CRM software runs my life

Category: Hardware Page 1 of 3

Remove Adware infected YouTube App

I recently bought  Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 and Note 3 phones off Lazada in Singapore. Both times the standard ROM was installed, but some modifications had been made. The phones were rooted and some apps had been installed (Kingroot, Google Play Services etc.). The most annoying part however was that if Chrome hadn’t been used for ~10mins and you opened it, then it would open a popup with a full screen advertisement. I started researching how to remove this annoying Adware.

I found one really good article which detailed the debugging process. There are a few pre-steps however:

  1. Root the phone
  2. Install ADB tools on your computer
  3. Plug in the phone via a USB cable

As per the article above, you can then use the ADB logcat to debug what’s going on. Do the following steps from a terminal prompt on your computer:

  1. adb logcat > log.txt
  2. Open Chrome on your Android phone, wait for the ads to load. Take note of the Ad URL that loads (there might be a couple, so try and get the first one)
  3. Ctrl+C to kill logcat
  4. Open the log.txt file in a text editor and search of the URL you noted in step #2

My Ad spam URL was “ymtracking.com” and so I searched for that in log.txt. It came up with this line:

I/ActivityManager(  808): START u0 {act=android.intent.action.VIEW dat=http://global.ymtracking.com/trace?offer_id=111090&aff_id=27742 flg=0x10000000 cmp=com.android.chrome/com.google.android.apps.chrome.Main} from uid 10035 on display 0

This line tells me that a process running under UID 10035 is calling the ad URL. Time to hunt and kill that UID!

  1. adb -d shell
  2. su

Then you need to view the file /data/system/packages.xml. The Xiaomi phones don’t seem to have vi as a text editor installed, so move it to /sdcard/ to download it to your computer, or open it on the phone itself in the browser. Look for the package line that matches the UID you find earlier (10035):

<package name=”<<PACKAGE NAME>>” codePath=”<<DIR>>”  sharedUserId=”10035″>

Now you know the package name and the location. Normally you could enter the following command from the ADB shell as su “pm disable <<PACKAGE NAME>>”, but when I tried that it was not allowed (read only). Trying to reinstall the package didn’t work either. I found I had to actually use the code path and delete the .apk file itself:

  1. cd /system/priv-app/Youtube (what you had as <<DIR>> above)
  2. mount -o remount,rw -t yaffs2 /dev/block/mtdblock3 /system
  3. rm -rf Youtube.apk

That was it! Reboot the phone and the ads are gone. You can then use the Play Store to install YouTube as normal, from the official source.

Upgrade DIR-615 wireless router to a DD-WRT Access Point

DIR-615_frontMy D-Link DIR-615 N300 wireless router has serious issues with dropouts whenever you use any kind of wireless security (WPA, WEP etc.). This is a big problem that a large number of people have also reported, and there were no official firmware updates available. This lead me to stumble upon DD-WRT, an open source based router firmware for Broadcom based routers like mine (hardware C2, firmware 3.03WW).

Installation was pretty simple:

  1. Do the 30-30-30 reset: Hold down reset button while power is in for 30 seconds, out for 30 seconds and then in for another 30 seconds. This drops you to an emergency firmware update stage.
  2. Upload the latest DD-WRT firmware for your hardware version. Mine was the C2 version here, but you can search for your device here. Wait 5+ minutes, there is no activity/process notification.
  3. The device should start running the DD-WRT firmware and ask you to set a new admin username and password.

There are more comprehensive instructions here if you need them.

I then needed the device to be an additional wireless access point on my network, so I followed the setup instructions here. The only trick was that the wireless radio wouldn’t turn on at all. Turns out there is a bug in the firmware, and you need to enable the “MAC Address Cloning” option in order for the radio to turn on. Go figure! Anyway it’s working perfectly now and has so many more options than the default firmware.

Now if only I could upgrade my carrier provided Cisco modem with the same firmware so my Sonos worked…

Rack mount server conversion

This project is to convert a standard ATX Tower computer into a 3u rack mount computer. This is so that it can be sent to an internet hosting company to be put into their rack. The reason why I chose 3u is because this is the smallest size that will still fit a standard power supply. This is meant to be a straightforward step-by-step guide for anyone interested in making their own rack-mount computer.

This is a picture of the rack case kit that i bought from a local electronics store. It doesn’t have to be a specialty computer store because servers are not the only thing that is mounted in the standard rack mount. It is a very basic case and although it may seem expensive, it is a fraction of the cost of a “specialized” computer rack mount case.

The first thing that i did was mount the Motherboard onto the base of the case. You cannot simply screw it straight onto the base because the metal case will short circuit the contacts on the bottom of the motherboard. Instead what i had to do was use spacers (your existing computer case would have used them i am sure) to keep the board above the metal casing. 

I did have to drill a few holes in the bottom panel of the case. This is very easy though after you lay the motherboard on top and use a pen to mark the holes to drill. You can then use one long screw through the case, the spacer and then the motherboard where you can use a nut and washer to secure the board.

This does raise an important point which must be carefully followed throughout all these steps VERY carefully. Make sure that you keep all metal shavings and filings away from your computer components! If metal shavings get into your computer components you can pretty much kiss them goodbye, so be very careful and always use a vacuum to clean up any shavings you make, especially before test fitting any components!

The first item that i chose to mount was the CD-ROM. This was because my CD-ROM is quite large and so it’s positioning was very important. As you can see it is large even by normal CD-ROM standards. I decided to mount it over the top of the CPU as the height was perfect.

For those of you who are thinking heat-wise maybe this is not such a good idea i thought about this! While the CD-ROM is not being used (eg. there is no cd spinning in it) it will generate very little heat, if any. And this being a server the cd should not be spinning very often at all.

I mounted the CD-ROM using one of the drilled cross bars underneath and by getting some rectangular aluminum tubing and screwing that to the side of the case and the CD. I also had to make a small right-angled bracket to screw the other side of the CD to the cross bar.

I also decided to mount the power supply at this stage. This is at the back of the case with the plug holes facing out the back. I put another cross bar in and made a strip of metal that allowed me to put screws into the cross bar and into the back of the power supply. I decided to screw the front of the power supply to the back panel of the case.

To make the back of the case strong enough to be used as a support i put in a cross bar at the top and bottom at the back and screwed the back panel on.

Note that the CD is mounted just behind the front panel and the socket and fan grill of the power supply just protrude through the back panel.

Now we have some work to do. I had to cut away the back panel to allow the fan and the power socket to protrude through the back. I also had to drill holes to allow the power supply to be screwed to the back of the case.

The case i bought had a steel main chassis, and aluminium front and back panels. The easiest way to cut this is to carefully mark where you need to cut using the components to trace around and measure off. Then because i know i probably made a mistake i drill a fairly large hole (say 9mm diameter) in the middle of the object i want to cut out. Then i test fit it, see how far away everything is and then start cutting the rest of the metal out.

The best tools i found the cut out holes were files and a saw with a removable blade. These are both pictured on the left. The steps are as follows:

  1. Drill a hole in the area you want to cut big enough for the saw blade to fit through it.
  2. Unscrew and remove the blade from the saw. Thread the blade through the hole and then screw it back into the saw again. Use this to cut a rough outline of the hole (go inside the line not outside!).
  3. Use the files to tidy up your messy cutting and make any tricky little curves or corners needed etc.

The blade that i have attached to the saw in the photo is actually more like a fine file than a blade. It is round and lets you cut very tight curves and corners which is very handy.

The tool to the right of the files is used to bevel the edges of the cuts you make. This is to remove sharp edges and generally neaten things up a little. Think about how many cuts you get going into your existing computer case and then imagine what it would be like if the case was smaller, like this rack mount case…

Next up to install was the floppy drive. This was actually fairly easy. Firstly i pinched the metal drive bay from my old computer case. This can fit both the floppy drive and 2 hard drives, so that is good enough for now. Again i used some of the square aluminum tubing cut into 2 lengths. One was for the side and the other underneath the drive bay.

This setup gives me just enough room to let the wires out of the back of the power supply and plenty of room for 2 HDDs as the picture shows. This also leaves plenty of room to fit more PCI cards if they are needed, although it does cover an ISA slot or two, but who uses ISA these days anyway? 🙂

I now have all my major parts nicely placed around the case. The top picture shows nicely how everything is arranged in the case. This arrangement does have it’s problems however. The damn power cable is a few cm too short!

No matter. I will have to lengthen it by cutting, lengthening and resoldering the wires. That is easier than it sounds, but still rather annoying! All the other power cables reach nicely and so do the IDE and floppy cables. I cannot move the power supply now because i have already cut the back panel. Besides as the overhead view shows there is now a large amount of space behind the CD there which could be put to good use with extra drives or even just a fan.

I am now quite happy with the installation of the components.

The next thing to do was to cut the holes in the front panel for the floppy, network card, graphics card, cd-rom, keyboard plug, mouse plug and the on and reset switches. I am also considering putting in an LCD screen so i will have to cut that hole as well.

An LCD screen will allow me to monitor things like CPU temperature, number of connections, network traffic etc. Again i used the same technique as for the back panel where i drilled a hole, used the hacksaw to roughly cut the hole, and then filed it all nice and smooth and clean.

I had to lengthen that main power cable by about 2 inches to make sure that it would actually reach the socket on the motherboard. It was quite annoying to do! I matched all the colours of the wires, and heat-shrinked each one so that they wouldn’t make contact with each other. I then used zip ties to keep the wires in a nice bunch together. It is important to do this to allow more air flow around the box and just to keep things a bit neater. As the pictures show the cables appear to be reasonably neat in the end.

Finally i finished cutting the front panel. I also drilled 2 holes, one for the power button and another for a red HDD activity LED. All the cables fitted nicely through the front panel so i was very happy.

Putting all the cables into the components (eg. the HDD, floppy etc.) was a little bit tricky, but everything fitted quite nicely in the end. You just have to make sure that you don’t get things tangled up, and which cables go over and under various things. There is still more than enough space for another 3 PCI cards and 1 ISA card, as well as room in the mount for another HDD. In the back corner i think another 3 HDD’s could fit quite easily.

Finally i have finished! The case is all together and it looks quite nice i think. There are plenty of ventilation holes in the top to allow the hot air to escape. There are also a number of holes in the sides and base to allow air to flow as well. I may yet need to put in a fan, but i will put it through some testing to see whether this is the case or not.

Well i hope that this tutorial has been informative for everyone and the pictures and steps i took clear enough for you. I hope as many of you as possible can do this, it really isn’t all that hard, just a bit time consuming. It is good fun running a server, and it helps the community, so why not do it today?! 🙂 Good luck!

noontec gigalink n5

Noontec Gigalink N5 Firmware Update

noontec gigalink n5The Noontec Gigalink N5 is a NAS media that has a few nice features – including DLNA, BitTorrent, a web interface and BYO hard drive.

The problem is that it doesn’t really work very well. The 30mm fan is noisy and isn’t variable based on case temperature, sometimes it doesn’t turn off, UPNP doesn’t work, you have to wipe your hard drive before installing, the noontec.com website got laced full of malware for a week… the list goes on. Basically it’s bargain basement electronics.

Anyway I managed to get in contact with one of their engineers, who provided me with an updated firmware package (which for some stupid reason is not listed on their website). The best part about this update over the stock firmware is that it includes an online firmware update function. This means hopefully this is the last manual firmware update you need to do. It really is a big improvement, although for some reason the UI is now increasingly inconsistent.

Click here to download the NAS_J1.04D_Ver2.1.7_USB2.0.bin firmware update for the Noontec Gigalink N5 (zipped up).

Save your tax dollars – cut your copper now!

As part of the Heads of Agreement that Telstra has signed with NBNCo, Telstra is being paid $11 billion taxpayer dollars. This amount is effectively the sum value of each and every customer they migrate off copper. As John Stanhope (Telstra CFO) states:

So as the customer is switched off and goes across to (NBNCo) fibre, we get a payment.

Copper lines are already being dropped at a massive 8% pa, but you can help accelerate this drop and save your taxpayer dollars as well as your own line rental costs in the process. Moving to VoIP over fibre, merging multiple lines into VoIP services and migrating to mobile phones will all help you save your hard earned tax dollars.

iPad Emulator

Safari Develop Menu

Do you want to see what an iPad user sees when they look at your website? Well there is a simple way to check it out without buying an iPad on either Windows or Mac:

  1. Download and install Safari (if you don’t already  have it)
  2. Edit -> Preferences (or Safari -> Preferences on a Mac)
  3. Go to the Advanced tab
  4. Check the “Show Develop menu in menu bar” option
  5. Close the preferences window
  6. A new “Develop” menu option will appear
  7. Select “User Agent” and then “Mobile Safari 3.2 – iPad”

It isn’t perfect (hard to simulate rotating the device) and you should also disable Flash, but it gives you a rough impression.

Windows Mobile 6.5 fails to ActiveSync with Google Apps

Setting up your Windows Mobile 6.5 phone for Google Apps should be simple, there are some clear instructions located here. However I have found that on some HTC Windows based phones the account creation process does not go so smoothly. After a bit of hunting around I found someone who had a fix for me. Here is the more detailed version of how to get it working:

  1. Connect your phone to your PC via the USB cable
  2. Disable all syncing with your PC by clicking Tools -> Options
  3. Click the Settings button and add your Exchange (Apps) account (do not check “Detect Settings”) and check Email syncing only
  4. Sync
  5. Edit the Exchange settings and check “Detect Settings”
  6. Sync
  7. Edit the Exchange settings again and check Calendar and Contacts (no tasks in Apps remember!)
  8. Sync again

And there you go! Not sure if this is a bug in Activesync, the phone or Apps, but it sure is annoying. At least it only occurs on setup, after that everything seems to keep up to date with no problems.

Macbook Pro – NVIDIA projects at 640×480

Mini DisplayPort Cable AdaptorIt appears that I have suffered the curse of Nvidia again, this time on my brand new work unibody Macbook Pro 13in. Under Windows Vista and 7 the Nvidia Geforce 9400M graphics card can only send a 640×480 resolution signal to projectors through the official Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA adaptor.

It appears that I am not the only one, there is a large thread that is continuing on the Apple Discussions forum. There are a bunch of other people reporting the same issue, but Nvidia doesn’t have a solution yet. In fact, they have flat out said there are a huge list of unsupported (and will NEVER be supported) features. The following are from page 16 of the 190.62 Nvidia drivers release notes:

The following are features and functionality that were available in driver releases
supporting Windows XP, but are not–and will not be–available in driver releases for
Windows 7:
• High resolution scaling desktop (HRSD)
• MultiView Display Mode (for NVIDIA Quadro NVS graphics cards)
• NVKeystone
• Unified back buffer (UBB) controls
• OpenGL Video Overlays – This is an operating system limitation.
• Overclocking – GPU overclocking is no longer supported in the default GPU driver control panel. This feature is available in the NVIDIA System Tools software, which you can download from NVIDIA.com.
• GPU Temperature Monitoring – Temperature monitoring is no longer supported in the default GPU driver control panel. This feature is available in the NVIDIA System Tools software, which you can download from NVIDIA.com.
• AGP Settings Adjustment
• Video Zoom
• Pan & Scan ‐ the process of panning across the desktop in order to display a desktop on a monitor with lower resolution
• Per‐display Desktop Color Setting Adjustments – For Clone mode, the desktop color setting adjustments through the NVIDIA Control Panel can only be made across all displays in a system, and not on a per display basis.
• Per‐display Video Color Setting Adjustments – For Dualview mode, the video color setting adjustments through the NVIDIA Control Panel can only be made across all displays in a system, and not on a per display basis.
• Edge Blending
• Run display optimization wizard
• Run multiple display wizard
• Run television setup wizard
• nView Horizontal and Vertical Span Modes – Due to architectural changes in the new Windows Vista Window Display Driver Model (WDDM), span mode cannot be supported in NVIDIA graphics drivers. NVIDIA recommends using the built‐in Windows Vista multi‐display modes.
• Display/Connection Wizard (such as was provided with Windows Media Center Edition)
• DVD/MPEG Extensions (such as was provided with Windows Media Center Edition)
• Audio Extensions (such as was provided with Windows Media Center Edition)
• NVIDIA nView Desktop Manager – The nView Desktop Manager will not be included in drivers for GeForce products.

New Server

Crucial Paradigm Logo

If you are seeing this post then you have reached the new server for my blog. I moved to Crucial Paradigm as I found their Windows VPS servers to provide good HDD limits and low Australian pings. Please let me know if you experience any improvement in speed or accessibility. This is all part of my plan to improve the exposure and performance of my blog this year, as well as launch other paid services.

Pipe goes International

I have mentioned Pipe Networks before, more specifically their “Project Runway” surviving a near death credit crunch experience. There have been two interesting developments since that time.

Guam Beach Cable Hole

Guam Beach Cable Hole

The first is that Pipe have put up a blog tracking the progress of the cable installation. You can view it at pipeinternational.com. As with their DC3 data centre blog they have uploaded a ton of photos and commentary on a very regular basis. I am sure customers, creditors and other participants in the Australian networking industry appreciate the transparency of information delivered through these blogs. It is fascinating to see that, in the end, the data is flowing through a rather unglamorous combination of copper, concrete, seawater and sand. It is also great to see a company recognise the power of blogs as PR delivery mechanisms. I am sure they raise the public profile of the company significantly.

Also on the PR front the Pipe Networks CEO, Bevan Slattery, participated in an interview with Business Spectator’s Isabelle Oderberg. This interesting interview starts off with a glimpse at how close the project came to collapsing, and concludes with some comments regarding the NBN process and goals. I do agree that the Government is tackling the problem from the wrong end, they should be starting at the core and moving outwards. I guess it is easier to present end solutions to the common voter, you can’t deliver bit size statistics like 50% more bandwidth will mean 50% wholesale price cuts which will mean 50% consumer broadband saving.

Maybe the same is also true for the NBN tenderers? If the tender was only for backhaul, could they be guaranteed enough customers to viably support duplicating the infrastructure? Do they need retail customers and the bundling of products to put together a firm business case and profit margin? Again the big question is, if this rollout is viable then why has no-one done it already? At the end of the day the problem always lies with Telstra, they simply own everything that matters. Scarily, this monopoly is now extending into the wireless spectrum. Backhaul competition is a great first stage, and perhaps with the current financial state the tender process should be limited to that for now. But there should always be a second stage planned, one that makes the whole end to end process competitive. Until that happens we will be facing different versions of the current monopoly.

Personally I believe that Telstra should be seperated and that the core infrastructure (backhaul, exchange buildings and ducts) should never have left the public’s hands. There is enough infrastructure around, it is just being crippled to maximise profit and prevent competition. Now we are either going to have to buy them back or build around it, either way this is not an efficient or cheap process.

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