Sunday, March 30, 2008

Free Hard Disk Diagnostic Tool - Data Lifeguard Diagnostic from Western Digital

This is one tool you should keep in your toolbox if you are hardware DIY enthusiast. Recently I undertook a project to increase the storage capacity of my Xbox by reusing an old hard disk and had wanted to be sure that the dusty piece of metal I pulled out of my basement store is still in acceptable working condition.

Yes, I can try plugging it into a Windows rig and run chkdisk. That will let me know whether the drive is functional. However, it doesn't tell me if the drive will fail anytime soon. For that, you will need a tool that can read the S.M.A.R.T. statistics that are stored on the drive. Hence enters Data Lifeguard Diagnostic from Western Digital. (Did I mention its free?)

This tool not just allows you to view the statistics (and drive information like serial number, model, etc), but you can also run tests as well as zero the platters for security. There are two types of tests it can perform, a quick overall test as well as an extended test which does a full surface scan.

There are three versions available on the website; one that runs on Windows, another that runs in DOS mode and is packaged as a bootable floppy disk, and the last runs in DOS mode but is packaged as a bootable CD. The last two options obviously work best when your primary hard disk is giving you problems.

Best of all, its free and it works on other brands of hard disk too!

Friday, March 28, 2008

MioTV troubles again...

Shucks, setting the ST536v6 in bridged mode just broke my MioTV setup. I've forgotten that I've got the MioTV set-top box connected to the LAN port of my router hence its no longer able to dial the modem directly.

The temporary solution is to place a switch in between the modem and the router. So the configuration then becomes modem, router and MioTV set-top box all connected to the LAN ports of the switch.

The long term solution is to upgrade the DI-524 to a DD-WRT capable WiFi router and configure the LAN port where I've got the MioTV set-top box connected as a switched WAN port. Thankfully, this can be easily factored in to my router upgrade project.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Getting ST536v6 to run in bridged mode

For the curious, I want the ST536v6 to run in bridged mode as I'm about to embark on a router upgrade project. So for a few days now, I've been trying various approaches found on the Internet to get the darn SpeedTouch to run in bridged mode with zero success.

First up was the auto-detect method. In this approach, just connect as usual (i.e. modem to WAN port of router, set PPPoE in router), hard reset the modem. If it don't work the first time, try a few more times. I swear, the last step is part of the instructions and no, its not a joke the Alcatel folks embed in their firmware. Anyways, no joy there.

Next up was the Residential CD method. Note: do not use this approach if you are using the modem for IPTV (i.e. MioTV) access as well. This is because the configuration wizard will remove the IPTV configurations when it writes the new bridged configuration for broadband to the modem! Learned this the hard way as I spent a couple of hours fiddling with the set-top box thinking it was a problem there and I couldn't check the modem configurations as the web admin console is no longer available once the modem is configured in bridged mode.

As luck would have it, just as I was about to give up, I found method 3 - manual configuration via telnet and it works! Yeah! I can finally revert back to using my DI-524 as the router. Here are the steps in making the magic happen. Telnet to your modem using the IP Then just enter the commands in the sequence below.

Oh, if you make a mistake or if you screw up *touch wood!*, simply hard reset the modem by inserting a pin into the reset hole found at the back of the modem and hold it for 10 secs (or until you see the power led alternates between red and green).

Username : Administrator
Password : *********** (this is the serial number of the modem)
______ SpeedTouch 5x6
/ /\
_____/__ / \
_/ /\_____/___ \ Copyright (c) 1999-2007, THOMSON
// / \ /\ \
_______//_______/ \ / _\/______
/ / \ \ / / / /\
__/ / \ \ / / / / _\__
/ / / \_______\/ / / / / /\
/_/______/___________________/ /________/ /___/ \
\ \ \ ___________ \ \ \ \ \ /
\_\ \ / /\ \ \ \ \___\/
\ \/ / \ \ \ \ /
\_____/ / \ \ \________\/
/__________/ \ \ /
\ _____ \ /_____\/
\ / /\ \ /___\/
/____/ \ \ /
\ \ /___\/
_{Administrator}=>ppp relay
{Administrator}[ppp relay]=>flush
{Administrator}[ppp relay]=>..
Some ATM interfaces are still in use. Interfaces that are in use cannot be deleted.{Administrator}[atm]=>phonebook
{Administrator}[atm phonebook]=>flush
Some phonebook entries are still in use. Entries that are in use cannot be deleted.{Administrator}[atm phonebook]=>add
name = pvcInternet
addr = 0.100
:atm phonebook add name=pvcInternet addr=0*100
{Administrator}[atm phonebook]=>..
{Administrator}[atm]=>ifaddintf = atmInternet
:atm ifadd intf=atmInternet
intf = atmInternet
[dest] = pvcInternet
[qos] = default
[clp] = 0
[encaps] = llc
[retry] = 10
[fcs] = disabled
[ulp] = mac
:atm ifconfig intf=atmInternet dest=pvcInternet ulp=mac
intf = atmInternet
:atm ifattach intf=atmInternet
{Administrator}=>eth bridge
{Administrator}[eth bridge]=>ifadd
[brname] =
intf = snbbridge
:eth bridge ifadd intf=snbbridge
{Administrator}[eth bridge]=>ifconfig
[brname] =
intf = snbbridge
[dest] = atmInternet
[portstate] = forwarding
[retry] = 10
[priotag] = 0
[vlan] = default
[prioconfig] = disabled
[ipprec] = disabled
[priority] = 0
[regenprio] = 01234567
[ingressfiltering] = disabled
[acceptvlanonly] = disabled
[mcastfilter] = disabled
[dynvlan] = disabled
[igmpsnooping] = enabled
:eth bridge ifconfig intf=snbbridge dest=atmInternet portstate=forwarding retry=10 priotag=disabled vlan=default prioconfig=disabled ipprec=disabled priority=0regenprio=01234567 ingressfiltering=disabled acceptvlanonly=disabled mcastfilter=disabled dynvlan=disabled igmpsnooping=enabled
{Administrator}[eth bridge]=>ifattach
[brname] =
intf = snbbridge
:eth bridge ifattach intf=snbbridge
{Administrator}[eth bridge]=>:
{Administrator}=>dhcp server config state=disabled
Connection to host lost.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Microsoft launched Windows Server 2008

Microsoft launched Windows Server 2008 (together with SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008) today at Suntec Convention Center. Typical of most Microsoft events, the launch event had plenty of fanfare, jam packed with attendees and partner showcases (a total of THIRTY!).

One reason for the huge turnout is likely to be the freebies. This year, Microsoft gave away stuff like Windows Vista Ultimate, Office (not sure which edition), Xbox 360 and even a Sony Bravia LCD TV! (and no, I did not get any of those cool stuff *sniff*)

Talking about partner showcases, it came as a surprise to me (and most I suspect) to find SUN Microsystems present and they sure made their presence felt by being a Platinum Sponsor (the highest available) plus occupying the largest booth strategically placed at the entrance of the event. In the Keynote session, Mr Ong Chee Beng, MD for SUN Singapore, shared that SUN and Microsoft have been quietly working together for the past few years and they even deployed a number of their engineers in Microsoft's HQ up in Redmond.

Well, back to the main star of the event, Windows Server 2008. Key defining features in this release are Hyper-V, Server Core and Windows PowerShell.

Hyper-V is essentially a host manager (or hypervisor) that manages multiple VMs running in a physical machine. This is a big shift from the single OS to single physical machine concept in previous generations of Windows Server. With the entry of this type 1 hypervisor in it's portfolio, Microsoft can finally compete head-to-head with the likes of VMWare (ESX Server) and Citrix (ZenServer) and take a share of this lucrative Enterprise Server Virtualization market.

Server Core is a packaging/installation concept where you get to choose what feature sets (also called server roles) you want to install. This is in stark contrast to the previous generation of Windows Server (i.e. Windows Server 2003) where all the binaries are installed whether you use them or not. According to Microsoft, this reduces the software maintenance and management required as well as the attack surface.

The last defining feature is the Windows PowerShell. This is a task-based command-line shell and scripting language designed especially for system administration. Above and beyond a normal text based shell interface (like cmd.exe, CSH, BASH, etc), it gives you the ability to manipulate objects rather than just text (say goodbye to text parsers like awk and sed!). This is possible as its built on top of the .NET common language runtime (CLR) and the .NET framework. It accepts and returns .NET objects and comes with a large set of built-in commands. Gone will be the days where you write cryptic shell scripts that nobody understands (including you too over time) using Win32 ports of the popular Unix text parsers.

Want to find out more about Windows Server 2008? Check out the reviewers guide.

Monday, March 24, 2008

unrar for the DNS-323

The rar format is a popular archival cum compression format that is commonly used in online communities for file distribution. If you need to unpack such archives on your DNS-323, you are in luck. Follow the instructions below and you are all set.
  1. Download the binaries for the arm architecture here.
  2. Unpack it into fun_plug's bin directory (i.e. tar -xjvf unrar-arm.tar.bz2 $BINDIR/)
  3. Run the command unrar x <archive> <path_to_extract> to start extracting!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Windows Vista and hidden SSID WLAN networks

If you have a Windows Vista PC, and your wireless network does not broadcast its SSID, and you find yourself tearing your hair out because you are having trouble getting on to your wireless network even though you have checked a zillion times that you have the correct client settings, try this:

Go into your wireless router's settings and check "Broadcast SSID" (or uncheck "Do not broadcast SSID") before trying to connect again. Once you have established connection, you can go back into your wireless router's settings to disable the SSID broadcast setting. (which btw is not necessary if your reason for disabling SSID broadcast is security. Look here for a detailed discussion on this topic.)

So far, I had the same experience with three different Vista PCs and two different wireless networks and each time, enabling the SSID broadcast for the initial connection between the Vista PC and the network solved the problem.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Lunch at Fish Mart?

When I first heard that I'm going to Fish Mart for lunch, I went "Do we need to wear wellies and overalls?" Luckily, as it turns out, Fish Mart is really Fish Mart Sakuraya, the name of of a restaurant cum Japanese food mart. Its appeal is in its quality and freshness of the sashimi hence the name I suppose.

Fish Mart has two outlets in Singapore; Village Centre and Parkway Parade. Since it's a work day today, we ended up in the western branch which is in Village Centre. The shop front is pretty big but much of it is dedicated to its food mart section leaving only a handful of table and chairs crammed in a corner for dine-in customers. Reservation is therefore recommended.

In terms of the menu, there really isn't much variety as the focus is on the sashimi and sushi; There are no chicken or beef items nor set meals with rice or noodles. They do have plain udon and soba (hot only) though. So if you are bringing guests, make sure they are ok with raw fish else they will find it a challenge to fill their bellies.

In terms of pricing, I find that they are a tad expensive. Imagine three pieces of ebi tempura going for S$7 and S$8 for a bowl of plain udon. Pricing for the sashimi is however quite reasonable given the freshness.

My overall experience has been pleasant (partly due to good company) but if I ever visit the shop again, it will probably not be due to my suggestion.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Facebook... social networking tool or subtle privacy invasion tool?

Came across this short clip that provides an interesting take on the hidden agenda behind popular social networking website Facebook. In it, the author suggests two possible hypothesis of the driving force behind the "free" website.

In the first, it was suggested that Facebook compiles statistics (customer insights anyone?) based on information submitted by users and sell them off to marketing firms (or anyone who will pay for that matter) for commercial gains. This idea is not new or anything to shout about since its a common model in the web content industry. Consumers too, are not complaining so long as it do not cost them money (directly anyway) and that the statistics are aggregated in such a way that personal details cannot be identified/divulged. The problem with Facebook is that its privacy policy makes no attempt to protect its users' personal information as such.

The second theory is much more frightening. The author suggests that based on the ties of the companies that invested in Facebook, data collected by Facebook may be used by a US government project which attempts to piece together a person's entire existence. From people you know, where you work, which schools you attended, how many girlfriends you had, generally anything you and, more importantly, your friends care to share about you on the website.

The significance here is that you really cannot stop your friends from saying things about you which you may deem too personal or confidential. To spook you further, even if they don't implicitly mention anything personal about you, casual references to you may also lead to disclosure of details that you wish the rest of the world didn't know about. For example, a friend A openly declares that he is from School ABC in his profile. Then in a fun wall post or equivalent, he mentions you as a schoolmate. Indirectly, that makes the connection between you and the School ABC!

Scary? It sure is to me. To some, the above may just be myths and wild theories from the paranoid. But I guess as the saying goes.. "It's better to be safe than sorry". So goodbye Facebook... at least until it change its stance on protecting user's privacy!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

10sec Gadget Review: Revo Pico WiFi Radio

What is it?
  • WiFi BoomBox
  • Dimensions (WxHxD mm): 105 x 167 X 105
What can it do?
  • Plays MP3, AAC, AU, WAV, AIFF, WMA, and Real Audio formats over network shared folders
  • Supports streaming from uPnP media servers (i.e. Windows Media Player 11)
  • Plays Internet radio (connects via its own directory but users can submit new stations via its website)
  • Plays FM radio
  • 5 preset stations each for IR and FM (via remote only)
  • Connect to Internet via WiFi (802.11 g/b)
  • Aux input for other sources (e.g. MP3 player)
  • headphone jack
  • 6 Watt Amplifier, 2” Neodymium driver (mono speaker only)
  • Compact IR remote control
  • Internal rechargeable battery (6hrs)
  • Splashproof design

What can it NOT do?

  • No CD playback option

How much does it cost?

Where can I find more information?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Successor to my Dopod 838 pro....

I'm in the market for a new PDA phone now that my Dopod 838 pro has passed its warranty period. (Yeah, that's a lame excuse for an upgrade but hey, I'm a sucker for gadgets...)
HTC Tytn III was initially looking at getting the replacement model from Dopod, which is the HTC Tytn II. Same form factor and pretty much identical to the 838 pro except with built in GPS, better spec'ed Camera and twice the memory (both RAM and ROM).imate Ultimate 9502Then I saw the imate Ultimate 9502 which is directly competing with the Tytn II in terms of looks, specs and features. The key difference is the VGA resolution screen and XGA video output. It also spots a LED flash for the 3MP auto-focus camera but in general, I still think that PDA phone cameras are fit for casual shots only and definitely not good enough for taking vacation pictures.Sony Ericsson Xperia X1But lately, I found this; the XPERIA X1 from Sony Ericsson. This is the first Windows Mobile phone from Sony Ericsson and it promises not just the usual features we have come to expect from a high-end PDA phone (such as Quad-band, 3G, GPS, WiFi, QWERTY keyboard, VGA display), it also spots an executive look that is a cut above the rest. In terms of user interface, it touts a HTC Touch like interface called XPERIA Panels which looks pretty darn good in the video introduction.

In terms of availability, the X1 is currently still in pre-production and no official launch has been announced (press release says "later this year" which is as good as saying "we don't know when").

Oh well, I believe I can wait since my trusty Dopod is still going strong and I probably need a year-long savings plan just to afford the bugger!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

10sec Gadget Review: Sangean's WFR-20 Wi-Fi Internet Radio

What is it?
  • WiFi BoomBox
  • Dimensions (WxHxD mm): 290 x 115 X 215
  • Weight: 2.98Kg
What can it do?
  • Plays MP3, WMA, AAC, AIFF, FLAC, and Real Audio formats over network shared folders
  • Supports streaming from uPnP media servers (i.e. Windows Media Player)
  • plays Internet radio (connects via its own directory but users can submit new stations via its website)
  • 12 preset stations
  • Clock display
  • 4 alarm timers (radio or buzzer)
  • Sleep timer with gentle fade
  • 2x5W stereo speakers built in
  • Connect to Internet via WiFi (802.11 g/b) or LAN (10/100 baseT)
  • Aux input for other sources (e.g. MP3 player)
  • Line out and headphone jack
  • Compact IR remote control

What can it NOT do?

  • No FM reception
  • No CD playback option
  • No internal battery hence limiting its portability

How much does it cost?

Where can I find more information?