Category Archives: Software

Program Your Amateur Radio HT From Linux

Having recently moved my ham radio equipment into the bedroom, where I spend most of my time, I decided it was time to finish up the Linux control of my available radios.

One of my favorite hand held radios is the tried and true Yaesu FT-60R dual band hand held, or HT for short.

The FT-60R will transmit on the 2 meter and 70 centimeter bands with 5 watts of power. It is also able to receive, just like a scanner, your local public service bands, aircraft and air traffic control, National Weather Service broadcasts, and lots more!

With this much versatility,  trying to program all that manually would take a great deal of time and drive you nuts!

Enter a lovely cross platform program called Chirp.

Chirp is in the Ubuntu repository, so installing it is as simple as opening your Software Manager and searching for Chirp. You can also download the source code from the Chirp web site.

Chirp radio programming software

Chirp radio programming software

Chirp will allow you to send and receive radio frequencies, transmit offsets, and most of your radios other options, after setting them up in the convenient programming matrix as shown above.

 

Download / Upload context menu

Download / Upload context menu

Using the very easy, self explanatory menus, you can upload and download channels and settings. The software is compatible with a wide range of radios from Icon, Yaesu, Kenwood, and many many others.

Download menu

Download Menu

Because most modern radios are designed to use a standard 9 pin serial port, using an inexpensive USB to Serial converter is fast and easy. The large majority of them will function with Linux without doing anything but plugging them in!

Opening a Linux terminal and typing: sudo lshw will list the available ports, and once plugged in, you should see which port your adapter is on in the listing. Then just plug that into the download / upload dialog as shown above.

Radio Settings

Radio Settings

Chirp will also allow you to set radio parameters like repeater offsets, Auto power off. Favorite channels etc. with ease.

There is lots of help available on the Chirp web site if you runinto any problems. Most people who report problems,are having trouble following the radio manufacturers multiple button pushing in the right order you need to do to put the radio in the serial send and receive mode. Hang in there, it took me a few tried so get it going too!

 

 

Fix Weather After Updating To Mint 18.1

If like me, you installed the patch found in the Mint forums to bring your weather back after noaa.gov was shut down; upon updating to Mint 18.1 you may find that weather is now gone!

This is very easy to fix, so don’t panic!

First thing to do is open the preferences for your weather, found on the task bar. This same widget gives you your time and date.

Weather Preferences

Weather Preferences

Delete any cities you have saved, so there is nothing in the above box. Then close it.

Next, open the Package Manager from the main menu, and once open, do a search for “libmateweather” *(without the quotes)

Once the search is done, there should be 4 selections available.Only two will display a green dot, showing that they are installed.

Reinstall Dialog

Reinstall Dialog

Select the two files, highlight them both, or one at a time is fine, and then select Mark For Reinstall and then Apply the request in the top menu.

Now, reboot your computer.

Finally, go back to the Time and Date preferences, and install your desired cities again. Make sure you select one of them as your default city, as this is not automatic.

Done, you now should have your temperature and weather once again!

 

 

Lock Down Firefox, With Public Fox Extension

Another problem solved

Something  plaguing us here on the farm has been  our adult autistic son installing Windows software to his Linux computer.

Because he is so skilled in the original Windows Paint software, we have WINE installed on his Linux Mint computers so he can run Paint. The trouble with this arrangement is that even though he only has user access to his Linux desktop, he can still install Windows software under WINE.

No amount of research, permission changes etcetera on may part could prevent this from happening. I was constantly going in at night and uninstalling things like YouTube downloaders, questionable tool bars full of malware and other nonsense. My son was also installing about every Firefox extension he stumbled upon. There were 20 different video downloaders alone, and dozens of other  bits and bobs.

Then this week, I stumbled upon Public Fox

Lock down Firefox with this great tool!

Lock down Firefox with this great tool!

This Firefox add on, allows you to really lock down Firefox. Locking users out of the ability to add or change other Firefox add ons,  locking out the about:cong, history saving, and most all the other Firefox preferences!

Best of all, this add on will allow you to block the downloading of any file type you wish, simply by entering the banned extension!

Files ending in .zip  .exe  .com  .bat  .pdf  now all blocked from even being downloaded. He can’t install a Windows program, if he can’t download it!

Further, you can specify web sites that you wish to block. Yes, I block many sites in my router, but my crafty son figured out that he could go to the secure version of a site and bypass the router’s ability to block it!  This has been a real problem lately, as he’d do a web search for a favorite cartoon character, and end up on a secure porn site that my router couldn’t block.

Using the features in Public Fox, I can block for instance, all .xxx sites, all sites with certain key words, along with my extensive list of sites I’ve compiled that I don’t want him on.

Installation is as easy as other add ons. Just search for it by name, install it, then click on Preferences and set it how you want it.

Preferences

Preferences

Then set the password for Public Fox. This way any changes to Firefox preferences and add ons will be locked tight!

Edit:

There are some reviews that state that this extension no longer works in Firefox. Further that it is serving up adds on its own. All I can say, is that running under Linux, using Firefox version 49, it seems to do exactly what it is supposed to do, and I am not getting any adds from it, though one of my other extensions is AdBlock Plus.

 

LIghtning – It Goes Where It Wants, Regardless

My long absence from my Linux blog:

It’s been a busy 6 weeks on the farm. The first of September saw a huge storm roll through our area, and with it, a lightning strike that took out everything hardwired to our internal network!

We have a 60 foot tower on the farm, that is grounded with several ground rods. My office has what’s called a halo built into it, that usually protects everything inside from lightning strikes as well. Indeed, that tower has been hit many times the last 11 years with no damage.

Did the lightning hit the tower or my office building? Nope, it hit a network cable that run through a cable bridge between my office and the barn! The cable bridge is grounded, but rather than hit the grounded bridge, it hit the network cable that was laying in the bridge.

The resulting hit took out 2 servers, 5 desktops, 1 laptop, 1 television, 7 cameras, a Harris video switcher, my 2, DIN 3 internet relay units, and all of my ham radio equipment. Everything that was in some way hooked to the wired network!

Being in the state insurance pool, filing a claim would be useless, and with my high deductible, wouldn’t help much anyway. So for the past 6 weeks we’ve been cobbling everything back together from scratch!

Pile of blown up equipemnt

Some of the equipment destroyed in a lightning hit

Restoration was made a bit easier, in that none of our hard drives were damaged, so as new computers were purchased, We were able to restore all of our data with zero loss.   For our replacement ownCloud server, I just plugged the old drive right in and booted it up!

Next, we spent a couple of weeks trenching new conduit from our goat pen, into the house, and have moved all of our streaming video equipment and control systems inside. Further, we’ve totally isolated that system from the rest of the network.

All the new computers now run Linux Mint 18, and we’re very happy with the refinements over version 17.3.

So yes, do take precautions with your equipment where lightning is concerned, but they don’t always work.

Kernel Freezes, Crashes? Try This Quick Fix

I’ve written about kernel freezes a few times lately, and have spent hours and hours researching what others have done to fix them.

In some forums, they blame bad hardware, like corrupt hard drives or memory segmentation faults etcetera. Testing of hardware always showed me as not having any problems in that area though.

My problem with my Acer Aspire was that any 3.* kernel ran fine without freezes, but most 4.*kernels would freeze. Some, like the 4.4.0+ kernels would freeze all the time, and 4.4.15 would freeze only once a day or so.

Really wanting to have an answer to why it was happening, I finally stumbled on this github thread which was explaining about the CPU feature of being able to save power by changing the current CPU state, or C-state for short. Seems that when my Acer computer was being put into a lower power mode, it would instead just shut down completely!

The repair is very simple, and involves a quick edit to your Grub boot menu.

Adding a C=State Parameter to your Grub boot file.

Adding a C=State Parameter to your Grub boot file.

Do a sudo edit of your /etc/default/grub configuration file to find the line:

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash”

As I use medit, the command to edit the file would be:

sudo medit /etc/default/grub

Replace it with this line:

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash intel_idle.max_cstate=1″

As shown in the highlighted  line of text in the image above, I commented out the original line, and simply added the new one.

After you save the file, do a quick: sudo update-grub to let grub know that you’ve changed it, and then reboot.

This will force the CPU to always run at full power, and in the case of my Acer Aspire XC-603G, preventing the CPU from locking up!

Since I made this change, I’ve had zero freezes on this machine.