pfSense (FreeBSD) Thinkpad Boot Failure

Posted in Technical on May 15th, 2016 by p14nd4

After pfSense upgraded to a newer FreeBSD base (perhaps a year ago), my Thinkpad T41 running pfSense was failing to boot; I believe the errors were something about failing to initialize the device at ata1 (the optical drive); perhaps something about failing to respond to a command. After lots of searching (and poor documentation), I resolved the issue by setting this boot parameter:


Once the system booted, I believe I added this to /boot/loader.conf.local to make the fix [slightly more] permanent. (I believe this file still gets wiped out during system updates, so it’s not a perfect solution.)

I’ll update this post with the exact error message if I encounter it again. (I’m finally getting around to writing this post since I’m about to wipe pfSense and try OPNsense, and I don’t want to have to re-discover this solution.)

Edit: As I suspected, OPNsense has the same problem:

(ataprobe0:ata1:0:1:0): ATAPI_IDENTIFY. ACB: a1 00 00 00 00 40 00 00 00 00 00 00
(ataprobe0:ata1:0:1:0): CAM status: Command timeout
(ataprobe0:ata1:0:1:0): Retrying command
(ataprobe0:ata1:0:1:0): ATAPI_IDENTIFY. ACB: a1 00 00 00 00 40 00 00 00 00 00 00
(ataprobe0:ata1:0:1:0): CAM status: Command timeout
(ataprobe0:ata1:0:1:0): Error 5, Retries exhausted

Fully client-side / browser-initiated / bookmarklet image gallery

Posted in Technical on January 24th, 2016 by p14nd4

For a demo project I had at work recently, I wanted to incorporate some imagery from the client’s web site. I discovered their web server was configured to generate an index page for the directory containing their images, but I didn’t want to click through each one individually to figure out if it was what I wanted. (An auto-generated index page is something like this, but imagine it having hundreds of entries.)

I was pretty sure that I’d encountered some javascript many years ago that would render a thumbnail gallery for just such an occasion, but I was unable to locate it. Thankfully, I’m a software engineer, and I’m easily distracted by tangential pursuits, so I just wrote my own! If you’re not a nerd, but want to see what it is, copy the text below, visit the index page mentioned above; in your browser address bar, delete the address that’s currently there, manually type javascript: (make sure to get the colon), and then paste the text from below. (Browsers strip the javascript: from the text if you paste it.)

If it works (tested in Chromium 47 and Firefox 43), you should be presented with a little gallery of images! You can also search the web for index of jpg or something similar and test it out there, but you can stumble across some…interesting…things that way. You’ve been warned.

Also, it’s got the potential to crash your browser (or at least really slow things down) if you run it in a really large index. For better or for worse, I don’t do any intelligent loading/unloading of images, so it just ends up rendering a page with ALL OF THE IMAGES from the index. I have no doubt that this can be dramatically improved in a variety of ways; I very infrequently touch JavaScript, so this was a bit of a refresher exercise for me. Pull requests welcome!

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Multi-page Toolkit Plugin ‘Insert Page’ Fix

Posted in Technical, TechwareLabs on January 24th, 2016 by p14nd4

One of the sites I run, Techware Labs, uses WordPress for its CMS. (As an aside, we previously used our own home-grown CMS, which had a variety of benefits, but didn’t provide quite as much flexibility as we wanted. Rather than putting significant effort into rewriting or massively upgrading it, we decided to leave that heavy lifting to the pros.) We began using WP around May, 2009 (v2.7.1), since which point 17 major releases have occurred (and significantly more minor releases). We selected the Multi-Page Toolkit plugin to paginate articles (since WordPress just sticks the entire post on a single page by default), which seemed reasonable at the time—it was relatively popular, and had been updated a few months prior. Unfortunately, that update a few months prior [to early 2009] is the last update the plugin has received at the time of this writing.

A lot can happen in seven-plus years, especially in a popular software project like WordPress, but miraculously this plugin mostly kept working through it all. Mostly, however, isn’t quite the same as entirely, and some people get cranky when one thing goes wrong. (Take the Hindenburg, for example; why doesn’t anyone talk about its 62 successful flights?)

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Suspect CA Certificates on the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact (E5823)

Posted in General on January 4th, 2016 by p14nd4

I got curious today about the CA certificates present on my current phone, the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact (E5823), running Android 5.1.1.

It turns out it’s pretty easy to pull the CA certs from an Android device (even easier than before). Assuming you have adb set up and working with your device already:
$ adb pull /system/etc/security/cacerts cacerts

The certificates are now stored in standard PEM format, so they’re super easy to use in formats we want. I’m running an Ubuntu 15.10 system currently, so I’m using that as a baseline to ‘diff’ the Android CA certs against (using an admittedly cursory check to just match the first line of the cert):
$ for i in cacerts/* ; do if ! $(grep -q $(sed -n 2p $i) /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt) ; then echo $i ; fi ; done

This turned up a list of six root certificates trusted by my phone that aren’t trusted by my desktop:
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Using ELinks with Tor / torify / torsocks

Posted in General on August 19th, 2015 by p14nd4

I recently tried to use the ELinks console-based web browser with Tor. I found what seemed to be the easiest way to this: torify elinks, but that turned into a journey down the rabbit-hole. (A wiser man than I likely would’ve just used the alternate method suggested there—privoxy—but for the next one of me who comes along, here’s what I found.)
Read more » rsync Problem “Solved”

Posted in General on August 15th, 2012 by p14nd4

Having followed this guide to mounting a account in linux, I tried rsyncing a bunch of photos to my account. It kept bombing out partway through, and subsequent attempts to resume the rsync would re-transfer the same files over and over again.

rsync: rename "/mnt/box/bwca/08/09/.IMG_3084_CR2_embedded.jpg.AigcyF" -> "08/09/IMG_3084_CR2_embedded.jpg": Input/output error (5)
rsync: rename "/mnt/box/bwca/08/09/.IMG_3085.CR2.SEk0pG" -> "08/09/IMG_3085.CR2": Input/output error (5)
rsync: mkstemp "/mnt/box/bwca/08/09/.IMG_3085_CR2_embedded.jpg.injOBG" failed: Permission denied (13)
rsync: mkstemp "/mnt/box/bwca/08/09/.IMG_3086_CR2.jpg.OzVzik" failed: Permission denied (13)

I haven’t solved the issue with rsync dying before the end of the transfer (it’s probably related to this syslog message: mount.davfs: open files exceed max cache size by 25 MiBytes), but I have at least solved the issue with re-transferring files over and over again with each subsequent attempt. The two answers were pretty straightforward, but I figured I’d post them anyway, for posterity’s sake.

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Dell OptiPlex 9010 UEFI Problem?

Posted in Technical on July 13th, 2012 by p14nd4

If you ready my previous post, you already know that I’ve had frustrating issues with lock-ups in Ubuntu 12.04 on my new Dell OptiPlex 9010, and perhaps related oddities with errors reported in memtest86+. I opened a support ticket with Dell, and they shipped me a replacement system, which arrived today. The spoiler: it didn’t fix my problems. However, in the course of determining that fact, I may have further isolated the issue.

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Dell OptiPlex 9010 Ubuntu Linux Lock-Up

Posted in Technical on July 10th, 2012 by p14nd4

The History

I’ve been waiting for a while to get a new desktop computer at home. Back in 2006, I was biding my time to replace my dead desktop until the Windows Vista buy your computer now and we’ll give you Vista whenever it comes out program to be officially announced by Dell, and finally bought my OptiPlex 745 Small Form Factor PC (with a nearly top-of-the-line Conroe Core 2 Duo E6600 CPU) in October. Since that date, I’ve been running said computer nearly 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it’s held up remarkably well.

While I ran Windows XP full time when I got it, I switched to Ubuntu full time (aside from playing through Portal when it came out) whenever I got my hands on Vista. That’s not to come as a condemnation of Vista, as everyone is so quick to do, but it just worked out that way: since I was going to do a fresh install on a fresh hard drive for Vista, it was a perfect opportunity to install Ubuntu alongside. And once Ubuntu was installed, I wanted to keep using it (as I had been full time in the months between my old desktop dying and purchasing that new computer). I preferred the desktop environment, window management, and most of the apps were either the exact same ones I used already on Windows (e.g. Opera, Firefox, Pidgin), or had suitable (if not preferable) replacements, with the exception of Foobar2000 and Media Player Classic (MPC). Things worked well, too!

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No ICS for Motorola Admiral

Posted in Technical on May 18th, 2012 by p14nd4

I was very disappointed to see today that Motorola announced it’s effectively decided to abandon the Admiral and its user-base less than seven months after releasing the product (though, I’d imagine the decision was actually made long ago). I hope that by not not even providing an upgrade to the version of Android (4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich) that was released[1] prior to the Admiral’s retail availability[2], Motorola’s message to current and potential customers is heard loud and clear: the relationship ends once your credit card clears from buying the phone.

While the Admiral had the potential to be a great phone, this should pretty much condemn it to failure, since anyone who knows anything will know better than to buy it now. And I, at least, now know not to ever buy another Motorola phone and expect anything more than whatever software it ships with.

(Mostly a copy of my post on Motorola’s forums, but I’m not sure if they’ll leave the comment up or delete it.)


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Personal Update: 2009

Posted in Music, Personal on January 2nd, 2012 by p14nd4


I just want to get this out of the way: I am not good at updating my blog; I know this. For anyone who actually cares (approximately zero people), I’m sorry for that. I’ve had various approaches to working around this problem in the past, most recently being an attempt to just write as much as I can in one shot, picking up wherever I last left off. As of my last such post on April 1, 2010, that meant I was about a year and a half behind current events; as of now, I’m a bit more than three years overdue. I started writing a more extensive blog post about early 2009 back in late 2010, so I’ve got a fair amount of detail there, but that’s hopefully where it ends. It drives me a little crazy to do this, but I’m going to try to cover the first two of those years in about four paragraphs (after the extra detail for early 2009), and then spend a little more time writing about 2011 as it draws to a close.

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