Monday, December 17, 2012

Passwords - the easy way to explain good password practice!

Today I was trying to explain to someone about good password practice. They had recently had their email hacked, around 1000 emails were sent before they were able to do anything about it.

Check out the full story at:

Ubuntu 12.04 with Unity, Thoughts from a real user

This is the first real attempt I have had at using Unity since my failed attempt on 10.10….it was shocking then, really slowed down the system and truly felt like it was going out of its way to make you feel like it was the centre of attention. As an operating system I felt that it really should get out of my way and let me get on with my work, so I switched back to my much loved Ubuntu 10.04 which I was able to setup “just so” I was used to it and it was by far a better system then the more recent version.

Check out the full story at:

Alienware M15x SSD Upgrade

I recently upgraded my Alienware M15x from the original 500GB 7200RPM hard disk to a new 480GB SSD.

For this I choose the 480GB SanDisk Extreme SSD. Which rather unsurprisingly is rather unimpressive to look at once you pull it out of the box. Simple black device with a sticker saying what it is…not much to look at.

Check out the full story at:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

HTC One S - Linux unlock, root access

Ok so I have been home a few weeks now and decided to unlock my phone and get root access. This is quite a long post, but it is the sequence I followed and I have an unlocked root though.

Just over two years ago I did the same thing to my Nexus One, this time it was much easier to unlock the bootloader. Last time I gave up and booted into windows and used the tools there, it was my impatience coming through.

This time I was determined that I wouldn't use windows, two reasons. One I don't have any windows partitions to boot into on my various computers, so I would have to borrow my partners win7 laptop, which is worse then using my own back up win install. And two, the documentation seemed to be much better this time around, so I was fairly confident that even as an advanced amateur I would be able to succeed.

There are a few things that you need first on linux, I'm running Linux Mint 12, if you want to root your phone from your linux install.
  • sudo apt-get update
  • sudo apt-get install ia32-libs
Then you will need to get the android debug bridge (ADB) software, this is part of the SDK most forums and tutorials I have read on the net suggest installing the whole thing, this can take a long time depending on your connection speed.

To get the ADB software you will need to grab the SDK install from the official website this will come down as a .tgz archive. Extract it to a useful file, mine is in /home/adam/Programs/AndroidSDK.

The easiest way to get what you need for this is just install the "android sdk tools" and the "android sdk platform tools", that is all and it will only take a few minutes to install.

Once you have gotten this far you are most of the way there, connect your phone to your computer, go to the developer options and tick the "usb debugging" icon. Open a terminal and run:

  • lsusb

You should see an entry that looks something like this:

  • Bus 001 Device 003: ID 0bb4:0cec High Tech Computer Corp. 

The "0bb4" identifies HTC, other manufacturers have different numbers, and the "0cec" is the device identifier, so all One S phones should have the same number, there may be differences for different versions of the phone, I'm not sure.

Next navigate to the {path}/platform-tools/ folder in your terminal. Then make sure that ADB can see your device by running:

  • ./adb devices

The output should look something like this:

  • List of devices attached 
  • "A serial number"

If not try running the command as root:

  • sudo ./adb devices

Next reboot your phone to the bootloader by powering it off then holding the volume down button when you turn it back on. Select the fastboot option, there should be a red area on the screen this should show "fastboot", and "fastboot usb" when plugged into your computer.

If your phone shows "fastboot usb", in your terminal run:

  • sudo ./fastboot devices

The output will look something like this:

  • "A serial number" fastboot

If you have gotten this far you are about 80% of the way to unlocking your bootloader. You will need to head over to HTCdev to get your unlock code. But to speed you along, run:

  • sudo ./fastboot oem get_identifier_token

The generated token is used to get you your unlock code. You are going to have to sign up which is annoying, but this is the easiest / safest way to unlock your bootloader.

Once unlocked when in bootloader mode, it will show unlocked.

Now using the superboot method it is supposed to be really easy to install permanent root on your phone, this has not worked for me. This is the forum post I followed at XDA I had the success message after running the two commands as root (sudo) in my terminal, but alas no root.

This happened on my Nexus One, since I already had the bootloader unlocked I installed CM6 at the time which already has root built in.

This is what I plan to do with my One S, not sure what system I am going to use since there isn't an official CM for the One S yet. But I will keep updating this blog with my progress.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Random tech I discovered today

I just stumbled upon this thanks to Google+ Tiger-Stone, semi-automatic road paving machine. I always saw this as a very manual process, as an automation engineer I am interested in all forms of automation.

Kinda cool

Monday, July 16, 2012

Got my Raspberry Pi finally

So I paid for my Raspberry Pi in February, it finally arrived a few weeks ago while I was away for work. I have got home a few days ago and have really only just got round to playing with it.

I installed the basic Debian Squeeze image to the SD card, which took quite a while from my netbook. It worked first time without any real issues, it was unable to play MP3 files which was fine since I have also downloaded the Arch image and I'm going to try that also. I did install the OpenElec image and installed that to the SD card but it didn't run. Not sure what I did wrong but I would like to get it working.

I am going to install the Arch image and give that a go tomorrow.

All instructions to get your R-Pi working with as little friction as possible can be found at the Raspberry Pi downloads site, just follow the link to the beginners guide if you need help.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Gnome Shell

So I have now installed Ubuntu 12.04 on one of my computers so I could test it outside of a virtual environment.

First off Unity isn't as bad as it was when I last tested it on 10.10 it is however still unusable for me. All the menus are on the top bar like on a mac (I haven't used a mac for years) I'm sure there is probably a setting to change to give you proper menus but I couldn't really be bothered with it.

I installed Gnome 3. In a terminal either type or copy-paste (ctrl-shift-v rather then just ctrl-v for pasting into a terminal window)

          sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3
          sudo apt-get update
          sudo apt-get install gnome-shell

My main problem with Gnome 3 classic was I was unable to get rid of the bottom panel, like I was able to do in Gnome 2.x; In Gnome 3 it isn't there by default. Gnome 3 would only run in classic mode in the virtual environment because of graphics limitations. I was unable to test it completely. So here it is on a real machine.

Here is the standard Gnome 3 desktop, I like the minimal look.

I good friend of mine suggested that if I was using Gnome 3 that I had to look into shell extensions. After just a brief look I agree it is a must.

And if you are going to use extensions (and you will) one that you HAVE to get is the extension list extension, it shows you a list of the extensions on your machine on a tab in the dash menu. But for some reason print screen doesn't work when I have dash open....annoying, something to look into.

I am using a few extensions:
          Alternative start menu just shows the shutdown option without having to
          hold down alt.

          Advanced settings in user menu is just a quick way to get to the advanced 

          Remove accessibility icon from the top panel does what it says. 

         Axe Menu also looks very cool

I have a few others but I'm not sure they are going to stay, I really like the usage model. Go to the site and just switch the extension on. A little popup asks if you want to install the extension say yes and there it is. 

Over all I am a fan of the new Gnome shell, I will continue testing it to see if I can promote Ubuntu 12.04 with Gnome shell onto my work machine currently running 10.04 LTS. It needs to be stable and have very good interaction with VirtualBox. I will need to make a decision before 10.04 hits EOL next year.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Oracle vs Google - more stuff

Looks like Google has won another round here.

Lawyers for Oracle said “We plan to continue to defend and uphold Java’s core write once run anywhere principle and ensure it is protected for the nine million Java developers and the community that depend on Java compatibility,”. This is just bullshit and bravado, they are trying to legitimize their case by saying that in the end we will be vindicated???

This makes sense for them, they are trying to paint themselves as the "good guys" or even the under dogs. But it doesn't really work for them, Oracle is one of the biggest companies in the world, one of the problems is they didn't develop Java, they purchased it along with Sun Microsystems. The bit in the quote on Java comparability is also crap, because a significant portion of the existing Java code (.JAR) files can be recompiled strait to android. Wiseandroid has a good guide on including existing Java code in your android application.

Linus Torvalds said “Prediction: instead of Oracle coming out and admitting they were morons about their idiotic suit against Android, they’ll come out posturing and talk about how they’ll be vindicated, and pay lawyers to take it to the next level of idiocy.”. I think this is quite a good short sweet view on the whole mess that this case has been.

The only ones that have benefited from this case have been the lawyers. Although if this weighs in on the decision to make APIs non-patentable / non-copy-writable then it may have been worth it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Editing suite for digital video, update

After some fairly extensive research, read tech specs for the DX79SI and then got in contact with intel tech support. Looks like the DX79SI is out. It can't be confirmed that it will boot from PCIe.

There are plenty of motherboards that will boot from PCIe just look at OCZ -Mobo guide

I am currently looking at the Asus Rampage IV Extreme/BF3. It has all the current set of requirements. Socket 2011, support for the new 3rd gen i7 processors. 8 memory slots supporting up to 64GB of memory. Supports boot from PCIe on bios rev 1101. 

It is mid-range in cost, when looking at this end of the motherboard spectrum, the cheapest socket 2011 board is about NZ$300, the Asus is NZ$550 with the most expensive at NZ$850. It is also the cheapest to meet all the specs that I have.

It is a little annoying that the Intel board didn't support boot from PCIe, as it is NZ$390 and meets all the other specs. I may keep it in mind as the hardware RAID controller supports raid 5. And an array of 5 120GB SSD's would give twice the storage capacity, similar performance, though slower in IOPS then the revo drive for very similar money. 

240GB revo drive at 200k IOPS @ max 1500MB/s read & 1225MB/s write. NZ$953

5x120GB OCZ Agility III drives 20k IOPS each @ max 525MB/s read & 500MB/s write. NZ$1025. 

Because of the RAID overhead the SSD's would give 480GB storage, probably around 60k IOPS and a sustained throughput very similar to the revo drive maybe even faster. 

The question is, is it worth the hassle of setting up RAID and making sure it always works, or spending slightly more (more expensive MB reqd) and getting lower storage latency???? 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Editing suite for digital video, first post

My brother has a digital video business. He has asked me to spec out / build him an editing suite. The budget is fairly significant, I am looking into various options. Leaning towards the Core i7 3930k on an Intel DX79SI, with 32 or 64GB RAM.

I haven't decided on graphics hardware yet, but at this stage will be nVidia 6xx/7xx series card.

Storage is giving me a bit of an issue, I need to do more research at how SSD's fair in RAID for the system drive. There is also the option of a PCI-E based storage device, such as the OCZ revo series.

More research is required, but I feel the most important part is going to be the storage, latencies in storage are what makes computers feel slow. Especially in modern computers, you are not often waiting for the processor but the info to get to the processor.

I am not planning on liquid cooling as I believe that I can achieve, appropriate temperatures and low enough noise levels on air cooling.

There will be more posts, with more detail as the planning stage continues. Then when I have budget approval, final pricing and purchasing. There will be pictures of the build process.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Testing new OS Ubuntu 12.04

My Current OS is on my work computer is Ubuntu 10.04, it has become very familiar to me. I have tested 12.04 with unity and I have to say it isn't for me. Too many settings are hidden / harder to get to then they need to be.

Here is a screen shot of my current desktop, it is Ubuntu 10.04 and I have setup the desktop and panels to use as little room as possible without being silly about it. All the things that are important, I have it set to 24pix on my 1920x1080 screen.
I find that I want my work space to take as much room as possible, when I initially started using Ubuntu I had a lot of desktop effects turned on. The longer I worked with it the more these turned into distractions. Now I have a very basic workspace, it keeps out of my way and I find that it is easier to work with. I do occasionally turn on the effects so someone can see what is possible with Linux if you want to enable it.

Below is another screen shot this time Ubuntu 12.04 with Gnome Shell installed booted into Gnome Classic. It looks similar to my current environment, however I wasn't easily able to see how to remove the bottom panel (bar) and move the functionality to the top panel. This was very easy in the old version of Gnome, I will have to spend more time looking at how to do this.
Ubuntu 12.04 with Gnome Shell running in Gnome Classic Mode

Smartphone growth

I just read an interesting article on ExtremeTech about the growth rate of various technologies.

The conclusion I draw from this is infrastructure makes the technology, the electricity and phone took years (Electricity 0 - 10% 30yrs; + 10 - 40% 15yrs; + 40 - 75% 20yrs = 65 yrs) and (Phone 25 + 39 + 20 = 84yrs). Because cable had to be strung from supplier to customer, this is a time consuming and expensive process.

Wireless tech which has a much easier and cheaper install requirement, i.e. radio, TV, mobile phone and now smart phone; are much much faster. The infrastructure is much easier to put in place so it is put in place faster.

If some major catastrophe destroyed the mobile phone and fixed phone infrastructure, I doubt anybody would go to the expense of re-laying the cables to put the service back in place. Mobile phones would become even more ubiquitous then they already are.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Easy way to Remember Passwords

Security concerns are at the back of peoples minds when using the Internet. This is a bit of a worry really.

One thing that I used to do, which is probably the biggest security mistake you can make. Is use the same password on different sites. I know it is really difficult to remember many 10's of passwords, but you don't have to remember anymore then one password.

I use a password database application called Keepass (v1.18), it works across all the platforms I use. Linux (Ubuntu 10.04 & 12.04, Mint 12), Windows XP, Windows 7 and Android 2.3.4. Keepass is an encrypted database, I use both the master password and the key file options. Newer versions also have more options that I will look into soon, I will test these on all the platforms before I make the switch.

Now as you can probably guess from looking at the list of OS's that I use, there are a few computers that I use on a regular basis. To keep all these computers synchronised with the most up to date password database. I use Dropbox, this also works on all the platforms that I use. If you haven't herd of Dropbox yet then check them out at you can connect as many computers to your cloud storage as you want, I currently have 7 connected.

Now because Dropbox is a remote storage for your files, if you want to store sensitive files then I would highly recommend encryption. I use truecrypt, it is a bit of a learning curve, but it is free open source software and will ensure that your files are uncrackable. Hint use keepass to generate passwords for the truecrypt containers.

One final note, make your keepass master password a sentence, these are easy to remember and hard to break.

e.g. "MyPasswordIs: the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" as a master password would be extremely hard to break. Basically impossible with current tech.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Oracle vs Google API's in the firing line

I have bee following this case through the tech press, basically for those that haven't. Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems a while back and with it the IP to the Java programming language.

Google uses the Dalvik VM to run Java code on Android devices. According to Google the Dalvik development was done in a "clean room", this means that the code was written to make Java work without using the Java complier and Java VM. This is probably to keep the required resources low for use in a mobile device.

This latest article in ExtremeTech has boiled down the infringement to 9 lines of code that are too similar between the Java and Dalvik. Oracle in their wisdom, unhappy with this, have decided to go after API's (Application Programming Interfaces), this is a HUGE deal, almost every program ever written uses API's.

If the judge in the case grants Oracle and by extension anybody who has written a bit of code that has an API, creative works protection it would be disastrous! For the uninitiated, to draw the browser window on the screen your browser uses an API call to a system library, this is so the browser programmer doesn't have to code a graphics library to simply show a window.

If API's are given the kind of protection offered to other creative works, we could see a world where the API makers could restrict who could use their API. To use the browser example again, Microsoft or Apple could disallow Mozilla (Firefox) and Opera (Opera Browser) from using system calls to draw their browsers either entirely or without paying some licence fee. It could mean the end of free software such as  Firefox, Libre Office to name but two. Every single modern program uses API calls.

 I really hope the judge in this case understands the ramifications of this case, it would be as ubiquitous as making all the manufacturers in the world pay a fee for using a screwed thread on nuts and bolts. The screwed thread is similar to the API, it is the same weather you are holding together a watch strap or a bridge.

Google gets ok for driverless cars

Google got the ok from the Nevada transportation authority (DMV) to allow their driverless vehicles on the states roads.

This is a big step for driverless vehicles, however they must hold a $1M insurance bond, and file in advance the planned test routes and have two people in the car at all times (I assume while it is driving around).

Arstechnica has the story. I can't wait for self driving cars. I like driving but commuting can really suck, sometimes on long drives also wouldn't it be nice to say "car take me to #destination and wake me up when we are 10 minutes away"

Monday, May 7, 2012

Collusion graph update

Ok here is another screenshot of a collusion graph. This is about 2 days with "do not track" turned on in firefox.

Obviously the do not track setting doesn't actually do anything.

Quite a lot of the graph has migrated beyond the edges of the screen, but this is a good indication of what is happening. Your movements are tracked, even if you thought ticking that little box in the settings.

Unblocking TPB

As I expected there are already tutorials showing up detailing how the average punter can bypass the block put in place by the UK parliament (TorrentFreak).

But by far the easiest way available to the average UK person is to use the mirror proved by the UK Pirate Party via I'm sure that (unfortunately) the PPUK will be ordered by the authorities (thought they are part of that authority) to take down the mirror.

I expect during this transition period people will be confused and getting annoyed. But all that has to happen is for them to get over their annoyance just once and figure out how to get around the blockade. However for the blockade to succeed then it needs to keep people from finding ways around it.

This is an infinitely hard problem as I'm sure there are going to be some very dedicated and talented people working to access what they want. Some will be just for the challenge just to prove that they can get around the ban. Others will to get that latest moive / song. Others out of curiosity to "see what all the fuss is about".

Friday, May 4, 2012

Ok so I saw this coming. Torrentfreak: TPB gets massive boost in traffic.

Now they will go ahead with the ban, the methods to get around it are being talked about, this DNS ban will not work.

People are discussing ways to get around this, such as OpenDNS, GoogleDNS, TOR.

Looks like they have added IP address blocking to the injunction, this will stop people simply typing the IP address in (or using their own hosts file) but the above methods will still work.

Unless you manage to actually take TPB off the net all together (may not be possible at all) then there is no real solution to stop people getting there.

Here is a screeshot of my collusion graph after about 2 hrs browsing. It wasn't looking too bad until I followed a link to ReadWriteWeb which made it double in size.

This is somewhat disturbing. I figured that FB/Twitter/Google would be tracking me, but one visit to RWW and suddenly a very large number of dots appeared and connections between sites.

RWW is the one in the lower middle, with a total of 23 connections. It also brought along an extra 8 or so sites that weren't there before.
Watch this video and then get the collution addon for firefox and see what your tracking graph looks like.

TED Talk on info tracking on the web

I will update this later with an image of mine.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Just an empty box, for now

Here is a picture of the box I plan to use to build my server.

Just a basic box I have had sitting around for a while now. This will house my file server.
The power supply is huge for what need but it will do for now. It is just a basic 420W supply that came with the box.

Considering that the max power draw of my system will be, (6 x 7.38W) + (1 x 56W) + 10% contingency = a whopping 110.3W max. So the power supply will never operate above 25% load....this is not very efficient.

I have looked into smaller supplies, 120 / 150W but they are few and far between. Generally very expensive for good quality ones, and I already have this one.

The server should need no cooling, or minimal at best, it will live in the garage on a shelf just below the router. I will make any settings changes and admin stuff from a remote computer via a web browser.

There is space to mount 4 HDD's, when I expand the server I will make up a mounting bracket for the extra two HDD's.

The FreeNAS OS will be installed on a 4GB flash drive that I will attach to the inside of the box and run a small lead to one of the back USB ports.

Home file server plans

I need to build a home file server. I have too much stuff and it is stored on various laptops and desktops. I currently have around 2Tb of files.

The plan is to use a box and power supply that I already have, and get a MB + RAM + drives and install FreeNAS 8 as the OS. Using Raid Z as a redundancy solution.

I want to use an Asus E35M1-I because it has 6 SATA ports so it can handle 6 drives, currently 3Tb is the biggest you can get, but I will get 3 to start off with and expand when I need more storage, maybe get 5Tb's then.

I will get a 4Gb stick of ram, there are so many and they change price so much I don't have one in mind, I'll just get the best one at the time.

I am currently looking at 3Tb Seagate 7200RPM drive, which is sitting at NZ8c/Gb. I will change my mind if anything else pops up between now and actually buying the gear.

So as it stands I am looking at around: $175 + ~$20 + 3*$246 + postage ~= $1000 for 6Tb of storage in a RAID. After RAID overhead

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mozilla comes out against CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act), link at the bottom to the forbes article. I have to wonder why the default state of being now for a "regular citizen" is to be spied on? Unfortunately most people don't understand the ability of technology to track and record every act and action they engage in. Why in the modern world must every thing we do be subject to scrutiny?

This is an American law, but it indicates a general trend for all western countries. It is worrying really, we are quickly heading to the world of thought crime envisaged by Eric Arthur Blair (George Orwell) in Nineteen Eighty Four. These kind of laws make me think of the scene in the book where Winstons neighbour is taken away by the thought police, and he says "who would have thought I was a thought criminal". It makes me think of this because he wasn't doing anything "wrong" he was just going about his life, and he supported the party in general, he was a "good citizen".

I care about privacy, I use linux on all my computers, and generally am quite careful about what I do onliine. I am quite aware that most people don't think about these kind of things as much as I do. Why should they be subject to the glaring eye of the authorities for every thing that they do?

CISPA is bad (

UK Parliament orders TPB blocked at DNS

I saw this first on twitter yesterday, I couldn't believe that they actually did this, Link to wired story at the bottom. I'm sure someone would have told the court how easy this is to get around.

I had a discussion on FB with a friend who pointed out that they are going after the casual pirate, which I understand. But I pointed out that the casual pirate has learnt many new techniques over the years. From Napster through the tracker years (lime wire and its ilk) through to torrents and magnet links today. This will maybe, MAYBE, slow down the casual pirate for a month. The dedicated pirate already knows how to get around this.

It really annoys me that they have broken the internet to pander to one industry group, this is a slippery slope, using a DNS block on one site WILL lead to other blocks. Thing is, it wont work, so they have passed a very dangerous law that will NOT fix the problem.

I don't pretend to know how to fix the piracy issue but breaking the internet is the worst way they could have done it. My other fear is that our stupid partitions will jump on the bandwagon and pass a similar law here (New Zealand).

I have herd the phone book analogy many times, i.e. if you take someone out of the phone book, you can still call them if you know the number. Which is broadly true, but I think that a slightly better analogy is a map: if you remove a town from a map, there are still many ways to get there. The roads are still connected and even if you block the main route, the back roads are still available.