tech_tips

Catching the Raspberry Pi Fever

I was recently asked by someone what interesting things I had done with a Raspberry Pi. I remember a day when I could have rambled off a full list of experience, cautions and advice based on my own tinkering. I was usually the first to play with new tech or, when I wasn’t, was very often the first to exploit it to do interesting and meaningful things within the scope of my job. My peers and I would tinker and share in ways that have been popularized by the Maker movement in recent years…and it was fun. But alas, I could answer only with a, “No, I haven’t really had time…but I’ve been following it for a while and it looks cool”. Continue reading

Unbound…A Truer Word Has Never Described Software

Very occasionally a tool or software package stands-out to me on the pure virtue of being the right solution at the right time. If it happens to do exactly what you need RIGHT NOW, and other, perhaps more traditional, mature or well-known tools cannot, the best fit becomes clear. Unbound is exactly this kind of fit. Self-described as “a validating, recursive, and caching DNS resolver”, it’s utility boiled down to one particular line in the config (and the comments that describe it):

# Enable or disable whether the upstream queries use TCP only
# for transport. Default is no. Useful in tunneling scenarios.
tcp-upstream: yes

The reason why that particular ability…being able to force upstream DNS queries to go over TCP (instead of the default of going over UDP)…was important to me today is dumb, but the whole story is a useful example of network fun under the thumb of an ISP that can sometimes do really stoopid things, so I’ll go further and explain. Continue reading

Rockin’ Out Wirelessly with Bluetooth

A while back I did extensive research (even for me) on desktop speakers, and found amazing quality at a price that was still affordable in the Studiophile AV40 kit from M-Audio. Great for a multimedia production machine, or any other place where you need really good sound…if you can be tethered. So, worked great for a desktop, but as I began to want to use these awesome speakers with my laptop, I just found them annoying. Great sound…but unless I was willing to do something unseemly with wires across the room, there was no way to enjoy them with music from my laptop while lounging on the couch. A Bluetooth epiphany followed by several Google searches highlighted some interesting options…the first of which I’ve tried was the Rocketfish Bluetooth Music Receiver (RF-BTR212).
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Two-Factor Authentication: “What?” and “How?”

With all the press about the Heartbleed OpenSSL vulnerability in the news, you probably don’t need another recount of why this is a big deal. If you’ve been following closely, you’re probably a bit freaked-out, and at the very least, have checked with all your online account providers to verify they were not vulnerable, have already addressed the issue, or are actively working on it. You’ll want to follow their instructions, and change your passwords if they were vulnerable, are fully patched, and have changed out their certificates. If you haven’t yet caught-up on all this, I’ll wait…then I’ll brief you on the added layer of security, called Two-Factor Authentication, you can add to your Google, Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter accounts to help insure that, even if your passwords are forcefully acquired by some d-bag baddie, your accounts remain safe.

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Tasker for Android

Most Android devices, Smart Phones and tablets alike, come with some built-in capabilities for automating different types of tasks. Useful lifestyle enhancers, like being able to set periods of time where notifications and sounds will not interrupt your sleep, turning off audible notification during a meeting, or replying automatically to incoming text messages when driving are all typically covered. The problem with most of the default tools I have used is that they are unable to handle real-world edge-cases. For instance, I may want to mute my sound and disable my notification LED for all applications after 11 p.m., turn them all back on at 6 a.m. Monday through Friday, but on Saturday and Sunday, wait until 8 a.m. When I am traveling, I might want my device alarm clock to set when notifications are turned back on instead of waiting for the pre-defined time for that day. Additionally, I may want to prevent my phone from ringing during my sleeping hours, but allow certain folks to ring-through, because when they call off-hours, it is usually an emergency…or someone from whom I wish to hear regardless of time-of-day. Enter the Android utility, Tasker.

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Configuring Windows 7 for Remote Access with Cygwin sshd

As someone that was openly critical of Windows Vista during its short reign as the flagship Microsoft product, mostly due to my experiences bailing out friends and clients that had gone down the unhappy upgrade path from XP Pro, I feel it is important to give praise where it is due. I have been using Windows 7 on for about four months now, and I must admit that it doesn’t suck. In fact, I’ve enjoyed it enough that, when it came time to invest in a new workstation class machine for some of our development work here at Witt’z End Technologies, Windows 7 Professional was the obvious choice of operating system. Those that know me well, know that is about as close to an endorsement as I will ever get, so do not take it lightly.
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Booting via USB Key Made Easy

Man, how times change. I remember paying nearly $200 for a 2GB USB flash drive in 2006, and having people “oooh” and “ahh” about the amount of storage space available in such a small gadget. Same size drive, made better and faster, available for purchase online today: less than $10 before taxes and shipping. These drives are no longer an executive status symbol or tool for geek superheros, and the handiness of having one at your disposal in a pinch cannot be denied by even the most casual computer user. While most people use their USB flash drives to conveniently hold random bits of data to transfer between work and home machines, or to perform quick backups of critical, “I-am-so-dead-if-this-disappears” data, many do not know that it has become equally easy to use these drives for emergency booting of machines where the running state has changed from mere SNAFU to complete FUBAR. A state where time is of the essence, and you absolutely must recover information from a machine that is “Blue Screening” (or worse) for some unknown reason.

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