Fujifilm X-E3 Accessories, Tips, and Sample Videos

One of the pieces of tech I bought this year was a mirrorless APS-C digital camera which replaces an ageing Nikon D5000. I wanted something super-compact, but with interchangeable lenses & the ability to record 4K video.

Since were so many options, I started researching cameras & ended up creating a spreadsheet to record all the things I was interested in :)

Long story short, I chose the Fujifilm X-E3 due to the price-vs-features, and 8 months later I’m still happy with my choice; it produces some brilliant images, and is very portable for taking with me & the family.

Video is pretty decent from the camera, as long as you choose the right resolution & FPS. I’ve uploaded samples from the camera into a YouTube playlist for anyone who is interested it how the different modes look.

There are a few things that could be improved; adding 60 fps for 4K video, longer recording times (it’s limited to 10min at 4K, 15 min for 1080p, which is low these days), a dedicated ‘Record’ button (rather than having to dip into the Drive Mode menu to switch from Photo to Video), and a larger flippy screen on the back. Let’s see what the X-E4 brings in 2021!

Camera Bag

Next, if you’re looking for a really compact bag, I really like the Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 10, which is the smallest I could find that fit the camera + the 18-55mm lens. It’s also pretty cheap at about £20-30 (watch out for deals!).

Extra Batteries

There are plenty of cheap 3rd party batteries available; the ones I chose are from Baxxtar and I’ve had no issues with them at all.. performance is just as good as the one that came with the camera.

Companion App

If you get any newer Fujifilm camera, there’s a companion app available which allows you to connect your phone to the camera & do automatic synchronisation of the photos. It does this after you turn the camera off, and sets up an ad-hoc Wifi access point to do the transfer (Bluetooth is too slow). It’s pretty handy, since your photos all end up on your phone, which can then sync with Google Photos when you’re back at home, making the whole process quite seamless.

However, if you use this, one thing you’ll want to do is enable full-resolution files, since by default it downsizes everything to keep the transfer fast. Here’s how to do that;

Synchronise Videos to Your Phone

The Fujifilm app won’t transfer videos, so you’ll need to use some other apps to sync them automatically to your phone using a USB OTG adaptor & SD card reader. One of the apps is called FolderSync, and the other is Automate. Here’s how I use them to automate the process;

That’s it, I hope these tips have helped anyone with an X-E3, or anyone doing their research on what camera to buy.

How to Automate PageSpeed Insights for Multiple URLs on a Schedule using Logic Apps or Flow

For the website I’m responsible for, I was interested in capturing the data from the Google PageSpeed Insights tool, and having the data recorded somewhere on a schedule. There’s a blog post on Moz.com that talked about doing this with a Google Sheet, but it wasn’t quite what I was after; I wanted the data to be collected more regularly.

Instead of using Google Sheets (and a fair amount of code), I decided to use an Azure Logic App (you can use this or Microsoft Flow), which is part of Microsoft’s Cloud platform.

The Logic App is run on a Recurrence trigger which I set to every 6 hours. By collecting the results automatically over time, you’ll see how the changes you’re making to your site affect your PageSpeed scores.


The first step simply defines the URLs you want to check, then it’ll loop over each one & call the PageSpeed API. Go get an API key, and make sure PageSpeed API is enabled.

Results from the API call are parsed out and pushed into a new row in an Excel Online sheet.

If you’re interested in setting this up yourself, I recorded a short video which shows how it works in more detail.

There are a few foibles in Logic Apps which caught me out, first, getting the list of URLs into an Array didn’t work as expected. I had to switch to Code View to correct the escaping of the return character to read;

@split(variables('urlList'), '\n')

The JSON payload from the PageSpeed API is pretty large, so I’ve listed the path to the elements you’ll be interested in below. I’m using split (on space) purely to get at the numerical value, which is more useful in the spreadsheet;

First Contentful Paint

@{split(body('HTTP')?['lighthouseResult']?['audits']?['first-contentful-paint']?['displayValue'], ' ')[0]}

First Meaningful Paint

@{split(body('HTTP')?['lighthouseResult']?['audits']?['first-meaningful-paint']?['displayValue'], ' ')[0]}

Speed Index

@{split(body('HTTP')?['lighthouseResult']?['audits']?['speed-index']?['displayValue'], ' ')[0]}

Time To Interactive

@{split(body('HTTP')['lighthouseResult']['audits']['interactive']['displayValue'], ' ')[0]}

Time to First Byte

@{split(body('HTTP')?['lighthouseResult']?['audits']?['time-to-first-byte']?['displayValue'], ' ')[3]}

Overall, this was quite easy to put together and shows the power of Azure Logic Apps. Being able to do this without any code or (your own) servers, and getting things live in a couple of hours is a fantastic tool to have at your disposal.

Make your own £5 ambient TV backlight

After clearing out some junk, which included an old halogen desk lamp, I was thinking about putting in an LED light behind the PC monitor.

Then I remembered I’d bought a ring of 24 RGB LEDs from Aliexpress last year & hadn’t used it in a project.

I also had a spare Arduino Nano, and all the things I’d need to allow me to hook up a dial (potentiometer) for the light level, and button to cycle through different colour modes.

Here’s a quick video of it in action..


LED Ring – £2
Arduino Nano – £1.75
Breadboard & bits – £1.25

Wiring it up

It’s an easy one to wire up.. I took a few basic examples and mashed them together to get what I wanted from the design.

I’m not an electronics expert, and approached this like I approach software development; write it in manageable/testable chunks, which I can implement and test individually, then bolt it all together.


The code for the project is pretty simple.. I think the most complicated bit is handling the button, which needed debounce functionality.

#include <Adafruit_NeoPixel.h>
#ifdef __AVR__
#include <avr/power.h>
#define PIN 6 // pin on the Arduino is connected to the LED ring
#define NUMPIXELS 24 // Number of pixels on the LED ring
#define POT_PIN 0 // Potentiometer pin
#define BUTTON_PIN 2 // Button pin
Adafruit_NeoPixel pixels = Adafruit_NeoPixel(NUMPIXELS, PIN, NEO_GRB + NEO_KHZ800);
int showType = 0;
bool oldState = HIGH;
void setup() {
pinMode(BUTTON_PIN, INPUT_PULLUP); // Declare pushbutton as input
pixels.begin(); // This initializes the NeoPixel library.
void loop() {
// Read the potentiometer value and translate to how many pixels we want to illuminate
int value = analogRead(POT_PIN);
value = map(value, 0, 1023, 0, 25);
// Switch colours if the button is pressed
bool newState = digitalRead(BUTTON_PIN);
if (newState == LOW && oldState == HIGH) {
delay(20); // Short delay to debounce button.
// Check if button is still low after debounce.
newState = digitalRead(BUTTON_PIN);
if (newState == LOW) {
// Cycle through different colour schemes
if (showType > 8) showType=0;
oldState = newState; // Set the last button state to the old state.
uint32_t color = pixels.Color(255,255,255); // default to white when first booted
if (showType==1) color = pixels.Color(0,0,255); // blue
if (showType==2) color = pixels.Color(0,255,0); // green
if (showType==3) color = pixels.Color(255,0,0); // red
if (showType==4) color = pixels.Color(0,127,255);
if (showType==5) color = pixels.Color(255,127,0);
if (showType==6) color = pixels.Color(255,0,127);
if (showType==7) color = pixels.Color(0,255,255);
if (showType==8) color = pixels.Color(127,127,255);
// Illuminate X pixels depending on how far the potentiometer is turned
for(int i=0;i<NUMPIXELS;i++){
if (i<value) {
pixels.setPixelColor(i, color);
} else {
pixels.setPixelColor(i, pixels.Color(0,0,0)); // Don't show anything
pixels.show(); // This sends the updated pixel configuration to the hardware.

And here are a few pictures of it in place behind the PC monitor..

Samsung Q9FN Tips, Tricks, Secrets & Problems

The 2018 flagship TV from Samsung is the Q9FN (Amazon link: https://amzn.to/2IvwmkO). This is a FALD (Full Array Local Dimming) display with 480 LEDs lighting the display, rather than being edge-lit like a lot of the models. This generally means it’s much more capable of providing good contrast ratios. Overall I think it’s a good TV … most of the time….


However, the reality is different from the headlines and reviews in the major publications. What a lot of people have found is that the Contract Enhancement & Local Dimming features can cause light fluctuation problems, which are especially apparent in dark scenes with subtitles.

Light Fluctuations

You can see for yourself in this clip from Narcos Mexico S01E05 at about 45 minutes. This is being viewed via the built-in Netflix player in HDR, with Contrast Enhancement turned on, since without it enabled, dark scenes are waaay too dark to see anything!

It shows how subtitles affect the light levels in other areas of the screen.. like right at the top, nowhere near the subtitles.

Backlight Flicker

This shows how I’m seeing a flicker certain scenes. It’s like the TV can’t quite decide on the light level it’s supposed to display, and clicks into place. I’ve run this at standard speed, then slowed it right down to illustrate the flicker. You’ll need to look closely at the background & look for the light fluctuation.

FALD Confusion!

There are also instances when FALD gets in the way of drawing a background with a solid colour. This video shows a short excerpt from the film Searching (2018).. at about 52 min 30 sec. The FALD back light system has real trouble working out what to do with the dark blue satnav background which should be a solid/uniform colour.. but the bright white roads cause it a lot of problems. This could be a disadvantage of FALD over edge-lit or OLED. At least that’s the way it seems. I’m not entirely sure whether you could even solve this in software.

The blue lights/dots on the left are a reflection of the Xmas tree lights.. so nothing to do with the TV ;)

Tips & Tricks

Okay, enough with the problems, and onto the tips!

Secret Buttons!

At first glance the TV has no physical buttons to control it.. so if you’ve misplaced the remote, it looks like there’s nothing you can do. However, take a look under frame near the logo and there’s a neat directional control + OK button.

Steam Link for Free!

Instead of buying a Steam Link device, there’s actually a free app that lets you stream games from your Gaming PC to your TV. Install the app & plug your controller into the TV and you’re pretty much good to go!

Removing Adverts(!!) from the Menus

Yes, adverts.. in the menus.. on a brand new TV that you paid a lot of money for!

This video shows how I’ve been able to get rid of the movie trailers which annoyingly play so easily. They’re coming from apps like TV Plus & Rakuten. It’s not that easy to figure out how to get rid of them.. you certainly can’t uninstall the apps.. Samsung don’t let you do that :(

I found ads in the menu too.. if you go back into the policy agreements and make sure you’ve not ticked any of the options to agree to them, the ads should go away.

Here’s a link to the Q9FN on Amazon; https://amzn.to/2IvwmkO

Installing SABnzbd on a Raspberry Pi running OSMC

For quite some time I’ve been running SABnzbd on a PC, downloading files, and then transferring them over the local network to a USB drive attached to a Raspberry Pi which is running OSMC. There’s a Linux version of SABnzbd which means I can cut out the PC and have the Pi handle the downloads. It’ll mean I can queue up the downloads from a web interface running on whatever device I have to hand, like an iPad.

First Try

The initial installation of SABnzbd was quite easy;

sudo apt-get install python-openssl unrar par2

sudo apt-get install sabnzbdplus

Edit the settings so that the web client starts up on port 8085..

sudo nano /etc/default/sabnzbdplus


sudo service sabnzbdplus restart

This then allowed me to connect to SABnzbd and transfer over all my settings that I was using on my PC.

Delayed Start

What I found was that SABnzbd started before the USB drive was properly mounted by OSMC, so I disabled the main service from starting up, and added a script to wait for the USB drive to get mounted at a particular path.

There was a good forum post here that pointed me in the right direction.

Disable the default service…

sudo update-rc.d sabnzbdplus disable

Write a quick shell script to wait for the directory/USB drive to be mounted…

nano /home/osmc/startsabnzb.sh


# Wait for this folder to be mounted...

while [ ! -d "$DIR" ]; do
sleep 120

/etc/init.d/sabnzbdplus start

chmod a+x /home/osmc/startsabnzb

Add the script to system startup…

sudo nano /etc/rc.local



The version of SABnzbd that installed above was very dated. That repo doesn’t get updated very often. Here’s how I updated it to the latest version.

sudo su root

echo "deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/jcfp/nobetas/ubuntu xenial main" | tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list
echo "deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/jcfp/sab-addons/ubuntu xenial main" | tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list

apt-key adv --keyserver hkp://pool.sks-keyservers.net:11371 --recv-keys 0x98703123E0F52B2BE16D586EF13930B14BB9F05F

sudo apt-get update

Upgrading sabyenc

This solved the issue where SABnzbd was complaining that sabyenc wasn’t the right version. It uses the 2nd repo (sab-addons) we added in the steps above.

sudo apt-get install python-sabyenc

Final thoughts

SABnzbd runs quite well on the Pi. It is a lot slower than it was on a PC.. it only manages about 3 MB/s on the download on a wired connection (compared to 6 MB/s on a Wifi connection on a laptop), and unpacking is slow.

However, the files are unpacked onto the device which I was manually copying the files to anyway, so that saves time.

Samsung Galaxy S9 Super Slow-Mo Videos

The Samsung Galaxy S9 is a bit of a bargain if you look at the International versions. When it retailed for about £700 in the UK, you could import it from Italy for about £500! It’s available now on Amazon for £480.

When I bought the S9 I didn’t realise it had a special video mode called Super Slow-Mo. I’ve had slow mo on a Canon Ixus camera before, but it was poor resolution and needed a lot of light to work.

The S9 shoots super slow-mo at 960 frames per second, and captures 0.2 seconds of motion, stretching it to 6 seconds when you play it back.

One big difference with the S9 is how you trigger super slow-mo. When its set to automatic, a yellow square appears over the video preview.. when you start recording, the S9 looks for motion within the square, and when it sees movement it’ll trigger super slow-mo.

For me, the automatic mode makes it more than a gimmick .. you can get some great videos out of it without much effort. Here are a few (non-professional) examples that I’ve taken over the past few months;







These were quite simple to capture.. just practice a bit to see how it triggers and you can get good results.

Sharing attached USB storage in OSMC using NFS

As well as being attached to the living room TV for use as a media centre, I also wanted to be able to use my Raspberry Pi 3 B+ as a simple NAS for other TVs in the house to stream from.

The Pi I’m using has a 1Tb desktop hard drive attached to it over USB, and I wanted a way to easily share the contents. It was actually relatively easy to set up… this is how to do it in OSMC;

  1. Install SSH to OSMC via the Store
  2. Now you can remote shell into the Pi to set up the network share
  3. Install NFS services using the following command;
    sudo apt-get install nfs-kernel-server
  4. Edit the file shares;
    sudo nano /etc/exports

    Add a share like this;


    (crossmnt fixed an issue where I could see the folders but no files)

  5. Restart the NFS service;
    sudo /etc/init.d/nfs-kernel-server restart

That’s it.. you should now be able connect to the Raspberry Pi and see the files on any of the USB drives you’ve got attached.

Automated mains socket power-off for OSMC on a Raspberry Pi

I’ve chosen to replace an ageing mini-PC which I’ve used since 2010 with a new Raspberry Pi 3 B+ running OSMC. It makes for a really capable media centre which can playback newer h.265 HEVC video files at 1080p without any problems, or it can serve 4K files over NFS to a box with a hardware h.265 chip like the Fire TV Box.

This form factor is easy to take on holiday and you can use an old infrared remote control (or Harmony learning remote) with it too.

However, the one thing I’ve struggled with is how to make it easy for my family to use in regard to switching it on and off. The Pi doesn’t have a power button. Some power supplies have an inline rocker switch, which almost fits the bill. I wanted something more automated.

Fortunately I had a spare Energenie power socket from a previous project where I use one to turn off our bass speaker when the TV isn’t on. These power sockets are controlled remotely (over RF) from a Pi which you attach an Energenie control board/shield to.

What I’ve done with the Pi 3 is have it powered through an Energenie socket, and set up a service that executes when it detects OSMC is shutting down. That service will make a quick HTTP call to the Pi with the Energenie controller shield, which will in turn send an RF signal to turn the mains socket off.




Here’s how you can set it up like I have…

Scripts for the Pi running OSMC

First, add a new service script.. create a new file in this folder;


Description=Energenie Remote Call to Secondary Pi
ExecStop=/bin/sh /home/osmc/callenergenie.sh

Then enable it with;

sudo systemctl enable callenergenie.service

There are a couple of useful things happening in this service, the After parameter makes sure the code runs before the network code is shut down, and Conflicts parameter is looking for OSMC shutting down.

Now add a helper script… this will make the webserver call as a background task, so control will be given back to the service immediately, rather than it waiting for the wget to complete.


echo Calling energenie socket…
wget –quiet –background –output-document="callenergenie.log" ""
echo Sleeping for 2 seconds
sleep 2
echo Done.
exit 0

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This calls the PHP script, telling it which socket to turn off, and how long to delay before sending the command, which we’re doing so that the Pi has time to shut down before the power is cut.

Scripts for the Pi with the Energenie shield

This is the PHP script I added to the other Pi which was already configured to be a PHP web server.


/* MattC – Call this with various parameters..
delay = time in seconds to sleep before calling Energenie
switch = which socket to talk to
state = turn socket on/off
e.g. callenergenie.php?delay=5&switch=2&state=off
print ("Waiting ".$_GET['delay']." seconds");
print ("Switching socket ".$_GET['switch']." ".$_GET['state']);
exec("sudo python /var/www/callenergenie.py ".$_GET['state']." ".$_GET['switch']);

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To allow PHP to run the script as root, I needed to add the Apache user to the list of sudo-ers.. not that secure tho :( I’d be interested in anyone who knows how to run the Energenie scripts a regular user.. their Python doesn’t like it when it’s not root.

nano /etc/sudoers


The nice thing about the PHP script is that we can actually call it to turn the Pi on remotely too.. so you could configure that into a widget on your phone, or add it to Alexa.

Basic Automated Testing using FeatherTest for Chrome

There are a fair number of automated testing tools out there like Intern or Puppeteer, but I wanted something super simple and quick to set up to test a variety of pages on a site I develop.

I was making changes to JSON-LD, page metadata, and some of the data that’s sent to Omniture analytics. All the pages types are slightly different, containing things like Documents, Discussions, Blog Posts, landing pages, etc. So I needed to go to a variety of URLs on my local dev environment to see what certain DOM elements got set to, and check the contents of some JavaScript variables.

I’d then need to do the same checks against our Dev, Staging and Production servers to make sure they all looked correct there too.

After a bit of searching I came across FeatherTest which is fed a text file where you use JavaScript/jQuery to define & run the tests.

It’s very easy to set up tests, and the same test script file can be run against whatever site you’re looking at in your browser. For more info go here;


Typical FeatherTest Script Structure + Syntax

Tip 1 – Preserve Log

The output from FeatherTest goes into the console, so if you’re testing multiple pages, you’ll need to check the ‘Preserve Log’ option, otherwise you’ll lose the output as Chrome navigates between pages.

Tip 2 – Output Formatting

When writing scripts, I’d recommend colouring the console output, and prefixing each line with something easily identifiable. In my case I’m using ‘SUDO – ‘ and colouring the text orange.

You can then simply filter the console to just see your output;

When you’ve filtered the output, you can then save it to a file (right-click, save as..) and format it into shape.

I’ve found this really useful to monitor how my SEO data has improved as I’ve made changes, and to sanity check I’ve not broken anything between releases.

Tip 3 – Variable access

Some of the test scripts I’ve written needed access to variables defined in the scope of the main window.. FeatherTest can’t normally access these variables, so we need a helper function.

The helper function either needs baking into your site’s JavaScript, or you can inject it using an extension like TamperMonkey. Using TamperMonkey means you can use it on whatever site you want, not just ones where you’re able to install the function on.

My code adds an event listener that you can call from FeatherTest which you can request variable values from.


window.postMessage({ "action": "variable", "value": "myVar.hierarchy"}, window.origin);

This is the TamperMonkey/GreaseMonkey script I use;

// ==UserScript==
// @name FeatherTest Variable Support
// @namespace http://mysite
// @include http*://mysite/*
// @description Add support for FeatherTest variable access. Matt Collinge.
// @version 1.0
// @grant all
// ==/UserScript==
function featherTestSupport() {
if (typeof(window.addEventListener)!='undefined') window.addEventListener('message',function(event) {
// Make sure the request is coming from our own site (or FeatherTest)
if (event.origin !== window.origin) return;
if (typeof(event.data.action)=='undefined') return;
// Instead, I used this from StackOverflow; https://stackoverflow.com/questions/11924731/get-object-by-name-as-string-without-eval
if (event.data.action=='variable') {
var variableValue = event.data.value.split('.').reduce(function (object, property) {
return object[property];
}, unsafeWindow);
console.log('%c'+event.data.value+' = '+variableValue, 'color:orange');

FeatherTest Script – Example 1 – DOM Lookup

Pulling data out of the DOM is straightforward;

console.log('%cSUDO – HOMEPAGE', 'color:orange');
location.href = '/site_root/'
console.log('%cSUDO – '+location.href, 'color:orange');
console.log('%cSUDO – meta_title = '+$('meta[name="title"]').attr('content'), 'color:orange');
console.log('%cSUDO – meta_og:title = '+$('meta[property="og:title"]').attr('content'), 'color:orange');
console.log('%cSUDO – meta_description = '+$('meta[name="description"]').attr('content'), 'color:orange');
console.log('%cSUDO – meta_og:description = '+$('meta[property="og:description"]').attr('content'), 'color:orange');
console.log('%cSUDO – meta_og:image = '+$('meta[property="og:image"]').attr('content'), 'color:orange');
console.log('%cSUDO – meta_keywords = '+$('meta[name="keywords"]').attr('content'), 'color:orange');
console.log('%cSUDO – ', 'color:orange');

FeatherTest Script – Example 2 – Variable Access & JSON-LD

To access variables we’ll use the TamperMonkey function I posted above. We can also pull out any JSON-LD splats and present them quite nicely in the console output.

console.log('%cSUDO – HOMEPAGE', 'color:orange');
location.href = '/site_root/'
console.log('%cSUDO – '+location.href, 'color:orange');
// Output JSON-LD on page
$('script[type="application/ld+json"]').each(function(index,json){ console.log('%cSUDO – '+JSON.stringify(JSON.parse(json.innerHTML),null,2), 'color:orange') });
// Output the contents of some JavaScript variables
window.postMessage({ "action": "variable", "value": "myVar.hierarchy"}, window.origin);
window.postMessage({ "action": "variable", "value": "myVar.channel"}, window.origin);
window.postMessage({ "action": "variable", "value": "currentContainer.name"}, window.origin);
console.log('%cSUDO – ', 'color:orange');


Adding IR Remote Control Support to the Raspberry Pi

In my last post I took you through how I created a small portable media centre that I can easily take on holiday to hook up to the hotel TV.

To reduce the amount space it took up, I used a cheap USB keypad which could be used to control the media center. It worked really well & having something hard-wired meant I didn’t have to worry about a Bluetooth-paired device needing re-pairing.

However, what I then realised was it would be good to be able to use a spare remote control instead. I was using the OpenElec distribution and looked through their documentation for how to do this, but only found references to version 3 of the software (it’s on version 7) and how to get LIRC working with it. There were plenty of blog posts on hooking up IR support, but a lot of them were written 2-3 years ago, and the software has moved on somewhat.

Hardware Setup

What I did first was buy a suitable IR receiver. I chose the Vishay TSOP4838 (which costs less than £1) because of the voltage range (2.5-5.5v) and receiver frequency (38KHz). If you look at the datasheet for the product, you’ll see which pins should get wired up to the Pi;

Simply wire pin 1 to GPIO 18, pin 2 to GND, and pin 3 to a 3.3v power pin, e.g.

By using some short F-F jumper wires and a small cut in the side of the case, I was able to position the reciever neatly(ish) on the side.. it’s still easily removable, but you could integrate it into the case a bit more seamlessly than this ;)

Software Setup

Before this project I was using OpenElec, but had limited success getting the IR support working properly. I switched to OSMC which I’d read had better IR support through the main UI. I think I was actually on the right track with OpenElec, but I realised later that the old vintage Xbox remote I was trying to use wasn’t 100% working.

If you’re going to use a remote control that’s officially recognised, then you can jump this part about learning IR remote control codes.

Learning IR remote commands

The remote I found in the loft was an old DVD player remote which (unsurprisingly) wasn’t in the list of pre-recognised remotes in the OSMC installation. I needed to get the Pi to learn the IR pulses being sent out by the remote and map them to the Kodi functions.

1. First off, you need to telnet to the Pi. Username: osmc, Password: osmc.

2. Next you need to stop the LIRC service which is being locked/used by Kodi

sudo systemctl stop lircd_helper@lirc0

3. Now you can run the IR learn mode.. this will record what it finds to the config file you specify;

irrecord -d /dev/lirc0 /home/osmc/lircd.conf

4. Follow the on-screen instructions which will recognise your remote.

One observation I had was that this only worked properly if I stopped after the first prompt to press lots of keys on the remote.. if I completed the second stage, the key mapping didn’t work, e.g.

If I ignored the second phase & let it abort, the learn process worked

When it’s working, you’ll be able to enter the Kodi function (like KEY_UP, KEY_DOWN, etc) & map it to a key press on your remote;

Once you’ve mapped all the functions you want, we then need to move back to OSMC and tell it to use that config file we’ve just written.

OSMC Settings

In OSMC you need to do the following;

1. Disable the CEC service (via System Settings > Input > Peripherals > CEC Adapter), which seems to be needed for LIRC to work.

2. Now go into OSMC settings and pick the Raspberry Pi icon

3. Go into Hardware Support and enabled LIRC GPIO Support. You shouldn’t need to change anything if you connected the sensor to GPIO 18.

4. Now go back and select the Remote Control option.

5. Ignore the list of pre-installed remotes and select Browse;

6. Navigate to the folder where LIRC wrote your config file;

7. Confirm the change & reboot the box;

That should be it.. your remote should be able to control everything in Kodi.

17 Extensions to help the transition from Firefox to Chrome

I’m finally done with Firefox. When I first started using Firefox, the add-ons were a game-changer & I loved how much extra functionality they added to my day-to-day work.

Today, Chrome dominates the market, is waaay faster, and at the end of 2017 Mozilla is changing the add-on framework so some of the ‘classic’ add-ons I use will cease to work.

The final straw was seeing how fast Chrome way for general browsing and content creation; so much snappier than Firefox. Maybe that’s down to an ageing Firefox user profile.. but, IMO, Chrome is the future.

To ease my transition from Firefox to Chrome I’m using a bunch of extensions that give me the features I’ve grown used to. I thought I’d list out what I’m using so that others might benefit from knowing they’re out there & how useful they can be.

Adblock Plus
Blocks adds. I’d tried uBlock.. but found it breaking a bunch of sites.. so back to this one I’ve used for years in Firefox.

Akamai debug headers
Makes it simple to see what’s happening with websites fronted by the Akamai CDN.

Awesome Screenshot
Full-page screenshots

Cookie Inspector
Enables editing + adding of Cookies (I guess one day the Chrome devs will add this into the core app.. one day).

Downloads Router
Routes certain file types to certain folders. Bit of a faff to set up, but I find it useful for filing downloads into set folders.

The Chrome omnibar isn’t great for finding URLs I had open hours/days ago (Firefox was brilliant). This sorts out that problem & does a pretty good job at indexing everything nicely.

In addition to that, it gives you a neat menu bar with shortcuts to a whole bunch of things; bookmarks, extensions, apps, options, etc. The configurable tiles for sites is super-handy too.

HostAdmin App
Quick and easy host file editor.. especially useful if you’re using proxy exceptions to speed up access to certain internal sites, and want to be able to configure or toggle the entries easily.

Excellent cross-device password manager.

Modify browser headers. Useful for testing things like GeoIP.

Open IE
Adds in a context menu to open the current URL or link in other browsers (IE, Firefox, Opera, etc). Need an external helper program installing in Windows.

Page Monitor
Monitor web pages for changes.. works best when you set the Advanced option to look at a particular part of the page using CSS selectors.

Proxy SwitchyOmega
Set up multiple proxies and easily switch between them via the toolbar button.

This will give you a button where you can undo the accidental closing of a tab. (TabMixPlus did something similar in Firefox).

Lets you run scripts against web pages each time you load the page.. essentially allowing you to alter the page after it renders. Super handy for removing or adding elements to the page. This extension is the equivalent to Greasemonkey on Firefox.

The Camelizer
Nothing to do with work.. but essential all the same. Lets you see the price history for products on Amazon.. and set alerts for price fluctuations.

Web Developer
Handy tools for developers.

Xmarks Bookmark Sync
Synchronise bookmarks between multiple browsers on multiple PCs.. even has version history in case you delete bookmarks by accident.


Honorary mention..

An extension called Postman would have made this list a few months ago.. but it’s moved to a stand-alone application for Windows + Mac. It’s another essential bit of kit for developers; if you’ve not checked it out, go take a look.


That covers all but one of the Firefox add-ons I used to use. The one I still miss is Locationbar2, which I simply can’t find an equivalent for in Chrome.

It essentially makes each part of a site’s URL a clickable link.. which is super handy for quickly moving through a site’s structure.

If anyone spots something suitable, hit me up in the comments.

Raspberry Pi Heating Controller – Part 2 – Software Architecture

One of the early design decisions for the Raspberry Pi powered heating controller was to have the Pi secured behind a firewall without direct access to it from the Internet. What I decided to do was have a set of simple PHP web pages on a remote web host that you can access from anywhere, and the Pi control server talks to that web host to send/receive data.

What I didn’t want was for the Pi to run a web server that ends up getting compromised & having the run of my home network.

The Pi server and remote webspace need to be paired with an access key. Anyone accessing the remote site needs the correct access key to be able to control the system.. and the level of control is limited by the API we’ll put in place.. i.e. remote clients won’t have direct access to your internal network via an open port on your home router.

Of course, you could actually host the ‘remote’ part of this set up on your Pi and use port forwarding; the architecture allows for both types of access. The access key is still needed to control the system, but you’ll be more vulnerable to attacks on your Apache/PHP installation & need to keep up-to-date with software patches to help ensure your system is secure.


Home Automation Project – Raspberry Pi Heating Controller – Part 1

pi-controlI’m going to build a home automation project which connects a Raspberry Pi to control my central heating. I wasn’t particularly happy ripping out all the existing controls, and wanted to piggyback onto them.. which helps if the Pi ever fails (I’ve still got the old controls to fall back on).

I also didn’t want to mess with the existing heating control board, so bought a duplicate unit (British Gas UP2) from eBay for about £12.. I can perfect the project on that, and install it when I’m ready.

This set of videos goes through each step of the project.. starting off with opening the control board, an overview of what I want to do, and testing out the changes.

Opening up the Control Panel

This was a bit tricky.. it wasn’t quite obvious which plastic clips needed pushing in to pull the board out.. if you were doing this on your actual panel (not an eBay-bought duplicate) then this video should help work out what you need to do to get into it without damaging anything.


Project Overview

Next up, I’ll quickly go over what I intend to do to piggyback onto the control board. There’s a project here which did exactly what I wanted to do. He’s not using a PiFace 2 like I intend to use, and he wants to be able to control the hot water as well, but everything else is the same.


Safety First – Masking off the High Voltage Area

In this second video, I’ll show how I’m masking off the high voltage area of the board to make it a bit safer when I’m testing things out. Obviously most of the time the board is off, but this helps keep things safer when it is on without the cover.


Identifying Solder Points

Luckily this blog gave me a good starting point, but it wasn’t clear where to get the status of the central heating.. I used a multimeter to find a spot which changed voltage when the system was on, and this diagram shows you what I found;



Since I only needed 4 wires for this project (2 for the switch, and 2 for the system state), I took an old USB cable, cut the ends off, stripped the wires and soldered it to the board without much trouble.


Soldering Complete!

This shows the control board after the soldering has been completed.. it’s pretty simple soldering; the only tricky part was finding the points to connect to for the system state (on/off). I’ve stuck down some of the wires so that they don’t catch or get stuck underneath the control boards buttons.


Testing the Wiring

Now that I’ve done the soldering, I’m testing out the wiring.. seeing whether connecting the two wires for the switch turns the central heating on, and when it is on, whether we get voltage on the other two wires to indicate the system state.


Controlling from Software

I’ve now hooked it up to the Pi Face 2 board, which can be controlled with a few lines of Python to simulate a button press, and detect the state of the system.

With these basics in place, the rest of the control software can be written to do scheduling, bring in temperature readings, and allow the system to be controlled remotely.

Foscam FI8910W Review, Unboxing, and tips

foscam Over the past 3 years I’ve had the Edimax IC-1310 working in my home without many problems. It’s great to be able to monitor the house when I’m away & know that I’ll not have any nasty surprises when I get back.. well at least from a living room point-of-view.

The Foscam range of webcams caught my eye, specifically the FI8910W which can use a wireless network connection, and is steerable. I like the fact that this gives it a lot of placement flexibility.. just needing a power source & off it goes. This newer model has an IR-Cut filter which gives better colour reproduction from it’s predecessor. I paid about £65 for the white version from the official UK-based Foscam distributor; there was a 10% coupon code floating around on the web, which brought the price lower than Amazon.

Here’s what’s in the box;

Initial setup of the camera is supposed to include you installing some Windows app to find the camera’s IP address on your network; my router gives me a list of connected devices, so I chose to forego the app and use the router’s info instead. I could log into the camera once I had it’s IP address, and configured it to connect over wifi, altering a few other settings as I went (disabling the DDNS service, since my Edimax camera is already updating dyndns.org with my externally visible IP).

As long as you’re used to fiddling with things like port forwarding you’ll have everything set up within 10-15 minutes; there’s not a lot to it & these days it’s handy to have a phone on 3G to check things are working correctly. I added a few extra user accounts, and had TinyCam Monitor for Android working in no time at all.. specifying the local network IP on the main settings, and the DynDNS address on the extra 3G settings page.

Being able to steer the camera is really handy.. when you have it pointing in the right direction, you can save it as a preset, both from your browser, or from an app like TinyCam Monitor. I’ve set mine to mostly look out of the back window, but can swivel it round to look into the kitchen & hallway.. even up to the skylights, etc.

The quality of the images is pretty decent, but at 640×480, they’re not exactly HD quality. Motion detection is a tad limited.. even compared to my 3yr old Edimax. There’s no way to specify zones for motion detection, and it only uploads 2 .jpeg files for each motion capture event (the Edimax can upload 5 second videos!).

Annoyingly, even if you turn off the IR LEDs, they’ll switch back on the next time the camera is rebooted.. which is a real pain when the camera is looking out of a window (you only see the bright glare of the LEDs shining back at you!). Hopefully that’ll get fixed in a future firmware update, but I’m not betting on it. Talking of firmware, make sure you upgrade it.. the latest versions include some (unspecified) security fixes.

Overall, I’m still impressed with the camera.. the price point is just right when you compare it with the features and annoying niggles.

For anyone who wants a direct URL to a jpeg snapshot from the camera, then this is the correct URL format;


That should be handy for anyone who has a HTML dashboard page, or a desktop widget that accepts webcam image URLs.

And here’s a sample image from the camera as it points out of my back window.. a window that needs a clean! And yes, that’s a sink plunger on the patio.. for some bizarre reason the kids enjoy playing with this more than the billion toys they’ve got ;)

Foscam FI8910W snapshot

ASUS RT-N56U Wireless Router Review

The Belkin 54G wireless access point I’ve been using for a few years has been suffering since we extended the house.. there’s just not enough range on it, and it tends to temporarily lock up if it’s hammered a lot.

Finding a replacement took a lot of research, but I eventually decided on the ASUS RT-N56U, costing about £85, after reading some great reviews, including one in PC Pro. It’s worth reiterating that it doesn’t contain an ADSL router.. so if you’re on that type of broadband you’ll still need one of those in your set up. I’m happy with that, since the master socket isn’t where I want to place the wireless router anyway.

Configuration was straight-forward, aided by a decent web interface. As soon as I plugged it in I upgraded the firmware to the latest version from ASUS. I’d also seen that there are unofficial firmwares from a Russian group which are meant to fix a bunch of stuff & add new features. I’m sticking with the ASUS firmware unless I hit stability problems or find that I want to tinker later on. I certainly like the option to have a customised firmware should the need arise.

After having it running for a few days I’m really impressed with the speed and coverage across the house. It allows you to either use one SSID for 2.4Ghz and one for 5Ghz.. which lets you decide which band you want a device to use. Or set the same SSID for both, and it’ll automatically switch you over to the fastest band according to the signal strength. I was in the kitchen, and it connected on what must have been the 2.4Ghz band (due to the distance), then moved to the living room where the speed shot up & was obviously using the 5Ghz band.

Here’s a table showing how the signal strength has been affected by the upgrade;

Signal Strength (dBm)
Postion ASUS Belkin
Utility Room -70 -75
Kitchen Diner -76 -85
Lounge -45 -63
Bedroom -61 -75
Bathroom -76 -85


And here’s my unboxing video;