Consolidating photo libraries from multiple drives

I’m trying out “The Big Mean Folder Machine” version 2.29 to consolidate (or “merge”) various years of photo cruft.  The process of culling and consolidation will hopefully allow me to have a single photo directory backed up to Amazon Glacial forever.  I believe as I mentioned in another post, mechanical disks fail so having a redundant and offsite backup strategy is crucial.  And certainly a key part of of this is limiting the number of places you’re storing your local data so that you can create redundancy.

I’ll write more here when I get all this data and drives sorted out, but so far I was able to run a scan and it the BMFM was able to create a folder hierarchy from multiple drives.   I may need to do some merges first and then a split.

SSH debug

http://hints.macworld.com/article.php?story=20080424055927442

The crux is that SSH even when connecting w/ -vvv  or -vT modes won’t tell you precisely why it’s not connecting for obvious security purposes.  This is presuming you’ve double checked all other obvious issues and your public/private key pairs are setup correctly.

In the linked post above Kent Martin writes, the answer is to bind debug to an alternate port on the server side:
/usr/sbin/sshd -d -p 2222

then similarly from the client machine:
ssh -v -p 2222 user@machine_I_am_trying_to_ssh_to

On the server machine terminal you’ll see a more verbose debug log and hopefully it will tell you exactly why your client machine is being rejected.

Android 2.2 Wifi > Bluetooth : bridge & tether DUN

This isn’t a common situation, but without root it seems you cannot share or rebroadcast a given SSID using your Android’s wireless chipset, however, using PdaNet, you can share a wifi signal via bluetooth with a laptop or another device running PdaNet.

So there, I hope that’s the answer you are gøøgling right now.

Once paired successfully over bluetooth, on the client laptop you’ll need to enter “123” as the dial up phone number in the DUN settings.

You are welcome.

At least…

The prices on high quality heat sink fans have come down. I recently converted the old Intel e5200 htpc/server into an “OSX”86 server. It turns out that you can now fill the 4 SATA drive slots with about 12TB of storage now for like $100 (I’m joking, but storage is cheap). Right now it only has a single “green” Seagate 1TB drive, but at least I don’t feel constrained any longer. In theory I could’ve continued running 10.04 Ubuntu and Netatalk, but I figured it was worth trying to get a native AFP server going. Lifehacker had a really easy to follow post and it’s pretty quick now as a 1GigE backup/media server (my original build used “compatible” hardware). Faster than the 4 year old Time Capsule when transferring large files, that’s for sure.

But yeah, Intel’s stock coolers, at least in the LGA 775 chipset models appear to be terrible. The 212+ cooler requires a backplate, so I’ll have to pull the motherboard, but once this thing is installed I should be able to run Handbrake 24 hours a day and hopefully the CPU won’t go above 50C. Currently this thing idles at 57C, as the stock heat sink just doesn’t seem to mount flush.

Cooler Master - 212 Plus Cooler

Cooler Master - 212 Plus Cooler

Bottom heat-pipes, direct contact

Bottom heat-pipes, direct contact

I Can Blink

C turned me on to Blink, a very high quality SIP communications package, which just happens to be GNU General Public Licensed, v3. With Android 2.2 and Google Voice I’ve been forced to use a mix-mash of modes to make cSipSimple work reliably. Part of the issue is forwarding phones. With Google Voice I am now forwarding to Gmail, Virgin Mobile, and now SIPgate One. When I turn off all cellular communcations in theory cSipSimple should be the only phone to ring, and in theory it shouldn’t use mobile anytime minutes.

I managed to get this to work on the PEAP encrypted 802.1x Wifi on campus, so in theory at home it should work fine. ICE/STUN with NAT seems to help call quality. The SIPGate iOS application also seems to work fine, though sometimes there is a bit of crackling not present on SIP>SIP calls using other clients.

A third option, which may or may not be in the works at the Googleplex [sic] is the integration of SIP directly to Google Voice. Google was likely testing this functionality as Dan York wrote in his blog, however, it appears Google pulled the plug on it publicly. It would be incredibly convenient to not have to route via the PSTN for Google Voice because as Dan mentions, the calls are already IP based, if only they could stay that way Google Voice users would have higher quality calls and an easier time of it. To test if you have any SIP functionality, plug in +1xxxxxxxxxx@sip.voice.google.com, where that number is your GV number.

Huwaei Bitches! Taking over the world one inexpensive Android handset at a time

I was in need of a phone after dropping off the map and switching my cell line to virtual carrier 3jam. In the US post-paid contracts vary between $40-$100/month (by which American’s pay the most in the world on a per-minute/megabyte rates) and often the the cheaper plans gouge on text messages and have fewer minutes.

So, I bought a Huwaei Ideos (T-Mobile “Comet”) pre-paid, off contract.  It features Android 2.2 & runs Skype natively.  So far I’ve been happy with Skype’s $3/mo unlimited calling plan, and 3jam forwards to Skype natively using OpenSky. Problems in the system arise when you’re masking numbers (IDs) and sending text messages (IDs again) and dealing with multiple voicemails and trying to use Google Voice. Here is a short list of bullet points in my limited experience so far with virtual lines and consumer VoIP telephony.

1) Skype has the best call quality, using both smart phones and computers, in/out of PSTN and VoIP & as an added bonus Skype can ID itself as your cell line.  The downside to Skype (even with their new 5.x beta) is that the user interface is absolutely terrible.  Using 2.8.x for OS X involves managing three different windows with countless notifications that are difficult to turn off or remove.  In the 5.x beta I made a video call, switched to chat mode, and was unable to ever switch back to the video call!  I was stuck in chat mode for all future calls.  I reverted back to 2.8.x.  I’m not sure if it’s a function of eBay slowly bleeding them to death or they simply are not hiring professionals in UX/IxD; either way it’s embarrassing.

2) Google Voice and SIP tend to result in garbled conversations, usually forcing a Skype Out call.  Google bought Gizmo5 which now gives any Gmail user a “phone” when they’re logged into Gmail.  Again, the sound quality isn’t superb but there is the convenience of taking calls from within an already open window.

3) 3jam.com has great SMS features but their web interface (which lacks an HTML5 mobile interface) and pricing structure need an overhaul.  Probably the most killer feature of 3jam (and GV) is being able to send and receive SMSs within Gmail. And the fact is they were the only company I was able to find on planet earth that allows you to port-in your number and send/receive SMS’s eg. they’re a virtual number switching service just like Google Voice.

4) Google Voice doesn’t allow adjustment of their voicemail ring extension (25 seconds = however many rings) while 3jam allows you to adjust pickup time in seconds. And to make things worse, Skype’s voicemail is implemented based upon your subscription which once enabled, cannot be turned off! The work around seems to be to cancel your subscription, which seems ridiculous if you bought a year subscription and need to turn off Skype’s voicemail (note: when Skype is running there is a “disable voicemail” option, however, when Skype is not active its voicemail takes over).

So all of this is to say that I’m not sure if it’s the best system for everyone. It’s certainly more versatile, in that I can forward my main number to any number I want (in the world) and pay reasonable rates while doing it, call screening is unlimited and voicemail is transcribed and emailed to me. I do think Skype’s $3/mo unlimited calling is a terrific deal and it does consistently have very good call quality. In the US Sprint (& prepaid Virgin Mobile) each have very inexpensive plans, T-Mobile averages $0.10-$0.15/min prepaid. It really depends on your usage and how many minutes you talk on your cell phone while outside of the house, and perhaps even what mobile network your friends/family use.

VoIP had/has the potential to drastically reduce user’s cost of telephony except that cable and phone providers are in the business of making money and not reducing consumer’s communications bills. “Triple Play” packages that usually start at $100/mo are not a good value when you consider that these companies are paying pennies on the dollar now to provide phone service (that is now routed digitally). Similarly, mobile data plans costs are on the rise as carriers begin to cap total data usage and/or charge for extended features such as tethering4GLTE etc. Verizon and Skype even penned a deal whereby Skype minutes (even over Wi-Fi) result in monthly minutes being used! This is to say, if they can make money and “offer value” to consumers while decreasing mobile network usage they’ll do it. More about the Ideos phone in another post.

A web application that is a browser & vice versa

Lately I’ve been using Gmail to take my incoming phone calls over Google Voice (via 3jam). At some point I grew tired of paying a large carrier what I deemed an excessive monthly fee for not very many cellular minutes and I ported my cell line to 3jam. I already had a Google Voice number so I forward my old cell number (via 3jam) to GV. I tend to miss calls, however, when I either forget to leave Skype open or I close my instance of Gmail. Thankfully, there is a solution: Fluid (& Prism) run with the idea of site specific browsers (SSBs) giving web applications a native feel.

The basic concept is that you can create an icon for web applications to run “stand alone”. In my case Gmail (& Google Voice, or Reader) can be launched as “applications” and easily backgrounded. Fluid is easy to use and extensible with scripts, enabling a plethora of possibilities. When using Gmail as a phone it requires both Flash (& Google Talk plugins) in your Internet Plug-Ins directory to be able to make/receive phone calls.

This is not the most ideal solution for VoIP calling. Siemens sells the Gigaset which would allow me to take VoIP/SIP based calls at home over a “normal” handset with out having to have a computer with Gmail open. ATA (analog telephone adapters) allow the use “plain old telephones” to be plugged into your home network, generally the same idea as the Gigaset, though the Gigaset integrates a 1.9GHz wireless transmission system and VoIP router into one package.

The final part of this puzzle to save on monthly usage fees is a prepaid cell phone (depending on your usage). T-Mobile recently released a pleasantly inexpensive Android 2.2 powered handset made by Huawei called the Comet. For about $150 this not terrible Android phone gives PDA functionality and can use Skype/SIP calling over WiFi. The rest of the time minutes are forwarded and used at the standard T-Mobile $0.10/min rate prepaid rate.

Gmail on your dock

Gmail icons for Fluid by EvenWu on Flickr

Buffalo & DD-WRT still kicking ass

My Buffalo WHR-G54S is up and running at another friends’ home in NY. That’s two fresh routers (well one Tomato firmware update) and one used replacement for the utter rubbish Netgear WGR614 v3. The Netgear had an Atheros chipset from 2002 and the firmware prior to flashing an update was 2003. I applied the 2007 release from Netgear to no avail. The problem was whenever multiple wireless devices vied for access the router would dole out IPs successfully but would then lose all connectivity, both wired and wireless and require a reboot. Z and I were not pleased.

Thankfully I found our trusty old Buffalo flashed to DD-WRT packed away and once reset, it was plug and play.  There were about five fruit computers suckling off the 802.11G wireless connection within short time.

Still TO DO: a cheap ultra-low wattage Open/Free RADIUS server?  What’s the easiest method for ultra secure wi-fi?

Buffalo WHR-G54S running DD-WRT Epic Win!

Buffalo WHR-G54S running DD-WRT Epic Win!

Netgear WGR614 v3 Epic Fail

Netgear WGR614 v3 Epic Fail

TFTP after a bad flash on WRT-54G Ver 2.0

Was helping a friend trouble shoot an old Linksys WRT-54G Version 2.0 and I thought it might be worth installing the Tomato firmware and see if it helps minimize the connection drop outs he’s been having.  I thought upgrading via the Linksys admin menu would be a snap.  I made a couple of mistakes.

1) Always do a hard reset (30/30/30) on the router before flashing

2) Always hard wire and set a static IP that is within the default range and turn off all other network cards

3) Be patient, because sometimes it’ll take a few minutes

What happened was this: the upgrade from the Linksys admin utility resulted in a corrupt image such that I was no longer receiving an IP address, the router was not booting, all I got was a flashing green power LED.  Thankfully, Draytek Router Tools v.4.2.1 comes to the rescue with TFTP tool, as I tried the Linksys version of the software with no luck.  Router Tools allowed me to get the WRT-54G back online with the latest official Linksys Firmware v.4.21.1 and at this point I went back into the menu and tried the Tomato v.1.27 .bin again and it actually worked.

Now, whether all this means the router will stop being flaky, I don’t know.  But many other users swear by Tomato and say that it’s a significant improvement over the stock firmware and includes a lot of QOS features and should increase stability.

This is pretty much the best guide I found on recovering from a bad flash:
http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Recover_from_a_Bad_Flash

This is the link for latest official Linksys firmware on the WRT54G:
http://homesupport.cisco.com/en-us/wireless/lbc/WRT54G/download

And if you click on Version 4.0 on the BEFSR41 router/hub you can download Linksys’ official TFTP tool, which probably won’t work and you’ll need to download the Draytek utility anyways:
http://homesupport.cisco.com/en-us/wireless/lbc/BEFSR41/download

Linksys WRT54G Version 2.0

Linksys WRT54G Version 2.0