Jaybird Tarah Headphones review from an actual owner

I went out and bought The Jaybird Tarah wireless sports bluetooth headphones based on a few glowing reviews praising them for sounding great and being budget-friendly.

I don’t consider £59.99 as a budget price, but thinking of them as a 3-year service, I thought it was not an unreasonable price, and I hope they do last long.

In terms of sound quality, the headphones compare quite badly to the 3-year old pair from Sony from which I came: The Sony MDR-XB50BS. Voices sound great and clear, and they are quite good for listening to an audiobook or a podcast while you’re exercising, but you should look elsewhere if you mostly listen to music and you care about getting a balanced sound.

The headphones do not sound tiny when I’m listening to vocals, but there is hardly any bass response. It sounds a lot like how my home theatre sounds when I forget to power up the connected subwoofer. Crystal clear, but you quickly realise the first time that someone slams a door in a drama, or an explosion goes off in an action movie that you’re missing a good chunk of the sound effects you’re supposed to be getting.

Design-wise, the Jaybirds are more thoughtfully designed. They have a convenient, USB-based proprietary charger, although I have concerns about it’s longevity. It is much better than the simple micri-USB port that the Sony ships with.Design-wise, the Jaybirds are more thoughtfully designed. They have a convenient, USB-based proprietary charger, although I have concerns about the longevity of the hooks that keep the pair in contact with the charging pins. It is much better than the simple micro-USB port that the Sony ships with.

Jaybird Tarah charger

The headphones are sleek, and the earbud tips are also better designed than the Sony’s. The Sony’s are prone to get caught on my pocket sleeves, and I’ve lost a few of the tips this way due to them falling off on the road and rolling off somewhere unseen. The Jaybirds are far less likely to come undone.

I’m stuck with mine because I don’t think I can return them just for “not liking them” once I’ve opened and used them, but my attempt to stray from my long history of generally defaulting to Sony headphones has backfired. Were I in the market again today, I’d definitely go for a Sony.

Mount Seagate Central HDD on Ubuntu Linux

If you’ve got a Seagate Central network hard drive that developed some issues and you have removed the disk and plugged it into a drive enclosure for some recovery on Linux. Provided the drive is readable, you can save yourself some time trying to read it by:

  • install fuse2fs and lvm2
    • sudo apt install fuse2fs lvm2
  • Identify the correct logical volume to mount. The command lvscan will display all logical volumes attached to your system.

    • lvscan
      ACTIVE '/dev/vg1/lv1' [3.63 TiB] inherit
      This is an example of the output on my system that has no additional LVM devices. My Seagate central is a 4TB one on which the data partition is 3.63TB
  • You will not be able to mount this by using the usual methods for mounting an lvm partition on linux. I have not tried to find out why. Only fuse2fs can successfully mount this.
  • Create a directory into which you will mount the drive
    • mkdir ~/data
  • Mount the volume using fuse2fs
    • sudo fuse2fs /dev/vg1/lv1 ~/data/
  • Only root can read the drive though. You may have a better way of accessing this content, but I personally just ran nautilus (the default file manager in ubuntu) via sudo because I was desperate to get at my data and this was an otherwise empty Virtual Machine I created specifically for the purpose of recovery.
    • sudo nautilus /home/<your_home_dir_name>/data
  • Copy out your data and rejoice 🙂
    • Please feel free to tell me in the comments if you know a better way to access the mounted partition without running nautilus as root.

Human Centric Vesa Mounts for Dell Monitors

You need to beware that if you’re ordering one from Human Centric directly and shipping it internationally, if your shipping method is Fedex, they will slap on an un-announced fee of (for me it was) £16 for the convenience of paying the ~£0.50 worth of import fees you owe on this £25 item. (This was the case when I placed my order in the second half of 2018).

Basically, I received the item on time, and then a couple of weeks later received an invoice from Fedex for £16. It didn’t feel worth the trouble of mounting a legal challenge against Fedex for this, since I don’t think I ever agreed to this. Furthermore, Human Centric themselves do not make this obvious on their website, and when I left a review mentioning this, it wasn’t published.

Be advised.


Becker Map Pilot Update Drama

Some cars have a satnav called Becker Map Pilot. Somewhere in it’s name there also appears “Harman”. It’s unclear to me if they’re related to the audio equipment manufacturer.

Anyhoo, recently, I wanted to update the maps, having not done so for the past 3+ years. Time has really flown by, but USB continues to be an occasionally painful experience, and Becker doesn’t make it as easy as it should be to update the maps in 2018.

To start with, it was a pain to lay my hands on a mini-B USB cable (can’t blame them for that one). Once that was sorted, I discovered that the Content Manager Software doesn’t work on a Mac. No problem, I thought. Easy enough to lay my hands on a Windows machine.

If you want to update the Becker map pilot, you need the Content Manager software. When you google “becker content manager download”, you’re led to a link which gives you the wrong software. It installs and pretends to be searching, but it will never detect your module because your module is not compatible with this version (version 7).

If you install the Content manager software that shows up as a CDROM drive when you plug your module (lots of flakiness just getting this to detect and stay detected as mass storage in Windows 10), you will find out that it is unable to connect to any of the online services you need (the web store in particular). As the years have rolled by, SSL 3.0 has become obsolete, and Becker turned off support for this protocol on their website, and this leaves old versions unusable.

Download Becker Content Manager Version 6

Lucky for you, you can get yourself the Correct Becker Content Manager which uses a more modern version of SSL and can thus connect to the web store: https://www.beckermappilot.com/contentmanager/Setup.exe 

If you use a mac and wish to try (I didn’t test): https://www.beckermappilot.com/contentmanager/BeckerContentManager.dmg

USB Detection Issues

Getting a reliable USB connection was difficult and tedious in my experience. I found in most cases that if you reboot your computer (I used Windows 10), and clicked the Reset button on the Map Pilot Module before plugging it back in, you had higher chances of getting the device recognised correctly. Then you launch the content manager and perform your tasks.

If the Unit keeps dropping it’s connection and disappearing from the file explorer, chances are high that the battery is no longer able to hold a charge. You may wish to consider replacing it (and charging it fully before trying to re-sync). As far as I know, you can only charge it by driving around for a few hours, which for me means a few days of commuting. With a newer battery, the connection was stable long enough to synchronise the Europe 2018 maps in one go.

Brief Review: Sharp 900W Standard Flatbed Microwave R360SLM

Very briefly, it’s a microwave, it works. Flatbed is convenient, and it has rubber suction feet which help keep it firmly planted where you place it, and it looks pretty good. However, using it is frustrating because:

  • The buttons are supposedly touch-sensitive, but require a slightly disconcerting amount of pressure to activate, unless you’re lucky and hit a very tiny special spot on the button.
  • Setting the cooking time is frustratingly tedious because the designers for some reason felt that once you start cooking, the only way to add time should be to cancel the program and start all over again with the newly desired time.

I’m baffled by how it’s possible that the people who bought and use this Microwave could give it such glowing reviews at Argos. I would personally rate it 2 stars for this reason, and I won’t buy it again given the chance.

Ubuntu 18.04 Chronicles: Creating a dnsmasq service

In Ubuntu Bionic, I found that the dnsmasq package no longer creates a service for dnsmasq that you can control with service or systemctl. After a fair amount of experimenting and some help from the friendly folk at #systemd on irc.freenode.net , I ended up with a dnsmasq service file that does the right things, namely:

  • wait for the LAN interface to be online (since my dnsmasq listens only on LAN), and then start the dnsmasq service.

Here goes the systemd unit file which you can place in /etc/systemd/system/dnsmasq.service :

[Unit]
Description = Self-created DNSMasq service unit file
After=sys-subsystem-net-devices-enp4s0.device

[Service]
Type=forking
ExecStartPre=/lib/systemd/systemd-networkd-wait-online -i enp4s0
ExecStart=/usr/sbin/dnsmasq
Restart=on-failure
RestartSec=15

[Install]
WantedBy=sys-subsystem-net-devices-enp4s0.device

Once you have created the service file, you must enable it with sudo systemctl enable dnsmasq.service . You of course need to make sure to use the correct device names for your system (my network device is listed by systemctl as sys-subsystem-net-devices-enp4s0.device). You can list all the devices systemd knows on your machine using systemctl -t device. Use grep to filter for your specific device (interface) name if you know what it’s called. Mine was called “enp4s0”.

The short summary of the above systemd unit file is that:

  • It is wanted by my LAN ethernet device, so it is launched when the device has been registered by udevd (or whatever subsystem handles this).
  • It’s of type “forking” because dnsmasq is a daemon which forks itself and you need this configuration for systemd to track it correctly.
  • In order to wait until the LAN is actually routable, I had to use the ExecStartPre (thanks #systemd) to use the systemd-networkd-wait-online application.
    • ExecStartPre just executes specified binary or script before it actually launches your desired process.
    • this application basically blocks until the specified interface is routable (which means it has an IP address).
    • You must use the full path to the executable.
    • Once it’s routable, then dnsmasq is executed (ExecStart), and dnsmasq by default will load the config file in /etc/dnsmasq.conf

Ubuntu 18.04 Chronicles: Applying firewall rules on startup, Pre-network

Another installment in this series. If you are used to dropping scripts in /etc/network/if-pre-up.d/ and seeing them get executed just before the network subsystem is up that’s another thing that doesn’t work in ubuntu Bionic, and you get no feedback that it doesnt.

Don’t panic though, because here I show you how to accomplish partially similar results. I say partially because my proposal here executes only on system boot, but that should suffice, because the firewall rules don’t disappear and need to be reapplied due to network status changes, and you will probably have other mechanisms in pace to deal with events that are related to network anyway.

The straightforward answer is that you now need to create a systemd service, which executes the script you would normally place in /etc/network/if-pre-up.d/. As a digression, despite the fact that systemd renders much of my previously acquired know-how useless, I actually like the logic of it’s design and so I hope that the new knowledge I’m acquiring and sharing here will be useful for long into the future.

Here’s my firewall rules script that I shamelessly adapted from Ars Technica: (the rules continue to be relevant to ubuntu Bionic, but the methods aren’t).

root@sol:/home/nucc1# cat /etc/network/iptables 
#!/bin/sh
echo "Loading Firewall Rules..."

WAN="enp3s0"
LAN="enp4s0"

logger "ROUTER: WAN: $WAN, LAN: $LAN"

logger "setting up base iptables rules"

/sbin/iptables-restore <<-EOF
*nat
:PREROUTING ACCEPT [0:0]
:INPUT ACCEPT [0:0]
:OUTPUT ACCEPT [0:0]
:POSTROUTING ACCEPT [0:0]

-A POSTROUTING -o $WAN -j MASQUERADE

COMMIT

*filter
:INPUT ACCEPT [0:0]
:FORWARD ACCEPT [0:0]
:OUTPUT ACCEPT [0:0]

#---------
#SERVICE RULES
#--------------------

#global accept rules
-A INPUT -s 127.0.0.0/8 -d 127.0.0.0/8 -i lo -j ACCEPT
-A INPUT -p icmp -j ACCEPT
-A INPUT -m state --state ESTABLISHED -j ACCEPT

#enable traceroute rejections to be sent.

You need to create a systemd unit file in /etc/systemd/system/ with the contents below (give it any name of your choice dot service, I call mine ‘router-rules.service‘):

[Unit]
Description = Apply base firewall rules for router functionality

[Service]
Type=oneshot
ExecStart=/etc/network/iptables

[Install]
WantedBy=network-pre.target

It’s pretty easy to understand I think. Type=oneshot means, execute the script and don’t try to daemonise it or something. WantedBy=network-pre.target is the systemd way of saying to execute something just before the network is configured, which is Pre-Network.

Once this systemd service has been created, you need to enable it (otherwise, it won’t run at startup).

sudo systemctl enable router-rules.service

Et voilà! Next time your system reboots, the script will be executed, and your firewall will contain the rules it set. Notice that I designed my script to write messages to /var/log/syslog so that there is some record of it’s activity in syslog for me to review on this headless machine.

Ubuntu 18.04 Chronicles: Static DNS settings without Stub Resolver

The “new” way to configure your network in Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver is to use netplan files in /etc/netplan/ instead of the age-old /etc/network/ .

For some reason, /etc/network still exists and you get no warning that whatever you specify there will be ineffective.

Personally, I renamed the single file in /etc/netplan/ to something that has no bearing with “cloud” and then specified my preferred network configuration. I even removed cloud-init . Here is an example:

root@sol:/etc# cat /etc/netplan/55-network-interfaces.yaml 
network:
    ethernets:
        enp3s0:
            dhcp4: true

        enp4s0:
            addresses: [192.168.1.254/24]
            dhcp4: false
            gateway4: 192.168.1.1
            nameservers:
                addresses: [8.8.8.8,8.8.4.4]
    version: 2
    renderer: networkd



That sets one interface to DHCP, and the other one to a static IP address (there are two interfaces on this machine called enp3s0 and enp4s0).

Then you need to execute sudo netplan apply and that should apply your new configuration. It does apply except that there’s one potential catch: If you’re not using the built-in systemd stub resolver, then things don’t quite work (/etc/systemd/resolve.conf with DNSStubListener=No) since the /etc/resolv.conf file is a symlink to:

/run/systemd/resolve/stub-resolv.conf

To fix this, I modified the symlink to point instead to the file that netplan automatically updates: /run/systemd/resolve/resolv.conf

sudo mv /etc/resolv.conf /etc/resolv.conf.orig
sudo ln -s /run/systemd/resolve/resolv.conf /etc/resolv.conf

Then the correct dns servers will be fetched from netplan whenever you execute netplan apply.

 




							

Ubuntu 18.04 Chronicles: removing cloud-init

You just deployed yourself a fresh copy of Ubuntu Server 18.04 Bionic Beaver. It should be the latest and greatest, and you just need a virtual machine to do some web development or perhaps you just want to enable IP forwarding and use this machine as a router. That’s great, except the latest Ubuntu assumes that you are part of the current trend to put everything in the cloud, and so ships with something called cloud-init.

No harm normally, but this wastes valuable seconds doing something you don’t need if you’re not in the cloud. It’s easy to remove this package by following the (modified) instructions here: https://makandracards.com/operations/42688-how-to-remove-cloud-init-from-ubuntu :

  1. dpkg-reconfigure cloud-init
    1. Then deselect all the options except None
  2. sudo apt-get purge cloud-init
  3. sudo mv /etc/cloud/ ~/; sudo mv /var/lib/cloud/ ~/cloud-lib
    1. I prefer to move, rather than delete, in case something goes wrong and you wish to restore the files.

When you remove cloud-init following those steps, your machine stops booting and there is apparently a service that is waiting for network to be up. This would normally be just an inconvenience, but the boot hangs indefinitely waiting for said network. Odd choice of configuration out of the box, but anyway, you can fix this by:

  1. List the services which depend on network being online.
    • sudo systemctl show -p WantedBy network-online.target
  2. This will list the culprits as some iscsi services that you probably don’t need.
  3. Disable the services
    • systemctl disable <service name

That should do to get the system booting without some service waiting endlessly for a network connection.

How To Run Need For Speed Most Wanted in Fullscreen

In a bout of nostalgia, and seeing as the game was now reasonably cheap on PC-DVD, I got myself a copy of EA’s 2012 (personal favourite) Need for Speed Most Wanted for PC. They didn’t port this title to PS4 of Xbox One.

Amazon provided prompt delivery in their usual style and I was up an running the following night with only one problem.

It was running terribly slowly on my 4K monitor using the not-so-high-end Nvidia GTX 960. The reason this was so was that the game had launched itself in 4K resolution with all the graphics settings jacked up to the max, and was running in a very large window as a sort of mock full-screen.

Not nice. I went into the game’s settings and set the resolution to 1920×1080, leaving graphics at max quality still and ended up with a tiny 1080p window in the corner of my screen. Grrr!

No option in settings to put this into fullscreen mode and scale it appropriately. Googling this led to an odd article from 2012: https://amittoor.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/run-nfs-need-for-speed-most-wanted-in.html which suggested a registry edit which totally didn’t work, but it did trigger a memory I had of the graphics settings on my GPU.

Basically, I’ll put the steps down here for ya:

  • Open nVidia control panel (or your GPU’s control panel)
  • Expand the Display subtree and select Adjust desktop size and position
  • Select the display you desire if using multiple displays.
  • Select “Perform Scaling on GPU”
  • Tick the “Override the scaling mode set by games and programs”

That should do the trick. It appears that EA programmed the game to always try to do scaling on the Display or in software, which probably made sense when the game was being built as home users probably wouldn’t have 4K or higher resolution displays.