Gemini PDA

Gemini PDA
Gemini PDA

Last year, I backed Planet Computer’s Indiegogo campaign for the Gemini PDA. Now, if I had this nice PixelBook, why would I need something like this?

Well, for one thing, I have always been a sucker for PDAs.  While I never had the original PDA, the Psions, I have owned a few over the years.  An Apple MessagePad, a Sharp Zarus, a WindowsCE device (forget which one), and many, many Palm devices (including a PalmPilot, Palm III, Palm IIIx, Palm V, Palm Vx, Palm m505, Tungsten C, and Tungsten T2 (which I still have)).

The main reason I liked them was the ability to carry my calendar, and have active reminders.  When I used a paper-based planner, I would miss things because I would be working on something and not notice the time.

However, with the advent of not dumb-phones (like a Sony Ericsson K series) which you could send an email to the phone, and have it show up as a text message let me only carry one device (the phone vs the phone and a PDA).  Then, about 10 years ago, the true smartphones hit the market with full integration into both work and personal email and calendars, and a fully functioning web browser, plus working turn-by-turn GPS based navigation.

Most of my employers in the last 20+ years provide me with a laptop for use both in the office, and on the road.  However, the current and former employers have a different model, and do not provide me with a laptop for travel.  So, I need to carry my own.

Now, while the PixelBook is thin and light, it still takes up space on a desk.  And, when I am visiting other offices for my current employer, desk space is at a premium, and the PixelBook does not really fit.  And, I have long made it a personal policy to not use my employer’s machines and network for personal emails and network use.

Enter the Gemini.  Why not use my phone  to read email and such?  The main reason is while I am pretty decent at using the on-screen keyboard, I find it lacking for long typing sessions.  That is where the Gemini is different.  It has a physical keyboard, and even though it is smaller than any laptop I have used before, I still find I can use it pretty well and type reasonably fast on it.  And the battery is pretty decent.

My last trip I ended up using the Gemini more than the PixelBook.  Things like Skype, uploading and editing photos, email, etc.  It worked pretty well.  I am thinking about the next trip, not bringing a laptop and just use the Gemini.  The display is nice, and when I am in the hotel room, I can hook it up to the TV over a HDMI cable.

On Smartphones and Two-Factor Auth

So, my trusty Nexus 5X gave up the ghost suddenly on me.  Given that it is an Android device, I was not worried about losing things like my contacts and photos, or even my apps as Google does a pretty decent job backing those things up.

However, there was one application I use which does not get its data backed up. FreeOTP which is a One-Time-Password application for Two Factor Auth.  This allows me to have another layer of protection on web sites past my password.

Most sites which have this option will allow you to either have a list of one-time use codes to get in to reset in case something happens to your phone (like me), or will let you set it up on multiple devices, like your phone and your tablet.

Then, there are those that do niether.  And those are a pain to recover from. 🙂

Always get the list of codes (if avalible) and store then somewhere that you can access if your phone ever dies or gets lost.  And, try to set up a second device if you can.

Quick nmcli notes

This is a quick post so I can remember these details.

So, on the R810, I am currently running ArchLinux, which uses by default NetworkManager, which I have a love/hate relationship with. At my last job, I recommended removing it from our servers, as under RHEL6, it does very odd things to the network and is hard to manage. I have heard that it is better under RHEL7. But, it does let you do some really cool things. On the R810, there is a cellular modem, and on previous installes, I have had it configured and scripted using nmcli to easily bring up and down the cellular connections.

The problem I am facing now is that my current DHCP server for the house does not let me provide two MAC Address for a single IP, so when I dock the R810, it gets a different IP address than when it is on WiFi. Very annoying. Also, for some reason, it would prefer to use WiFi when the ethernet connection was present, thus giving me a slower connection.

The documentation I found was a bit light in examples and/or dated (I am running version 1.6.2 of NetworkManager, and the examples were from 1.2.x or 1.4.x, which did not work). So, with a bit of expermenting, I finally got it fixed to:

  • Chose the ethernet connection over the Wifi when both are present
  • ‘Clone’ the MAC address of the Wifi NIC to the ethernet NIC

Here are the commands. local is what I called the local ethernet connection, and home-wifi is what I call the house Wifi Network.

  • To set the MAC adress:

nmcli connection modify local ethernet.cloned-mac-address aa:bb:cc:dd:ee:ff

  • To set the connection priorities:

nmcli connection modify local connection.autoconnect-priority 999
nmcli connection modify home-wifi connection.autoconnect-priority 999

Home Network Updates

So, in the last couple of weeks, I have had the following issues:

  • The CMOS battery dies on my file-server (a FreeNAS box), taking it, and the zpools down with it. I fought over a long weekend to recover the data, and in the end, got it mounted read-only, and copied it off. New hardware, and new zpools, and we seem to be going again. Recovering services is taking a bit of time.
  • There is a bug with the ZFS on Root for Antergos Linux. Seems that it does not put all the kernel drivers in the init image when you upgrade. Last time, I booted off the install media to fix it. I lost that USB stick, so I downloaded a new one. Guess what? They have turned that feature off ZFS, so there is no way to recover. Since FreeBSD still does not support suspend/resume on the Acer C720 that is my small travel laptop, I have to reinstall Antergos and reload my data.
  • My main laptop, the HP R810G1 seems to be having major battery issues. I bought a new battery in Novembers, and it died. I bought a new one a couple of weeks ago, and it at first did not seem to be holding a charge. Now, the OS does not see the battery. I think I might need a ‘new’ laptop.

I am torn between getting something one or two reves old with a solid record in the size I want (sub 13″, under 1″ thin, and good 6+ hours of battery) or the latest shiny.

Other news, I have the ownCloud server upgraded to nextcloud, and everything I have tried works out of the box, which is a lot more than I can say for ownCloud. Last major thing I need to recover it the Plex Server!

And the Firewall goes POP

For some reason, we have had a bit of power issues around the house recently. No big deal, just enough to cause non-UPS computers to reboot. Well, one of them was the firewall (the UPS on it pop a while back, and I just have not gotten around to replacing it). But, it would not come back the last time. Drag a it over to a monitor and have a look at the console. No HD. Nuts. On a backup solution until the new SSD to replace the dead (non)spinning rust shows up.

Goodbye 2014!

As 2014 draws to a close, I look back at the year.

Overall, it was a good year. The family staid reasonably health (just a case of the flu which every one of us caught).

Work slowed down a bit after only three trips, and the last one was in June, but I did get to spend two weeks in London which was cool. While the work has been not what I really want to be doing, it has been interesting, and next year promises to be very interesting. I have no clue if travel is in the cards or not, but I will keep the camera handy.

In the coming year, I plan to focus on health, photography, and technology. I want to get back to taking photos every day, and to bring the quality back up to art level over the snapshots and historical documentation that I have been doing.

Also, I want to revisit the 30 Day FreeBSD challenge again in January. I have the old HP R810 running PCBSD 10.1 already set up that I have been using for a couple of days working the kinks out of it, so I think I can do it this time. Normal caveat applies…I have a work laptop which dual boots Windows 8.1 and Fedora 21 for my work stuff. The home stuff should work nicely on the laptop.

Just to prove things, this post was written under FreeBSD.

I also need to fix up my virtual host farm. I have one too many, and do not need it, but of course, it is the one with the main mail and other services, so I need to hurry up and migrate things off of it.

I hope your 2015 is a great year.

FreeBSD Switch

I just noticed I have not updated this in a few weeks. Sorry about that.

I have my R810 running PCBSD 10.0.2, and I just patched and configured WiFi on it. I need to figure out how to submit a patch to see if I can get the Centrino supported in the main-line kernel so I do not have to compile a custom kernel just for that.

I almost have this working where I can switch to it full time. I need to deal with getting my killer apps installed and working. I had most (all?) of them working before, so I know I can do it again.

Currently, FireFox is not working for me for some reason, but Chromium is, so I will use that for now.

I have started a wiki to keep some notes for myself on this (what SA has not done that?), so I hope this process will be easier this time.

peace.

Back to FreeBSD (maybe back to the challenge)

So, I had a bit of time over the weekend, and spent it doing a bit of hacking around.

I had re-installed PC-BSD on my HP EliteBook R810. I used 10.0.2, and everything but the wireless looked good. I decided to try to get the wireless working with the internal WNIC. Previously, I used an external dongle to get WiFi working, but it was a pain to remember to pull it out, so I decided to try again.

I updated the base OS to 10-CURRENT, and then ‘patched’ the source tree using the info I found in this forum post. Once I rebooted, and used the PC-BSD tools to enable the device, things worked! Since this was only last night, I need to test it a bit to make sure it stands up to load.

There is a PR, and support has been added to HEAD. I am going try to write a patch to get this added before then. I will need to see if I can figure out how to do that. 🙂

Since my work laptop uses the same WNIC, I am one step closer to being able to install it on the work machine.

I am going to see about trying to use dragon as my non-work daily driver and shake out what I need to do, so I may be restarting the 30 Day Challenge again, but a lot of that depends on how work goes.

FreeBSD Challenge, Day 12-15

Half-way point.

Much progress made in the world of a bootable USB stick to get my new-fangled WiFi chip working. I was able to make a new image, wrote it to a new USB stick, booted it, and was able to successfully scan for my Access Points! W00t!

Tomorrow, I will take the second laptop (HP EliteBook Revolve 810), and load it with 10-Release (slightly patched). I do not expect everything to work (it has a touch screen), but enough should work that I can start using it for the daily driver. Having real wifi will help a lot.

My updates have been a bit slow due to craziness at work. I am taking a trip, and the departure date has been reset many times. I am on my 5th set of airline tickets. With things settled, I need to decide if I am going to bring the second laptop (the R180) with me or not. Weight issues and all.

How do I think this is going? Well, the two major issues I thought I would have going in, WiFi and Photo editing/management, are for the most part solved. Can I use this for my daily non-work driver? Yes. Can I use it for my work daily driver? Maybe. I have set up a few jails on the FreeNAS box (btsync, dns/dhcp, taskwarrior’s taskd, and Plex), and they are mainly working well together (the Plex will not play nice with btsync, yet), but I need to figure out a bit more, and set it up as a target to back up my laptop’s ZFS snapshots.

Next steps are to find those performance monitoring tools/docs, and to look at something like puppet/chef/salt.

Thanks for reading….

wifiroamd, Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG, and Fedora

wifiroamd, Intel PRO/Wireless 3945ABG, and Fedora

One of the things that has annoyed me about Fedora has been the decision to switch over to using NetworkManager to manage all network connections.

Now, on the service this has a lot of advantages. A lot of work has gone into it, and it just works for a vast majority of the installations out there. They have made it so the move from wired to wireless and back can be done without the user doing anything. They have also seamlessly tied in Dial-Up Networking if you still need a modem or use a wireless modem. They even have two-click access to your VPN which is pretty cool.

All these are things which are very good for Linux users. The biggest drawback to all this? The need for a user-space program to manage the non-hardwired connections. Which means that in order to be able to have any network running besides the good old twisted-pair copper, you have to have a little applet running as you, and it has to have a systray somewhere to display. Which means you have to be a) logged into the system and b) you have to be running a window manager which supports having a system tray. Now, Fedora gives you lots of choices for the second part now days. You have Gnome, KDE, XFCE, and LXDE. All are perfectly usable window managers. But, they still require you to be logged in to X. And, I do not use any of them.

So, what is a cli-loving Fedora user to do? Well, there is this great program called wifiroamd. It will handle the same basic tasks that NetworkManager handles. It will automatically configure your wifi interface and connect to the wifi networks or the locate hardwired NIC if it cannot. You can configure it to run scripts per connection, so for example, you can change your firewall rules for different networks (shields down at home or the office, but up full at the coffee house), or you could bring up your VPN connection when you start using a given wireless network.

One tip I picked up from the author was that if you have multiple AP’s in range, an you want to select once AP over the other, is under the /etc/wifiroamd/connections directory, simply link the AP info you do not want to the one you want:

ln essid:my_home_ap essid:bad_ap

where essid:my_home_ap is your AP with the keys and other information you want, and essid:bad_ap is the one you do not want to connect to. My neighbors have some very powerful AP’s which have a habit of showing up high than mine, but I have no problem with them now.

I have been using this set up under Fedora since FC6 days, but when I upgraded to F10, this stopped working. wifiroamd would try to scan for an AP, and not find anything. The change, it turns out, is that when I switched from using the iw3945 driver to the native iwl3945, wifiroamd could no longer see the wireless NIC due to the wpa_supplicant process, but NetworkManager could. Simply stopping and disabling wp_supplicant and NetworkManager, and wifiroamd started working again! I am a happy camper again.