Get started with Raspberry Pi

Thought I’d quickly write this up as it doesn’t seem to be properly documented anywhere as yet.

When you receive your Raspberry Pi, you will need a 5v 1A power supply to power it. The documentation says 700mA and this might work but I wasn’t able to get it to work with the 5v micro USB phone and tablet chargers that I have lying around. I ended up buying this from Maplin.

However, I also realised that the Pi doesn’t actually boot up at all without an OS – there’s no warning to tell you that’s there’s no operating system present, it just doesn’t send a signal to the HDMI out. I downloaded the Debian image from the Raspberry Pi download page and wrote it to an 8Gb SD card. On my Ubuntu 12.04 laptop the command line is:

sudo dd if=debian6-19-04-2012.img of=/dev/mmcblk0

This creates a 2Gb image on the card. When this is plugged into the card port, the Pi boots in the usual Linux way, sets a few files and attempts to reboot itself. This can halt at portmap but the installation advises to restart if it does.

It finally boots to a login prompt. Enter the username ‘pi’ and password ‘raspberry’ and you will be at a standard Linux command prompt. At this point, the GUI can be started with ‘startx’. To keep running headless, you will need to start the ssh daemon with

sudo /etc/init.d/ssh start

You can then log in from other machines using ssh.

You can also run remotely with a GUI by installing vino using apt or aptitude:

sudo apt-get install vino

and start it from the GUI with vino-preferences. You can then connect to the Pi using VNC or Remote Desktop Client in Ubuntu.

That’s as far as I’ve got so far but it is up and running. My next project will be setting it up as a thin client.

Further joys of a good shave

I didn’t really want to get embroiled in shaving posts, and less so in too much advertising but as I scrape a blade across my protesting face every two or three days it can become a quest to make it the best experience you can. I got a lot of my original supplies from, who do provide an excellent selection of shaving ware, but very much with the emphasis on the traditional and the British. Having experimented with an assortment of blades as in my last post, I finally settled on Personna and went looking for a bulk supplier. I found boxes of 20 from, who are based in Ireland and whose site looks rather like the UK site but doesn’t seem to be related. The site also has different stock and a more international outlook including some great Italian soaps and creams. One revelation is Proraso pre-and post-shaving cream. I was using a eucalyptus and menthol after-shave balm from Asda which was provided a nice to end to a shave but isn’t always available. Proraso is also a eucalyptus and menthol cream, refreshing when applied before and after shaving. They also make a soap, but I didn’t find that until after I’d bought some Mitchell’s Wool Fat shaving soap, which is made in Bradford but that I’ve only found on sale at Bradford Industrial Museum. I also inevitably had to get a brush, and finally found a synthetic one made by the excellently named Bluebeard’s Revenge, nicely packaged by Men Are Useless. I’m still experimenting with soap and brush so also got some Proraso shaving soap to make a comparison.

Single blade shaving has a ritualistic aspect to it, and requires a bit of research to find the materials that you want, as they’re rarely found in high street chains any more, but there’s still a huge choice in specialist shops and on the Internet so you can find what works for you.

Down by the Riverside

My time in higher education was misspent at Teesside Polytechnic in Middlesbrough. Moving there from Doncaster was generally swapping one declining industrial town for another, albeit one with a better cultural life even in the mid-80s, and not all driven by the presence of the poly. But as I had grown up with Sheffield, and to a lesser extent Leeds as the nearest big cities, in Middlesbrough, 40 miles up the coast, an hour on the train, was Newcastle. My first trip was in my first week and it was to begin a relationship that has continued since.

The Riverside was also new to Newcastle in September 1985, built in a disused warehouse overlooking the Tyne and born out of the lack of such a place in the city, and the lack of pretty much anything for young people in a city that had suffered more than most from the Thatcherite downturn. It wasn’t long before I was discharged from an orange VW Beetle, queued for my red membership card and failed to see the Shop Assistants.

Over the next four years my education got in the way of seeing such bands as the Fall, the Go-Betweens, Swans, Dinosaur jr, Godflesh and Rapeman to name but a few. Broon was drunk, the floor was stuck to, and sometimes the ceiling, and the city was changed very much for a better, leaving a legacy that remains to this day.

As you might imagine, there are many stories to be told from such a place, and Hazel Plater, a former employee, collected many of them and wrote a book. The next plan is to make a film and collect the reminiscences of performers and attendees alike. In the fashionable way, the first stage is being crowdfunded through Indiegogo and needs to raise $5000. If you’re like me and enjoy musical history for the sake of, well, history, you’ll understand that it’s a labour of love and that it needs to be completed. If you were there at the time, you’ll probably need to be reminded. If you give enough you’ll even get a copy of the book. You can’t say fairer than that.

Better, not more democracy

Do you know who the Chief Executive of Leeds City Council is? This person oversees the management of a £650 million budget and the operations of local government in our city. Notably, he does take an interest in the cultural and business life of the city and has considerable influence on investment in the area, having been involved with the biggest business group in Yorkshire, which was effectively closed down by the Coalition government last year.

Do you know who the Lord Mayor of Leeds is? This role is largely honorary and is elected by the council for a year. He will attend a variety of events and functions and act as the civic representative of Leeds.

You probably know who the Mayor of London is. The capital is about to go to the polls to elect a Mayor for the fourth time. Ken Livingstone is running for the fourth time against the incumbent, Boris Johnson, with the Liberal Democrat, Brian Paddick, running for a second time. Livingstone’s two terms were a mixed success: he introduced the Congestion Charge and tried to corral transport fares and backed the city for the Olympic bid in 2005, once again becoming the person who embodied London before becoming enmired in allegations of grift and favouritism, meaning that Johnson won in 2008 and became known to the world as the somewhat dishevelled waver of the Union Jack at the Olympic closing ceremony in Beijing. Johnson’s notable first term achievements are the return of the Routemaster to the city’s streets and the introduction of ‘Boris bikes’.

On May 3rd we residents of Leeds have the opportunity to vote in a referendum to decide whether the city has an elected mayor. The elected mayor would have a four year term. That’s about as much as is certain at the moment. The post might replace the Lord Mayor. The post might replace the Chief Executive. Or it might not. That, for me, is the issue. We are being asked to vote on an serious change in the local democratic process without actually knowing what that change will entail, with the one emolient so far being the promise of a mayoral cabinet that would consult directly with the Prime Minister. The election is part of a promised package for the ten core cities of England. At the moment, Leicester has an elected mayor who has been in office for a year and still does not know the extent of his powers and duties.

Several towns and cities adopted elected mayors under Labour and the results have been less than stellar to say the least. Some have succumbed to the cult of personality, others to indifference that have lead to the representatives of minority political parties being able to exercise excessive power based on prejudice and false assumptions. The assumption in even having a referendum is that the ‘core cities’ want to follow this pattern.

It has been suggested that Leeds is struggling to achieve its potential at the moment because of the succession of hung councils that have been returned since the turn of the century. Compare this to Manchester’s seemingly perpetual Labour majority and the sense of purpose that it creates and it might be a valid suggestion. On the other hand it might be as simple as the civic pride and sense of place that has often been lacking in Leeds and indeed Yorkshire, which is in part the way we are, although it’s never prevented our neighbours down the M1 from getting on. But do we need an elected cheerleader? Would we get one? I think it’s unlikely. The options available for an elected mayor appear to be either a representative of the party machines as with the council, a figurehead who can promote the city’s public face and attract inward investment and support, or an expert who is willing to make the move from an functional role to a political role.

Party politics in this country is at a nadir. The three main parties have hardly anything to distinguish them in the majority of their policies. Politics is a career choice rather than a calling. A political city leader would have to play the game and be trapped in the cycle of re-election and image management that inhibits genuine change. Worse, the low level of interest in civic politics could, as in Doncaster, result in a minority party gaining power. While it’s true to say we get the politicians we deserve, an elected mayor places too much power on a single person or office without checks and balances.

So do we go beyond politics and find candidates who stand on their beliefs and merits? Ken Livingstone was elected as London mayor in 2000 without the support of the Labour Party, his personal reputation as the last leader of the Greater London Council carrying the election as a response to the often perceived injustice of the abolition of the GLC. While his politics were and are of the left, he represented London. Could we find someone could do the same in Leeds?

What about a skilled administrator? Would a senior manager like Tom Riordan be prepared to stand on his merits to be hired in an elected position? We have little history of this in the UK although it has been suggested for police and fire chiefs. Do our administrators need public approval to do their job? On the one hand it would give the job someone with acknowledged skills in the field. On the other they too would have to play the electoral game, which is always more than just a few months before polling day.

At the moment none of these questions have answers. We are being asked to make a decision on minimal information, a decision that would have huge ramifications for the way that our city is run, and that isn’t acceptable. A city is much more than its political structure, and politics will not create lasting answers to many of the pressing issues that Leeds has. Last year the Conservatives crushed the debate on electoral reform for a generation. This year they are intent on chaining the major cities to an outdated system in return for some crumbs of patronage from national government. We deserve a lot more than that.

Back again

I’m going to start tapping away again. Well, maybe. Here are a couple of things I’ve been thinking about recently anyway.

The joy of a close shave

The historian A.J.P. Taylor shaved with a cut-throat razor, saying that it concentrated the mind in the morning. A cut-throat shave is a wonderfully indulgent treat, but it’s best done by someone else, and preferably someone who has been doing it for a living for most of their life. However, for those of us who don’t have an elderly Turkish barber to hand, there is still the single blade shave. You might probably think that such a thing had ceased to exist if you buy your shaving goods at a supermarket: even Boots only carry one single blade razor, a sorry plastic handled thing that looks rather forlorn next to the hi-tech multi-bladed shaving appliances that Gillette or Wilkinson Sword would like to push you. This isn’t your disposable Bic, by the way, this is a metal head with – gasp – replaceable blades that, if you can find them, cost a couple of quid for five and will last for at least three or four shaves. Compare this to most multi-bladed razors, either fully disposable or handle and head, and it’s cheaper, but also more ecologically sound – the bit you’re replacing is a recyclable metal blade rather than a combination of plastic and metal.

The shave is different too: multi-blade razors pull out bristles as well as cut them, where a single blade just cuts to the skin. The latter gives a smoother shave but it won’t last as long as the beard grows back quicker. However, it’s far more satisfying.

Single blade shaving also brings back some ritual to the process: it’s easy to whack on some foam, run a multi-head blade over your face and clean off, but as often as not, the result can be patchy, you’ll miss bits and while it’s hard to cut yourself, the lifting of the follicles can cause rashes and bumps. A single blade helps you think about what you’re doing, which is, after all, running a sharp blade over your face, and makes you do it properly and carefully. If you do cut yourself, part of your shaving kit should be a styptic pencil or alum block. You’ll also hopefully have something to make the shave comfortable: shaving oil and a soap or cream that’s made with natural ingredients or that at least doesn’t look like cheap aerosol whipped cream. You can lather up in a bowl and apply with a brush (and it’s not long since all men did that) or find a cream that’s right for you. I use a cream by hand as good brushes are made of badger hair, which as a vegetarian I wouldn’t use.

A good razor is essential though, and the Boots plastic handled thing isn’t really that good: it’s worth trying if you’ve never used a single blade and you want to get an idea of what it’s like, but it’s too light to be useful, and you almost certainly will get a nick as you try to use it in the same way as you use a multiple blade.

So, getting past the stream of blood, where do you go for a proper razor these days? The web, of course. I obtained my kit from Traditional Shaving. They provide a selection of everything you need including starter kits. My current razor of choice is the Merkur HD34C, a short handled, chrome plated bit of German engineering with a nicely weighted head that rests on the face and glides in the hand.

Then there are the blades: a blade is a blade is a blade, surely? Well, yes, but when you have a choice, try to find the right one. Again, Traditional Shaving offers a selection.  As they’re generally not made in the UK, or indeed, western Europe any more, there is a hint of exotica in their packaging. Classic design fans can enjoy examples such as Shark brand from Egypt, or the Japanese Feather or Pakistan’s Treet. Most shaving supply websites offer a selection pack. So far I have tried the Merkur that came with the razor, Derby, a Turkish brand, and Personna, which seem to still be sold in the US but are made in Russia. The latter has been the most satisfying so far, but Derby are a good place to start.

Single blade shaving is probably not for everyone, although it was thirty years ago – your Dad probably started shaving in this way. It brings an element of ritual to a daily task, and as with A.J.P. Taylor and his cut-throat, an element of care. You get a piece of quality engineering and some nice smells in your bathroom cabinet and replace utility for luxury at about the price that an overengineered bit of battery powered plastic would cost.

All the news that’s…

The Guardian’s announcement today that it will be winding down its experiment in local journalism has produced considerable reaction from those cities in which the paper appointed a ‘beat blogger’ to cover local news – Cardiff, Edinburgh and Leeds. As a resident of the latter, has become an essential local information and discussion service and has been the focus for a number of campaigns, particularly around the state of the city’s public transport, the ever expanding cultural conversation that is helping to redefine what it is to be a Loiner, and the festivals and events that celebrate not just our city, but its streets, neighbourhoods and compass points.

It’s sometimes hard to get useful news in Leeds. The other day my wife and I took a trip out to the coast via my house in Yeadon. We headed up to Harrogate Road around the back of the airport and found that traffic was building up the other way, suggesting that something was up near the airport entrance. We diverted around East Carlton, getting frustrated by people who didn’t expect to find a small farming hamlet next to an international airport, and joined the road again at the traffic lights at Old Otley Road. There was a major incident ongoing, with at several fire and ambulance units in residence, and we made a note to find out what was going on when we got home. That night I searched the local news services and found nothing. I didn’t find out what had happened until Monday afternoon, and that from a local newspaper website  that is the merger of the local newspapers in Aireborough, Otley and Ilkley. Perhaps it wasn’t a major incident, but it was still news to those drivers who found themselves negotiating unknown country in the badlands of the Wharfe Valley.

This is typical of the state of online news in Leeds today. On weekends there is nothing except the football results on the Yorkshire (Evening) Post websites or the BBC Leeds site. There are maybe half a dozen stories a day during the week. If the printed version of the Yorkshire Post and Evening Post were better it would be forgiveable, but in this new media age, we have neither good old media or new. Guardian Leeds was a brave experiment by the paper that has worked for local readers, but presumably doesn’t fitted in with management’s current plans.

Matt Edgar has suggested raising the finance to maintain the service through Pledgebank but I don’t think that’s what the Guardian has in mind. It does at least accept that the paper is a business and that the service would have to be paid for in some way.

In my day job I work with a US website called The Examiner. It’s a major local news source in cities across America, sourcing its information from local ‘Examiners’ who cover beats and topics in their towns. The local press is in greater decline in the US than here, with the big city and regional dailies just about surviving, but the local press becoming thin advertising sheets that at best are satellites of their nearby metropolitan editions and at worst are pages of houses, used cars and coupons with a thin shell of local affairs. Sound familiar?

So the web, as Guardian Leeds has proved, can be a good source of local news. The success of the Examiner in the US suggests that it can be crowd sourced (it does pay, but based on impressions and ad revenue so I can’t imagine it makes a living for many Examiners). Leeds and West Yorkshire has an enthusiastic and ever growing presence on Twitter who report and make the news. There are ventures like Leeds TV who are reporting using video, entertainment sites, community projects across the city and many other sources which, if pulled together, could create the news source that the city deserves. It would be as big as it needed to be: the cost of entry to the web is far less than it used to be: start with no illusions about the fortunes available (small or none) but with the enthusiasm available (tons) it could be those that miss Guardian Leeds the most that create the alternative.

Restaurant Review: Deeva, Town Street, Farsley

There’s something about former Methodist chapel that lends itself to Indian restaurants: possibly it’s the size of the space and the way that modern restaurant design uses it. Deeva has taken over such a chapel on Farsley Town Street, and made it into a spacious but intimate dining room downstairs and lounge and informal bar upstairs.

The restaurant opened in October and has gained in popularity since. We turned up without booking at just after 8:30 on a February Saturday night and were told by the maitre de, Sanjir, that we would have a ten minute wait to get a table ready. We sat at the downstairs bar with a drink – bottled Timothy Taylor Landlord was on offer as well as the usual selection of lagers – and as promised, were taken to our table after a short wait.

Poppadoms were offered as we sat down, and delivered with a good selection of pickles including an addictively spicy chilli sauce. My wife and I are vegetarian and weren’t disappointed by the choices available: Sanjir prides himself on this selection and has in the past offered us dishes that he is trying out. Today however, we went for the mixed vegetarian platter for two, chilli paneer, aloo chickpea, pilau rice and a garlic naan.

We were only given one each of the vegetable samosa and paneer tikka as part of the mixed vegetable platter, although both were substantial enough to share. The rest of the selection made up for it with well made onion bhajis and assorted pakora. The pakora were particularily well cooked, with aubergine that melted in the mouth.

Mains are presented individually but were shared as were the rice and naan and all were well flavoured. The chilli paneer needs a little more personality but it was good to see it on the menu as something other than an accompaniment to peas or spinach or as that local staple, the pakora. The naan was slathered in an excellent garlic butter which complemented both dishes.

We didn’t do desserts (I’m diabetic and gulub jaman isn’t a good idea) and the total bill, with drinks, came to just over £40.

Deeva is an excellent addition to an area which is gaining a good reputation for its Indian restaurants, and is well worth a trip out to see what’s making it so popular with the locals.

Deeva, 58 Town Street, Farsley, Leeds LS28 5LD 0113-236-0947

A Home Tourist in a World Heritage Site

I lived in Leeds for eight years before visiting Saltaire, and in the end I did it in the name of love. My second date with my now wife was Wednesday lunch and a wander around Salt’s Mill. The place was a revelation, a beautifully preserved and repurposed antidote to the north’s dark satanic mills, just a couple of bus rides from my home in Yeadon.
We finished our day with a little wander around Roberts Park, over the footbridge on the other side of the canal and river. On a February day two years ago it was a little worn and tired but we were enjoying our time together too much to worry about that.
We visit Saltaire quite often, and even considered getting married in Victoria Hall but we couldn’t decide on a date and it was booked up to a year in advance (we pretty much decided last August that we would get married in October so we ended up at Bradford Registry Office and it was no less wonderful). However, our February visits are special because they celebrate when we got together and started our story. We make a point, as well as considering lunch in Salt’s Diner and coffee in Massarellas (we combined both at Massarella’s this year as we were a bit late and didn’t have time for risotto or pizza), of visiting Roberts Park to see how the renovation is going.
The change over the last year is nothing short of miraculous. The wide promenade has been resurfaced and the shelters at either end have been restored. The bandstand has also been returned to its Victorian glory and the previously dilapidated cricket club building has been restored as the Half Moon Cafe by the cricket club who play in the park to provides snacks to visitors and a regular dining club. There’s a new skate park by the weir, which waswell attended on our cold Sunday afternoon visit.
Titus himself stands by the promenade flanked on his plinth by alpacas. The park’s restoration was financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and I think that Salt would be pleased that such altruism still exists in the twenty-first century.
The next time that you visit Saltaire, walk down past the station and the The Boathouse Inn and across the bridge. Roberts Park is a quiet wonder that should be an important part of the village.

Confessions of a cable hoarder

Ever since I’ve had disposable income I seem to have amassed cables. As a teenager it was guitar leads and the tools for my youthful indiscretions. On returning from university (well, it was still a polytechnic then), one of my jobs to was do something about the electronic rat king in my bedroom. It had become too tangled and too broken to do anything useful so it went in the bin to start again.
And start again it did. As well as being a failing musician now I had got into computers and guitar leads were joined by computer cables and components, which acreted into another tangled pile that was too intertwined to do anything useful. It went out when I returned to Yorkshire from my sojourn in the capital.
Fast forward another ten years and I’m clearing my house to sell it, and up in the attic is another nest of wires. It still a mystery to me how it piles up. I have bought guitar leads but surely not that many. My home has been wirelessly networked for years, and yet there are miles of CAT-5. It’s going in the bin again because there’s no room for it, and indeed no need for most of it.
The true explanation is of course that I’m naturally untidy and things tend to get pushed out of the way when I don’t use them, which is probably a metaphor in itself. I’d like to think that it’s not more complicated that and that things could be made better with a few hooks and clothes pegs. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll have to go and sort out the skeletons in my cupboard.