iN8sWoRLd Tue, 17 Sep 2019 05:26:08 -0700 Tue, 17 Sep 2019 05:26:08 -0700 Pico Upgrading my Raspberry Pi minecraft server <p>I had some extra cash left on a gift card so I decided to get a <a href="">Raspberry Pi 3B+</a> (RP3B+) and try to upgrade my tiny minecraft server. That's right - I'm running a minecraft server on a pi. When I first set up my minecraft server for the kids in 2013, I had it running on a spare server in an actual server room. This was ideal of course but eventually I had to remove it from that location. Running it on a consumer grade PC was still acceptable given there was never more than maybe 4 players at a time on it but I didn't like leaving a PC running all the time just for minecraft, and it always ended up being off when we wanted to use it. There's more detail in <a href="">this blog post</a>, but in 2016 I managed to get minecraft installed and running on a Raspberry Pi2. It was about as good as you might imagine - barely able to keep up even with every possible setting tweaked to help it. When I upgraded to a Raspberry Pi3 (RP3) things improved greatly, but lag was still a problem and the log file would get spammed with errors about not being able to keep up. I hoped this new RP3B+ would be just fast enough to do the job.</p> <img class="img-responsive" src=""> <p>The idea was that I'd just be able to swap the microSD card from the RP3 over to the RP3B+ and boot it up. This didn't work. I was still running jessie on the 3 and that could not run on the 3B+ so I decided to upgrade first, then swap the card. The upgrade went well and I checked to make sure the server was still running (it was) then swapped the card. Same problem - the RP3B+ would boot to the rainbow screen and get no further. I was pretty disheartened since setting up the minecraft server again seemed a bit daunting. I decided I'd get the RP3B+ running with a newer version of Raspbian and then decide if I wanted to move the server over to it.</p> <p>I downloaded <a href="">Rasbian Stretch Lite</a> (which is Raspbian without all the desktop stuff) and wrote it to a spare 16GB microSD card with <a href="">Etcher</a>. This booted right up in the RP3B+. There was some annoyance trying to get openssh-server to run - I ended up having to create an empty file called &quot;ssh&quot; in /boot to make it magically work so I could stop cursing about it.</p> <img class="img-responsive" src="" alt="" /> <p>Then I stuck my RP3 card into my laptop and tarred up the 4GB of minecraft server files and rsynced them over to the RP3B+. I knew I had to install Java of some kind because at least in the Lite version java is not included. I won't go through the horrible mess I ended up in trying to get some kind of java installed because it was probably my own fault but suffice to say it took a lot longer to straighten it out than it did to break it. With java installed (I'm using openjdk 9-Raspbian) I was able to build a new version of the server.jar file.</p> <p><strong>update 190330</strong> there were just so many glitches happening when dynmap was enabled that I decided to install Oracle java today. I found oracle-java8-jdk in the repos for stretch so I installed that. Then I switched to it using: <code>sudo update-java-alternatives -s jdk-8-oracle-arm32-vfp-hflt</code> (I found this arcane program name by looking in <code>/usr/lib/jvm</code>). </p> <p><img align="right" src="" alt="Anidees" />I was tired of the cheap plastic case I've used for years and looked around for a good long time to find something better. There are a huge number of cases available, but I settled on an aluminum case by <a href="">Anidees model AI-PI-SG-Plus</a> which comes with a nice thick lucite top. The case fits the RB3B+ perfectly, and the provided allen head screws hold the board snugly in place inside, and don't get in the way of the GPIO pin header like some others I saw - just in case I want to run a cable out of it some day to do another project with it. As you can see in the picture I only have an ethernet and power cables connected because once Raspbian and openssh-server was installed, I can manage it via ssh from any machine so the pi just runs &quot;headless&quot;.</p> <p>I did a couple tests, first to check the temperature:</p> <pre><code class="language-bash">pi@mc:~ $ sudo vcgencmd measure_temp temp=49.4'C</code></pre> <p>note: after running around in the world, and using dynmap subsequent tests showed as high as 53.7 degrees C.</p> <p>To test the speed of the SD card (which sadly, on the Pi is limited to 20 MB/s databus) - after CPU speed, I suspect disk I/O to be my big problem with the minecraft server performance at this point.</p> <pre><code class="language-bash">pi@mc:~ $ sudo hdparm -tT /dev/mmcblk0 /dev/mmcblk0: Timing cached reads: 1388 MB in 2.00 seconds = 693.88 MB/sec Timing buffered disk reads: 68 MB in 3.03 seconds = 22.46 MB/sec pi@mc:~ $ sudo hdparm -tT /dev/mmcblk0 /dev/mmcblk0: Timing cached reads: 1406 MB in 2.00 seconds = 702.44 MB/sec Timing buffered disk reads: 68 MB in 3.03 seconds = 22.47 MB/sec</code></pre> <p><strong>update 190330</strong> In an attempt to get the server running smoother, I disabled bluetooth and its services which I'm not using hoping to free up a tiny bit more memory by following <a href="">this guide</a>. Then I made a tweak to the script I use to start the server. Previously I had only specified an -xMx setting but after reading <a href="">this guide</a> I decided to try setting -xMs as well. I also reduced -xMx to the figure provided there. After reading about Garbage collection in Java <a href="">here</a> I decided against using -xMs and changed the GC I was using. My script now looks like this:</p> <pre><code>screen -dmS minecraft java -Xmx1008M -XX:+UseG1GC -jar /home/pi/bin/server/server.jar nogui </code></pre> <p>For years I ran Minecraft using <a href="">Craftbukkit</a> until Mojang was sold to Microsoft causing a cascade of issues related to the rights of third party open source developers for Minecraft plugins. It could reasonably be argued that these third party developers were the sole reason Minecraft ever became popular enough that Mojang could be sold to anyone in the first place, but in the aftermath many of them just disappeared. Thankfully, the folks at SpigotMC kept the flame alive and continued to provide a way to build a minecraft server which would allow for customizable plugins. Using Spigotmc's awesome <a href="">BuildTools</a> I was able to keep the server up to date for years and have the few plugins I wanted actually work. I've read that Minecraft 1.13 will not work well (if at all) on the pi yet and I was worried about messing up my world so for now I've decided to stay running 1.12.2.</p> <p>Once the server file was built and linked up, my initial test showed that I had some issues with plugins related to the version of java I was using (which was different from the one I had used on the RP3), so I ended up downloading newer versions of those plugins and testing each one at a time (watching the logs at boot). I also had to call my start up script from rc.local again (I hever set up a decent service for it as I had originally intended) and then the tweaking began!</p> <p>Fine tuning of the server involved a whole lot of running around in-world mining stuff, killing skeletons, etc. between configuration file edits. I eventually switched over to using the spigot build instead of craftbukkit (BuildTools builds compatible versions of each) but since spigot is really just a higher performance version of craftbukkit anyway there really wasn't any downside. Performance is only marginally better than it was on the RP3. Its perfectly playable, but chunks sometimes take a few seconds to load when you're racing around in a boat, fast walking, or riding in a powered minecart.</p> <img class="img-responsive" src="" alt="" /> <p>Errors show up in the log for these events: &quot;moved too quickly!&quot; or &quot;moved wrongly&quot; messages mainly. I'm not sure, but I think one of the major impacts on performance is that I refuse to stop using dynmap. <a href="">Dynmap</a> is a brilliant plugin which builds a Google Map of your world and updates in real-time where players are on the map. I'm guessing that it is this awesome mapping feature which is causing the bulk of my problems since when it is disabled I haven't noticed any lag. For now I'm going to keep it enabled because its just too awesome.</p> <img class="img-responsive" src=""> <p>The Raspberry Pi can certainly run a tiny spigotmc-based Minecraft server with a couple plugins and provide a persistent shared world for a few players at a time with only minimal power requirements, but if you're looking for serious gaming performance this ain't it. Expect your raspberry pi based server to lag occassionally and especially if you use demanding plugins.</p> Sat, 23 Mar 2019 00:00:00 -0700 game linux pi DIY fix for broken laptop hinges <img class="img-responsive" src=""> <p>One of my kids uses an older <a href="">Alienware M11x R2</a> hand-me-down (running Linux) but its hard drive up and died. I had a spare SSD and went to install that and discovered the laptop had developed the same exact hinge problem I recently saw in a much newer high end ASUS (sometimes copying another manufacturer's design doesn't end well). <a href=""><img align="right" src="" /></a> Dell was apparently aware of the problem in 2011 since it purportedly issued a notice about it at that time <a href="">according to PC World</a> (good luck finding anything linked to on a blog post from 6 years ago) promising to fix the faulty hinges despite warranty status. In this throw-away economy its hard to justify taking the time to contact Dell, argue about it with someone, send it back and forth (on my dime), and wait for Dell to actually fix it if they even would (doubtful). A DIY solution was called for.</p> <p><a href=""><img align="right" src="" /></a></p> <p>I found <a href="">this video</a> by Speed808 on YouTube which suggested it was possible to fix the hinges with epoxy. Definitely go watch that if you're considering a DIY solution like this. Opening up the M11x wasn't as difficult as I feared it would be. The screen protector wasn't glued on and just popped off with just a thin shim tool, and the flashing piece across the top of the keyboard (with the alien logo) was also in with just little plastic tabs and so easily removed. Removing these gave access to the hinges without having to dissassemble the whole laptop. I could see that the two hinges (which are metal) are supposed to connect to the plastic case for the screen via three screws each into obviously inadequate plastic receptacles. All 6 of these had broken and the screen was only remaining connected to the laptop because of the plastic trim pieces and wiring. I'm not sure how I would have proceeded if only a couple were broken as it might have made it more difficult to apply the epoxy - perhaps they can be unscrewed I don't know. Thankfully none of the wiring was damaged.</p> <p>Discussing it with someone in engineering at work turned out to be a good idea. Since I work in a manufacturing facility the real-world efficacy of various epoxies had already been tested and proven for various materials and the epoxy I thought would be good to use turned out to be a poor choice. I was steered instead to a &quot;Gray&quot; epoxy which binds to plastic and metal quite well.</p> <img align="right" src=""> <p>The method of application is via an epoxy &quot;gun&quot; which accepts 50ml cartridges. You need the gun, a nozzle, and a cartridge and the nozzle seems to depend on the cartridge you use. I used the dregs of a cartridge borrowed from work along with the gun after I realized that neither was going to be cheap. I'm not sure this fix would have been worth it otherwise. I used a <strong>Loctite 98472 manual dispensing gun</strong> for 50 ml cartridges which we get from <a href="">from Jensen Tools</a> but is also <a href="">on Amazon</a> (about $50) with a <a href="">Henkel brand Locktite EA E-40FL</a> adhesive which we call &quot;gray epoxy&quot; is also available <a href="">on Amazon by Hysol</a> (about $30). The cartridge has a cap to keep the epoxy from drying out if you don't use the whole thing. You remove the cap, attach the nozzle (<a href="">the one I used</a> required a Luer tip type) and ratchet the gun which pushes the separate components from the two individual tubes in the cartridge into the nozzle where they are mixed as they travel down the nozzle. When you're done you remove the nozzle and throw it away and replace the cap to preserve the rest of your expensive epoxy.</p> <img align="right" src=""> <p>The problems of getting access to the hinges and choosing the correct epoxy solved, I knew the last hurdle was building some kind of jig that would allow the epoxy to cure. The instructions say it cures in 4 hours at 75 degrees F but I let it set up overnight or about 12 hours at about 60 degrees F. I decided on the following rather kludgey contraption. I set the laptop leaning backwards on a metal music stand (a decent <a href="">Manhasset music stand</a>) with the screen hanging off the short lip of the stand so the weight of the laptop would push down against the screen while the epoxy cured. I used a thin piece of wood to lift the base of the laptop a few cms while I applied the epoxy (the wiring kept them pretty close together).</p> <p>I covered the exposed screen with a cotton cloth and applied the epoxy along the section of the screen trim where the metal hinge would attach. Then I removed the wood so the laptop pressed the hinges into it from above with the weight of the laptop. To keep them pressed firmly together for many hours I first folded some rice paper from the kitchen and laid that under a thin board figuring that if the epoxy bound to the paper I could rip it off later but if it bound to the wood it might break something when I tried to get it off, then I used two C clamps to hold the piece of wood in place during the cure process.</p> <img align="right" src=""> <p>After the epoxy set up the laptop screen raises and lowers and seems pretty solid. The laptop fired up and is noticeably faster with a new SSD drive. As a gaming laptop it was pretty high end when new so even today its specs (an early i7, nvidia card, etc) are better than some so hopefully we'll get another couple years of service out of her.</p> Sat, 01 Dec 2018 00:00:00 -0800 fixit diy computers laptop How I record music and make videos <h2>Getting ready to record</h2> <p><img align="right" src="" alt="FostexMR-8HD" />When I decide to make a video for a tune the first thing I do is fire up my computer on the desk in my music room. I pull up a copy of the sheet music and watch a few youtube videos of people playing the song if I can find any. Depending on the tune I either learn the guitar part and how to sing it or read the sheet music on the mando or violin. I'll go over it a few times (usually only the melody line if there is one) until I can get through it at a decent speed (or one that I'm happy with) - sometimes I like the tune slower or faster than most people play it so I just try to find a tempo that works for me. I cannot overstate the importance of actually learning the tune before any attempt at recording it is done because once I get all set up there is nothing more frustrating than being forced to fiddle with electronic do-dads every. damn. time. I. mess. up.</p> <h2>Different approaches to recording audio</h2> <p>I've tried different ways to record over the years but I always come back to using a dedicated multitracker.</p> <h3>Just use your cellphone or a tablet</h3> <p>Recording video on a phone works fine, but the audio quality isn't usually very good because the microphones in them are teeny tiny, and then you still have to figure out how you are going to play along with it to record the next track so its not what I choose to record with. If you're just going to record something live it might be OK but and the audio quality usually will be the weakest part of the recording dependant upon the quality of your phone or tablet. If you do want to try this method you might want to try using an app like Garageband on an iPad but unless you're happy with the built in microphone on the iPad as an iPad obviously doesn't have an XLR jack you need to solve the problem of how you are going to get a decent mic plugged into it. There are cheap adapters you can buy to convert XLR to the 3.5mm TRRS jack on the iPad, but these cheapie adapters won't be able to supply power to a condensor mic (which requires 48V phantom power). I have no experience with this set up and I much prefer to have knobs and sliders when I'm mixing.</p> <h3>direct to a PC</h3> <p><img align="right" src="" alt="Audacity" />There are similar issues to deal with on a PC. You can get your XLR mic plugged in if you buy a USB interface adapter and then you can record tracks on DAW (digital audio workstation) software like <a href="">Audacity</a>. We'll get back to using that software, but I've had several different problems with just using a PC to record. For starters, the sound card in the PC you use will have a certain amount of delay in processing the signal and you'll have to deal with that delay or you will not be able to record your next track and hear yourself playing along in the headphones without a delay which will probably make playing impossible. The hum of a PC fan or electrical noise on the power supply may affect the signal in the mic. Then there is the software. You have to learn how to use the software first, then you have to fight with it which usually involves a mouse and keyboard. I much prefer just pushing a physical button and moving a slider up and down to grabbing the mouse and clicking and dragging. Also, when using a PC there are more things &quot;in the chain&quot;. You may need to move windows about if you are trying to reference material, save the files somewhere, or otherwise interact on the PC which is distracting.</p> <h3>using a Boss looper to record in real time</h3> <p><img align="right" src="" alt="BossLooper" />I really thought this might be my new method when I got my looper. Once its set up I can kick it on, record a track, then when I kick it off it immediately starts recording the next one or I can kick it back on when I'm ready. Still need an interface for an XLR mic and some way to get the signal to a 1/4&quot; guitar jack (I usually just go through my amplifier). There are some problems with this method too - while simple and mechanical, it is limiting in that I cannot mix recorded stuff after the fact - its all mixed together as you go - and starting and stopping has to be precise (and so that usually gets messed up). The looper is great for live performance but its not a great solution for acoustic instruments for which you don't really want to bother with an amplifier in the first place.</p> <h3>Dedicated digital multitracker</h3> <p>Currently I use a <a href="">Fostex MR-8HD</a> which is set up on a side table. I've been using <a href="">Fostex</a> brand recorders since the early 80s (these recorded to tape) so I'm comfortable with how their controls work but its not hard to learn. After about 10 years the model I have is showing its age a bit - it has a 40GB hard drive which should give you an idea and I wish the digital processor that runs the display was faster when I press the buttons. This doesn't affect the recording at all but when I stop a recording and go to &quot;rewind&quot; to the beginning there is a second or two pause I could do without. It seems that Fostex may still be selling digital multitrackers, but if and when I decide its time for a new one I may have a closer look at Tascam's offerings. They've been in the game just as long as Fostex I just never had one. I took a quick scan of <a href="">this article</a> entitled the &quot;Top 10 Best Multitrack Recorders on the Planet&quot; and Fostex isn't even listed.</p> <h2>The actual audio recording process starts</h2> <p>I generally record the audio the same way each time. I start by turning on the Fostex and selecting a new song and naming it something unique. I set all sliders to 0, track 1 and 3 to full left, 2 and 4 to full right position. I'm not sure if this is necessary anymore but in the old days if you left it set to half way between left and right the signal would be about half volume from what you would end up with if you set it for full left or right dependant on track). I make sure the effects are off for all tracks. Then I set up an XLR Condensor mic, usually my <a href="">Behringer B-1</a> on a stand pretty close to my desk next to my music stand and connect that to the first XLR input (input 1). Then I turn on phantom power on the Fostex because this mic requires power. I adjust the mic gain on track 1 to appropriate levels for whatever I'm recording, then move the track 1 slider to almost highest level and set the master volume slider up too. Then I do a test recording just to test levels. Once I'm happy with that I record the track. If its good I go on, otherwise I re-record.</p> <img class="img-responsive" src=""> <p>For all the tracks I will use the same mic, connected to the same input (1) but I can route that over to record on different tracks on the Fostex with a button press. I turn off track 1 and turn on track 2 and set it up similarly and do a levels check playing along with track 1 for a bit in the headphones. When I'm happy I repeat for tracks 3 and 4.</p> <p>At some point I might decide if I'll need more than 5 or 6 tracks and I will &quot;bounce&quot; tracks to combine them by &quot;mixing&quot; them together and putting them onto another track - usually I bounce recordings on 1 through 4 onto 5 and 6 in stereo so I will end up with up to four instruments mixed in stereo on tracks 5 and 6. Then I can use 1 through 4 to record more stuff. That is usually more than enough. </p> <p>When I'm done recording I dump all those recorded tracks onto tracks 7 and 8 in stereo, and usually use the Fostex built in utility to create a stereo WAV file. If I don't do this, then I will need to do the final mix on the PC, but as I've repeated several times I like using the sliders and knobs for this kind of thing so I usually get it done on the Fostex. Then I connect up the Fostex to the PC via USB and copy the resulting files off to the PC. I usually archive all the tracks files as well as the mixed final stereo WAV file.</p> <h2>Final (post) processing in DAW on PC</h2> <p>Unless I'm really careful in the mix there is always something at the beginning and the end of a recording which I need to remove. I like to have the beginning utterly silent and the end fade professionally (at least have the audio of the last chord decay consistently and not have any buzzing or run on noices). This is just easier to do on the PC. I open the stereo file up in Audacity and fix the beginning and end (takes literally seconds) and sometimes depending on how the waveform looks on screen I will apply an amplification, normalization, or compressor effect to the recording to get a consistent volume. Then I save that file off as an edited version.</p> <h2>Recording video</h2> <h3>Using a cellphone or tablet</h3> <p>Cellphones and tablets definitely work well for capturing video and if I am going to be uploading to YouTube (as opposed to streaming) its an option for that - but I have to sync the audio to it in software after I'm done recording the audio. You have to figure out how to position the phone to capture what you want in the video since you won't be able to hold the phone while you're playing but there are lots of stands and things made for this if you are going to be using this method a lot. Designing a quick workflow for getting the video off the phone is important. I use <a href="">AndFtp</a> (which also does sftp) and <a href="">AndSMB</a> to quickly &quot;share&quot; files and save them directly to network shares from my android devices. You do not want to end up trying to email the files to yourself. I also don't want to be forced to use yet another program (like iTunes) to pass the file over. Android makes this easiler than Apple even without the programs I use.</p> <h3>Using a webcam</h3> <p>I have a Logitech HD C920 webcam which works well but since I'm using Ubuntu there isn't any nice GUI (graphic user interface) to change the exposure settings. When I remember to do this, I use this utility on the command line to change the white balance (this happens in real time as you execute the program but you will have to do some fiddling around to get settings you like):</p> <pre><code>v4l2-ctl -c white_balance_temperature_auto=0 v4l2-ctl -c white_balance_temperature=2000</code></pre> <h2>Creating the final video</h2> <p>Creating a video for YouTube in my current workflow is tedious. There are professional softwares that I could use that might make the process better but since making videos isn't really something I'm doing consistently or with serious purpose I can get by with the Open Source software I'm using for now. There are really two methods I use. </p> <h3>Twitch and OBS</h3> <p><a href="">OBS</a> (Open Broadcaster Software) is an open source program that takes inputs on your computer and arranges them on screen however you decide and then makes it easy to switch between &quot;scenes&quot; you define using the keyboard. You can have a webcam, a background image on your hard drive, a title you created, and a microphone plugged into your PC and have those inputs arranged on screen to present to an online streaming audience. <img align="right" src="" alt="Twitch" />I can fire up OBS and be streaming live (with my webcam) on Twitch in seconds. Using OBS means I have to be aware of inputs and control them: if I want to switch to a scene where I am full screen I have to hit a button on the keyboard, if I want to switch to a scene saying &quot;I'll be right back&quot; and cut the audio - another button. This way of recording is really a live performance. An option with Twitch is to archive your broadcasts or not - I usually leave that off, but if I want to save what I'm streaming I turn it on and it creates a video file in my account. I can download that file and edit it in video editing software (as discussed in OpenShot below) on the PC and upload that to YouTube if I wish. </p> <img class="img-responsive" src=""> <p><a href="">OpenShot</a> is an open source video editing software I have been using lately. Similar to Apple's iMovie you can import files like WAV audio files or MP4 video files from OBS, of video files from a phone or a tablet. You can also import static images (like JPGs or PNGs) which is handy when you want to create a slide in a photo editor like Photoshop (I use Gimp). If I am going to be combining videos shot from phones or tablets with the recorded audio they have to be &quot;synced up&quot; (something I do by hand and eye although there are probably better ways to do this). The video is built up from scratch with all the components.</p> <img class="img-responsive" src=""> <h3>The video editing process</h3> <p>If I recorded live in OBS the editing process is shorter as it usually only involves cropping off the beginning and end as needed and maybe adding in a title slide and an ending. If I need to create a video from scratch in OpenShot I usually start by creating a title slide (this can be done in OpenShot but its fairly limited) which I usually do in <a href="">Gimp</a> (an open source Photoshop photo editing program). I create an image which is 1920 x 1080 with layers and text which is appropriate, save it as a PNG and import it into OpenShot. </p> <p>Specific instructions for using these softwares to create a video is out of scope of this article, but suffice to say that both are &quot;fiddly&quot; and can be frustrating. I accidentally delete clips all the time or can't get things synced up well enough. My main problem is really that my PC isn't very fast so real video editing is out of the question as the software just jutters and balks if I try to do anything complicated (including effects) so a lot of times I just give up. However, I have found that I can still do some fairly simple videos if I'm patient so for now it works.</p> Wed, 29 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0700 music youtube recording A Supreme Court straying farther from mainstream <p><img align="right" src="" alt="Supreme Court" />An interesting examination of the concept of &quot;minority justice&quot; and the ramifications of the fact that Neil Gorsuch is the first Supreme Court justice in the history of the US to be seated by a president who did not win the popular vote and also by a majority of senators who were collectively elected by a fewer number of votes than the senators in opposition. Far fewer votes actually, 20 million fewer. The paper discusses the concept of democratic legitimacy and puts it in historical context. </p> <p>Three of the most recent and most conservative members of the court were all seated similarly - while they don't have the distinction of having both a minority vote president and senate like Gorsuch, they were all seated with a minority Senate of varying degrees. This development seems to run counter to the old thinking that the high court &quot;seldom strays far from the mainstream&quot; because the more recently seated justices seem to be advocates of concepts of law that an ever increasing majority of citizens disagree with.</p> <p><a href=""></a></p> Thu, 23 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0700 court law Make Facebook show the right image on Wordpress links you share <img align="right" src="" alt="Wordpress links on Facebook" /> <p>I occassionally need to post a link on Facebook back to a Wordpress site. Even though almost every other social site seems to be able to handle this simple task sanely, Facebook demands that you format your page with &quot;Open Graph&quot; tags or it will stubbornly refuse to show any image or if it will show an image will almost certainly display the wrong one, and not give you an option to choose the right one. </p> <p>I finally got tired of this behavior and decided to fix it once and for all. To figure out what is going wrong the first stop is the <a href="">Facebook Developers Sharing Debugger</a> page:</p> <p>Just paste in the URL and it will report what nit-picky bullshit it finds wrong with your page and why it won't do anything useful for you.</p> <img class="img-responsive" src=""> <p>The first thing I tried was to set the desired image as the Featured Image in Wordpress, carefuly to delete the page cache (since I'm using a caching plugin on that site). Setting a Featured image made Facebook display an image at least but it was the wrong one. </p> <p>I tried two different Wordpress plugins to solve the problem: <a href="">Simple Facebook OG Image</a> and <a href="">OG</a> both are very simple and offer no configuration options but neither seemed to do anything. To be fair only OG was certified for my version of Wordpress but despite clearing the page cache, Facebook would only see the wrong image.</p> <p>Luckily I ran across <a href="">this post</a> which solved my problem.</p> <p>First I had to set a custom field with name = &quot;og_image&quot; on the post with a value = URL to the image I wanted Facebook to display. Facebook has some requirements for the size of the image as well which is annoying - it has to be 200 x 200px minimum for one thing.</p> <img class="img-responsive" src=""> <p>Then I needed to add a function to my theme's function.php file (you can do this in Appearance | Editor | Theme Functions but be careful!) </p> <pre><code>function insert_og_image() { if(get_post_meta(get_the_ID(), 'og_image', true) &amp;&amp; is_single()) { $output = '&lt;meta property="og:image" content="'. get_post_meta(get_the_ID(), 'og_image', true) .'" /&gt;'; } echo $output; } add_action('wp_head','insert_og_image');</code></pre> <p>I'm not running Jetpack which would interfere with this method but if you are the article describes what you can do to get around it.</p> Wed, 22 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0700 web facebook Deactivated my twitter account <p>When I first set up a twitter account sometime in 2007 I did it just because it was the new thing and I wanted to ensure that I secured my &quot;twitter handle&quot;. I never posted anything on it, and then forgot about it. Sometime in 2011 I was having a discussion with my office mate about the service and what, if anything, it was good for. At the time it seemed to be not much more than a way to quickly post a picture of your dinner on the web. I had already been on the web and posting what I thought was more interesting content than that for many years so I had sort of dismissed twitter entirely. My ex-Marine office buddy brought up a couple interesting points though - it was a great way for companies to announce things to their customers, or for famous folks to announce they were going to be in town. It had an immediacy which &quot;blogging&quot; didn't have - and at the time facebook was just a way to post pictures of your friends doing embarrassing things - it wasn't a real time platform. Twitter was real time, we started to see its use at emergencies or uprisings to coordinate &quot;flash mobs&quot; or avoid police barricades. I started to think that maybe it was more useful than I originally thought and decided to start using the service.</p> <p>Thats when I hit a snag. I had set up my account those years ago using an email address which I no longer controlled. I had set it up with an email account I used to use for work and we had cancelled AT&amp;T when we got cable. I had taken care of all the important accounts but this twitter account wasn't really something I even thought about. Sure, I could just create a new account - but I had taken care to sign up with my domain name and I was damned if I wasn't going to be able to use it now. I contacted twitter even though my quick research suggested they never released accounts unless you had control of the original email address and yep, they denied me saying there was no way for them to prove who I was. As it turned out, I have been using GPG since about 2003 and that old email address was one of the email addresses I had used with it. I had since revoked the email address, but it was still listed in my current key and lived up on a bunch of key servers obviously signed and listed as one of the email addresses associated with my current email address. I decided to try again. This time I signed my email with GPG and asked them to have a higher level tech confirm that while I no longer had that email address, my GPG key was proof that I controlled it at the time the account was set up and to please change the email address to my current one. It took some time, but eventually I got an email from twitter that they had released the account to me under my current email address.</p> <p>I think if there was one thing that made me continue using twitter it was that someone at twitter had taken the time to actually read what I wrote, understood it, saw that I controlled the domain name and was cool enough to release the account to me. I didn't use it all that much, but I did post stuff from time to time. Usually just text, occassionally a retweet of something cool I saw and rarely a picture. At first I used it as I did other social media platforms like Google+ to just post links back to my blog, as a sort of announcement email to a bunch of people who would probably not appreciate my spamming them in email but have no problem scrolling through hundreds of pages of crap looking for some image that will catch their temporary attention. Twitter obviously became a bigger deal very recently as Trump elevated it to political prominence, but before that it was just a very niche platform where some of the stranger people I know hang out.</p> <p>The rise of bots changed everything on twitter for me. I could no longer tell if commenters were real people or just a really good automated system. I would read threads and see fights develop over comments that may not have been made by people at all, or people that were possibly being paid to pick fights. Then the nonsense - &quot;Fake News&quot; as it were. So much of what I liked about twitter disappeared as &quot;promoted ads&quot; appeared, and thousands of fake accounts caused mayhem. High profile people with thousands of followers conducting verbal warfare on competitors or the truth itself. But the final straw for twitter (for me) was when I realized that their &quot;terms of service&quot; were being used to shut down certain people while they gave others a total pass for even worse behavior. Twitter is not the public square - the right to free speech on someone else's servers is not among those enumerated in the Constitution, but conversely I do not owe Twitter my patronage or my time. I choose to stop using their platform and have deactivated my account.</p> <img align="right" src="" alt="Twitter_Archive" /> <p>I do want to mention that Twitter made it nice and easy to export all of my content and provided it in a nicely formatted archive which I can review easily enough in a browser and it seems to work just as well in Chrome and Firefox. I will miss seeing posts by interesting folks I followed on twitter, but the gems to junk ratio was just too low.</p> Sun, 19 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0700 social twitter Roto-tilling <p><a href=""></p> <img align="right" src="" alt="Rototiller" /> <p></a></p> <p>It had rained so much in May that we didn't have a chance to get all the plants in the ground but finally after a break in the weather on Sunday the 20th there was an opportunity to get outside. The area we have cordoned off with chicken wire to keep out the bunnies and groundhogs is pretty small but my back was in bad shape for some weeks and there was just no way the ground was getting turned over with a shovel. I pulled out the old rototiller, a late '70s Troy-Built, and got it ready.</p> <p>If you've ever been in Troy, NY where these were made you might wonder how a business making roto-tillers could possibly survive on local sales as it seems there is very little soil on top of the Taconic shales and slates that seem to be everywhere at least out where most of the farms are east of the city. </p> <img align="right" src="" alt="Rototiller_Catalog" /> <p>I still have all the original documentation (and bill of sale) from when my dad bought it. I know my mom was absolutely sure he was going to kill himself with it and I don't really blame her - this thing is a beast and if you don't know what you're doing it can easily get away from you. </p> <p>Last year I noticed the shear pin on one of the wheel shafts was missing when the wheel nearly walked off the shaft so I replaced that this year with a 1/4-20 smooth shaft bolt. I checked the oil and it still looked fresh and was at the full line. I put in a little gas - the last bit of last year's gas which I know is a bad idea. Some years ago I had replaced the original metal gas tank with a plastic one from a wood chipper that I had wisely given away. The original had varnished up completely. A neighbor and I tried to salvage it with the iron / battery electrolysis trick but it was too far gone. The plastic tank is always nice and clean, although a little Stabl tossed in after using it probably helps.</p> <p>I removed the air filter (not sure how necessary this really is but it helped last year), unscrewed the spark plug, shot a little starter fluid into the spark plug hole, quick put the spark plug back in, flipped the throttle to ON position, pulled and it started on the 2nd pull!</p> <p>I put the air filter back on and rototilled a bunch of spots in the yard where we wanted to put flowers in addition to the garden without killing myself. A couple shelf-wood ramps kept in the shed ensure it gets back in there easily. I keep a pan under the engine just in case it leaks (and I'm pretty sure the seals do leak) but there hasn't been much accumulating in that.</p> <p>I've had a bunch of trees taken out over the last few years so there is a lot more sun in the yard now. I hope to open up some more areas for a bigger garden someday.</p> Mon, 21 May 2018 00:00:00 -0700 garden machines Got My Amateur Radio License <img align="right" src="" alt="Ham Radio" /> <h1>Why Amateur Radio?</h1> <p>I've been listening to scanners since I was a young teen, first at my grandfather's house outside of Philadelphia (which was a lot busier than where I lived) and later at my own home where the scanner is now non-stop police calls 24 hours a day. In High School and for at least 10 years afterward I had a CB as did most of my friends and we used the radio to coordinate to meet up at the parks or out in the woods. We all had ridiculous handles and our range was terrible even with a sweet K40 antenna none of us ever really bothered to actually learn anything about radio. If we had, we could certainly have made them much more useful.</p> <p>Back when my parents first got their Amateur radio licenses sometime in the late 90s I started studying to get mine as well. CB had become a wasteland and no one I knew was using it anymore anyway. I had taken some classes at the local community college in basic electronics and was already working in the fire industry so radio was definitely interesting to me but for some reason I just never scheduled myself to take the test and eventually lost interest. Recently I decided to pursue it again, and now with the internet the resources are just everywhere. There really is no excuse to not learn as much as you want about anything. Hams with YouTube channels will mentor you for free and there are web sites which offer free study and practice exams you can do right in the browser with instant feedback.</p> <p>Beyond the interest that I have in scanning and radio in general, I'm also curious about some of the possibilities in digital radio networking. While a lot of older Amateurs seem to have gotten into the hobby mainly for voice communications, contesting (how many contacts can you make and how far away), and emergency preparedness (radio can still function even in a grid down situation), a lot of younger Amateurs (and this includes anyone who grew up in the early days of computing and BBS) seem to have an additional interest in radio for purposes of networking for multiple media types.</p> <h1>How I Prepared for my Technician and General test</h1> <p><img align="right" src="" alt="Ham Radio" />To prepare for the exam I used <a href=""></a> which is provided by IComm (a radio manufacturer). The site is nice because you can authenticate with Google without having to set up yet another account and its interface was slick and easy to use and understand. It keeps track of which questions you've seen and the percentage of those you've gotten correct. You can review the questions by section and take practice exams. It worked so well that I passed for Technician within about a week of study. The math was really just a few simple formulas (V=IR, P=EI, and a rule of thumb: 300/Freq in MHz = wavelength in meters), the rest is really just memorization. The General exam had a lot more information to become familiar with, but I managed to prepare for that over a couple weeks and passed on Apr 28, 2018. I've already started studying for the Amateur Extra exam!</p> <h2>Links to Interesting Amateur Radio Related Topics</h2> <ul> <li><a href="">Amateur Frequency Chart</a></li> <li><a href="">Simple 2 Meter Antenna</a></li> <li><a href="">Ham networking</a></li> <li><a href="">Ham Priviledges</a></li> <li><a href="">DX Maps</a> - a tool for mapping contacts you make.</li> <li><a href="">Q Codes</a></li> <li><a href="">Amateur Auxilliary</a> is a group which performs self policing activities including direction finding (triangulating) and reporting non-compliant transmitters.</li> </ul> <h3>Networking</h3> <ul> <li><a href="">WinLink</a></li> <li><a href="">AREDN mesh networking</a> - also see <a href="">AREDN network map</a></li> <li><a href="">AX.25 on Raspberry Pi</a></li> <li><a href="">Terminal Node Controller for Raspberry Pi</a></li> <li><a href="">Tigertronic Signalink</a> - a soundcard interface which means you don't need a TNC</li> <li><a href="">APRS on-line mapping</a></li> <li><a href="">Pi-gate</a></li> </ul> <h3>Resources for Digital</h3> <ul> <li><a href="">Good article</a> on getting started in digital</li> <li><a href="">WebSDR</a> - software defined radio receiver connected to the internet</li> <li><a href=""></a> - website where you can access and control internet connected SDR Radios</li> </ul> <h3>Digital Modes</h3> <ul> <li><a href="">RTTY</a> is a very old digital mode. RTTY started out as teletype. Still being used for maritime weather alerts.</li> <li><a href="">PSK31</a> is supposed to be the most popular. Have some built in noise correction which allows it to work over worse noise than RTTY.</li> <li><a href="">PACTOR</a> radio modulation mode for digital information on HF - from a German company, only PACTOR I is open, other modes are proprietary and encrypted requiring a PACTOR-made modem.</li> <li><a href="">JT</a> - a software used for weak signal communications. <ul> <li><a href="">JT65</a> - use software to send text of 13 characters for weak contacts</li> <li>JT9 - same as JT65 but modulates to a 9 FSK</li> </ul></li> <li> <p><a href="">FT-8</a> - article about the great new shiny digital mode which is luring folks away from JT?</p> </li> <li> <p><a href="">D-Star</a> - I'm not quite where to file this link. Great article discussing D-Star, a digital standard which links repeaters over the globe and can do 128Kbps (enough to load webpages) in DD mode and provides digital voice (DV) communication (with simultaneous slow mode digital data). Less noise than FM.</p> <ul> <li>no antenna? use a DV dongle to connect to the network over your internet connection.</li> </ul> </li> <li><a href="">D-Star vs DMR vs Fusion</a> - nice article (updated from his original post in 2016) about the differences between these three digital modes</li> </ul> <h3>Software:</h3> <ul> <li><a href="">MixW</a></li> <li><a href="">FLDigi</a></li> <li><a href="">Digital Master 780</a> - another software to decode digital signals</li> <li><a href="">CHIRP</a> - open source / free radio programming tool</li> <li><a href="">Log4OM</a> was suggested in one of W6LG's videos, but that is for Windows only. However, understanding what this software can do should inform as I look for something that runs on a decent OS.</li> <li><a href="">XLog</a> - linux logging software with simple text file backend</li> <li><a href="">CQRLog</a> - another linux logging software but this one uses mySQL backend</li> <li><a href="">Great article</a> on using a chromebook in a shack! Mentions running the following under ChromeOS: <ul> <li><a href="">FLDigi</a></li> <li><a href="">WSJT-X</a></li> <li><a href="">CQRLog</a></li> </ul></li> <li><a href="">APRS Messenger</a> - written for Windows but a post in Apr 2018 CrossCountryWireless claims it is working in Ubuntu under wine. Great little utility to send and receive digital text over APRS.</li> </ul> <h2>What's needed for a complete system?</h2> <ul> <li><strong>Power Supply</strong> (transformer type), 25-30A (the resgulated power supply I have already is only rated to 2.5A) <a href="">Jetstream JTPS45</a> (40A cont) $139</li> <li><strong>Transciever</strong> (this is the radio - see separate section)</li> <li><strong>Linear Amplifier</strong> - not required to start out, but once I have a General license I'll have the right to transmit with a lot more power so it might be something I'd want to do someday.</li> <li><strong>Microphone</strong> - keep it under $100. Shure 444, Heil HC55. Can I use any of my mics? Shure SM7B ($350) 160 Ohms is 1/4 the typical Ham mic. Why not an SM58?</li> <li><strong>Microphone stand / boom</strong> - Northcomm Technologies SM7B boom arm ($300)</li> <li><strong>Antenna</strong> - this huge issue will have to be dealt with in another section</li> <li><strong>Logging program</strong> - need a machine set up on the desk to log contacts</li> <li><strong>Shack Furniture</strong> a friend suggested that I be careful to not leave this off the list. For a good experience, remember to budget for a good chair and desk dedicated to the hobby.</li> </ul> <h3>Meters I should probably have</h3> <ul> <li><strong>Antenna Tuner</strong> - most people say you will use this all the time where you only use an analyzer when you've made a new antenna. It seems like you should be able to to get one of these with an SWR meter in it?</li> <li><strong>Field strength meter and calibrated antenna</strong> - for indoor antennas one of the questions on the General exam says: &quot;You should use testing equipment (calibrated field-strength meter and calibrated antenna) to make sure that the maximum permissible exposure (MPE) limits are not exceeded.&quot;</li> <li><strong>Antenna Analyzer</strong> - in many cases better than an SWR meter and doesn't require an external RF source.</li> <li><strong>Wattmeter / SWR meter</strong></li> <li><strong>Multi-meter</strong> - this is something I already have</li> </ul> <h2>Transcievers (radios) I'm interested in</h2> <h3>Kenwood</h3> <ul> <li><a href="">Kenwood 281a</a> mobile - 144MHz really cheap and suggested as a good entry level mobile, this radio only does FM but its MIL SPEC so it can take a beating. About $150\</li> <li><a href="">Kenwood TM-V71A</a> mobile - 144/440MHz dual band. saw on K8ZUK ARES Youtube channel used with a Tigertronic Signalink, about $350 <ul> <li>annoying separate head unit designed for mounting in dash with 10 ft cable</li> </ul></li> <li><a href="">Kenwood TM-D710GA</a> mobile - about $560</li> <li><a href="">Kenwood TS-480SAT/HX</a> base station - $850, the faceplate can not attach to the rig itself</li> <li>[Kenwood TS-2000] base station - HF/50/144/440 MHz $1,500</li> </ul> <h3>Yaesu (Japanese)</h3> <ul> <li><a href="">Yaesu FT-8900R</a> - quad band, does transmit on SSB but will receive. $380</li> <li><a href=";ProdCatID=106&amp;encProdID=2804F70E1A8F3C4B638CB8E0F201158C">Yaesu FT-7900R</a> - Amateur Radio Dual-Band 144/440 MHz Transceiver 50/45 Watts, does not have cross band repeat. Remote mountable faceplate. $304</li> <li><a href="">Yaesu FT-857D</a> - mobile radio that seems more like a base station. will do HF/VHF/UHF bands but can scan more, xmit 100W at 2 meters. Best used with a screwdriver antenna. $920</li> <li><a href="">Radios compared</a></li> </ul> <h3>Icom</h3> <ul> <li><a href="">Icom IC-7100</a> HF/50/144/440 MHz D-Star capable, touch screen <ul> <li>$1,100</li> <li>really needs a better hand mic, suggestion: Icom HM-151</li> <li>I like the separate desk stand VFO screen</li> </ul></li> <li><a href="">Icom IC-2730A</a> dual band 118-174MHz &amp; 375-550MHz <ul> <li>$320</li> </ul></li> <li><a href="">Icom IC-4100A</a> D-Star capable dual band 50W 118-174, 230-550MHz <ul> <li>$389</li> </ul></li> <li><a href="">Icom IC-880H</a> dual band 144–148, 430–450 MHz, 50W <ul> <li>older than the 4100A</li> <li>D-Star purported to work well</li> <li>Supplied mic is crap</li> </ul></li> </ul> <h3>Features I may want</h3> <ul> <li><em>Cross band repeat</em> - if I get a mobile or base station with this, I'll be able to use an HT to talk &quot;through&quot; it (this might be handy for hanging outside with an HT but having the power of the mobile / base station. This is an added complication in setup which might not be worth the extra effort. I really need to evaluate how I want to operate. </li> <li><em>Remote mountable faceplate</em> - this might be useful in a vehicle so you can mount the radio portion somewhere and run the faceplate up to the dashboard for operation. Or, it might even be useful if using the mobile unit as a base station to have the controls nearer to hand and have the radio on a shelf.</li> <li><em>D-Star</em> or <em>DMR</em> - competing digital modes. Have to evaluate, but suffers the same problems digital TV does as it is an all or nothing transmission. At least you won't be hearing a lot of static.</li> <li><em>Settle on Bands</em> - so far with my HT I've only operated on 2 meter and 70 cm and mostly 2 meter. At least near me 2 meter seems most common. I've heard some New Englanders say that HF is more popular up there which makes sense since folks are farther apart and there are hills and such. </li> </ul> <h3>PoFeng (Baofeng) handi-talkies</h3> <p>While I consider my options for a good base station, part of my plan is to have an HT (handi-talkie) which can be used to communicate while on the road or camping.</p> <ul> <li><a href="">Baofeng BF-F8HP</a> radio</li> <li><a href="">Baofeng USB Cable</a></li> <li><a href="">Nagoya NA-771</a> Antenna</li> </ul> <h2>Antennas</h2> <pre><code>HF (High Frequency) - 3 to 30 MHz (100 to 10 meters) VHF (Very High Freq) - 30 to 300 MHz (10 to 1 meters) UHF (Ultra High Freq) - 300 to 3000 MHz (1 to 10 centimeters)</code></pre> <h3>Fixed installation</h3> <p>Low horizontal antennas, such as dipoles between 1/8 and 1/4 wavelength above the ground work best for daytime skip communications on low frequencies.</p> <ul> <li>Ground mounted or Attic? Indoor antennas will limit the amount of power you can run safely to about 100W</li> <li><a href="">Beam (uni-directional)</a> ARRL, 1972. - antennas for HF <ul> <li>Yagi - a half wave dipole plus parasitic elements</li> <li>Rotatable Dipole</li> </ul></li> <li>Dipole antennas generate high voltages at the ends</li> <li><a href="">Magloop</a> - again, high voltages</li> <li><a href="">Ventenna</a> for 2M (144 MHz)</li> <li><a href="">M2 Eggbeater</a> for 2M (135 to 150 MHz), note the balun</li> <li>Simple DIY <a href="">J-Pole</a> antenna</li> <li>Copper pipe DIY <a href="">J-pole</a> antenna - I wouldn't personally mount it on the back of the car as shown here, but for a sort of stealth install this could be good.</li> </ul> <h3>Mobile Antennas</h3> <p>Most folks stress how important it is that the antenna be solidly grounded - good grounding straps to the frame if you're mounted on a trunk lid for example. The idea of &quot;grounding&quot; something to a vehicle is funny to me given that the whole thing is insulated from the actual ground by big rubber tires.</p> <ul> <li>Ham Stick - bottom loaded inductor with standard whip. &quot;Hamstick&quot; was a trade name of Lakeview Co. and their products were reported to be very good. Their domain,, is not working as of May, 2018. Hamstick has become a sort of generic term for anything like the original Lakeview Ham Stick. MFJ now makes a &quot;Hamstick style&quot; antenna and there are mixed reviews. I do like the mounting and how easy it is to switch them out for various bands. Some folks use them in a dipole configuration, but most agree that while performance is acceptable for 10 to 20 meters, on 40 to 80 meters Hamstick style dipole performance is atrocious.</li> <li><a href="">The Hustler</a> - from NewTronics which is fairly large robust build. <a href="">Model SF-2</a> is a 5/8 wave (51&quot;), 3.4 dB gain 2 meter (144 to 148 MHz) mobile antenna</li> <li><a href="">Diamond M285</a> - mobile 2 meter, single band antenna with NMO mounting.</li> <li><a href="">Browning BR-180</a> was highly rated by folks on eHam.</li> </ul> <p>I think I like the NMO mounting method more than the UHF type, and I've read that its easy to convert from NMO to UHF but not the other way around.</p> <p>That leads to the next investigation, what is the best way to mount it on the vehicle.</p> <h2>Meters</h2> <ul> <li>The <a href="">S-meter and the R-S-T scale</a></li> <li>Directional wattmeter - measures SWR</li> <li>SWR meter</li> <li>Field strength meter - measures the radiation pattern of an antenna and to monitor the relative RF output while making adjustments to antenna or transmitter</li> <li>Antenna analyzer - measure SWR of an antenna system and determine impedence of an unknown coax cable</li> <li>Osciliscope - to see complex wave patterns</li> <li>Voltmeter (multi-meter)</li> </ul> <h2>Great Mentors</h2> <ul> <li><a href="">Jim W6LG on Youtube</a> in Northern CA</li> <li><a href="">TelescopeMan on YouTube</a> - Joe Lalumia</li> <li><a href="">The Old Tech Guy KB9RLW on YouTube</a></li> </ul> <h2>Vanity Call Sign ideas</h2> <p>When you get your Amateur license you are assigned a call sign from the next available call sign by the FCC. This might not be a desirable call sign to you, but you are allowed to request a &quot;vanity&quot; call sign. Since you're going to end up using the sign alot this is definitely something I'm interested in. I'd love it to match my domain name, but <strong>N8WRL</strong> is already taken. I started a list of signs I might want and ended up finding a bunch of joke signs which I neither want nor probably could get. Not sure what I'll do yet, I might just keep whatever I'm assigned.</p> <ul> <li>Read about call signs at <a href="">FCC</a></li> <li>Search for call signs at <a href="">ARRL</a></li> <li>Search for call signs at <a href="">AE7Q</a></li> <li>Search for call signs at <a href="">FCC</a></li> </ul> <h3>Vanity Call Sign</h3> <p>After getting a horrible FCC auto-issued call sign I started to research &quot;vanity&quot; call signs which I'd be happier using. I was surprised that most of the signs I came up with were actually already in use. I've left off a bunch of joke signs like K9SEX which, while hilarious, would probably eventually embarrass me. It took exactly 18 days for it to come through, but I'm much happier now.</p> <h2>Repeaters</h2> <p>The call sign of the repeater is either the call sign of the owner or the call sign of the club that owns / operates the repeater.</p> <p>When programming a repeater into the radio, you need to enter not only the frequency, but usually a tone frequency to which the repeater will respond.</p> <ul> <li><a href="">NY Repeater list</a></li> <li><a href="">Repeaterbook</a></li> <li><a href="">Motorola Quantar</a> - nice write up for identifying models of Motorola repeater. These repeaters were designed for public safety use and would make excellent Ham repeaters if you can find one in the desired band.</li> </ul> Fri, 13 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0700 radio ham Running dd-wrt on a Linksys wrt1900ACS <p>I've used <a href="">dd-wrt</a> on many <a href="">Linksys WRT54G</a> routers over the years at work and at home. These blue routers, first released in 2002, became classics and in large part because Linksys allowed the open source community to develop replacement firmware for them. The additional capabilities and enhanced (or at least more up to date) security that dd-wrt provided over stock Linksys firmware extended the life of these little routers well past the point when leaving them stock would have been dangerous, and kept me using their older 802.11g technology for years even as 11n was getting popular.</p> <p><img align="right" src="" alt="Linksys_Ad" />When an &quot;homage&quot; model was revealed that looked almost exactly like the original wrt54g and held out the additional promise of being &quot;open source ready&quot; I was all in. This <a href="">Linksys WRT1900ACS</a> may look a lot like my old Linksys routers (at that time Linksys was a division of Cisco) but in 2013 Linksys had been acquired by Belkin so I was pretty dubious about quality. I haven't had any problems with the unit running the stock firmware, though I do miss a lot of features I was used to in dd-wrt.</p> <p>Amazon has it (shipping from them) currently for $367. You can <a href="">read reviews</a> of it there which is always fun. I know I paid quite a bit less for it when I got mine and Linksys has the list price as $200, but its not available for sale there. There were cheaper routers to be had for sure but if past experience is any guide, firmware updates for these kinds of devices would stop appearing right around the time a huge exploit for it would appear. Proprietary firmware made it impossible for anyone besides the manufacturer to fix security issues so if they decided to stop publishing updates... An open source firmware helps ensure that updates would keep coming since generally the people motivated enough to fix problems are those affected by them and when fixing a device is possible, there are always some owners willing to do it and share the wealth. I felt the pledge of open source was enough to make up for possible build quality issues.</p> <h2>The Marvell chip</h2> <p>One thing I noticed right away was the that the Linksys was not based on the more popular Broadcom or Qualcomm's Atheros chips, but with a Marvell chip. The Marvell SoC (System on Chip) found in the wrt1900acs is a dual core running at 1.6GHz which puts it at the higher end of many routers on the market at its date of release.</p> <ul> <li>There were a lot of wireless issues with the initial release and right through 2017 and a lot of people pointed to the closed nature of the Marvell drivers as the root of the problem, and perhaps it did take them some time to actually release the drivers as open source but as of Apr, 2018 here is Marvell's public <a href="">mac80211 github</a>.</li> </ul> <h2>OpenWRT</h2> <p>Although an open platform was touted from the <a href="">initial release</a> of the wrt1900, the announced partnership was with <a href="">OpenWRT</a> another open firmware project which I had never personally used. The release, in May of 2015, was later marred somewhat as OpenWRT members disagreed about direction of the project and ended up forking it with many developers leaving to form LEDE. Thankfully, disagreements have since been settled and the project is working together again under the official OpenWRT branding as of Jan, 2018. OpenWRT may be back on track, but support from them for the wrt1900 doesn't seem to have moved along very much as their <a href="">offical support page</a> still warns (as of Apr, 2018) that the project is stalled.</p> <p><a href="">David Simpson</a> took it for a spin back in 2015 and while his apparent success was heartening, my lack of experience with OpenWRT and desire to not brick my expensive new router was enough of a deterrent.</p> <h2>dd-wrt</h2> <p>Once the source is released, its usually not long before you start seeing new projects forked from that code appearing. A forum post appeared on dd-wrt's forums announcing the release of a new build <code>28374</code> for this hardware in Nov, 2015 just 6 months after the official release and the last comment (by htismage) on that initial post makes the bold claim that</p> <blockquote> <p>I honestly feel like for the first time since buying this router 18 months ago, I've finally unlocked it's full potential.&quot;</p> </blockquote> <p>and lists some of the reasons I've always liked dd-wrt as well: the diagnostics, stability, and improved performance. With the added incentive that it didn't even require a full 30-30-30 reset and was upgraded from within the stock GUI!</p> <p>Still far too soon for me to jump in.</p> <p><strong>staying up to date on progress</strong></p> <p>I've been following the development on the <a href="">dd-wrt forums</a> for Marvell based routers and what follows are my notes.</p> <ul> <li>There were some initial reports about the wifi being unstable and dropping out. </li> <li>I learned an interesting thing about resetting to stock:</li> </ul> <blockquote> <p>You don't need to &quot;flash&quot; back to stock. You reset the router and reboot it three times to get back to stock.</p> </blockquote> <pre><code>* This was written up a bit clearer in a later thread: * Switch off the router with the power switch on the back. * Power the router back on, and the power light will light. * As soon as you see the power light go out, switch off the power switch. * Repeat this 3 times. * On the 3rd time the router will boot from the other partition.</code></pre> <ul> <li> <p>a quick write up on how to flash dd-wrt on the Linksys is posted in <a href="">this thread</a> and there are a couple interesting things there including:</p> <ul> <li>once you have dd-wrt on the device if you wish to upgrade to a newer release, make sure to flash the stock firmware first so the second flash doesn't wipe the recovery image. to do this you can use the method I posted above, but a simpler method is to just use the <code>ubootenv</code> command to query which partition you're currently using with <code>ubootenv get boot_part</code> (in this example it returned &quot;1&quot;) and then to switch to the other one with <code>ubootenv set boot_part 2</code> and simply <code>reboot</code></li> <li>more on this from a stickied post for the install and upgrade <a href="">cliff notes</a>: there are two kinds of dd-wrt firmware: <ul> <li>factory to dd-wrt - used to flash dd-wrt from the stock firmware only</li> <li>dd-wrt webflash - used to upgrade an existing dd-wrt install.</li> </ul></li> </ul> </li> <li> <p>always upgrade via wire (not over wireless)</p> </li> <li> <p>dd-wrt maintains an <a href="">ftp site for beta builds</a> organized by year and model if you're really in tune with day to day issues and you know what you want.</p> </li> <li> <p>In January, 2016 Linksys started touting dd-wrt &quot;3rd party compatibility&quot; with their complete line in an <a href="">official press release</a>. dd-wrt is a project founded and mostly maintained by one guy, Sebastian Gottschall, a.k.a. &quot;BrainSlayer&quot; and I'm just wondering if Linksys bothered to send him a thank you note first (a fat check would have been nicer). But, for all the hype at CES there wasn't a real release ready to download. Sure there are the betas - but folks like me typically want to see some stable release which is getting hammered on out there for a while.</p> </li> <li> <p>I soon learned there was another build available by a developer named Kong. Kong's builds were served up from a private domain and not from the dd-wrt site. Kong's approach to builds was slightly different from how the public &quot;beta&quot; releases were handled. Wireless instability in the dd-wrt betas running on the Linksys was blamed by many on Marvell's drivers which were not released very frequently. Kong actively removed code which he saw as buggy or used older code which seemed to work better with the latest Marvell drivers. dd-wrt had to run on lots of different hardware, Kong was only interested in a few specific types of routers and so presumably was willing to take the extra steps needed to make dd-wrt run better on these. A lot of people were using the Kong builds. The question for me was when the codebases could be merged because I was uncomfortable downloading random guy's firmware even if a lot of people were claiming it ran better than the official betas.</p> </li> <li> <p>Linksys released new <a href="">official firmware</a> on Jul 21, 2017 with Ver. (still current as of Apr, 2018)</p> </li> <li> <p>In Oct, 2017 beta release <code>30796</code> was panned as having very bad transfer rates. At that time folks were told to try using <code>33555</code> but the bigger news came on Oct 16, 2017 with the <a href="">krackattack</a> wpa vulnerability. Beta release <code>33573</code> <a href="">addressed</a> it on Oct 22. <a href="">Posts</a> on the official Linksys community page suggest that Linksys had disclosure of the vulnerability in August but that there was <em>and has been</em> no official release (or statement) since that time about the matter. Many other vendors had released patches by the time of public disclosure in October.</p> </li> <li> <p>Dec, 2017 I saw this about release <code>33986</code></p> <blockquote> <p>I've been running r33986 on my Linksys WRT1900ACS V2 for about a day with no issue. Wireless speeds are good (~500 Mbit/s, as measured with iperf3) and no issues with my OpenVPN client.</p> </blockquote> <p>although a couple people mentioned ntp not starting till after another reboot</p> </li> </ul> <p><strong>Current Status</strong></p> <ul> <li> <p>As of Mar 26, 2018 build <code>35531</code> is the latest. It looks like we're getting pretty close to a an open firmware even a schlep like me can use. Important to note that there are two versions of the model I have v.1 and v.2 (I have v.2). Folks seem to have different experience with dd-wrt between the two versions. I haven't seen too many complaints from v.2 users with one reporting</p> <blockquote> <p>r35531 works well on my WRT1900ACS V2. OpenVPN client, policy-based routing works well. Wireless speeds ~500Mb/s. Both 2.4GHz and 5GHz are stable. Been up about a day with no reboots.</p> </blockquote> <p>However, one user reported on Mar 31 that DLNA is still not fixed in this build. I do currently use DLNA with stock firmware and don't want to break it, but I'm getting very close to taking the leap to dd-wrt anyway given the outstanding security issue and no official release. </p> <p>dd-wrt certainly does seem fairly functional at this point, and while there are still some things which need to be worked out it looks like it might be ready for even a regular old user like me to give it a try.</p> </li> </ul> Sun, 01 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0700 linux wireless opensource Closed down my G+ account <p>Back in 2010 when I <a href="blog/2010-06-01-facebook-account-deleted">deleted my Facebook</a> account it was mainly because I didn't like the way the company was constantly changing their policies and privacy settings. Things I knew I had turned off would be mysteriously turned on again, and they were manipulating how I saw the content posted by users that I followed. Google Plus worked so much more how I thought a social media system <em>should</em> work, and I enjoyed using it. Facebook was centered around real people I knew, but if my interests were different from those folks Facebook made it difficult to find &quot;new&quot; friends - unless they were somehow related to people I already knew. Twitter provided a way to follow interesting folks without appearing to be a creep, and Google Plus worked similarly.</p> <p><img class="pull-right" src="">My decision this week to stop using Google Plus really has nothing to do with how the system functions or even Google's policies. In fact, I was able to export all of my Google Plus posts and links (including comments made on them) into a readable HTML archive which opens without issue in my web browser. Props to Google for making a system that respects its users in this regard. The truth is, I just feel like reducing my digital footprint a bit. Interactions with readers have become meaner and more partisan of late and I suddenly feel like I can't express myself without getting called names. More and more users on the system appear to be fake accounts passing around political or divisive memes.</p> <p>Another annoyance to me is that I don't like how things I write are getting buried deeper and deeper into a system I don't control. All media is designed to constantly hype the latest attention grabbing information which necessarilly pushes older or less sensational content out of the way. Even my own website works this way (reverse chronological order) but curating older content on a social media system is very difficult. To find older content you have to scroll backwards in time (facebook at least provides a dated table of contents to make this easier) but loading this content over the web is painfully slow going due to the latency (laggy) nature of the web and the various scripting technologies used to make these dynamic sites.</p> <p>The exercise of reviewing all of my Google Plus posts since 2011 and deleting them was very tedious. It was interesting how many posts were links to content on the web which no longer existed. Videos that have been taken down, web pages where the hosting site has gone to a new platform and decided not to keep the old URL scheme (including my own site).</p> <p><strong>Why not just delete the account?</strong></p> <p>I know a little bit about how this stuff works, and my assumption is that as long as the account is active Google will continue to back it up as a live account, but that as soon as the account is deleted it will archive all posts and lock them away perhaps to be able to offer them back to me one day if I decide to re-activate the account. I know they do this with email (a deactivated account which I reactivated had all the email restored). I think a better stragegy is to individually delete content I don't want and keep some posts and keep the account active. My guess is that stuff I actually deleted will eventually not be in any archive (their backup rotation period is probably pretty long but perhaps not infinite).</p> <p><strong>My Google Plus Farewell post</strong></p> <blockquote> <p>I have closed down this social media account as I do not intend to make any further posts here. Most content has been archived and removed (thanks Google!). Also big thanks to everyone who helped make G+ worth reading for the last 7 years (many more folks than the 200+ people who were kind enough to follow me back). I will keep a few older posts up which hopefully will give future visitors a little more confidence that I'm an actual human and not a bot.</p> </blockquote> Tue, 27 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0700