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Tree Down: Failure

There were some severe storms in Maryland and the surrounding areas on Friday, June 29th. At about 11:00 PM EST, we lost power and it was not restored until this morning (Monday 7/2/12) at around 2:00AM. The likely cause of this outage was a tree that went down on the power lines that supply our community:

We were fortunate to have power restored - there are still thousands without it. We'll probably be investing in a backup generator here shortly.

Samsung Galaxy S2 AT&T Official ICS - What's New

Here I'll try to keep a running log of things I've found to be new or different on the official AT&T ICS update to the Galaxy S2. Let's get started:

  • Lock screen looks a bit different
  • General font used is different, better looking
  • >Pattern unlock - pattern can be hidden
  • Hold power button: now offers going to airplane mode
  • Hold power button: when changing to sound on or off, there is a warning window you have to click 'OK' (somewhat annoying)
  • GMail interface - completely different look and feel
  • Power saving widget takes up 8 icon slots instead of 4
  • More Google Play integration - Play books, Play Music, Play Movies
  • Several other new apps\widgets built in (not AT&T crapware)
  • *Taking a screenshot is completely different: Press and hold the power and volume down buttons for about 2 seconds
  • Screen rotations seems to be more fluid
  • Icons for cellular network strength and network are different
  • A few new smooth transitions and fade in\out when navigating between different screens
  • Does not seem to get stuck in the wake\sleep transition bug AKA 30% battery by 4:00PM (still testing...we'll see)

I'll add to this list as I come across anything else.

Galaxy S2 on AT&T ICS Update - How To

After "testing" my phone for two days, I decided it was time to apply the upgrade to my Wife's phone. She had downloaded the UCKK6 OTA update before I did and thus complained about the terrible battery life issue before I realized that it was the update. I'm hoping that this update will at least alleviate the issue.

So first things first - go download Kies: http://www.samsung.com/us/kies/

It's a fairly simple application that includes all of the drivers for the Samsung phones. The layout reminds me of cough..itunes..cough. Here's the 'home' screen with no device plugged in:

When you plug in your SG2, Kies will detect it, get the drivers installed and hopefully connect successfully:

I say hopefully...I found that if the PC that Kies is installed on is freshly rebooted, and this is the first time that you have plugged in the device, it will likely work fine. But if you have unplugged the device, or it simply doesn't connect for one reason or another, here's a few things I tried that seemed to work:

  • Use the 'Troubleshoot connection error' button. It will re-install the Samsung device drivers and start over (disconnect your device first)
  • As always, reboot the PC
  • Simply unplug then replug the device

I also saw an error that asked me to unplug all other devices from the system (even though the phone was the only thing plugged in....). A restart of the Kies application fixed this one.

Additionally, if you have UAC turned on, watch for the UAC prompt that is 'stuck in the taskbar'. This happens during the actual update and if you have to use the connection troubleshooter.

Once connected, you will hopefully see the firmware notification window:

Click 'Update' to start the process. You will have to accept a few EULA screens, and the update will begin downloading:

*NOTE* If you don't have enough battery, the update will fail.

Once the battery has enough charge, start the update process again. During the upgrade, you will see a green Android image and a progress bar on the phone - don't unplug it during this process.

The completed notification:

 

Keep in mind that you will need to reset all of your home screens and icons, and I also found that it changed what was synced from different accounts to my contacts.

Samsung Galaxy S2 on AT&T ICS Update

Ice Cream Sandwich has been out for quite some time - and I'm sure that it's already been running, in one form or another, on the Galaxy S2 (custom ROMs, etc). Not me - I never got around to rooting or installing custom ROMs, or jailbreaking, or any of that on any of my phones. So that said, I've been relying on AT&T for all software updates, and lets just say that both of our GS2s were hit with the UCKK6 bug that chewed through battery like nobodies business.

I've been waiting for the Ice Cream Sandwich update for a while. Then it came out last week...then it didn't, and it was due out for last Saturday (6/23). Saturday came and went with no update - and oh, it wasn't an over the air update, it required using the Samsung Kies software. The update finally showed yesterday (6/24) after 8:00PM. The first attempt at the update threw an error, because the battery was pretty low - around 40%...even though to get the update, the phone is plugged in anyway....?... After some charging, the update took about 20 minutes, and was successful.

Update: Here's the update process with screen shots.

Update: Here's a running log of changes\new features.

A few things I noted right off the bat:

  • The lock screen looked a little different
  • The default font is a bit different - looks sharp
  • The backup and restore was successful, so all apps and files were retained
  • All of the pages and icon arrangments were lost which was annoying, but easily recreated - needed to be cleaned up anyway

Here's a few screenshots:

The battery issue may or may not have been resolved - too soon to tell. It was farily intermittent - but there were days where I would get to 5:00 in the afternoon and have less than 40% of battery remaining. Here's earlier today:

 

And after 12 hours, 15 minutes (now) I'm only down to 66% battery, so hopefully it's sorted.

Verizon FiOS Quantum

Thanks a lot, Verizon. Now I REALLY need to upgrade my network hardware. The new speed tiers from Verizon FiOS are pretty much amazing:

I currently have the 35/35 tier, which I don't see here...I'm wondering if it will be bumped to the 50/25 tier? I've seen downloads at 5MBps (40Mbps) already, so maybe I'll start seeing downloads hi 6.25MBps? Sweet.

Granted, I have been planning on upgrading the wireless access point for some time - it's a fairly old B/G model, and several (if not all) wireless devices in the house are all capable of N. My biggest problem, though, is the firewall. I'm stuck at 100Mbps unless I go big with something like an ASA.

Here's the scoop: http://www22.verizon.com/home/fiosinternet/plans/

Scammers phishing by text

Well, scammers have moved "up" in the world...first they were scamming by phone...now, they're using SMS\Text messages to try to get you to browse to some fake, malicious website. Here's the text I received from 321-332-5220 this morning:

Wow! My reward from BestBuy.com[.gpck.biz]! Rule number one about any email\text\anything: DON'T CLICK THE LINK. Rule #2: Don't click the link. EVER.

A quick whois shows nothing useful:

Registrant Address1:                         Attn: gpck.biz
Registrant Address2:                         Aptds. 0850-00056
Registrant City:                             Panama
Registrant Postal Code:                      Zona 15
Registrant Country:                          Panama
Registrant Country Code:                     PA

If anyone is curious what this website looks like, here you go:

And by pressing continue, you are sent here:

Then here:

...And then here:

.....

So in all reality, you will NEVER receive a Best Buy gift card, you will probably get some malware on your system, and in the end...you will just be angry.

IE Toolbar Hell

A picture is worth 1,000 words. I know of a few people that honestly do use the Google toolbar, but this is just nuts. I took a minute or two to uninstall all of these, and no this is NOT one of my systems:

Stupid drive-by-downloads. Total recipe search? Really? Because I need a toolbar for that.....

Denon AVR-2112CI Review - Networking

In an effort to replace lost functionality, I recently upgraded the AV Receiver to a network capable Denon AVR-2112CI. The full documentation is here, so I'll spare those details. Going from a receiver with no HDMI inputs to one with several was a major bonus. Plus it is network-capable, which makes it that much better.

After 2 firmware updates, everything is working great. The Pandora Radio app, internet radio, and DLNA music are great - all of this can be controlled via a web browser or even an iPhone\Android app. Here's the web interface:

It may look simple, but it works great - can you say Zone2 control from your SmartPhone while out on the porch?

The DLNA server also supports 'Play to' so you can start a stream from a Windows 7 PC with streaming turned on or push media from a DLNA capable SmartPhone (Android). It is also 100% compatible with iPod\iPhone\iPad via the front USB ports. It just works.

Fine Tuning Media Center 7 - Is it all worth it - Part 2

A while back, I had "given up" on using a Media Center PC, sold the digital cable tuner cards, and moved on to the old standby - a service provider set-top-box, hoping to use other devices and DLNA to replace some of the lost functionality. Let's just say that even with DLNA libraries, Netflix, and OnDemand...a purpose build Media Center is nearly impossible to replace...that was before I owned an XBOX 360.

Enter the Media Center Extender. It looks 100% as the Media Center app does in Windows 7 with nearly all of the same functionality.

Let me briefly describe the current setup. DLNA was being provided by a Windows 7 VM with both video and audio libraries. Being a VM, it was always up and the perfect candidate to sync with the XBOX. All networking is 1Gb so that is not an issue - though I did have to up the amount of vRAM just a bit.

Let's go back over the list:

The Pros:

  • Audio Library
    • All functionality is preserved, including sorting, album art, and even the scrolling albums covers during playback.
  • Picture Library
    • All functionality is preserved.
  • Excellent DVR
    • This could potentially be resolved with a tuner card, but would require that the Windows 7 machine be a physical PC not a VM...or use some of the network sharing capabilities of the new InifiTV card, but again this would require a physical PC.
  • Video Upconversion
    • Appears to be the same functionality.
  • Built in optical drive
    • All functionality is preserved, but limited to DVD - no BluRay here.
  • Huge PC
    • Not quite the same...but then again, it is an XBOX.....
  • Sports package
    • All functionality is preserved.

The Cons:

  • Boot time\Sleep issues
    • Resolved. The VM is always running, and the XBOX does not take long to boot, and always boots reliably.
  • Guide jump to Recorded TV
    • Have not seen this issue yet.
  • Overall remote issues
    • Does not appear to be an issue, but we'll see how this goes on.
  • No OnDemand
    • Still have the Set-top-box, so this is not an issue.
  • Hardware failure
    • Resolved just because the Windows 7 box is a VM...yes there could be host hardware failure, but that will be a much worse day than just not having Media Center.
  • Heat and Noise
    • The XBOX 360 is a bit loud and produces heat, but not quite as much as the old MCPC....but then again, so does the set-top-box.
  • Cable provider service updates
    • Does not apply as I have yet to test the DVR\Live TV functionality.

 

All told, most of the functionality is preserved through the XBOX 360 Media Center Extender. This is still NOT quite the easiest solution for most people - who has a VM host server running 24/7? Plus I still have not tested the DVR\Live TV functionality yet.

VPN Router on a Stick

Previously, when using a Cisco PIX firewall, VPN 3000 (Altiga), or other VPN hardware as an endpoint for a L2L or remote access VPN connection over the internet, 2 explicit internet facing interfaces were needed to allow internet access for these VPN connections. This was due to the fact that internet traffic would need to leave the internet interface (unencrypted).....which is the same interface that the original encrypted traffic came in on. So it was simply not possible for this traffic to use a single interface to come in encrypted and leave unencrypted...a workaround to this if 2 interfaces were not available was to use split tunneling.

What is split tunneling? It uses ACLs to specify what traffic should be tunneled and what traffic should not be sent through the VPN. So traffic destined for all of the subnets on the corporate LAN will be sent through the VPN tunnel, and all other traffic (internet traffic) will NOT be sent over the VPN. The problem with this configuration is security - a system is connected to both the 'trusted' corporate LAN and the untrusted internet. In a standard, all-traffic-tunneled VPN, all network traffic from the remote endpoint (or network) is tunneled back to the corporate LAN and further internet access is controlled.

This is no longer the case. To start, lets take a look at exactly what were talking about:

 

 

This is now possible using PIX or ASA code version 7.2 or higher and VPN client software version 5.x and later. Here's the key commands to enable this configuration:

// Command that permits IPsec traffic to enter and exit the same interface.

same-security-traffic permit intra-interface

// Forces VPN Clients over the tunnel for Internet access.

split-tunnel-policy tunnelall

// The NAT statement to define what to encrypt (the addresses from the vpn-pool).

nat (outside) 1 192.168.10.0 255.255.255.0

Note that if you have a range of IPs to be assigned to the VPN clients instead of an entire subnet, you will need to add the all of them to the nat (outside) to allow them to access the internet.

A complete configuration example is available from Cisco.com here.