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First Raspberry Pi Lab: Hello There

Hello there!  This is my first attempt at messing with Raspberry Pi.

It’s pretty simple, pretty much everything is from Adafruit.  Including basic script instructions.  I modified few little things and added Obi-won saying “hello there”.

Check it out.

YEAH! UPGRADES!


Currently my laptop is a late-2008 MacBook Pro. It is probably the best laptop that I’ve ever owned. It is definitively the only laptop that I have ever used for more than 1.5 years. This laptop is currently working on it’s 4th year. From the original specs this model of MacBook Pro only suppose to support max of 4 Gigs. Some people before were able to get 6 gigs on it, however, after Lion everything changed. With a firmware upgrade, my late 2008 MacBook Pro supports 8 Gigabyte of RAM!!!! Check out this article for more details.

So with my new found knowledge, I quickly purchased my upgrades from Newegg. This is what I got.

First, Memory… for $40 bucks I was able to double my memory. GREAT DEAL!!!!

Then I decided… maybe I should go ahead and upgrade my HD. I thought about a SSD, but I can only afford a 120GB SSD, which is smaller than my current drive size. The SSD will be must faster, but much smaller. I then saw the Hybrid drives. It got mix reviews, but the price is right, so why not. (note: right after I bought mine, newegg put this drive on promotion, it is now only $89.99!!! DOH for me!!!)

So with my removal of my 250 GB drive, I though it would be nice to have an extra external drive, so I got this case for $7.99. Yeah… pretty cheap huh!!  The best part is I can use this new USB case to transfer all my data to my new drive so I won’t miss a beat!!!!

So with very little money, I’ve refreshed my laptop and hopefully I can get another year or two out of it!!! That will be excellent, if I can do that!!!

Reference:

Winter Furnace Outage of 2011

So two nights ago, my family and I returned home and the house was super cold. My wife asked me if I turned off the heater while we were gone, I immediately know that something was wrong. When I went over to take a look vents, it was just blowing cool air. At the furnace, the blower/fan was running, but there were no flames in the burner. So my trouble shooting begins.

My particular furnace is an Armstrong Ultra Sx80 Natural Gas fired furnace.

1) I checked online and the information that I found was that most likely what happened was that the filter was super dirty and because of this the lack of airflow caused one of the safety switches to trip and prevent the auto pilot lighter to ignite. So what I found out is that there are couple of limit switches and resetable roll-out switches right above the burner. Of course, I changed out the filter above the blower and look for the resetable switches. Once I reset the switches and check the resetable switches with a voltmeter, everything looked good, and …. no fire :(.

2) I then looked online where people said that there could be blockage on the pressure switch and in the hose, so I disconnected the rubber hose, cleaned out both side and check the pressure switch with my voltmeter, and … no fire. :(

I gave up and finally called a furnace guy. The guy showed up and was very friendly, check the basic things that I checked and said oh… your high limit snapdisc temperature breaker was tripped. It was the black connector in the back of the controller. He unscrewed it, pull it out and “smack” the breaker on the side, tested again with the multimeter and plug it back in. turn everything back on and poof!!! it fired up.

So with $99, I learned what a high limit switch/breaker looks like.
And the house is warm again!!!

The funny thing about this was that the furnace tech said that I am his second Electrical Engineer of the day. He said that his first visit today was also an electrical engineer.

DIY: Poor man’s iPad stylus

I bought an iPad 2 not too long ago. I really do like almost everything about it, but every so often I wish I could use a pen to draw on my iPad. After looking online and finding that typical products
Such as

Griffin Technology Stylus

Box Wave’s stylus with a build in pen

These stylus are around $15 to $25 dollars.
So I decided to look for a cheaper DIY solution.

After doing some researching, the popular method is to use conductive foams. This is the same method used in the different commercial pens listed above. The make magazine produced a very popular video about making your own conductive foam iPad stylus.

Collin’s Lab: DIY iPad Stylus (YouTube Video)

I digging through my garage, and did find a small piece of conductive foam, in my pile of electronic stuff, but the foam was harder to locate then I first expected.

Even with my small piece of conductive foam, I was not able to produce a reliable stylus, it seems that all conductive foams are not created equal, and my particular foam is not very conductive and hand a big problem of fading in and out. This made the use of the DIY stylus useless.

Then I found this one from Japan, of using static bags and other conductive bags to make a stylus.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHhB2BF5yQM

I did tried to make the U-tip stylus with a chip bag, and it did work… sort of, still very inconsistent and it was difficult to keep the u piece flat and when the pen is not vertical, then it would not register. Still looking for a better solution.

So before I finally give up, I decided to make my own modification to the Japanese design. So the following is my version 1 of the Poor man’s iPad Stylus.

Starting with static bag material and a pen. I decided to use the backend of a pen, this way I can use the pen as a regular pen (this is similar to the Box Wave’s stylus).

I cut a small strip of static bag material. the strip needs to be as long as possible and a little bit wider than the pen. This way you can tilt your pen slightly and still maintain contact.

First, attach the strip to tip of the pen, in a J shape as shown below with tape.

Second secure the other end of the strip with tape. I recommend putting an additional 2 strips of tapes on the side of the strip to secure it.
CAUTION!!!: make sure the tape don’t cover the static strip completely, in order for the stylus to work, your hand will need to be in contact with the static strip at all time.

And that’s it… check out the video to see how it perform.

Caveats:
– The pen seems to not work as well with screens with screen protective films.
– Make sure that the hand is in contact with the static strip at all time.

References:
U shape conductive stylus (youtube video)
Make Magazine, Collin’s Lab: DIY iPad Stylus (YouTube Video)

The tales of the two microphones of iPhone 4

A while ago, mom started to complain about low volume when using Facetime with me. At first I thought it was just my mom’s computer volume not turned up, but when I made a recording after the Auburn Alabama game with my iPhone 4’s video camera, I realized that my volume was really really low. I then realized that the problem is not on the far end but on my iPhone itself. I used the voice recorder to test the mic and it was fine, but when I tested video recording the sound quality was muffled and very quiet. After some online research, I’ve found that there are two microphones on the new iPhone 4. the second mic suppose to be for noise cancelation, however, I believe it is also the primary mic for video recording.

This is the first mic.

This is the second mic.

So what I did was to use a needle to pick up the dirt that is trap in the second mic. CAUTION!!!! be careful. Do not force it or you may destroy your mic.

But after I cleaned the second mic hole, the recording video sound quality returned and Facetime sound quality also returned.

Good luck!!!

DIY: Simple Snowboard Wall Mount

So, I was just cleaning out my garage yesterday and I decided to put everything in their place. I been thinking about doing something with my snowboards. However, the snowboard mounts are pretty expensive. After reading a bit on the internet, I decided to do it myself. So it is really simple and it works great. So for materials, 2 sheet rock screws and some electrical tape. I just wrap the electrical tape around the head of the screw and then screw the screw in to the wall with the electrical tape exposed. Then simply slide the snowboard in between the two screws and there you have it. A very low profile snowboard wall mount.
Take a look below.


1) My original idea and design.


2) Sheet rock screw with the electrical tape on one side.


3) Place the screw around 11 inches or the with off your board.


4) Slide the board in between the two screws and it should hold.

Reference: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/la/how-to/how-to-hang-a-snowboard-home-hacks-108545

DIY: White Board (Dry Erase Board / Marker Board)

So I been wanting a new white board in my home office to draw out some ideas and mark up some new things or even leave some messages.  I remember having a big white board when I was growing up and it’s aways been really nice.  I never even thought about how much a white marker board costs until I started to search for one around town.  I wanted a 4′ x 3′ white board, however, it cost around $50+ dollars for one.  If I drop down to 3’x2′ then it drop down to around 30 dollars (Costco).  I really did not want to give up the surface space so I began to look for alternatives.  After searching a while,  I’ve found couple of websites talking about DIY white board on the cheap.  I looked up their methods, and then I went over to Lowes to check out the material and price.  i was able to get a 4’x3′ white board surface for only $9.98!!!!!  And with that, I am in, I will build my own white board.

You are probably wondering well what are you really building anyways?  I mean you got a surface, just nail it to the wall.  In a way, yeah, you can do that, or you can even just buy white board paint and paint your entire wall to be a white wall like surface.  However, I decided to go with either a frame or a hidden frame design.

After careful research, I decided to take advantage of left over wood from my home made, bed frame project few months back and use it as a support frame for my white board project. I also decided to a small piece of the left over trim as a pen holder for the whiteboard.

The following is my design.

My Material and cost

White board surface $10
small wood screws $2
tile plates x 6 : $2
contact cement : $5
subtotal: $19

wood strips around the house: $0
left over trim around the house: $0

During Construction

The completed whiteboard in my office.

Challenges:

1) I found that gluing the frame on the back of the board was more difficult than I expected with out a clamp. So get a clamp.

2) I originally designed the board to be 4′ X 3′. However the board purchased from Lowes states that it is 4×3, but it is 4′ but less than 3′ high (around 2’8″). So I had to reduce my frame size.

All in all I was able to make my white board under 20 dollars and in few hours. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

Reference:
http://www.johnmurch.com/2007/10/20/diy-whiteboard-on-the-cheap/

http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2008/10/diy_whiteboard_with_suppo.html

LOWES White Tile Board

Free land line phone with google voice, sipgate, and an old packet8 ATA!!!

So I don’t know what got into me yesterday, but I guess it was because of the awful AT&T services in my area. I cannot make a continuous call on AT&T’s 3G in my area without call drops. This is not only my problem, but everyone that I know with AT&T 3G service in Maple Leaf area. But anyways, that is not what this post is about.

So it’s been 2 over years since I moved to Seattle, and I’ve been thinking about moving my 509 number to a local 206 number for home, however, I never felt the need to do so. However, as weeks and months go by, I started to realized that I almost never use my land line a.k.a my home phone line or my plain old telephone service (POTS). So I’ve been thinking about dropping the service. The problem is that AT&T have such poor service in my area that I can not just depend on my iphone, no matter how awesome it is, I still need to have a home number. but $20+ dollars a month just to hold a number is pretty pricy. So here comes my solution…

At one time I have 2 lines with packet8, when I cancelled the 2nd line, the analog telephone adapter (ATA) from 8×8 was not returned. I have a bit understanding about VoIP so I figure since Packet8 uses SIP (Session Initiated Protocol), I can probably use the same ATA to point to some other SIP provider and get by really cheap. I’ve also already have a Google Voice (GV) account, so if I can link my google voice to my home phone that will be just wonderful. The following is what I found I can do and what is my plan.

The following are my steps and comments…

1) I know that I want to use GV as my home phone number, However, I need GV to point to an actual number since GV does not provide a physical phone service yet. One option is to use Gizmo5, but since they are being integrated into GV that is currently not an option.  So I register to SIPgate for a free account.  The advantage of a SIPGate account is that they provide a free 206 number and also they do not charge for  incoming calls.
Check out this article.
http://www.voip-news.com/feature/how-sipgate-one-stacks-060509/

2) The second step is to convert my DTA-310 ATA from packet 8 into a usable ATA. After reading online and playing with couple of different firmwares, this is what worked for me
– Downgrade to packet 8’s firmware version 1235 (sip1235unl.bin)
– From there load the leadtek firmware version AR171 (sip_bva8051s_ep1_voi86171.r0)
… it took me many tries to find this version of the firmware. Look in DSLreport for the firmware if you can’t find it in the archives.
– once load is successful, make sure you reload and restart the DTA-310 by using the reset button.

3) Once the new firmware is loaded it should look like this.

4)I found this site to help fill in the configuration. Use the SIP credentials in sipgate under settings to fill in the configuration. your sip-id is also the sip number in the DTA-310 configuration. Also make sure to change the server to point to sipgate.com. So after I finished this configuration, I was still unable to connect to the sip server until I configured the STUN server settings. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STUN) STUN= Simple Traversal of UDP through NAT. By configuring this server setting, it let you get back the local firewall. This is also the reason why we need to install the AR17I version of the firmware. The Packet8 1235 firmware also has a SIP server configurations page, however it does not have STUN settings. Only the Leadtek firmwares have those settings.

5) Finally, reboot the DTA-310 ATA and check to see if it is registered with SipGate. You can use Sipgate to test the connection.

6) Since I am using GV # as my primary number, I changed the outgoing caller ID within SIPGate to my Google voice number. and forward all google voice calls to my SIPgate number.

7) Test and all done!!!

Comments: Ok, I know that the title states that it is free.. well it is free for all incoming calls to SIPGate, however out going calls will cost 1.9 cents per minutes. But if you really think about it, for 9 bucks, it will give you around 450 minutes of talk time. So typically, those unlimited VoIP services are charging for 9 dollars a month. While SIPGate is a pay as you go solution.

Comment 2: There are also concerns about replacing land lines with this service without 911 services. Well, that is not entirely true. SIPGate do offer E911 service for $1.90 per month. That’s not too bad for a peace of mind.

Comment 3: SIPgates offers few other things in additional to GV, such as Free online FAX and they also provide additional phone number for a price.

Ultimately, it is a pretty cool deal… by using the GV frontend, when google finally allows SIP connections, it will be a very seamless switch over from SIPgate to all google. Gosh I am such a google fanboy… So this afternoon, I will go get me a DECT 6.0 wireless phone for my new home phone setup. Yeah!!!

Oh … and if you look in the diagram above, yes there is an even cheaper alternative shown it my hand drawn diagram, by using IPKALL and PBXes.org. More on that method maybe later.

References…
http://linuxstation.net/pub/voip/ — a place where all the old packet8 firmwares are located.
http://www.voip-info.org/wiki/view/Packet8+DTA310+and+Asterisk — another step by step instructions on working with DTA-310
http://www.dslreports.com/forum/ — look for additiona information on DTA310
http://www.broadbandreports.com/forum/remark,13924154~start=40 — Leadtek AR171 firmware
http://sipgate.com — sipgate website
http://voxilla.com/voxilla/tools/device-configuration-wizard/leadtek-configuration-wizard — ATA configuration Wizard

UPDATE 01/2011 : I’ve been having some problems with SIPGATE on dialing out. I have an Apple Airport Extreme wireless router. Unfortunately it doesn’t handle the VoIP/SIP traffic properly and it doesn’t support UPNP so after 30-45 seconds into an outgoing call. The call will drop. I have two options.

1) Replace the Aiport Extreme with a much more standard wireless router where I can configure the firewall/NAT better.

2) I’ve been using my google voice to dial out, which basically calls me first and then calls the other person. This is also what make it a free land line.

UPDATE 10/2011 : I’ve updated my router, so I did take option 1 from above. I’ve also starting to have a humming issue, after a long trouble shooting it was determined that the power supply was causing the humming and causing phone issues. after moving the power supply and replacing it, that fixed the problem.

UPDATE 02/2012: I’ve updated my old 8×8 ATA to a Grandstream HT-502.  Why? because I purchased an old analog rotary phone for my office and I want to use it with my phone setup and the Grandstream ATA supports pulse dialing.   I believe it is one of few ATA that still supports pulse dialing.

UPDATE 10/2012: For anyone else that  is thinking about using their Google voice as their voice over IP services… save your trouble of doing anything I’ve shown above… unless you really want to learn and hack… just purchase a OBi 100 ATA or OBi 110 ATA.  It is under 40 bucks and you are up and running in minutes.  less stress less trouble. :)

UPDATE 9/2013: Since Sipgate has shoutdown, I am now using an alternative.  Instead of going through sipgate and forwarding number to google voice, I am using YATE (Yet Another Telephone Engine) as my own gateway to Googlevoice.  If you don’t want to host your own, you can use Simonics‘ free service.  But be warned, that they require you to provide your google username and password.  Use Google’s 2 factor authentication just to be safe.  I will write a post about YATE at a later time when I have time.

Building my own tracking software for my new Macbook Pro

So of course everyone by now know that I lost my little white macbook :(. So I did some research and found few softwares such as Undercover or Lojack for Laptop, or Adeona (which by the way is free but currently not working so don’t try it), and I even looked into mobileme. All these solutions seems good (except for Adeona :( ) and I almost bought one of them until I found this.

http://benstechcents.blogspot.com/2008/05/tracking-stolen-macbook.html

This solution is pretty cool… it is a home gown method of getting your laptop to dial in. The cool thing is … it actually works!!!

I installed the applications and modified the provided scripts and boom it works… pretty cool, pretty cool…

So I am still in the testing period of the is script and I will keep you guys updated on how it works.

Hacking Bluetooth

So it is almost 3:30 AM and I made a major break through in my bluetooth project. I was able to duplicate the bluetooth vulnerbility with an unpaired SE T616 phone, I was able to download it’s address book and FTP into the phone. WOW more to come tomorrow. I am going to bed now.

Unlocking Debranding Sony Ericsson T616

After hours of working on the Sony Ericsson T616 to unlock/debrand, so I can use my T-mobile SIM card in that AT&T; phone, I finally did. I have to say, it is not worth the $20 that I saved. But I guess I am a better person for figuring out how to unlock it. Well… it is not really hard but if you have all the right equipments. I … well… did not have all the right equipments. It is a very interesting underground industry of unlocking cellphones. There are so many unlocking services available and some are remote unlockers. So what it is, is they send you a cheap T28/DSC-11 serial cable, which then ask you to use thier software to login to their website and they will decode and unlock your phone. This is a one time deal, meaning once it is unlocked, the cable is pretty much useless, unless you pay for another unlocking. Well, my friend did that to unlock his phone and had the cable leftover. To me it seems like if they can unlock it from remote, I should be able to unlock it locally. After searching long and hard, I found that there are softwares available to unlock it, but it is for another type of cable using parallel ports/ printer ports, or USB. The software did not work for the T28 serial cable. In trying to figure this out, I want to see if I can see and thing from the serial port. So I used tera term to console into my phone. With the speed set to 115200 bps 8N1, I was able to see scrolling text. Some that actually made sense. By this time, I know that there got to be a way to crack this.

After a long look on google and in different forums, such as gsmhosting.com, I finally found the rosetta stone.

SEMCTOOL v2.2

a google search on SEMCtool_v2.2.zip, you will find many places to download it.

This was the key… this was the key program that will decypher the text and let me unlock the T616 over a serial T28 cable. Yeah!!!

I quickly download it and ran the program…
During the process … I found that you need to start the phone up after to select the jobs and push “do selected jobs”. Also make sure the baud rate is at 115200

it started to work…

Connect to phone
Check if RSA is active
Bypass boot authority
…. then boom…
ERROR 0001A1

oh no… it crashed and it did not continue…
I was about to give up, I was looking for different programs and trying to find ways to resolve then, then I found a forum message that says …
“keep pumping the power button until you get pass the boot sequence”

What?… ok … I will give it a try … then IT WORKED!!!

Connect to phone
Check if RSA is active
Bypass boot authority
Initialize boot
Load data to phone
Clear all SP locks
New SP Lock area format
Reset user code
Read all codes
New SP Lock area format
IMEI: 010193005165199
NCK: 82110220
NSCK: 70985399
CCK: 80152156
SPCK: 59993314
Operation succesfull

SWEET!!!!

I popped in my T-mobile sim… and it worked like a charm!!

Awesome!!!

I hope my adventure will help some poor soul that is trying to do the same.

Good luck.

Lamp fix

So Min… What do you do at night?

Well… good questions… I eat, I watch TV, I sleep, I sleep, I should be studying, but today I fix things. Yep. I fix things. Today, I fixed this old broken lamp I got from Birmingham office a long time ago. It was handed down by some guy named after a razor. Anyway, it used to be a touch lamp but the touch sensor burned out. Well… so I went to the local Radio Shack and got me a small switch. I pull out my trusty old tool kit. I drilled a hole and did some soldering and wham, I got a working lamp. It is not a touch lamp anymore, but … hey a free lamp.