Monday, December 24, 2012

Acronis True Image Backup Fails

When trying to do a disk and partition backup on Acronis True Image Home 2012 build 7133 to an external USB drive, the backup failed repeatedly with a read error.

Upon contacting Acronis support, at first I got a suggestion that the error had been "fixed" in the latest version, and that I should upgrade to the 2013 version of the software. Conveniently, the support tech I'd been corresponding with provided me with an affiliate link to purchase the new version. 

It seemed rather odd that a support tech would provide an affiliate link to purchase an upgraded version of the product rather than help with the customer's current version. I decided, instead, to press the issue and fork over $9.99 for a paid support incident. My case then got reassigned to someone who seemed to be more on the ball, and asked me to take some basic troubleshooting steps, including scanning my C: drive, which happens to be an Intel SSD, with the chkdsk utility, revealed so issues whatsoever. 

Subsequent back and forth with the support technician proved largely unhelpful until they asked me to try backing up a single file or folder rather than a whole partition. I then tried backing up the My Documents folder, and it failed quickly with an error stating the system couldn't find the path R:\TEMP, which happened to be associated with a RAM drive I'd had set up until recently.

I remembered that in the time between making my last successful backup using Acronis, I'd uninstalled QSoft RAMDisk, a utility which enables you to use a portion of your system memory as a very fast RAM drive. Trying to create a backup with Acronis since the RAM drive had been uninstalled proved fruitless because Acronis seemingly balked at not being able to find the RAM drive registered with Windows any longer.

Serendipitously, the developer of the RAM drive software released an updated build of their software earlier this month, so I decided to reinstall it and give it a try. I installed the software, then set up a RAM drive with the same drive letter as I'd originally used. 

Upon reinstalling the RAM drive and rebooting, the backup proceeded successfully. 

The moral of the story appears to be, if you happened to have a RAM drive installed on your system at some point prior to having Acronis installed, you'd best make sure the RAM drive is existant so that Acronis won't complain and decide to no longer complete your backups.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Battlefield 3 Disconnects

For months I'd been having issues with lag and stuttering in the PC version of Battlefield 3. Worse, though, were frequent, seemingly random disconnects.

I'd connect to a server, be able to play for 10 minutes or more, then my system would lock up hard, unresponsive even to Ctrl-Alt-Del for a few minutes until finally BF3 exited and the Battlelog site came back with anything from a disconnect message to one saying I'd been kicked from the server. 

Despite having the latest updates to BF3 itself, as well as for EA's bloated and unnecessary Origin software, PunkBuster, and my system's video drivers and Windows updates, the disconnects continued to occur, making it so that I seldom if ever got to the end of a round without being disconnected.

Finally I decided to take the plunge and configure my DSL router with port forwarding specific to BF3's needs, according to this page on EA's support site.

The site handily provides instructions specific to many router makes and models for the PC, XBox 360, and PS3 versions of Battlefield 3. One note, for the listed TCP ports specific to the PC version, I found that all but ports 80 (http) and 443 (https) were necessary to seemingly work around the disconnect issues I'd been having. You might need these ports forwarded if you plan to have your PC act as a BF3 server, but given that I don't it doesn't seem to make a difference.

Why the BF3 installer or the game itself doesn't specifically tell you which ports to forward in the beginning I don't know. Why EA and DICE rush out their games hurriedly without addressing their users' complaints, I don't know either. I'm happy to have found this works around my problem, and that the game is at least playable for more than 10 minutes or so at a time, but given their track record with previous games and their various issues, I'd like to see BF3 go open source someday and get in the hands of numerous software developers who would likely care more about the game and its users than EA.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Foscam FI9820W Review

I recently purchased a pair of Foscam FI9820W wireless IP cameras to augment my existing pair of FI8918W ones.

Featuring 720p video resolution, H.264 video compression, pan and tilt capability, SD card support, and IR cut to help filter out distortion in the camera's daytime mode, wireless IP cameras like these are very handy because they can be placed anywhere within the reach of your wireless network and a household power outlet, and transmit images and even live video wirelessly. 

In addition, if a burglar happens to break in and swipe or disable the cameras themselves, there's a fair chance that before this happens, the camera will have gotten a nice face shot of the perpetrator discovering the camera, and then send it via email or FTP if configured to do so, for you to later submit to the police.

This newest, more expensive camera in Foscam's lineup unfortunately suffers some significant shortcomings. Compared to the more mature FI8918W model, the web interface is still disappointingly ugly and Internet Explorer-centric, utilizing an ActiveX control to render live video in a browser and a few hoops need to be jumped through to get the interface functional in a more mainstream browser like Firefox or Chrome.

As if that were bad enough, a serious security issue arises with the FI9820W's lack of full WPA / WPA2 passphrase support. If your wireless network happens to be protected with one of these security protocols and uses anything other than an alphanumeric passphrase, you'll have no choice but to compromise your wireless security by making your password simpler to accommodate this camera.

Although the picture quality is outstanding in the camera's grayscale night vision mode with all its H.264 sharpness, the daytime mode leaves much to be desired. Even in a well-lit room the image appears blurry and washed out in spite of the included IR cut feature.

Night vision engaged, the image is relatively sharp and clear.

Another downside, whereas with the FI8918W you could set up its motion detection to optionally take a variable number of snapshots, the FI9820W allows no more than a single snapshot per activation of the motion alarm. Add to that the fact that the camera shares the similarly short AC adapter cable as its predecessor, there isn't a lot to make this camera in its current form worth the higher cost.
Daytime, even with IR cut the image is disappointingly grainy and washed out.

To summarize...
  • High video resolution.
  • Sharp night vision.
  • SD card support.
  • Nonstandard WPA / WPA2 passphrase support.
  • Grainy, washed-out daytime video.
  • Internet Explorer centered, 1990s-era web interface.
  • Short AC adapter cable.

I contacted Foscam's U.S. based technical support about the camera's disappointing features and anemic firmware, who responded to my inquiry on the FI9820W's shortcomings:
"Your suggestions will forward to our R&D team, we'll try to fain [sic] these features in the future software. Highly appreciated your feedbacks. Thanks a lot."

Let's hope they will!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Reseed Identity Using Variable

In a sproc that involves creating a copy of a production SQL table for testing, I wanted to reseed the identity of the new table to 1 more than the max of the production key value. 

I figured at first I'd just use the appropriate syntax for DBCC and just use a variable already at hand containing the max production value and add 1 to it, like so:


 -- Grab the max identity value from production.
 SELECT @MaxID = MAX(ID) FROM dbo.MyProductionTable

 DBCC CHECKIDENT (MyProductionTable_COPY, reseed, @MaxID + 1) 

SQL, however, would have nothing of it:
Incorrect syntax near '+'.

To work around this, I decided to try creating a dynamic SQL string to incorporate the variable arithmetic:

 DECLARE @SQL nvarchar(100)

 -- Grab the max identity value from production.
 SELECT @MaxID = MAX(ID) FROM dbo.MyProductionTable

 SET @SQL = 'DBCC CHECKIDENT (MyProductionTable_COPY, reseed, ' 
 + CAST(@MaxID + 1 AS nvarchar(10)) 
 + ')'

Now I can create the table and set its starting identity value to 1 greater than in production using a variable despite DBCC's syntax dictating otherwise.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Enforced Dependencies and Schemabinding

In trying to rename a table I encountered the dreaded error about enforced dependencies:
Object 'myTable' cannot be renamed because the object participates in enforced dependencies.

I first used the following script to identify the objects dependent upon the table:
SELECT DISTINCT o.object_id,, o.type_desc, m.definition
FROM sys.sql_dependencies d
JOIN sys.objects o ON o.object_id = d.object_id
JOIN sys.objects r ON r.object_id = d.referenced_major_id
JOIN sys.sql_modules m ON m.object_id = o.object_id
WHERE d.class = 1
AND = 'myTable'

This yielded the names of three objects in my database which happen to use SCHEMABINDING in their definitions.

I didn't want to manually alter and recreate these objects, so instead I decided to create a script which will find the SQL code for each object, remove the WITH SCHEMABINDING syntax, drop the existing objects and then recreate them sans schema binding.

     @TheTable varchar(100),

     @Count int,
     @Max int,

     @object_id int,
     @name varchar(50),
     @type_desc varchar(50),
     @definition nvarchar(max),
     @DropSQL nvarchar(max),
     @CreateSQL nvarchar(max)

-- Remove schemabinding from objects tied to table.
     object_id int,
     name varchar(50),
     type_desc varchar(50),
     definition nvarchar(max)

-- Set the table name here:
SET @TheTable = 'MyTable'

INSERT INTO @Objects (object_id, name, type_desc, definition)
SELECT DISTINCT o.object_id,, o.type_desc, m.definition
FROM sys.sql_dependencies d
JOIN sys.objects o ON o.object_id = d.object_id
JOIN sys.objects r ON r.object_id = d.referenced_major_id
JOIN sys.sql_modules m ON m.object_id = o.object_id
WHERE d.class = 1
AND = @TheTable

UPDATE @Objects
SET definition = 
          WHEN definition LIKE '%SCHEMABINDING%' THEN REPLACE(definition, 'WITH SCHEMABINDING', '')
          ELSE definition

SELECT @Count = 1, @Max = COUNT(ID) FROM @Objects

WHILE @Count <= @Max

     SELECT @object_id = object_id, @name = name, @type_desc = type_desc, @definition = definition
     FROM @Objects
     WHERE ID = @Count

     SET @DropSQL =   'DROP ' 
     CASE @type_desc 
          WHEN 'VIEW' THEN 'VIEW'
     ' '

     PRINT @DropSQL
     EXEC sp_executeSQL @DropSQL

     SET @CreateSQL = @definition

     PRINT @CreateSQL
     EXEC sp_executeSQL @CreateSQL

     SET @Count = @Count + 1


Now I can incorporate this logic into a sproc and not have to worry about meddlesome constraints if I'm going to be renaming tables. The above script has been tested successfully under SQL 2008 and 2012, and will be able to automatically drop and recreate views, scalar and table valued functions, sprocs and triggers.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Those Bitches!

Classic scene I captured in animated GIF form in homage to the hilarious parody trailer, Star Wars Episode III: A Lost Hope.

Photoshop CS5 Slow Animated GIF Playback

In Photoshop CS5 you can import video and transform it into a series of layers, then export that collection of layers as an animated GIF.

However, one gotcha I encountered has to do with frame rate and playback speed of the resulting GIF animation. I found that despite the fact that I'd set the no delay between each frame, the animation appeared slow regardless of which browser I used.

To work around this annoyance, I found that I needed to tweak the frame rate of the animation in timeline mode. 

Here's how.

First off, make sure the QuickTime player is installed. Photoshop uses QuickTime to render video into layers, and the video must be viewable in QuickTime in order to be imported properly; if it's not and using some unrecognized video codec, it might import as a series of blank frames.

In Windows Explorer, right-click on the video file you want to import, and click the Details tab. Note the frame rate of the video in question is 25 frames per second (fps).

Click File => Import => Video Frames to Layers and import your video into Photoshop.

In Photoshop, perform edits you want, such as removing frames, adding text, whatever you need to do for your animation.

Ensure the Animation panel is visible by clicking Window and verifying a checkmark is beside Animation. Then, click on the button in the lower-right area of the frame view, which has a tooltip "Convert to timeline animation". Upon doing this, the frame view will disappear and be replaced with a timeline showing the layers stacked upon each other.

You should also notice that in the timeline view, the frame rate is shown. Note how it differs from the original frame rate of the imported video.

Now we alter the animation's frame rate to correspond to the original video's frame rate. In the upper-right corner of the Animation panel you should see a tiny upside-down triangle. Click this to reveal the Animation panel's popup menu, then click Document Settings.

Now the Document Timeline Settings window appears, from which you can change the Frame Rate from the default of 30 to the value corresponding to that of your imported video, in this case, 25.

Finally, click File => Save for Web & Devices to save the project as an animated GIF according to the settings you require. The resulting GIF should now be in sync with the original video in terms of frame rate, and render at about the same speed rather than annoyingly slow.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Gee thanks, South Park!

Oh South Park, you think you couldn't drop a deuce on the English language for unsuspecting citizens?? Well, think again! As this clip from the episode Margaritaville demonstrates, you've succeeded in corrupting thousands of minds, making them pure as the driven-through snow!  

From the episode...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Free Credit Report

A good credit score is important for securing loans or incurring other types of debt.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the Fair Credit Reporting Act includes a provision whereby the big three credit reporting companies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) must provide you, free of charge, a copy of your credit report annually.

The easiest way to get the ball rolling is to visit the official site,, and fill out their form. 

Eventually you'll be forwarded to each credit reporting site, in turn, to input some answers to security questions. Then you can either view your report online, or download it in PDF form. You can also view the report in printer-friendly format, then use a free utility like Cute PDF Writer to "print" the report to a PDF file.

I had no idea one could obtain a completely FREE report of your credit history from the big three companies in this way, so score one for government working for the people.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Obtain Element Coordinates Using JQuery

I'm working on a project with ASP.NET and JQuery where I need to be able to obtain the coordinates for a div element in response to a button click. I found an example here, but I wanted to get not just the top and left values, but be able to obtain coordinates of all four corners.

To do this, I make use of JQuery's position, height, and width functions, then simply use some arithmetic to obtain the coordinates and finally display them. 

Here's an example. First, the markup:
<%@ Page Title="Home Page" Language="C#" AutoEventWireup="true" CodeFile="Default.aspx.cs" Inherits="_Default" %>

Div Coordinates

I am a div.

Now, the code behind: 

protected void Button1_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
     Label1.Text = "Top Left: " + hfTop.Value + ", " + hfLeft.Value;
     Label2.Text = "Top Right: " + hfTop.Value + ", " + hfRight.Value;
     Label3.Text = "Bottom Left: " + hfBottom.Value + ", " + hfLeft.Value;
     Label4.Text = "Bottom Right: " + hfBottom.Value + ", " + hfRight.Value;

In a nutshell, the button click first triggers the OnClientClick event, which calls the JQuery functions to populate the values of the HiddenField objects. Then, the OnClick method takes those values and concatenates them in the code behind into coordinate pairs to display as the label text.
In cases where we need specific coordinates of each corner of a div element in response to a click event, this method works nicely.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Firefox Performance Problems

Lately I've noticed Firefox seems to be lagging as of the latest release of version 12. 

Since my earlier post regarding setting Firefox up to utilize CPU affinity in Windows, things have been manageable, but lately a familiar flavor of failure seems to have crept back into this latest release.

If I leave Firefox open and running overnight with my usual group of a dozen or so tabs open, as soon as I resume activity in the morning, I notice in Task Manager that Firefox has one of my system's CPU cores at 100% usage, and has well over 1.7 GB of system memory in use, far more than what typically ranges from 400 to 700 MB on an average day.

Any given morning, thanks to Firefox.

More often than not, once I clear this CPU usage spike by ending the firefox.exe process, when I reopen Firefox I'm greeted with tabs notifying me of add-on updates that have been applied. 

This same issue seemed to be absent as of, say, version 10, but appears to have recently reemerged, at least in my experience on several different PCs running Windows 7.

A common thread among established users on the Firefox support forum points to the various add-ons users have installed. Clearly, many of them say, this is the culprit, and the often the user is advised to open Firefox sans add-ons and attempt to reproduce the problem by enabling add-ons one by one and testing after each to determine which might be the culprit.

I have no desire to invest the time and effort in something that I think developers and analysts at Mozilla should be hammering out themselves. It seems that if you release a platform on which users will develop add-ons, there should be safeguards in place to prevent poor coding from disrupting the integrity of the browser's functionality.

That being said, if you have a 64-bit system, consider trying out Waterfox, a Firefox build which emphasizes performance and speed, and mitigates a lot of whatever lurks in Firefox's codebase that might be causing this excessive memory usage and lag.

Perhaps it's some insidious conspiracy to make it so that when your computer is otherwise asleep at night, Firefox will rear its head and ramp up CPU usage and therefore power consumption, making an impact, however small, on world oil prices, driving up costs and compelling people to bite the bullet and get off the grid with their own solar, wind, nuclear, or other alternative power source.

I've had crazier ideas!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Magnets, How They DO Work

Love bug season has descended unexpectedly early here in north central Florida.

Love bugs love lovin' at our expense.
Swarms of these annoying insects, male and female joined at the butt, fly adrift, ready albeit unwilling to let themselves be splattered at high speed against the finish of your car. Given time and accelerated by summer heat, their acidic gut chemistry can pit the paint and fill the delicate fins of your radiator with bug parts.

An easy, somewhat ghetto measure can be taken to protect the radiator and engine compartment from these annoying insects. All you need is some plastic screening material, a dead hard drive, and scissors.

I drive a minivan, so I don't much care about its finish, I'm more concerned about function than form. In my case, I just cut a swatch of plastic screening material large enough to cover the radiator openings in the front grille, then secured it at either top corner with a rare-earth magnet salvaged from a long-dead hard drive.

The few inches of overlap will allow the screen to stay draped over the grille openings while driving, as will the curve of the grille itself. A masochist might go so far as to have a wire mesh complete with some power running through it to act as a mobile bug zapper and decrease the bug population, but I lack the motivation and time to go that far, I'm content to just keep them out.

Now my engine can remain bug free, without compromising airflow the engine needs so that the radiator can dissipate heat on the road.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Inconsistent Line Ending Style

In trying to commit some changes to SVN using the TortoiseSVN client, I received an odd error for a single SQL database table script text file:

Inconsistent line ending style

On the TortoiseSVN forums someone suggested that this might have occurred because someone edited the file in multiple editors, and somewhere in the process happened to slip in a line feed particular to their editor which version 1.7.4 of our Apache Subversion server found disagreeable.

To work around this, I was able to open the file in Microsoft Word, then save the file as plain text, with Windows (Default) chosen for text encoding:

Why SVN server scrutinizes the line feeds is unclear to me, but thankfully whomever committed the offending change made it to just this one file out of hundreds in the repository.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pick One Random Number from a Set of Numbers

A while back I posted a means to generate random numbers in SQL. I ran across a situation where I need to pick one number randomly from a set of numbers.

I found a decent solution here, but I didn't want to create a separate view and scalar function for this task.

Instead I create a table variable with a single integer column as the primary key. Next, I insert each of the values of the small set of numbers into the table variable. Finally, I perform a SELECT against the table variable with NEWID() specified in the ORDER BY clause, so that a randomly-chosen member of the set will be returned. 

        DECLARE @Code int

        DECLARE @Codes TABLE
            Code int PRIMARY KEY
        INSERT INTO @Codes (Code) VALUES (3)  
        INSERT INTO @Codes (Code) VALUES (6)
        INSERT INTO @Codes (Code) VALUES (9)
        INSERT INTO @Codes (Code) VALUES (12)

        IF @Code IS NULL
            SELECT TOP 1 @Code = Code FROM @Codes ORDER BY NEWID()

In my case this is to provide a stored procedure, which may or may not have a value provided for the @Code input parameter, be able to automatically pick a random value in case @Code is NULL. The table variable isn't necessary if the value being picked is among the primary key values of an existing table; a random selection can be obtained simply by doing a SELECT with NEWID().

Thursday, March 22, 2012


All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

There, now that the legal mumbo jumbo is out of the way, to put it more succinctly, read this at your own risk. I absolutely will not be responsible for any misuse of information contained wherein which happens to be detrimental to the well being of yourself, your Facebook friends, your in-laws, nor anyone else in the whole world, in perpetuity. 

Even the Jedi have no sway here! 

They, too, are bound by galactic law, despite their deep desire to eradicate the Sith. Indeed, were the Jedi to attempt to take this site down by Force, figuratively or literally, I would use the Sith powers at my disposal to squish their testicles or ovaries into raisin-like remnants of their former glory! Then would they know the TRUE power of the Force and the Dark side!

Well. Enough of that, let's party!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Freaky Friday, Reddit Style

Not like this, Reddit. Not like this. Once again, the Reddit-headed step child appears to be looming as inexplicably comments have ceased to be visible as of around 10:30 am EST.

Have the admins tapped a keg early? Has a lowly intern been given the keys to admin access enabling them to wreak havoc upon the database?? Who knows. Perhaps Reddit needs a makeover.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cents and Sensibility

I recently received a check in the mail for the eBay vs Yingling class-action lawsuit.

This makes no cents whatsoever.

Friday, January 20, 2012

DD-WRT Port Forwarding Problems

Recently I bought a Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH wireless router accompanied with a branded version of the popular third-party linux-based firmware DD-WRT to replace my previous router, also a Buffalo but an older model, the WHR-HP-G54
Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH2, my soon-to-be-nemesis.

My old router ran rock solid for 5+ years' worth of torrenting and wireless and innumerable bits of data transfer until inexplicably one day a power surge appeared to have killed the wireless. Wireless is too handy not to have, so I bid my venerable router farewell. I figured this also would be the opportunity to do something I hadn't tried in some time, host a web server on my local machine. My ISP doesn't block port 80, so I figured I could pretty easily set up port forwarding and invite some folks to test out a site I've been developing.

I began by setting up Port Forwarding for TCP port 80 to my computer's IP address on my LAN in DD-WRT. I also used DynDNS to redirect a custom public URL to the dynamic IP address assigned by my ISP. Curiously, after rebooting the router, for some reason port 80 traffic returned "The connection has timed out" in Firefox, not only when I tried to hit the URL from a remote session to a computer at my office, but even using that same URL or even the local IP address on my own LAN. 

To rule out the possibility of my ISP blocking port 80 traffic, I tried setting up a spare Linksys WRTG54 v6 router I had lying around, using its factory firmware to set up a port forwarding rule. This worked fine, so clearly my ISP was not to blame. Indeed, a visit to CanYouSeeMe confirmed that port 80 was closed off to the outside world.

Undaunted, I decided to upgrade to the newest firmware from the manufacturer's support site. Buffalo seems to have had a bit of a disconnect with their product labeling. Whereas I thought I'd ordered the WZR-HP-G300NH, the model number on the router itself indicated it was actually a WZR-HP-G300NH2, which turns out to have different internals. The product dropdown list indicated two flavors of this particular router, both indicating WZR-HP-G300NH, and to the far right, one indicated as v1, the other v2.

This in itself was no big deal until I tried updating to the latest available firmware from Buffalo's support site. I assumed WZR-HP-G300NH2 corresponded to the entry for WZR-HP-G300NH v2, and chose the firmware accordingly. I proceeded to update the firmware via DD-WRT installed at the factory, and even got a message that the update went successfully and that the router commenced a reboot. Minutes passed, the DIAG light on the router flashing for a while, at first, but then ominously steady.

I left it for an hour to grab something to eat. When I returned, the steady DIAG stared me in the face. I went ahead and cycled power on the router, and the DIAG again stayed steady. Worse, the router's DHCP appeared dead, leaving Windows to assign the default IP via its APIPA, a fallback in case the router doesn't give out an IP address dynamically. The router didn't even respond when I assigned a static IP in its default subnet.

My shiny new router became officially bricked.

I managed to unbrick the router thanks to this blog post and at least install a compatible build of DD-WRT contributed by Brainslayer, a DD-WRT forum user, located on the DD-WRT FTP site here

Incidentally, the DD-WRT Router Database is currently clueless about the existence of the G300NH2 version of the router; the "official" build of DD-WRT I downloaded on the off chance it might work (wzr-hp-g300nh-dd-wrt-webupgrade-MULTI.bin) upgraded fine, according to the DD-WRT web interface, but the router bricked shortly after rebooting without any message indicating failure. Attempting to use this same build to upgrade via TFTP returned "Unsupport MODEL." which seems to indicate that the GUI overlooked the crucial problem with trying to apply a firmware that the router's most basic boot code recognized as an incompatible version... but I digress!

I then researched port forwarding issues and posted details to the DD-WRT forums as well as ServerFault, and although I was able to fix the issue with port forwarding failing from a computer on the LAN thanks to a workaround posted on the forums, no matter what DD-WRT build I tried, external port forwarding failed.

After literally dozens of attempts to reflash the firmware with various builds of DD-WRT, searching for alternative firmwares like Tomato and HyperWRT only to find that they support the G300NH, not the G300NH2, I finally settled on OpenWRT. They, at least, have a wiki specific to the v2 version of the router, albeit one that doesn't appear toward the top of the search results. I also found a wiki for the v1 model, riddled with warnings about the mysterious hardware discrepancies between the v1 and v2 models, interspersed with various "fix me" tags which didn't bode well.

Fix Me? Warning?? Super.

Unfortunately, a big disappointment for me was OpenWRT's lack of a native web interface. I've used Linux so that's not so much of a problem, it's just more scripting and typing that I'd rather relegate to a web interface designed for the job. DD-WRT is leaps and bounds ahead of OpenWRT as far as its web interface is concerned.

Nevertheless, I found a separate web interface for OpenWRT named LuCI. I used the same TFTP method I'd utilized to unbrick the router to install OpenWRT itself, then proceeded to download and install LuCI. This seemingly simple process caused tremendous grief for several reasons, mainly through inconsistent documentation and aggravatingly terse responses to questions in myriad forum posts.

Case in point, I encountered numerous forum postings where someone reasonable familiar with Linux tries following steps outlined in the wiki to install the firmware and the web interface, but encounters a build error. All too often, the expert response to this conundrum essentially was "just do it this way" or "that's what you get for doing x instead of y".

Questions came to mind. Do what which way? How should I try what you're suggesting? What the hell is the context of this task with which you are intimately familiar, but which I, a mere Linux tourist, am unaware of? Those aren't the kind of replies that facilitate a satisfactory resolution of a problem. At best they're static, at worst they're a brush-off by someone who thinks they're doing you a tremendous service by graciously responding to your plea for advice with a few vague words.

As of now, my once bricked router is successfully running OpenWRT with LuCI. BONUS, port forwarding works!

From LuCI, clicking on Network => Firewall and then the Add button under the Redirections section lets you set up a forwarding rule. OpenWRT with LuCI may not win in the intuitive web interface department, but that's far less important than being able to freakin' port foward!

Problem solved, and thus ends a journey down a road I hope to never take again. If somehow I'm stuck having to go this route (pun intended) once again, I'm taking this router out back and crushing it to dust with a sledgehammer (its potential replacement is already en route from NewEgg just in case).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blackout, or Blackmail?

Today, Wikipedia joins a host of other sites participating in a protest against SOPA and PIPA, legislation which threatens to cripple the internet as we know it.

In solidarity with this movement, a "blackout" page appears when you try to view a given Wikipedia article.

This is a token gesture at best, meant to prevent the majority of netizens from browsing their content. It's trivial to set up a rule in the Element HIding Helper for AdBlock Plus which prevents this banner from appearing in Firefox.

Here's how to view Wikipedia articles despite the blackout:

1. Tap the Alt key to view the menu in Firefox.

2. Click Tools => AdBlock Plus => Filter Preferences.

3. Add the following element hiding rule:

As a longtime geek and software developer, it only took minutes for me to find a way around the blackout. It's easy to take for granted the ease of access we all have to vast
stores of information on the web. 

My first reaction to the blackout made me think blackmail

Here we have Wikipedia essentially holding their information hostage, allowing a relatively small minority with the skills and wherewithal to work around the block, while the rest scrabble around looking for other sites with information they need, or... gasp... going outside and walking to the public library to interact with a real, living human being to do their research.

For the duration of Wikipedia's blackout, there may be some who will suffer, albeit on the level of many relatively trivial first-world problems. Students scrambling to finish their research paper due later today will have to make do with various other sites that tell you about alternatives or help you work around the block. Someone looking up the etymology of mango for trivia with friends over lunch will have to look past the first or second search engine result.

Yet, it is sobering to think how much people will suffer should SOPA in its initially proposed form pass. Freedom of information is core to the internet and fundamental to the continually evolving paradigm introduced by the information age. Clearly SOPA threatens that liquidity of information and, in fairly typical form, reveals how ignorant politicians succumb to the swansong of SOPA supporters trying the latest shotgun approach in a weak effort to combat theft of intellectual property.

I'm happy to share information which will enable others to freely view Wikipedia despite the blackout, but in retrospect perhaps Wikipedia realized how easy it would be to work around the block, and get others at a similar place in life as myself to think for a moment about what it might be like for the rich Persian rug of information to be swept out from under our feet with the fall of a gavel in Congress.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Update DNS on NameCheap for Blogger

Having recently swapped my domain over from GoDaddy to NameCheap (using the latter's BYEBYEGD coupon for a bit of a discount), I needed to update my domain configuration on NameCheap with the proper A and CNAME records for Blogger to link to my domain name.

Google provides info on how to create a CNAME record for a custom domain for several registrars, GoDaddy among them, but NameCheap's configuration was less than intuitive to find and update.

I found it from My Account > Manage Domains > Modify Domain, and then under Host Management clicked All Host Records. Then I applied the info in the Google help page to my domain configuration: