Sep 20, 2016

How to expand a LUN on your SCST Bauer-Power SAN

I thought I had already written about this, but apparently I haven't. Many moons ago I developed what I like to refer to as a Bauer-Power SAN. It was actually an idea I got from a former boss of mine named Craig MacKinder who is the current owner of Blueshift Information Systems. He had originally built similar SANs using Gentoo Linux. I think the only real difference between his and mine are that mine are built with Ubuntu.

Anyway, some people may not like these SANs because managing them is done purely via a Linux terminal, and there aren't any cool GUIs to help you with it. Because of that you need to know your way around a Linux terminal to manage one. If that isn't a big deal to you, then you can save tons of money by using these instead of something like a NetApp.

Anyway, the point of this post is to tell you how to add more space, or expand a LUN on your Bauer-Power SCST SAN. You can do it in these 5 easy steps!
  • Create a temporary thin disk file the size of the amount you want to add to the LUN (For example 100 GB is 100G or 1 TB is 1T).
    dd if=/dev/zero of=temp_expand bs=1 count=0 seek=100G
  • Append the temporary file to the end of your LUN file.
    cat temp_expand >> LUNFILE
  • Once the partition is extended you can delete the temp_expand file you created.
    rm temp_expand
  • Now to have scst recognize the change you must force the device to resync. You can get the device name of the file you are extending from /etc/scst.conf.
    scstadmin -resync_dev DEVICENAME
  • Now you should see the additional storage on the partition you are trying to extend, and you can extend the partition. In Windows you need to open Disk Manager and rescan disks first. Then you can right click the drive and click extend.
See, that was pretty easy right?

Sep 12, 2016

I made the switch from Plex to Emby on my Roku. Maybe you should too!

The other day I was upgrading the Plex server at my girlfriend's house like I usually do when I see there is an update. This time the update caused RARFlix on her Roku to stop working! I wrote about how I switched to RARFlix a while back when Plex started charging for the use of their standard Roku app instead of letting you use it for free, but giving you more features if you purchased a membership. Sorry, I just don't think having the ability to stream my own damned media should cost a monthly fee like Netflix!

Well, when this latest update broke RARFlix, I decided that enough was enough and turned to a really cool alternative in my opinion... Emby!

Here is a list of features from their page (Click on the image to zoom in):

For the most part, the free version of Emby does everything that Plex used to do for me which is great. One thing that I think it does better though is find artwork for my TV shows!

Here is what the TV interface looks like:

If you are ready to make the switch away from Plex, check out Emby!

Sep 9, 2016

3 Technology Concepts that Could Shape the Future of Gadgetry

As usual, this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was chock full of cool futuristic gadgets, from 8K TVs and OLED laptops to virtual reality goggles and obstacle-avoiding drones. One of the most impressive displays was Samsung's smart clothes, a set of smart exercise clothing that tracks your movement and body contractions. While some of these gadgets are ready to hit the market, others are still in the conceptual stages. Here a few tech concepts still in the prototype phase that should make an impact when they reach the market.

Smart Contact Lenses, Eyewear

In 2014, Samsung filed a patent in South Korea for smart contact lenses as yet another platform to augment reality. The smart contact lenses come equipped with a display, antenna, camera and sensors to detect blinking. The display projects images onto the wearer’s eye, while the camera can be activated with a quick blink to send a signal to the contact lenses' sensors. The smart contact lenses require a connection to upload images to an external mobile device for processing photos.

Samsung’s new smart contact lenses appear to be a tasty appetizer to the company's forthcoming Gear Blink line. Gear Blink will add contact lenses to the smart wearables category that also includes devices like Google Glass, which allows users to take pictures with a quick blink of the eye.

Meantime, Samsung’s VR Gear and Microsoft’s HoloLens both enable users to view distant locations through a holograph, as if the users were right in the room. Google also owns patents for smart solar-powered contact lenses that can analyze the chemical content of the wearer’s tears in order to monitor low blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Car-Charging Tires

With hybrid, electric and solar-powered cars growing in popularity, innovations in car battery technology have become increasingly important. Goodyear has devised a promising new way to recharge car batteries using the heat generated by rolling tires. Unveiled at the 2015 Geneva International Motor Show, Goodyear’s BHO3 tire is made of thermo-pizoelectric material that takes the heat generated by tire friction and transforms it into electrical energy. The tire material also absorbs heat and light energy that cars receive while idling and adds this to the car battery’s power reserve.

Goodyear also used the Geneva International Motor Show to unveil a second concept tire with three tubes under the tread and an internal pump to adjust inflation to road conditions. Other innovators, including engineer Dileep Bhoi, are testing whether tire and steering wheel motion can harness enough electrical energy to recharge a car battery or power other electrical accessories.

Holographic Phones

In Star Wars, Princess Leia sent Obi-wan Kenobi a holographic message using R2D2 to project a 3D image into space. Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab is working to bring a similar capability to smartphones through its HoloFlex project. The HoloFlex uses a 1920x1080 high-definition flexible organic light-emitting diode touchscreen display that renders full 3D images, which depicts how an object looks from a particular viewpoint.

Users can view the object from any angle by rotating their smartphone. The screen is flexible, and users can move objects along the Z axis by bending the screen. The HoloFlex will make it easier to edit 3D models; enable holographic virtual conferences, where you can see the other person’s face from any angle; and empower holographic gaming.

Aug 31, 2016

How I Recovered My LaCie 5Big Network RAID 5 Array

I had a pretty crappy week. I'm sure you can imagine with a title about how I had to recover important files from a failed LaCie 5Big NAS unit. It's a device that I inherited years ago and was made in 2008 so it's well out of support. Well, I noticed last week some time that one of the drives failed on it. Not thinking too much about it, I ordered a new hard drive from Amazon. By the time I got the new drive, the unit stopped responding altogether and said that two other drives had failed!

Luckily it turned out that only the original drive actually failed. The other four drives were fine, and it was the actual enclosure/RAID controller that failed. Still though, I couldn't access my files! So here is what I did, and if you need to do the same you will need a few things:
The first thing I did was going from left to right on the back of my LaCie NAS was pulled each drive out one at a time, hooked it to my SATA to USB adapter and using WinImage created virtual clones of each drive. This process takes about 5+ hours per drive depending on the size of your drive and the speed of your USB port. Drive number two was corrupt, so I created a blank 500GB drive in it's place.

This is where the big hard drive comes in. You need enough room to store the virtual disks as well as the files you want to recover!

Once you have your virtual drives, create an Ubuntu Linux virtual machine in VirtualBox. Power it up and install a couple of tools:
  • GParted (sudo apt-get install gparted)
  • mdadm (sudo apt-get install mdadm)
The first one is a nice to have to visually see the drive partitions. The second one is required because it is what will control your virtual RAID array.

Now, with those installed power down your Ubuntu VM and add the virtual disks in order.

Now power on your VM again, and when you login mdadm should automatically see your RAID 5 array! At least it did for me...

From here I was able to mount a folder to my VirtualBox on my physical computer and copy all of the files off the new virtual RAID 5 array to my computer. Thank the sweet baby Jesus too because I had about 11 years of family photos that I didn't want to lose!

After giving it some thought I don't really need a NAS unit at my house, so I think I'm going to replace this old LaCie with a USB/eSATA RAID controller instead. It's less expensive than a NAS, and should suit my needs. Besides, most of the NAS units I see come with drives, and after this fiasco I already have some!

One thing to note, if this doesn't work at first, you may have a bad disk image file. The first try at this I received errors when creating images in WinImage on disks 1, 2 and 3. I recreated 1 and 3 fine, but 2 gave me an error no matter what. If you can't automatically mount your RAID array, try recreating the virtual disk files.

Another thing, if you have more than one bad drives you won't be able to recover your RAID array, and you will need to use a forensic tool to try and recover files, but that is another article...

Aug 23, 2016

Two Apps That Will Help You Lose Weight

I could have sworn I wrote about this already, but I can't seem to find a post for it in my archives. Oh well, if you've already heard this from me you can skip this post. If not, and you are looking for the miracle in weight loss then keep reading!

A few years ago I discovered these two powerful apps that are available both for Android and iPhone called My Fitness Pal and Map My Fitness. They work hand in hand to help you keep track of what you are eating (Calories in) and your exercise (Calories out) and they are both 100% free!

My Fitness Pal is where you want to start. It lets you set your weight loss goal, and by using your current weight it figures out how many calories you can eat in a day and still lose weight. Every time you weigh yourself, you need to log it so it can make calorie adjustments as needed.

My Fitness Pal is very convenient and makes calorie counting as easy as it can possibly be because not only can you scan food items, but you can also look up calorie counts at your favorite restaurants using their extensive database. I love this method because I can pretty much still eat what I want as long as I have enough calories for it and still lose weight. Cheese burgers? Do I have enough calories left? Yes? GET IN MY BELLY!

Map My Fitness is very cool also, because it can keep track of your calories burned by doing just about any exercise imaginable. It also has GPS capabilities to keep track of things like your mileage and pace if you go for a jog or a bike ride. Even if you are doing something like mowing your lawn, you can keep track of the time it takes to do it with Map My Fitness and it will log your calories burned doing it!

Map My Fitness automatically syncs with My Fitness Pal as well to better keep track of calories burned and consumed so you know if you can eat more or not. The more you work out, the more you can eat! How is that for motivation?

I started actively trying to lose weight again this past January and already I've lost 40 lbs! I've lost 50 lbs since I moved back to Colorado in 2014! Check out these pictures:

If you want to keep up with my weight loss and fitness journey, and help keep me motivated (I need all the help I can get) I started a Facebook page called Fat Slob 2 Dad Bod where I post about my workouts, my progress and other stuff to try to keep me motivated. I have a Twitter account as well @FatSlob2DadBod if you want to follow me there!

Are you trying to lose weight? What are you doing that works? Let me know in the comments!

Aug 22, 2016

Vonage Business Is Down Hard. It's Not Just You. cc @VonageBusiness

Are you a Vonage Business customer? Can't make or receive phone calls can you? Well, join the club! Oh, have you tried to call their support number but can't? Yep, join the club! Did you try to go to your control panel, but that is down too so you can't even contact Vonage support using their ticketing system? Yep, join the club!

Vonage Business is down for millions of customers across the country right now. You're only option is to sit and check their status page which for the last hour or so has looked like this:

You can also check their Twitter posts too, and see some seriously pissed off clients in the process, but all you will see is them telling you to check their stupid status page:

Just a tip Vonage, you can't tell people to check your status page and NEVER update it!

Well, my company is joining the HUGE list of clients that will be leaving. Their support has always been attrocious, and their service has always been very spotty. This really is just the straw that broke the camels back.

Do you use Vonage? Are you leaving too? Tell us about it in the comments!

3-D Printing's Role in the Manufacturing Industry

One of the most interesting forms of prototyping and manufacturing is 3-D printing in large part because it is so new to the consumer space. Many are wondering if this new, cheap form of manufacturing is going to push traditional methods such as injection molding out of the space and make it obsolete. Here's a deeper look at 3-D printing and its role in the manufacturing industry.

Injection Molding vs. 3-D Printing

The short answer is no. Both injection and 3-D printing have their strengths and weaknesses.
Injection molding has the advantage of being able to make many objects at a single time very quickly. These objects also can be made out of a lot of different materials that have a variety of features in terms of their strength and durability. Where this method falls short, though, is the high initial cost of the machine, which can be prohibitive to smaller businesses.

On the other side, 3-D printing is considerably cheaper to start using. In fact, depending on the size and resolution needed, several can be bought for the price of an injection molding machine. Also, depending on the size of the parts being made, multiple objects could be printed in each machine, which helps offset the relatively slower per piece time that 3-D printing requires. Another advantage is that the designs can quickly be changed if a problem is discovered. One disadvantage of 3-D printing is that the items have an inherent weakness because they are made out of individual layers that are laid down on top of one another. This means that if a perpendicular force is applied to the layers, it has an increased chance of being damaged.

Hybrid Methods

A good solution to each method's challenges is to combine the best parts of them. For example, 3-D printers can be used to make the molds needed for injection molding. The combination works especially well for small businesses because they can cut some of the costs and time needed for traditional manufacturing.

Printed molds are not as sturdy as aluminium ones, but they can be more cost efficient when only a few hundred or so parts are needed. Only minor design changes need to be made between an aluminium and 3-D printed mold because of the differences in thermal properties for cooling the objects. Both types of materials can withstand the heat needed for injection molding, so businesses can still use the same range of materials, such as Viton or flueorocarbons, that traditional injection molding requires.

Neither 3-D printing nor injection molding are going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, businesses need to think more about choosing the right method for the materials they need and how long it will take to create a final product. Especially for small and medium-sized businesses that are too big for 3-D printer farms, a hybrid method may be a great solution.

Jul 8, 2016

Protect Yourself from Cyberthieves When Using Public Wi-Fi Networks

Nine out of ten Americans expose themselves to the risk of public Wi-Fi networks at least once a month, and more than four out of 10 connect at least once a week. According to Avast estimates, hackers use public Wi-Fi networks to attack millions of Americans a day.

If you're using public Wi-Fi networks, here are some things you need to know to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft.

Why Public Wi-Fi Networks Are Vulnerable

Public Wi-Fi networks are vulnerable because they rely on radio waves to transmit information, explains internet security provider Norton. Just as more than one person can tune into the same radio station, cyberthieves can intercept your Wi-Fi broadcasts.

Criminals wait near public Wi-Fi hotspots in order to stalk victims. Some even set up their own networks with names such as "Free Public Wi-Fi" in order to lure unsuspecting victims. You can become exposed to this type of risk whether you're logging into a public Wi-Fi network from a coffee shop, a library, your workplace, an airport, an Airbnb or anywhere else.

Protecting Yourself on Public Wi-Fi Networks

The FTC offers a few tips to protect yourself when using Wi-Fi public networks. The first key is to use only encrypted public networks or websites. A secure wireless network that uses encryption protects all information you send over that network, while an encrypted website protects only the information sent from that site.

Most public Wi-Fi networks aren't encrypted. The most secure encrypted networks currently use a security protocol known as WPA2. Other security protocols are WEP and WPA, which are common but have more vulnerabilities than WPA2. Adjust the settings on your mobile device so that you don't automatically log into local public networks.

An encrypted website's URL starts with an "https" extension instead of an "http" extension. Sometimes only part of a site is encrypted. If you suddenly notice you're on a page that isn't encrypted, log out. When visiting sites, don't stay logged into an account permanently, but log out when you're done. Use strong passwords with a mixture of capital and small letters, numbers and symbols, and don't use the same passwords on multiple sites.

Pay attention if your browser gives you a warning about a site that may be hacked or that is trying to download a malicious program. You can use add-ons or plug-ins such as Firefox's Force-TLS and HTTPS-Everywhere to force websites to use encryption.

Most mobile apps don't use encryption or don't use encryption properly, so when using mobile apps, it's best to use an encrypted network.

One way to make sure your network is encrypted is to use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt information you send and receive even if you're using an insecure network. You can get a VPN from your Internet provider and from your employer at some companies. VPN options are also available for mobile devices and apps.

You should also be on guard against "shoulder surfers" trying to watch or film what you type when you log in. To stop shoulder surfing, turn your screen away from vulnerable viewing angles or use a laptop privacy screen.

Protecting Your Home Wi-Fi Network

The FTC also cautions that you should make sure your home wireless network is secure from nearby neighbors and hackers. You can protect your home network by using encryption at home as well. You can also limit your network to specific devices and take steps to secure your router.

Change your router's default names and passwords to something more secure, turn off remote management features, log out as administrator and keep your router up to date. Make sure your computer is protected by a firewall and antivirus program. Finally, use strong passwords for your mobile devices and apps.

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