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Dec 21, 2016

Getting Exchange or Office365 Calendar to Sync on your Google Pixel

Merry Christmas to me! I was due for a phone upgrade with Verizon so I opted for the new Google Pixel phone! I went with the 5" model because I hate giant "Zack Morris" phones. So far I like everything on the Pixel except how Google wants you to setup email.

If the only email you use is Gmail, then you have nothing to worry about. By default the only email client that comes with the Pixel is the Gmail client, and it works well for Gmail users.

However, if you are like me and millions of other users, you need Exchange or Office365 support for work email. The Gmail client will setup the email part for that fine, but it will not work with Exchange/Office365 calendar. WTF Google!?

No problem, Bauer-Power here! To make this work, you just need an easy to use third party email client. I found a free one that works great in the Google Play store called VMWare Boxer Email!

The cool thing about it, at least on the Pixel, is that it integrates with the Google Calendar client. VMWare Boxer has it's own built in calendar display though, so if you want to use Google's Calendar client you will want to disable calendar notifications in VMWare Boxer.

For you Evernote users, VMWare Boxer has integration for that as well!

Once I installed VMWare Boxer for email, everything else on the Pixel was pretty bad ass. My only gripe is their lack of Exchange support.

Do you have a Pixel? Do you like it? Dislike it? Let us know in the comments.

Dec 20, 2016

How To Handle NAT Reflection on a Sonicwall for a Cisco Expressway One NIC Configuration

Holy hell folks. I ran into an issue over the last few weeks that seemed way harder than it should have been in my opinion. The problem I ran into was a mix of a difference in terminology between Cisco and Sonicwall, and how they handle traffic going from an internal LAN to a WAN IP. For instance, for this setup Cisco said that I needed a NAT reflection policy on my firewall. Well, Sonicwall doesn't know what a NAT reflection policy is, because they call it a loopback policy.

Another thing I ran into is how Sonicwall handles loopback, it's not how Cisco wants it done. For instance, when you want an internal LAN server to talk to another server on it's public IP address, Sonicwall NAT's the connection outbound in order to communicate to the public IP of the server you want to connect to,

Ok, that being said, here is a really basic diagram of my setup. The IP addresses have been changed to protect the innocent. In this example, 1.1.1.1 is the public IP of my Expressway-E device that is NAT'd to it's internal LAN IP of 192.168.1.3. The Expressway-E is setup with a single NIC, with static NAT enabled.


In this configuration, Expressway-C (192.168.1.2) sends traffic to the public NAT IP of Expressway-E (1.1.1.1) so Cisco says you need a NAT reflection policy on your firewall. In an ASA firewall, you would configure that as follows:

object network obj-192.168.1.2
host 192.168.1.2

object network obj-192.168.1.3
host 192.168.1.3

object network obj-1.1.1.1
host 1.1.1.1

nat (inside,outside) source static obj-192.168.1.2 obj-192.168.1.2 destination static
obj-1.1.1.1 obj-1.1.1.1
Simple enough right? Not on Sonicwall. What I found, as I mentioned before, is that with the loopback policy, which Sonicwall documentation, and support says needs to be configured from "All firewalled subnets" usually, causes the outbound traffic of Expressway-C to be NAT'd to a public IP address in order to send traffic to the public NAT'd IP address of Expressway-E. Because of that nonsense, in order for traffic to flow the way you need it to, you actually have to assign a public NAT address for Expressway-C as well, and configure it for NAT, then use the internal and external IP of Expressway-C in a specific loopback policy with Expressway-E... Confused yet?

Let me see if I can break this down...

On the Sonicwall, assign a public IP address for Expressway-C, let's use 1.1.1.2 in this example. You will need to create a NAT rule to to point 1.1.1.2 to 192.168.1.2. Make sure it's reflexive so that the outbound traffic of 192.168.1.2 goes out as 1.1.1.2 as well. Your network should now look like this:



Now you need to create your loopback policy (NAT reflection) as follows:

  • Original Source: 192.168.1.2
  • Translated Source: 1.1.1.2
  • Original Destination: 1.1.1.1
  • Translated Destination: 192.168.1.3
  • Original Service: Any
  • Translated Service: Original
  • Inbound Interface: Any
  • Outbound Interface: Any
  • Comment: NAT reflection
Once we did that, the Expressway setup correctly, and our external MRA phones were able to register and make inbound and outbound calls. When I set this up my Cisco Engineer's mind was blown, but it was the only way we could get it to work.

One thing to note, even though you created a NAT address for Expressway-C, it's still not exposed to the public in your firewall rules (At least it shouldn't be, if it is you need to check your rules). This whole setup is just so Expressway-E knows who is talking to it, and can send the appropriate traffic back to Expressway-C.

If this is confusing to you, take comfort in the fact that it took me two weeks to figure this out, and Sonicwall support, and Cisco TAC was no help at all. I'm writing this in the hopes that it will help out some other poor Systems/Network Engineer that has to make a Cisco Expressway work with a Sonicwall in the future, because there is no documentation on this ANYWHERE!

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Dec 15, 2016

Holy crap Yahoo! Can't you get your security shit together?

Y from the Yahoo logo
Y from the Yahoo logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It's happened yet again. It was only a few months ago when Yahoo revealed that around 500 million of their users had their accounts hacked back in 2014. This latest report double the last report of affected users at roughly 1 billion users! This attack, Yahoo says, dates back to 2013.

From RT:
Yahoo says it believes hackers stole data from more than one billion user accounts in August 2013, making it the email company's largest data breach. 
The tech company said the information stolen by hackers may have included names, email addresses, phone numbers, birthdates and security questions and answers. 
The company said it believed bank account information and payment card data was not affected.

Wow Yahoo... Really?

This information is now being made available only because Verizon is looking to buy out the once formidable Internet giant. Verizon is offering a cool $4.8 billion.

With all of the news about Yahoo's crappy security, I think Verizon should lower their bid...

What do you think about this? Let us know in the comments.

Dec 10, 2016

Waste of time: Obama's "BS" review of alleged cyber attacks from Russia

Official photographic portrait of US President...
President Obama
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
An interesting story popped up yesterday in several mainstream news publications that Obama is ordering a " deep dive" into alleged reports of Russian hackers affecting the US Elections. This comes on the heels of a similar report that some members of Congress are asking for the same thing. Namely RINO's like John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

From Politico:
President Barack Obama has ordered a "deep dive" into the cyberattacks that plagued this year's election, the White House said Friday. 
Obama has asked the intelligence community to deliver its final report before he leaves office. 
The review will put the spate of hacks — which officials have blamed on Russia — "in a greater context" by framing them against the "malicious cyber activity" that may have occurred around the edges of the 2008 and 2012 president elections, said White House principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz at a briefing.
Another report from RT says that whatever findings they uncover won't even be made public!

From RT:
President Obama has ordered US spy agencies to prepare “a full review” of election-linked cyberattacks, but the public may never see it. The report should be ready before Obama vacates office and it is likely to be disclosed only to “a range of stakeholders.”
Great, so they are going to investigate, review logs and all that jazz, but won't let any of us regular folks know about it? How much do you want to bet that this is all theater and they won't really do anything? It's all a big front to blame the Democrat's loss this election on something other than the fact that the DNC picked the wrong pony to run in the race!

The interesting thing about all of this nonsense is that the idea of Russian hackers sort of started when Wikileaks began leaking the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) emails, however there was absolutely no evidence of that either!

From Trent Lapinski at Medium:
I’m the former CEO of a tech startup who lives in San Francisco, I have 15-years of experience in the tech industry, and I’ve spent the last year and half of my life working with some of the World’s best software engineers when it comes to developer operations, cloud orchestration, and data security. I also have a marketing background, and regularly research the psychology of persuasion, and propaganda. 
I’ve personally analyzed every leak from this election season, and I have seen zero evidence the Russians have anything to do with the leaks. Unless some form of evidence is provided, it is my professional opinion the leaks are the result of an insider given the extent and complexity of the data that was leaked. 
A government is attempting to manipulate and control this election, but it is not the Russians. It is the Obama administration. 
Two days before the Presidential debate, the US government officially accused Russia of hacking, and interfering in the U.S. election. However, much like the Bush administration when accusing Iraq of having Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) — which did not exist, the Obama administration has provided zero evidence for these accusations. They are trying to use their authority to convince the American people that Russia has something to do with Wikileaks, and the Trump campaign with no evidence.
Another interesting thing to note, is that there is no actual evidence that the election was hacked at all. Everything is speculation, blame and an excuse from a party that thought they had the election in the bag, then lost big time!

From NYMag.com:
There is, as of now, no evidence that any voting systems were compromised on Election Day, merely speculation and theorizing. The speculation that Russia literally hacked into our voting system and added millions of fake ballots to swing the election is Hollywood fiction.
The funny thing about all of this is that there is evidence that our own government, particularly the Department of Homeland Security, did apparently try to hack into Georgia's state office firewall. This particular firewall was protecting the office that overseas elections in Georgia!

From Cyberscoop:
Georgia’s secretary of state has claimed the Department of Homeland Security tried to breach his office’s firewall and has issued a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson asking for an explanation. 
Brian Kemp issued a letter to Johnson on Thursday after the state’s third-party cybersecurity provider detected an IP address from the agency’s Southwest D.C. office trying to penetrate the state’s firewall. According to the letter, the attempt was unsuccessful.   
The attempt took place on Nov. 15, a few days after the presidential election. The office of the Georgia Secretary of State is responsible for overseeing the state’s elections.
Maybe instead of wasting more tax dollars on investigating alleged hacks from Russia that probably didn't happen, perhaps our government should take a look in the mirror, because the only evidence of attempted hacking from a government so far is not coming from Russia, it's coming from DHS!

Dec 9, 2016

How Customization Is Shaping Technology

Japanese mobile provider SoftBank has announced that it is releasing two customized Star Wars phones ahead of this December’s release of the new Star Wars spinoff, "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." The Sharp-manufactured phones will come in a black Dark Side Edition and a white Light Side Edition. SoftBank’s Star Wars phones illustrate a trend towards customized products that is transforming technology in the smartphone industry as well as other industries. Here’s a look at a few of the ways customization is catching on.

Modular Smartphones

One way customization is influencing technology is the emergence of modular smartphones. The concept of a modular smartphone is that individual parts of the phone can be removed and switched to add functionality as needed without the need to purchase a new device. Google began working on a modular smartphone project in 2011 under the aegis of Project Ara, which envisioned a phone with customizable processors, batteries, displays and cameras.

Google abandoned the project this year, but other companies have continued to move forward with modular smartphones. This year saw the release of the LG G5, which allows modular components to be inserted by removing the phone’s chin and battery and plugging the battery into an accessory. Components introduced with the launch included modular audio enhancement and camera grip accessories.

Customized Computers

The concept of modular smartphones was inspired by customized computers, something PC enthusiasts have been building for decades. Hardcore computer users often assemble computers from scratch by piecing together motherboards, power supply units, cases, monitors, keyboards and other components. Gaming enthusiasts often customize their computers by upgrading their graphics cards for a better user experience.

While this may sound intimidating to the non-tech user, kits are available to help teach children how to assemble their own computers from component parts. For instance, Kano makes kits that anyone can use to build and code computers for around $150. For those who want customized computers without having to build them, providers such as Puget Systems will help you assemble a computer from parts you select, with specialized components such as high-quality fans to keep noise down to a minimum. Puget also makes specialized computers for heavy graphics users, video editors and 3-D designers, along with pre-built computers and base systems that users can tweak as desired.

3-D Printing

3-D printing is one of the most revolutionary technologies impacting customization. Whereas traditional manufacturing works from a physical mold, 3-D printing produces physical objects from a digital blueprint that can be used to create a mold, prototype or product. This allows for a greater range of design flexibility, since the digital model can take on any three-dimensional shape the designer can conceive. 3-D printing also can employ a greater range of materials than traditional manufacturing, with the same printer able to create objects from plastic, metal, ceramic, paper and even biomaterials.

3-D printing is being applied to a wide range of customized products, from personalized jewelry to customized smartphone cases. One industry that has already felt the impact of 3-D printing in a major way is the shoe industry, where top brands such as Nike and Adidas are offering customers the opportunity to go online to select from a variety of customized designs. In the future, as 3-D printers drop in price, shoe manufacturers expect that customers will be able to print their own customized shoes right at home. 3-D printing is also making a major impact on the healthcare industry, where the flexibility of digital design is providing patients with customized prosthetics, implants and even skin for burn victims.

Nov 18, 2016

Trying out yet another new Adsense Alternative

It's been a few years since I was kicked out of Google's Adsense program, and I'll be honest, I've never truly recovered. I used to write here on a daily basis, but because I don't get hardly any revenue anymore, I only write when I have something to say, or something I want to record for my own future reference.

I've tried various alleged Adsense Alternatives since I got kicked out of the program, and none have ever come close to providing the same kind of money that Adsense did. Well, now I'm trying out yet another one, and hopefully I can start making money again. It's called Adbuff.

I'm hoping this one is better than others that I've tried because they are way more strict in regards to the applicants they choose. In order for your site to even be considered it must meet these requirements:

  • English Sites Only
  • Over 2,000 Uniques /day
  • Traffic from US/Canada/UK/Australia
  • No free hosts (ie blogspot)
  • No streaming sites
  • No faucet sites
  • No download sites
When I submitted Bauer-Power, it took over a month to get approved! I'm glad it finally did! After getting approved I tried to submit two of our other sites, Mainwashed and BauervsWild, and both of those were immediately rejected because they either didn't have an Alexa score, or had a really low Alexa score. Picky picky! 

Still though, that's not a bad thing since they are offering only quality websites for advertisers, there is a chance that they can also charge a premium for the ad space, and therefore pay more to publishers... At least that's what I'm hoping for. I literally just put the ads on the page, and have no idea how well it will perform yet.

Wish me luck! If I can start making money again, you will start to see more articles again! If you are looking for an Adsense alternative too, click here to check them out! What do you have to lose?

Oct 12, 2016

How To Fix Slow SSTP RRAS VPN on a Citrix XenServer Virtual Server

Ever since moving to Windows 10 and Windows 2012 R2 we've seen a serious drop in performance when using SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol) on our Windows 10 machines. After weeks and weeks of troubleshooting, we believe we have the issue narrowed down to some NIC and registry settings on the RRAS (Routing and remote Access).

NOTE: This is for virtual servers that run on Citrix XenServer. Some of these things may be different in your environment...

The first thing you need to do is go into the device properties of you NIC and select the configure button. Under the Advanced tab disable all of the "offload" settings.


The next thing you need to do is make the following registry changes:
  • Set DWORD value EnableTCPA=0 in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters
  • Set DWORD value DisableTaskOffload=1 in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters
  • Set DWORD values TcpAckFrequency=1 under every interface GUID under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters\Interfaces
  • Reboot 
After doing all of that we saw a significant performance increase in file transfer speed and general network performance.

Give it a try, and let us know in the comments if it worked for you or not. If not, let us know what you had to do differently!

Oct 6, 2016

Bauer-Power Media Launches a New Podcast - Mainwashed Weekly Scoop

It's been a few years since I did any kind of actual show. As some of you know, I used to do Tech Chop weekly on The Tech Podcast Network. I stopped doing that because it started to become a full time job writing scripts, coming up with content, filming and editing every week. I never lost the bug though!

Well, recently I've been listening to a lot of audio podcasts and thought, I could start doing another show, but this time just do an audio only podcast that folks could listen to while working out, during their commutes, etc. I also thought it would be easier to come up with content from the news, and since I mostly read political news for my Mainwashed Facebook page, I thought why not do a political podcast? I also decided to do this one off the cuff, so there is no script to write every week. Editing a show takes about 20 minutes of my time max!

So, this last Tuesday I kicked off the first ever Mainwashed Weekly Scoop show where I give my unfiltered take on some of the national and world political news I see all the time. I say unfiltered, because I used to be a sailor and like to express myself with colorful words every once and a while. That being said, this isn't a news show for kids!

It's still brand new, but I'm planning on posting a new episode every Tuesday. Right now you can subscribe directly from www.mainwashed.com, but I've also submitted it to the following Podcast sites:
If your political views lean a little right, but still consider yourself a Libertarian, then you should check out the show. If you are a granola eating, left leaning Communist, then you should probably stick with MSNBC.

Give it a listen, and let me know what you think!

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.

Jun 22, 2016

Keeping Your Phone Safe

If there is one piece of property that you would want to save from a fire today it would probably be your computer. It is a treasure trove of memories and important documents and it is one of your major gateways into the greater world.

Now imagine that power in your pocket. Imagine still that you leave it at the restaurant you were just at or the cab you were just in. What do you do now? Hopefully you have security enabled because nearly everything your computer contains, your smartphone does too.

Why You Should Secure Your Phone

Your phone is arguably more valuable than your wallet. If your wallet is lost or stolen, you might lose a bit of cash, have to cancel your credit cards and get a new license. A smartphone can hold all this information and more if you haven’t done your due diligence to secure it. With wallet-less payments like Apple Pay becoming more popular, a thief doesn’t even need your wallet. This information along with access to your email and other electronic services means that you could come under identity theft in the future. With the rise of wearable technology and better sensors, your phone has some degree of access to your health information as well.

The Lock Screen

The lock screen is the first line of defense to keeping your smartphone information private. Just like you wouldn’t leave your car or house door open, don't forget to lock your phone.

Pins and Patterns

These are the easiest to remember and use, but they are also the least secure. This mainly comes down to a numbers game. A four digit PIN has 10,000 combinations while a five digit one has 100,000 options. The longer the pin or pattern, the more guesses it would take to get through it by brute force. Thankfully there are software features that limit this possibility by having penalties for getting a wrong answer. Longer time between guesses and a delay in how quickly numbers can be entered are among the typical penalties.

These are still relatively safe for the average user, just never commit the cardinal sin of passwords. Birthdays and important dates, names of friends and pets and a password and 12345 are always on the weakest passwords list, so never use them.

Software

Encrypting your data protects you from a better than average thief. Encryption scrambles the information on the phone in such a way as to make it unreadable unless the correct password is entered.

While no form of security is perfect, an encrypted phone can give you enough time to locate your phone if you leave it somewhere or to perform a remote wipe to completely destroy any important information before it can be broken into. It used to be that encryption was not turned on by default when you got a new phone. That is increasingly not the case because of the current political climate. This was because older phones were not as powerful as they are now and turning on encryption had a tendency to slow down the performance. But today, phones like the Galaxy Note5 have more than enough speed to keep full encryption without a noticeable dip in speed and performance.

Jun 7, 2016

How to Outwit the Credit Card Fraudsters

If you conduct a lot of business online, you're probably giving your credit cards a good workout. And why not? You get airline miles, bonus points and discounts. But keep in mind that credit card fraudsters stay a step ahead of the game. Here's how you can outwit the scammers.

Review your credit card statements

As more people open online shopping accounts, fraudsters are targeting the accounts, not actual credit cards, to run up charges. So if you shop online regularly, be smart and review your statement each week. Do this online; in fact, cancel those paper statements. Be especially alert for small charges for about a dollar — scammers test a stolen card with small charges.

Keep in mind that scammers don't need your credit card number to use it. Online stores that hold your credit card information may be vulnerable to break-ins. You might discover a breach by reviewing your statement even before a site's owners do.

Follow security industry reports

The security industry pays a lot of attention to scam developments and is eager to enlighten the public. Follow a consumer-oriented service like LifeLock, which posts useful information on social forums like Facebook. There, you can read about data chips, fraud alerts and security tips on your phone during a lunch or coffee break.

Look for news from major industry players and think tanks like Forrester Research, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Kaspersky Lab's blog.

Shop at sites that require two-factor authentication

Limit your shopping to sites that require two-factor authentication (2FA) to open an account.
The 2FA method of security asks for more than a PIN or password to log on. It asks several additional security questions and records the answer. They rotate questions with each logon. For example, you may be asked to provide your father's hometown or the model of your first car — information that isn't readily available for crooks to discover.

If you shop via mobile, Kaspersky recommends using only official apps. Make sure they are upgraded to the latest version, and install strong mobile antivirus software on your phone and tablet.

Shop only via secure Internet connection

Mobile web is so tempting. It lets you make purchases anywhere through your smartphone.
Before you do this, make sure your phone isn't on an open Internet connection. If you're asked for a password before you can even connect to the Internet, be very grateful. This means no one can casually steal your information. It's even better if the shop providing the free connection changes its password every day.

Still, nothing is better than shopping through your own password-protected network.

Change your passwords frequently

Finally, change your passwords frequently everywhere one is demanded.

It's tough to keep up with new passwords, so use a password manager that creates new ones for you. Use the manger to access the sites, rather than typing in a password someone can steal. Password managers will also prompt you to change credentials and prevent you from using duplicate passwords on different sites.

May 9, 2016

How to Better Manage Businesses with Multiple Locations

Just a few of Business News Daily's top 2016 business trend predictions include continued small business growth, an increased desire for human connections within business, same-day delivery and cross-border selling, and on-demand delivery and logistics services. With all these predictions come multiple business locations as enterprises expand to serve more customers locally, nationally and globally. Challenges businesses with multiple locations face include guaranteeing compliance across marketing messages and customer communications, maintaining brand consistency in advertising, and delivering accurate analytics to benefit the entire company.

For business headquarters, managing multiple moving parts to benefit the entire company requires technological tools to streamline efforts and make them more efficient. Here are ways to save a business with multiple locations time and money.

Prioritize Security

To protect businesses against physical theft and keep an eye on what employees are doing in multiple locations, HD security cameras act as owners' eyes while they're not there and help protect locations from internal and external fraud committed by employees, shoplifters and burglars. They can also give a bird's-eye view of how employees are working at any time, which helps give owners insight into the way operations are conducted.

Data security protection from hackers, natural disasters, equipment damage and theft is also vital. A centralized backup system like Mozy that encrypts data and makes it accessible to team members with user-granted permission saves money on IT costs while protecting precious digital assets. A digital financial software tool with password protection, such as Intuit Quickbooks, keeps company financial data stored safely.

Execute Consistently

For distributed marketing networks with corporate headquarters and local franchises or independent sales representatives, it's important to empower all markets to optimize communications with their customers while still using compliant language and corporate-approved materials that fit with the brand. Research firm Gleanster reported that the best performers in the distributed marketing space used messaging that was relevant and timely to each local community. To allow all markets to customize branded materials, upload them to a centralized cloud-based marketing resource management system such as Siebel that allows them to be downloaded and amended based on immediate local needs.

This is also the place to upload guidelines on compliant language, so workers in every area can learn brand standards and more efficiently create materials that fall in line with legal regulations and are likely to be approved by corporate. Systems such as these also allow for inventory tracking to ensure stock never runs out, as well as vendor communication and budget monitoring. Integrating campaigns with an analytics tool, even a free one such as Google Analytics, allows all locations to gauge factors that contributed to success and identify techniques that should be improved or eliminated.

Keep Teams Connected

Inc. magazine cites a lack of spontaneous communication and a lack of team cohesiveness as two of the most significant challenges businesses with multiple locations face. Because employees want to feel like an integral part of overall business goals, fostering a team mentality across the organization helps workers in various locations still feel like they're working toward meaningful objectives.

Video conferencing tools such as Skype allow team members to meet "face to face" even when they're in different states or countries. Project management tools like Trello allow for transparency in project progress, including for those working remotely. An internal social network like Yammer allows team members to offer ideas for collaboration and learn more about each other no matter where they are. Hosting annual team summits in a central location allows team members to bond in person and reinforces company-wide goals, while a broadcast service such as Livestream allows businesses to broadcast events live to any device for those who can't physically make it.

Look for opportunities in every area of a business to use technological tools to streamline efforts while unifying your team. Employees who have clear expectations and experience consistency and organization in a business with multiple locations will work more efficiently and improve overall efforts.

May 2, 2016

Hacking my Earthwise lawn mower battery

I bought an Earthwise 24-volt lawn mower last year to keep my lawn in check. It worked pretty good, but the battery didn't last the summer. It just stopped charging. I of course got lazy and didn't contact Earthwise to get a replacement. When I pulled it out of the garage this year and noticed that I couldn't mow longer than ten minutes I remembered... Oh yeah, I was going to call them about this...

Well, the one year warranty expired so that left me with one choice... buy a new battery. I decided to look online for replacements and found one at Home Depot for almost $150!

 

$150 is a little more than I was willing to spend, so I started looking around and I found a blog post talking about how the internal components of the battery are just two basic universal batteries!

It turns out the post was right. You can open up the battery housing by unscrewing the screws around the under ledge of the housing.


When you pull off the top you have two super cheap generic 20 Ah Chinese batteries.


For replacements, the post recommends two Universal Power Group UB12220 22 Ah batteries which fit perfectly in the battery housing. On top of that they are only $40 each with free shipping! You just have to make sure you hook up the wiring the same way that the old batteries were hooked up.


 
After putting it back together, I found that it was already fully charged and my mower started working like a champ again!

So there you go, pay Home Depot $150, or hack your battery yourself and only pay $80. What would you choose?



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