Category Archives: Hardware

Hardware: Get Linux To Talk To Your Radio

This is a highly specialized entry today, for amateur radio operators who want to switch to Linux.

It can be a pain, but it is possible!

I like a simple and clean interface, so the software I use for amateur radio logging is xlog which is available in your Software Manager.

Xlog amateur radio logger

Xlog amateur radio logger

XLog uses the HamLib library to communicate with any modern radio. (It’s in the repositories too) While it’s designed for use with a serial port, it works just fine using a USB port as well. Though setting  it up can be a royal pain!

Xlog amateur radio logger

Xlog amateur radio logger – radio setup

In the example above, I’m using a USB to serial adapter to connect to my radio. So to talk to the radio, I’m using USB port 1.

You will need to make sure you have write access to your serial ports. You can do this by issuing the following command from the Terminal:

sudo usermod -a -G dialout username

Followed by:

sudo chmod 666 /dev/ttyUSB1

Which will give you user permission, and then read / write access to the ports.

Next, if you wish to use the built-in programmable Morse Code keyer, you’ll need to install the program cwdaemon from the repositories as well.

CW Interface for xlog

CW Interface for xlog

Cwdaemon provides a circuit diagram on how to use your serial port to send Morse through your radio. In my case, I use a piece of ready made hardware called a  USB Interface II which, while it’s designed for use with Windows, works very nicely under Linux as well. It’s just a matter of capturing the correct port. In my case, I send the following command in Terminal:

sudo cwdaemon -d ttyUSB0

Which captures the port that my hardware interface is connected to. You will need to send this command after each reboot, or include it in your boot scripts.




Breaking Things: When Hackers Attack

Had an interesting evening here on the farm. As I’ve mentioned before, we stream our goats on 24/7, and as part of that, we have a single odd port inbound to an embedded server so our viewers can control our cameras, changing them as they wish.

Tuesday evening, after  10pm local time, in keeping with our own advice about keeping your router firmware up to date, we updated ours. We have Verizon Fios on the Internet side of our network, and a second WiFi router daisy chained to the Fios modem for our internal farm network.

After flashing the new firmware into both, I began to restore my very strict firewall settings (you do use one I hope!) but as fast as I could get the Fios modem rebooted, someone from China was getting in and taking control of it. It was a cat and mouse game until I finally won, getting the modem booted up and the remote administration  and ping reply turned off before he could get in again.

Continuing my firewall setup, I opened the single obscure  port to my embedded camera controller. The controller is password protected, and automatically blocks the IP address of anyone using the wrong user name and password,  forever! So yes, they can port scan and find the server, but they only get one chance to log in before they are blocked.

One Chinese hacker spent hours port scanning my home IP address, trying to find a vulnerability.

I finally got tired of it, and started port scanning HIM! It was amazing how fast he stopped once he noticed me doing the same to him.

There is a handy web site that I use to see where attacks are coming from, and it’s worth bookmarking for your own use. It’s called: web site result of hostile IP address web site result of hostile IP address

Point is, if you are not using the firewall available from your internet service provider, your personal router, and even your individual computers, you should be.

Go check now, configure the hardware and install your Linux firewall software too!

Hardware: Another New Computer For The Farm

I have always built my own computers from parts purchased at Newegg and other vendors. My current computer, the one at my bedside that gets the most use is one such computer.

It’s also 10 years old!

I’ve been nursing it along with new parts like larger hard drives, more memory etc., but it has finally come to its useful end as a daily machine. I will keep it for loading up Windows 2000 that runs my CNC plasma cutter however.

Off to Newegg, I started putting a motherboard, processor, memory, power supply, etc. in my shopping cart. Money being tight, I decided on a quad core processor, 4 gigs of RAM, case, power supply, DVD burner, and a 500 gigs  hard drive.

With everything ready to purchase, for about $320, I was called away from my shopping to make a run to pick up a prescription from the Walmart  pharmacy.

The trip ended with me bringing home a new computer from Walmart too!

The computer is an Acer, a company who I have purchased scores of computers from over the years for business use. I’ve always found them reliable and well made.

No, this is not a a super-powered gaming machine, and yes, it’s actually a laptop motherboard and memory, shoved into a desktop case;  but boy is it impressive in performance. A well spent $249.00 I think

From the Walmart web site:

Acer Aspire XC AXC-603G-UW13 Desktop PC:
Key Features and Benefits:

  • Intel Celeron J1900 Quad-Core processor
    2.0GHz (up to 2.42GHz via Turbo boost), 2MB Cache
  • 4GB DDR3 SDRAM system memory (expandable to 8GB)
    Gives you the power to handle most power-hungry applications and tons of multimedia work
  • 500GB SATA hard drive
    Store 333,000 photos, 142,000 songs or 263 hours of HD video and more

16x DVD+/-R/RW SuperMulti drive
Watch movies and read and write CDs and DVDs in multiple formats on the Acer Aspire Desktop XC AXC 603G UW13

Once home with my new machine, I stuck a Panda Wireless WiFi dongle in one of the rear USB 2 ports (the unit also has a single USB 3 port in the rear as well)  Put a fresh DVD of Linux Mint 17, 64 bit in the drive, booted up and did the install.

It’s interesting how new machines  will actually whine at you, when you configure them for Legacy booting, dumping off the Windows 8.1 install partition.  Now if I could get a refund from Microsoft,  for the Windows 8.1 licence keys I was forced to purchase  with my two new machines. Keys that I will never, ever use!

Boy does this thing fly compared to my old machine. While most of my computing needs involve surfing the Internet,  something the old machine did just fine. What I really give my bedside computer a workout doing, is rendering video.

I’ll take  video with my phone for use on my goat web site. Most of the videos are 2 to 5 minutes long. Once I’ve edited the video to my liking, it’s rendered for use on the web site.

The old machine would take close to 45 minutes to render a 5 minute video into the Flash, .flv format. (Yes, Flash really must die, I hate the format and the stupid Flash plugin crashes constantly, regardless of OS)

Rendering a 5 minute clip on the new machine, the 4 processors plod along at less than 30% and the video was done rendering in 6 minutes!

Machine Stats while rendering video.

Machine Stats while rendering video.

We’ll see how long this low-end consumer grade machine lasts here on the farm. The price was right, but with no expansion slots on the motherboard,  (but of course I took it apart!) What you get is it. The only thing you can do is add another 4 gig of DDR3 SDRAM.


Hardware: Setting Up A New Laptop

My autistic adult son finally killed his 5 years old Dell laptop, so for Christmas, it’s time to get him a new one. His old machine was Windows 7, and because of the WiFi port not being compatible with Linux I’d left Win7 on the machine. The new machine however, does not have that problem.

The laptop we chose is the Dell Inspiron i3531-1200BK which was at the time of purchase, only $219 for a dual core Intel Celeron processor.

 Dell Inspiron i3531-1200BK

Dell Inspiron i3531-1200BK

The Amazon reviews of the unit clearly show a lack of power to run the included Windows 8.1 software, but since Linux is our OS of choice, I went ahead and got the unit, planning on installing Mint 17 MATE on the unit.

Installation was a breeze! At first boot-up, you want to hit F-12 to bring up the boot menu. From the boot menu, select the option to enable Legacy booting.

After that’s done, (and it will complain!) then insert your thumb drive witha Mint 17 disk image and reboot again, once again pressing F-12 to access the boot menu. Once there, tell the machine to boot to the thumb drive.

Once booted into Linux, setup your WiFi network and then select the Install Linux Mint shortcut on the desktop.

The install took only about 10 minutes, then another 30 to do the software updates and install my son’s favorite programs that he uses on his Mint desktop computer.

Of course I setup Caja with shortcuts to his desktop home folder so he can share files back and forth.

The Dell Inspiron i3531-1200BK is screaming fast with Mint installed, and I’m sure it will give him another 5 years of dependable service.

So don’t overlook the lower end laptops by Dell or other companies. With Linux, they will be first class machines!