Category: Announcements


Permalink 10:56:48 am, by sarneil, 129 words, 20 views   English (CA)
Categories: Announcements; Mins. worked: 90

BOM in htaccess file

I was creating an htaccess file to restrict access to a folder on I used BBedit to create the file. It's configurations said it was not include a Byte Order Mark in the file (i.e. encoding was set to UTF-8, and not UTF-8 with BOM). When I uploaded the file to the server and accessed it in the browser I got an internal server error. Sysadmin checked logs and told me there was a BOM (\xef\xbb\xbf) at the start of the file. That did not appear in BBEdit (even with Show Invisibles enabled). I opened the file in Nano and no BOM was visible in that editor either. I deleted the file and retyped it from scratch in Nano, and that worked.


Permalink 01:45:12 pm, by Greg, 219 words, 24 views   English (CA)
Categories: Announcements; Mins. worked: 0

Changes in local Debian package build system

In the past I have generated local Debian packages on my workstation and uploaded them to the apt server.
Recently I moved them to the apt server itself so packages can be updated remotely if need be.
The build script is basically a fancy wrapper around a pretty standard debian build method. It downloads upstream code (like for oxygen) and re-packages it, as well as building meta packages and a config package that is site-specific.
I am currently building the following packages:

  1. hcmc-desktop - a meta package that installs packages we use like java, fonts, ssh, subversion, etc.

  2. hcmc-conf - a configuration package that includes a collection of scripts/files that set up a machine for use in our lab. This includes everything from setting JAVA_HOME and mimelists (for oXygen etc.) to auto-configuring hostname, default skel and firefox profiles.

  3. hcmc-auth-sssd - this installs and configures SSSD, which we use for LDAP authentication on our machines. It's a separate package from hcmc-conf for practical reasons.

  4. hcmc-oxygen - this is a repackaging of the oXygen XML editor for deployment in our labs. Doing this way allows easy upgrades.

  5. hcmc-style - basically just look-and-feel stuff such as wallpaper, theme, icons, and colour-schemes that I like.

The script finishes by invoking reprepro to ingest the package and offer it via apt install.


Permalink 12:24:58 pm, by Greg, 84 words, 230 views   English (CA)
Categories: Announcements; Mins. worked: 0

Mimetypes on lab machines

If you've tried to open a local html file on the lab machines, you may have noticed that it opens in oxygen. This is a mistake. I've made an adjustment in the next version of the hcmc-desktop package to fix this, but for existing accounts you'll need to remove a file in your home directory to reset things. The file is at:
Once deleted, log out and back in, and you will get the default settings for the machine.


Permalink 12:38:43 pm, by Greg, 164 words, 220 views   English (CA)
Categories: Documentation, Announcements; Mins. worked: 0

Nougat on tablet

CyanogenMod has been replaced by LineageOS, and there is an unofficial Nougat ROM available.
To install it, hold the power, volume up AND volume down buttons simultaneously until you see the Google boot logo, then release the buttons.
Once you see the little droid dude lying down with his guts open, use the power button to select Recovery Mode and boot the tablet in to TWRP.

Once in TWRP, plug it in to your computer. It should find the tablet and mount it. Copy the zip file containing the ROM to the root of the drive (labelled 'Internal Storage'). Also copy in any other stuff that you can/must flash (like GApps).

In TWRP, select 'Install' and choose the ROM zip file and use the slider to indicate that you're serious.
Once flashed, run the 'Clear Dalvik cache' and go 'up' and run the install again, this time on the GApps image.
You should be able to boot in to the new OS now.


Permalink 10:39:28 am, by Greg, 260 words, 198 views   English (CA)
Categories: Announcements; Mins. worked: 0

Linux desktop power user tip

If you want to change the icon of a specific folder/file for some reason, you need to edit the gvfs metadata that is stored in a binary file.
This can be done using built-in gvfs methods like the following:

To get the current, custom icon value
# gvfs-info -a metadata::custom-icon ~/Desktop/foo (file:///home/yournamehere/Desktop/foo also works)

To set a custom icon
# gvfs-set-attribute ~/Desktop/foo metadata::custom-icon file:///usr/share/icons/Humanity/places/48/folder-music.svg

To reset icon to stock
# gvfs-set-attribute ~/Desktop/foo -t unset metadata::custom-icon

Unlike .desktop files, you cannot refer to a canonical FreeDesktop-type icon. You must use an explicit path to the icon you want to use.
NOTE: in a .desktop file you can ref the icon like ICON=folder-open and you'll get the icon theme's icon for folder-open. This icon will change with the theme.

Show other editable attributes for a file
gvfs-info -w ~/Desktop/foo

Which will return something like this
Settable attributes:
standard::symlink-target (bytestring)
time::access (uint64, Keep with file when moved)
time::access-usec (uint32, Keep with file when moved)
time::modified (uint64, Copy with file, Keep with file when moved)
time::modified-usec (uint32, Copy with file, Keep with file when moved)
unix::gid (uint32, Keep with file when moved)
unix::mode (uint32, Copy with file, Keep with file when moved)
unix::uid (uint32, Keep with file when moved)
Writable attribute namespaces:
metadata (string, Copy with file, Keep with file when moved)
xattr (string, Copy with file, Keep with file when moved)
xattr-sys (string, Keep with file when moved)


Permalink 04:18:40 pm, by sarneil, 16 words, 123 views   English (CA)
Categories: Announcements; Mins. worked: 0

Research assistant stations operational in new lab space

The migration of ten workstations from the old lab space to the new one is complete.


Permalink 09:34:14 am, by sarneil, 42 words, 125 views   English (CA)
Categories: Announcements; Mins. worked: 0

New HCMC website launched in Cascade

The latest incarnation of the HCMC website has been launched at On Monday, we will implement redirects from URLs pointing to the old site (i.e. about seven subdirectories of the form


Permalink 04:19:54 pm, by sarneil, 84 words, 548 views   English (CA)
Categories: Announcements; Mins. worked: 15

Google map in cascade site and OAC

May be of use for departmental sites and project sites. Web coordinator pointed to use of google map with location points at

based on using a map in a google account, as described here:

She also said that embedding iframes in a cascade page is not a problem.
Previous communication with systems people indicate embedding iframes is a problem in OAC online academic community wordpress instance.


Permalink 09:55:54 am, by Greg, 523 words, 2893 views   English (CA)
Categories: Notes, Documentation, Announcements; Mins. worked: 0

Thunderbird + Lightning + Exchange calendar plugin

To get Thunderbird working with UVic's Exchange calendar you need to have a version of Thunderbird that incorporates the fix for sending passwords in the clear - this means at least v43. There is a version 44 beta out right now that works quite well, so I went through the process of documenting how I got things going. This also works with v45, which was just made available on the PPA.


  1. Add the PPA and install/upgrade in the usual apt-get way.

  2. download Lightning plugin - note Thunderbird version requirements for each version

  3. download the Ericsson exchangecalendar plugin - currently v3.6-beta1

Email account settings
Account settings->Server settings
Server name:, port 993
Connection security: SSL/TLS
Authentication method: Normal password
Outgoing server (smtp):, port 465
Outgoing server connection security: SSL/TLS
Outgoing server authentication method: Normal password

Configure calendar

  1. Click the 'Switch to the calendar tab' button (top-right) to view your local calendar (called 'Home').

  2. Add new calendar by right-clicking below your 'Home' calendar, and choose 'New Calendar'. Select 'On the network' for location.

  3. Select 'Microsoft Exchange 2007/2010/2013' for format, then name the calendar.

  4. Check the 'Hosted Exchange' option, not the 'Office 365' option.

  5. Check 'Use Exchange's autodiscovery function. Fill in Username (Netlink ID) and Domain (UVIC). Click 'Perform autodiscovery'. You should be challenged for a password.

  6. If you got this far you'll be asked to choose an EWS server. I only got one to choose from:

We have a shared calendar for vacations and so forth. To share a calendar, log in to the account that owns the calendar (through OWS) and right-click the calendar you want to share, and choose 'Share calendar'. In the dialogue that appears, add the email address of the person you want to share with (note that this can only be a UVic email address). It will send an email to this person that has an XML attachment. They can create a new calendar based on the information included in this attachment.

Add shared calendar

  1. The email that the share recipient gets has an XML file attached (called 'shared_metadata.xml'). It contains two things we need: SmtpAddress, which is the email address of the person that shared the calendar; and FolderId, which is a very long string (hex?). These are XML elements, and we only need the text values, nothing else.

  2. Add a new calendar as above, but in the 'Primary email address' field, use the email address of the person that shared the calendar - not yours.

  3. Use your Netlink ID in the 'Username' field.

  4. In the 'Share folder Id' field, add the hex value of the FolderId element (from the shared_metadata.xml file).

That should be it. I've had no trouble with this setup, other than being unable to see nested folders - but this problem has been there for ages. For example, I have a folder for the Humanist list that I've placed inside a 'Lists' parent folder. Thunderbird shows me the Lists folder, but not the Humanist folder. This is true for all folders more than one layer deep.


Permalink 01:10:23 pm, by Greg, 328 words, 919 views   English (CA)
Categories: Activity log, Announcements; Mins. worked: 240

Dell monitor RMA

My Dell U2412Mb monitor has been acting up for a while now: dark corner and flickering. The problem was temporarily resolved by power-cycling but the issue always came back, usually after going in to power-saving mode. The other day, though, I decided to RMA it.

As I understand it, we have 'pro' support, which is supposed to make this kind of process simple and quick. However, it was stereotypically bad in reality:
- Lots of different people pass you from one office to another, making you wait on-hold for at least a few minutes each.
- You finally speak with someone that will help (which may or may not be 'Basic Warranty Support' - it's very difficult to be certain, but it *definitely* wasn't Pro Support) and you go through a diagnostic exercise, followed by a proof-of-purchase test (send proof-of-purchase by email - and wait for 15 minutes for the email to arrive in the inbox of tech support). In the end, you've spent half a day sorting things out.

Next step; I will receive an empty box in 1 or 2 days, and I will place my failing monitor in the box and send it off. It should take 7 to 10 days to get to a Dell depot. At this point, I don't know what kind of turn-around I'm looking at, but I have to imagine that it will be at least a few days - maybe 10. I suspect that I will be without my monitor for at least 3 weeks.

I had heard that the process is relatively painless (because Pro-Support FTW!), ending in another monitor being shipped immediately (that is, before I sent my failing monitor). As it turns out, the process was excruciating - in the last two days I have spent about 4hrs to get to this point. And I still have to ship/receive/set-up/tear-down before I'm done.

A conservative estimate of the cost of me handling this is roughly $300. The monitor cost $297 before tax.

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This blog is the location for all work involving software and hardware maintenance, updates, installs, etc., both routine and urgent, in the server room, the labs and the R&D rooms.


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