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Ubuntu 14.04 USB Wifi that works

Recently moved to an apartment in a new state, found local wifi that is open but my workstation desktop (HP Z600) doesn’t have built in wifi. So after some initial research I decided to get a USB Wifi adapter. I did some looking around to figure out what vendors had the best built in support as well as which adapters had drivers that would allow for monitor mode / packet injection. Much of the conventional wisdom was to buy the Alfa AWUS036H adapter. The reviews of the adapter were solid but I was only able to get it to work intermittently with Ubuntu with the built in 8187 drivers that are pre-installed. I tried building updated drivers but met build errors and gave up on that path. Ultimately I found there is a Frys electronics nearby and just picked up a few others to try.

The next adapter I bought was the TP-Link TL-WN727N. I plugged it in, turned on the workstation but the device wasn’t working. It was appearing in a lsusb log but that was it. Since I bought three I pulled the next one out of the box to see if I’d get lucky and I did. It was the TP-LINK TL-WN823N

After plugging it in, it immediately was detected and working within seconds. I’m going to return the others and stick with this one. I don’t know if it will support aircrack-ng or not, but at least now I have working wifi.

Chromebook experience in China

I recently purchased a HP Chromebook to replace my personal travel computer. In the US it’s been excellent for light casual browsing, email, youtube, etc use. The weight (< 3 lbs) and battery life (4-5 hrs avg) make it super portable. Well, I'm taking it to China today and I'm not overly optimistic about how it will perform there. Having lived in China for 2 years I quickly realized that the great firewall of China degrades google's services. At one time, they outright blocked it, but eventually (I believe around 2009 or 2010) changed their internal policy to instead just cripple it. It effectively makes the Google services unreliable and therefore frustrating to use. Very clever approach to deter people from using Google and to instead use Baidu and other cloned business of successful western companies. While living there, I setup a personal VPN running from a server in the US. It worked wonderfully for the time we lived in China. I still use it when I travel to harden the security for my network connections overseas. The day before my trip, I tried setting up my Chromebook with OPenVPN. To be fair, I only spent about a half an hour trying to figure out how to make it work and was ultimately unsuccessful. I've had little trouble getting various clients on just about every other OS (Windows, Linux, OSX) to work. I just couldn't get it to connect properly so here I am headed to China without a VPN for my chromebook. I'll have more information on the experience over the next few days after I reach the mainland which I'll post below soon. If you have suggestions on how to get OpenVPN working on a chromebook please post a commment below.

Does republic wireless moto g work overseas?

I’m headed to Shanghai China today with my Moto G republic wireless cell phone. I’ve had the phone now for a few months and aside from a few quirks, it’s been a very good experience in the US. Will my moto g work overseas? Well, we’re going to find out this week – in all places, in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

I’ve read reports of others experiences using their republic wireless phones abroad in Wifi Mode. I switched to the $5/month plan today which allows VoIP calls only. It’s no secret that mainland China internet users are among the most challenged among large countries regarding internet censorship. I think this will be a good test of RW and I’ll provide an update later this week when I am able to try to make a call.

If you’ve been to mainland China with a RW phone, please drop a comment, Id love to hear about your experience.

Update 12/10/2014

Nearly two weeks in China now and have been using my Motorola G cell phone in both Shanghai and Guangzhou cities with Republic Wireless in Wifi mode. Overall, the experience has been very good.
The call quality for wifi calls has been on par with what I experience in the US. Call drop rates are very low. I’ve had a few problems finding wifi when I’m away from the hotel but that’s about it.

The cities have free wifi in many areas, but in China you often have to supply a local phone number to which an access code is sent via SMS which then allows you to use the free wifi (this is the case
in CHinese Starbucks stores). This creates an issue in actually being able to use the local free wifi since I have a US number and the system only works for local Chinese numbers.

In the nice hotels, the rooms all have wifi, and calls are easy to make – it’s not different than if you were in the US.

One thing I wonder about is the security of the phone – not just in China, but anywhere. I’m not sure if the VoIP connection is hardened via SSL or some other mechanism, so this could possibly
be a security issue for some people but I’m not overly concerned about it.

Bottom line, Republic Wireless Wifi calls work in China.

The Republic Wireless experience

Republic wireless is a company that offers discounted mobile phone service at very reasonable pricing. I’ve never been a heavy cell phone user, and was tired of paying so much for phone service. I had been monitoring the republic wireless offer for more than a year and finally decided when it was time to buy a new phone, I’d give them a try. That was 6 months ago.

After 6 months of service, I continue to be very happy overall with the plan and phone. I have the Moto G phone – which I opted to get in the 16GB variant since it doesn’t have a micro SD slot or other expandable storage option.

Wifi to cell switching – seamless, neither I or the caller detect any issue or delay. I have learned to tell when it’s happening as there becomes a brief (1 second) period on my end where the call is garbled but still understandable as the switch occurs. It’s something that doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s imperceptable to the person on the other end and doesn’t bother me at all, especially when considering how little the service costs.

Wifi call quality – outstanding, no issues at home or work. I do have very good high speed internet access. There have been a few minor problems I haven’t figured out yet with Wifi calling. One is that occassionally I’ll see a wifi incoming call ever so briefly (e.g. 1 ring) then before I can answer it goes to ‘missed call’.

Cell call quality – Outstanding in Boise where we live. Better than expected actually. My understanding is that republic wireless uses the sprint network which in the past hasn’t been considered the best service, however it’s been better than my experience on T-Mobile and Verizon in the Boise area. I get good coverage in Eagle, Boise, and all along Highway 55. I can’t speak to the cell coverage yet in Cascade or McCall.

Moto G 16GB – solid entry level Android phone. Minimal complaints here. I have experienced on one or two occassions the mystery battery drops from > 50% charged to zero suddenly. A few hours on the charger and a reboot seemed to remedy this problem for me. I haven’t had it happen again in the past 3 months. The camera is mediocre, but does an okay job. Audio quality on the phone is excellent for calls, and volume is very good. Speaker phone on the Moto G isn’t very good according to the people on the other end. Phone size and weight are perfect for me. Comes with pretty recent version of Android. I’m afraid to root the phone since it has the proprietary republic wireless image on it so I have had to bury the android stock crapware in a folder rather than purge it from the phone as I’ve done in the past.

Here is a link to save you $20 if you decide to sign up for republic wireless: Republic Wireless Website

Dell mini 10v performance upgrades

My mini 10v has been going strong for several years. I used to run Snow Leopard, but got tired of that and eventually returned to linux (currently Xubuntu). I’ve needed to make a few upgrades along the way to keep up with the times. Here are my suggestions if you want to pimp your mini 10v

1) Upgrade to 2GB of RAM. There is only one slot for a ram card and you can only max it out at 2Gbytes.

2) Install a SSD – these have come way down in price. The boot performance will knock your socks off. Make sure you get a 2.5 inch drive so it fits in your mini. The one below is what I would buy.

3) Get the high capacity battery – 6 cell. I get about 5 hours on my laptop with this battery.

SOLVED: Easy way to view unread messages in Outlook 2010

A quick method to search for unread messages in Outlook 2010 is to use the search bar with appropriate syntax (see below) for a quick view of unread messages in your inbox.

If you type “read:no” into the search box in Outlook 2010 you will be shown all unread messages.

I find this much faster and more convienent than clicking the “View menu” then clicking “View Settings” then choosing the “Filter” button then selecting the “More Choices” tab and finally selecting the “Only items that are: Unread” checkbox.

What follows are some other useful search box commands as a bonus. They are self explanatory.

“from: Michael Harmon”
“michael or harmon”
“subject: TPS reports”
“read: no” – as mentioned above, shows only emails that are unread.
“has attachment: yes” – shows emails with attachments only

Do you have additional useful shortcuts you use? Please drop me a comment to share.

Ubuntu doesn’t recognize Canon Rebel XTi Camera

If you are having trouble getting the USB connection between your Ubuntu to Canon Rebel XTi to work, and don’t want to find a windows machine to use, you might use gphoto2 to download the photos from your camera.

Note: I’ve tried this on on my Dell Mini 10v 1011 running XUbuntu Precise release 12.04 with success

1) Check if gphoto2 is installed

~$ which gphoto2

2) Install if necessary gphoto2

~$ sudo apt-get install gphoto2

3) Turn on your digital camera, and plug it into the USB port on your computer

4) Check to make sure it shows up with the command as follows

~$ gphoto2 –auto-detect

5) Download the photos (assuming step 4 worked)

~$ gphoto2 –get-all-files

Hope this works as well for you as it did for me.

Quick way to save 10% from Home Depot

In the past 10% off coupons for home depot seemed to be easy to come by. No so much anymore unless you want to take your chances buying such coupons from ebay or craigslist. I recently discovered a pretty clever way to save 10% that is safe, secure and easy. Using gift card exchange websites you can buy gift cards (including electronic versions) at a discount of 10% off the working value of the card. So before you buy from home depot, go buy some discounted gift cards here to save 7-10% or more

Here are few sites (I’m not affiliated with any of them) to check:

How to print to a file for HP printers

Recent print drivers for HP printers no longer have the handy “print to file” option for the user to save driver output to a file. What follows are some instructions based on windows 7 and the HP M251 model laserjet printer PCLXL driver to explain how to print to a file. These instructions and the general process should work with other HP printers which do not offer the Print to File checkbox in the driver UI.

1. In windows, open the “Devices and Printer’s folder” (Start Button -> Devices and Printers)
2. Right click on the printer and select “Printer properties”
3. Go to the Ports tab
4. Note which port is currently being used. We are going to change this and you will eventually need to reset it (see step 9) to return to normal printing mode (as opposed to print to file).
5. Click on the “Add Port…” button
6. Choose “Local Port” then click “New Port…”
7. For the port name, enter a path to save the .prn file to. Use a directory under the C:\Users\ to ensure there will be no permission issues.(ie I use C:\Users\\Desktop\capture.prn)
8. Print the file just like normal
9. Reset the port back to its original value. If you don’t do this, subsequent print jobs will overwrite the capture.prn file on your hard drive and not be delivered to the actual printer.

If you have problems, please post a comment including the printer model and your version of windows and I’ll do my best to help.