Reflashing a Rooted Router

I have a couple of Open Mesh Indoor Access Points that I’ve used for various projects, the most recent of which being the provision of WiFi for our Teenage Subnet.

Open Mesh - Indoor Access Point
I have the OM1 version, not the OM2 pictured here – they are similar however.

These devices have a very cool history. Originally created under the banner of Meraki (since sold to Cisco and thenceforth diverging from its open source roots), the Open Mesh has a really strong community behind it both in the development and the after-market support camps.

Long story short, one of the nodes decided to pack a sad and nothing I could do from the control panel would get the dang thing to talk to the network again.. so that’s when I rolled out the big guns.
It was to these guys that I turned my web browser, and true to form was soon rewarded with this very good HOWTO explaining the step by step of reflashing an open mesh device.

While I have archived a copy of the article in case the original gets moved, I would caution the visiting reader to seek their fortunes in the community forums updated documentation should you stumble across this page at any great length time after it is initially published.

FlashThe one edit I would make would be to ensure that, in Windows, you open the command prompt as an Administrator. For me, the flash program would not detect any interfaces until I did this.

Happy flashing!

Reversing a PDF with the GIMP

While the GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program, not the one from Pulp Fiction) is a marvelously capable (and freely available) graphics tool, it has a complete meltdown when asked to perform a simple task like saving a multi-page PDF.
GIMP will import a multi-page PDF fine:

  • Right-click the PDF, Open with GIMP [Fig.1]
  • Import from PDF, as layers [Fig.2]

…and then the jiggery pokery begins… Continue reading “Reversing a PDF with the GIMP”

XBox Live via an OpenWRT router

One of the concerning requests of Xbox Live connectivity, is to enable UPnP or ‘Universal Plug and Play’ on your home router.

The UPnP protocol has a long standing history of security problems, not the least of which being that it allows unauthenticated devices to connect to and through your home network. In the past, I have advocated for this to be switched off by default in consumer grade routers and I explain the UPnP threat in another post.

Getting back on track, my security conscious view for our home network does nothing for a teenage boy who received an Xbox Live subscription for his birthday and, while some aspects of the Live subscription work, others – such as game sharing will fail. With this in mind, we need to setup port forwarding, rather than implement UPnP, to connect said teenager to his gaming buddies and keep our network free of the risks introduced by enabling UPnP.

Continue reading “XBox Live via an OpenWRT router”

Kicking off with Koha

Koha is a fully featured, scalable library management system.

Koha LogoSo, I thought I’d set up Koha on a virtual machine to have a bit of a play, and maybe use it to manage our library at home.

Create the virtual machine

I’m using VirtualBox as my VM manager, so – first off we create a new machine, give it a name and set the type to ‘Linux, Debian (64-bit)’ as Koha is most often deployed on Debian servers.

The default settings (512MB RAM, 1 Processor, 8GB HDD) are fine, and we will set the network card to be a bridged adapter (which will give it its own IP address on our local network). For now so all that remains is to point the CD to the latest Debian installation image. I am using the network install as this machine will only be built with what Koha needs and thus I don’t need to pull down local copies of a bunch of things we won’t install. So, let’s start the VM and get on with the installation.

Continue reading “Kicking off with Koha”

Tweaking the Home Network – pfSense Firewall [Part 2: Initial Configuration]

Initial Configuration (via Web Browser)

In the previous article, we set up (at least) two network interfaces. The first, facing the Internet (the WAN) and the second facing the internal network (the LAN).

In our instance, our WAN interface will simply pass traffic onto our existing internal network, where it is subject to existing rules and management, while the LAN interface will become the first node of our new ‘Teenage Subnet’ through which our older boys (and possibly their friends) will access the network resources (including access to the Internet).

The new network: Users are seperated into subnets

So, anyway, we have a machine happily whirring away running pfSense and two interfaces configured, the WAN and the LAN. Now we need to connect up and get things configured.

Continue reading “Tweaking the Home Network – pfSense Firewall [Part 2: Initial Configuration]”

Tweaking the Home Network – pfSense Firewall [Part 1: Installation]

So, now we have teenagers, I’ve realised a need to create a little more separation with our home network. The intent of this is to give them a segment of the network where they can connect their wireless devices, use the internet and allow their friends to also connect their devices when they visit. With freedom comes responsibility, so we also want to be able to enforce limits on the hours of use, conserve bandwidth, and attempt to protect them from malware and viruses.

Future enhancements may include traffic reporting, content filtering – but for now we want to get them off the core network, and onto their own segment.

070523-F-9059M-226So, now we have teenagers, I’ve realised a need to create a little more separation within our home network. The intent of this is to give them a segment of the network where they can connect their wireless devices, use the internet and allow their friends to also connect their devices when they visit.

With freedom comes responsibility, so we also want to be able to enforce limits on the hours of use, conserve bandwidth, and attempt to protect them from malware and viruses.

Future enhancements may include traffic reporting, content filtering – but for now we want to get them off the core network, and onto their own segment.

Continue reading “Tweaking the Home Network – pfSense Firewall [Part 1: Installation]”

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 “Linux for Kids”

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.

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?

Ubuntu Upgrade Day: 11.04 – 11.10 ‘Oneiric Ocelot’

Yay! My favorite Linux distro gets a facelift today with Ubuntu 11.04 making way for the newly released version 11.10 ‘Oneiric Ocelot’. From past history lessons, I do tend to stray on the side of caution, so only one of my machines will be getting the upgrade treatment this week and I’ll hold off with the others until any post update issues shake out.

For those who haven’t given Linux a try yet – I’d strongly suggest giving Ubuntu a go – it has a nice interface and can be skinned to look and feel quite similar to some of the other major operating systems you may already be familiar with. Follow this download link and grab the file.

If you just want to kick the tyres and have a quick look, there are some easy to follow instructions on the download page for making a ‘Live CD’ or a bootable USB stick that you can drop into your current machine and check out.

For those already running Ubuntu, upgrading is as easy as following the instructions on this page, or by entering the command:

update-manager -d

from a terminal window (or from a command via <Alt> + <F2> ). At the time of writing, the update files hadn’t made it to the New Zealand servers so you may want to hold off a little, or change your region under the ‘Settings’ option.

Good luck, enjoy (and don’t forget to make a backup of your data files BEFORE you start…)