Android TV Series: Samba Services wants to track your viewing, and you can’t kill it

The latest instalment in life with an Android TV. The picture above says it all. Samba Services is an app on the TV that Sony uses to analyse what you’re viewing so that it could build a marketing profile for ad targeting. You can disable this service like most non-system services in the apps list, and you can also execute the setup of the app and opt out of the tracking.

You would think that if you’ve opted out of the service, and then gone to the apps manager and disabled the service, that would be the end of it… Wrong! You apparently can never stop the app from running. When you disable it, you get an infinite loop of popups as pictured above.

Searching the web, you wind up at a Sony Forums post: Samba Services Manager has stopped . The only way to get rid of the message is to re-enable the service.

Day by day, android TV gets me closer to becoming a believer of the Apple way.

Tracking Internet Data Usage – Advanced Tomato Style

A not oft discussed topic in router reviews (which are a dime for a dozen on the web) is how  to see just how much data your household is consuming.

Here I attempt to fill that gap by outlining the capabilities that my my router which is powered by Advanced Tomato provides. This is not a general review of the router software (which is excellent), but just some screenshots and some discussion about the bandwidth monitoring capabilities so that you can look before you leap, if you’re in the market for something that provides you with good statistics.

The router software provides two primary views by which you can monitor bandwidth usage. They are called “Bandwidth” which tracks total usage of the device across all it’s interfaces, and then there is “IP Traffic” which is useful if you want to get per-connected-device granularity.  We’re only going to cover the bandwidth monitor, but you can be confident that the per-IP statistics are just as granular.

Realtime Bandwidth Usage

Realtime Bandwidth Page

 

The realtime bandwidth page provides an instantaneous view of all the traffic going through the device. I personally struggle to make much sense of the way the view is subdivided. The LAN (br0) is the bridge that links all the interfaces on the device (the two Wifi Radios as well as the 4-port gigabit ethernet switch — I’m using an Asus RT-AC56U).

You’d expect whatever is shown in the WAN tab to be what’s actually leaving your local network onto the wider internet. WL (eth1) and WL(eth2) reflect the 2.4Ghz and the 5GHz wifi radios. It’s unclear what Eth0  represents, but between Eth0 and Vlan1, one or both of them represent the 4-port ethernet switch present on the device.

Last 24 Hours Bandwidth

24 Hour Bandwidth chart

The 24 Hours Bandwidth chart is a little more interesting. Shown above is the WAN coverage. This presents a 24-hour view of the internet. The Y-axis shows the peak average speed and the X-axis represents time of day. Shaded areas represent times when data was being transferred. Grey shades represent downloads, blue-ish shades (which are hardly visible) represent uploads.

You  can see that large file downloads will represent comparatively wider “mountains” on this graph, and the faster the download went, the taller the mountain will be. A small, fast download will be a very thin and tall mountain.

Daily Bandwidth Usage

The total transfers done per day are detailed here, going as far back as your router storage permits. This is an aggregate of internet  bandwidth usage across all devices over the date measured.

As you can see in the chart above, we did a lot of downloading/streaming on  2018-01-05.

A similar view is provided for the weekly bandwidth chart.

Monthly Data Usage

Monthly data usage

The most interesting chart to me is the monthly data usage. It allows me to see how much data we consumed going back as far as I want, grouped by month. The top-billed month would have been October 2017 if we didn’t have an unlimited Internet Connection.

There aren’t many routers out there that can provide this kind of information. The closest competitor I have found is Google Wifi, whose statistic go back at most 60 days. This is partly the inspiration for this post. I’ve been evaluating migrating to a multiple access point system in order to improve coverage in certain parts of the home, and it’s very difficult to find out how modern-day competition compares to this configuration in terms of usage statistics.

Certbot apache plugin missing

Could not choose appropriate plugin: The requested apache plugin does not appear to be installed
Attempting to renew cert from /etc/letsencrypt/renewal/nucco.org.conf produced an unexpected error: The requested apache plugin does not appear to be installed. Skipping.

When this happens, all you need to do is install “python-certbot-apache”.

Migrate from one Gmail Account to Another, 2017 edition /1

Email and Contacts

Migrating from your teenage Gmail account with the unprofessional, or hard to share email address to a new spiffy, professional email address is really easy, but scarcely documented. Here is how to do it.

Sign in to your new Account, and go to Settings (the cog wheel):

Screenshot of how to get to Settings

Then go to Accounts and Import, and select Import from another address.

From here, you need only sign in to the old Gmail address and Google will take care of the import in the background.

screenshot of accounts and imports tab with the import from another address button highlighted

You need to make sure that you have enough storage in your account for both the new and the old data. For me, this meant ensuring that I had the $2 a month 100GB plan for Google. Totally worth it. I just wish they had a 10TB option for $9.99 a month so I could use it as my cloud drive to rule them all 🙂

Enjoy.

USB3 Ethernet Adaptors Are OK

The Internet forums would have you believe that USB-based ethernet adaptors aren’t good enough if you’re performance conscious. I’m planning to deploy an Intel NUC mini-PC as a home router/firewall. NUCs only have one ethernet adaptor built in, but have USB3 ports.

I naturally wanted to find out what performance I might be sacrificing if I used a USB3 port as the second LAN port on the NUC, so I got an Anker-branded USB3 to Ethernet adaptor, plugged it into a laptop, and configure iperf3 as a server on my desktop.

Connecting to host 192.168.1.125, port 5201
[  4] local 192.168.1.98 port 54918 connected to 192.168.1.125 port 5201
[ ID] Interval           Transfer     Bandwidth
[  4]   0.00-1.00   sec   106 MBytes   886 Mbits/sec                  
[  4]   1.00-2.00   sec   104 MBytes   871 Mbits/sec                  
[  4]   2.00-3.00   sec  93.5 MBytes   784 Mbits/sec                  
[  4]   3.00-4.00   sec   106 MBytes   886 Mbits/sec                  
[  4]   4.00-5.00   sec   103 MBytes   866 Mbits/sec                  
[  4]   5.00-6.00   sec   102 MBytes   858 Mbits/sec                  
[  4]   6.00-7.00   sec   106 MBytes   886 Mbits/sec                  
[  4]   7.00-8.00   sec   104 MBytes   873 Mbits/sec                  
[  4]   8.00-9.00   sec   108 MBytes   908 Mbits/sec                  
[  4]   9.00-10.00  sec   111 MBytes   931 Mbits/sec       

The performance speaks for itself. It works just as good as the built-in ethernet card.

Don’t be swayed by vague claims about the suitability of USB ethernet adaptors for use in homebrew routers. They seem fine for the task.

VMWare Workstation 9 vs 12: Quick Card

 

A quick information card comparing VMWare Workstation 9.0 with Workstation 12.0 Pro.

The Old Version (9.0)

Usability

  • There are many modal dialogs which often get in the way (example, the virtual network editor)
  • Too many clicks required to get some basic information (like NIC mac addresses)
  • Too many clicks to add extra hardware to VMs
  • limited ability to scale virtual machines to fit monitors.

Performance

  • Performance for my use case (Linux dev and test boxes, enterprise networking and Web App Firewall virtual machines, Windows Server and windows 7/8/10 VMs  for test and experimentation) is more than satisfactory. All I had to do was fully load my core i5 3570K box with 32GB of RAM (which I have yet to exhaust), and replace the spinning disk with SSDs (1.5TB worth for both bulk storage and VM disks).

Guest OS Compatibility

  • As far as my experience goes, I’m able to deploy everything I want on Vmware workstation 9.0. This includes Windows Server 2012 and Windows 10.

What’s Changed?

(this is not an exhaustive list):

  • It still looks and feels mostly the same as version 9.0
  • The virtual network editor no longer appears to be modal which is nice
  • It no longer assigns Floppy Disk controllers to new VMs — hurray!

What Hasn’t Changed?

  • It still takes too many clicks to add hardware to VMs (VMWare ESX is easier in this aspect)
  • Still too many clicks to find a NIC’s MAC address
  • Still limited scaling options it seems (it either adjusts the VM resolution, or adjusts the window size of the hypervisor). It would be nice if it allowed you to resize a window in the hypervisor by scaling the guest OS.

What would it take for me to upgrade?

  • A lower asking price

Caveat

  • My use case is probably a narrow one. You should make sure you consider your own needs when evaluating version 12.0

GPU for Dual 4K Display

I’m looking towards updating my desktop to two 4K displays, and it appears that two good choices of GPUs that support this kind of setup (I don’t really care about gaming on this rig) are:

  • Nvidia NVS 510 – £220+
  • AMD Firepro W2100 — £120

I’ll probably go for the AMD as it has a lower power consumption profile (hence lower cooling needs) and looks on paper to support exactly the features I need.

Fooling around with the Collatz Sequence

Spent some time working on https://projecteuler.net/problem=14

It was fun, and I produced:

Crunching Collatz Sequence...go make some coffee
 Number 13 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 18 iterations found for 14
 Number 15 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 21 iterations found for 18
 Number 19 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 24 iterations found for 25
New record of 112 iterations found for 27
New record of 113 iterations found for 54
 Number 55 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 116 iterations found for 73
New record of 119 iterations found for 97
New record of 122 iterations found for 129
New record of 125 iterations found for 171
New record of 128 iterations found for 231
 Number 235 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 131 iterations found for 313
New record of 144 iterations found for 327
New record of 145 iterations found for 649
 Number 654 also has same number of terms as previous record
 Number 655 also has same number of terms as previous record
 Number 667 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 171 iterations found for 703
New record of 179 iterations found for 871
New record of 182 iterations found for 1161
New record of 183 iterations found for 2223
 Number 2322 also has same number of terms as previous record
 Number 2323 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 209 iterations found for 2463
New record of 217 iterations found for 2919
New record of 238 iterations found for 3711
New record of 262 iterations found for 6171
New record of 268 iterations found for 10971
New record of 276 iterations found for 13255
New record of 279 iterations found for 17647
 Number 17673 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 282 iterations found for 23529
New record of 308 iterations found for 26623
New record of 311 iterations found for 34239
 Number 35497 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 324 iterations found for 35655
New record of 340 iterations found for 52527
New record of 351 iterations found for 77031
New record of 354 iterations found for 106239
New record of 375 iterations found for 142587
New record of 383 iterations found for 156159
New record of 386 iterations found for 216367
New record of 443 iterations found for 230631
New record of 449 iterations found for 410011
New record of 470 iterations found for 511935
New record of 509 iterations found for 626331
New record of 525 iterations found for 837799

The record number of terms was 525, Produced by number 837799
RUN FINISHED; exit value 0; real time: 320ms; user: 0ms; system: 300ms

This felt good, so I bumped the target number up to 1 billion and got


Crunching Collatz Sequence...go make some coffee
 Number 13 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 18 iterations found for 14
 Number 15 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 21 iterations found for 18
 Number 19 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 24 iterations found for 25
New record of 112 iterations found for 27
New record of 113 iterations found for 54
 Number 55 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 116 iterations found for 73
New record of 119 iterations found for 97
New record of 122 iterations found for 129
New record of 125 iterations found for 171
New record of 128 iterations found for 231
 Number 235 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 131 iterations found for 313
New record of 144 iterations found for 327
New record of 145 iterations found for 649
 Number 654 also has same number of terms as previous record
 Number 655 also has same number of terms as previous record
 Number 667 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 171 iterations found for 703
New record of 179 iterations found for 871
New record of 182 iterations found for 1161
New record of 183 iterations found for 2223
 Number 2322 also has same number of terms as previous record
 Number 2323 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 209 iterations found for 2463
New record of 217 iterations found for 2919
New record of 238 iterations found for 3711
New record of 262 iterations found for 6171
New record of 268 iterations found for 10971
New record of 276 iterations found for 13255
New record of 279 iterations found for 17647
 Number 17673 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 282 iterations found for 23529
New record of 308 iterations found for 26623
New record of 311 iterations found for 34239
 Number 35497 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 324 iterations found for 35655
New record of 340 iterations found for 52527
New record of 351 iterations found for 77031
New record of 354 iterations found for 106239
New record of 375 iterations found for 142587
New record of 383 iterations found for 156159
New record of 386 iterations found for 216367
New record of 443 iterations found for 230631
New record of 449 iterations found for 410011
New record of 470 iterations found for 511935
New record of 509 iterations found for 626331
New record of 525 iterations found for 837799
New record of 528 iterations found for 1117065
 Number 1126015 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 531 iterations found for 1501353
 Number 1564063 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 557 iterations found for 1723519
New record of 560 iterations found for 2298025
New record of 563 iterations found for 3064033
New record of 584 iterations found for 3542887
New record of 597 iterations found for 3732423
New record of 613 iterations found for 5649499
New record of 665 iterations found for 6649279
New record of 686 iterations found for 8400511
New record of 689 iterations found for 11200681
New record of 692 iterations found for 14934241
New record of 705 iterations found for 15733191
New record of 706 iterations found for 31466382
 Number 31466383 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 745 iterations found for 36791535
New record of 950 iterations found for 63728127
New record of 951 iterations found for 127456254
 Number 127456255 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 954 iterations found for 169941673
New record of 957 iterations found for 226588897
New record of 965 iterations found for 268549803
New record of 966 iterations found for 537099606
 Number 537099607 also has same number of terms as previous record
New record of 987 iterations found for 670617279

The record number of terms was 987, Produced by number 670617279

RUN FINISHED; exit value 0; real time: 7m 6s; user: 760ms; system: 7m 4s

This was single-core on a Virtual machine running on a core i5 (sandybridge).

I am not sure I want to test what 4 billion looks like without finding a way to use more than one thread.

I don’t think the answer is wrong, but I might have made a mistake I don’t yet realize 🙂

x-cycle: insert a rotating X-Forwarded-For Header

I made a pretty simple chrome extension that allows you to configure a list of IP addresses, as well as a target host and it will insert an X-Forwarded-For header into the requests for the target host, and switch to the next IP in your configured list after about 6 requests.

This was useful to me when testing our a Web Application Firewall.

I have attempted to publish it in the Chrome Store several times, and the experience is just horrible. It gets published, then without reason, it gets taken down until I raise a support ticket. One day later, it gets published again with no explanations or apologies offered, and the cycle repeats again.

If you’re in luck, it may be available in the chrome store here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/x-cycle/bnlmhngacoghehikmhlcmpkbbnjdifca

Otherwise, you can download the latest copy I have hosted on my server: https://nucco.org/files/x-cycle.crx

If you care for this sort of thing, the sha1sum of the current file on my server should be:

c436ae78256a212851ee862e19fe51d08eab0049 *x-cycle.crx

Enjoy.