Build your own arcadeWalk into any arcade/amusements today and it’s likely you’ll be met with a sad sight. A painfully rigged grabber machine plays the same 10 seconds of some god awful pop song while inviting you to win knockoff Angry Birds plushies. A 2p pusher with a glued down plastic watch for a prize continues to pointlessly shove it’s shelves back and forth, and a Virtua Racer machine with a knackered seat and half broken screen tries to tempt you out of 50p. All the while an elderly lady who may or may not have passed away props up an aging fruit machine whose reels stick between symbols. Not even Wreck-It Ralph would want to live here. It didn’t used to be this way though, and I’m going to bring the glory days of the arcade back to my living room with the help of the Raspberry Pi.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be building a Raspberry Pi powered arcade emulator integrated into an arcade style controller. It’ll also be capable of emulating some retro home gaming systems (SNES, MegaDrive etc.), so by the time it’s finished we should be able to party like it’s 1989. This first version is a test bed and template for a desktop sized arcade cabinet I have planned, but I’m waiting for the awesome looking HDMIPi display I backed on KickStarter to be released before I go that far.

If like me you haven’t held a soldering iron since that “unexplained” fire at school, don’t worry, this is firmly in the beginner difficulty category. We’ll need some hardware, and for all the arcade controls I’ll be buying from the fantastic ModMyPi, a UK based company who among other things are resellers of Adafruit products. Adafruit have an excellent tutorial on their site that covers the construction of a similar setup that I used for the base of my project, but I’ll be tweaking this build by adding more buttons and pairing it with the excellent RetroPie project.  My initial shopping list is:

 

1x Model B Raspberry Pi

1x 8GB SD Card

1x Arcade Joystick

6x 30mm Arcade Buttons (various colours)

2x 16mm Illuminated ring switch (for Start and Insert Coin buttons. These have integrated resistors so should be nice and easy!)

1x Pack of 40 Female to Female Jumper wires

1x Pack of 3mm Female Spade connectors

1x Wireless Keyboard (wireless for convenience, but you can use any USB keyboard)

1x Soldering iron and some solder

 

The above linked products are just suggestions, and there are a wide variety of alternatives available. In many cases the best option is the hardware you already have, so feel free to substitute any equivalents you might have lying around. This list should see us through the project, but as this is a work in progress I’ll be sure to add anything else I come across that might be handy (or remove anything that didn’t quite work!).

In the next post I’ll cover the initial Pi setup and configuration of RetroPie, then we can move onto burning our fing- I mean, careful soldering! In the meantime I’ll leave you with an amazing arcade fact to get you motivated. In 1981, just 3 years after release, the original Space Invaders had made more than $1bn in the US. That’s well over $2bn in today’s money and each play cost just 25c…that’s a lot of quarters!

 

 

 



Choose a strong passwordIt seems like everything wants a password these days. You’ve got a password for work, a password for online shopping, a password for your bank account…the list goes on and on. The number of services requiring a password makes it tempting to use the same one everywhere – but that’s a really bad idea. Using the same password across every site means that if just one of them is hacked, then the hacker has the details for everything you use.

So what’s the answer? One approach is to use a password management tool to randomly generate and store all your passwords. There are many software solutions available that will do this for you, two of the best being LastPass and Keepass. Programs like these are great, but have their drawbacks. For a start many charge for at least some of their features, and they all require you to trust your passwords to one single source. While they take all kinds of measures to secure your data, it still introduces an element of risk. The other downside is that the tools encourage you to forget your passwords. There is a school of thinking that says this is a good thing, because good passwords are too difficult to remember. But what happens when you need a password and don’t have access to your password store? Even worse, what happens if you forget the password required to access your passwords? For these reasons I still find it useful to create passwords that I can carry around in my head – but that doesn’t mean you have to resort to weak keys.

One method is to come up with a memorable base password that you can then build on and make unique for each service. Avoiding words found in the dictionary and names will help make your password harder to crack, so consider using a short phrase or perhaps the first initials of favourite song lyric or quotation. For example, if you were an Oasis fan (and who isn’t?) you could take a line from Wonderwall:

I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do

We can turn that into memorable but random looking password by using each first letter, giving you idbtaftwid. That’s a pretty good start – a ten character none dictionary password that you won’t forget!

It’s good practice to use complex passwords that use a mixed case, numbers and symbols, and in fact many sites will require it. To bring our password up to scratch lets change it slightly, but in a way that still makes sense to us. If we capitalise the I’s like we would if we were writing the original lyric, and then add the year of release to the beginning we get:

95IdbtaftwId

Now, I know what you’re thinking, it looks like a nightmare. It’s long and looks like gibberish. The beauty of it is though that although it looks like gibberish, it means something to you. You don’t have to remember the password as it appears - as long as you can remember that lyric you’ll be able to remember your password.

Finally, we can take our password and make it unique for every site we use it on. Let’s say we want to use it as a base for our Amazon password. Take the last three characters from the name of the service and add it into your password. Insert it at any point you want, but make it consistent across all the versions you create. For this password, I think after our year of release might be the easiest place to remember and least obvious to anyone looking at it. This gives us:

95zonIdbtaftwId

A password to be proud of! Using our new method we can quickly create a whole raft of passwords:

95ttoIdbtaftwId – Lotto

95ookIdbtaftwId – Facebook

95terIdbtaftwId – Twitter

If you use this method yourself, mix it up to make it truly individual to yourself. Try placing that meaningful number mid-way through the rest of the characters, and adding special characters like ? ! * @. As long as you’re consistent and make it meaningful, you won’t forget it.

So there we have it – with a little bit of thought you can create a password scheme that is easy for you to remember but produces terrifying looking passwords! Do you have a different system that works well for you? If so why not tell us about it in the comments below.

 



Last week I was tasked with the challenge of assigning a sharepoint only license from our Office 365 license pool to a large list of staff.

The following PowerShell script is what I came up with – I added the ability to prompt before assignment, just in case a UPN had slipped through my pre scripting filtering.

This script relies on a CSV file of user principal names, one column – titled UserPrincipalName


Currently, the script assigns a full set of 365 licenses, then removes all but the one the user requires – future plans are to just assign whats required.



It’s all about the bug fixes… Due to many a late evening coding, and some switches in my development environment – this release fixes some of the major show stopping bugs that had made its way into v0.0.3.0

So here’s a breakdown of whats new:

  • Resolved handler issues for all check boxes and radio buttons
  • Many more improvements in serial number handling/storage

LCS 2014

All of the other features still stand:

Features

  • Custom Status – This application eases the pain of creating 4 custom status options for the Microsoft Lync Client. Rather then just telling your contacts you are away or busy, you can now give them more insight into what you are on with.
  • Linked Personal Notes - Now when you switch to a status, a predefined personal note will also apply
  • Linked Locations - Now when you switch to a status, a predefined location will also apply
  • Automated(Canned) Responses - Upon selecting a custom status, the application is capable of intercepting conversation requests and replying (automatically) with your predefined response.
    • Exception Lists – Sometimes you don’t want your automated responses going to every contact in your list, the application works with a list of predefined addresses which it won’t respond to.
    • Frequency of response - Much like Microsoft Outlook, you can prevent (if you want) the recipient receiving multiple copies of your ‘canned’ response in a 24 hour period. Alternatively, you can set the app to reply every time.
  • Call handling - Upon selecting a custom status, the application is capable of intercepting voice call requests and handling them  (automatically) with your predefined response.
    • Reject Call – The app is now capable of automatically rejecting calls, sending them to voice mail if set up.
    • Call Forward - The app is now capable of automatically forwarding incoming calls to your defined recipient.
      • On both counts it’s still possible to honour the exception list, allowing calls from your predefined contacts from bypassing the rules and passing through.
  • Tools - The application also contains a tool set for some often required ‘tweaks’/file manipulations to resolve some of the niggles we come across in our Lync environment.
    • Lync Cache Cleaning - Lync caches information locally to aid with performance, this can often cause delays when information is updated on other clients or centrally.
      • Photo Cache Cleaning - The application enables the end-user to ‘point and click’ clear down the Lync Client photo cache. Very useful when diagnosing photo synchronisation issues.
      • Contact Cache Cleaning - The application enables the end-user to ‘point and click’ clear down the Lync Client Contact cache cleaning. This saves having to remove all the users login information, but often helps clear spurious contact list issues. Such as people’s status’ being listed incorrectly.
    • Appear Offline - The application gives the end-user the ability to enable a hidden Lync feature, the ability to appear offline.. This is especially useful if you are out of the office and need to make calls, but do not want to receive calls/IM’s
    • Force GAL Download - The application enables the end-user to override the delay of download for the GAL, very handy during a rebuild of an end users machine.
    • Backup GAL – The application makes backing up the local copy of the GAL a point and click process. This comes in handy when migrating a user from one machine to another.

As always, please let me know if you discover any bugs – or have suggestions for features. If you already have a key for the app you can download the MSI here, use the built in ‘Check for updates’ functionality or If you don’t yet have a key please use this link:



In this release of LCS I have focused on ironing out even more bugs, and also put some focus into the GUI. Now when you create your custom status the tabs titles change to reflect this.

After fighting with distribution methods, I have now included a separate app in the distribution.. So once the App is installed it will no longer need to download the full setup package again!

I have also now introduced custom IM and Call routing for the built in Microsoft Lync Away state.

So here’s a breakdown of whats new:

  • Resolved issue with setting status from system tray
  • Keyboard shortcuts for all the commands
  • Introduction of ‘Away’ tab
  • Introduction of the ‘Check for Updates’ app
  • Improvements in rule handling logic

LCS 2014

All of the other features still stand:

Features

  • Custom Status – This application eases the pain of creating 4 custom status options for the Microsoft Lync Client. Rather then just telling your contacts you are away or busy, you can now give them more insight into what you are on with.
  • Linked Personal Notes - Now when you switch to a status, a predefined personal note will also apply
  • Linked Locations - Now when you switch to a status, a predefined location will also apply
  • Automated(Canned) Responses - Upon selecting a custom status, the application is capable of intercepting conversation requests and replying (automatically) with your predefined response.
    • Exception Lists – Sometimes you don’t want your automated responses going to every contact in your list, the application works with a list of predefined addresses which it won’t respond to.
    • Frequency of response - Much like Microsoft Outlook, you can prevent (if you want) the recipient receiving multiple copies of your ‘canned’ response in a 24 hour period. Alternatively, you can set the app to reply every time.
  • Call handling - Upon selecting a custom status, the application is capable of intercepting voice call requests and handling them  (automatically) with your predefined response.
    • Reject Call – The app is now capable of automatically rejecting calls, sending them to voice mail if set up.
    • Call Forward - The app is now capable of automatically forwarding incoming calls to your defined recipient.
      • On both counts it’s still possible to honour the exception list, allowing calls from your predefined contacts from bypassing the rules and passing through.
  • Tools - The application also contains a tool set for some often required ‘tweaks’/file manipulations to resolve some of the niggles we come across in our Lync environment.
    • Lync Cache Cleaning - Lync caches information locally to aid with performance, this can often cause delays when information is updated on other clients or centrally.
      • Photo Cache Cleaning - The application enables the end-user to ‘point and click’ clear down the Lync Client photo cache. Very useful when diagnosing photo synchronisation issues.
      • Contact Cache Cleaning - The application enables the end-user to ‘point and click’ clear down the Lync Client Contact cache cleaning. This saves having to remove all the users login information, but often helps clear spurious contact list issues. Such as people’s status’ being listed incorrectly.
    • Appear Offline - The application gives the end-user the ability to enable a hidden Lync feature, the ability to appear offline.. This is especially useful if you are out of the office and need to make calls, but do not want to receive calls/IM’s
    • Force GAL Download - The application enables the end-user to override the delay of download for the GAL, very handy during a rebuild of an end users machine.
    • Backup GAL – The application makes backing up the local copy of the GAL a point and click process. This comes in handy when migrating a user from one machine to another.

As always, please let me know if you discover any bugs – or have suggestions for features. If you already have a key for the app you can download the MSI here, use the built in ‘Check for updates’ functionality or If you don’t yet have a key please use this link:




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