Linux distribution for Astronomy

Distro Astro

As a Physics undergraduate student (in my almost middle age) with great interest in Astronomy, Linux and Open source software, I cannot give enough thanks to team behind the Distro Astro – Linux for astronomers.


The distro

The Distro Astro is a Debian based distribution, you can test run it in full from the live DVD version without the need to install it first. Their latest version (2.0) is called Pallas and contains various software packages used by professional and amateur astronomers. It comes loaded with camera drivers, imaging software, tools for astrophotgraphy, planetariums, sky maps and charts, data analysis tools and much more.

A unique feature of Distro Astro is support for Nightvision Mode. This allows you to toggle between normal and red nightvision colors to preserve dark adaptation (of your eyes) while using the computer at night, especially during observations.

Help develop

In the spirit of true open source, the developers have asked for contribution from other developers and non-developers in packaging existing software, creating new tools and features, mirror hosting, bug testing, promoting the distro,  hardware support and financial sponsoring.

So if you have an interest in Astronomy, why no give Distro Astro a try.  You can also follow Distro Astro’s development on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook


Truecrypt Failed to set up a loop device in openSUSE

If you are getting the error message “Failed to set up a loop device” while mounting Truecrypt media on Linux, especially in openSUSE, there’s a simple fix. Normally I have to browse through various forums to find different bits of information to fix a problem, and I normally post the full fix here. This fix is so simple that I’ll link directly to it on openSUSE’s support forum.

Fix: TrueCrypt issue – Failed to set up a loop device

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Linux and Android in space with STRaND-1

The UK’s nano satellite STRaND-1 has taken an Android smart-phone (Nexus One) where no other smart-phone has gone before, space!  The satellite also contains a small computer running Linux in its payload.

During the summer of 2011, the STRaND team ran a competition to find apps to be loaded onto the phone. There selected winners were:

iTesa  – will record the magnitude of the magnetic field around the phone during orbit.

The STRAND Data app -  will show satellite telemetry on the smartphone’s display which can be imaged by an additional camera on-board.

The 360 app  – will take images using the smartphone’s camera and use the technology onboard the spacecraft to establish STRaND-1′s position.

The Scream in Space app – will make full use of the smartphone’s speakers. Testing the theory ‘in space no-one can hear you scream, made popular in the 1979 film ‘Alien’.

The anatomy of STRaND-1



Stop Salesforce web-to-lead spam

Salesforce web to lead form is a great way of collecting leads straight from your website into Salesforce CRM. The biggest problem is that Salesforce has not put in place a SPAM filtre for this, so once your form is out there anyone can cache it and send SPAM to your CRM as a new lead.

What about CAPTCHA

CAPTCHA alone won’t help. Since the form can be submitted from any server, once they get hold of your web to lead OID, they can cache your form, remove the CAPTCHA and continue to SPAM you.

At the moment I am using the following solution posted by Scott Hemmeter on his blog post “Stopping web to lead SPAM“. This solution is to setup a Validation Rule in Salesforce in order to avoid SPAM leads being created.

Let’s hope Salesforce will come up with a way of checking and stopping web to lead SPAM.

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Fix associate-o-matic images not showing

After moving a clients Associate-o-matic store to a new hosting, images have stopped showing. If we attempted to view the image the following error would appear:

Warning: file_get_contents() [function.file-get-contents]:… File(/aom/img.php) is not within the allowed path(s)

Even after updating to the new version of AOM I could not get it  to work. The work around I found is to use cURL intead of file_get_contents();  To do this I followed these simple steps.

  1. Download and open file /aom/img.php
  2. copy the function CURL replacement for file_get_contents to the end of the file before ?>
  3. comment out the line echo file_get_contents($img); (just add # at the start of the line, do this for both instances of the line)
  4. add echo file_get_contents_curl($img); under both lines you have just commented out.
  5. Save and upload the file.




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