Snippets 2019-08-05

Welcome to the first of hopefully a series of “snippets” blog posts. I have to admit I’m poaching the idea from @dougpete with his “My Week Ending” series [example]. My life seems to be too hectic to publish “real” posts so let’s see if this works as an alternative.

Capital One Data Breach

This week we saw a major data breach that exposed millions of Canadian’s banking, credit card, and possibly social insurance numbers. I tweeted a series of posts under the #CyberSecurity hashtag.

Solo EV

Many of you already know I’ve ordered a Solo electric vehicle. I’m just waiting for it to be certified in Canada before I take delivery.

I tweeted here about my blog post related to the sale of the Solo to Steamworks in Vancouver.

Distraction Theft

The Niagara Regional Police warned us about some kind-hearted strangers who approach you to return a bill you dropped but then discreetly rob you of your credit cards! [tweet]

OCR’ing Text

OCR = Optical Character Recognition, a fancy term for converting a picture of text to editable text.

I didn’t know you could use Google Docs for this. [tweet]

Micro:bit

Apparently some school boards block access to the Downloads folder which might cause a problem when downloading your Micro:bit program to your computer. Look for the solution here.

The Handwriting Debate

…won’t go away.

#100DaysOfCode

…is an initiative I’ve committed to participate in and to present at the #BIT19 conference in November. I’m just in the process of setting things up for it but you’ll be able to follow along here once I get rolling.

Questions or Comments?

Any comments or questions? Please respond below or in response to any of the linked tweets!

Relational Databases – How to Choose

Relational Database Comparison screenshot

As a Python programmer and teacher, I’m always on the hunt for good tutorials. Some of the best Python tutorials I found are on a YouTube channel named Socratica. For these videos they have a McGill CS graduate & actress named Ulka Simone Mohanty [@ulkaM | resume] whose character is a quirky, robot-like narrator with a very dry sense of humour, which for me, makes the videos especially entertaining.

In my YouTube subscription alerts I saw that Socratica has just released some new videos related to SQL databases. If they’re as good as their Python series I had to check them out.

It was nice to see that they are also using Ulka to narrate this series. And it’s nice to see that the videos are just as entertaining (and informative) as the Python series.

I have some experience programming in MySQL (thanks to Dr Chuck) so was really interested in its popularity vs PostgreSQL and MariaDB. The video is only an overview, but it’s enough to whet my appetite about revisiting my old My SQL programs and seeing how difficult they are to convert to the other formats. It also gets me thinking about investigating free accounts in the cloud for any databases I write.

I’d love to hear what you think about these videos. Do you find them as entertaining and informative as I do?

(Credit to the video for the screenshot used above)

The Art of Listening – Music Documentary (2017)

From https://youtu.be/3_5MnvCUvDU:

“The Art of Listening is a documentary film about the journey music takes to reach a listener’s ear, from the intent of an instrument maker and composer, to the producers and engineers who capture and preserve an artist’s voice. This journey is narrated by intimate conversations with artists, engineers and producers about the philosophy of their work and the intent behind each musical note they create.

This film is an invitation for music fans to rediscover the intricacies and details available in the sounds of their favorite recordings. The Art of Listening is the beginning of a conversation of how the quality of our listening experiences define the medium.”

Read more here.

LED lamps are great for the environment, but bad for our health

LED lamps are great for the environment, but bad for our health

Harsh words. I can’t dispute whether flickering lights are truly bad for our health, but it should be fairly easy to quantify the varying qualities of LED lamps by the amount they flicker1.

This would make for an interesting project at school. In my Computer Tech class, for instance, we could build a simple circuit with a light sensor and then display it on an oscilloscope (yes, I still use one!) or sample it into a computer at a high enough rate to measure the flicker rate.

Anyone else up to the challenge?


I keep wanting to type “flickr”. It’s the photographer in me trying to get out…

Google App Passwords

After applying an update to my UnRAID server a message popped up telling me that I didn’t have system notifications turned on.

2018-09-03 Unraid System Notifications

I popped into Settings > Notifications Settings only to have discovered that I didn’t have any notifications turned on. Well, that’s not good.

In the SMTP Settings sections Gmail was already listed, so this should be easy. Nope, it never passed the test. A quick search helped me find this forum where it showed me the proper SMTP settings for Gmail:

2018-09-03 UnRAID SMTP Settings

It still wasn’t passing the test however, likely because I have 2-factor authentication turned on. A little more digging on the forum, and that is where I learned about Google app passwords:

An App password is a 16-digit passcode that gives an app or device permission to access your Google Account. If you use 2-Step-Verification and are seeing a “password incorrect” error when trying to access your Google Account, an App password may solve the problem. Most of the time, you’ll only have to enter an App password once per app or device, so don’t worry about memorizing it.

I had never heard of this before, but it was the solution I was looking for. The service generated a simple 16 digit password that allowed me to send notification emails using my Gmail account.

This process only has to be done one time, and the password is never used anywhere else (I assume it’s locked to the sending device) so I don’t have to remember it.

The SMTP test passed. Problem solved.

Uninstalling Microsoft Photos

Every so often I hear my CPU fan spinning up wildly. A quick check of the Windows Task Manager reveals the culprit to be the Windows Photo App, an app I never use so I decide to delete it.

A quick Google search and I find the basic instructions to do so, summarized here:

  • Open PowerShell (Windows-X, then select PowerShell (Admin))
  • Enter the following command, then sit back and wait:
    • Get-AppxPackage *photo* | Remove-AppxPackage
  • All done!

My CPU can now rest peacefully.

Featured image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.