Libre Office 5 Calc Paste Column Bug

For the as yet uninitiated, Libre Office is a freely available alternative to the popular Microsoft Office suite.

Now if you’re looking for Sharepoint, you’re in the wrong place.  But if you want a good word processor or spreadsheet application at a infinitely cheaper price (i.e. free!) then look no further.

However, we have come across a teensy weensy bug that’s a little bit frustrating – so we’re giving you the heads up now so you can avoid it.

When using Calc, Libre Office’s answer to Excel, you’ll probably find now and then that you want to copy a whole column and paste it over on another column.  Calc has the look and feel of Excel, so just as you would do there, you click the cell letter heading:

Once selected, you can then press CTRL + C (or right click, copy) to copy the column.  After you’ve done this, you’ll notice the familiar dancing dashed line around the area (in this case the column) that you’ve copied:

Now there are two ways you could approach the next step.  First you might select the first cell of the column where you want to move the data to:

But another way that will be familiar to many spreadsheet users is selecting the column itself – just as we did before we copied the last column, by clicking on the column header letter and selecting the whole target column:

But whatever you do, don’t do it!  Well the select part is OK, but if you’ve selected the whole of the target column as in the image above, do not, under any circumstances press CTRL – V (or paste) now!  Doing so will almost immediately crash Libre Office 5 Calc.  If you leave it a little longer, it may well even crash your computer.

So just to be safe, when copying one column to the other, make sure you use the first cell selection method and not the column selection method.

It’s a little bug and it’s a bit annoying if you do it accidentally (which hopefully after this heads up you won’t do now!).  Hopefully, it’ll be fixed in Libre Office 6 – we’ll let you know when we find out!

 

Too Many Authentication Failures – Filezilla

TFileZilla logorust me, we’ve all been there.

And yes, it is immensely frustrating.

Picture the scene – you’ve been good and decided to use key based SSH for securely transferring files between your servers and local machines.  You’ve disabled password access to shore up security even more.  You’re used to using passwords – but keyfiles are no biggie.

Until…

“Too many authentication failures”

Panic can certainly start to set in, particularly as Filezilla continues to try and connect when it’s clearly not going to work no matter how many times it tries!  You’re asking yourself why oh why it would attempt such a futile task.  But really, the only question you want answering is why its not working properly.

And usually, the solution is fairly simple.

Keys saved in Pageant

Pageant, or the PuTTy authentication agent, is a handy key repository used by not only the PuTTy SSH/Bash client but also other third party software – including Filezilla.

You load up your first key, go to Filezilla and all is OK.  For Now.  Maybe.

But you add a few more keys and bang, the sh*t has hit the fan.

What’s Up?

Or more like, what’s down?  And the answer to that question will be access to your server from your IP as you do your best imitation of a brute force attack.  Don’t panic though, there’s a fairly reasonable way around it.

Yes Pageant plays nicely with a few keys.  But Filezilla will try each one in order and any reasonably configured server will only allow a few attempts before it decides you are trying to brute force your way.

Fortunately, the answer is fairly simple…

Unfortunately, it means not using Pageant for Filezilla.

Filezilla Key Configuration

Although when you used Pageant and only had a couple of keys you didn’t have to do this and life seemed so much easier, for server / website admins with more than a few sites to manage, it’s more heartache than it’s worth.

You’ve probably got a site configured currently that looks a bit like this:

Head over to the Logon Type dropdown and you’ll notice a Keyfile option – give that a press:

Your password input box will disappear to be replaced by a key file input box:

Go ahead, click on ‘Browse…’ and select your key file.  Job done.

Next time you try to connect to your server, it’ll only try the appropriate key file preventing any pesky brute force look-a-like ‘attacks’ as you try to login.  Enter your key password and boom, you’re in!

Wifi Won’t Reconnect? You Need To Reset Your Network Adapter

OK, I feel like I’ve possibly lost some of you there – but don’t worry, all will become clear.  A common problem that arises with wireless networking (wifi) that many of us now use at home to connect to the Internet is sometimes the connection drops – usually at the most inconvenient time.  Like the time you just clicked the big ‘Pay’ button and you’re wondering if the request made it through in time.

You reconnect and away you go again… or do you?  Well not always.  Sometimes despite seeing the network you want to connect to in your list of available networks it just totally refuses to connect, takes an age before saying the network isn’t available or just down right refuses with some sort of cryptic error message.

You could restart your computer – but you’re halfway through doing something and you really don’t want to lose all your open windows and webpages.  Well fear not, there’s another way – and it’s pretty simple.

Resetting Your Network Adapter

Look for the little networking icon next to your clock in the taskbar.  It could look something like this:

wireless-icon-taskbar

Then click ‘Open Network and Sharing Centre’

In the window that then opens you should notice a menu on the left hand side.  From this menu, you need to click on the ‘Change adapter settings’:

You will then have a list of Network Connections shown to you in a new window – similar to below:

You may have more, less or the same number of connections – that part isn’t important.  The important thing is to select the connection that you’re currently having problems with – most likely, simply called, ‘Wi-Fi’.  Handy, right?

Right click on the connection/adapter that you’re using a click on ‘Disable’:

You should then notice that the network connection/adapter is shown as disabled (ignore the fact that ‘Ethernet’ is pictured below – the process is the same):

Wait a few seconds – to allow the whole ‘disabling network adapter’ process to complete and then right click on the connection again and this time, you’ll see that ‘Disable’ has been replaced with ‘Enable’ – click this:

Congratulations!  You’ve reset your network adapter – which should, the majority of the time, resolve any temporary connection issues you’re experiencing and save you having to restart your computer.

PS.  If you’re not sure which network adapter you’re currently using, there isn’t any harm in disabling them all and re-enabling them one-by-one (or all) – it just takes you more time the first time until you figure out which one it is!

Any questions or if you encounter any problems, let me know in the comments below.

Smart Meters – What a Pile of Crap! AVOID!!

 

smart-meterBefore you ask, no I don’t have one.

And since you ask, don’t get one either!

I’m a geek and I love technology but Smart Meters are actually, pretty dumb.  They shouldn’t be and had this whole thing actually been planned out properly, they wouldn’t have been but alas, we are where we are and there are many reasons why you should put off having a Smart Meter until they force one on you.

Force One on Me?

Yes.  I’m afraid so.  In the Governments infinite wisdom they’ve decided we’re all having one by 2020.

Wait… What Are They?

Smart meters are a next generation meter for both gas and electricity. They are a replacement for your existing meters, which still use technology created decades ago.

Smart meters use a secure national communication network (called the DCC) to automatically and wirelessly send your actual energy usage to your supplier. This means households will no longer rely on estimated energy bills, have to provide their own regular readings, or have meter readers come into their homes to read the meter.

uSwitch, September 2016

‘Next Generation’ – sounds positively Star Trek!  No more estimated bills, no more reading meters – sounds great, right?

Switching

99% of us should be switching our household electricity and/or gas suppliers yearly (or more often).  Why?  To save money.  Loyalty is never rewarded in the energy business.  To get the best value for money and the greatest deals, you have to switched at least once a year.

I’ve never had the case where an existing supplier could beat an offer from a new supplier.

Smart Meters, unfortunately are not standardised yet (there are plans for the Government to legislate the standardisation of such meters by 2020, but nothing’s concrete yet).  In short, this means that most of the Smart features potentially only work with the provider that fitted the meter as they all have different types of Smart Meter.  The up shot?  As soon as you switch, you’re Smart Meter is going to be dumb very quickly – back to providing energy readings again (grrr).

Having a Smart Meter will make you less likely to switch – you’ve got used to not providing your readings and getting accurate bills every month, no one can blame you.

New customers are unlikely to be high up the Smart Meter installation list and even once selected into this hallowed group, you could be waiting a month or two until they actually come to install it.  This means you’re likely to be switching provider not long after having your Smart Meter.

Anything that discourages switching is very bad – and most of us don’t do it when we should at the best of times!

Issues

Smart Meters sound great – until they break.  And they’ve been breaking quite a lot during this teething phase.

More worryingly, some people are reporting health complaints relating to their Smart Meters (Death Meters anybody?!).

On top of that, they’ve been getting your bills wrong, making energy companies mislead their customers, making fancy pants ‘Energy Monitors’ useless paperweights and being totally hackable (you knew you were paying for next door, right?!).

You may well have a meter with ‘decades old’ technology in, but at least most of the time it’s broadly reliable.

But I Won’t Know How Much Energy I’m Using Without One!!

Login to your online billing area of your utility provider.  Or look at any paper bills you may receive.  Your energy usage should be displayed there over the bill period and other periods such as monthly and yearly averages.

If you’re lucky to be with a great provider – as an added bonus – they may well place some fancy drawings on your bill and say how many times the energy you’ve used could boil and kettle or fill a bath!

I Don’t Want To Give Energy Readings Anymore…

Come on!  Don’t be lazy, snap out of it!  On the list of usual household chores – do the washing, clean the dishes, cook tea, go shopping – spending 60 seconds once a month (or once a quarter) looking at a couple of meters and tapping in the displayed numbers into a mobile app is hardly taxing.

Silver Lining?

They’ll be good one day (probably).  Until then, steer clear.  Keep switching and you’ll likely not be offered one for a while.  Hopefully if the Government gets its behind in to gear and legislates to standardise them all then it may be worth it (or no worse) than having your old trusty meter.  Until then, avoid like the plague where possible.

What are Loops For In Programming?

 

programming-loopsIn programming, we often get situations where we would like to repeat a certain piece of code again and again.  Of course, we could just copy and paste this code one after another – however there are many negative elements to this.

  1. You’d have to know how many times you wanted to repeat the code at compile time – i.e. you could not calculate this at run time as you’d have to know beforehand how many times you need to ‘paste’ your code in.  You may know the number of loops that you want to do at compile time, but then again – you may not.
  2. Your code becomes a monstrosity – picture the scene, block after block of code with the same things repeated over and over again.  This becomes very hard to maintain, your code takes up more disk space (not as much of an issue these days as it once was when there was very limited hard drive space but still there should be a drive, as a programmer, to ensure that the code that you right is as clean and efficient as possible.
  3. It’s not maintainable – you’ll spend hours and hours maintaining one block of code that is actually now 1000 blocks of code that could have just used a loop.  Imagine you need to change one calculation in your block of code.  Now you have to do it 1000 times, 10,000 times, 100,000 times, maybe even 1 million times – you get the picture.

Loops can be used in programming languages where we want to do the same (or similar) set of actions (lines of code) multiple times.  All modern programming languages support looping and most support the different common types of looping such as For Loops, While Loops and Do Loops.

Two Main Types of Loop

There are two main types of loops in programming – when we say types we don’t mean, for example, ‘for’ is a type of loop.  We’re a level higher than that.

The first type of loop is where you are repeating a block of statements for a known number of times (iterations of a loop).  For example, if you know before you enter a loop that you want to loop around it 365 times, one for each day of the year – then you are using this type of loop.  This type of loop is known as a deterministic loop.  This means that the number of iterations is known and defined prior to entering the loop.  This loop will run the specified number of times unless it hits an ‘exit’ statement – which you can use in your code, for example to exit a loop if an error has occurred.

The second type of loop – and you may have guessed it already – is where you are repeating a block of statements for an unknown or indeterminate amount of time.  For example, where the loop being completed depends on variables and results of a calculation being performed in the loop.  While a condition is true, or untrue, the loop will continue until the condition is satisfied.  As a programmer, you have to be careful with this type of loop – as there is the possibility for chaos.  Remember the golden rule:

Indeterminate iteration loops where the number of loops is unknown until the loop is executed should always have an exit strategy!

What does this mean?  It means, don’t get caught in an infinite loop (even the best get caught out sometimes)!  Infinite loops not only hang your application – causing much annoyance to the user, but also can cause the system they are running on to run out of memory and crash – again this causes an even more infuriated user.  Remember, defensive coding is king!

As an example, if you have an indeterminate iteration loop you obviously don’t know how many times it will loop – but we can take precautions to some degree in almost all circumstances where they are used.  Firstly, errors and error handling.  Can your loop continue if one of the passes encounter an error?  Technically, a lot of the time it can – but from a programmatic logic point of view – should it continue and is there any point in it continuing.  If a loop is going to occur hundreds of times but on the second loop pass there’s an error and this means your final result will be wrong, exit the loop and display an error message to the user rather than leave them hanging (in the application sense, literally!).

Secondly, for some indeterminate loops there’s a sensible ‘maximum’.  For example, if your loop on average iterates 50 times, occasionally iterates 100 times and rarely iterates 250 times then it’d be sensible to code in your application that if we get to the 500th pass of this loop, somethings probably gone wrong – exit!  You’d rather have a small bug to patch that is very infrequent for a minority of users than to have users banging their heads in frustration against the keyboard!

Another example would be reading a file.  You might want to loop line by line through a file and output it to the screen.  You could loop 50 times – but what happens if there are 66 lines in this document.  This is another example where the indeterminate loop is your friend.  The number of loop passes is indeterminate as the number of lines contained in a file that the user passes to your application is indeterminate.  Whilst you may want to set maximums in your application – i.e. only files 1000 lines or less, you application won’t be very useful if you say “yes it can process files, as long as they are exactly 12 lines long!”.