Author Archives: phunter

Google Chrome cripples Flash in Update 59

By | Posted | Updated

Google has been saying for quite sometime that support for Adobe’s Flash Plug-In would end. Some websites reported that beginning in June 2017, the once prominent plug-in would face its death.

As a birthday gift to me and my colleagues (total of four developers) who work on a large web based system, they finally crippled it, if not killed it.

See, our company has training videos and vodcasts that our entire company is required to watch. Failure to do so will slowly cripple your functionality and prevent you from clocking in, until you are forced to break down and watch the training, followed by a short test. Once you pass said test, you complete that training course.

The videos are fed via Wowza Streaming Engine in a Video On Demand type scenario, and done by a protocol called RTMP. The downside to RTMP, is that it is not supported by HTML 5, the new standard for streaming media. Other large websites like YouTube, saw this coming and switched their systems some months/years back. I caught on to the trend, and not more than a few months ago, even told our CTO, that this would be painful if we waited.

So even though I knew it was coming, my boss knew it was coming, and our entire industry knew it was coming, we let ourselves feel the pain. Today, as Google Chrome users began updating to version 59, Flash Players around the world, stopped working. As for all those RTMP streams, they will stop working too.

I have Chrome Update 59 and can still watch RTMP streams! You’re wrong!

Easy there internet warrior. Let me show you how to break it.

Firstly, make sure your version of Google Chrome is updated by going to the three dots in the top right. Go to Help, then choose About Google Chrome. If your version does not show ‘Version 59.0.3071.115 (Official Build) (64-bit)’ (or something like it, emphasis on the 59.0.3071.115), you will most likely see an update option. Do that. Once that is done, clear your cache. Not the silly Control+Shift+R option, but actually go through and flush it until the beginning of time (yes, that is a real option).

Now that you too have also stabbed yourself in the leg, try to watch your precious RTMP stream now. Poof. Welcome to Hurtsville.

The fix? Convert to HTML 5 Support streams like HLS. That’s it. No work-around, hacks or trickery. Literally, convert, or die.

Now if you excuse me, I have to now research how to reconfigure a streaming server..

A lot has happened.

By | Posted

So over the past few months, I have moved into my own apartment, worked on my car, played a lot of games, and made a lot of videos too. These can be seen on my Youtube Channel.

I have been working on a few projects including the Laptop USB Keyboard, which is a laptop keyboard, re-purposed to work over USB. That is still in the works as I am trying to figure out where the resistors go. Having some issues though. I am also working on a project that uses a old laptop screen to make a hanging ‘picture frame’ type of box that you can control the screen remotely through an embedded web app. Have to make a case for it, but need a new nozzle for the 3d printer, as those tend to give out about every 8 months. What do you expect from a $8 brass nozzle?

Currently, I am working with Raspberry Pi’s to do real work, like Beer Brewing Controllers, Satellite Monitoring Daemons, and a killer toy turret. Most of that wont be on the video or here, but the ones previously mentioned will be.

I have also got a new car! Something that’s not mentioned on the Youtube channel (yet).

Either way, I am still alive and as active as ever, just a lower completion rate. Over time, I will start updates again once I get a few other projects into a better state.

Until then, keep on tinkering.

Holy Inactivity..

By | Posted

So I have basically fallen off the face of the Earth (again) and will probably keep doing so as projects keep me busy.

I have started a couple things in the last few months, that are going to ultimately be awesome. Some, are just life things.

The first of which is I am moving in February from a 4 bedroom house (shared with 2 roommates), of which 2 rooms I occupy. One room is my bedroom, complete with a bed, a closet full of clothes, and a few bedside tables, and the other room with all of my IT gear, complete with APC NetShelter Rack, a 3D Printer, 4×2 Foot Desk, 3 monitors and bad ass PC. All of this has to now has to fit in a 1 bedroom apartment. How you ask? Simply put, I don’t know. Still trying to figure out how I am going to cleanly organize all of this in my sub-800 sq. ft. apartment without looking like a Disaster Response Team.

After the move, I will be embarking on a journey of fixing a 1996 GS-R Integra, and beyond. If you want to know more about that, check out my YouTube channel here, and watch some of me and my friends do some stupid gaming stuff too.

That brings me to another project. Project: YouTube. I have decided to start populating random ass content of gaming, automotive, and just general stuff.

Hopefully once I move here in a few weeks, I can get organized and start working on things a little more quickly because I have some Raspberry Pi gadgets I want to build.

Until then, everything is kind of on pause. So we will see you in February.

Workbench: XFS Format NAS Drive Recovery

By | Posted

A few days ago while I was helping my brother reinstall his Operating System, one of my Buffalo Terastation’s drives went kaput, thanks to bad sectors. With a whole lot of irreplaceable data ranging from Workbench Project backups to priceless media. Something I could not afford to lose. So I set out to recover as much as possible.

First, I tried my damnedest to use Linux to mount the drive and dump the data to another one of the similarly aged 1000GB Seagate drives in the NAS, but Linux was not having that. After numerous complaints of missing superblocks on mount, I just about threw the thing in the trash and rolled up in a ball to cry. But then there was Google.

Google searches showed utilities like mdadm, and a few others, which never really lined up to my case. Mostly because I was running in a JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks) setup, not raiding my drives. From what I gathered, mdadm just rebuilds arrays and mounts them, but this didn’t work for me.

So further down the Google list, I looked for recovery suites. That is where I found my Knight in Shining Armor, in the form of Raise Data Recovery by UFS Explorer. At first, I saw their €200 price tag and didn’t even have time to convert it without having heart palpitations. I downloaded an older version of RDR and tried to see if the disk would even be recognized first, because I wasn’t going to pay a dime if the disk was completely junk.

Much to my amazement, Raise Data Recovery not only found the drive, but was able to show me all the folder hierarchy for the drive. I was excited, and tired, being 5am when I found it.

The next morning I woke up and started peeking at the different options for Raise Data Recovery, and found the €200 option, was not what I wanted, and instead found the licenses I needed were less than $40USD. I was even more excited. I downloaded the software, bought the licenses, and started the recovery, which took about a half a day.

Luckily, it appeared most of the drive’s dead sectors were on the other partitions of the drive, resulting in only 5 files (of 380GB of data) unobtainable. This was amazing. I bought 2 new 2TB WD Blue drives, which if I had more time, I would have bought WD Red’s for NAS setups, but this was a critical situation, and Best Buy doesn’t sell Reds on shelf.

As we sit now, 4 days later, my Buffalo Terastation has had the 3 old 1TB drives completely removed of its data, and migrated to the 2 WD Blue drives.

If you have a NAS drive fail, and aren’t in a RAID setup, give Raise Data Recovery a try. You may not get it all back, but you never know.

Raspberry Pi: Installing Google Chromium/Chrome on Raspbian Jessie

By | Posted

In one of my previous articles I covered on how to turn your Raspberry Pi into an kiosk style display board using Chromium under wheezy. The problem for Jessie, is that Chromium does not (just checked.. Not there) exist in the package repository for Raspbian. This means you cannot use apt-get to install it.

But, fortunately for us, there is another way to do this.

This guide is thanks to Conor O’Neill. I found this article in the past and have used it multiple times, and its only fair to give him credit, and as a ‘reporter’ of things, its responsible to cite sources.

First, you have to do the usual setup on Raspbian.. Make sure you have the latest updates for your Pi.

sudo apt-get update

Next, run each of the following lines:

wget http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/pool/main/libg/libgcrypt11/libgcrypt11_1.5.0-5+deb7u4_armhf.deb
wget http://launchpadlibrarian.net/218525709/chromium-browser_45.0.2454.85-0ubuntu0.14.04.1.1097_armhf.deb
wget http://launchpadlibrarian.net/218525711/chromium-codecs-ffmpeg-extra_45.0.2454.85-0ubuntu0.14.04.1.1097_armhf.deb
sudo dpkg -i libgcrypt11_1.5.0-5+deb7u4_armhf.deb
sudo dpkg -i chromium-codecs-ffmpeg-extra_45.0.2454.85-0ubuntu0.14.04.1.1097_armhf.deb
sudo dpkg -i chromium-browser_45.0.2454.85-0ubuntu0.14.04.1.1097_armhf.deb

Originally the links are little different, showing ‘deb7u3’ however, in the comments the recommend to change them to ‘deb7u4’ and all will be good, which in my test was the case. Keep an eye on the comments if this didn’t work for you.

Workbench: Windows 10 Black Screen Problem

By | Posted | Updated

A lot of people out there are apparently having an issue with laptops upgraded to Windows 10 from other operating systems, in the form of black screens. The typical example includes seeing the spinning dots, and eventually, just a black screen.

As of recently I have looked at a computer exhibiting such symptoms and have come to find the single culprit. The Windows 10 Display Driver. The fix? Not so fast.. let me explain why there is a major issue here.

History of Windows Upgrades and Laptops

Typically speaking the way laptop manufacturers do business is they produce a laptop, support it with driver updates for a few years, then stop updating the drivers for it, leaving you in the ‘out of warranty’ zone. This has been the way it has been working for some time now.

So what happened?

Windows 7 was a massively popular operating system for nearly 7 years, and a lot of people (rightfully) refuse to budge off of it after the whole Windows 8 fiasco, and are even still afraid to move to Windows 10. Up until the last year Microsoft has always stuck by their normal business model of ‘pay to upgrade’ your Windows Operating System, until the Windows 10 Free Upgrade came around, some people were apparently even forced to upgrade. But why?

Windows 10 Scenario

Lets say you have a laptop from 2005 running Windows 7, and are either forced to Upgrade to Windows 10, or upgrade by choice. Chances are, your laptop manufacturer has already deemed you as ‘antiquated’ and are no longer receiving updates from them, or they do not support any newer versions of drivers. This becomes a massive problem. Without the correct drivers for things like Display Adapters, Windows 10 will use a generic driver to try and accommodate it.

What happens is that Windows 10 magically fails to find your laptop display, and in its infinite wisdom, detect a 2nd non-existent display, which it makes a primary, showing your login screen and everything else on. What your laptop display is actually showing is ‘Monitor 2’. So unless you hook up your laptop to the external screen via HDMI, VGA or DVI, you won’t see your login screen.

I suspect the reason Microsoft did this ‘free upgrade’ is because they yield nothing out of having you upgrade free. That is unless your laptop fits into the scenario above, in which, you take it to Geek Squad, and they say ‘Its toast, buy a new one’. If you do, you are buying a laptop that the manufacturer had to pay Microsoft something like $80-$100 for Windows 10, and on top of that, padded the manufacturers pocket just a little bit too, and boosts PC (as opposed to Mac/Apple) sales.

The Fix?

Check to see if your manufacturer has released Windows 10 drivers for your laptop’s display adapter. If not, Revert to Windows 7. Contact your manufacturer and get a copy of the original software, or if you have a copy of Windows 7, load it up. Make sure you back up first though..

Should I upgrade to Windows 10?

If you are running Windows 7 or Windows 8, the first thing to check is if your manufacturer has released Windows 10 Graphics Drivers via their individual support sites. If not, don’t even think about it. If they do, chances are you are safe, but who knows how long.

So what about that laptop you looked at?

The owner recognized that it was older, and was prepared to replace it. We went to a local electronics store and picked out a nice, sub $300 laptop, that he was pleased with, and I was pleased with, and supported Windows 10.

 

If you have been struck with the Windows 10 Black Screen bug, your options are downgrade, or replace. End of story.

Workbench: Why to keep your computers files organized

By | Posted

Almost everyone these days has a laptop, however very few people keep it organized correctly. As a result, when their OS crashes, it makes the lives of the Technician behind the keyboard, nervous and flustered. Luckily in the case of the Toshiba I am working on, things are kept nicely stored in their respective folders.

Windows has a series of folders for each user to keep things organized like Music, Videos and Pictures. It is in your best interest to use these like the owner of this Toshiba did, and here is why.

When having troubles identifying and resolving computer problems, it is essential to backup your precious data and prevent any further loss of information. To do this, we can’t go on your computer and find things that you use often. So because of that, we have to rip your hard drive out, and load it up manually like a really big USB drive. Everything from then on is folders, and files. We can’t see your desktop. We then hunt down the data in its various places, and begin the transfer to a reliable location.

If you don’t keep your data in organized folders, and common places, we won’t find it, and you won’t get it. Simply put. That is unless you want to shell out the $60-80 for a new hard drive for your laptop simply so we can clone it in case we missed something. Chances are, we aren’t going to buy that ourselves.

Fortunately for my clients, I am willing to shell out that investment, because realistically, if they don’t need it in the long run, I will use it for portable storage. After all, the Macbook Air SSD’s aren’t that big.

Keep your data organized, if not backed up.

Workbench: Toshiba Satellite A7200 won’t boot into Windows 10

By | Posted

So with the amount of side work I do fixing computers, it beneficial to start a new category here that I am going to call Workbench.

To kick this off, I had someone bring me a laptop that would not boot. A Toshiba Satellite P75-A7200. I started by observing its characteristics. A reboot loop after the Toshiba startup screen. This Toshiba screen tells me the hardware more or less is fine, however, after some plucking around with the Windows 10 recovery options, it became clear it wasn’t. The hard drive is failing.

This isn’t the first time I have seen. Toshiba have Hard Drive problems either. Last year I had two come to me with similar issues. Upon futher investigation they had the EXACT same hard drive.. Toshiba 750GB drives. Same model number too, however, who knows what it was, because I chucked those things as far as I could.

So what is it with these hard drives? They’re weird. As a matter of fact, I have noticed most ‘weird’ hard drives, or hard drives that do not double in size, typically have more issues than those who don’t, with few exceptions. 80GB drives are stable, 500GB drives are stable, but 750GB drives and 1.5TB/3TB/6TB drives, I personally wouldn’t touch them with a 10-foot pole. They scare me.

So the plan of attack to get this laptop back up and operational is this:

Get a new and better drive.

A lot of my hard drive stats come from Backblaze, who kindly enough share their data on failures and other info from brands such as HGST, Seagate and Western Digital. By having this data, I can usually identify the latest trends into which brands are more reliable. Based on the 2016 Q1 Data, I can put my money on HGST, which as a brand, had a single type of drive fail over 1.75% of the time, in contrast to Seagate at 9.63%, Toshiba at 8.63% and Western Digital Company at 12.57%. Thats pretty damn good if you ask me.

As a result, I will pick up a 1TB HGST 7200RPM 2.5″ SATA drive to replace the junk in there now.

Get repair media

Toshiba is really good about their recovery media. Its easy, and only costs about $40 for a USB drive with recovery software on it. If you don’t have one, I would go order one, just in case you ever need it. Mainly because if you own a computer at all, you should always have the software to start over from square one, within arms reach, at all times.

Reinstall Windows 8, and Upgrade

This laptop came with Windows 8, which like oddly jumping hard drive capacities, I hate it. Therefore, we will get this thing back on Windows 10 in no time at all.

Backup whats left of the hard drive

Any good PC Tech has a hard drive bay (like mine) to pop drives into after they have been removed. Simply plug the USB into the computer you are restoring, and start the copy. Chances are because of the dead sectors, or spots on the drive that are unable to hold data anymore, you may not get a complete restore. There really isn’t any kind of economical way to remedy this, so if it is important, give the owner the option to drop the bookoo bucks on restoring it from a place like Data Doctors, if its even possible.

 

Ideally this is the best and most affordable option to fix this laptop, and is pretty routine for someone like me. Hopefully this article helps you on your journey of working on the Workbench.

GTA Online – Rockstar Games’ half-baked money generating engine

By | Posted

Most days of my life, I couldn’t recount precisely where I was. However, September 17, 2013 is an exception. At midnight, I was standing in line at the midnight launch of Grand Theft Auto V, at the time, the hottest and most awaited game to come out, in a very, very long time. At least it was for me, having been a long time member of Grand Theft Auto multiplayer mod communities since 2005. With a budget of $265 million USD, it had no choice but to be one of the best games of all time, or an epic and total disaster. Fortunately for them, it was the first of the two, earning them  7 world records:

  • Best-selling action-adventure video game in 24 hours
  • Best-selling video game in 24 hours
  • Fastest entertainment property to gross $1 billion
  • Fastest video game to gross $1 billion
  • Highest-grossing video game in 24 hours
  • Highest revenue generated by an entertainment product in 24 hours
  • Most viewed trailer for an action-adventure video game

Notice some of those aren’t even in a genre of Video Games. That is how big this was 3 years ago. On only 2 platforms; Xbox 360 and PS3.

Since then, it has been released on Xbox One, PS4 and PC, shipping about 65 million copies as of May 18th 2016, generating a staggering amount of money (estimated at about $3 Billion USD to date). The month following the initial release, however, started a revolution. Grand Theft Auto Online.

Over the last 3 years, Rockstar Games have had countless issues with their server stability and eventually led to updating them to improve their stability in early 2016. Before, the players were irate. Rockstar Support merely ignored the userbase when they contacted them, having their connections blamed, or silly things like ‘failing to login to online platforms’ or were simply told to do irrelevant things like port forwarding port 80 on their routers to their Xbox. Fun fact, inbound port 80 on most consumer grade internet services, is blocked at an ISP level, and outgoing traffic doesn’t go out port 80, even if that is the destination. I dare you to prove me wrong.

Grand Theft Auto Online, recently revealed by Leslie Benzies’ lawsuit against Rockstar Games over royalty payments, has revealed that the online version of the Los Santos world, has generated an astonishing amount of money, circling the neighborhood of $500 Million USD. I will take that with a grain of salt, however, it is entirely possible, judging by the value of their Shark Card micro transactions to buy in-game money, and the amount of jets blowing me up every chance they get.

So my issue with Grand Theft Auto Online is this: their support team is a joke, stability is laughable, and the only thing they care about is the almighty dollar, which to be fair, was what was rumored before hand. Rumors described the game pre-launch as it being all about the ‘almighty dollar’.  So with their reputation on the line, and strong earnings, they would fix their stability issues, right?

Wrong.

It would appear that by not taking any reports seriously, or evaluating their users’ reports with anything other of ‘call your ISP’, that they simply don’t care. Even though they have made a pile of money that will fund their next big title, and probably the next two, they have little to no interest in achieving a respectable industry acceptable uptime when it comes to their servers.

As a Software Engineer and Systems Administrator for a large Trampoline Park Management Company, it is our goal to achieve 100% uptime. We even have a datacenter who promises the same. We have procedures in place to avoid outages, whether it be network, or unexpected server downtime. Effectively, if we are down, we aren’t making money. So we have a aggressive approach, 100% uptime, or die trying.

100% uptime is pretty much impossible though, to say fairly. Sometimes the datacenter drops a carrier node, or that new RAM we put in the machines just didn’t work right. Or maybe its just maintenance has to be done, and cause an outage in the process. When we know there will be an issue, we convey that to our userbase. When we are having an issue, we convey that to our userbase. If we are planning maintenance, we tell our userbase ahead of time. Its the right thing to do. Rockstar does none of these things. In regards to the Grand Theft Auto Online servers, they tend to just be doing whatever it is they want, and will get back to restoring that service whenever we can. Which if we did that at my job, it would be grounds for termination. Not from my boss, the CTO, but from the CEO. It’s called bad business.

Having outages daily for a week in explicitly inexcusable from any standpoint. If that is occuring, you had better make a statement, have every developer apart of the project, and datacenter technicians working on the issue, around the clock until it is resolved.

As of recently the new Grand Theft Auto Online content expansion title “Further Adventures in Finance and Felony” has been released, and with that came server stability changes, as well as new content for the masses. Just in time for summer, and all the kids playing it all day while on Summer vacation.  But it appears the load is too much to handle, causing the servers to drop every day for the past three days, near what would be a peak time for US Consumers. Every day, I have received text messages from my brother ‘Servers crashed again’. To which I load up the support page, and sure enough, the whole platform for all consoles is marked as limited. If it was due to the load of the new update, wouldn’t the old consoles be untouched?

Either way, Rockstar Games needs to address this, as this is a turning point for Grand Theft Auto Online. Turn it into one of the largest grossing online services and act like it, or stop pretending they can pull it off. Because at this point, they only appear to be banking the checks, and not funding the server farm in the basement.

 

Sources:

http://www.gamespot.com/articles/gta-5s-online-mode-has-generated-half-a-billion-do/1100-6438765/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Theft_Auto_V#Sales

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Benzies