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User Journal

Journal Journal: Linux QL-500 Label Printer Update

While the Brother P-Touch QL-500 is recognized out of the box by Ubuntu, it doesn't really work. Do the following to fix:

1. Go to the Brother driver site and download both the LPR and CUPSWRAPPER driver.
2. Install both with "sudo apt install ./ql500cupswrapper-1.0.1-0.i386.deb ./ql500lpr-1.0.1-0.i386.deb"

That works.

Ideally, download and use the font "OCR-B", which is freely available from here:

User Journal

Journal Journal: Intel Wifi Crashing 3

Note to future self.

I was fiddling around with my laptop and broke something. My WiFi kept disconnecting every couple of minutes. A quick look in dmesg showed the iwlwifi kernel module was segfaulting every couple of minutes.

This was new. WTF had I changed? Reminder to self -- don't fiddle with things that matter when really tired.

As it turns out, I had enabled up the amd64-microcode in my system, which is under Additional Drivers in Ubuntu. This played absolute havoc with the Intel WiFi and provided no discernible benefits.

Uncheck box, reboot machine, problem resolved.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Passwords 2

When attempting to change your password on the genealogy website, you get this not-so-helpful message:

New Password -- Your new password should be between 5 to 24 characters long and can be any combination of letters, numbers, and some symbols.

Really. Some symbols. Not that they're going to tell you which ones. Oh no, that would be too easy. You have to guess!

The best I can figure out is some dev is just fucking with people for fun. Either that, or they had to spend way too much time writing escape code for special characters and this is payback.

For the record, so far I've determined that a period, hyphen, and underscore are all acceptable and a space is not. . - _


User Journal

Journal Journal: Thoughts on 007 - Spectre 2

No spoilers, just some quick comments.

It isn't bad, but it isn't great, either. Good enough is where I'd put it. Of the Daniel Craig Bond moves, I'd rank this one as #4 (of 4).

A couple of things that stick out at me were the early car chase scene. WTF people? Who wrote this? It wasn't so much a car chase as "lets watch expensive cars tool around Rome". No shooting, nothing exciting. Just what looked like an orange Lamborghini chasing whatever custom car Bond was driving. (Okay, it was a custom Jaguar C-X75 chasing a custom Aston-Martin DB10.)

See, Bond was driving a bullet-proof, armored car. WTF was he fleeing from? The bad guy couldn't get to him. He could've come to a complete stop, let the guy roll up, wave, and ask him to do his window and it wouldn't have mattered.

The second scene that bothered me was the train fight scene. Holy fuck! Are there no other people on the train? The bash their way through like 4 or 5 cars on a 7 car train and there aren't people scrambling to get out of the way. No staff, no passengers, nothing. It was like a ghost train. Then they get off at the next stop looking freshly showered and pressed, not like both protagonists just got their asses kicked and should be covered in bruises and welts and walking with severe limps.

The final scene that irked me was where Bond was chasing the cars in Austria with the plane. The plane loses its wings and a strut, then slides down the mountain only to bash through a barn and smash into one of the bad guys cars. And NO ONE IS OUTSIDE TO SEE IT! It is like they found the only Austrian ski resort village that IS TOTALLY DEVOID OF PEOPLE.

I guess they smashed up so many cars they had to save money somewhere, and skimped on the extras (except for the opening scene in Mexico City).

A little long, and a little disjoint. It really helped that I was at an Alamo Draft House and ordered a couple of beers while watching it.

All in all it really reminded me of a Roger Moore Bond as opposed to a Daniel Craig Bond. Not Moonraker bad, but still...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ubuntu 15.10 Miscellaneous

A couple of other notes on Ubuntu 15.10 on my hacked-up HP ProBoox 6475b.

1. The fingerprint sensor is a Validity VFS491, 138a:003d. Validity Sensors was bought by Synaptec back in 2013, but regardless those sensors have never been well supported under Linux. I did get this one working by digging out the old driver patch that HP supplied for SuSE Linux 11 back in 2012. I applied that to libfprint-0.0.6 and compiled everything from source. Ugly, but it works. I forwarded the patch over to the fingerprint-gui guys to see if they are interested in adding it in. Every little bit helps.

2. Playing with my Yubikey Neo I found that the pam-u2f package in the PPA (v1.0.2) segfaults on the pamu2fcfg command. I filed a bug report, provided debug and core data, and the developers patched the git HEAD source in a few hours. I rebuilt the utility and supporting libraries from scratch to test and all is working! Score one for open source software! Expect it to be released on the PPA next week.

That was really the last little nit. Everything went much smoother than I expected, and I'm quite happy with the setup. Every last feature on the machine works without a hiccup -- except the WiFI scanner, but that isn't part of the machine.

I'm actually fairly impressed with the open source AMD video drivers (Radeon 7660G, which comes with the A-10 processor), but don't play games on the machine other than WarZone 2100 so I don't really stress it.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ubuntu 15.10 and Epson / Seiko Scanner Driver

I've tried everything, but can't connect to the scanner over WiFi. I can connect over USB, but the scanner is on the other side of the room and that defeats the purpose of the WiFi.

I have installed Epson's iscan, iscan-data and iscan-network-nt packages -- the latter being the one supposed to allow Epkowa devices connect over the network. Yes, I modified the epkowa.conf file in /etc/sane.d/ using both IP address and DNS name, but to no avail.

The printer works, the scanning port (1865) is active, but no joy on using simplescan, xsane, or iscan. Drat!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ubuntu 15.10 and Epson / Seiko Printer Driver

Ubuntu 15.10 automatically found my Epson XP-610 wireless printer / scanner and tried to install the proper printer driver, but failed miserably.

By "miserably" I mean it got stuck halfway through installing the package file and gummed up their software installation utility. I had to "kill -9" the appropriate, defunct dpkg instance. A reboot will do it as well.

The problem seems to be the proprietary Epson driver relies on LSB (Linux Standard Base), which is no longer installed by default in Ubuntu. The fix is to download the appropriate .deb package from the Epson site. Install the driver with sudo dpkg -i epson-inkjet-printer-201308w_1.0.0-1lsb3.2_amd64.deb, which will install but not configure because of missing LSB as a dependency. Finally, do a sudo apt-get install -f to handle the missing dependencies and you can go into the Printers app and add the printer, as the drivers will now be available.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Brother P-Touch QL-500 on Linux 1

Just a quick entry because I couldn't find a fix for this issue anywhere online.

Under Linux, using Ubuntu 15.04 and 15.10, my USB-connected Brother QL-500 label printer is detected automatically and available out-of-the-box, no driver install necessary. Very nice.

I tried printing under Glabels and all I got was a flashing LED on the printer. The Brother website has a similar error under Windows, claiming this is caused by a mismatch between the label actually loaded in the printer and the setting in the driver. This was not the issue. I have DK-1201 address labels loaded, and the driver is set to 29 x 90 mm, which is also the template I'm using in Glabels.

In the driver (Printers app, Properties, Printer Options), there is a button labeled "Label Preamble". This is on by default and is the culprit. Un-check that box and the printer should now print properly.

User Journal

Journal Journal: CuBox Wifi Streaming Solved

I believe I have mentioned before that every bit of media I purchase I digitize and store the files on a central server. That includes over 300 movies and over 100 television episodes, plush a few hundred audio tracks. Everything is available anywhere in my home via wireless streaming, however I had been having problems with reliably streaming 1080p HD video over WiFi to my main television units.

My back end device is simply a Buffalo AirStation AC 1750 running DD-WRT build 27456. It is configured for WiFi AC-only in the 5.8 GHz band, and G/N/AC in the 2.4 GHz band to accommodate some older devices.

A Western Digital My Passport Ultra 2 Tb USB 3.0 drive is plugged into the back of the wireless router, which acts as a NAS and makes media available via SAMBA shares.

Over all I like this set-up, though after several months of use I can't really recommend the Buffalo AirStation for the simple reason that it doesn't have any external antennas. It really suffers in coverage area because of this. DD-WRT is great, as is the little 2 Tb WD drive, but I'll never again get a wireless gizmo that doesn't use an external antenna.

The front end to my televisions scattered throughout the house is a CuBox i4-Pro running OpenELEC. This is a fantastic combination that has been almost -- but not quite -- perfect for me. It is also easy to use for my non-technical wife and future geek 7-year old child.

The one issue has been reliably streaming 1080p HD videos to a CuBox. Even with the unit less than 10 meters away from the access point, with no obstructions, it would routinely have such a poor connection as to not be able to keep up with the playback. Watching the dashboard of DD-WRT showed me it had less than 30% signal strength and constantly would drop to 5.5 Mbps connection rates.

To eliminate interference I got up in the middle of the night and shut off everything that used wifi except the CuBox and it still performed poorly.

The short answer is the built-in wireless on the CuBox is abysmal. Again, no external antenna and 2.4 GHz only. Further investigation showed it would not work with channel bonding, thus not use 40 MHz channels in 802.11n. I don't know if it is a chipset limitation or a driver issue. Either way, it sucks.

My answer was to buy a USB wifi adapter with an external antenna. This one is tiny, totally plug-and-play, and absolutely does the trick. And for $12.99, including Prime shipping, a bargain. It is marketed towards the Raspberry Pi, which is what I bought it for. It uses the Realtek RT5370 chipset and is supported at the kernel level (no extra drivers needed) in Android, OpenELEC, Raspbian and lots of other Linux flavors.

It support 802.11n and bonded, 40 MHz channels and, more importantly, handles HD streams without breaking a sweat. I just ordered 2 more to outfit my 2 other CuBox devices so I can stream everything to the TVs in bedrooms without running wires.

(Note: I'm in a fairly low-population subdivision and not a lot of 2.4 GHz wireless around. I'm not stepping on any of my neighbors with my signal.)

User Journal

Journal Journal: Magnetic Cell Phone Docks 6

Just a short note. I picked up an Air Dock back when their Indigogo campaign was under way. I have now had this thing for a little over a year.

In general it works fine and does exactly what it says. I use the CD-mount, which has a nice picture down on this page.

The one flaw with that mount is the bolt and nut used to tighten it are fairly large, and extend beneath the mount. On DIN I sized radios, with the CD slot on top of the unit, the nut blocks the view of the display.

The one other thing I have discovered is that after a year of use, it has magnetized my phone! The Nexus 5 comes with small metal plates built in to the back to allow for the native use of devices like this. After all this time they have become magnetized, and that totally screws up the internal compass.

Now any time I start the compass app it complains the magnetic field strength is way too strong and it doesn't give accurate readings.

To be clear, this happens when the device is undocked and I'm walking around.

My next dock will be non-magnetic, as I do sometimes use the compass.

User Journal

Journal Journal: I'd forgot they made those things. 1

I dreamed I bought a REALLY big computer monitor, but I didn't notice the brand until I opened the box and saw "Arrivals" printed on the bezel.


Journal Journal: Six Months with a Chromebook

About six months ago my main PC died and I needed a new one. Not having a lot of cash, and not really having a lot of free time to spend on the computer, I decided to get an Acer C7 Chromebook to hold me over.

Refurbished units are available on Acer's official refurb store, over on E-Bay. I paid $149 at the time. Now the base 2 Gb unit with a 320 Gb HD is available for $139.

These are Intel Celeron-based systems with 2 SO-DIMM RAM sockets and a mini-PCIe slot that holds the a/b/g/n/Bluetooth adapter. With only one RAM socket populated, it was easy to pop in a 4 Gb module for a total of 6 Gb of RAM. Adding more RAM allows the system to operate better with multiple tabs open. Other than that, you won't notice much of a difference.

Now that I've been using this as my primary machine for the last 6 months I can render an informed opinion.

I'm amazed at how much of what I do now is thru a web browser. After adding an SSH app, there is very little I couldn't do with the Chromebook. Still, there are some critical limitations that have driven me to get a "real" computer.

One of the big ones is the lack of network file system support. There is no way to access SMB/CIFS or NFS shares on the Chromebook. It also doesn't have FTP support, though there is a commercial app available for FTP. It is only $1.99, but needs to phone home to make sure you've paid, so requires connectivity to function.

If you can live with accessing files only through Google Drive, everything is fine. But, if you have -- like me -- a few terabytes of data on local shares, you're stuck. No, uploading every movie, television show, educational video and audio file I've every ripped to Google Drive is not an option.

Speaking of uploading music, that is another limitation. If you use Google Music, you can play everything fine, but will need a "real" computer to upload any files.

Printing, too. There is no direct printing support. The system only supports "Google Cloud Print", which means you either buy a new printer that supports GCP or leave a PC running with the printer driver configured, and logged in to Chrome (browser). You also have to be comfortable with everything you print going up to Google and back down. Meh.

It is impressive what can be accomplished through the Chrome browser, an SSH app and an FTP app. There are numerous web IDEs such as Shift Edit that are actually very good for development of HTML, CSS, Javascript and other script-based languages.

Of course, Chrome doesn't do Java. There are still some things on the web that require Java.

The lack of network file system support is a show stopper for me. I'm also taking some online classes including a couple in Java development, which means I can't use the Chromebook.

Not that I'm getting rid of it. I have given it to my wife. My young son also has one.

For $139 plus $20 or so for extra RAM it makes a wonderful backup system. Or one to grab and take with if you aren't going to be doing heavy development.

Wireless Networking

Journal Journal: Wireless Video Streaming - Update

Some while back I posted a journal entry about streaming video to my television from a central server in my basement. My conclusion at the time was wireless B/G/N couldn't really cut it when streaming via SMB over TCP.

I've experimented with a couple things and finally got it working where I can stream 1080p video (ripped BluRay) to my television via wifi. The difference was switching to the 5.0 GHz band (802.11 a/n) and changing the file share from SMB over TCP (Samba shares) to NFSv4.

NFS has less overhead than SMB over TCP and the wireless channels in the 5 GHz range are wider than those in the 2.4 GHz range.

So this setup now works for me without issues:

Small PC w/Via C7 chip acting as a server. Runs NFS and has copies (h.264 encoded as MKV) of all my movies, television shows and music (Ogg-FLAC). Connects to 10/100 wired switch in basement.

Zotac ZBox HD-11 running w/o a hard drive and booting OpenELEC off a 2 Gb SD card. Connects to home network via Cisco/Linksys WUSB600N USB wireless dongle on 5 GHz band (802.11 n).

I still have Samba running on the server so the couple of gaming PCs my kids have can reach the movie shares and perform automatic backups to private shares. I need to find a nice (free) NFS client for Windows 7. Suggestions?


Journal Journal: Manna From San Francisco 1

Back in 2003 Marshall Brain, founder of How Stuff Works, wrote a short novel titled Manna . It is an exploration at what increasingly looks to be the logical conclusion of the Industrial Revolution. If you haven't had the opportunity to read it before, I highly recommend it. It isn't long or difficult, but it raises some very interesting notions.

I mention it now because of the news out of San Francisco.

While not the same angle as Manna, it essentially is a big step down the same path. In 2012 there were over 4 million people employed in the fast food industry in the United States. What is going to happen to the country when they're almost all replaced by automation?

Thinking about the different jobs that can be done better, faster and cheaper by robots today is an interesting exercise. Contemplating which jobs will be better handled by automated systems in 20, 50 and 100 scary. Scary, that is, unless we fundamentally change the way we think about work, employment and the economy. I'm having a very hard time thinking of any jobs that can't be better done by robots than humans, including the so called "creative" ones, in 50 - 100 years.


Journal Journal: Lies of Omission 6

This is a duplicate of a post I made in one of the recent topics. I'm copying it here for easier reference as I send it to a couple friends.

* * *

So what exactly is metadata?

Many years ago I was a telecommunications engineer for a large company and worked CALEA. For the uninitiated, that is law-enforcement wiretapping.

My job was to make sure CALEA functioned properly on the new cellular network. We tested on an internal, micro-cell network that was isolated from the real world. The end result was to make sure targeted devices sent CDR (call data records, or metadata) and voice to the destination. This was all piped thru IPSec tunnels to the appropriate destination law-enforcement agency.

In the event of a tunnel failure, CDRs were required to buffer but voice was not. Saving voice during an outage required too much storage space, but the text nature of CDRs meant they were small and largely compressible.

Metadata consisted of EVERYTHING THAT WAS NOT VOICE.

To be clear, it included the following:

called number
calling number
time of call
duration of call
keys pressed during call
cell tower registered to
other cell towers in range
gps coordinates
signal strength
imei (cell phone serial number)
and a few other bits of technical information.

Everything above "cell tower registered to" applies to traditional, POTS land line phones. This information seems to be what the disinformation campaign currently going on seems to revolve around. They never mention that there are over 327 MILLION cellular phones in the U.S., which is more than one per person. They never mention the bottom set of metadata.

Capturing all key presses makes sure things like call transfers, three-way calls and the like get captured.

It also grabs things like your voicemail PIN/password, which never seems to get explicitly mentioned.

But the cellular set is more interesting. This data come across in registration and keep-alive packets every few seconds. This is how the network knows you're still active and where to route calls to.

But by keeping all this metadata it allows whomever has it to plot of map of your phone's gross location and movements.

By "gross", I mean the location triangulated from cell tower strength and not GPS coordinates. Towers are triangular in nature and use panel antennas. They know which panel you connect thru and can triangulate your location down to a few meters just by the strength of your signal on a couple different towers.

GPS coordinates are "fine" location. For the most part the numbers sent across are either zeroed out or the last location your phone obtained a fix.

GPS isn't turned on all the time because it sucks batteries down. If you own a phone you know how long it can take to get a fix, so this feature isn't normally used.

HOWEVER, it can be turned on remotely and is a part of the E911 regulations pushed to help find incapacitated victims after 9/11.

[There is a reason the baseband radio chip in your phone has closed, binary-blob firmware -- whether or not the OS itself is FOSS. We wouldn't want the masses to be able to disable remote activation, would we? Or let them start changing frequencies and power levels.]

So, are we comfortable with the government knowing where we, thru our cell phones, are at every moment of the day? Because that is what metadata allows.

Think of what can be learned by applying modern pattern analysis to that data set.

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