Generators and Open Source Part 2 – Always a better mousetrap

by on Feb.15, 2022, under Embedded devices, Hardware, Hardware Pr0n, How-To's, Miscellaneous

Nagios Monitoring

In Part 1, I discussed the research, physical installation, a bit of maintenance, and the overall basic operation of the Generac 22kW Guardian whole home generator. In this post, we’ll go over the monitoring of the generator and quickly outline the vendor’s supplied option as well as the Open Source option I decided on, and even up contributing to! Yes, even though I’m not a developer, I managed to contribute to an Open Source project and helped the developer out!

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Generators and Open Source Part 1 – Learning from the past

by on Feb.15, 2022, under Hardware, Hardware Pr0n, Product Reviews

Being a homeowner isn’t for the faint of heart, there’s always a chance for things to go wrong, especially considering that we’re in Texas and well… *gestures at the Valentine’s day week of February 2021*. So with that being said, as soon as the ink was dry on our house contract and we had closed, I was already in process of soliciting for a standby whole home generator. This three part article will cover everything from the decision making process of the generator and its installation (this article), how I monitor the generator using GenMon, an opensource application suite on Github (Part II), and lastly, how I implemented Grafana, Prometheus, and SNMP Exporter (Part III) to get the level of monitoring I am comfortable with.

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Check on the ERCOT grid using cURL and jq

by on Feb.01, 2022, under How-To's, Miscellaneous, Quick Hacks, Software

So, if you’re a Texan, you already know who ERCOT is and you already know what’s going to happen in the next few days. If you’re not Texan, or you haven’t been eyeing the weather, it’s going to freeze. If you’re not sure what the connection to freezing weather and ERCOT, I’d recommend reading up on it here: Wikipedia This quick hack article isn’t about them per se, but something that might be helpful to keep an eye on the grid in the upcoming winter storm.

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Life: Preparing for the big shutdown.

by on Jul.22, 2021, under Miscellaneous

This article is going to be different than the others that I post simply because there’s no delicate way to approach the subject of death. Unfortunately death is inevitable and as with many things, there’s tasks and talks you can do now (even if they’re uncomfortable) to ensure that your online presence will live on when you eventually pass.

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Op-Ed: TOS enforcement is not a 1A violation!

by on Jan.11, 2021, under Editorial/Opinion

Unless you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t read any news, social media, or even talked to anyone for the past week and a half, you know that some really screwed up stuff’s been happening. In this article, we’ll touch lightly on what all happened in DC, the fallout, and the reason why Parler was kicked off of AWS. Contrary to the popular “conspiracy theory” belief, we will step through why Parler was kicked.

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Op-Ed: Passwords – The cause of and solution to online problems

by on Jan.24, 2020, under Editorial/Opinion, Miscellaneous, Security, Software

Anyone that’s been online as long as I have (and yes, there are many that have been online for far longer) knows that your passwords getting leaked and compromised isn’t a question of “if” but rather a question of “when”. As we continue onward in the online world, it’s critically important now more than ever to have a strong password policy and to actually enforce your strong password policy! I italicized the last bit as this will be the crux of this entire article as I experienced a password breach for the first time.

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Quick Hack: Smartctl tests in a nutshell

by on Nov.19, 2019, under Hardware, Miscellaneous, Quick Hacks

This quick hack is a quick “need to know” list of Linux’s smartctl commands for hard drive diagnosis. I highly recommend using a USB drive dock for analyzing suspect drives. These commands are OS agnostic provided you’re running the vendor provided smartctl for either Linux or BSD.

For the purposes of this article, /dev/sdb is the drive under test. Make sure you know which /dev entry corresponds with the desired drive.

smartctl -a /dev/sdb Shows all smart attributes of /dev/sdb including test results, and drive make, model, and serial number.

smartctl -t short /dev/sdb Performs a “short” online test of /dev/sdb. Does not print test results. Does not test disk surface readability.

smartctl -t long /dev/sdb Performs a “long” offline test of /dev/sdb. Does not print test results. Tests the entire disk surface for readability and reallocates bad sectors. If your system is under a lot of disk I/O to the disk under test, this will cause the test to take longer to complete (hence running it in a USB dock or other non-system location)

smartctl -c /dev/sdb Estimates how long the disk check will take in minutes (Usually is wrong though, I wouldn’t set my watch by it.)

smartctl -l selftest /dev/sdb Shows the SMART test results table (instead of smartctl -a which shows EVERYTHING).

smartctl -X /dev/sdb Cancels a test in progress.

NOTES: Re-running smartctl -t against a drive already testing will show an error message which includes how long the test will take to complete (unlike smartctl -l, this time is actually more closer to reality).

In some installations that support it, hdparm -S 0 /dev/sdb will prevent a disk from going to sleep, however in theory, the disk should never sleep if it’s under an active test. This will not stop an ACPI sleep or hibernate event from shutting down the disk.

Happy hacking!
FIRESTORM_v1

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Quick Hack: Make a MSDOS Bootable USB drive… with Virtualbox?

by on Jun.29, 2019, under How-To's, Miscellaneous, Quick Hacks

To set the scene for this quick hack, I needed an MSDOS bootable USB drive so that I could flash firmware for a FreeNAS box I was building. Infortunately FreeDOS wasn’t working, unetbootin had failed me, and I was getting desperate. Fortunately VirtualBox to the rescue!… wait, what?

  • Install Virtualbox
  • Acquire a MSDOS .iso from the Internet (they’re out there.)
  • Create a new VM with a 500MB hard drive.
  • Attach the MSDOS iso to the VM and boot it
  • Depending on which MSDOS iso you have, you will need to partition and format the C: drive. Use fdisk to partition the 500MB drive (don’t forget to set it bootable) and then use format c: /s to format the 500MB drive as bootable. Perform the MSDOS installation or copy the DOS directory from the ISO.
  • Shutdown the VM
  • Locate the .VDI for the VM and use VBoxManage to export it to raw: VBoxManage clonehd image.vdi image.img –format raw
  • Use a tool like dd, rawwritewin, or imgburn to write the image.img file to a USB key.
  • Upon successful write, remove then reinsert your USB key. Your machine will mount it as a typical USB drive (Windows/Linux/Mac all behave the same in this regard).
  • Copy over the BIOS flashing utilities, RAID flashing utilities, etc. to the key drive.
  • (Optional) You can also create a \efi\boot directory and place a uefi boot file in there if you need it as well.
  • Eject the USB drive, then boot your target system. The USB disk will show up as drive C:.

The secret sauce is the VBoxManage command. It allows you to export a Virtualbox Disk Image (VDI) to a raw image that can be written to a USB disk. Now you have a solid MSDOS installation on a keydrive for all those damned ROM flashing utilities that will only work in DOS!

Happy hacking!

firestorm_v1

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Site News: Quick Hacks category

by on Jun.29, 2019, under Miscellaneous

Between work and life in general, I haven’t had much time to come up with really noteworthy long posts like I’ve been. It’s been several months since my last post about Cruising with Wi-fi, and a year between that and the previous post.

In an effort to try and produce more content for my site, while not putting too much a damper on work and life, I’ve decided to create a new post category called “Quick Hacks”. This category will be reserved for quick little things that I’ve encountered that are noteworthy, but previously didn’t justify their own full-length post. Now, the category “Quick Hacks” will give these hacks, mods, experiences, and ah-ha moments their own spotlight where they belong.

To my adoring fans (all 142 of you according to the FB page), thank you for hanging around. Here’s to this site’s continued success!

Thank you.

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Cruising with WiFi – Is that a travel router in your pocket?

by on Jan.10, 2019, under Embedded devices, Hardware, Networking

Carnival Vista

Carnival Vista

Internet access on cruise ships is now a common occurrence and more commonly, I get frequent questions on how to “game” the system and get Internet access without paying for it.  The short of it is, you’re going to have to purchase at least one account to get anything online.  The long of it lies in the rest of this article and it’ll be up to you to decide if it’s worth the effort.  Quick spoiler alert:  For me it wasn’t, and I ended up buying another access to get myself and my wife online at the same time.  While it was a punch in the pocketbook, it was a lot cheaper to pay money to resolve than the costs incurred in other areas (time, frustration, etc.).

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