18 Jan 2010

Looking after your Siamese Fighter (betta)

‘Snoopy’, a Siamese fighter or betta was my very first exposure to tropical fish, probably more than 10 years ago. I purchased him out of one of those shameful setups where they showcase the attractive colours of several betta on the shelf top, each in their own tot glass worth of water. While this issue is not the central focus of my post I would like to encourage anyone who is considering a betta purchase to rescue one of these poor chaps from a similar scenario. Sure, betta can survive the harsh conditions of small volumes of water and lack of heating but they will be much happier in a proper aquarium setup. Betta are hardy little buggers and this makes them fairly easy to care for, it doesn’t mean that they warrant less care than any other tropical fish.


I was recently presented with the opportunity of a fresh aquarium setup and embraced the chance to revisit my betta days. I diligently prepared with some fresh betta research (I had Google and the www this time after all) and was quickly reminded of the same old betta FAQs:

Betta FAQ 1: Can I cycle my tank with a betta?
Betta FAQ 2: Can I keep other fish with my betta?
Betta FAQ 3: What should I feed my betta?

… which I hope to contribute to with my experience and hopefully shed some light on now.

Question 1: Can I cycle my tank with a betta?

The short answer is yes, you can. I popped my new betta, ‘Blue’ as the first fish into his new home (my trusty JEBO R338) and he was happy from the word go. I just ran the tank for a good two weeks (until the water cleared) before introducing Blue and then fed him just once a day for the first month or so.

The long answer is that cycling a tank with fish can be very stressful for the fish, so water changes and careful monitoring are a must! Overfeeding is never good, but you must take special care not to introduce excess food into the tank during the tank cycle. There is also unfortunately no guarantee that any fish will make it through a tank cycle alive.


Question 2: Can I keep other fish with my betta?

The short answer is yes again. However, you should stick to these guidelines.

Do not keep brightly coloured fish with your Betta. I would peg it at a 90% chance that he will chase them and injure them, even if he doesn’t harass them all the time. If you must have other fish in addition to your betta, rather add fairly plain (non-agressive) fish or fish that do not generally stick to the same parts of the tank that he does.

I followed the ‘advice’ of an arbitrary forum post that I found on the internet and tried to house a school of Cardinals with my betta. He paid no attention to the new school at first, but a few days later I noticed that 2 had disappeared, and then I spotted one without an eye… Blue had been ‘hunting’ them during the night. I quickly rescued the survivors to the fish tank at work where they now live happily with a bunch of harmless Platies.

Having said that, Blue never bugged the Corydoras, Otocinclus cat (they were never in his way) or Ghost glass cat fish that I placed with him in the end (I don’t think he could see them for their transparency). So you just need to exercise some care when placing additional fish with your betta and consider question 3 at the same time.


Question 3: What should I feed my betta?

Most local fish shops will happily sell you just a box of ordinary fish flakes when you purchase a betta, with not an ounce of further advice. But you need to know that betta have temperamental digestive tracts and they get ‘clogged up’ if they are fed on fish flakes alone. You should vary your betta’s diet to include flakes, pellets and blood worms to stop problems from developing. As a side note, if your betta does become constipated, you can fast him for a day or two and then try and get him to eat some of the inside of a cooked pea (he won’t be able to digest the pea skin, you need to remove it), this will help to clear his system.

The question of feeding should also be elaborated on to include “How much should I feed my betta?”. Betta are greedy little fellas and they will over eat quite happily in the classic, clich├ęd fish way (and then beg for more). Your betta’s food intake should be monitored strictly by feeding him only as much as he can consume in about a minute, twice a day and even just once a day some days. Excess food should always be removed.

I need to highlight how this feeding issue now links back to question 2 – because betta are greedy little fish (and top feeders), they will often gobble up most food as it enters the tank. This makes it difficult to make sure that other fish in the tank are actually getting enough food without over feeding your betta. You could find yourself (as I did) regretting that you added additional fish to your tank - Blue unfortunately manged to eat himself sick and passed away. Looking back I would have to recommend that betta are kept in solitude to prevent over eating. Though you may find that you could keep some bottom feeders (such as corydoras) along with your betta quite happily as long as you fed them specially formulated bottom feeder food that your betta will not be able to just gobble as easily (this theory is untested).


However, I’m sure that there are exceptions to these rules as there always are – share them in the comments if you know of any :)

7 helpful Firefox add-ons for webmasters

My 7 step guide to being a more efficient webmaster with Firefox add-ons.

1. Shareaholic
Shareaholic makes it easy to add your newly generated content to all of your favourite social / bookmarking websites. Just customise the sites that you would like to include in the drop down menu for easy content submission, without losing your place on the web or forgetting to submit to any popular sharing services.


2. Autofill Forms

Link building and hence link submission is a full time job for a webmaster which amounts to very repetitive work. Autofill Forms allows you to save form profiles so that forms can be pre-populated just once with your details and then used repeatedly to save you from mind numbing and back (if not finger) breaking hours of typing in the same info.


3. Delicious Bookmarks

This add-on gives you access to your Delicious bookmarks directly from within Firefox. You can add to your online library of useful links easily and incentivise yourself to build your own knowledge base and contribute to the Delicious community as your valuable bookmarks will not be stuck on one machine. You won’t be set back if your PC goes down or you move jobs – simply continue to access your online resources as easily as ever.


4. LinkChecker

LinkChecker dutifully scans through all the links on a page and confirms their validity or highlights breakages in red, for peace of mind and fewer worries in the middle of the night.


5. Screengrab

Screengrab is great for saving the entire rendering of a web page or section of a web page as an image – useful for all kinds of applications / scenarios.


6. SearchStatus

SearchStatus provides numerous search engine related page stats for each page. Features I use the most include the Google pagerank and Alexa rank toolbars. SearchStatus also allows you to highlight nofollow links in red – this makes it easy to identify the kind of links that may be on offer from any given website.


7. Firebug

Most webmasters will know Firebug and it always deserves mention as an invaluable tool for inspecting elements by selection and experimenting with code on the fly, as well as displaying server requests and other helpful info.


3 Jan 2010

Reset your Asus EeePC 4G Surf (701) to original factory default settings



Note: the steps below apply to the first generation of EeePC (701) but some kind people have included instructions for some of the newer models in the comments below as well... If you are planning a factory reset of your EeePC I would recommend you consider upgrading the OS altogether. Otherwise, read on... Follow this procedure to restore your EeePC to the state it was in on the happy day you first unboxed it. Please note that this will erase any personal changes you have made and files that you have saved on your EeePC. To reiterate - Your EeePC will be completely reset to newly out of the box from the factory state and will reflect none of your personal settings or files. I hope you have your files backed up. Don't say I didn't warn you.
  • Press F2 while your EeePC is booting up to enter the bios
  • Press the right arrow key to enter the "Advanced" tab
  • Press the down arrow to highlight "OS Installation"
  • Press the + key to change the setting from "Finished" to "Start"
  • Press the right arrow key until you reach the "Exit" tab
  • Make sure that "Exit & Save Changes" is highlighted
  • Press Enter and then Enter again (OK) to accept changes
  • Now Press F9 while your EeePC is booting
  • Select "Restore Factory Settings" from the menu
  • Type 'Yes' to confirm followed by enter
Your EeePC will now revert to the fresh state it was in when you received it from the factory and the "first boot" settings wizard will be initiated at reboot. Don't forget to repeat the first few steps to set your "OS Installation" setting back to "Finished".

Use your mobile phone as a EeePC Linux Bluetooth Modem

Firstly, activate your cell phone’s Bluetooth and make it visible (you may need to refer to your cell phone’s manual).

Insert a USB Bluetooth adapter to provide your EeePC with Bluetooth functionality.

Now open a terminal window by holding down (ctrl)(alt)(t) and type:

  • sudo hciconfig hci0 up
  • sdptool search DUN
You should see similar output to that shown in the image above. If you don’t, there may be a problem with your phone/adapter - Make sure your phone isn’t paired with your Bluetooth headset etc…

This output displays your phone’s Bluetooth address (00:15:2A:27:33:58)and the channel that Dial up networking is available on (Channel 1 in this case). Take note of the Bluetooth address and channel.

Now type:

  • sudo nano /etc/bluetooth/hcid.conf
Ensure that the following lines are included and are not commented out (i.e. not preceeded by a ‘#’ character):


options {
autoinit yes;
security auto;
pairing multi;
passkey "222111";
}

device {
name "eeepc";
class 0x000000;
iscan enable;
pscan enable;
lm accept;
lp rswitch,hold,sniff,park;
discovto 0;
}

Most of these settings are okay by default, but we have specifically altered the “security”, “passkey”,”class” and “name” settings and added the “discovto” line.

Press (ctrl)(x) followed by (y) and then (enter) to overwrite the old file with the new changes.

Now type:

  • sudo nano /etc/bluetooth/rfcomm.conf

And make sure the following settings are as follows (not preceeded by a ‘#’):

Rfcomm0 {
bind yes;
device 00:15:2A:27:33:58; (BT address from sdptool output)
channel 1; (DUN channel from sdptool output)
comment "GPRS Connection";
}

Press (ctrl)(x) followed by (y) and then (enter) to overwrite the old file with the new changes. (BlackBerry users refer to my BlackBerry - Linux tethering post)

Type:

  • sudo nano /etc/ppp/peers/provider

Find the ‘/dev/modem’ line and edit it to ‘dev/rfcomm0’.
Also edit the ‘connect “/usr/sbin/chat –v –f /etc/chatscripts/pap –T *******”’ line to ‘connect “/usr/sbin/chat –v –f /etc/chatscripts/pap –T *99#”’ where *99# is your phone operators GPRS “dial command”.

Press (ctrl)(x) followed by (y) and then (enter) to overwrite the old file with the new changes.

Now type:

  • sudo rm -rf /var/lib/bluetooth/*
  • sudo /etc/init.d/dbus restart
  • sudo /etc/init.d/bluetooth restart
  • sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list

Add the following line to the sources.list file

  • deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian stable main non-free contrib

Press (ctrl)(x) followed by (y) and then (enter) to overwrite the old file with the new changes.

Now type:

  • sudo apt-get update
  • sudo apt-get install bluez-gnome

Press (y) to continue…

Once “bluez-gnome” has finished installing type:

  • sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list

Now comment the “deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian stable main non-free contrib” line by preceedint it with a ‘#’ (i.e. replace the line with ‘# deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian stable main non-free contrib’).

Press (ctrl)(x) followed by (y) and then (enter) to overwrite the old file with the new changes.

Now type:

  • bluetooth-applet


This should open a “red cross on a page” icon in your taskbar next to the time.

Now open a new terminal (ctrl)(alt)(t) and type:

  • sudo rfcomm connect 0 00:15:2A:27:33:58 1 (phone BT address followed by the channel from sdptool output)


Your phone will now ask you if you would like to pair with eeepc. Select yes and enter the pairing passkey ‘222111’ as entered in hcid.conf above.
At this point the bluetooth-applet icon will begin flashing, click it and enter the passkey ‘222111’.

Now to establish a GPRS internet connection, open a new terminal (ctrl)(alt)(t) and type:

  • sudo pon


Your phone will now connect to the internet via GPRS, giving you ultra mobile access.To kill your GPRS internet connection, open a new terminal (ctrl)(alt)(t) and type:

  • sudo poff


To automatically start Bluetooth every time you reboot your EeePC type:

  • sudo nano /usr/sbin/services.sh


Just above the last “#” in this file, insert:

  • sudo /etc/init.d/dbus start
  • sudo /etc/init.d/bluetooth start

Press (ctrl)(x) followed by (y) and then (enter) to overwrite the old file with the new changes.

Now, whenever you want to re-establish the connection, open a new terminal (ctrl)(alt)(t) and type:

  • sudo rfcomm connect 0 00:15:2A:27:33:58 1


Then open another terminal (ctrl)(alt)(t) and type:

  • sudo pon


“sudo poff” will disconnect your GPRS connection.

Install OpenArena on your EeePC for Quake like FPS linux gaming

Open Arena is the equivalent of open source quake 3. It’s quite impressive on the EeePC. If you want to try it out, open a terminal by holding down (ctrl)(alt)(t) and type:

  • sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list


add the following line to this file:

  • deb http://www.geekconnection.org/ xandros4 main

Press (ctrl)(x) followed by (y) and then (enter) to overwrite the old file with the new changes.

Back at the terminal type:

  • sudo apt-get update
  • sudo apt-get install openarena


Press “y” to install these packages without verification…

Once installation is complete, type:

  • openarena


Reboot if you get a “segmentation fault” and try again. But you should be thrown into the glory of open arena. Happy fragging!


Connect a bluetooth mouse to a Linux EeePC

Insert a USB Bluetooth adapter to provide your EeePC with Bluetooth functionality.

Then, open a terminal (ctrl)(alt)(t) and type:

  • sudo nano /usr/sbin/services.sh


Just above the last “#” in this file, insert:

  • sudo /etc/init.d/dbus start
  • sudo /etc/init.d/bluetooth start
  • hciconfig hci0 reset

Press (ctrl)(x) followed by (y) and then (enter) to overwrite the old file with the new changes. This will start Bluetooth every time you reboot your EeePC. Turn on the Bluetooth mouse and press its Bluetooth connect button, this should make its LED flash or something similar.

Now, open a terminal (ctrl)(alt)(t) and then type:

  • hcitool scan
This should find the Bluetooth mouse and display its Bluetooth address (00:12:5A:68:DA:71 in this case).

Now type:

  • sudo nano /etc/bluetooth/hcid.conf


Scroll to the end of the file and add the following:

device 00:12:5A:68:DA:71 {
name “Bluetooth Mouse”;
}

Where 00:12:5A:68:DA:71 is the Bluetooth address of your device.

Press (ctrl)(x) followed by (y) and then (enter) to overwrite the old file with the new changes.

type:

  • sudo /etc/init.d/bluetooth restart
  • sudo hidd –search
This will connect to your Bluetooth mouse and it should work now. However, to make it connect automatically at every boot, you need to still do the following, type:

  • sudo nano /etc/default/bluetooth


Change the following lines to the values displayed below

HIDD_ENABLED=1
HIDD_OPTIONS=”–master –-connect 00:12:5A:68:DA:71 –server

Where 00:12:5A:68:DA:71 is the Bluetooth address of your mouse.

Press (ctrl)(x) followed by (y) and then (enter) to overwrite the old file with the new changes.

Now reboot your EeePC and when it boots up you should have a working Bluetooth mouse!

Note: You may need to unplug your Bluetooth adapter and then plug it back in at reboot and then move your mouse to detect it properly.