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MacOS X – Determine WiFi Connection Speed

MacOS X – Determine WiFi Connection Speed
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While working on my DD-WRT project for my NetGear R7000 router, I ran some tests to see what the ideal connection setup for my router would be.

During the testing you’d typically want to see the speed of your WiFi connection, possibly including noise, RSSI, channel, country code, used frequency, etc. and initially it can be a bit daunting where to find this information. But … surprise: this info is readily available on your Mac, no extra software is needed, you just need to know where it’s hidden …

Therefor in this article 4 methods to figure this out on your Mac, without the need to install specific software for the task.

UnoTelly – Watching regional locked content anywhere …

UnoTelly – Watching regional locked content anywhere …
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This week was an interesting week – I travel quite often between my home in the USA and family and friends in Europe. With a world that has become smaller due to the Internet, you’d expect that services you’re used to are still available when traveling … well that’s not the case. I guess the movie industry still hasn’t gotten the message that region limitations is simply ridiculous. So my NetFlix suddenly got neutered and forced to the Dutch version.

I didn’t ask for this, and I most certainly did not pay for this … why not simply link content to your account, which has an address and therefor determines where you reside? Or even better: Just drop the nonsense with regions entirely … I’m sure it will reduce piracy as well.

Anyhow, long story short: to get to my real account (US) I could spoof my location by using well known VPN service like Astrill. Works great, looks a little suspicious, slows down your connection due to encryption and it’s not always “cheap” or easy to use.

Along comes UnoTelly (and I’m sure there are other services like that) offering to try their DNS service for free (8 day trial). This article is about my findings with their services (DNS and VPN) … in short: it’s worth it!

Fix Film Strip Stuck inside Nikon Coolscan V ED (LS-50)

Fix Film Strip Stuck inside Nikon Coolscan V ED (LS-50)
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The last few months I’ve spend an absurd amount of time scanning family negatives. Over 12,000!

For this I used the excellent Nikon CoolScan LS-50, also known as the Nikon CoolScan V ED. These scanners perform superb, even though Nikon stopped producing them. Even support has been stopped or reduced. If you need one, eBay is the place to go.

In the process of scanning all these negatives, I ran into the problem that it had swallowed the film strip, and the entire scanner refused operation right after that.

This article shows you how you can remedy this with only a phillips screwdriver and some patience …

Please note that this article was written with the LS-50/V ED in mind, but it seems that other Nikon CoolScan models might be fixable in the same fashion (i.e. 4000 [IV] and 5000, and other models that look similar).

UEFI – Dual boot Windows 8.x and Ubuntu 14.x …

UEFI – Dual boot Windows 8.x and Ubuntu 14.x …
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I usually work on a Mac, and when working under Linux or Windows, I resort to Virtual Machines (VMWare Fusion / Parallels Desktop).

Sometimes however, a virtual machine is not up to the task. For this purpose, I have a cheap Acer laptop that came with Windows 8.1. But that is just Windows. So how do I make this laptop dual boot Windows 8 and Ubuntu using Ubuntu 14.x and Windows 8.1?

These are the few easy steps I took to make my laptop dual boot Windows 8.1 and Ubuntu 14.x.

The described method can also be used to run Ubuntu from a USB stick, which works very well when using USB 3.0.

How to use xRDP for remote access to Ubuntu 14.04

How to use xRDP for remote access to Ubuntu 14.04
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To remotely control my Windows machines, I always prefer to use RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) as it performs much nicer than VNC (Virtual Network Computing). VNC has this streak of “JPEG” quality and slow behavior, whereas RDP is fast and crystal clear.

RDP is however a proprietary protocol from Microsoft. So how can we use RDP to control our Ubuntu box remotely?

This is where xRDP comes in play, an open source remote desktop protocol (RDP) server. It actually runs VNC protocol over RDP as far as I understand, yet if behaves much better than VNC by itself (possibly because of the used desktop manager). Since Ubuntu 12.10 (if I’m not mistaken), xRDP doesn’t seem to work with the Ubuntu desktop anymore … unless you use an alternative desktop manager. This seems related to 3D acceleration and nobody seems to care (since 2011, according to bug reports).

Note : if you really need Copy/Paste functionality between the two machines, then please use Ubuntu’s default installed “Desktop Sharing” instead (MacOS X users read this forum post).

QNAP – Automatic TV-Series download with SickRage

QNAP – Automatic TV-Series download with SickRage
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SickRage is a tool that allows you to automatically download TV-Series and it can run on several systems, including QNAP NAS devices.

For those that have used SickBeard, SickRage (or: SickBeard-TVRage) is derived from SickBeard. Both allow automatic download of TV-Series and are pretty good at it. SickRage however adds some really cool features that SickBeard (with all respect) is lacking. For example better support for Torrents and support for subtitles, dating episode filenames to the air date, etc.

I’ve written this article after migrating from SickBeard to SickRage on an Intel based QNAP. Having SickBeard installed is not required though and experience with SickBeard, although helpful, is not required either.

Restore AppleTV OS after erasing disk (Offline Method)

Restore AppleTV OS after erasing disk (Offline Method)
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So you erased the internal disk of your AppleTV and want to restore AppleTV OS?

It happened to me; playing with a 1st generation AppleTV, installing (and thus wiping) a AppleTV suitable Ubuntu version. Only to find out that I goofed up and had to go back to the original OS to change some video settings. Yes I was playing with CrystalBuntu and OpenElec … (highly recommend both!)

In a previous article I described a method that uses a Windows tool from StmLabs, which needs Windows and a network connection.

In this article however I will show you how to do it without a network connection, for Windows, Linux and MacOS X.

ApplePi-Baker v1.6 update

ApplePi-Baker v1.6 update
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ApplePi-Baker, the application I developed for Mac OS X user that like to work with the Raspberry Pi, is now available in version 1.6.
With ApplePi-Baker, you can write an IMG file to an SD-Card, prepare an SD-Card for NOOBS use, and make a backup of an SD-Card.

This new version adds on the fly reading (restore) and writing (backup) of compressed IMG files.
Supported compression formats are ZIP, 7ZIP and GZIP.

Additionally, I’ve implemented an “Abort” button, so you can abort your restore or backup process when needed.

Unfortunately, doing compression while reading/writing prevents me from using the authentication dialog provided by Apple, and I had to resort to SUDO usage. On all my Mac’s this did not present a problem, but you, the user, need to be part of the Admin user group for this to work. I’m unsure if this is done by default or not. If users run into issues with this, please report it in the comments (here on the ApplePi-Baker article).

For this reason v1.5.1 will remain available in the downloads – for those users that run into a problem.

See the ApplePi-Baker article or the Downloads Page for download and details.
Also: many many thanks to the people that did a generous donation to support my work, it’s highly appreciated!

Enjoy  …

Combine QNAP shared folders into one share for easy access

Combine QNAP shared folders into one share for easy access
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Those of us who use a NAS like those awesome QNAP devices possibly recognize this situation:

You have a lot of shared folders, but as an Admin you’d like to access them all from one single share, so instead of mounting an X number of “drives”, you mount just one.

When looking at the directory structure on your QNAP, this could be the “root” of all your shares, but opening this as a shared folder comes with it’s own set of little issues. Using the QTS 4.x function called “Shared Folder Aggregation” doesn’t work all that well either, and even worse: it’s limited so Samba shares.

Instead I’ll show you a way to do QNAP Shared folder aggregation with symbolic links

Note : This makes moving files between shares also significantly faster … no matter how big the file!

ApplePi-Baker v1.5 update

ApplePi-Baker v1.5 update
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ApplePi-Baker, the application I developed for Mac OS X user that like to work with the Raspberry Pi, is now available in version 1.5.
With ApplePi-Baker, you can write an IMG file to an SD-Card, prepare an SD-Card for NOOBS use, and make a backup of an SD-Card.

This new release allows ZIP compression of the IMG file after creating a backup.

This release will now also recognize USB sticks or SD-Cards that are not formatted in a format recognized by your Mac – for example ext3 or ext4, and will be able to make a backup of that as well.

See the ApplePi-Baker article or the Downloads Page for download and details. Enjoy  …

Automatic MySQL backup by using Replication

Automatic MySQL backup by using Replication
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The past few days I have been working on setting up a second QNAP NAS as a backup for my files on my primary QNAP, using realtime syncing – which works ridiculously smooth. I have some MySQL databases on my primary QNAP as well, but syncing the data doesn’t seem to be part of the plan of the backup tools provided by QNAP.

Lucky me: MySQL has a great replication mechanism build in, so you can replicate one database (master) to another (slave). The setup is easy, albeit confusing when you just start looking into this. Synchronisation is done asynchronous, meaning: changes in the data on the master will be applied to the data on the slave, but the slave doesn’t need to be permanently connected. Missed changes, when not connected, will be “saved” and when a connection is established again, will be applied.

In this article I’ll show you how to do this for two MySQL setups (QNAP), where one serves as Master (Original) and the other as Slave (Backup).

MySQL Export and Import Data: How to backup databases

MySQL Export and Import Data: How to backup databases
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MySQL is one of the most commonly used database engines, not just because it’s free but mostly because it’s fast, reliable and widely supported. That doesn’t mean you should not make backups …

Backups of your MySQL setup can be needed for several reason. You want a backup for safe keeping, you want to move a database to another server, just before you make some major changes, or you just want to wipe your server clean and setup everything from scratch without loosing your data.

Making a one time backup of your database(s) can be a bit unclear, so in this article a description of 3 possible methods to make a backup of one or more databases and how to import them at a later time (to the same or another MySQL server).

Playback or Conversion of QNAP Surveillance Video Recordings

Playback or Conversion of QNAP Surveillance Video Recordings
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QNAP includes “Surveillance Station” as an application on their NAS devices, which allows you to setup security camera’s throughout your house or business. It supports numerous camera’s, motion detection, alert messages etc.

One problem I did run into however, was that the recordings of my Foscam IP-camera’s could not be played in any of the media players I had on my Mac, only to find out that Windows and Linux users can experience the same problems.

With a simple trick and free software you can either modify the AVI files (very quick!) or convert the videos to another format. The presented tricks work for MacOS X, Linux and Windows.

FourCC Changer for Windows, Linux and MacOS X

FourCC Changer for Windows, Linux and MacOS X
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For the veterans amongst us, we all know FourCC Changer from fourcc.org, a small utility which allows you to change the video stream Four Character Code that identifies the codec used to compress/store the video stream.

If you’ve used it before, then you will know that it’s a nifty little Windows program that can be used as a last resort when AVI files do not playback. Since FourCC Changer only exists for the Windows platform: here a free version for Windows, Linux (32 and 64bit) and MacOS X (intel).

This application also support batches, offers a backup function and is very fast even for files in network shares.

ApplePi-Baker v1.4 update

ApplePi-Baker v1.4 update
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ApplePi-Baker, the application I developed for Mac OS X user that like to work with the Raspberry Pi, is now available in version 1.4.
With ApplePi-Baker, you can write an IMG file to an SD-Card, prepare an SD-Card for NOOBS use, and make a backup of an SD-Card.

The changes involves fixing a minore bug (proper sizing of an SD-Card vs IMG file) and a minor speed improvement. If you haven’t run into any issue, then this update might not be needed for your purposes.

See the ApplePi-Baker article or the Downloads Page for download and details.

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