Sunday 31 August 2008

Data destruction

After cleaning my home office I was left with some old hard drives to dispose of, this got me thinking about data destruction. In the past I cleared my drives with a couple of passes of random data using dd, but is this thorough enough?

This time round I have used a free bootable CD called CopyWipe (great utility, BootIt NG is also worth a mention). Each drive was given 5 passes, and then taken to with a hammer just to be sure. I've linked a picture to the "after" shot.

I can see data destruction being a larger problem as time goes on. I'd be interested to know the techniques others use for this problem.

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Archiving files from my Topfield PVR

I've had a Topfield PVR for quite a few years now. The unit is great, I can't fault it really. Until recently I did however have one ongoing problem; I kept running out of space! To help combat the space problem I upgraded to a Samsung 400GB drive but this was only a short term band-aid.

The next solution was commissioning a Linksys NSLU2 running uNSLUng and ftpd-topfield to allow FTP access to the unit (my computer isn't anywhere near the TV and the Topfield only has a USB port). So the space problem on the Topfield was fixed, but I had loads of transport stream files sitting on my computer. It was just too expensive (time-wise) to edit out all the ads, convert to MPEG-2 and burn to DVD or DivX. So last weekend I scripted it:
  • Create ad removal cutpoints with comskip
  • Feed the cutpoints into ProjectX then demux
  • Combine the audio and video into an MPEG-2 file with mplex
  • Encode with Dr. DivX OSS
Seems to work quite nicely, the ad detection works fairly well but it's not 100% perfect. One thing I had to do to get comskip working was rename the file extension from REC to TS.

The whole thing was fairly trivial after reading the CLI documentation for each program, but if you need a hand feel free to contact me.

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Moving from VMware Server to ESXi

At home I'm currently using VMware Server with Windows 2003 as the host OS. In addition to running 5 guest operating systems, the host OS performs the following tasks:

  • Shuts down the server in the event of an extended power outage thanks to APC PowerChute.
  • Backs up the VMDK files to locally attached USB hard drives.
  • Allows remote administration via Terminal Services (Remote Desktop).
  • Hosts my complex virtual networking services including NAT (with port forwards) and routing for the virtual machines.
Lately I've been reading up on VMware ESXi and it appears as though my existing hardware is going to work, however I'm having a hard time deciding if the extra efficiency is worth the hassle. From what I've read I will have to find a different way to perform backups since local USB devices aren't supported, in addition I will have to provision a VM to perform the NAT and routing duties. On the other hand the I/O struggles at times with VMware Server so the extra performance and stability from ESXi would be welcomed; I've had VMware Server's NAT implementation crash twice during 18 months of use.

If anyone out there has made the move, I'd love to hear their experiences and feedback!

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Killing the registration prompt in RawShooter Essentials 2006

I'm still using the final version of RawShooter Essentials as it supports my SLR's RAW format (Adobe have now bought out Pixmantec, so this is no longer being updated or supplied by them; it is only available from other sources such as So, if you've managed to acquire it you will find that whenever RawShooter Essentials is freshly installed it will prompt you to register each time you start the program. As Adobe have shut down Pixmantec's servers the registration will fail. I compared the Windows registry from a fresh install with an existing (registered) copy and found that the registered copy had some extra registry entries. With these entries you should be able to kill the annoying prompt:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


Save the above contents to a file with the extention ".REG" and double-click it to install the entries. You may have to fix the lines if they wrap. You will now find that next time you open the program the registration prompt will be gone.

Monday 17 March 2008

VoIP headaches

I've recently signed up with PennyTel to get better prices on phone calls. This was after two relatives of mine both recommended PennyTel and said how easy the whole thing was to set up when using a Linksys SPA-3102.

OK, so I signed up and purchased the Linksys device. I set the networking stuff through the phone then followed the guide on the PennyTel website to configure SIP (VoIP connectivity stuff). I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing, that is until I made the first phone call!

I thought I'd try to impress a mate so I called up one of my tech savvy friends and told them I was using VoIP to talk to them. The quality sounded quite good, then after 32 seconds the call dropped out! I had called a mobile so I thought it may just be a glitch. The next two calls resulted in the same drop out after 32 seconds. By this stage my friend thought it was quite amusing that my new phone service was so unreliable after I had been boasting about the cheap call rates!

After hours of Googling and messages back and forth between PennyTel support, I still hadn't managed to avoid the call drop out, or another intermittent problem where the SIP registration was randomly failing. The settings looked fine, and PennyTel didn't appear to have any outages as I tested things with a soft phone from another DSL connection. I was really regretting the whole thing, and getting pretty pissed off. I had a think about the whole scenario, and the only thing I hadn't eliminated was my DrayTek Vigor 2600We ADSL router. I had already set the port forwards required for the Linksys SPA (UDP 5060-5061 and 16384-16482) so thought nothing more of router configuration. As a last resort, I searched the Internet for people running VoIP through their DrayTek to see if any incompatibilities existed. I came across a site with someone experiencing my exact problem, and they had a workaround! It appears that the 2600We has a SIP application layer proxy enabled by default. This really confuses things on the Linksys and has to be disabled. After telnetting to the device and entering the following command, things were working great:

sys sip_alg 0

Note that you may need to upgrade your DrayTek firmware for this command to be available.

After the changes I made some calls and no longer got disconnected after 32 seconds! Woohoo! At the end of the day I'm glad I chose VoIP for the cost savings, even though it caused me grief the first few days.

Update: One other setting I have found needed a bit of tweaking was the dial plan. Here is my current Brisbane dial plan for an example: