Longaccess: pass your digital assets to your heirs

longaccessOne question that is often asked is how one preserved ones’ digital assets and pass them on to your heirs.  We recently read about a new service that may offer a solution.

Longaccess promises to be a cold storage of sorts for your digital life. It's a cloud-based service that operates off Amazon's S3 data centres, but unlike other file lockers such as Dropbox or Google Drive, Longaccess aims to be less accessible, but more dependable. It describes itself as a ‘safe’ on the Internet, a location where one can store files fully encrypted and secured, safe and ready to be accessed for decades.

Longaccess is not a file syncing service, nor is it  a file sharing service.  It is a service for storing files for long periods of time. Files that are NOT updated, or changed at all. Every time a file is created and uploaded to a Longaccess Archive using the desktop application, one gets an Archive Certificate.  This is a simple text file, that contains all the information required to access the data in the future:

- Anyone with access to the Archive Certificate can access the corresponding Archive data: Nothing else is required, not even a username or password.

- Access to the Archive data is impossible without the corresponding Archive Certificate. No one, not even the owner, nor Longaccess, can decrypt the Archive without the Archive Certificate.

One can think of the Archive Certificate as a full entitlement to access the data of a specific Archive. If one gives a copy to someone else, they can also access the data.

There are a number of questions re cost etc. that immediately spring to mind, including how they can guarantee they will be around in a decade or so, question which they try to answer on their web site.

Sounds interesting and may well be a way to preserve those ‘old’ photographs for posterity.  One that may well be worth watching for a future opportunity.

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Test email in foreign languages

We have been working with the emailing of problem reports to our Issue Tracker component recently in particular with the specific problem of languages using ISO-8859-2 character sets.

Having made some code changes to handle this, we were thinking of how it might be possible to test out other languages, with other character sets such as Chinese, Korean etc.

The little grey cells starting thinking about the various translation sites upon the web, and whether there might be any that could not only perform a translation of some specific text but also complete the task by emailing the translation to a specific address.

After some searching it seems that this is not an unusual requirement and we found several that could possibly do what we required. A lot only handled the translation part of the requirement, but the sending of the email was not that common. It was important that the email was sent from the third party since if we used a local email client the details in the message header and body did not accurately reflect the correct character set in use, and this was the one thing we wanted to test.

A number of sites imposed limitations such as the number of characters in the message, the number of messages that could be sent etc., which is generally reasonable since they are endeavouring to make a living from providing a service and would prefer to charge.  However these limitations were not of a major concern to us, especially as the text content could be anything at all, as long as the character sets were represented.

We obviously will not list all of the sites we investigated but the one which we found suitable for our needs was WorldLingo and though it insisted in creating accounts for both our sender and receiver of the generated emails, this was something we could easily live with. There is a vast range of possible languages to choose from, certainly more than we will ever use or test I suspect, and the machine translations were more than adequate for our purposes.

Our requirements were not all that unusual at all, and I suspect others might have the same sort of need, in which case hopefully this may act as a pointer.

Update: One interesting side effect we noticed was that, when we sent the email (via WorldLingo) it was 'processed' by our component and automatically send a reply acknowleging receipt. Since the emails from WorldLingo are all sent out with individual identifers in the email address the reply was sent to the named worldlingo address which then forwarded it to use (the sender). The interesting aspect was that the text was 'translated' on the reply and didn't quite match what was the 'original' text in English. One of the interesting aspects of translating in this case from English->Japanese->English. Not a concern to use but just goes to show how things can get confusing in translation.

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Issue Tracker Template Overrides

b2ap3 icon joomlaWe have recently been ‘playing’ with a new ‘Bootstrap v3’ template for the front end of our site.  This involved use creating a set of template overrides for our Issue Tracker component and we decided to share the details with our users.

Joomla has long had the ability to create Template Overrides, which are modifications to the Joomla components or modules. This permits changes to be made upon a ‘local site’ basis without the need to change or hack the supplied code.

We are primarily concerned with the Issue Tracker component and we have tried hard to produce front end displays of Individual Issues and of the Issue Entry form that would be usable in the majority of installations. However the differences between the various template used on sites are many and vast, and it is almost inevitable that they will not be suitable for everyone. This was indeed the situation we discovered ourselves when using a BootStrap template for the site.

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Mail ISO-8859-2 character sets

We recently received a report that the email fetching feature within our Joomla Issue Tracker component wasn’t handling the subject header and email body correctly for the ISO-8859-2 character set. This character set is used by a number of Eastern European countries, so we were interested in resolving the problem if we possibly could.

We tend to use the standard PHP imap routines and it was immediately obvious how we should handle the subject, but implementing a call to the imap_mime_header_decode method. This worked well and was a very quick fix.

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MariaDB and Joomla ?

MariaDBWe were looking at the possibilities of upgrading the version of MySQL we are using on out NAS system and were reminded of the existence of the MariaDB database as a possible alternative. Alternative because our NAS does not easily permit the upgrade of the MYSQL part of the system mainly because it is so tightly tied into the other features.

What is MariaDB one might ask. Well there is probably no better explanation that that upon the MariaDB web site.

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Geoffrey Chapman
Have noticed that since 4.1 RC has been installed on the QNAP that MariaDB is present in /mnt/ext/opt/mariadb ( or use link to /us... Read More
Wednesday, 07 May 2014 11:16
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Handling Googlebot URL detected errors.

GoogleWe tend to use Google Webmaster Tools to monitor our main site and in particular the Crawl Errors that it detects.  Sometimes we are a little confused as to where the errors are coming from since the 'source' URL is sometimes the self same page indicated as in error, and others indicate pages where we fail to find the link referenced as in error.

That said it has proved generally useful and mostly they are trivial to fix.  What it has been difficult to discover, is a good reference guide to the topic of Search Engine Friendly URLs known as SEF. Whilst acknowledging that the subject of SEF can be quite involved, our searches have yet to reveal a good comprehensive article upon the best design and implementation mechanisms. It is even more difficult to discover a good guide to resolving problems. Having found nothing suitable we decided to create this post as a record of our investigations and perhaps act as a guide for others.

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ICANN looking to handle DNS namespace collision risks

I note from this article that a draft of a report (PDF) commissioned by ICANN and carried out by JAS (Joint Applicant Support) Global Advisors includes a series of recommendations — ranging from alerting network operators by returning as an IP address to, in extreme conditions, killing a delegated second-level domain — to deal with the issue of traffic intended for internal network destinations ending up on the Internet via the Domain Name System.

Instead of the familiar loopback address for localhost, the report suggests "". Because the result is so unusual, it's likely to be flagged in logs and sysadmins who aren't aware of a name collision issue are likely to search online for information about the address problems.

"Numerous experiments performed by JAS confirmed that a wide range of application layer software logs something resembling a 'failed connection attempt to' which is the desired behavior. We also confirmed that all modern Microsoft, Linux, Apple, and BSD-derived operating systems correctly implement RFC 1122 (albeit with variations) and keep the traffic within the host system, not on the network," the report states.

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MySQL and JSON data structures

mysqlHaving been working with JSON data structures recently our thoughts turned to how this could reasonably be handled by SQL queries in the production of items such as reports etc.  Leaving aside the question of how one would ‘know’ and handle the various constituents in the specific JSON object on a generic basis, we looked specifically at what was currently available.

Coming from a strong Oracle background we were familiar with the use of Java within the Oracle database and indeed have made use of it ourselves in the past, but our specific interest this time was MySQL and its use by Joomla, and we were not aware of any feature implementing Java with the MySQL database.

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Kunena – Administrator post delete clarification

kunenaOne observation we have made since using Kunena is that one is presented with an ‘Access Denied’ message if an attempt is made to reference a non-existent Forum topic/message. We wanted to investigate this further since we wanted  to get a 404 redirection defined such that the URL could be redirected either to a full ‘404’ page or an alternative Forum post.

We started out creating a new forum post which we then wanted to ‘delete’.  This led us to a different puzzle since our Forum administrator was unable to ‘delete’ the post.

Being a little puzzled about why our Kunena administrator couldn’t see an option to delete a post I have delved a little deeper to understand what was going on with specific checking on the ability to ‘delete’ posts.

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Oracle–Flashback Query

oracleWay back in 2001 Oracle announced Oracle9i with a new feature named ‘Flashback Query’. The implication was that Flashback technology would permit one to query past data, no matter how old it was days, weeks or even months old. In fact the actuality was very different since Flashback Query relied upon the undo information contained within the database Undo-Segments.

Later releases refined what was possible. It was named ‘Total Recall’ in Oracle 11g, and now goes by the name of ‘Flashback Data Archive’.  This recent blog goes into a little detail of the recent changes available in Oracle release 12c.

It is an easy read, but at the back of the mind one can’t help but think how much disk storage is required on a busy site to enable one to search back over long periods of time. The feature is useful, and is available ‘free-of-charge’ with all versions of Oracle 12c,  but at what cost in terms of system resources and performance?

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