Why is Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica one of the best TV shows ever?

January 19th, 2014 No comments

Here are two reasons (there are many more):

this http://vimeo.com/51598991

and this http://vimeo.com/51466779

Categories: Non-technical Tags: , ,

Be Broadband Firmware upgrade for users with a static IP and non-default config

March 3rd, 2013 No comments

This weekend I attempted the Be Broadband mandatory router firmware upgrade (which appears to be linked to Be’s sale to Sky :-().

I thought I’d relate my experience of that here so that folks have “all the information in one place”. The process was pretty much smooth but those of us geeky enough to have a static IP, custom DHCP range, port-forwards and other config changes might (will?) run into minor niggles.

First thing to note is that Be Broadband have actually organized things nicely and you should have an email or two with your static IP, links to firmware and an installation guide. However read on to see my approach…

Now I love bullet points and my process with be in that format with a few asides here and there.

Here we go:

  • Essentially I followed this:

https://www.bethere.co.uk/web/beportal/single-static-update-instructions#q2

And that boiled down to:

  • boot into Debian Linux laptop and attach wired connection to router
  • backup user config to file (important! needed for diff later)
  • download new firmware

It was at this point that I realized that the firmware upgrade required running an .exe on Windows. I somehow expected to be able to upload the firmware to the router via the web GUI :-( So…

  • download flasher from this guide:

http://beusergroup.co.uk/technotes/index.php/Modem_Firmware

It’s written for Windows BUT there is actually upgrade instructions on how you can use Linux instead:

http://beusergroup.co.uk/technotes/index.php/Modem_Firmware#Linux_and_other_Unixes

Be warned that it involves setting up local TFTP and BootP servers. I’m secure enough in my geekyness to have done that (I have done so in the past to setup Cisco VOIP phones) but in the real-world of lack-of-time and family commitments I just dual-booted into Windows (also my notes for all this were synced in Dropbox – nice).

  • boot into Windows

Ensure flasher and firmware is downloaded (again!)

Now just in case, have both these open in browser tabs (and/or save web page locally) in case of net outage:
https://www.bethere.co.uk/web/beportal/techguides_installing_bebox_firmware
http://beusergroup.co.uk/technotes/index.php/Modem_Firmware

Note the “bethere” link above has some nice friendly screenshots.

  • extract flasher software
  • ensure thompson router connected via wired NOT wireless
  • extract bin file from firmware archive

Note that the flasher software will look in “TGUPGv7201/Builds” by default but you can point it to where ever you downloaded it to.

  • proceed with flash

screenshots from that process:

Thomson Home Install Wizard_2013-03-02_13-05-58

Thomson Home Install Wizard_2013-03-02_13-06-23

After flash router will be on http://192.168.1.254 and the user/pass will be “Administrator/<router serial>”

In my case some of the config could not be restored for some reason…
(eg. it worked but gave a non-fatal error about not being able to restore some of the config.)

Thomson Home Install Wizard_2013-03-02_13-10-36

Note that I didn’t have to provide the new static IP anywhere, the router assumed it after the upgrade and the ATM connection completed.

I now had a situation with working internet but the router was running with default settings. The router may need a reboot just to make sure everything is OK (I didn’t need to but did it as a basic check).

  • diff the configs and reconfigure router

Now this was the time consuming part and I had forgotten at how “rudimentary” the GUI is compared to something like SmoothWall Express or pfSense.

Anyway, I wanted to reconfigure the router as I has diverged from the default in a few ways.

My approach to this was to download the new config and rename it, examine the diffs:

$ diff -u <original config>.ini <new config>.ini

There’s quite a few changes in the new config, looks like they have simplified some settings and are using aliases for services and such.

From memory this was the stuff I re-configured:

- turn off UPNP
- add debian uk ntp pool
- wi-fi setup: restore ssid, g-only, reset wi-fi passphrase (but best to disable wi-fi here, reenable later in last step)
- change LAN IP and DHCP pool
(do this by `Home Network > Interfaces > LocalNetwork > Configure`)
- set <my personal DHCP range>.1 as LAN interface IP
- (At this point I turned off wi-fi as family was complaining about internet going up/down!)
- set laptop wired nic as <DHCP address>.100 manually
- The default DHCP 1.0/24 range still in dhcp pool, reboot router to ensure no devices have a 0.1/24 dhcp range address
- when router back, you will be able to delete the 0.1/24 pool (named “LAN_private”)

- create new firewall ruleset based on “standard” ruleset.

- add port forward(s) from outside

This is best done by first setting a name to the server via the “home network”
do this via `Home > Toolbox > Game & Application Sharing`
click `Create a new game or application` and add application `ssh-custom` or whatever.
then go to `Home > Toolbox > Game & Application Sharing` and assign to server name.

  • change external DNS provider as static IP has changed
  • change any intrusion prevention rules and whitelists given new static IP
  • Now turn on all your computers so they get new DHCP addresses.

I was using some static internal addresses as I run a local DNS server but this time I set detected devices to use DHCP and always use the same IP based on Mac address.

I also set device type eg. desktop, laptop, phone…

Shame no “server” icon :-)

  • save router config now and keep somewhere safe

All Done! (I hope)

Now there has been some discussion on Google+ among my peers on what the sale to Sky will mean for Be and it’s pretty damn good standard of service. Some folks are thinking of jumping to the more geeky (but costly) ISP such as Zen or Andrews & Arnold and some have said that Sky is “not that bad actually”.

We’ll be watching…

Categories: Technical Tags:

Best Android ROM for HTC Desire… Evar!!1!

April 10th, 2012 2 comments

So, I’ve tried many ROMs for my HTC Desire but the latest, Oxygen, has to be the best. If you have a HTC Desire and are looking to give it a new lease of life then I would highly recommend it. Also rooting your phone is easier than ever thanks to Unrevoked.

I formerly used AOSP which is a fairly vanilla Froyo ROM but very stable. I used this ROM for pretty much the last year. However with my upgrade date for my contract due later this year, and the release of quad-core phones throughout 2012, I started to look at custom ROMs again rather than feel jealous about the shiny new models. And to be honest with you – all I use my phone for is to get at GMail, Calender, Remember-the-Milk, Reddit and WhatsApp – no gaming (like I have the time), no video playback (I like battery life for communicating with people), no music playback (I have the excellent Sansa Clip+ thanks). So I figured I can save some cash by keeping the phone and going to a SIM-only contract when it expires. Yeah, new phones have promising stuff like NFC but AFAICT there is no commonplace infrastructure for that yet – hopefully in 2014 when I am ready to upgrade :-)

So back to selecting a ROM: I first tried CyanogenMod 7.1 (probably the custom ROM most people know about) which installed smoothly. However two problems became apparent – a shockingly fast battery drain and unreliable screen auto-rotate (I think the latter might be due to accelerometer driver problems). Thankfully trackball-wake worked otherwise it would not have lasted the two weeks I ran it for. Both of those problems cannot be sustained so I looked around with the words “stable”, “bug free” with “HTC Desire ROM” and found Oxygen which is based on Gingerbread.

I now have what is almost like a new phone – it’s fast, stable and looks smart. For me there are just two small issues – no trackball wake and no way to disable the photo shutter sound – everything else is cool. If you want to install via Clockwork ROM then it will not work, there is currently a broken link to Oxygen. Instead follow this guide and grab version 2.3.2.

Thank you very, very much Oxygen developers/maintainers – enjoy!

Categories: Technical Tags:

Got me a PVR: Humax HDR-FOX T2

March 31st, 2012 No comments

Yes, another step into the 21st Century for the Chaudhry household has been taken with the addition of a PVR (thats “Personal Video Recorder” for the un-initiated). Check photos below, I’m sure the “fox” in the name refers to it’s sleek understated appearance. Hereafter it will be referred to as “Hummy”.

This amazing little black box records Freeview and Freeview HD and does it extremely well. I never really appreciated the power of easy timeshifting of TV content that these allow. It is so easy to bring up the TV schedule for the next few days and choose to record a show or an entire series – all with one button press. Simples! This means I can watch them back at a time to suit me – case in point: this morning at 7am I watched a documentary on spectacular rise and fall of the Hittite Empire from BBC Four :-) It also means that when I’m relaxing with the Missus we can choose to watch something more interesting than “The Kardashians” (btw, I love teasing her by referring to them as “The Cardassians“).

Anyhow, the PVR functionality is not the only thing I bought it for. It can also playback arbitrary digital media such as videos, music and photos. It also has a very decent BBC iPlayer and YouTube “app” built in which is a much more usable effort for a TV form-factor than practically all others I have seen. That said, I’m not giving up my trusty Xbox XBMC systems any time soon. The reason is that even though the “Hummy” can playback hi-def video (e.g. a 3G Avatar blu-ray rip – in mp4 format, not tried mkv yet) and can stream over a network or playback from local USB media – the network streaming is limited to UPnP only. Yes, I can install Mediatomb or Twonky on my LAN Debian server but I already run Samba and NFS already. Given the Hummy runs Linux then why not support these other protocols? They work so well for media streaming dammit (XBMC).

Did I mention that the Hummy runs Linux? Case in point – the HDD is formatted with ext3. This also means it opens up a world of modding potential and a community has of course built up around it over the last 3 years.

If you want to buy one then I would advise looking for a good condition used specimen from an eBay private seller – lots of folks are choosing to go with Virgin Media or Sky to get the premium sports channels and thus selling on their Hummys. Now and again you might see a listing of a Hummy missing the HDD – go for these and you can get a bargain as installing and formatting the HDD is very easy (see blog post above).

OK so a few bad points – HD channel reception is unreliable and I just ignore them even though they look amazing. There are only 5 of them on Freeview HD at present.  Sometimes there is rare signal breakup in SD mode, I have the latest firmware I think so hopefully an update from the Humax will help. I don’t think this is due to my Freeview reception as the Freeview tuner built-in to my TV never had this issue. I would also like some way to turn on and off the TV and Hummy with one button press. I have a Samsung LE32R7 TV so if anyone knows how to do that with the standard remote then let me know. By the way, the 3-digit remote code for this TV I used is 115.

Now excuse me while I find some more shows to fill up my 500G HDD with…

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Enable HTTP MySQL health checks with haproxy

February 28th, 2012 No comments

The haproxy loadbalancer is amazing and can be used to reverse proxy a whole bunch of HTTP connections to a webserver farm behind it. The HTTP proxy bit has some neat features like cookie handling so that a HTTP session “sticks” to one webserver in the pool and some smart healthcheck features. haproxy can also loadbalance TCP connections and this feature can be used with MySQL to loadbal connections. Being at TCP level though, one cannot really judge the health of a MySQL server in one of the backend pools. haproxy knows that port 3306 is open and thats about it. Couple that with the fact that haproxy is not really loadbalancing MySQL connections but “distributing them”, after all haproxy does not know if a connection is a simple one row lookup, an update to thousands of rows or a complex join returning thousands of rows.

So why not leverage HTTP to act as a middleman to MySQL and perform a healthcheck based on any parameters we choose? (eg. MySQL connection threads, replication status etc)

Well, don’t tell Perl but I have been continuing my secret love-affair with Python. Recently I have had some time to get hacking again. My effort is the first version of a MySQL health checker which implements a HTTP server on the MySQL server and returns a “pass” or  “fail” assessment of it’s health. It’s pretty basic right now but should allow a sysadmin to perform HTTP healthchecks against it to look for the magic words: “pass” or “fail”.

Get it from my github: https://github.com/imran-uk/mysql-health-check

Categories: Technical Tags: