Thursday, March 31, 2011

Blacknight Control Panel for Cpanel users

Having used Blacknight as my web host for about 18 months I still find the control panel rather complex compared to Cpanel (which I worked with for many years as a sysadmin as well as an end user).

The reason for the differences between Blacknight’s control panel is that Cpanel is a “per server” system designed to run mail, web. databases and DNS on the one physical machine. Blacknight’s system uses a Parallels automation system which runs the control panel on one server with web, email, databases and DNS on separate machines or clusters of machines which can be expanded as required. This means that each service has to be provisioned seperately with commands sent to the appropriate server. It would be nice if Blacknight had a simple script which would add the domain, create the web space and an FTP account, but it doesn’t, so you need to know how to do these things manually.

I have recommended Blacknight to a few people and they have all found it a bit tough to get to grips with the control panel after using Cpanel so I have complied the following guide from my own notes. I can’t guarantee it is all correct and it is strictly unofficial, but it might help someone else.

The key to the system is the list of domains which you will find under the “All Domains” tab. A domain needs to be listed here before you can add any services to it. If you register a domain through Blacknight that domain will normally be listed here, but you can also add domains registered elsewhere without transferring them to Blacknight.

Adding an existing domain not registered through Blacknight and creating a web space
  • Log into
  • Select correct subscription (if you have more than one you should select the one you want any hosting set up on)
  • Click on “All Domains” tab
  • Then “Add existing domain registered elsewhere”.
  • Select the required options including “new web space” (or it will try and set it up as a directory under another domain) and “Qmail” or your email will not work.
Remember to update name servers at your domain registrar to:

The process above is also used for adding web space to domains registered through Blacknight, but simply select the domain from the list under the all domains tab.

“Web space” is the term used for an account on the web server with FTP access like a Cpanel “hosting account”. Web spaces do not automatically have FTP access so now you need to add an FTP account.

Setting up ftp
  • Click on the web hosting tab
  • Click on  “web space” on the left hand menu
  • Click on “webspaces” in the main page
  • Click on “select” next to  the webspace you need an FTP account for
  • Click on “ftp access” in the left hand menu
  • Enter a username and password or let the system create a password
  • Press continue
  • “Manage FTP” will be displayed
  • Click on this to get the FTP server address
If you ever lose the ftp password you can recover this by going back to the “ftp access” stage and it will be displayed on the page.

Adding an  email address.
  • Click on Web Hosting tab
  • Click on “Email” in the left hand menu
  • Click on “Email Addresses” ojn the main page
  • Click the button “Add new E-mail Address”
  • Select “new service user” and click “continue”
  • Select “Loginexisting domain” and enter the Display name (for webmail) and the required email address and the required ;password or let the syetem choose a password.
  • Click “next” and on the next page fill in the required options.
  • Click “Next” to complete the process.

Enabling Backups
Backups are not automatically enabled and must be turned on per web space.

First you need to identify the web space (hosting account) you wish to backup:
  • Click “domain overview” on the left hand menu.
  • Click on “domain administration”.
  • You will see the list of domains and web spaces.
  • Click on the domain name for the hosting you wish to back up.
  • You will see a page with sections starting General, DNS, and Web Hosting.
  • Under “web hosting” click on “details”.
  • You will see the webspace, something like
  • Write down this address.
To enable the backup:
  • Click on “backups” on the left hand menu.
  • Click on the button “create backup” 
  • Tick the box for the webspace you wish to back up
  • Click on finish.

Editing DNS
  • Click “domain overview” on the left hand menu.
  • Click on “domain administration”.
  • You will see the list of domains and web spaces.
  • Click on the domain name for the DNS you wish to modify.
  • Click the “DNS” tab near the top of the page.
  • Click on “DNS records” under the tab.
  • Click on the “add new DNS record” to add a new record
  • To change an existing record click on its hyperlink and delete it then add it again with the new values.

Switching domains between subscriptions
Some Blacknight customers have two “subscriptions” one for their hosting account and one called “domain only” which would contain domains they have registered or transferred. If you create web spaces for the ones listed under “domain only” it can get a bit messy so you might want to move them to the hosting subscription. Here is how to do this:
  • Select the subscription containing the domain you wish to move:
  • Click on “All Domains” at the top of the page
  • Click on the domain name you wish to move
  • Click on the DNS tab
  • Change DNS hosting to External
  • Click refresh
  • Change DNS Hosting to Internal
  • Select the subscription you wish the domain to be moved to
  • Click “Finish”
If you do this quickly then there should be no downtime.

If people find this article useful I will write something similar for the domain management side.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Try praying? Must try harder.

Following on from the Alpha course my local churches are now sporting “Trypraying” banners as a way of encouraging people to engage with the church.

Trypraying is based around a booklet which a Christian can give to someone which encourage them to pray over a set time period. You can download a copy of this booklet on their website. The premise is that if you do try praying and something happens that this is evidence that God exists and that the claims of Christianity are true. Whats not to like?

Well there are a few obvious problems with this strategy:

  1. There is not necessarily a cause and effect at work here. For every 100 people who try it a few may have something happen which they consider to be the result of prayer. However, some will be due to coincidence and some due to the tendency for the human mind to look for patterns of cause and effect. This is exactly how horoscopes work. Keep things vague enough and a range of events can be ascribed to the prediction or indeed the prayer.
  2. It works the same way as the suggestion of Mormon missionaries that you need to pray about the book of Mormon to find out if it is true. A small number of people will get a feeling that its true, but that’s all that is needed. Its a numbers game. Get 1000 to pray and you may get 30 recruits this way. In this way its quite cynical and manipulative.
  3. Then there is the awkward issue of those who pray and don’t get any result. Christians pray and don’t get answers all the time so why do they think non believers will? And by putting so much emphasis on this they may be getting people to self exclude themselves from any connection with church in the future. Its a high risk strategy.

Not that any of this will put off the churches who are promoting Trypraying. Like Alpha it is a well packaged campaign which has momentum behind it and which can be easily plugged into any church. This impetus means that few will question its methodology or its likely results.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Insightful comment on creationism, by a Christian minister.

A very interesting article and well worth reading about a CHristian minister visiting the creation museum with a group of atheists.

A very insightful line from the article:
Young Earth Creationism has become a test of orthodoxy in some circles of evangelical Christianity. The historical church has gone through various stages on how to read the first part of Genesis. The YEC position has never become a test of orthodoxy like it has in the past 50 years. It has become a test in the ongoing culture wars of the Christian right.
Read more:

Part One
Part Two
Part three will be coming out shortly.

From part two:

Anyway, part of this security entails training bomb sniffing dogs. These dogs and their handlers were in full force that day. Later, I talked to a Christian who organized security for traveling Smithsonian exhibits about bomb sniffing dogs. He pointed out that there could be two possible reasons. One, they had received a credible threat, but in that case they should have cleared the building. In the second case scenario, the dogs, even though not especially aggressive, where often used as an intimidation factor to keep tense situations under control.

As the Creation Museum hadn't been evacuated, I assumed the second.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Original lyrics of the song Loch Lomond

Shortly after I wrote my article about Kelvingrove I was at a concert where someone sung the version of Loch Lomond collected by Matt McGinn which, although it may not be the original words, is probably the closest we are going to get. Note that the protagonist will be in "heaven" before you, not "Scotland". The song seems to be about the lover of a Jacobite soldier who is being taken south for execution (possibly to Carlisle).  Here are the words:

Whither away, my bonnie, bonnie May
So late and so far in the gloamin'
The mist gathers grey o'er muirland and brae
Oh! whither alane art thou roamin'

I trysted my ain love the night in the broom
My Ranald wha loves me sae dearly
For the morrow he marches for Edinburgh toon
To fecht for the King and Prince Chairlie

Yet, why weep you sae, my bonnie, bonnie May
Your true love from battle returning
His darling will claim at the height o' his fame
And change into gladness her mourning

Oh! weel may I weep - yestreen in my sleep
We stood bride and bridegroom thegither
But his lips and his breath were as chilly as death
And his heart's bluid was red on the heather

Oh, dauntless in battle as tender in love
He'd yield ne'er a foot to the foeman
And never again frae the field o' the slain
To Moira he'll come and Loch Lomond

He'll tak' the high road and I'll tak' the low
And I'll be in Heaven afore him
For my bed is prepared in yon mossy graveyard
'Mang the hazels o' green Inverarnan

The thistle shall bloom, and the King hae his ain
And fond lovers meet in the gloamin'
But I and my true love will yet meet again
By the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond

Here is a video of it being sung by Alistair Ogilvy:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How to put a link in a blog comment.

Most blogging platforms allow links in comments. Blogger does, but the only way to make a link is to do it in html. The generator below will generate the code for you which you can then paste into the blog comment form.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How to display HTML markup code in a Blogger or other blog post.

If you are writing articles about programming there will come a point where you need to be able to display HTML code as part of a blog post. If you have tried this before you will find that the code is not displayed as text, but run as part of the web page so <b>word</b> becomes word.

To stop this happening you need to convert the HTML entities to their equivalents:

'&' (ampersand) needs changed to '&amp;'
'"' (double quote) needs changed to '&quot'
''' (single quote) needs changed to '&#039;'
'<' (less than) needs changed to '&lt;'
'>' (greater than) needs changed to '&gt;'

I have made a tool which does the HTML entity conversion for you.

To access it click here: HTML to Blog Converter

How to embed an MP3 audio file in a Blogger post

Sometimes it would be useful to be able to embed an MP3 file in a blogger or other blog platform post. There are a number of options including setting up a Soundcloud account.

However, if its just for a one off MP3 and you are able to host it somewhere then you can use Google Reader's audio player to play it back by using this code:

<embed height="27" src="[MP3 URL]" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="320" wmode="transparent"></embed>

Replace [MP3 URL] with the full address of where the file has been uploaded, beginning with http://. The player will only play MP3 format files.

Here is an example:

Update 24th July 2012
It appears that Google have disabled this function.

However, most web browsers now support HTML5  which means you do not need an external audio player at all. You can use this code:

<audio controls="controls" height="50px" width="100px">
<source src="" type="audio/mpeg"></source>
<embed height="50px" src="" width="100px"></embed>

Which appears like this:

I would recommend putting in a text link to the file below the player so it can be played on devices which do not support HTML5.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Nuclear Power - Yes Please?

One of the things which surprises me most about the environmental campaigners I meet through my work is the tacit understanding that nuclear power may be necessary in order to reduce Scotland's carbon emissions.

It wasn't that long ago that nuclear energy was a hot topic with nobody on the environmental left in favour of building new power stations. In the 70's and 80's no Citreon 2CV was complete without a "Nuclear Power No Thanks" sticker. I get the impression that nobody is particularly comfortable with the idea of new nuclear power plants, but with the Scottish Government wanting to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2020 and 35% of our current emissions coming from one coal fired power station (Longannet) its clear that we cannot put more reliance on coal. The current planning application for a coal fired power station at Hunterston relies on carbon capture technology which has not been tested at that scale and may take a long time to get working.

At the same time, pressure to move to electric cars means we will need more power. Solar power is not available overnight and wind power is too erratic. We can't turn on wind turbines like we can a power station when we hit a peak of demand. Wave power may be the answer, but there is currently no technology which can be easily rolled out to produce sufficient energy. So it looks like we are going to need to replace some of our ageing nuclear power stations and build another one to keep up with demand in the short term. This has become the elephant in the room for many environmentalists, but the safety fears have so far been outweighed by the desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As I am writing this Sky TV are showing film of the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. We don't yet know what this explosion means for Japan or the rest of the world, but it is surely going to colour discussions in Scotland about how we plan to meet our future energy needs.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

BBC iPlayer not working with T-Mobile

Currently you can watch the iPlayer on T-Mobile using a 3G dongle in your laptop but NOT on a mobile phone. This is an ongoing problem for a lot of people. Previously I was able to use the Beeb Player application in Android to access the BBC iPlayer from my G1 phone. On changing to an HTC Dream HD I found that this application had been removed from the Android Market after complaints from the BBC. Their position was that the service was available either via a web browser or eventually via their own Android App. This is true if you use the 3 network or Vodafone Business, but not if you use T-Mobile and other carriers. If you try to play a video using these networks you get an error message that you must use wi-fi as streaming over 3G is not permitted.

This seemed odd to me so I did some investigation. According to this web page the problem is at the network end with T-Mobile not permitting streaming, but users are reporting that it does stream when using a 3G dongle and a conventional desktop browser. The only conclusion seems to be that access to the iPlayer is being restricted by the BBC based on the type of device connecting to it. Whether this is down to technical issues of streaming or a request from T-Mobile and other carriers worried about bandwidth usage is unclear.
The fact that T-Mobile works with a dongle but not on phone browser or iplayer app shows that its site level and app level block not network. All very mysterious. To add further intrigue, some users report that a video started on wi-fi will continue to play on a 3G signal although I have not managed to replicate this.

Update 8th August 2011
I think I have found the explanation. Apparently the BBC block access by any mobile network which assigns a UK IP address to customers when roaming overseas. The BBC has issues with some of their rights holders not wanting material shown outside of the UK (my guess is that its some of their production partners). Mobile networks who use local access points for roaming are allowed onto iPlayer. This does not, however, explain why a T-Mobile dongle can connect. Maybe they have no roaming available? But it does explain why you can watch the BBC News Channel live on T-Mobile (no rights issues for the news).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How to put a PowerPoint presentation on a web page.

Sometimes it would be useful to embed a powerpoint presentation in a web page so people who were not at the event can view it. This is now possible using Google Documents without any log in being required.

How to embed a powerpoint presentation:

Upload your powerpoint presentation to your Google Docs acount and allow Google to convert it to its own format (or create a new presentation in Google Docs itself).
  • Open the presentation in the google docs interface.
  • Click on the arrow next to “share” in the top right corner of the screen.
  • Select “publish/embed”.
  • You will now be shown a link at which the presentation can be publicly viewed and an html code snippet that will allow it to be embedded in a web page. 
Either make a hyperlink on your web page to the public viewing page (click here for an example) or put the embed code in your web page like this:

The public viewing page also has the option to download the presentation as a pdf file which can be very useful.

The ability to convert a PowerPoint .ppt file to Google Docs format is limited to simpler presentations, but its always worth a try.

The best web applications

Just thought I would post this list of applications which can be run in a web browser rather than needing to install any software on your computer. I find these very useful when I am using someone elses machine or from pc's where I do not have admin rights.

PDF Tools
Edit PDF files or fill in PDF files.
Join two PDF's
Unlock or remove password from PDF
Convert PDF to HTML
Convert PDF to Word DOCX

Online OCR
Upload a PDF and turn it into Text.

Grammar and style checker

Compare document versions

Publish Google Docs to the Web

Image Editors
Saves files back to your machine either in jpg format or its own layered high quality format.

Make images using script fonts

HDR Image tool
Converts three differently exposed images to a single HDR image.

Image Compressor
Works for jpg, gif, png and svg images

Make Graphical Images for Twitter and Facebook

Music Notation Editor
(requires sign up)

HTML Editor

Ebook Reader (will read a book without downloading it if you have the URL of an ePub file)

Video Converter

Video Downloader

Convert Video to GIF

Download and Convert Youtube Videos

Crop GIF to a square or reduce file size for Twitter

Audio File Converter (also does video)

Convert Word document to eBook format

Extract photos and text from a Word document

Convert PDF to Word format

Compare two versions of the one document

Invoice Generator

File transfer


Spotify (requires you to be logged into Facebook)

Image hosting for forums

File Unzipping tool

Online Video Editor (allows some editing and merging of clips but adds watermark)

Create video from MP3 and upload to Youtube

Unzip a file

Test DNS

Remove EXIF Data from a photo

There are lots of others out there, but these are the ones I use most.