Archive for the 'Computers' Category

Automated Backups of OpnSense

January 31st, 2017

I use rsnapshot, on Centos 7, to manage the vast majority of my backups across a myriad of linux servers both within my network and across the globe. I’ve never blogged about the entirety of that process, but I wanted to post a quick note about how I use rsnapshot to also backup the configuration of my router.

Until recently, I had been using this process to backup my pfSense routers. With my switch to OPNsense though, I was pleased to see the process is the same.

Basically, we just need to make a copy of a single folder on the machine, ‘/conf’, which is located right off of the root on both pfSense an OpnSense.

Step one is to make sure you have a user setup on the router that can connect over SSH. For OpnSense you need to log into the web portal and navigate to System -> Settings -> Administration. Check the box to ‘Enable Secure Shell’ and ‘Permit Password login’. (We’ll disable password logins in a moment)

Cleaning up old Logs on Centos 7

January 16th, 2017

As often happens with computers of all types, log files build up over time. Generally speaking, the operating system will rotate these logs, which means it breaks them up into chunks, but it isn’t usually set to remove the old chunks. Over time, those log files can start to add up.

I am giving some thought to changing the provider of the VPS that hosts this web page, since performance is not consistent and the VPS is not very reliable, and I was curious to know how much disk space I needed for the system to run well. After doing some light clean up on the system I did a check to see where on the disk I was using the most space.

Using the following command, I did a search to find out which folders contained the most data:

du -a / | sort -n -r | head -n 10

Interesting Failure Modes – SD Card Arching

August 22nd, 2016

I’ve been using Raspberry Pi computers for several years. A few months ago the Raspberry Pi B I had hooked up to my TV and running OpenElec, stopped working. The Pi was locked up and then wouldn’t reboot when I pulled the power cord.

It’s an original B model, with just two USB ports, so I didn’t think much of it. I prepped and put in place a replacement Pi, also running OpenElec, and threw the Pi into a drawer for further inspection..later. I got 4 years faithful service from a $35 computer so I wasn’t complaining.

Some weeks later, I had an idea that I wanted to use a Raspberry Pi for so I grabbed the questionable unit and got to work.

My standard way to prep a Pi is to use raspbian-ua-netinst (https://github.com/debian-pi/raspbian-ua-netinst/). It doesn’t require a huge download, and it doesn’t automatically install a GUI and a bunch of software I don’t want.

How To: A Clean install of Windows 7 in 2016

April 25th, 2016

Maybe I’m alone here, but I still have occasion to install Windows 7 from time to time. For a while, that was no big deal; Install the OS, update, update, update and you’re good to go. Lately though, the process has become far more cumbersome. Not only does the process take ages to complete, but when you’re done its always nagging you to update to Windows 10. What follows is my process for getting this done without too much hassle.

Firstly, I’ve not created anything new here. I’ve simply found a series of tools and bit of information online that helped me along the way so I’m compiling it here for my future benefit.

Step 1 – Get the OS installed. After that, if your copy of Windows 7 doesn’t including Service Pack 1, go here and download it: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=5842. Install. Reboot. Service packs include a large number of updates so it’s much faster to get the service pack installed first thing after the install than it is to use Windows Update to find it and download it.

Install Centos 6 on a Non-PAE Machine

March 12th, 2015

I have a Thecus N5200 that was modified to have a VGA port. Though the machine will run a variety of current Linux distributions, I wanted it to run Centos 6. Unfortunately, the N5200 doesn’t support PAE, which Centos 6 requires.

The first major problem is that a Non-PAE machine won’t even boot the Centos installer CD/DVD. You have to find some way around that. There are several ways to get around that but they are all quite complex and time-consuming. Plus, as time goes on they work less and less. The old software needed is harder and harder to find. I instead chose to simply install Stella. It’s a Desktop focused Linux distribution that is based on Centos 6 and the 32bit version includes a Non-PAE kernel. If you’re looking to install a Centos 6 desktop, install Stella and you’re all set. It’s great. The developer did a great job keeping things compatible with Centos 6 while also adding in things like video codecs and the like.

Thecus N5200 as a Server

March 12th, 2015

Back in 2007, I bought a Thecus N5200 to use as bulk storage on my network. I’ve spent many years using and fighting with the unit but it wasn’t until my storage needs out grew the 5 SATA disks it could hold that I considering sending it off to be recycled.

It’s a pretty basic unit. From Thecus it arrived with 5 hot swap SATA disk trays and a simple web-based management interface. The interface wasn’t great at telling you exactly what the state of your disks were so I lost my data with this unit more than once. Over time though Thecus added a method to install add ons and little by little people started to write add ons for the unit and actually increased its feature set. You could get an add-on to allow you to access the unit over SSH and to set up rsync file copies to a second location. Overtime, it became very useful and it’s remained in almost constant use.

Portable Pi – Raspberry Pi with a Motorola Lapdock 100

December 17th, 2014

Having read countless accounts online from people who have taken various lapdocks and paired them with a Raspberry Pi, I thought I would give it a try myself.

I went to Ebay and purchased a Motorola Lapdock 100. It’s a small unit with a cable that comes out that back. This cable has a header with a Micro-USB and Micro-HDMI connector on it. General wisdom seems to be buying series of adapters and cables and then sort of whittling them down until they fit. I dutifully bought the necessary bits but when the Lapdock arrived it seemed much easier to just take apart that cable header instead.

What I discovered is that inside that header is simply the two cables held in place with some soft plastic. Having removed the plastic and cutting back the cable, I have two loose cables that I can use freely.

Lapdock Cable Crop

With the addition of two adapters to bring the two micro connectors up to full size, which the Raspberry Pi needs, I was off and running.

Installing X-Plane 10 on Fedora 20

July 24th, 2014

I’m a bit of an aviation buff and have been known to spend a fair few hours playing flight sims. My favorite sim these days is X-Plane, and thankfully it runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. My current host for X-Plane is Fedora 20 and since there is a bit of extra effort to make it run properly, I thought I’d outline my process here.

First and foremost – This post assumes you have installed the appropriate graphics drivers and are not running whatever drivers were just included ‘in the box’, as it were. My system has an NVidia GeForce GT 640 and I use the akmod-nvidia drvivers from RPM Fusion, which works great. A quick Google search should turn up an appropriate process for your computer.

pfSense and the ALIX.2D2

January 21st, 2009

In a recent post I detailed my current saga of server trouble. This time around I was having router trouble causing this website, and others, to fall offline. Not that much fun…

When life hands you lemons though, one needs to try to make lemonade. Since I needed to replace hardware I wanted to make sure I put in place some hardware I could trust to last another 5 years and hardware that would sip power… not guzzle it down like the now dead antique desktop tower computer had. My needs are pretty low performance-wise and I don’t need to have a super high performance setup. I just need a powerful feature set.

I left off on the other post basically trying out pfSense to see if it would fit my needs, and a few weeks later I can comfortably say that yes, it does. It’s much more pleasant to use then IPCop was and though it’s more powerful, and thus more complex to use, it still remains simple enough to setup without have to dig through piles of documentation. The interesting part of the swap though is the hardware.

Servers, You Gotta Love them…

January 8th, 2009

My home network is more complicated then most. I host some web sites, my email servers, and various other ancillary services that the average person doesn’t need, or want to worry about. As an IT person though it behooves me to have a test bed to try out new things, without the risk of losing company data.

In recent years I have been using IPCop as the gateway between my home network and the outside world. Generally speaking, it’s worked just great. I rarely had to reboot it and the web interface was usable, if slow. The only draw back for me is that they don’t seem to favor low power machines. Sure, you could build a smallish computer using less then 100 watts and run IPCop on it but when you are talking about handing some basic routing for internet access and the like that sure seems like an insane amount of energy to be using 24 hours a day 7 days a week. IPCop was, as far as I can tell, designed to be run on old hardware; It’s for that computer you don’t use anymore but can’t throw away. I had been using it on an old PII 500Mhz setup and was happy to be re-using the machine. That machine though has finally bit the dust and needs to be replaced.

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