Workshop on 14/01/2020: Introduction to OpenStreetMap

So this workshop was to cover the basics of what the OpenStreetMap project is all about, how the data is gathered (and is licensed) and it’s aims. Also covered during the workshop was…

  • How OSM covers the entire world, stats were given for the number of contributors worldwide.
  • History of the project, how it came to be and the previous challenges around proprietary mapping systems.
  • What ‘trap streets’ were, fictitious streets on proprietary mapping systems used to catch out copyright violators.
  • The humanitarian benefits of OSM in events such as the Haiti Earthquakes in 2010, where there was no adequate map information in existence already.
  • Detail around the data formats, nodes, ways, areas and relations.
  • The possibilities for custom tagging, layering, representing multiple storeys etc…
  • Briefly talked about how the OSM engine could be used to represent fictitious places (e.g. Mordor, J. R. R. Tolkien’s fictional world of Middle-earth)
  • Talked about the features Google has (history, timeline, 3D buildings etc…) that would be good to implement into OSM.
  • Discussed the pros and cons of the various mapping tools with the conclusion that OSM has the biggest advantage of being co-operative and has “many eyes” looking to spot mistakes and inconsistencies.
  • Lastly a demo of how to edit, and discussed the different editors available to use.

Here’s a gallery showing off some of the things looked at during the presentation…

In terms of the main presentation, this was HTML based slides which you can find in the ZIP file below. Just extract the ‘osm_presentation_webpages’ directory from the ZIP and then open ‘index.html’. Your default web browser should take care of the rest without needing the Internet.

During the lab exercises some sample OSM and GPX formatted data was used and looked at, these can be found in this ZIP below…

As for the growth of OpenStreetMap, Iain prepared this handy table…


As of when the presentation was given (14th January 2020) there are…

  • Number of users: 5,968,421
  • Number of uploaded GPS points: 7,637,593,413
  • Number of nodes: 5,699,926,279
  • Number of ways: 632,110,826
  • Number of relations: 7,415,306

At the end a flyer was handed out with further information, you can find the original source of this at this link on GitHub, however we’ve provided copies from there in PDF format below too…

Finally these are the rough notes that our presenter Iain used during the meeting, these could be handy if you’re trying to remember the order things were covered. Any images referenced in these notes can be found in the ‘’ ZIP file (in the ‘src’ directory) above…

Workshop on 17/12/2019: End of quarter activities

Workshop… with added tinsel!

It’s Christmas! So it was time to deck out the workshop with at least a bit of tinsel! We weren’t expecting a great number of people (considering the time of year) but we got a nice healthy 11 through the door.

This workshop activity was a little different to the ones that preceded it, and the first of it’s kind… this was a chance to…

  • Look back to previous workshops this quarter, add any updates to them… there wasn’t much to say on this except how we might run them again in the future with more/different details.
  • Bring in gadgets/toys which we can play with play (especially since this time it’s Christmas!). We had a TuxDroid by Kysoh and looked at some DVDs, more them below…
  • Lightning talks of 5 to 10 minutes if anyone has anything they’d like to share with the group. This was in an “un-conference” style (like OggCamp), but perhaps the intentional disorganisation got away with us a bit here! It might be an idea to gather some ideas via the mailing list before hand! However there was still plenty of topics and distributions talked about regardless!
  • Talk about what is planned for the next quarter including planning new talks and labs that people want to see. More on that below…

This seemed to go very well indeed and I think it was the longest workshop we’ve had since the relaunch. Everyone got into the spirit of things and it was a good group conversation amongst us all. The hope is to do this kind of meeting at the end of every quarter, so the next one should be at the end of March or start of April.

These random 3 things represent some of the changes we’ll be doing to the workshop ready for next year…

  • A clock, we’ll likely put this somewhere so that the person giving a talk can see it. We’ve been very good so far time wise with our talks, but this may help keep the pace too.
  • We’ve acquired a pair of 24-port TP-Link gigabit PoE switches. So we should be able to up the 30 PC’s/Phones from those little blue unmanaged 10/100mbps Netgear PoE switches daisy chained to each other. This should help with boot up times as the OS runs from the network. It should also give us some extra PoE enabled cables a the ends of the desks to run things like Raspberry Pi’s from.
  • A fridge! That’s right, we’ve got sick and tired of carrying in the fridge from IC’s office. So we’ve bought another one! Plenty of place for soft drink cans and that all important “LUG MILK”!

We were also trying to get the TuxDroid working. At the moment we’ve got it all hooked up and it’s capable of saying “Hello” (with its crazed blue eyes flashing and wings flapping) but that’s about it. Unfortunately because the Kysoh company went bankrupt a year after this was launched (2009) the downloads are very hard to find to make it work. However we’ve got a few leads on this and should be able to have our talkative Tux running soon.

There was also the idea floated of potentially having some kind of documentary / film nights. Plenty of great IT and FOSS related films (dramatised or documentary style) that people might be interested in watching and discussing. Brought in two that we had on DVD just to get the idea across a bit.

Some additional ideas for workshops next year included (this is not an exhaustive list and I’m sure we’re missing some, there were many ideas!)…

  • Equivalents to MS Access
  • Monitoring (inc. Icinga)
  • Automation (inc. Ansible)
  • Arch Linux
  • Docker
  • VMs and Containers (inc. Proxmox VE)
  • Cryptocurrencies (inc. Bitcoin)
  • Wine (inc. Crossover, PlayOnLinux & Proton)
  • Nextcloud (inc. Collabora)
  • Password Managers (inc. KeePassXC)

And that was it! StaffsLUG wishes you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. More great things to come in 2020!

Workshop on 3/12/2019: Introduction to the LAMP stack

This topic covered what the LAMP stack is followed by a hands on lab actually building 3 production web servers (as there were 3 teams of people) on Virtual Machines where the OS (Debian 10 in this case) had already been pre-installed with minimal packages.

Ultimately, for those unfamiliar, the LAMP stack has been traditionally been made up of (but often people swap bits) these 4 packages which is where it gets that acronym…

The lab covered how to get these all installed and then configure them manually in a way that would mean the web server is capable of serving multiple websites in their own directories, virtual hosts and database for each (if they need one).

A quick look at the colourful whiteboard…

It should go without saying that these VM’s are no longer live so there is little point trying to use these login details now!

The steps followed to do a basic Debian 10 server install though was explained by just showing screenshots of the screens gone through in the installation, most of which you can get away with just hitting enter.

Here are those screenshots though in case anyone wanted a closer look…

Finally the actual “slides” (if you can call them that) for how to get the lab task accomplished… was nothing more than a text file shown on our big TV at size 36pt font! Basically each “slide” is the 14 lines in between each horizontal line. But it worked, these notes also include other things we covered at the end…

At the end we had time for questions where we also went over some of the various free/open source and commercial control panels that can deal with a lot of this for you (but it’s always good to know how it’s done for diagnostic purposes) such as…

  • ISPConfig
  • DirectAdmin
  • Froxlor
  • Plesk
  • cPanel

And that was it for this time!

Workshop on 22/10/2019: Virtual Tabletop Gaming (inc. VASSAL)

The topic is essentially about simulating table top gaming (card games, role playing games, board games, etc…) on to a desktop PC. In our workshop the focus was bringing these ‘in real life games’ to digital platforms with a focus on how you can do that in Linux using a bit of software called VASSAL.

Click to visit the VASSAL web site

Here’s how we left the whiteboard…

Things discussed…

  • Who plays what?
  • Why would you choose to play via tabletop?
  • Social experience, bit of fun, can maintain this aspect of gaming digitally whilst maintaining the unique character of the games.
  • Reasons to go digital
    • Distance restrictions and limitations.
    • Regular group, e.g. weekly games nights.
    • Tournament practice.
    • Experimenting with different options and different strategies.

Vassal is a platform where the most popular modules are things like X-Wing, Advanced Squad Leader as well as…

  • Traditional games – monopoly, scrabble.
  • War gaming – games with miniatures.
  • Card gaming – MTG etc…

Take a look at the full list of VASSAL modules here, there are over 2000 modules in total. Other alternatives to VASSAL are…

During the workshop we had a go at the Scrabble module to get a handle on the basics, then loaded up the Warhammer 40K inspired Vassal40k module.

Lastly took a quick look at the module editor to basically see how all these overlaying bitmaps interact within the game.

The talk for this weeks workshop meeting was presented by LUG member Darren who is known as d72 online and is one of the current maintainers of the Vassal40k module. It is likely a version of this talk will be ran again sometime in the next 6 to 12 months with other games in mind too.

Additionally if you are interested in development of new VASSAL modules, working on VASSAL itself or working to improve existing modules and want to work with other LUG members face to face… then please use the meetings@ mailing list to discuss as there can always be ongoing projects in the background of any workshop meetings.

Workshop on 08/10/2019: DNS Sinkholes (inc. Pi-hole)

The talk this week was about setting up a DNS sinkhole. Essentially instead of the machines on your network sending their DNS requests either to your ISPs recursive name server (or to your router which then forwards the request to the same place)… instead setup your own DNS server which forwards these requests on instead, but it has the ability to record and create statistics for the kinds of things seeking to be resolved.

The software used in the lab demonstration was…

Click to visit their website

Basically we had a number of Raspberry Pi Zero boards in cases powered by PoE (with PoE splitters) and hooked up to USB ethernet adapters scattered around the desks.

Pi-hole can however run on various platforms including VMs and pretty much any distribution or hardware you like. See their website.

The Pi’s had been pre-setup with Raspbian already and just needed the software installing which is largely just done with a one liner (see this page for details)… Please note: this is very case sensitive!

curl -sSL | bash

Richard was leading this particular talk as he’d used the software before and was following his own notes which are provided below and were available for people to download on the day… (note: these are largely based on a thread/guide found over in the Linus Tech Tips forum)

Worked out very well, got some interesting results. Will definitely be revisiting this topic and others similar again in the near future.

In action!

You might have noticed we chose to go with Raspberry Pi Zero devices when testing out Pi-hole mostly due to their affordability, but they do need an additional USB ethernet adapter.

We’ve also found that a Zero model (compared to say a normal v3 model B for example) can be powered (if you’ve got a PoE switch or injector) with little micro USB PoE splitter adapter quite well.

Richard has also very graciously donated two kits of Raspberry Pi Zero’s to Function Office so they can be used with other similar StaffsLUG workshops which might need to use them.

Workshop on 24/09/2019: 20 years of StaffsLUG and Relaunch

A quick group photo to celebrate the relaunch, not all of us – just those that wanted to brave having their photo taken!

So we’ve decided to make a little blog post every time there has been a workshop meeting. It may be that these posts get created before the meeting with useful information that you may need before coming along… and then it’ll get updated afterwards.

The point of these isn’t to be a massively long drawn out recap of everything, but mostly to list out roughly what was covered/discussed and share any images/files (e.g. slides, if there was a presentation) that might be of use to people afterwards.

Basically this is mostly to act a reminder for people who came along, show you what you’re missing if you didn’t make it and generally provide nostalgia much later down the road. If you feel we’ve missed something on these posts just shout out in the comments box below.

Things discussed…

  • The new facilities now available to us courtesy of Function Office and one of their key benefactors Internet Central which is where the room is situated.
  • The numerous ways that we can now interact… Discord / Mailing Lists / Web Forum / IRC… with XMPP and NNTP coming soon.
  • OggCamp 2019 coming up, we’ll be going on the 19th October!
  • Who Richard / Steven / Mark are, that are volunteering the run the newly relaunched LUG.
  • A little talk was given by LUG co-founder Dave Roberts regarding when it all started and the kinds of places/events that the LUG has participated at in the past.
  • Potteries Hackspace being a thing, how they operate and what they do… leaflets available and encouraging people to check them out.
  • The LTSP setup we’ve put in place very quickly for people to use the PC’s.

Ideas raised…

  • Ideas for future workshop meetings included…
    • FreeNAS, OpenMediaVault and similar…
    • Backing up
    • Gaming on Linux
    • Raspberry Pi
    • Virtual Tabletop Gaming
    • Alternative Phablet OS’s
    • OpenWRT and other embedded OS’s
    • CAcert
    • FLOSS CCTV / IPTV controllers
    • Home Automation (in conjunction with Potteries Hackspace)
    • VBS / VBA / Excel macro Alternatives
    • Generally learning JavaScript, Python & Perl
    • Game engine recreations / opened up game engines

These are the rough slides / notes used to give the presentation, in OpenDocument Presentation format…

Whiteboard at the end of the meeting…