Category Archives: Uncategorized

Malware? Don’t jump to conclusions!

Tonight I had a bit of a scare thanks to jumping to conclusions from the first Google result.  I thought it might be a good idea to drop a reminder here to take a step back and remember that .bash_history is a thing.

While I was inspecting /etc/passwd on a new Ubuntu server to confirm a home directory, I noticed a new line at the bottom I had never seen.


What the heck is that?  Searching Google brought me to this: specifically

Crap.  This was a relatively new install, did it already get owned?  I didn’t see any suspicious processes running or notice any slowdowns.  Do I need to re-image this machine?  How did it happen?  WHAT happened?

Running apt search uml confirmed it was actually installed.

Wait, did I install it myself?

A search in .bash_history revealed that yes, I installed it as a prerequisite while following the guide at a few nights back.  False alarm.

Finding The Perfect Bluetooth Headset

While I work I like to have one earbud in for listening to background music or podcasts, and for a few years I’ve been buying various Plantronics bluetooth headsets such as the M50 and M70.  They provided a cheap solution for long battery life (7+ hours) of audio in one ear.  After I accidentally put my M70 through the wash one too many times (yes it survived more than once) I decided to start looking at stereo solutions.

I first tried a $30 no name brand and even though I wasn’t expecting them to sound amazing, they were completely un-listenable and uncomfortable, so I started browsing.

After reading a bit I was becoming interested in an active noise canceling headset, so to start out I picked up the JLAB Audio Epic Executive from the shelf at the local Best Buy.

When I opened the box I wasn’t really getting a high-quality vibe.  The wire had big kinks where it was tightly bent in the box, which made putting the flimsy neck band challenging, They sounded great, claimed 11 hours of battery life with active noise cancellation off, 7 on.  I though this should easily get me through a work day, but before the work day– less than 12 hours after purchasing–  the left channel started crackling and cutting out.  So back to Best Buy I went.

This time I decided to spend a bit more money and picked up the Jabra Elite 65e.  Jabra has been around a long time so I thought build quality had to be well above the JLAB.  Besides active noise cancelation, they also feature passthrough mode, an app to customize settings and EQ, a solid neck portion, and 13 hour battery life.

Since I was paying twice as much this time I made a decision I rarely make, to purchase the protection plan. Any other time that I’ve made this decision, the product has far outlasted the plan, thankfully this didn’t go to waste this time.

Opening the Jabra confirmed my suspicion of higher build quality.  The packaging was premium and matched the contents.  Once I picked the right combination of tip and wing they fit comfortably and had excellent sound quality.

The buds on the Elite 65e are magnetized and would stick together when not in use, which would also pause the audio.  This was good, because the pause button wasn’t easy to find.  The right side of the neck section had 3 buttons that were the same size, but the textures weren’t different enough for my callused fingers to identify without counting.

The noise cancellation was by no means perfect, but when in a loud server room or next to an air conditioner, they worked great.  It was easy to activate with a dedicated button on the neck section, and holding the same button turned on the pass-through mode, which I found myself using more than the noise cancellation.

I thought I finally found the one, and it was bliss.  For about 2 months I carried them everywhere I went.  The charge always lasted the day.  I kept them paired with my phone all day and was able to connect my laptop and watch videos for the rest of the evening.

Now for the bad, I noticed one day that one channel started making loud static when I turned on pass-through mode.  Moving the wire would exacerbate the problem.  It seems that one of the wires leading to the mics used for noise cancellation and pass through had broken.  I was past the normal return period, but thankfully I purchased the protection plan, so back to Best Buy I went again.

I debated with myself if I should choose another this time, but when they worked I loved them so much, so I opted to pick up another Elite 65e.  I was pretty shocked when I was asked if I wanted another purchase plan.  I assumed that the year I purchased would cover the product for a year, but I was wrong.  As much as I wanted to say no, I said yes, spent another 40 bucks and walked out the door again.

The new set worked great for a little over a month, and the same issue occurred.  I was saddened, but I just lived with it for a while.  Since I had a year to go back, I figured I would wait until something better came out.

After another month, I decided to go back to Best Buy and get store credit and pick out another product.  I was amazed that I was actually refunded the purchase price of the protection plan well after the normal return period.  I’m not sure if this was a mistake or a kind employee, but I didn’t question it.

I decided to go a different route this time.  I picked up the Apple AirPods, for some reason.  They don’t do active noise cancellation, they don’t even seal off the ear or offer changeable tips, just one size hope it fits all.  I don’t use an iPhone or a Mac, and I don’t like the design.

But they are comfortable, and very well engineered.  They seem to be the only fully wireless earbuds to seamlessly let you choose the left or right bud and have everything work normally.  Since a lot of the time at work I only want one in, I could easily listen to one while the other charges.

I wore them to work for one day, and almost he entire day I felt self-conscious wearing them.  I’m not necessarily anti-apple, but I’m very much not an Apple person.  When I got home I had a gift for my iPhone, Mac, and Apple Watch loving girlfriend.

So, again, I was back at the drawing board.  Now that I had a taste with the AirPods, I’m pretty hooked on the idea of the truly wireless buds.

I started looking around.  I found the somewhat recently released Rowkin Charge+ which looked very interesting to me.  The charge case has Qi charging and USB-C, and it even doubles as a battery pack I can charge my phone with.  I went and picked them up with very little research.

So far they’re working and sounding great for me.  When they’re pulled out together they pair up quickly.  Each can be used individually once you pair them.  Overall I’m happy with the purchase.  If anything changes I’ll be back to update the post.

T100 slow charging issues, solved.

My 1-month old tablet, the Asus Transformer T100 tablet started draining slowly while it was plugged in.

Today I drained the battery down to around 30%, plugged it in, and continued with web-browsing and streaming music.  An hour later I noticed that the battery percentage wasn’t climbing, and it had actually discharged another 5%.  Windows claimed it was “plugged in, charging” and the LED on the power button was lit up like normal, but the battery percentage was still slowing going down.  Once the battery was below 20% I decided to shut it down and let it charge with the system off.

I waited about an hour to power it back up, when I found it only charged 2%.  I also felt the AC adapter, and it didn’t feel warm at all.  I tried another cable, using a different 5V 2A charger that I knew to be good, but nothing changed.  I wiggled both cables around to see if there were any bad connections, but the light never turned off, so I assumed both were fine.

I searched Google a bit and found a few forum posts where people reported similar issues.  A few said that this was fixed in firmware version 220, but I was already running 220.  223 is available on their site, so I flashed it, but it didn’t fix my charging issue.

I was thinking about cutting up a USB cable so I could meter the power used while charging, but I found some software that promised to tell me the battery’s charge rate, BatteryBar.  Lifehacker checked it out in 2009, along with a few other reputable sites, so It’s nothing new.  It looks just like the battery meter that comes on some on Lenovo laptops.

I decided to give it a try.  The software runs perfectly on Windows 8.1.  I found that both cables I tried earlier were only charging at ~2500mW, which was right around or below the discharge rate.  I then tried a new 5′ long cable that I picked up from Monoprice.  With this cable BatteryBar claims the charge rate is 4500-5000mW on both of the AC adapters I tried, and now it’s actually charging!

5000mW at 5v is only 1A, but I don’t know how the accurate the charge rate is.  Also the PC might be drawing more power since it’s on AC, thus possibly using the full 2 Amps available.  I’ll check the total current draw through a meter another day.

Before I throw away the two ‘bad’ cables, I want to find out what is wrong with them.  When I plug the stock Asus cable in to my phone and to my PC, the device is recognized by Windows, I’m able to copy files over, but it doesn’t even try to charge.  The second cable I tried is apparently a charge-only cable.  It will charge my phone, but my PC doesn’t recognize a device has been plugged in.

TL;DR: T100 charged slow because of bad USB cables.

Rest In Peace CR-48 / My first Thinkpad

Have you ever been afraid to open a package?

On the first day of Feburary, 2011, St. Louis had a major ice storm.

On this day, the ice was so bad that I couldn’t get my work truck out of my driveway, which was impressive because it slightly slants down toward the road.  Before I had a chance to call into work to let them know, my boss called me and said it’s not worth trying to drive, and to stay home try to do a bit of work remotely and answer phone calls.

I noticed around noon that there was a package left on the doorstep.  I didn’t order anything at all, but it was addressed to me with no return address.

After a few minutes of head scratching I cautiously opened the package.  It was a laptop!  From Google!  For free!

Google was taking applications for the Pilot program earlier in the year, maybe even late 2010.  Before applying, I made sure that I had signed into my Chrome browser and installed some “Apps” and synced my bookmarks.  I also may have hinted that I was also interested in developing my own extensions for Chrome.

How, why, its not clear, but Google gave me a gift.  A 1.6ghz Intel Atom PC, 16GB SSD.  It wasn’t fast, but it was FREE.  I used ChromeOS for a few weeks, but quickly realized that I wanted more than just a web browser out of a laptop.  Apparently someone received a CR48 with a standard BIOS, and it was then dumped and shared.

I ran Windows on it for a while, but eventually settled on Ubuntu.  It was great for a light browsing machine, and I used on and off for over a year.  After the year of abuse, the hinges were completely shot.

A few weeks ago I got a wild hair to try to repair it.  I drilled some holes in the back of the plastic and put screws through it, and it was then stronger than ever.  I installed a new version of Ubuntu with XFCE and realized how nice the machine still was.

This seemed the rebirth of my free laptop.  Next I had the urge to upgrade the little 16GB SSD.  I ended up buying a 120gb MSATA disk.  When I disassembled the machine to install the SSD, I noticed I lost one of the nuts that I used to repair the hinge and decided to beef up the hinge even more.  I took a trip to the hardware store and picked up some bigger hardware, and some new drill bits.

When I got home, while enlarging a hold, my brand new drill bit binded up and what was left scraped across the motherboard near the RAM slot.  It looks like a few leads were severed and now it won’t boot anymore.  The SSD I ordered was useless because I didn’t have any other machine that supported MSATA SSDs.

What did I do?

I ordered a used Lenovo Thinkpad X220 from eBay, and a Bluetooth adapter, ExpressCard 54 USB 3.0 card, and an upgraded Intel 802.11n card from Amazon  The Lenovo supports the MSATA SSD, as well as a standard 2.5″ drive.  So I’ve now got 120GB of solid state storage for my OS and software, and a 320GB 2.5″ HDD for storage.  It would be roughly the same size and weight as the CR48 if I didn’t have the 9 cell battery sticking out the back.  It’s got a matte screen too, which is something I grew to love on the CR48.

I’ve never been happier with a laptop keyboard than I am with the X220.  It feels great to type on, has dedicated volume and mute keys, and with all the function keys.  This was a huge step up from the limited key count of the CR-48.

The only grip I momentarily had (and apparently I’m not alone) is that the very bottom left key is the function key, instead of ctrl like almost any other keyboard.  I found its just an option in the BIOS to swap the two keys, so I immediately change it.  The two keys are not the same size on this model, so I can’t physically swap them like you can on some Lenovos.

The trackpad at first sight was hideously small.  I was shocked that the buttons were above the trackpad instead of below.  What I didn’t realize is that the trackpad is one that physically clicks just like the CR48 and Macs do.  It’s a lot smaller than the one on the CR48 though, but that’s a trade-off for having a bigger keyboard in a compact machine.  It has one of the nub/eraser head/nipple pointer sticks too, but I can’t use it as efficiently as the touchpad.

I’m not trying to do a full review of an almost 2 year old laptop.  This is just some of my impressions coming from a cheap free laptop to my first Lenovo.

Does the route to Netflix servers pass through Comcast for everyone?

I’m in St. Louis and use Charter for my internet. Just for kicks, I ran “tracert” at a Windows command prompt and it seems that from here to Illinois, its all charter hops, but through IL, NY, and VA, the hops are various domains.

I do realize that likely isnt the domain of the servers actually doing the streaming, but this is still very interesting to me.

1     2 ms     2 ms     4 ms  DD-WRT []
2    12 ms    15 ms    13 ms
3    22 ms    19 ms    43 ms [96.34.52
4    11 ms    14 ms    12 ms [96.
5    20 ms    19 ms    17 ms [96.
6    22 ms    27 ms    22 ms [96.34.3
7    78 ms    81 ms    72 ms []
8    19 ms    19 ms    21 ms [6]
9    88 ms    76 ms    64 ms []
10    52 ms    56 ms    56 ms []
11    69 ms    54 ms    52 ms [6]
12    51 ms    54 ms    58 ms
13    54 ms    67 ms    51 ms [69.53.244
14   116 ms   106 ms   107 ms [69.53.
15   125 ms   109 ms   120 ms [69.53.230
16   103 ms   102 ms   112 ms []