Ventage Computers

As you might know, I’ve been working on computers for awhile. And for the most part I never dump old systems unless they stop working. Did do some housecleaning over the summer, found a few systems that had died. Caused by rust and ‘melting’ foam. Over the weekend I dug out my old Atari 800XL and hooked it up. Worked pretty good, it does have sticking keys… What I found interesting was taking the machine apart, this thing was built like a tank, solid and heavy, not like modern computers..

Basically I can take keyboard apart and clean the leads.. Another weekends project.

Finding a TV to connect the computer was more difficult. I needs a old tuner. Lucky for me the flat screen in my office is older and has a turner..

Having worked in a Atari repair center, I had a demo cartridge and test cartridge.

DNS Blocking

Had a user bring us a Windows 10 HOME computer that wasn’t able to get on the internet using Wifi or Ethernet. After toying around with it for some time here is what we notice.

  1. Would receive and IP address from DHCP server, but no Internet access.
  2. Could add a new port, usb ethernet, gets IP but still no Internet.
  3. Went through Google search finds to reset network, still nothing.
  4. Removed all the ports, drivers etc.. Still, nada

We found it odd that the computer would get an IP number from server, but then not do anything else with network. We found the user had install AVG anti-virus, took some work to remove without internet, but finally won over. However even after repeating all the steps above, no Internet. Checked resources and system apps, couldn’t see anything that stood out..

We figured it was a typical virus that ransomware the system, but none of the normal flags popped up..

So we finally just reinstalled the OS, oh we did try recovery, that failed. After the reinstall of course everything worked fine. A bit more digging and we found out this ‘issue’ is called Gateway or DNS blocking. Nasty beast. Anyclues how to get around it without rebuilding the whole system?

Synology NAS DS419Slim

Provide information and insights into new NAS. (TO DO)

DS419Slim

After a few months using the drive, I can now report on its overall operation.

One, don’t let the photos on Amazon fool you, this is a MINI NAS which uses laptop drives, not the normal desktop drives. Which was surprising when it arrived. Plus the description said it came with drives, but didn’t. Amazon likes to embellish its descriptions and mix all the “like”/”similar” drives. So don’t bother reading them, get your reviews elsewhere.

After the second order with drives arrived, install and setup was easy. Left the drives formatting/partitioning overnight. It comes with internet access to manage, configure and monitor.. HOWEVER, it isn’t free, SURPRISE. Locally accessing, does work and is free.

There are two pieces of software that can be installed on Synology Cloud Station Backup and Synology Cloud Station Drive. Station Backup does a backup as is per configured on each station. Station Drive syncs file as they are opened and closed. Users complained of slower computers, but was kind of expected.

You log into the NAS with each users account and can recover files easily. I don’t expect users to be able to do this.

Wink Automation Future

A few years ago I started using Wink to automation and home monitoring, there were issues with loss of contact with sensors, and relocated to a new state. We packed up and forgot about the Wink hardware and planned on using it again some day. Well that day has come, and sadly, passed.

The hub, was tiny, and absolute, and we had 5 of them. Wink now had a new Wink Hub, much bigger, and a Wink Hub 2, now with an Ethernet connection.

Ok, first off, you need a smart device that has the newest bluetooth in order to configure and setup the Hub(s). Using an iPhone 6, didn’t work. But an iTouch ken 6 works. (Just a heads up.)

After just a couple of times, I was finally able to setup a pivot power strip, which has two switchable outlets and two un-switchable. Excitement builds.

Finally I can try the Spotter, the little environmental sensors, and to my surprise, they are no longer supported.

And finally, we were very sad to see they no longer support the Nimbus displays. That was heart breaking, we were so looking forward to using these.

Spotter
Pivot
Nimbus
Hub 1
Hub 2

We were really wanting to use these items, but without support we are at a loss. Wink as a company seems to have had gone dormant, no new product, lacking real support. It is hoped a larger company like Google, Amazon or Apple purchases Wink and revive life in their product line.

Teensy

Since the clerks at work do me a lot of favors I wanted to something nice for them. Build a desktop flower, controlled either by the computer or sensors in the flower or flower pot. For this I looked into the Teensy 2.0, costing less than $15, it is with our companies restriction on gift prices ($25).

Basically  the Teensy, is a tiny Arduino. Easy to program and wire into projects. Allowing for smart projects.

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iPhone and Infrared (IR)

Ok..

I’m not an engineer or anything but WTF!

A few years ago I purchased a IRTrans from IRTrans (http://www.irtrans.com/en/index.php). Back when I was using an Apple Cube (tells you how long ago that was). Well I got out the IRTrans module the other day to start working on a new project, that I hadn’t started on yet. Every time I put my phone on my desk, the LED would blink. Didn’t think anything about it.

Then I noticed it only blinked when one of the cameras were facing the IRTrans. Odd. Of course I had to purchase and upgrade to the software, iRed2. Once I got it started I monitored IR activity and Dang it starting getting signals, repeatable signals from the iPhone.

Received one type of signal when the screen was locked, another unlocked, then another when I opened a app.. OMG!!!

Please someone else say they see that! Can Apple make their iPhone (iOS devices) into full fledge IR controllers!..

Note, You heard it here first!

~David

Thoughts to Ponder – CompuCarve

Purchased a Craftsman CompuCarve a few years back. Made a few signs and awards for staff members. Nice Machine, however it is LOUD. Wife didn’t like me using it. So put it away until last month. Learned I could use it as a object scanner, plus I had a few sign requests.

Was able to make 6 signs and the machine stopped working. Took the machine apart to clean, and found the problem. Seems there is a shaft that goes along the bottom of the machine to make sure both sides raise and lower at the same rate. Makes sense. However the shaft is held in place by two screws with washers held in place by plastic… The plastic broke on one screw making the machine unusable… Where did American workmanship go? I can not recommend this machine to anyone, and it was expensive. Wrote the company two emails asking if I could buy a replace part (the base).. No reply to either email. Another reason I can’t recommend this machine.

This has sadden me, I had great plans for this machine in building cases from Raspberry Pi’s, and desk stands for the office.

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UPDATE
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After two weeks and two emails I finally got a reply on repairing the CompuCarve. Their solution is to put a bigger/longer screw in the hole. I laughed at the lady on the phone, are you kidding. “No this is how we just fixed one on the floor in for repair”.

Needless to say I will not be following their directions and come up with my own repair.

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Highly recommend sponsoring projects on http://www.Kickstarter.com.

A Wonderful Donation and Expansion

One of my sites received a donation from another school. 2 Xserve G5s, a Xserve G4 and a 5tb RAID.. I donated a fiber switch and two replacement power supplies (Both G5’s had blown power supplies, common problem).

Wonderful system, now what.

The question I had in regards to the RAID: Is is possible to have its two drives appear on all the other Server’s desktops?

Fiber switch $70.
Fiber cables, systems came with 4.
Presently only 2 fiber cards.

Plugged the two cables from the RAID, one cable for each “Drive”, into the fiber switch. Then one (1) cable from each of the Xserves. Bingo, it worked. Both servers can access all the data on both RAID drives.

I can see possibilities for databases, podcasts….


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WGM & DeployStudio Client Issues

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve spent at least 4 days at a school, helping with their Mac Lab. It had unexpected binding issues rejecting user log-ins, computers that refused to pick up security settings and a server that was acting ‘funny’.

Things I figured out that I’d like to pass on.

1) Setup Deploy Studio using the Computers/Server’s IP number rather than it’s name.
Since we were unsure if the ‘core’ group had setup full reverse lookup, this proved to be much more reliable.

2) If a computer refuses to pick up security setting from Work Group Manager (WGM), there is no need to re-image (which we tried).
The problem ended up being the systems binding. We unbound the computer from both AD and OD, then removed the computer from the AD OU and totally removed from WGM.. Then re-added, and rebounded. IT WORKED. Can’t tell you how frustrating this was.

The first day was spent working on getting a binding script to work. One of the two computers that gave us such a fit, was the computer I de-bugged the script on. So I am pretty sure that was on of the causes of the WGM issue later on (even after re-imaging).

One of the things I like to point out to techs new to Macs is, AD and OD are just directories, lists of computers and policies. How each directory manages the policies is a little different, but basically they do the same things. Binding allows for a connection, either secure or not. In our case AD provides the user authentication and OD is security settings, AD is secure OD is not. AD is from client to server, OD is from server to client.

Yes I know it is much more technical than that, but in simple terms.

One of my simple tests to see of OD is working is to add a user account to WGM, name address, phone number, etc. Then after binding, use AddressBook to search for that user. In my case, if I search for ‘dingley’ if it find’s my name in AD and OD, displaying two contacts, showing that the OD binding is working. (All employess are listed in AD. Credentials)

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This post is more a historic record of projects I’ve worked on. Hopefully they will help if I run into these problems again.

What happened to Caller ID?

Over the years of working with automation, one of the tasks I’ve always enjoyed was Caller ID. Knowing who was calling before you picked up, a joy of modern living. Having a computer broadcast Caller Id over the network using Growl, logging the call to display on a web page. Having it run a script depending on who is calling, truly geeky?

One of the fun things I did with Caller ID was deciding what do when someone entered or exited our community through our gates. The association has two phone lines, one for incoming visitor and one for exiting. What the computer said and did was determined by the number calling in.

Doing this task was a Mac Mini G4 and a OVOLab Usb Adapter running the PHLINK software and a bit of Applescript. Not difficult at all pretty much plug and play.

Twice over the span of 10 years, either the phone company or the power company has blown at least two adapters. The last time was about a month ago, not a cloud in the sky, and the power goes out. When it comes back on, my lovely adapter is once again blown.

Now the fun part, trying to find a replacement. There were two companies that made similar devices, OVOLabs and Parliant’s Phone Valet. Both are now off the market. … WHAT!?

OK.. So here are my problems.I have a few Mac Mini G4’s for automation and a couple of Intel Mac Minis which I use as servers. The servers are taxed to the max. The Mac Mini G4 has a built in modem which does NOT support Caller ID. After a bit of research I found out that the Apple’s USB Modem Adapter does support Caller ID. (Oh and I found out these do not work on the Intel iMacs! ).. Quick trip to eBay and $22!

Next problem, how to enable and use the Caller ID feature? First what program to use. The program that came up most on web searches was CIDTrackerX, which to my surprise I had purchased a license for back in 2003. And the second was MacCallerID. MacCallerID is a dead end, the web site is down, a very old mac.com web site. With no way to contact the author. However, CIDTracker (or CIDTrackerX), I emailed the author asking if his software had any unpublished updates and he replied. (He’d contact me in a few days). – While waiting I continued my quest.

So I continued to test CIDTrackerX. One of the things you need is the command to enable Caller ID on your modem. Back in the 80’s I lived Hayes AT commands, Hayes was king. I was surprised that the command set was still being developed and used, with what seemed like hundreds of new commands. With hundreds of new variations. Finding the one to enable CID on the Apple USB Modem took a little searching.

AT+VCID=1 to enable
AT+VCID=0 to disable

With those command in hand I returned to CDTrackerX and entered those into the proper boxes. Nothing! ARG. Hope Mr. Dean Davis of AfterTen Software gets back to me soon!

In the mean time I tested the modem a bit more using CoolTerm by Roger Meier at http://freeware.the-meiers.org . A wonderful free program I have used for years. Connect to modem, issue the enable command and call the phone line connected to modem. JOY, Caller ID info.

As it stands now I have two choices, wait for Mr. Davis to email back, or start working on my own software to deal with CID…

Know what I am doing this weekend!