Unhiding ads when searching with google

The ads that google place at the top of search result are quite difficult to separate from the main content because they have chosen to place them in a div that is practically the same colour as the main search results. As amazing as google is at predicting what I want, I rarely find that the ads that they place are relevent to what I am searching for and as a result I like to have an easy way of distinguishing them so that I can start at the top of the main results.

If you use Firefox, it is possible to setup a custom theme to change the colour of the ads so that they are distinguishable from the main result. To do this, you need to edit your userContent.css to set a custom rule for the div in question.

To do this, create (or edit) the following file C:\Documents and Settings\\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\.default\chrome and add the following section:

@-moz-document domain(google.co.uk) {
#tads { background-color: #eeeeee !important; }

Obviously change the google domain if you use google from another country and feel free to use a different colour if you want.

Credit must go to: http://coreygilmore.com/blog/2008/10/23/per-site-custom-css-in-firefox/ for details of this feature. This site is worth a read if you want to do this from a Mac.

Starting a Django Project

Django has fast become my web development weapon of choice.  Quick to develop, lots of functionality for free and of course allows me to code in python.  Everytime I create a project I find myself trawling through previous project to find those little snippets that make my life a lot easier.  For posterity, I am hoping to capture those steps in one place so that the next time I create a project it is much easier.


Virtualenv creates a virtual python environment which allows you to isolate the libraries you install for each project.  I find it handy when developing for a machine where I am not the root user as it allows me to install a large number of packages without having write access to the library path.  The other major advantage is when you start a new project which uses a later version of django, it makes handling multiple django installs easy.  It is kind of a chicken and egg problem because we need a virtual env to install django, but we really want the env inside our django project.  I solve this by creating the environment, using this to create the project and then creating a bash script to activate the environment.

The other nice thing about virtualenv is that you can either install it or just download the file.  The overall process looks something like this:

# Setup virtualenv
$ cd projects

# Create directory for your virtual envs
$ mkdir venvs
$ cd venvs

# Install virtual env
$ wget https://raw.github.com/pypa/virtualenv/master/virtualenv.py

# Create virtual env
$ python virtualenv.py <PROJECT_NAME>

# Activate virtual env
$ source <PROJECT_NAME>/bin/activate

# Install django
$ pip install django

The rest of this document assumes that you will have the virtual environment activated for all python commands.

Creating the Django Project

Now that we are in our virtual environment with django installed, we can create the project as we normally would.

(VENV)$ django-admin.py startproject <project_name>
(VENV)$ cd <project_name> python ./manage.py startapp <app_name>

Nothing exciting there.

Setting up Git

Version control is just a good idea. But first, let’s create a .gitignore file.

*.pyc              # ignore all compiled python files
local_settings.py  # Don't commit the local settings file (see later)
db.sq3             # Ignore the sqllite database

Once that has been created in your project directory, do the following

(VENV)$ git init
(VENV)$ git add .
(VENV)$ git commit -m 'Initial commit'

Edit settings.py

Django insists on using absolute paths for all of its config which is not very helpful if you are sharing users. I therefore add the following macros at the top of my settings.py file:

import os, django
DJANGO_ROOT = os.path.dirname(os.path.realpath(__django.__file__))
SITE_ROOT   = os.path.dirname(os.path.realpath(__file__))

DATABASE_NAME = os.path.join(SITE_ROOT, 'db.sq3')

  os.path.join(SITE_ROOT, 'templates'),

DJANGO_ROOT now contains the location of the folder where django is installed. Most likely /usr/… or in your virtual environment. SITE_ROOT contains the location of the main site folder. You can see how these variables are used to set relative paths.

I also change the TIME_ZONE to ‘Europe/London’.

Finally at the end of settings.py I add the following lines. These allow me to easily override settings for each install. This means I generally set the settings.py up for development, using a sqllite backend which means that you can clone the repository and use the runserver command without any fancy setup. For production, the local_settings.py file overrides this and uses production values. It also is a good place for database passwords as these won’t get pushed to the repository.

  from local_settings import *
except ImportError:

My local_settings.py looks like this:

DEBUG = False

ADMINS = (('<name>', '<email>'),)

DATABASES = (<database settings>)

SECRET_KEY = "Shh don't tell anyone"

Install South

Django comes with a great database abstraction layer, but it doesn’t handle migrations out of the box. Enter south. Whilst it seems like overkill now, you will be very happy later when you decide to add a column to your table and south just handles it.

Install south using pip. Make sure that you are running from the virtual environment.

(VENV)$ pip install South

The tutorial provides a good starting point for using south.

Model / View Creation

I find that I generally have to add the same imports at the top of most of my models / views and I generally have to look up what they are, so I am including them here:

# models.py

from django.db import models
from django.contrib.auth.models import User
from django.forms import ModelForm
from django.conf import settings
from django.db.models.signals import post_delete
import django.dispatch
from django.utils import timezone
from django import forms
# views.py

from <app>.models import *
from django.shortcuts import render_to_response, get_object_or_404
from django.http import HttpResponseRedirect, HttpResponse
from django.core.urlresolvers import reverse_lazy, reverse
from django.template import RequestContext, Context, loader
from django.contrib.auth.decorators import login_required
from django.http import HttpResponse
from django.conf import settings
from django.utils import timezone
import datetime, json

The following is a quickstart guide for setting up the admin.

# admin.py

from django.contrib import admin
from <app> import *

class BlahAdmin(admin.ModelAdmin):
  list_display = ['', '']
  list_filter = ['', '']
  search_fileds = ['', '']
  ordering = ['', '']

admin.site.register(Blah, BlahAdmin)

Base Template

The following can be used as a base template:

<!DOCTYPE html>
  <!-- title block -->
  <title>{% block title %}Title{% endblock %}</title>

  <!-- website icons -->
  <link rel="icon" href="{{ STATIC_URL }}img/favicon.ico" type="image/x-icon" />
  <link rel="shortcut icon" href="{{ STATIC_URL }}img/favicon.ico" type="image/x-icon" />

  <!-- Styles and scripts required for each page -->
  <link rel="stylesheet" href="{{ STATIC_URL }}css/style.css" type="text/css" />
  <script src="{{ STATIC_URL }}js/script.js" type="text/javascript"></script>

  <!-- A block so that a page can add stuff to the page header -->
  {% block extraheader %}
  {% endblock %}
  <div id="content">
    <!-- A block for navigation header -->
    {% block navbar %}
    {% endblock %}

    <!-- The main page content goes here -->
    {% block content %}
    {% endblock %}

Setting up a scripts directory

It is worthwhile setting up a scripts directory for commonly used operations. It may be possible to eclipse this use fabric which will be explained later on, but doing this will save quite some time.

Create a script to enable the virtual evironment

# scripts/activate_venv.sh

source </bin/activate

Create a script for any jobs that you might want to add to a cron job.

# scripts/CRON.daily

# make sure we have the venv

# run some commands
python manage.py <some command>

This can also be repeated for a cron weekly or other type of script.

I quite often have background daemon to process stuff so I found the following script would create a screen session for me, run a webserver and then start any background jobs.

# start.sh
# Loads an environment contained in an ENV.start file


if [ -z "$ENV" ]
    echo "Environment not specified"
    exit 1


if [ ! -f "$FILE" ]
    echo "Environment $ENV not known"
    exit 1					

# start up a named screen session
screen -dmS "$ENV"
sleep 1

# apply the commands in $FILE to the screen session
screen -r "$ENV" -X source "$FILE"

The commands in the screen session look something like this:

# scripts/DEFAULT.start
# Starts the webserver and one background job

select 0
title "Server"
exec python manage.py runserver

# command for production
#exec python manage.py runfcgi method=threaded host= port=8070 daemonize=false

# start the background job
select 1
title "Background job"
exec python manage.py <command>

The following file is used to kill the named screen session.

# scripts/stop.sh


if [ -z "$ENV" ]
    echo "Environment not specified"
    exit 1


if [ ! -f "$FILE" ]
    echo "$ENV not known"
    exit 1

# kill the session
screen -X -S "$ENV" quit || exit 0

Now I can create as many environment files as I require (typically one for local debug and one for production) and call them as follows:

# Start the webserver
(VENV)$ scripts/start.sh DEFAULT

# Stop the webserver
(VENV)$ scripts/stop.sh DEFAULT

Note that you must have the virtual environment activated for the django admin commands to work properly.


I typically find that my web applications involve a web frontend that puts data in a database and a background daemon that processes the data. Initially, in my worker thread, I would poll on the database with a 10 or so second sleep between polls, but this is not very elegant. I now use beanstalk which means I don’t have to poll.

worker_signal = django.dispatch.Signal(providing_args=[])
worker_signal.send(sender=model instance)

from django.dispatch import receiver
def do_some_work(sender, **kwargs):


At first glance fabric seems far too simple to be useful, but that is what gives it its power, the fact that it is really simple. To install it, from the virtual environment use:

(VENV)$ pip install fabric

I’m still new to fabric and haven’t yet worked out the best way to fit it into my projects. At the moment I use it to drive the scripts in my scripts folder and use it to push changes from my development version to my remotely installed version. This is the fab command that I use to do that:

def releaseversion(tag):
  local('git push origin %s' % tag)
  with cd('path to dir'):
    run('./scripts/stop.sh PRODUCTION')
    run('git pull --tags origin master')
    run('git checkout %s' % tag)
    # include commands here to syncdb / manage south migrations
    # and do anything else when new stuff is installed
    run('./scripts/start.sh PRODUCTION')

This means that now when I am happy with my development testing on my dev site, I can run the following set of commands and have the remote site(s) automatically update. This makes pushing changes to remote sites easy.

(VENV)$ git tag -a tag_name -m 'Blah'
(VENV)$ fab releaseversion:tag_name

I’ll update this section as I get a better handle on fabric. For now, read the documentation here.

One or Two Beers from Belgium


Pauwel Kwak and Tripel Karmeliet

In continuing with drinking beers from the country of sporting events that we follow, we were obliged to knock back some beers from Belgium whilst watching Paris-Roubaix.

The first thing to note about the beers that we tried is that they are not shy when it comes to ABV.  All the following beers were at least nine percent which really does the trick.

In all, five beers were drunk.  Three golden ones: Duvel, Tripel Karmeliet and Urthel Hop-It and two dark ones: Urthel Samarath and Pauwal Kwak all of which were very enjoyable in their own unique way.

Although all of the beers had very different tastes,one thing they do have in common is their strength.  It is very subtle, but they all have a slight taste of alcohol.  Not a lot, but just enough to make you sit up and take notice.  Just enough to remind you that that these are beers to be taken seriously, beers that should be sipped and appreciated; not just downed.  I am very much looking forward to the next Belgium beer tasting.

Urthel Hop-It

Urthel Samarath


Australian Beer for an Australian Race

In an attempt to revive the 1001 beers attempt, we will be trying to to drink one (or more) beers from the country that is hosting the grand prix in that weekend.  The 2012 season started in Albert Park.  The beer of choice was Little Creatures’s Pale Ale – a delicious, fruity beer.  We also obtained, but did not get around to drinking Boag’s Premium Lager which is from Tasmania.

Some locations will be more challenging than others e.g. Malaysia and Bahrain and in this case we will have to open the selection up to neighbouring countries.

Update: We have now had the Boag’s Premium Lager.  A very tasty beer that I can imagine would be very refreshing on a hot summer’s day, standing in front of a braai / BBQ.

Heston’s Exploding Chocolate Gateau

I’ve been following Heston’s recent cooking series: “How to cook like Heston”.  So far I have found it to contain many useful tidbits.  His episode on chocolate inspired me to make his chocolate gateau.  You can see the full recipe here.

Unfortunately I was unable to find the popping candy for the base, but the result was still amazing and the passion fruit did indeed work very well with the chocolate.  My final result is shown below:

You may be able to see that I didn’t bother with spraying the cake with a chocolate finish.  As awesome as it would have been, it seemed a little excessive.

Some other photos of the making of the cake are shown below:

Combining the passion fruit pulp with the cream

Melting the dark and milk chocolate

Mixing the molten chocolate with the cream

Spreading a thin layer of the ganache on the base that is frozen. This stops the mixture seeping into the base.




This is mainly a note to myself as everytime I try and find this command, the search terms required for google seem to get more and more difficult to remember.

In order to turn a local IP address into a hostname, you can use the following command:

$ nslookup <ip address>

Brightly Coloured Lichen


Water on Rock

Having finally uploaded one of my own photos for the header of my blog, I thought I’d make a mention of it with another one of my photos.  Both photos were taken in Zimbabwe.  The blog header was taken near Cecil John Rhodes’ grave in the Matopas.  The Matopas consists of large rock forms covered in striking lichen.  It was an overcast  day which allowed the lichen to contrast beautifully against the rock and the windswept grass adds movement and drama to the photo.

You forget just how brightly coloured the lichen can be as can be better seen in the photo attached to this post.  You can see just how vibrant the orange is against the rock.  This photo was unplanned; some ice from the cooler box melted whilst I was waiting for a sunset shot.  The glistening of the water caught my eye and resulted in the above shot.

Beer Dispensing Equipment


I was in a bar recently which has taps plumbed in on the table where you sat so you could pour your own drinks.  An experience I really enjoyed – it certainly made getting drinks easier.  Although you did have to keep on remembering which account to set before pouring your drink.  I imagine that this gets more difficult as the evening wears on…

As cool as having beer piped to each table was, the bar had made the effort to put the beer dispensing equipment on display for their patrons to see as they visited the facilities.  What a brilliant idea!

Great Opening Matches of RWC2011

As the title suggests, what a great opening weekend to the rugby world cup.  Every single game has been very enjoyable with the underdogs making sure that the favourites had to work hard for their victories.  The rest of this post will highlight some of the moments that I think have made this weekend fantastic.

We’ll start with the opening game.  After a very well conceived opening ceremony with a stunning performance of “The World in Union”, two island nations took centre stage and had a haka off.  The game was just as dramatic as the hakas with New Zealand scoring six tries.  Tonga were no pushovers, particularly in the last 20 minutes of the game which they were in control of.  My favourite moment, one of the New Zealand backs completing a great pass as he was being tackled and was practically prone on the floor.  In the end New Zealand won comfortably 41 points to 10.

The second game between Scotland and Romania was unexpectedly close and I’m sure the Scots were more than a little worried at one point in the game.  They dominated early on in the game and opened up a slight lead.  I’m sure they thought that the rest of the game would be much of the same with their backs applying pressure to the Romanian defense until it broke down and then they could run in a try.  The Romanian forwards had other ideas and used their extra 2kg to push the Scottish forwards all over the place.  Romania completely owned the scrum and had they had the guts to go for the try instead of kicking, there may have been a very different result.  Romania took the lead in the last 20 minutes of the game, but this seemed to be the wake up call that Scotland needed and they rallied well to score a few tries at the end to secure the victory.  Final score Scotland 34, Romania 24.  My favourite moment: apart from seeing the Scottish pack obliterated by the Romanians, Chris Patterson’s penalty that became a grubber kick when the ball fell over as he made contact was pretty amusing.

The third game was between Namibia and Fiji.  Namibia did not pose much of a threat to Fiji who managed to score four tries with relative ease.  Namibia did counter with two well worked tries of their own, but for me the highlight of the game was the Namibian flyhalf: Theuns Kotze.  He started the magic early on when he successfully made a penalty from his own ten yard line.  This was quickly followed up by three drop goals in as many minutes when Namibia made it to their opponent’s 22.  He truly is the Gavin Hastings of today.  Final score Fiji 49, Namibia 25.

France versus Japan was another highly entertaining game.  Both sides played a wonderful game of running rugby that was fantastic to watch.  For some reason France had elected to wear white (“Allez les blancs” doesn’t quite have the right ring to it) but this didn’t stop them from running in six tries by the final whistle.  What it did stop them from doing was providing a smooth ride to the finish.  France were leading comfortably by 25 points to 11 at half time.  However, after the break Japan started asking some serious questions of the French defense which came up lacking and managed to close the deficit to just four points.  With Japan on the front foot at this point, I’m sure many Japanese supporters thought that this could be the first big upset of the world cup.  To the French supporters relief France switched on the after burners for the final quarter of the game and scored some easy points.  The final score of France 47, Japan 21 does not tell the full story of the game and I’m not sure the French will be happy with their first performance of the world cup.  My favourite moment of the game came when the referee Steve Walsh told the Japanese prop who was lying on the floor to “Get up so we can get on with it.” whilst waving the paramedics off the field.

England vs Argentina was the game I was most looking forward to.  Whilst England are the favourites, Argentina are becoming major players on the international stage and this was going to be tough opening match for both teams.  As expected, it was a very tight, closely fought contest and the final score England 13, Argentina 9 reflected this.  England will be disappointed with their performance having conceded more penalties than points scored.  But they can take comfort in the fact that Argentina did not manage to cross their try line even though they had the lion’s share of possession and were camped in the English half for most of the game.  The Pumas played some great rugby, running well with the ball and keeping the ball alive through the phases.  They were the better team and deserved the win against England’s lacklustre performance.  They were let down by their two kickers who between them missed a half dozen kicks mostly early on which would have kept England more out of the game.  Although it should be noted that Johnny Wilkinson, England’s major offensive weapon also missed his fair share of kicks.  It says much about the game that the best moment was streaker who made an appearance near the start of the second half.

So it has been a corking start to the tournament and the best thing about it is that there are three games coming up tomorrow which I am thoroughly looking forward to.