Thursday, 28 March 2013

Google Street view in Fukushima ghost town!

Google Street View has announce the addition of new images within the exclusion zone in Japan. You can easily view the official Google site here. The images are truly revealing and show the insane impact the Earthquake and Tsunami had on the area.

I found some interesting technology while looking at the new images, it looks like a solar powered sensor system of some kind. I suspect it's a Geiger Counter with a nice display on it with the value it reading, would love to hear from anyone with more insight into what it could be?



Friday, 8 March 2013

Technology in South Africa

In Africa we get to deal with all sorts of natural events that really don't work to well with IT equipment, personally lightning damage has cost me the most over the years even with protection devices often in place...

I opened up an outdoor router that stopped working a while back last week, the router itself was in a water proof outdoor enclosure to keep it safe. I was amazed to find that a wasp's had used the board to build a nest and the family had luckly moved on before I stuck my hand into the enclosure, definitely a new find for me on a circuit board.

Upon closer inspection I found a small network cable hole no longer in use which must have been how the wasp got in.

Raspberry Pi and Real Time Clock DS1307


The Raspberry Pi doesn't have a real-time clock (RTC) buit-in, the reason seems to be to keep it as affordable as possible. In most cases this won't make a difference, once the Pi can reach the Internet it simply updates the time from one of the time servers in the pool (perhaps mine ;-)

The problem comes in with being offline for whatever reason but still requiring the time to always be accurate (or very close) for certain applications, such as business transaction handling etc

The easiest answer being to add a RTC to the Pi using the GPIO pins, I used the Adafruit kit (soldering required) for the Arduino boards as a local retailer had stock of it by some miracle.

Basically if you have the kit from Adafruit or something similar the below may help you (at your own risk, ;-), the circuit isn't very complicated but you need to remember not to add the the two 2.2KΩ  resistors in this kit for it to work on the Pi. 

Additionally you can insert the capacitor and crystal any direction you want, the chip half moon needs to match with the board (see my board and RTC in the picture above)

Pins:
1. VCC output needs to be connected to the 5.0V pin number 2 of the Pi
2. GND
output needs to be connected to the GND pin number 6 of the Pi
3. SDA
output needs to be connected to the SDA0 pin number 3 of the Pi
4. SCL
output needs to be connected to the SCL0 pin number 5 of the Pi

You can view the pin layout on the Pi on hobbytronics.co.uk

Notes:
1. You can skip the SQW (square-wave output) as it won't be used in this configuration.
2. Will keep time for 5 years but may gain or lose as much as 2 seconds per day
3. accurate and temperature compensated chip - DS3231 or NXP PCF2127AT

I use Raspbian 2013-02-09-wheezy-raspbian.img on my Pi so these instructions may differ on your setup or version of Raspbian, all the commands assume root user, remember sudo before the command if required:

Install the required tools to do testing:

1. apt-get update
2. apt-get install i2ctools

Testing your RTC from Linux:

1. Run the command: modprobe i2c-dev; modprobe i2c-bcm2708; modprobe rtc-ds1307
2. Run: echo ds1307 0x68 > /sys/class/i2c-adapter/i2c-1/new_device 
3. Run: i2cdetect -y 1
4. You should see a 68 appear under row 8 column 60, if not the RTC may not be connected properly or something may be wrong on the RTC/Pi  board.
5. The hwclock command should output a date (may be very inaccurate)

Ensure your Pi's time is correct and set it if need be, then you need to sync the time to your RTC by running: hwclock -w

hwclock -r should now return the correct time from your RTC

Add the following to your /etc/rc.local to sync your systems software time to the time your RTC has:

modprobe i2c-dev
modprobe i2c-bcm2708
modprobe rtc-ds1307
echo ds1307 0x68 > /sys/class/i2c-adapter/i2c-1/new_device
hwclock -s


Once the Pi goes online the time sync will simply update this for you to the most accurate time.

Good Luck and Enjoy!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Yubico YubiKey Review

I recently received the YubiKey I ordered and couldn't wait to try it out!

Basically the YubiKey is used in two-factor authentication and generates a one-time password when you touch the gold disc.

The device is physically sturdy (I tried to bend it but it didn't budge at all) and appears to the OS as a normal keyboard it can easily be used on pretty much any system.

The only problem being you can easily insert it the wrong way up into a USB port (I did, you usually only get this right once and there's no damage except the bit of lost ego), you should see the gold disc after inserting the device and a green light should shine from the hole in the gold disc.

Using a service like LastPass.com allows you to secure your password database with the YubiKey, additionally many other sites allow you to use the YubiKey with standard authentication methods. This effectively ensures your account remains secure even if the username and password has fallen into the wrong hands.

I added support for the YubiKey into my project at ONMS.Net, basically Yubico provides you with code to access their API, the code has multiple Yubico servers defined which it uses to check the one-time passwords using their servers. The first 12 characters of the one-time password remain the same as the tokens public ID, more information on the technical side is available here >>

Some companies already using YubiKey >>


SABERTOOTH Z77

Once again I was privilege to the unboxing of another great product, this time round the ASUS SABERTOOTH Z77.

Through the years I have encountered many different motherboards but none compared to this one...  just holding the board in your hands you quickly feel a difference, it feels rock solid and almost like something you would like to find running a tank for the USA on some foreign desolate piece of ground.

With graphical BIOS, an easy way to upgrade the BIOS (even without the CPU or DRAM installed), advanced electrostatic discharge protection (they even have a chip for that), advanced thermal features, and even military grade component testing - this board is ready for the future!

The 36 awards ASUS received for the Z77 indicates a truly warm reception into the global market. Personally I would love to see the nice features of the Z77 spread and become a standard for all motherboard manufacturers.

For details on the board take a look on the Asus website >>




Saturday, 2 March 2013

CloudFlare you disappoint me...

I found CloudFlare.com a while ago and was temped to give it a try as it really looked like an awesome service to have for my visitors.

So last night I paid my $20 for a pro account and changed the DNS over, what followed was pure disappointment instead of what I though would be a smooth transition... Failed SSL and a site that loaded slower than usual:

My site uses SSL as many others do, after changing the DNS to cloudflare and waiting for hours the domains SSL certificate remains untrusted and not only untrusted but the details show show shared with a bunch of porn sites (bet my Google ranking loves that connection, same cert and IP as cerdaxxx.com)

Accepting the untrusted certificate did allow my site to load, except on the first load half of the images didn't load, with two refreshes they finally were all there. In addition to that the site was much slower than usual and not faster.

For a service claiming to work out of the box I hit a brick wall, one which caused my site to be unavailable for hours and hours with a support request simply stating "Awaiting assignment to a support agent"


Update: After waiting two days for support on the pro account I received a reply from their support. Claiming "The SSL does work although possibly not as immediate as anticipated." and it takes a few minutes.

Sorry to say but more than 6 hours after the change the certificate was still not correct, really not great if your aim is too keep your domain online... Additionally taking 2 days per message for support to respond is pretty bad in an online world. 

How do I explain to a customer their site is down, it's a CloudFlare setup issue, I'm waiting for support which may take days depending on how many higher paying customers flood the few support people available for a request... simply not a viable option.