Web Access Key guidelines for the UK

While reading up on some Web-accessibility matters, I found that there were guidelines on the Cabinet Office site for such things in an effort to keep the UK consistent.

Although it is for public sector and service-based sites, it at least helps in making sure that any accessible areas of a site that you create will not seem alien to a first-time visitor.

Using the RTSP Protocol with the PHP header function

I had a great deal of trouble getting Internet Explorer to redirect the header to a RTSP link using the header function in PHP.

I found that in IE, I would get a HTTP 402 error (page has been temporarily moved). IE would happily sit there and tell me it could not be found.

Firefox was a little more robust and displayed a page which resolved an alternatve link – “Object Moved” gracing the page and a link to the rtsp link. This would also automatically open the link in Firefox.

Thankfully, I found the answer on the Jalix PHP manual.

I think that the idea is to generate a RAM-style link to the RTSP protocol rather than redirecting directly to it:

Header ("Pragma: ");
Header ("Cache-Control: ");
Header ("Expires: ");
Header ("Content-Type: audio/x-pn-realaudio");

# insert DB code here
print "rtsp://host.com:554/$filename";

That should happily create a working link to the RTSP transport.

And to Schu, yes – that saved me loads of time.

My Top 3 People – Part I

Today, I find myself disillusioned once again by what I can only describe as one of the unholy trinity of man’s great unforgiving roles.

If you happen to know me, then you probably know that I have rated my ‘Top 3 Most Hated Group of People’, and will quite happily let you know them and tell you why.

Today, I’ll cover exactly why I have an immense dislike for delivery couriers.

Easily a contender for the top spot, let’s take a look at why I (and numerous other people) feel a deep-seeded loathing of these people.

  • They have an uncanny knack for turning up to deliver something at the 2-minute interval you whizzed around the corner for a pint of milk, after waiting indoors all day
  • They have a policy of ‘reasonable effort’ to make a delivery. For instance, if you haven’t answered the door after the courier has waved at you from the van while passing by, then that’s your problem. The courier has made a reasonable effort to deliver the package.
  • When I pay for an AM delivery, then the delivery is sometimes bumped to the day after I expected it because they can’t deliver it by AM on the day that it is due
  • If you’ve paid for a specific ‘by’ delivery time (eg. by 10am), the courier can still turn up late. This is true, a delivery for 10am turned up at 10:55. I asked why he was late, and he said the consignment has a time of 10 – and he wasn’t late!
    So although I thought I was paying for a pre-10am delivery, I was actually paying for a pre – or post – 10am delivery. Bargain!
  • They never follow instructions left on site at the delivery address. Eg. “Please deliver to rear entrance” does not mean “Please shove a parcel under the neighbour’s caravan” or “Read this sign – ignore it and knock on the door – be surprised that no-one is here and bugger off.”
  • They use archaic language where the word ‘fragile’ literally means ‘extremely bouncy ball’.

So, in a nutshell, that is why I can’t get along with couriers. The companies are quite happy to provide a poor customer service because they are banking on two things: The sender and the recipient. Because the sender is person paying for the service, they are quite happy to send out the goods knowing that the goods should be delivered on time and with care. The recipient on the otherhand, hasn’t paid the courier squat (well, not directly) and doesn’t have a leg to stand on when he or she complains.

The sad thing is that (and I gurantee this), if you ever need something on time for a specific purpose, that’s time-critical, and you pay more for that service – it’s bound to go horribly wrong.

Just remember, if you ever need to order an AM delivery – make sure you specifiy which AM!

Carols and Karaoke

Christmas is fast approaching and it seems that the inevitable wash of carol singers is being deposited on my doorstep.

With Christmas being what Christmas is nowadays, the opportunity to put yourself in a nice little money-making enterprise called ‘Carol Singing’ must be appealing to any child / teenager. It fits in nicely with the commercialism values that seem to plague our lives at every opportunity at this time of year.

And before shouts of ‘Scrooge!’ And bags of humbugs are catapulted in my direction, let’s just consider this. Who wouldn’t be frustrated by people pulled away from family dinner only to find some kid or thug standing there with arms outstretched while singing an off-key version of ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’? It’s as though I’m expected to pay people for the privilege of having my evening interrupted. Furthermore, the reason I find myself parting with cash is not because of the fine rendition of this Christmas classic – but because I want to get rid of them and stop wasting my time.

My wife came up with a good solution. “Just ask them what charity they’re collecting for,” She said to me. And sure enough, the first time she asked the question this year her response was “Errrrrrrr. The blind?” Yeah, right!

So then it’s a matter of asking to see their charity badge or collection box, and needless to say – neither item is particularly forthcoming.

Even so, I still come away with a feeling of guilt. Have I failed to enter into the Christmas spirit? Probably. But let’s face facts, I don’t expect to get value for money from doorstep carol singers, but I would at least like some effort made. Wasn’t there a time when groups of men and women would visit homes churning out classics such as ‘Good King Wencesles’ all for a good cause? I can almost hear the burly baritone men at the back now.

I suppose that more analysis into the value of a vertical market such as carol singing should be conducted. If quick-fix kids can make a mint or two, imagine the possibilities for new commercial ventures. Not just charities, advertising campaigns for various chains could really give that ‘wow’ factor. Imagine opening your door on a snowy evening to find yourself faced with some Craig David-wannabes singing ‘Ba Ba Ba Ba Baaaaaaaa. I’m Lovin’ It!’ And then wandering off without wanting cash. Ronald McDonald could make a killing.

So that just leaves me wondering what to do with all of those freeloading carol singers that are in it to make a quick buck without checking if they can actually sing. With the dirge that I’ve heard lately there seems only one solution. Round them up and shove them all in a karaoke bar.

In the meantime, I’ll probably have to print out a sign telling carol singers to go away if they aren’t collecting for charity. How festive!

reg.ini for Citrix ICA Clients on Linux Thinstation Systems

Using PXE booting thin clients is a great way to centrally manage a wide variety of hardware that you may find around a site.

Working on this principle, I’ve found that Thinstation is an excellent administrator’s tool for building custom thin client stations that can easily be deployed around a network with relative ease.

At some point, I plan to write a guide for setting up the whole system for *gasp* a Windows administrator who has little knowledge of Linux.

In the meantime, for those ahead, I’ve found that it is nice to be able to deploy the reg.ini for Citrix ICA. This is handy if you need to preconfigure the ICA Client. The reg.ini file stores data such as the location of the NFuse server configuration files for the PNAgent, default username and domain details and various other settings.

First of all, run the Citrix ICA client on a machine where you can easily access the file system. Once you have it set as you like (for instance, opening on the PNAgent screen with present domain settings), copy the reg.ini file from /home/user/.ICAClient/reg.ini (user is the username on the system).

Right then.

  • Log on to your Linux system and cd to the thinstation build directory
  • Copy the reg.ini file to packages/ica/lib/ICAClient/config
  • edit the file packages/etc/init.d/ica.init file and add the following lines of code to the start:
    mkdir $HOME/.ICAClient
    cp /usr/lib/ICAClient/config/reg.ini $HOME/.ICAClient/reg.ini

This is slightly modified from Phillippe Millette’s example, as the $ICA_TMP variable does not seem set on Thinstation 2.2.

Rebuild your thinstation image and you should have a pre-configured ICA Client.

IE6 and IE7 Running on a Single Machine

IEBlog : IE6 and IE7 Running on a Single Machine
I know that this is indeed old news, but I thought it’s worth of a mention for my collegues.

There is a free Virtual PC image of Windows XP SP2 with IE6 installed. This is for developers who would like to use IE6 and IE7 side by side.

It times out on 1st April 2007, but there will be another available at the time.

I’m not fantastically keen on having to keep a virtual machine running just for IE6, but at least the IE team have gone to the trouble of keeping the weight of the system to a minimum by stopping unnecessary services.