Blog News

I love iFixit ! Highly recommended !

Last week the HD in my mother-in-law’s hand-me-down iMac went the way of the dodos and crashed, loosing all the information on it.

Did you know you can burn a copy of Ubuntu (I used 12.10) to a CD and it will load and boot on a mac, even with EFI firmware ? This helped me verify that the disk was indeed dead and non-salvagable (it was the /Users directory that was totally destroyed !).

The 24 inch screen is still great, the CPU (an 2,16 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo) is a bit slow nowadays but still more than good enough for surfing and showing photos and playing music, so I figured why not replace the hard disk and save some money ?

I visited and checked if they had a repair guide for that particular iMac model and sure enough it was there. I bought the necessary hard drive and Torx screwdrivers, and I have just now succesfully replaced the failed 500 GB disk with a 2TB disk.

When I subsequently booted from the Snow Leopard disk, it couldn’t see the drive, but a quick trip to the disk utility made it show itself, and I was able to format it and continue the installation – everything is just fine, thanks to those iFixit people !

Note that iFixit is a free service, but you can help them out by buying repair tools or hard disks from them, or writing your own guide.

I figured I could help point some people in the right direction – they have an amazing amount of DIY repair manuals !

PS – for those who break the temperature sensor on the HD or the wires (I didn’t) : there’s a software solution for that !

Blog News

Bootstrap from twitter is very cool

A few months ago I mentioned Foundation from ZURB which to me was a pretty neat way to write some functional html and css code for a quick setup of a website or setting up a basic layout.

These last few days I’ve been busy with learning Bootstrap, which is made by the guys from Twitter, and while Foundation was definitely cool, I must admit that Bootstrap just fits me better and offers me more possibilities. YMMV ofcourse.

It may be because I had Foundation as a basis, and thus was already accustomed to the way things worked, but I learned the methods used much quicker than with Foundation.

I’ve made a decent, good-looking one-page landingpage website with a image Carousel in less than a day, and as a test I’ve reworked an existing website to see what it could do.

In less than a day I had a fully navigational website : full navbar, with menu, fluid rows that resized in most browsers on the fly with buttons and a good layout.

I am really impressed with the speed I’ve managed to make these websites, and I can see myself using bootstrap to built other sites in the future.


Blog News

Proof of concept for a simple webserver running python code

Here is a small code example using CherryPy to run a very simple webserver that

  • generates a simple math question
  • compares the answer to the solution.

It’s meant as a proof of concept, so there is no security built in. It’s running on localhost on port 8888 (modifiable in the main part of the code).
It allows you to play around and test out your ideas.

Do not use this code on an outside network !

It’s simply an example showing how easy it is to set up a web server and how you can create pages for it using python and CherryPy. It’s been cobbled together in an evening from previous programming so there’s some cruft left in. I’ve also extensively commented the code.


  • python 2.7 ( 2.5 will work as well is my guess )
  • cherrypy 3.2.2 ( use easy_install or pip to download and install the latest version)
  • ( the file containing the python code )

You start the server in a command prompt using : python which will start the server. Leave the command prompt open.

You can then visit the webserver by opening a browser and going to http://localhost:8888 to see the index page and play around with it.

# MathPoc : Proof of concept of a simple math problem, bringing it to the browser
# Alex Boschmans
# Version 0.2, February 2011
# 0.2 Added some error checks and expanded math to not just adding but also 
# subtraction and multiplication and divisions. Extensively commented code.

header = """<HTML>
                <title>MATH Proof of Concept</title>
footer = "</BODY></HTML>"

indexhtml = """
        <H1>Math Proof of Concept</H1>
        <p>Please answer the following question</p>
                <p>How much is %d %s %d ? </p>
                <form action="/response" method="post">
                Answer: <input type="text" name="answer" />
                <input type="hidden" name="number1" value="%d">
                <input type="hidden" name="number2" value="%d">
                <input type="hidden" name="operation" value="%s">
                <input type="submit" value="Submit" />

def generatequestion():
    # This generates the question that we will pose using the random function
    # Generate a random question using 2 random numbers between 1 and 10
    number1 = random.randint(1,10) 
    number2 = random.randint(1,10)
    # Now we choose an operatioin
    ops = ["+", "-", "x", "/"]
    operation = random.choice(ops)
    # Let's check the division
    if operation == "/":
        # Prevent divisions with remainders using the modulo operator
        # Using module on the two numbers evaluates to 0 when no remainder is present
        # While the modulo remainder is not equal to 0, generate two new numbers
        while number1 % number2 <> 0:
                number1 = random.randint(1,10) 
                number2 = random.randint(1,10)
    # Assemble the html, inputting the numbers in the foreseen places in the html
    # In a more extensive project, you would keep this html in a template file and 
    # call it with a dictionary of items that need to be filled in the template
    question = indexhtml % (number1, operation, number2, number1, number2, operation)
    # Add common html like header and footer - these are defined just once and reused
    # for each page
    html = header + question + footer
    # Return the completed html to the calling function (in this case index)
    return html

# This is the class that the cherrypy server uses and where you create the views that the 
# webuser sees. After each definition there is a <function>.exposed=True that indicates if the 
# webuser can see this page or not. 
class MathPoc:
    def index(self):
        # This is the main index page that is shown to the user when he first visits the site.
        # We create the page by calling the function generatequestion (which is outside the class
        # MathPoc but accessible and we show it to the user by 'return'ing the page 
        page = generatequestion()
        return page
        # The webuser will now see the page and will have a chance to enter an answer.
        # In the html form I've specified that the submitted result will go to the url "response"
        # I've added all the values I want to receive either as hidden values (eg the 
        # original numbers, the operation) or as part of the form (eg the answer) = True
    def response(self, answer, number1, number2, operation):
        # First check if we received an answer or if the user submitted without an answer
        if answer:
            # Calculate our own answer ourselves and generate a response to the user
            # We receive strings, so convert them to integers using int()
            number1 = int(number1)
            number2 = int(number2)
            answer = int(answer)
            # Answer is dependent on operation
            if operation == "+":
                solution = number1 + number2
            elif operation == "-":
                solution = number1 - number2
            elif operation == "x":
                solution = number1 * number2
                solution = number1 / number2
            # See if the answer is correct and display according the result
            # Using templates, you could put all this in one template and 
            # call the template with options so it knows what to show
            if solution <> answer:
                html = """
                <p>The question was : %s %s %s = ?</p>
                <p>Your answer %s is wrong. The correct answer is %d.</p>
                <p><a href = "/">Try Again.</a></p>
                """ % (number1, operation, number2, answer, solution)
                html = """
                <H1>Correct !</H1>
                <p>The question was : %s %s %s = %s</p>
                <p>Your answer is correct !</p>
                <p><a href = "/">Try Again.</a></p>
                """ % (number1, operation, number2, answer)
            # We did not receive an answer
            html = """
            <h1>Sorry ?</h1>
            <p>You need to fill in an answer !</p>
            <p><a href = "/">Try Again.</a></p>
        # Return the page to the user, adding the common html
        return header + html + footer = True

if __name__ == '__main__':
    import random
    import cherrypy
    import os, sys
    # Set the current directory - this is probably not needed for this example, cruft.
        current_dir = os.path.dirname(os.path.abspath(__file__))
        # probably running inside py2exe which doesn't set __file__
        current_dir = os.path.dirname(unicode(sys.executable, sys.getfilesystemencoding( )))

    # Set up site-wide config first so we get a log if errors occur.
    # Adding the setting 'environment': 'production' to the below turns off auto-reload.
    # Otherwise CherryPy monitors the code and any change to code reloads the server - handy for development !
                            'log.error_file': 'site.log',
                            'log.screen': True})
    # CherryPy will complain of an empty config but will continue
    conf = {}
    cherrypy.quickstart(MathPoc(),'/', config=conf)

Using CherryPy for webform authentication

If you are using CherryPy, I can recommend the webform-based authentication that Arnar Birgisson wrote for ease of use and extensability.

After trying out the included authentication models with CherryPy (I’m using 3.1.2, the last stable version at the moment of writing), I was disappointed in the results. Then I stumbled over a recommandation from someone on Nabble, a web-based programmar’s discussion forum, which pointed to the following wiki page on the CherryPy site:

The complete program code plus examples are on the page and are well explained.

You can have a skeleton login system (using a hardcoded dictionary) up and running in literally half an hour !

  • Just copy/paste the code on the page and save it as in your cherrypy script dir.
  • Add the hardcoded dictionary containing username and passwords to it (or script the db access, see the example included)
  • Put ‘require()’ everywhere on your cherrypy pages that need to have login protection – additionally, you can also have roles so that only admins can access certain pages.

Early last week I replaced that hardcoded dictionary and built the db lookup query for the login. Once that was working, I added a ‘my profile’ page to the application I’m working on.  Then I thought it would be nice for the admin to have a ‘create user’ form in the admin section to add users. Done that as well, using the jquery-ui to create tabs and seperate content in the admin section.

All in all, a nice week of nice work.

I’m starting to think this might make it’s way to my hosting server one of the coming weeks…  although I need to do some more work on showing the user only his keywords and not all the keywords, as well as doing something with the keywords to use them better.

Oh and one more thing: this works better under SSL than in the clear http: sky !


AWStats Tool that creates custom IIS log format lines

I recently ran into a problem where I needed to read a few IIS logs to find out the number of visits during the day. The tool I wanted to use was AWStats, a  free log file analyzer tool that can create some handy reports.

If you need to read an IIS log file where the admin has set up a custom log method, this tool for AWStats is very handy: in the top of your IIS log file it states which are the variables it uses. By selecting these on the web page, you get a custom awstat log format line that you can just copy / paste into your awstat config lines.

Apple Programming


I’ve set up Google Analytics for a website recently, to keep track of the visitor statictics. Free is hard to beat, after all.

What is even better is for mac users is a free widget called Dashalytics that allows you to keep track of the Google analytic reports, without you requiring to log in to the site ! So, by glimpsing your dashboard you can get an instant view of how your monitored website is doing, how many visitors, etc.

Real cool !

Blog News

Uber Cool Nerd King !

Not as good as Michel Vuijlsteke, but not bad either!!! says I'm an Uber Cool Nerd King.  What are you?  Click here!

Can you do better than me ? Click the above link to try…