Category Archives: Hardware

Sabrent USB AU-MMSA microphone not working in Windows 10

I recently installed Windows 10 for my gaming VM and discovered that my microphone was no longer working. All the drivers were properly installed and sound worked fine, but there was nothing coming from the microphone.

My gaming VM uses a Sabrent USB External Stereo Sound Adapter model  AU-MMSA passed through for sound. This was most perplexing because it worked in other OSes, but not Windows 10.

After much digging I finally found this youtube video which outlined the problem: Microphone permissions to the system. The hybrid that Windows 10 is between Store apps / permissions and regular desktop apps reminds me of Windows ME. An unholy union.. terrible.

At any rate, the fix is to grant the system permission to use its own microphone, un-granting it first if necessary.

Go to Start / Settings (little gear icon in bottom left) then search for Microphone Privacy Settings. Click the big Change button beneath “Microphone access for this device is on”  at the top of that screen. Change the toggle to “off”, then change it back to “on” again. This fixed my microphone.

 

Using a Bus Pirate to fix Seagate drives

I wrote these notes almost three years ago but never published them. Since I’ve now referenced them again I’ll publish them albeit in a crude state.

7200.11 BSY bug

I had a need to fix the firmware of a Seagate  7200.11 BSY bug, which involved connecting to the RS232 serial ports on the drive and issuing a few commands to clear SMART data. Details here:

http://www.arvydas.co.uk/2012/07/fixing-a-seagate-7200-11-hard-drive-with-arduino/

http://hackaday.com/2012/07/30/recovering-from-a-seagate-hdd-firmware-bug/

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+BillFarrow/posts/ir1xnfu46TE

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:F1J2P5E3mrIJ:haquesprojects.com/embedded-device-hacking/using-a-bus-pirate-as-a-usb-ttl-serial-converter/+&cd=4&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

http://fillwithcoolblogname.blogspot.com/2011/02/fixing-seagate-720011-bsy-0-lba-fw-bug.html

Using a Bus Pirate:

Find out what device the bus pirate is given:

dmesg | tail

usb 1-1.6.3: FTDI USB Serial Device converter now attached to ttyUSB0

Next, add your user to the dialout group (thanks to here for the hint)

usermod -a -G dialout $USER

You may need to log out and log back in after issuing the above command for it to take effect.

Fire up a terminal editor (I used screen after learning about my options from here.)

screen /dev/ttyUSB0 115200 8N1

Press Enter and you should be greeted with the Bus Pirate’s HiZ> prompt. Next, enter the following:

1. m – to change the mode
2. 3 – for UART mode
3. 7 – for 38400 bps
4. 1 – for 8 bits of data, no parity control
5. 1 – for 1 stop bit
6. 1 – for Idle 1 receive polarity
7. 2 – for Normal output type

At the “UART>” prompt. Enter “(0)” to show available macros:

UART>(0)
0.Macro menu
1.Transparent bridge
2.Live monitor
3.Bridge with flow control

Now enter “(3)”  (don’t forget the parenthesis – this burned me) to enter bridge mode with flow control and hit “y” at the “Are you sure?” prompt. The terminal will receive input from your device.

UART>(3)
UART bridge
Reset to exit
Are you sure?

Now plug in pins to hard drive. Use this site as a guide for which pins to use. The drive should be upside down to expose the controller board.
BP Gnd (top left) to Gnd on drive (Second pin from the left)
BP MISO (UART RX – bottom right) to TX on drive (far right pin)
BP MOSI (UART TX) to RX on drive (Seconf from the right pin)

I only ended up needing MISO & MOSI, ground wasn’t required.

Un-screw hard drive, add shim to prevent electrical contact

Power on drive

CTRL+Z

/2

(wait 30 seconds)

Z

(un-shim, re-screw hard drive)

U

/1

N1

Power down drive, wait few seconds, power back up

CTRL + Z

m0,2,2,0,0,0,0,22 (enter)

Clear SMART data

A couple years later I came across some old NAS drives that I wanted to use. I ran a full battery of burn-in tests using badblocks and the drives passed with flying colors. The only problem is they had SMART data saying Reallocated_Sector_Ct was past the threshold. Barely. I decided to roll the dice with these drives anyway given their proven performance currently and over the years.

The problem is FreeNAS will e-mail spam you about that SMART attribute. I couldn’t find a good way to suppress those alerts yet have them alert if that number gets worse, so I decided to cheat and clear all SMART data from those drives, thus getting FreeNAS happy with me yet alerting me if the reallocated sector count increases in the future.

I read a few sources to accomplish this with my bus pirate.

https://blog.zencoffee.org/2011/07/bus-pirate-as-ftdi-cable/

https://forum.hddguru.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=33886&start=20&mobile=mobile

https://forum.hddguru.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=33886&start=20

Use the same instructions as above for hooking up the bus pirate to the drive’s RS232 ports (to the right of the SATA port.)

Once you’ve serial connected to the drive, it’s three simple commands to clear the SMART data:

CTRL + Z
/1
N1

Installing Linux Mint 18.3 with NVIDIA GTX 1070

I became very frustrated when trying to install the latest Linux Mint on my desktop, which contains an NVIDIA GTX 1070 graphics card. No matter what I tried I couldn’t even get the live CD environment to show up. It would stay at text, and even play the login sound, but no matter what I pressed I couldn’t get anything to come up on the display.

After much digging I came across an Ubuntu forum post which directed me to this manual describing different boot-time options. I had read somewhere that you want nomodeset to be enabled, but that didn’t cut it. Finally after reading the Ubuntu options I found the second half – vga=791

So, to install (and run for the first time before installing NVIDIA drivers) Linux Mint on a machine that has an NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1070, you have to edit the grub startup options (by pressing esc / tab) and append the following to the kernel line:

nomodeset vga=791

Also, if you manually partition the installation, make sure that the /boot partition is EXT2. I had first installed it as EXT4 but ran into strange problems.. restarting and making it EXT2 made those problems go away.

Install Linux on Chromebook Pixel 2 (Samus)

I’ve run crouton on my Chromebook Pixel 2  (2015, codename Samus) for some time now but I’ve found myself wanting more. Virtualbox, kernel access, graphics, and more don’t perform well in a chroot. Thankfully it’s actually pretty easy to dual boot Chrome OS and Linux on your chromebook thanks to chrx (pronounced “marshmallow”?)

Installation

The first part of installation is identical to setting up crouton:

  • Enter developer mode:
    Press ESC, Refresh, power simultaneously (when the chromebook is on)

    • Every time you power on the chromebook from now on you’ll get a scary screen. Press CTRL-D to bypass it (or wait 30 seconds)
    • If you hit space on this screen instead of CTRL+D it will powerwash (nuke) your data
      A scary screen will pop up saying the OS is missing or damaged. Press CTRL D, then press Enter when the OS verification screen comes up.
  • Wait several minutes for developer mode to be installed. Note it will wipe your device to do this.

Enable SeaBIOS:

Open up a shell (CTRL + ALT + T, shell, enter) and enter the following

sudo crossystem dev_boot_usb=1 dev_boot_legacy=1

and reboot.

Next, download and run the chrx script twice. The first run will partition and powerwash your system; the second run will actually install GalliumOS (or Ubuntu or Fedora) alongside ChromeOS.

cd ; curl -Os https://chrx.org/go && sudo sh go

reboot after partition, run shell again. You can specify a number of arguments to the go script; I wanted to use Cinnamon on Fedora so these are the ones I used:

cd ; curl -Os https://chrx.org/go && sudo sh go -d fedora -e cinnamon -r latest -H <hostname> -U <username> -Z <timezone>

Fedora took quite a long time to install (1 hour in my case.) Just let the script do its thing. Once complete you can reboot and press CTRL + D for chromeOS or CTRL + L for Linux.

After that, reboot into your new linux environment!

Cleaning up

There were a few samus-specific things I needed to do.

Locale

For some reason my locale was set to an African country.  Correct by doing this:  (thanks to here) I added SELinux commands because for some reason I was getting permission denied errors.

sudo setenforce 0
localectl set-locale LANG=en_US.utf8
sudo setenforce 1

Audio doesn’t work (no sound)

This issue stems from the fact that the sound card is not presented as the first available card. The system defaults to HDMI sound instead. Fortunately this page has instructions on how to fix this. If you’re running GalliumOS default you can follow the instructions from the link above. In my case I had to get a bit creative.

  1. Download the samus patches from here
    wget https://github.com/GalliumOS/galliumos-samus/archive/master.zip
  2. Extract subfolders inside said zip file to root directory
  3. Reboot
  4. run the following:
    1. cp -r /etc/skel/.config $HOME
      sudo samus-alsaenable-speakers
      sudo samus-touch-reset

Success! You can now dual boot between Full blown Linux and ChromeOS on your Chromebook Pixel.

Touchpad / touchscreen stop working after resume

Occasionally my touchpad and touchscreen stop responding after resuming from sleep. The galliumOS-samus fix mentioned above has a handy reset script that fixes this. Simply run:

sudo samus-touch-reset

and your touch functionality is restored. I bound this command to a key shortcut to make things easier.

Virtualbox won’t start

After installing virtualbox I got a strange error message when trying to start VMs:

Failed to load VMMR0.r0 (VERR_SUPLIB_OWNER_NOT_ROOT)

I found this mention saying that /usr has to be owned by root. Easy enough of a fix:

sudo chown root:root /usr/

Hot swapped disk missing in FreeNAS fix

I hot removed a malfunctioning drive in my FreeNAS unit recently. The problem is its replacement would not show up in available drives. Camcontrol devlist wouldn’t reveal the device, even after camcontrol rescan all.

I found from this site that another command exists – camcontrol reset. I found out which bus to reset (instead of resetting all of them) by looking at logs and noticing the scbus number. Once obtained, I ran the following commands (the last number refers to the bus my drive was on)

sudo camcontrol reset 10
sudo camcontrol rescan 10

That did the trick! The drive was suddenly visible by the FreeNAS system once more.

Install Ubuntu chroot on your Chromebook

I recently got a Chromebook Pixel 2015 LS. It is a very nice device. Chromium OS is great but a power user like myself wants a little more functionality out of this beautiful machine.

Fortunately it’s not too difficult to get an Ubuntu chroot running side by side with chromium. The Google developers have made a script to automate the process.

Below is my experience installing an Ubuntu Trusty chroot on my chromebook 2015 LS.

Prepwork

  • Enter developer mode:
    Press ESC, Refresh, power simultaneously (when the chromebook is on)

    • Every time you power on the chromebook from now on you’ll get a scary screen. Press CTRL-D to bypass it (or wait 30 seconds)
    • If you hit space on this screen instead of CTRL+D it will powerwash (nuke) your data
      A scary screen will pop up saying the OS is missing or damaged. Press CTRL D, then press Enter when the OS verification screen comes up.
  • Wait several minutes for developer mode to be installed. Note it will wipe your device to do this.

Install Crouton

Now that we’re in developer mode we will use a script called crouton to install an Ubuntu chroot (thanks to lifehacker for the guidance.)

  1. Download Crouton:  https://github.com/dnschneid/crouton
  2. Press CTRL ALT T to open terminal
  3. Type ‘shell’ (without quotes) and hit enter
  4. sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -r trusty -t touch,extension,unity-desktop,keyboard,cli-extra -e -n unity
    1. Note the arguments are suited to my needs. You will want to read up on the documentation to decide which options you want, i.e. desktop environment
  5. Install this crouton extension to integrate clipboard (in conjuction with the ‘extension’ parameter above)

General points of interest / lessons learned

  • Don’t enter the chroot and type startx. It will hard freeze your chromebook.
  • You don’t need to blow your chroot away if you want a different desktop environment, simply install desired environment on your existing chroot
  • To switch between chroots pres Ctrl + Alt + Shift + F2 or F3 (back or forward arrows on top row, not to be confused with the arrows on the bottom right of the keyboard)

High DPI

High DPI screens are a pain to deal with. Here are my tweaks:

  • Go to System settings / Displays / Scale for menu and title bars. I like 1.75
  • Alternatively you can change your resolution. If you mess up and X won’t start properly, delete ~/.config/monitors.xml (thanks to askubuntu)
  • Use the setres script to enable other resolutions in the display manager
    • setres 1440 960
  • Firefox fix tiny text:
    • go to about:config and modify layout.css.devPixelsPerPx, set to 2

Other tweaks:

  • Make trackpad match Chrome:
    • System settings / mouse and trackpad / Check “Natural Scrolling”
  • Remove lens suggestions:
    • Install unity-tweak-tool, notify-osd, overlay-scrollbar, unity-webapps-service
    • Run unity-tweak-tool and uncheck “search online sources” from the search tab
  • Move docky bar to the left:
    • sudo apt-get install gconf-editor
    • Press Alt+F2, enter: gconf-editor and in this configuration editor, navigate to “apps -> docky-2 -> Docky -> Interface -> DockPreferences -> Dock1″
    • On the right side there are some properties with their corresponding values, including the position of the dock which you can change from “Bottom” to “Top/Left/Right” to move Docky to the upper part of the desktop.
  • Install Mac OSX theme
  • Install elementary OS chroot

Garbled mouse cursor when switching between chroots

Sometimes the mouse cursor would get all weird when switching between my chroots. The fix is to install the latest Intel drivers within your chroot.

sudo apt-get install software-properties-common python-software-properties
sudo add-apt-repository https://download.01.org/gfx/ubuntu/14.04/main
wget --no-check-certificate https://download.01.org/gfx/RPM-GPG-KEY-ilg -O - | sudo apt-key add -
wget --no-check-certificate https://download.01.org/gfx/RPM-GPG-KEY-ilg-2 -O - | sudo apt-key add -
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

That’s it.. for now 🙂


 

Update 07/27/2015

I discovered that creating chroots was taking a very long time due to the mirror being chosen. I discovered the -m parameter of crouton which allows you to specify a mirror of your choosing. My updated setting is thus:

sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -r trusty -t touch,extension,kde-desktop,keyboard,cli-extra -e -n unitykde -m http://mirrors.xmission.com/ubuntu

If you happened to do a CTRL + C to cancel an existing chroot install that was going slowly, you can simply append the -m parameter above along with -u -u to resume with the updated mirror:

sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -r trusty -t touch,extension,kde-desktop,keyboard,cli-extra -e -n unitykde -m http://mirrors.xmission.com/ubuntu -u -u

Install OpenWRT on ASUS RT-16N

My parents’ ASUS RT-16N has been running dd-wrt for years now. I recently enhanced it with optware but something went horribly wrong after a few days. A drive out to their house revealed that the whole unit had spontaneously reset itself to factory defaults.

OpenWRT has come a long way since I last investigated it. I decided to give it another try as it’s till actively being developed whereas dd-wrt is not.

The wiki article on this device is a little bit out of date. I had to update it a little bit to get it to work.

To install OpenWRT on this device, SSH into it and run the following commands:

cd /tmp
wget http://downloads.openwrt.org/barrier_breaker/14.07/brcm47xx/generic/openwrt-brcm47xx-generic-squashfs.trx mtd -r write openwrt-brcm47xx-generic-squashfs.trx linux

That part went smoothly. The last part to configure was wireless N. After some searching I came across this post on the OpenWRT forums which worked nicely for me.  SSH into the router and do the following to enable full wireless N functionality:

opkg update
opkg install kmod-brcmsmac
opkg install kmod-brcmutil
rmmod b43
rmmod b43legacy
rmmod wl
rmmod brcmsmac
rmmod brcmutil
modprobe brcmsmac

# make sure to delete the old config files ... you have to ...
rm -f /etc/config/wireless 
wifi detect > /etc/config/wireless
vi /etc/config/wireless

Now comment out # "option disabled 1"

I had to take navid’s steps a little bit further by tweaking /etc/config/wireless a bit to add some features. My working wireless configuration is below:

config wifi-device 'radio0'
 option type 'mac80211'
 option channel '11'
 option hwmode '11ng'
 option path 'bcma0:0'
 list ht_capab 'GF'
 list ht_capab 'SHORT-GI-20'
 list ht_capab 'SHORT-GI-40'
 option txpower '19'
 option country '00'

config wifi-iface
 option device 'radio0'
 option network 'lan'
 option mode 'ap'
 option ssid 'SSID'
 option encryption 'psk2'
 option key 'SSIDKEY'

Success! Fully functional OpenWRT on my parents’ Asus RT-16N.

Manually configure D-Link DCS-930L wireless camera

I recently acquired a pair of D-Link DCS-930L wireless cameras for cheap. I got them to supplement my iSpy home security setup. These cameras come with all sorts of cloud management software that I’m not interested in. I just want to configure them to be wireless cameras for my iSpy system to handle.

There is a trick to configuring these cameras for wi-fi without installing any software or buying a D-Link cloud router. You simply have to plug the camera into an enternet connection, configure your computer to be on the same network as the camera, navigate to the camera’s management webpage, and make a few changes. Let’s begin. (I got my information from the manual for this device, located here.)

  1. Use the supplied ethernet cable to plug the camera’s ethernet port into your computer’s ethernet port. You will have to manually configure your computer’s IP address to be on the 192.168.0.0/24 subnet (something like 192.168.0.2.)
  2. The default IP address for this camera is 192.168.0.20. Go there in a browser.
  3. Default username: admin, blank password
  4. Navigate to the Setup tab (at the top), then click Wireless setup (on the left)
  5. Join your AP by doing a site survey and connecting to your wireless network. Enter your security key (if any) in the passphrase box.
  6. Reboot to have settings take effect (Maintenance (top) System (left) reboot the device)
  7. Un-plug ethernet cable (it doesn’t appear to connect wirelessly if ethernet is plugged in)

Now that we’re up and running we need to tell iSpy (or any other camera software) to connect to the camera. A very helpful guide to URLs these cameras use is located on iSpy’s webpage.

 

The URL for MJPEG capture is:

http://<IP ADDRESS>/MJPEG.CGI

The URL for JPEG capture is:

 http://<IP ADDRESS>/image.jpg

Be sure to fill in <IP ADDRESS> with the IP your camera gets from Wi-Fi, of course.

Success!

I read you can install openwrt on these devices.. but that’s a post for another day.

Install fresh Windows 8.1 on Lenovo G50-S70

Inspired by Lenovo’s bone headed move to install the superfish malware on its machines, I decided to wipe my mother’s Lenovo G50-S70 laptop and start anew. It was supposed to be easy but I ended up running into some issues with this new fangled hardware.

Microsoft has released a very easy tool to create boot ISO images and / or USB media to install Windows 8.1. For Windows 8.1 certified devices like the Lenovo G50 this is extra nice because the key is embedded in the UEFI BIOS – no need to write down or memorize a key.

After creating a USB drive, however, I was greeted with a lovely error message:

Select the driver to install.

It seemed that the install media didn’t see the G50’s hard drive. I could not get past this error message. All drivers on Lenovo’s website are .EXE files which don’t extract well – even when extracted, the installer didn’t like them.

The solution is to boot into a Windows PE environment and run the Windows installer from there. I chose this PE image, which worked quite nicely. Once booted from this PE disk, I was able to mount the install media and run setup.exe manually. This time the installer saw the hard drives and installed Windows 8.1 as you would expect. Success.

Fix tiny text in Windows 8.1

I really enjoy my new Microsoft Surface Pro 3. It has a high DPI screen which makes things very clear and sharp. Unfortunately, when you plug it into an external monitor, many Windows applications don’t deal with the DPI setting properly and thus appear blurry and/or the text is very tiny.

The workaround for this issue is a new compatibility mode setting in Windows 8 – Disable display scaling on high DPI settings. Simply right click on the shortcut of the problem application and go to properties, then go to the Compatibility tab, then check the box.

dpi

Success. Thanks to Microsoft for the information.