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Kicking back for a week at Center Parcs. Came fully prepared with Raspberry Pi & 2TB Portable Hard Drive fully loaded but forgot the damn remote! My HTC One has an IR remote built in, but the Microsoft MCE remote isn’t listed. Every result googled turned up was an XBMC or Media Center remote which only works over the network/LAN.

Eventually, after trying a dozen or so IR apps with no luck, we found ZappIR.

zappir

After trying a few combinations- Console/Media Manager -> Microsoft -> Media Manager MCE Media Center Code Group 2- Bingo!

Now back to kicking back! Nice little hot tub, steam room and sauna in the back garden!

11042999_10155192464790567_1824434695954957278_n

I’ve seen a number of projects posted using the Amazon Kindle as a “standalone” wireless display and decided it was time to join the party. I picked up a secondhand kindle from eBay for £20 and got cracking.

First step was rooting/jailbreaking the kindle. Pretty easy using the instructions from http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=88004

I then enabled SSH over WiFi so I didn’t have to mess around booting into diagnostics mode and plugging in to USB every time I wanted to make changes.

Lees-Air:~ leetickett$ ssh root@192.168.0.229

Welcome to Kindle!

#################################################
#  N O T I C E  *  N O T I C E  *  N O T I C E  # 
#################################################
Rootfs is mounted read-only. Invoke mntroot rw to
switch back to a writable rootfs.
#################################################
[root@kindle root]#

The most helpful project to get me started was https://github.com/antimega/kindleframe it uses PhantomJS and pngcrush on a linux server to prepare the image. Handily I already have a Centos server I could easily use for this. I tweaked Chris’ script a little- starting with the shell script called by cron;

#!/bin/sh
cd /var/www/html
phantomjs update.js
convert morning.png -resize 80% screenshot.png
convert morning.png -rotate 90 screenshot.png
pngcrush -c 0 -nofilecheck screenshot.png screenshot_crush.png

Then update.js. I had to tackle a few issues;

  • Cycling between different pages (achieved by dividing the current minute by 5 and choosing a URL based on the remainder)
  • My SSRS report takes 15 seconds to run (using setTimeout(takeScreenShot, 20000); ensures the report has loaded before the screenshot is taken)
  • My SSRS report requires authentication (simply adding page.settings.userName = ‘x'; and page.settings.password = ‘y';)
var page = require('webpage').create();
var d = new Date();
var n = d.getMinutes();
var url = '';
var px_top = 120;
var px_left = 10;
if (n%5==0)
{
 url = 'http://pvoutput.org/intraday.jsp?id=26603&sid=24317';
}
else if (n%5==2)
{
 url = 'http://pvoutput.org/list.jsp?id=26603&sid=24317';
}
else
{
 url = 'http://192.168.0.188/ReportServer/Pages/ReportViewer.aspx?%2fTEL+Wall+Thing%2fWallDash&rs:Command=Render';
 page.viewportSize = {
  width: 1920,
  height: 1080
 };
 page.settings.userName = 'xxx';
 page.settings.password = 'yyy';
 px_top = 45;
 px_left = 470;
}
page.open(url, function () {
	page.clipRect = { top: px_top, left: px_left, width: 1000, height: 750 }; 
	page.evaluate(function() {
    	document.body.bgColor = 'white';
	});
        var elapsed = 0;
	setTimeout(takeScreenShot, 20000);
	function takeScreenShot() {
            	page.render('screenshot.png');
            	phantom.exit();
    	}
});

Then added the script to cron to run every minute and voila.

Once SSH’ed onto the kindle you’ll need to;

mntroot rw

Then proceed to create the script to grab the image and display it (I also added a few lines to display the battery %age in the bottom corner);

#!/bin/sh
cd /var/tmp/root
rm screenshot_crush.png
eips -c
eips -c
wget http://user:pass@tickett.dyndns.com:777/html/screenshot_crush.png
eips -g screenshot_crush.png
local batt=$(cat /sys/devices/system/yoshi_battery/yoshi_battery0/battery_capacity)
batt=${batt%%\%*}
eips 1 39 "$batt"

I’ve setup port forwarding on my firewall to allow traffic through on an obscure port, added a .htpasswd and you’ll notice i’m using an external domain name in my script (i’ve substituted something fictitious)- this allows me to use the display anywhere with an internet connection (literally anywhere as I can tether to my mobile phone).

And here it is;

IMAG1435

IMAG1433

IMAG1432

Here’s how the SSRS report looks in it’s full glory (you can see the area i’ve chosen to display on the kindle);

wall_dash

I’ve chosen not to kill powerd and framework for now, so the kindle will still go to sleep. The next step- if I ever get round to it, will be trying to save power by sleeping or disabling WiFi between updates. I’ve found a little bit of information on how this might be possible (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=221497) but still some way off.

I will no doubt add some additional screens (weather forecast, router traffic, network monitoring etc), and it would be nice to have a way of scrolling between images using one of the kindle keys.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could buy something like this off the shelf? Why should we have to hack an existing device? I stumbled across an interesting kickstarter campaign doing exactly this, unfortunately it’s a tiny 2″ screen (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/914874115/displio-wifi-display-that-tracks-whats-important-t)- maybe one day!

I’m also in the market for a bigger device (i’d love to replace the 21″ monitor which sits on my wall) but for a portable option 9″ or 10″ would probably suffice. A real shame the Kindle DX was discontinued, that would have been perfect (although could do with losing the keyboard). Also looks like a few similar devices; Asus eeeReader DR900, Onyx BOOX M96 (they seem quite expensive and I haven’t looked into whether they have been (or even need to be) rooted, or how easily something similar could be achieved on Android).

Other similar projects worth a look;

http://www.shatteredhaven.com/2012/11/1347365-kindle-weather-display.html
https://randomcoderdude.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/using-the-kindle-as-an-information-display
https://github.com/ufuchs/weather-on-kindle4nt
http://hackaday.com/2015/02/16/wi-fi-connected-e-ink-display/

Further to https://tickett.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/doh-it-doesnt-fit/

I was unable to find a replacement heatsink which would allow the Broadcom NIC to fit. I did however manage to replace the standard heatsink screws with these (12mm M3). I bought a pack of 100 from RS for a mere £1.52 (rs stock no 553-403);

IMAG1252

You can see how much smaller they are than the stock screws;

IMAG1253

Here it is fitted;

IMAG1259

And the card fit;

IMAG1261

Note that I added a bit of electrical tape to the end of the NIC to make 100% sure none of the components will short. As well as slotting a small sheet of paper between the card and the motherboard.

Further to a post over 3 years ago https://tickett.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/updateable-excel-frontend-for-sql-view/ – I have finally given up the search for a ready made solution and built something myself.

I work with a number of systems which have functionality gaps and/or need a simpler (quicker) interface for data entry. The solution is essentially a SQL view (or stored procedure) with a simple grid (excel like) front-end. If any data needs to be captured not currently handled by the system a custom table is created to hold the fields.

My previous Excel based solution works rather well, but is starting to show it’s age. I am now beta testing a web based solution i have built;

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 20.34.43

The application is extremely simple to configure- enter the SQL to retrieve & update the data;

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 20.43.43

And list the columns with some attributes (ReadOnly, Hidden, Title, Width etc);

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 20.42.10

And you’re all set!

Functionality currently includes;

  • Easy configuration
  • Simple/fast data entry (with validation)
  • Column resizing (non-persistent)
  • Sort on any column

Next steps;

  • Test (find and fix bugs)
  • Optimise code
  • Allow parameters in select SQL

That’s better!

After discovering last night that my newly acquired Broadcom 57810A Dual Port 10Gb PCIE Copper (RJ45) Ethernet NICs didn’t fit my Supermicro AS-2022TG-HIBQRF, I was pleased to find they do fit my Supermicro AS-1042G-LTF.

And best of all, absolutely no setup/configuration was necessary. I simply powered down the host, replaced the NIC and powered back up. The ports automatically assigned the same as the NIC I removed.

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 09.08.19

Doh! It doesn’t fit!

Looking for a cheaper alternative to the Intel X540-T2 (Dual Port 10Gb PCIE Copper (RJ45) Ethernet NIC) I purchased a Broadcom 57810A (Dual Port 10Gb PCIE Copper (RJ45) Ethernet NIC).

I eagerly opened up my server (Supermicro AS-2022TG-HIBQRF) but it doesn’t quite fit!

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 22.14.11

You can see the plastic RAM shroud just touching, and the CPU heatsink just touching but unfortunately the problem is the heatsink screw (just below the back end of the card);

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 22.14.36

Very frustrating! If the screw lay where the 20 pin connector / holes were i’d consider getting out the dremel. You can clearly see some chips where i’d need to cut though!

I have had a look and can’t find any alternative heatsinks that might free up the space either!

Guess i’ll have to stick with the Intel X540-T2 for now (admittedly I don’t even know if the Broadcom 57810A is compatible with the server & ESX yet… although I will be sure to try it in my Supermicro AS-1042G-LTF later (watch this space).

Here’s the X540-T2;

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 22.23.05

I have just setup an SSRS report for my helpdesk to show open calls, unread e-mails, some KPIs and graphs. I bought a cheap monitor, wall mounted and attached a raspberry pi.

I started with the latest Raspbian image and spent some time tweaking it to boot into x and launch chromium with the homepage set to the URL of my report. Unfortunately it was pretty flakey and always prompted for username/password so I had to VNC in every morning to authenticate.

Yesterday morning chromium decided it no longer wanted to load the report. I tried running;

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo raspi-update

And rebooted… Or at least I tried to but it would no longer boot- hanging on a message along the lines of;

mmcblk0: error -110

Rather than start again from scratch I decided someone else must have already tackled this “kiosk” style scenario and went on the hunt. Enter Raspberry Webkiosk; http://www.binaryemotions.com/raspberry-webkiosk/ (after a quick trial I paid the €9.90 “donation” to get the full version).

The image took care of the operating system, booting straight into full screen chromium with the home page set to the report URL but I was still stuck with the authentication prompt.

I hoped I could simply enable Anonymous Authentication in IIS, but the report server virtual directories don’t appear in IIS and the information available online all suggests this can’t be done.

The next idea was to try and configure chromium to remember the login credentials. Whilst I was able to save the username and password the prompt still persisted.

Final idea was to try and use an asp/html script of some sort. I then remembered a site I stumbled across recently with some sample/demo reports; http://www.reportsurfer.com/ which didn’t require authentication. I took a look at the html source and could see some simple javascript being used to pass the credentials.

So I built a simple “proxy” page in the default IIS site to redirect to the SSRS report and pass the username & password (the script must be on the same hostname/port to work).

<html>
  <head>
   <script>
var _0x1751=["\x61\x66","\x76\x76"];

function getHTTPObject() {
    if (typeof XMLHttpRequest != 'undefined') {
        return new XMLHttpRequest();
    }
    try {
        return new ActiveXObject("Msxml2.XMLHTTP");
    } catch (e) {
        try {
            return new ActiveXObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP");
        } catch (e) {}
    }
    return false;
}	

function runReport() {
  var http = getHTTPObject();
  var url= "http://rs-01/ReportServer/Pages/ReportViewer.aspx?%2fTEL+Wall+Thing%2fWallDash&rs:Command=Render";
  http.onreadystatechange = function() {
    if (http.readyState == 4) {
      if (http.status == 401) {
        runReport(); 
      }
      if (http.status == 200) {
        document.location = url;
      }
    }
  };
  http.open("get", url, true, _0x1751[0x0], _0x1751[0x1]);
  http.send(null);
  return false;
}
    </script>
  </head>
  <body onload="runReport();">
  </body>
</html>

To use the script yourself, you essentially need to amend the top line;

var _0x1751=["\x61\x66","\x76\x76"];

The first value is the username and the second value is the password (hex encoded just to add some really basic obfuscation). Obviously this is easily reversible so you should create a new account with only permission for the specific report(s) they should be able to access. You can use http://string-functions.com/string-hex.aspx to convert your login details to hex.

Then simply update the report URL;

var url= "http://rs-01/ReportServer/Pages/ReportViewer.aspx?%2fTEL+Wall+Thing%2fWallDash&rs:Command=Render";

And you’re all set!

helpdesk

I provisioned a new Windows Server 2012 R2 VM to be used as a Domain Controller and another to be used for VMWare Update Manager and Veeam (Backup and Replication).

Assign a static IP address, and install all windows updates (this takes considerable time and numerous reboots).

Domain Controller

Follow the “wizard”. The main thing to note (as previously mentioned)- follow best practice when choosing a domain name; I’ve always gone with something.local or something.home in the past, but suffered as a result. I did a little research and found some articles suggesting best practice is to use a subdomain of an internet facing domain you own http://www.mdmarra.com/2012/11/why-you-shouldnt-use-local-in-your.html. So, say you own microsoft.com, your internal domain name may be ad.microsoft.com. You configure the NETBIOS name to be whatever you like, this will be used when you logon using NETBIOS\User rather than user@ad.microsoft.com.

Now you can join the other Windows Server to the domain and configure the identity source in vCenter. This took me a little longer than anticipated; You must login as administrator@vsphere.local (not root).

Update Manager

  • Install update manager (follow the “wizard”)
  • Login to vCenter (using vSphere)
  • Ensure all virtual machines off of host
  • Scan
  • Attach (patch and upgrade baselines)
  • Remediate (check both baselines and check all patches)
  • Repeat for each host

Veeam

  • Install Veeam
  • Connect to vCenter
  • Setup Backup Repository
  • Configure Backups (I stick roughly to the default… Weekly full backup with daily incrementals, retaining 14 restore points). *I added the entire datacenter to the job, so as I add new VMs they will automatically be included in the backup job. I can then create a new datacenter to store development machines and/or anything I don’t want included in the nightly backups*
  • Deploy vCenter Virtual Appliance
  • Configure static IP address, hostname etc
  • Check for & install updates (this took quite a while and the web interface appeared to hang, be patient)
  • Reboot
  • Launch & complete the setup wizard
  • Login to the web interface
  • Create a datacenter & cluster and add your hosts
  • Create vSphere Distributed Switch
  • *This is the step i’ve often missed which then causes loss of network connectivity. You then have to connect to the console (IPMI) and reset the host networking and start over!* : Edit the Distributed Port Group settings, under “Teaming and failover” move the uplink port(s) you intend to use to “Active uplinks”
  • Assign physical NICs to vDS
  • Migrate VMKernel  network adapters to vDS
  • *Assign SSL certificate (i’ve yet to do this, and imagine some detail will be required)

I have some additional hardware to setup. So will probably try and follow my own guide sometime in the coming weeks. I may add some screenshots and if it seems like any detail is missing.

Following on from: https://tickett.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/building-hosting-environment-part-1-hardware/

  • Configure IPMI (either use a static IP or setup a static DHCP lease)
  • Tweak the bios (ensure options are optimised for performance rather than to minimise noise etc)
  • Add DNS* entries for your IPMI and ESX Management Interfaces
  • Install ESXi (I did everything without the need to even plug a monitor/keyboard in, IPMI is a life saver)
  • Configure your management interfaces (use the IP addresses you previously configured in DNS, and the domain name you previously selected)

Now you can login with the vSphere client and configure a few more items;

  • NTP (on the Configuration tab under Software, Time Configuration)
  • Add your datastore (i’m using NFS, so I had to add a VMKernel interface first)

Until we have our vCenter server up and running we will stick to a single NIC.

*If you don’t yet have a device which provides DNS (router), you can add entries to your hosts file for now.

*Choosing a domain name; I’ve always gone with something.local or something.home in the past, but suffered as a result. I did a little research and found some articles suggesting best practice is to use a subdomain of an internet facing domain you own http://www.mdmarra.com/2012/11/why-you-shouldnt-use-local-in-your.html. So, say you own microsoft.com, your internal domain name may be ad.microsoft.com. You configure the NETBIOS name to be whatever you like, this will be used when you logon using NETBIOS\User rather than user@ad.microsoft.com.

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