Favorite stupid google assistant trick of the day

Hey google: set a 6 minute timer for coffee

Hey google: set a 10 minute timer for burgers

Hey google: set a 11 minute timer for cookies

and so on.  You can have multiple timers going at once, and then ask how much time left for one of them, like:  Hey Google: How much time left for cookies? and it will respond and do the right thing.  Super useful in the kitchen and now you don’t have to touch a physical timer, reducing cross-contamination issues.

The best kind of car to get for the next decade…

It is time to retire the family vehicle and look for what is going to get us around.  Our 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has served us well for 130,000 miles but it’s time to say goodbye and look toward the future.

Our choices have been narrowed down to either the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV or the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica PHEV .  Both have about 30 miles of all-electric range.  With either of these vehicles – we would hardly buy any gas.  We have a first-gen 2011 Nissan Leaf, so we know what our daily driving looks like with batteries.  30 miles of electric range would serve over 90% of our driving needs and we’d only need gas for the occasional trip out of the immediate Bay Area, like to go to Santa Cruz, Monterey or Tahoe.

Plug-in hybrids give you the best of pure electric vehicles – the great torque and acceleration you get with electric motors, and the great in-town gas mileage of a hybrid, and the range of a diesel.  You can recharge and not use gas – as long as it is convenient to do so – and pull in to any gas station to refuel when it isn’t.

We regularly drive from the SF Bay Area to Central Washington, an 800-mile trip.  With either of these vehicles we can drive up there and fill up once at the halfway point in Bend, OR.  Once we get up to WA we can recharge at home at $0.04/KWh.  At those power prices it is like paying $1.30/gal for gas.  (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gasoline_gallon_equivalent)

We haven’t even mentioned the $10K in tax breaks (roughly $6500 Fed / $3500 Cali).  Although with the current Insane Clown Posse resident in our nation’s capitol – I wouldn’t hold out hope for the Fed tax credit to stick around for very long.  If you are in the market for a new vehicle and you are considering a PHEV or BEV – don’t wait.

Do the math.  Compare PHEVs to regular hybrids and regular gas cars.   A PHEV can more than cover the higher payment with lower fuel costs and the tax breaks.

Bitcoin Wallet Rebuild

We are rebuilding our hardware bitcoin wallets again.

Why? First, to document the build procedure in excruciating detail. Second, to try to break it and find additional problems. Third, to try to make the installation less hardware dependent and more portable – maybe to even run on any PC from a USB stick?

After we rebuild this time, we fully expect to find some more issues that need to be resolved, but we are close to actually trusting these things with real bitcoin.

Powerline networking is awesome until it doesn’t work.

What is Powerline networking?  Basically, you get a wall plug module that you plug in to an electrical outlet, and it has an ethernet network jack you plug in to a free port on your Internet router/gateway.  This then lets you plug in another module in any other electrical outlet and extend your network.  The main use is to connect more WiFi access points to extend WiFi coverage across a property.  I have been doing this successfully at multiple installations until now – it appears that the building I want to connect to is on a different electrical phase and there isn’t a simple way to bridge it.  So, we pivot.  We have been using the Ubiquiti UniFi controller-managed wireless access points, they now have mesh networking access points that can extend a wireless network into new places one $99 access point at a time and automatically self-configure after they are adopted into your existing UniFi network.  Stay tuned for more…

Buy vs Build on security cameras

There are a lot of choices for security cameras these days, and for the home or small business owner the choices can be overwhelming.

I have installed and used systems ranging from the costco/best buy/amazon security appliance with wired (and sometimes wireless cameras) to systems with a standards-based security DVR (I usually get a refurbished business-class desktop running Windows 10 Pro to install security DVR software onto, adding extra disks for the video storage) and open standards-based wireless and wired IP security cameras.  There are a wide range of cameras available from different manufacturers to meet different requirements.    Prices for cameras can range from $30 for a pan-tilt-zoom capable 1MP indoor camera to  $460 for a high-end pole-mounted PTZ camera with a 30x power zoom.  The nice thing about open systems is being able to fit the hardware to your needs and not being locked into a single vendor for parts or service.   The open system may take a little more effort to set up than puling out an appliance and plugging it in – but the end result is a much nicer system that is easier to use with much higher quality web, android and iOS apps.

Of the appliance-based security DVRs – the ones from Revo, Lorex and Q-See are the safest choices.  None of them are going to be as good as an open ONVIF/Milestone Xprotect system, but there are a lot of lesser systems than those three that are real garbage.  I won’t name names here – but some of the systems from Costco that aren’t the 3 brands listed above are real stinkers.  Access is only from android and iOS apps, no web access at all, for example.  The other systems listed above do have web access, but some are limited to only working with Internet Explorer.  The web access from Milestone Xprotect Essential is HTML5-based and works in multiple browsers on multiple platforms.  The situations where I would use an appliance over a Milestone system is if all the cameras can be easily wired to the appliance – like to cover a specific room or area rather than a whole house or trying to cover indoors and outdoors with the same system.

If you are considering a security system – find an installer you can trust that can recommend the best solution for your situation.  Work with them to come up with a reasonable plan, and you will end up with an easy to use functional security cameras across your property.

HP shipped laptops with keyloggers installed. We have HP laptops but we aren’t panicking.

The laptops we purchased to be dedicated Bitcoin wallets are HP. HP is in the news for having shipped computers with keyloggers pre-installed. It turns out that the microphone tray applet for the sound card drivers shipped with these computers happened to be logging every single keystroke to a unencrypted unprotected file. It turns out that this is only the case with the windows drivers and software. If windows is removed and is completely replaced by x a boon to, as is in our case, this vulnerability simply does not exist.

The reason we replaced windows for exhibition to is that 100% of the software is open source and the source code is visible and available for inspection. That also applies to the sound card, WiFi, keyboard, and all other drivers and software on the system. Given this latest incident from HP and Microsoft, I’m not sure how I could ever trust a Windows system ever again for critical Computing tasks. It frightens me to no end that critical medical devices and Fire Control Systems on US Naval warships both run Windows.

More on security cameras and Wifi

We went to go Implement our new cable modem, router, access points, security DVR and WiFi IP security cameras yesterday, and things went pretty smoothly. At the end of the day we had the security DVR setup, the cameras recording, and the cable modem from Comcast replaced with our own purchased equipment.

The basic sequence of events went like this:

First, we called our internet provider. In our case that was Comcast. We told them we wanted to stop using their least cable modem and want to use our own. They asked for the model number and MAC address of our new equipment, which is located on a barcode on the bottom of the modem. I find it helpful to take a picture with my camera so I can zoom in on it too clearly see the numbers to give them to the Comcast representative.

After Comcast gave us to go ahead we remove the old equipment and plugged in our new cable modem and connected it to a laptop with an Ethernet interface. After confirming we were able to get an IP address from Comcast and get online, we went ahead and configured our new router and then plugged are new security DVR into the private side, setup the WiFi controller and adopted the access points, configured the WiFi on our new security cameras to join the new network, and then added the cameras to the security DVR. Tomorrow I will be returning to permanently Mount the cameras in their final location and deal with tomorrow I will be returning to permanently Mount the cameras in there final location and deal with routing and mounting the cables.

Back to WiFi and Security Cameras

Have a client that has several problems – home has an issue with spotty WiFi and their cars are getting broken into in their driveway.

The house was built in the 1920’s with plaster and lath.  The entire home is a Faraday Cage.  (too much metal in the walls) Fortunately, there is some wired ethernet already installed between the first and second levels of the home.  We’ll install better, more powerful, Ubiquiti access points with a WiFi controller, creating one seamless wifi network across the entire property. Replace their leased Comcast cable equipment (reducing monthly bill) with a new, much better, cable modemrouterWiFi access points and a WiFI controller. All purchased from Amazon.

To deal with the security issue, we will install a security Digital Video Recorder, using their old mac laptop, some security DVR software and a pair of wireless 1080p WiFI ONVIF cameras.(which can be placed anywhere, as needed)

Install is coming up this weekend. We’ll keep you updated on how it goes!

Turning our $180 Target hardware bitcoin wallets into multi-altcoin wallets

Well, we took a a pair cheap cloudbooks from Target and repurposed them as Linux-based hardware bitcoin wallets with a complete open-source (and thus, more trusted) software stack.  No black boxes here.

Now we need to add wallets for other coins like Ethereum, ZCash, Dash, Ripple and others.  These systems come with 32GB of flash storage, we’ll see if we need to add more storage via the SD card slot or not.  If we do, that volume will need to be encrypted either with LVM or by making it the home folder and enabling home folder encryption.  We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.

For now, we want to be able to run Coinomi, an open-source android wallet.  How do we run Android?  With . VirtualBox.

Our first in-depth tutorial – coming shortly – will detail how to install VirtualBox, Android and Coinomi, in that order.

Stay Tuned!