing and the previous known-stable versions are there too, but all seems fine so far. 

Tuesday 1 June 2021

What's happened to Hue-topia?

The Hue-topia Mac app goes back to November 2013. To be frank, it has been in a vicious cycle of very little interest / therefore very few updates, and has not kept up with changes from Philips such as additions to their API and dropping of support for the v1 (round) bridge.

From the start, Hue-topia had its own interface concepts which it shared with LIFXstyle. These didn't always align with the concepts of the Hue system. Therefore HT was doing a lot of conversion / bridging. This led to a lot of unnecessary complexity and inconsistency within the app,

Hue-topia version 4 is a new version for 2021 and way more of an overhaul than it may appear from the interface.  It is intended to be more of an interface with your bridge, and have concepts which align with the Hue system.

Key changes include:

  • Presets are now Scenes. The scenes list is a nice way to control your lights (click to select a scene appropriate for the mood or time of day, using manual controls for creating those scenes). HT4 allows you to add your own photograph / icon to represent a scene.
  • Uses newer additions to Philips' API, such as 'localtime' rather than 'time'. These changes tend to make HT less complex and more likely to work as expected.
  • Sunrise and Sunset functionality used to be managed pretty heavily by HT. It calculated times using your location, allowed you to select from the various definitions of sunset/sunrise, and could regularly update scheduled times on the bridge accordingly. Now the Hue Bridge has its own daylight functionality with configurable offsets and it's more appropriate to make use of that. (not yet implemented in the v4 beta).
  • Support for sensors. The motion sensor, besides detecting motion and having a little configurability, also has a temperature sensor which can be viewed in HT4.
  • Effects and the effects designer are no longer a feature of Hue-topia. We feel it's more appropriate for this functionality to form a separate app, which we'll do if people ask.
Version 4 is just about ready for beta. ie most of the functionality (that's intended for v4.0) is there but is in the testing / fixing stage. It'll be freely available for public testing very shortly. 

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Loading files onto RC2014 from Mac

Background: the RC2014 is a Z80-based homebrew computer. I love programming 8-bit computers in Forth, Assembly, sometimes even BASIC.

The ROM I use allows me to select basic/monitor/cpm at startup, I almost always use CP/M. There's a CF card there in the middle of the computer.

Getting files onto that card is the issue. My computer won't read that card natively. There are tools for mounting the card, and for sending a file to the RC2014 via the terminal but I've not been able to get anything working on my Mac yet.

The methods that I've used from the start involve pasting an IHX file in using Hexload or SCM, which load the file into the computer's memory, or a PKG file together with the DOWNLOAD utility which stores the file in the current drive on the CF card.

This requires an easy way to convert the source file to IHX or PKG. Fortunately this isn't too difficult. Those formats just encode the data as hex characters (along with some checksumming / formatting etc).

Here's my little utility. The Open button allows you to choose your source file via a file browser. 

When I develop for the RC2014, I'm obviously changing my source file frequently (ie my built binary, .COM or .BIN, or as here, a forth source with extension .F) so the reload button allows me to simply reload the same file with a single click.

In these screenshots, I'm choosing to convert to PKG, which begins with the DOWNLOAD instruction. It's obviously important to have DOWNLOAD in A: on your storage device (This may not work with RC2014 ZED computers). The button labelled 'Out Ext' simply chooses the extension that the file will have when saved. (When I build assembly source, it ends up with .bin extension, but I need it to be .COM when transferred over to the RC2014).

So having chosen the right options and 'Open'ed the file, the converted file is displayed in a text field ready to be copied and pasted. For pasting over to the RC2014, make sure that the terminal is set to make a small delay between characters (as always when pasting). And switch to the drive where you want to save the file. Here's that file being 'pasted' into my F: drive on the RC2014:

Here's the same file, with IHX chosen as the conversion format. This type of file is suitable for loading directly into memory using the Hexload utility on the RC2014, or the SCM (small computer monitor).
This time the 'Start' memory address comes into play. With CP/M this will always be $100. 

My utility is not very polished, as is the way with things that you make for yourself. But if this will help you, I've signed and notarized it and you can download it here. It's built to run on MacOS 10.14 upwards. 

Let me know if this is useful to you, or if you have any comments / suggestions.  or leave a comment below.

Tuesday 23 March 2021

Mac graphic user interface (GUI) application for TL866 programmer (minipro wrapper)

I can't believe that no-one has done this already but as far as I can see, we Mac users have to use the command-line when using our TL866 programmers.

That's absolutely fine; the man page exists, is short and easy to understand.  Purely to save myself from trying to remember what options I need to use, or last used*,  I've built GUMP (Graphic User-interface for MiniPro) which is just a wrapper for the minipro command**

It's pretty basic and a bit clunky, it just allows Read (save contents to file), Write and Verify with a few checkboxes for some of the minipro options. 

In time, I'll add anything that I will personally find useful and maybe build a 'hexedit' viewer into this app (in the screenshot it's my hexedit-style app Peep which is displaying the contents of the ROM, as saved to a file by GUMP.)

I'm throwing this out there so that if anyone else is interested in having this, I'll tidy it up a bit and make it publicly available. (Comment below or contact me using the usual channels.)

* or having to type the string somewhere and then trying to remember where I saved it

** which you need to install separately. However, if you already have homebrew, this is as simple as: 

brew install minipro

Monday 22 March 2021

Review of Hue motion sensors and possible Integration into Hue-topia for Mac

I first made Hue-topia and LIFXstyle some years ago after becoming very paranoid (justifiably) about intruders. 

At the time, no sensors existed for the system (at least as consumer products - Philips went with the zigbee network system, which in theory means that there were other third-party products that would work). I experimented with sound and motion detection using EyeSpy cameras, which worked. The security aspects of Hue-topia and LIFXstyle were the reason for the dragon icon (someone asked this question recently).

Both Philips and LIFX added products to their range - more bulbs, switches, sensors. I had to purchase any products I wanted to support, which would have cost more than the revenue from the apps. For this reason I stuck to supporting only the lights in my apps.

This is the reason that I'm very late to the party with the motion sensor, and I have to be honest, wanting an outside temperature reading is the main reason I went for one. 

Yes, each Philips motion sensor, despite the name, also contains a thermometer and possibly daylight sensor (though I've a feeling this may be calculated by the bridge and not a sensor, but I can't go back in time and check whether this pre-existed my first motion sensor).

Anyhow. Thanks to Philips' open API and REST interface, it's very simple to read these sensor values. As you can see in the first screenshot I've added a little functionality to Hue-topia (in my development version thus far). I can now see the outside temperature* from the status bar of any of my computers/laptops.

I have to say that adding my first motion sensor to my network was a breeze. A magnetic mount makes it very easy to put up (and take down to change the battery). It's a tiny thing, which makes it discreet. It's battery-powered which was important to me. The last thing you need is another thing to plug into a socket.  Having to route wires is a pain and restricts where you can place it.   When I pulled the tab to connect the battery it started to flash, which seemed to indicate that it was searching.  I chose 'Discover' in Hue-topia and the flashing stopped. It was then working on the network without me even having to walk to the bridge and press a button. I obviously have yet to discover how long the batteries (2xAAA I think) last. 

Traditionally and personally I've leaned towards the LIFX system; the bulbs were brighter and did more colours*. I have to say that, many years on and many bulbs later, I own more broken LIFX bulbs than Hue bulbs (3:1). As well as this apparent better reliability, the Hue bridge is a good thing. Yes, it's an extra product to buy and give space (and a power socket) to. LIFX use 'bridgeless' as a selling point. But the Hue bridge does have a lot of functionality and is always on, more reliable and maintenance-free than my 'always on' mac. After moving house, the Hue bulbs have been easier to get working again than my LIFX bulbs and strips.

In short I'm warming to the Hue system and I'm liking the motion sensors a lot. My rule for switching the porch light on when motion is detected is working really well*. Its sensitivity seems just right, it seems to talk to the bridge reliably even though they are at opposite ends of the house and the sensor is outside (I seem to remember that the hue/zigbee system is a mesh, so the bulbs themselves may be serving as relays). 

At this point I'm not sure how much of the 'rule' functionality I'm going to build into Hue-topia. Philips seem to have the 'formula' system sewn up into their mobile app. I've been using the built-in debug tool to add and edit my own rules (because I don't personally like cloud-based systems). Once they're set up, they're set up and it'll probably be only groups and scenes that I need to edit, so I suspect that building a 'rule builder' into HT would be a lot of work which would be of interest to very few people. Tell me if I'm wrong. 

I may well release a little update that puts any temperatures detected into the status bar menu.

* I have read that this may be a degree or two out (I don't have a reliable thermometer here to calibrate mine) but it's a very simple matter to adjust this in software. I'll probably add a box in Preferences so that the user can enter "-1.2" or whatever

*I think some of the 'friends of hue' range did the full range of colours, but in the early days, the domestic-style Hue bulbs had a limited colour space. Green was weak and blue almost non-existent. I haven't tried more recently-produced bulbs. To be objective, I probably only sweep the colour range when showing off to friends and family. Other than Halloween parties or effects lighting, I can't see a use for a strong green or strong blue. In normal use I find that I like to use the Hue colour bulbs in 'white' mode, which gives you a spectrum from cold to very warm. That's all you really need in a domestic setting.

*switching off after a period of being on is not.  I suspect that this may be because the porch light illuminates an area that can be seen by the sensor (which is part of the point) and so switching it off may be triggering it to come on again. I need to experiment more with this.

Friday 19 March 2021

Album art lookup using MusicBrainz - experimental free app

ScreenSleeves generally receives the album cover  art from whatever music player you're using (Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes and many others).

There are cases where it doesn't. For example when listening to an internet radio stream using certain apps, often only the artist and track name are provided. 

ScreenSleeves has traditionally had the option to look up album art online where necessary. (In fact, it had the option to *always* look up art online when using Snowtape, because the method SS used was more likely to produce the correct art than Snowtape itself.)

ScreensSleeves has used Gracenote for a few years. GN is a firmly commercial operation but they allowed me (with the actual number of requests capped) to use the service for free.  At some point recently that lookup service seems to have unceremoniously stopped. My account doesn't exist any more and there's no longer any information about the lookup / API. (Often the way when you make use of 3rd-party services.) A quick Google shows that software and even hardware that made use of CDDB for CD information no longer works since a certain date. 

MusicBrainz is a much more open music database. They allow free non-commercial use. I have discussed Screensleeves with them and come to an arrangement which allows SS to perform the necessary lookups when necessary. 

This is a good solution. I have some old and obscure albums that it doesn't have artwork for, and even the odd album that it doesn't even have in the database (I must learn how to contribute to the database). However, the search works beautifully and when the artwork is available it's very good quality. 

With this up and running in the development version of Screensleeves,  I was impressed with the quality of the artwork and wanted a way to simply perform a lookup and save the cover for my own use in iTunes.  (My personal media server uses an old version of MacOS and iTunes, because when something works I like it to remain the way it is, rather than changing at the whim of the maker.)

I've built an interface around the MusicBrainz cover art lookup that I'd written for ScreenSleeves and this is the result. 

The download is here (well done for finding it. At this point I won't publish it on the main site or anywhere else). 

If this interests you, please let me know in the comments or by email. Other apps are available but they do tend to integrate with your iTunes/Music library rather than simply allowing you to save the artwork and do what you like with it.

Friday 5 February 2021

HTML validation of an entire website

Version 10 of Scrutiny and Integrity Pro contain  built-in html validation. This means that they can make some important checks on every page as they crawl. 

It's enabled by default but can be switched off (with very large sites it can be useful to switch off features that you don't need at the time, for reasons of speed or resources).

Simply scan the site as normal. When it's finished, the task selection screen contains "Warnings: HTML validation and other warnings >"
(NB Integrity Pro differs here, it doesn't have the task selection screen above, but a 'Warnings' tab in its main tabbed view.)

Warnings can be filtered, sorted and exported. If there's a type of warning that you don't need to deal with right now, you can "hide warnings like this" temporarily or until the next scan. (Right-click or ctrl-click for context menus.)

The description of the warning contains a line number and/or url where appropriate / possible.

In addition, links are coloured orange (by default) in the link-check results tables if there are warnings. Traditionally, orange meant a redirection, and it still does, but other warnings now colour that link orange. A double-click opens the link inspector and the warnings tab shows any reason(s) for the orange colouring.  Note that while the link inspector is concerned with the link url, many of these warnings will apply to the target page of the link url.

The full list of potential warnings (to date) is at the end of this post. We're unsure whether this list will ever be as comprehensive as the w3c validator, and unsure whether it should be.  At present it concentrates on many common and important mistakes; the ones that have consequences.

Should you wish to run a single page through the w3c validator,  that option still exists in the context menu of the SEO table (the one table that lists all of your pages.  The sitemap table excludes certain pages for good reasons.)

Full list of possible html validation warnings (so far):

unclosed div, p, form
extra closing div, p, form
extra closing a
p within h1/h2...h6
h1/h2...h6 within p
more than one doctype / body
no doctype / html / body /
no closing body / html
unterminated / nested link tag 
script tag left unclosed
comment left unclosed
end p with open span
block level element XXX cannot be within inline element XXX  (currently limited to div/footer/header/nav/p  within a/script/span  but will be expanded to recognise more elements )
'=' within unquoted src or href url
link url has mismatched or missing end quotes
image without alt text. (This is an accessibility, html validation and SEO issue. The full list of images without alt text can also be found in Scrutiny's SEO results.)
more than one canonical
more than one opening html tag
Badly nested <form> and <div>
Form element can't be nested
hanging comma at end of src list (w3 validator reports this as "empty image-candidate string")
more than one meta description is found in the head

warnings that are not html validation:

Type mismatch: Type attribute in html is xxx/yyy, content-type given in server response is aaa/bbb
The server has returned 429 and asked us to retry after a delay of x seconds
a link contains an anchor which hasn't been found on the target page
The page's canonical url is disallowed by robots.txt
link url is disallowed by robots.txt
The link url is a relative link with too many '../' which technically takes the url above the root domain.
(if 'flag blacklisted' option switched on) The link url is blacklisted by a blacklist / whitelist rule. (default is off)   With this option on, the link is coloured red in the link views, even if warnings are totally disabled.