When USB goes bad…

Image Credit: Jenn Durfey / Flickr (CC: by) So, I decided to give running a linux distro *solely* from a USB 3.0 flash drive… the install itself was fairly simple and painless, the pain only started on the reboot.

The drive failed, and I was dropped to the rather unfriendly >initfs prompt.

I tried a few things, from fixing the failed superblocks

dumpe2fs /dev/sdc1 | grep superblock
fsck -b [ALTERNATE SUPERBLOCK # e.g. 32768] /dev/sdc1

…to  trying to repair the file system

sudo fsck -fp /dev/sdc1

…and even forcing the filesystem ‘read only’ state back to read-write.

hdparm -r0 /dev/sdc

At which point I was 2 beers into the problem and getting a little… impatient. The last link however gave me two other possibilities:

  1. The drive itself may be faulty (it’s apparently somewhat common for poor soldering to cause this ‘read-only’ condition)
  2. Run a utility from the drive manufacturer to low-level format the drive and start again (waay too easy, and a WINDOWS based until – it would be like admitting defeat!)

I considered adding a third beer to the problem solving mix, then decided that it’d just be easier to go with option 2… a quick search later and I was on the Apacer support site and 337kb away from solving the problem.

Apacer Repair ToolWell, almost. Trying the ‘format’ option didn’t work (bad partition table / read-only state and all) so, ‘Restore’ it was, and.. we’re away! Low-level formatted, and ready to retry the install.

<burp> :)

Linux for Kids

My best mate dropped over on the weekend and left me an ancient Sony Vaio that he’d acquired for his 7-year-old daughter.

Doudou LinuxAfter shooting the breeze over the beer, we got to talking about his daughters computer use. Essentially he (and she) just wanted “something she can use and have for her own” – he’d already been supplied with a Live CD of Doudou Linux which she’d been booting from, yet due to the failing hard drive in the near fossilized Vaio, the machine was taking far too long to start-up – by which time her attention span was exceeded.

Continue reading

This is water

A bit of a deviation from my standard fare of techy news and opinion, but I’m bundling this under “Community & Social” – I think it fits well.


This video gave me pause for thought…
It’s a well produced, visually engaging excerpt from an address to graduates in 2005 by novelist David Foster Wallace. Sadly, this man took his own life in 2008 after struggling with depression for many years.

Watch this. Listen to the message. See if you can use it in your life.

The full address can be found here:

Hat Tip to my former colleague Curtis – thank you for sharing.

Standing on the Wall

Image Credit: US Army / Flickr (CC: by)Today I was discussing the recent work by the New Zealand Police in bring a number of people up on charges for their part in an international paedophile ring. While I’ll save you from the details (you can do your own reading using this article as a starting point), some of the alleged offenses are pretty horrific. Suffice it to say, the conversation quickly turned to how soul-destroying it must be for the OCEANZ team and organisations such as ECPAT. Continue reading

Path of Exile – Crowdsourcing Funds

Image Credit: Grinding Gears (Path of Exile) - Supporters pack Kiwi (in game pet)The very excellent MMO “Path of Exile” by Kiwi game developer Grinding Gear Games has managed to raise US$2.5 million (yes that’s million, little finger to the corner of your mouth Dr Evil styles…) through crowd-sourcing future development funds from the online gaming community.

This is not the first success they’ve had with funding via the web but, as an indicator – the climbing value of funding is testament to the belief their community has in the work they are doing with the game.

A personal HUGE congratulations goes out from my keyboard to the Grinding Gear team, it’s awesome to see New Zealand companies doing so well on the world stage without resorting to filling paddocks with cows. :)

Technology and Recreation – a recipie for AWESOME

For gadget geeks like myself, there’s always been an opportunity to mix technology with what we do when AFK (away from keyboard).

My first heart monitor watch *had* to be imported because no one in this country was selling the IR receiver (connecting through a DB9 (serial) cable no less.. for the more normal, serial cables were “how things were done” before the simplicity of USB arrived). Continue reading

Social Scams and Why They Work

Over the last week, as New Zealanders begin to change their jandals (flip-flops / thongs) for shoes, I’ve noted a significant increase in the number of “warnings” being posted in my social network feeds. This is not uncommon and it’s not unique only to my network of contacts as these articles point out.

Scam ImageNow, for the most part, folks in my social stream tend to only get caught on an infrequent basis by these messages. I do my best to flick a link back if it’s an obvious hoax, as do others who we share as common contacts. I have been caught myself and have more than once shared something which, if I’d relied on more than wishful thinking, would/should have been filtered out.

So - why do these attacks work, why do the hoaxes perpetuate, and what can we do as a community to reduce our chances of passing on misinformation to our networks?

The simple answer is diligence. Continue reading

Expiring Passwords

Image Credit: Louise Docker / Flickr (CC:by)Today there was a question pitched by one of the guys at work as to why we bother having such things as a password expiry / enforced change. My answer (in true Rob fashion), rambled a little (ok, a lot) but I’ve consolidated it below and made it generic to suit anyone facing the same line of questioning…

The reason passwords are set to expire, is it limits the exposure of compromised credentials. Continue reading

ASUS Garmin A10

I got one of these phones when they first came out – they were pretty awesome back then, however over time they have been orphaned on older, vulnerable iterations of Android and they simply don’t have what it takes to be a primary device any longer.

Because of this – I’m currently looking to root the phone and install upon it a modified ROM which will give me *just* what I need to turn this into a useful device for sitting in the car.

Step #1 – Hard Reset to Factory Defaults.

  • Turn the phone OFF
  • While holding the volume UP button, press and HOLD the power button
  • Keep holding the buttons until ‘Clear User Data’ is displayed in text on the phone’s screen.

The phone will continue to boot after factory resetting the device (note, items on the Micro SD card will NOT be affected – you would need to reformat that independently yourself.

Step #2 – Find a ROM.

  • The new firmware needs to enable the more recent features of Android without overtaxing the processing power or battery capacity of the aging device…
  • Suggestions?

Authenticating Users – The Struggle to Raise the Bar

Photo Credit: Ibrahim Asad / Flickr (CC: by)Interesting quote from an article that I was reading this morning:

“When creating a patient portal that provides access to electronic health records, healthcare organizations must educate patients about the need for authenticating their identities, says Sharp HealthCare CIO Bill Spooner. […] Spooner notes that some patients have complained that the authentication method for its patient portal is cumbersome.”

It’s not the fault of the user, they’ve not been educated as to why the bar should be higher (and they don’t necessarily understand the potential consequence of a low bar). It’s not the fault of the business, after all things have been “good enough so far” so why spend money changing something that doesn’t look like it’s broken?

It’s (almost) nice to know there are others struggling with the balance between usability, user acceptance, funding and the changing landscape of threat.

Technology, Open Thinking, Community & Education…