Zac's Pad

Tech, Toys, and Tidbits

So I recently got tricked in to clicking on a Outbrain article clickbait scam ad.

Headline looked innocent enough, but when I clicked thru it quickly became apparent that it was one of those aweful “You won’t believe what happened next!  Click here to find out!” bullshit ads.

Ya, I could have just tweaked Adblock, but then I’d have to spend a bunch of time touching every PC and phone in the house.  Why do that when I can simply do a quick config change on the firewall and block the whole crap-ass domain.

You won’t believe what I did next!

  1. Start up NGAdmin and connect to your fw or the cc.
  2. Go to your virtual server – Firewall service – Forwarding Rules
  3. You should start in Access Rules, so go there in case you didn’t.
  4. Doublecheck that AppControl is enabled – We’ll be using Appcontrol, not the URL filter, so we’ll need that enabled.
  5. Ok, now the fun part.  Go to Application Rules now
  6. Right click in the main section, and click New-Rule
  7. Double click on the new rule’s number to open it up for editing.
  8. I named mine “BlockShit” but you can call it whatever you want.
  9. Set it to “Deny” obvs.
  10. In the Object Viewer, to the right of the rule settings, click on the “Applications” tab
  11. Right click in the Objects Viewer and select New – Custom Application
  12. Select “Web Application” from the popup and click OK
  13. Now the Custom Application window will open.  Make sure you set a category, risk, and Properties, too.
  14. Now click the little green plus sign above the “URL Host:” list and add the following starter URLs:  (I’m sure there are hundreds more, but this is a good start)
    • *
    • *
    • *
    • *
    • *
    • *.
    • and of course, *
  15. Now click Save, and drag the resulting object in to the “Application” section of your Edit Rule Window
  16. Click OK to close the Edit Rule window
  17. Ensure the new BlockShit rule is above the default rule
  18. Now send the changes, apply, and you’re golden!

You can now browse from any device on your network without worrying about clickbate!

Supreme Court opted not to hear the case despite a huge swath of IT folks sending in amicus briefs encouring the SC to hear the case.  🙁

Well, I guess it’s far past time to stop using Java.

Oracle may have “won” but it’ll be a Pyrrhic victory when everyone and their dog stops using Java.

We’ve already started at my company. We’re phasing out products that rely on Java (notably Cisco ASA firewalls) and are going to either non-java-web-based products, or products whose admin tools don’t use Java in any form.

Not sure what’ll happen with Android’s ART/Dalvik, but I have to assume Google has something in the wings to throw in to place if they don’t win the fair-use trial. Or even if they do win, for that matter.

Though there may a loophole – since ART/Dalvik are already open sourced, perhaps they can use the GPL’d Java headers, and relicense ART/Dalvik under the GPL.

It’ll also be interesting to see how this affects the compatibility layers for Android that have started showing up in the newer Windows and OSX builds… Presumably, and sadly, they’ll be dropped in fear of being attacked by Oracle.

This may end up being a huge win for OSS, actually. If programmers stop trusting that they won’t get sued for being API compatible with a closed-source API then they may choose to use OpenSource APIs instead.

Still, fuck Oracle, and fuck copywrite maximalists. These companies that were built on innovation are now spending millions to stifle it. Fucking hypocrites.

So I’ve been using a Dell XPS 15 9530 as my daily (and nightly!) driver for the past 8 months.  I have the top-end version (3200×1800 touch, Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD)

It’s not the perfect laptop, but it’s damn close.  I primarily use it for work, which is to say I use Windows, light virtualization, and spend a fair bit of time in Colocation facilities or at client sites.  I also use it for all my gaming needs – at least once I week I play a few hours of Borderlands 2, or Mechwarrior online.

Things I like:

  • Thin and light – For it’s size it’s remarkably powerful.
  • Touchscreen – I didn’t think I’d use it a lot, but I often find myself poking at the screen.  It’s nice to have the option.
  • Keyboard – The keyboard is great.  Absolutely no complains.  It’s a joy to use.
  • Screen – The screen is gorgeous.  Though I usually run it at half-res (1600×900) since a lot of the apps I use day-to-day don’t scale nice YET.  e.g. VMWare console, RDP, etc.  It’s bright, quick, and crisp.
  • SSD – The SSD is huge and zippy.   Once you go SSD you can never go back.
  • Battery life – Exceptional!  I regularly go all day without plugging in.  The battery in this thing is awesome!

Things I wish were better

  • Cooling.  Gaming on this thing requires some compromises, and it’s all due to cooling.  Most games can run at half-res + high detail at 60 fps for about 10 mins and then things drop to 10fps due to heat throttling.  To get around this I’ve had to run things at lower settings and cap framerates at 30fps.  With those compromises it can play for hours, but it would be nice if the cooling system was capable of handling the head load the hardware is capable of generating.  I get that compromises were made in order to make it thin & light, but IMHO Dell got the balance wrong here.
  • Trackpad.  The trackpad is OK most of the time, but sometimes it gets stuck down and I have to flex the chassis to get it to unclick.  Doesn’t happen enough for me to put in a call to support yet, but that’s something I’ll have to do before the warranty expires.  Heard similar complaints from other XPS owners.
  • Ethernet.  Why is there a trend to not put Ethernet on laptops?  For the love of Pete PLEASE give me back my Ethernet port.  Dongles suck.  For casual users wifi may be enough, but for anyone serious it’s just too slow and flakey and not always an option.  Had I realized that the 9530 didn’t have Ethernet when I was selecting it I probably would have gone with something else.

Overall, I’d give this laptop an A-.  It’s very very good, and juuuust shy of great.  If Dell had done a better job of balancing the components against the cooling system it would get an A+.


So last night I was installing a brand new Exch 2013 server on Server 2012.

One of the prereqs for Exchange had to be manually downloaded (unified communication library, or something) from Microsoft.

No problem, thinks I, I’ll just open up IE, paste in the link and download.

Except no.  Can’t download.  No download button.

Ahah, I think – I just need to put the site in to Exploder’s “trusted site” list.  Which I promptly do.

Still no download button.

Set the security level for trusted sites to the lowest possible – Medium Low.

Still no download button.

Add “*://*” to trusted sites.

Still no download button.

Install Google Chrome, and voila.  Download button!


How much animosity must exist at MS between their website group, their OS group, and their Browser group for this to take place?!?!

WHY is the easiest way to download MICROSOFT PRODUCTS from a MICROSOFT’s WEBSITE on a MICROSOFT OS involve installing a competing browser?

Just one more reason to make installing Chrome the first thing you do on ANY Windows machine, server or workstation.

After reading about Mosh (Mobile Shell) I had to give it a try.  This is truly SSH for the modern age.  Connections STAY connected even when your IP changes, or you roam from network to network.  You can put your laptop to sleep while connected, carry it to work, open it up, and the connection is still live.  Amazing!

  1. Mosh on the server(s)
    • This part is easy.   Follow the instructions from the Mosh site for your distro.  Since I’m running Ubuntu 12.04 it was as easy as “sudo apt-get install mosh” but it will vary from distro to distro.
    • You may have to open some holes in your firewall – I had to do a “sudo ufw allow proto udp to any port 60000:61000” to let Ubuntu listen on the req’d ports. 
    • You’ll also need SSH access to your server, as the initial authentication + initialization of the Mosh session is handled via SSH.
  2. Cygwin
    • Also Easy.  Download the setup.exe from Cygwin, and run it.  There are a few extra packages you’ll need in order to compile Mosh for Windows, so make sure you select:
      • make
      • boost
      • libncurses-devel
      • pkg-config
      • and perl
  3. Mosh for Cygwin
    • This bit requires some compiling, but don’t be nervous.  Step by step instructions are at Gisthub.  We’ve done steps 1+2 already, so start from 3.
  4. Putty (Or Kitty!)
    • Download and install Putty, or Kitty if you prefer.  Kitty is a fork of the most recent Putty with a bunch of new features – like transparency settings for the windows.
  5. PuttyCyg Plugin
    • If you use Putty then grab this, or if you’re on Kitty then grab this.  Extract it in the same folder as the Putty/Kitty executable.
  6. Putty profiles
    • Last stretch!  There are a few things you need to do here.
      1. First, you’ll need to add c:\cygwin\usr\local\bin\ and c:\cygwin\bin to your path. 
        1. Open the start menu
        2. right click on Computer
        3. Click Advanced System Settings
        4. Click the Environment Variables button on the Advanced tab
        5. Under System Variables select “Path” and add “;c:\cygwin\usr\local\bin\;c:\cygwin\bin” to the end.  MAKE SURE YOU DON’T DELETE ANY THING – JUST ADD THE CYGWIN PATHS TO THE END
      2. Now, open Putty/Kitty. 
      3. Select PuttyCyg as the connection type
      4. enter “mosh” as the command – where is the host you want to connect to.
      5. Hit Open
  7. You’re now connected via Most to your host thru Putty/Kitty!  Yay!  SSH that’ll stay connected no matter how you move about from IP to IP.

Here’s an amazing video about why the patent system is so badly broken, how it’s strangling the public domain, and radically stifling progress.  Well worth watching – trust me, you need to see this.

Everything is a Remix Part 4 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

First – So exciting!  Doublefine (Tim Schafer – the name behind a slew of great games including Monkey Island, Full Throttle, Psychonauts, Brutal Legend) has started a Kickstart fundraiser for a new game.  This is a great idea – bypassing publishers all together and putting the funding for the game in the hands of the audience.  I LOVE this idea – I just wish I had 10k to give in order to qualify for the lunch with Tim!

Next, this list underlines why a game developer would want to go the above route.  There are a number of incredible games on that list, many of which I have purchased from Steam or GOG.  Sadly, and unbeknownst to me at the time, none of the proceeds of my purchase actually help the developer in the slightest.  Many of them are out of business.  This is a huge problem in the gaming industry.  Publishers like EA (who haven’t actually developed a good game since the 90s!) pay a flat rate to the developers for the rights, and then pass nothing further on if the game actually does well.  And the big-name publishers wonder why people no longer buy their formulaic overpriced and overproduced piles of crap.  I basically read heading of that list as “You now have the right to pirate any of the following games.”  Which is not to say that I condone piracy – I do everything I can to support game devs, but that doesn’t include giving any of my limited budget to a greedy publisher just to fill their coffers while the folks that actually DID THE WORK have to find new jobs since their studio was closed down.  Grrrrr!  Ars Technica has a great article on the list that I highly suggest you read.

Lots of changes to the site:

  • I moved it from Godaddy to Amazon EC2.  For about the same price (and free for the first year!) I get a VM all to myself.
  • I’m flipping back to WordPress from Drupal.  Drupal 7.x’s bloggy XMLRPC interface just sucks too much ass.  Sad smile
    That means that all of the  remote management tools (e.g. to manage your site from Android) have failed to work since Drupal 6.x.  Windows Live Writer, Ecto, and all other offline blog editing software no longer worked either.  I’m giving up a bit of power in the site, but gaining a tonne of flexibility.
    It’s a pain in the ass to move back to WordPress – I had to manually copy-paste my posts from the old Drupal site.  Sorry to everyone, but the comments will be a casualty of the move.  Sad smile
  • I’m using a new theme – much cleaner.  I hope you enjoy!

Hope you all enjoy!  Smile

My wife and I got tired of living in an overpriced piece of crap apt, so we’ve moved to a better one. In the process we’ve cut our rent by 1/3 and gained a dishwasher and ensuite laundry! W00t!

We also switched over to Telus’ Optik internet and increased our intertube speed by 50% while cutting the price by $10/month! Sweet!

Oh! And! We get a free XBox360 for switching. W00t!

Anyone have any suggestions for 360 games? The package comes with Alan Wake and Forza3, and I’m planning on getting Shadow Complex and Limbo pdq… Anything else I should get?

Ok, I think that’s it – the site should be back to normal now.
If anyone notices anything that isn’t back to normal then please let me know.
Also, I hope you enjoy the new theme! 🙂

I’m upgrading my CMS from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7 today. Please excuse any downtime and site-weirdness while I get things sorted in the new CMS.
Users should keep all the same rights and settings (e.g. donating users will continue to be ad-free) and all the posts+comments should remain in place.

Update – Site is sort of back. Still a lot of work to do with regards to formatting, but the info is all here so I’ve brought it back online. Let me know if y’all have any issues.

Update 2 – Site is mostly back. Rough format is back, though the theme still needs some work. I’m done for the day though. I’ll finish up the rest of the tweaks tomorrow. 🙂

Note: InternetExplorer formatting is badly broken, but does anyone use that piece of shit browser anymore? If you do, upgrade to Chrome/Firefox/Opera/Safari or any other standards compliant browser and save yourself a tonne of headaches – not to mention all the viruses/trojans/exploits you won’t be susceptible to anymore. 🙂

Seriously?  This just underlines how badly the US patent system is broken.

How did a Microsoft cofounder get a patent on “Browser use for navigating through information?”  I suppose he thinks IE was the first browser too.

“Managing a users peripheral attention” is patentable?  I guess notes in the margin of textbooks all get to pay royalties to him too…  Or the little TV station watermarks in the corners of TV broadcasts, or even the blinky light on cell phones that tell you that you missed a call.

The patent system was created to protect intellectual property, not stifle innovation or try to reap profits from an idea that is either obvious or has existed in other works for decades or even centuries.

Hell, maybe I should get a patent on “Character combination displayed on a medium in order to symbolize language and express information” and see if I can get royalties every time anyone writes anything down!

Paul Allen (and every other patent troll) is a total and utter shitbag.

I’ve been beta testing a new phone, and to ease the testing I ported Amon RA’s recovery ROM to it.  It works beautifully.

As a result, I’m much more comfortable messing with RA’s recovery, so I took a few hours and got it working on the GW620 too.

Use Volume+ and – to navigate.  Camera to select, and back to go back.  🙂

For some reason there are still “MISC” errors appearing, but you can safely ignore them – they don’t seem to do any harm.

I’ve tested a NAND backup and restore, and it works beautifully.  No clue if BART works, or any of the other fuctions.

Download the everarecovery.img here, and as always boot it up using
“fastboot boot everarecovery.img”

So I’ve been playing Borderlands a LOT recently.  I can’t adequately describe how much ass it kicks.  However, there is only ONE save-slot per character, and if it gets corrupt you are royally boned.  My friend MrFish had his PC crash mid-save, and he lost his lvl 24 hunter.  Ouch!  So, I whipped up this little script to archive the savegame every 10 mins.  Simply put the script in your “Documents\My Games” folder, and run it before you start Borderlands.  (Oh, and you need to have7zipinstalled.)  You’ll end up with a “bups” folder in My Games that has archives of your save games.  Enjoy!

Grab the script here: {filelink=1}

First:  So I spent some time setting up Google reader yesterday, and I have to say it’s a powerful product!  Combined with FeedR on my phone I can now read up on all my frequented sites from wherever I am.  It’s a thing of beauty!  I’d highly suggest anyone reading this give Reader a try.

Second:  My site here has been languishing a little since all the GW620 firmware development moved over to OpenEtna.  Not that I’m complaining – I think the OpenEtna project is waaay better than anything I was able to hack together on my own.  It just goes to show the power of open source and collaborative development.  However, it does mean that I need to come up with some new stuff to post about – more on that later.

Third:  Now that OpenEtna has stabilized a bit, and we don’t need to wipe every time we install a new version, I’ve actually spent some time getting my phone all set up.  Here’s a brief rundown of my rig:

  1. Launcher:
    • LauncherPro.  I know AWD (the default launcher on the firmware) is amazing, but LauncherPro adds a few key features that I just can’t live without – mostly in the widget department, and the triple-dock.
  2. Desktop Layout:
    • 5 desktops, defaulted on 3. 
    • Desktop 1 – FeedR widget, full screen
    • Desktop 2 – People widget (contacts) full screen
    • Desktop 3 – My main screen.  Google search, weather + news, calendar, gtasks, and a few misc icons.
    • Desktop 4 – Friend widget (Facebook + Twitter feeds) full screen
    • Desktop 5 – Games
    • Dock 1 – Phone – GMail – AppDrawer – Market – Browser
    • Dock 2 – Listen – Audible – AppDrawer – Music – Movies
    • Dock 3 – MPDroid – Mythmote – AppDrawer – Nav – Maps
  3. Everyday apps:
    • AppBrain Market.  Ah, the way the market should be.  I think the official market is moving in this direction, but for now I’m sticking with AppBrain
    • Audible.  I loves me some audiobooks!  Having Audible on my phone means that my iPod hasn’t seen use in weeks.
    • ConnectBot.  SSH from my phone?  Yes please!  I run my home net, my media centers, my websites, and a few of my clients on Linux.  Having SSH on my phone means I don’t always need to grab my laptop if I need to fix/change/fiddle with servers.
    • ConvertPad. Conversion calculator extrordinaire.  Mostly used for mpg-to-l/100km conversions.
    • DrupalEditor.  Lets me edit/maintain my various sites from my phone in a pinch.
    • Evernote.  Keep notes/photos/websnips in the cloud.  Great for all the stuff you just need sometimes.  Ferry schedules, and the like.
    • FeedR.  Simply the best RSS/GoogleReader client for the phone.  I’ve tried a few others, but none can compare.
    • GTasks.  Why Google doesn’t have a Google Tasks client built in to Android is something I will never understand, but this 3rd party app works fine.
    • Listen.  Podcasty goodness delivered straight to the phone.  It’s like RSS for podcasts.  Pure brilliance!
    • Google Maps and Google Navigate.  Must have apps.  Hell, Nav is half the reason I wanted to get up to a current version of android – it doesn’t work on 1.5.
    • Mint.  Financial managment in the cloud.  Beautiful!  Instant access to our budgets and balances from anywhere.
    • MPDroid.  Control my MPD based music system from my phone.  It’s even better than many of the desktop clients, but fits in your phone.  It’s not as powerful as Aria or Theramin, but comes pretty damn close and fits in my pocket.
    • Rogers MyAccount.  Makes it easy to keep an eye on my data usage.
    • Mythmote.  Turns my phone in to a remote control for my MythTV based media centers.  Now Pixy and I don’t have to fight over the remote anymore.
    • PocketCloud.  VNC+RDP client for Android.  Best I’ve used so far, though the full version is a bit expensive for an android app.
    • TD.  Banking client.  It’s not as rich in the planning dept as Mint is, but it lets me do transfers and pay bills.
    • Transdroid.  Keep an eye on my rTorrent server.
    • WikiMobile.  Optimized access to Wikipedia.  Great for looking stuff up when I’m out and about and in the need of factoids.
    • XDA.  By far the easiest way to keep up to date on the XDA-Developers forums.
  4. Games!  This list is totally transient.  More than anything else on my phone the games come and go.  Here’s a list of what’s on there right now:
    • Alchemy.  Mix and match elements to create new elements.  Amusing, funny, and brain twisting logic game. 
    • Angry Birds.  The classic, now for android.  The new version doesn’t run so fast, though I hear with a modest overclock it’s back to being playable
    • Antibody.  Real time Risk, with upgrades, in the microscopic realm.  Great fun!
    • Doom.  Installed more as a demo than to play.  I had to upgrade my computer so I could play Doom when it came out, so having it on my phone is a trip
    • Dungeon Wonders.  Haven’t actually had a chance to play this yet, but it’s supposed to be a pretty good jrpg
    • Evac.  Stylized modern pacman.  Good fun.  May even purchase it.
    • Everlands.  I installed all the hexage ‘lite’ games I could find on the market.  This one is the only one that I’m not immediately considering purchasing.  I’ll have to give it a few more days, and run thru the tutorial, before I decide though.
    • Galcon.  Real-time Risk in space.  Great fun, but I think I prefer Antibody.  This has more game modes, but Antibody has upgrades which lend it a more epic feel.
    • PVZ.  Unsanctioned an illegitimate Plants vs Zombies clone for Android?  Wow!  Popcap should be embarrassed that a lone hacker managed to get their signature game out for Android before they even tried.  Booo Popcap!  I’ll still buy the official PvZ when Popcap eventually gets off their ass and releases it, but for now PVZ fills the void nicely.  This was removed from the Market almost as soon as it was published, but if you google for “pvz.apk” you should be able to find it.
    • Radiant.  Kick-ass shooter!  The best I’ve seen for Android so far.  Lots of different weapons to buy, and flawless controls even on devices without multitouch. 
    • RoboDefense.  Simply the best tower defence game on Android.  I’ve tried a few others, and keep coming back to this one.  If you like the genre, then you owe it to yourself to check this one out
    • Scrambled Net.  Back in the day I played a variation of this game on my PalmOS devices.  Great logic puzzler with an IT theme. 
    • SimCity.  Didn’t even know this existed till recently.  Looks a LOT like they ported the original Simcity to Android.  Sadly, this one doesn’t show up in the market for me so I’m running a less-than-legit version.  I’ll have to find some way to pay for it if I end up playing it for more than a few mins.  So far I find the interface very klunky and not well adapted to Android, but I’ll give it a few more plays to see if it’s worth keeping.
    • Sims3.  Meh.  Thought I’d give it a try, even though it’s not visible in the Market for me, so I’m running a pir8 version.  Buuut, I never did like any of the sims game, and still have a bit of a hate-on for EA for closing the best online (or offline, for that matter) car game and then adding insult to injury by trying to get me signed up for The Sims Online instead.  RIP Motor City Online.  10 years later and there’s still no game that comes close to the level of car customization you offered.
    • Totemo.  Played the first few levels, and it seems like it could be good.  I’ll finish playing the demo and see if it gets harder, but so far it’s a little too simplistic.
    • UnblockMe.  Classic “free the car from a jammed parking lot” game.  Very well executed, and has some devilishly hard levels.
    • WordFeud.  Multiplayer Scrabble via the cloud?  YES PLEASE!  

My wife has started a new blog revolving around drawing requests from her readers.  Check it out at  Her drawings are great, so head over and submit a request for something you’d like to see her draw.

The gang at OpenEtna have managed to get Froyo (Android 2.2) running on the GW620!


All the info is on the OpenEtna Page.

As some of you may have noticed Drupal took a dump when I updated it.  The site was offline for almost a day while I tried to get the errors resolved.  It only took a few hours to fix, but I’ve been insanely busy with work and life for the past few moths so it took the day to scrape together the few hours it took to fix.  Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused. 

The fine folks over at OpenEtna have released version 4.2 of their excellent 2.1 based firmware for the GW620. Mostly a bugfix release, but they have introduced the JIT from 2.2 in to this firmware, which makes things MUCH faster. Sound is fixed, GPS works again, but Call Display is still messed up. I’m hosting it here for ease of download.

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