Oracle, stop trying to install crapware with Java updates!

If Oracle really want people to keep their Java installations up to date, they really must stop trying to trick people into installing crapware, it’s no wonder that whenever I visit my elderly Mum I find her laptop infested will all sorts of crud, her browser had about 5 different toolbars installed last time I visited and there were so many ads popping up that I suspected her laptop had been compromised with some ad-serving junk (note: it had!).

java crapware

Now it looks like Oracle has finally stopped trying to install the Ask! toolbar, but sadly they are still trying to foist other crap from Amazon onto us, which means more crud on my Mum’s laptop to get rid of.

Why do they insist on doing this? I mean Oracle is not exactly short of cash, and there are many elderly people who simply will not understand what the check boxes mean and will just click “Next” regardless.

I also think it is unforgivable to muck about with people’s search engine settings, my Mum is quite happy to use Google and will find it very confusing and frustrating to suddenly find herself using Amazon’s search engine.

For Christ’s sake Oracle, this isn’t necessary, STOP IT!

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Posted in Computers and Internet | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Blocking PPI claims management company phone numbers

Like many people in the UK, I regularly get called on one of my mobile phones from a PPI or accident claims management company. This is incredibly annoying but the latest round of calls are using identifiable caller-id numbers – I suspect this is because many people will simply not answer unknown or withheld numbers.

The phone that predominantly gets called is running Android Kitkat and shows the rough geographical area where the call originated, and it’s generally some obscure location within the UK that has no meaning to me, so I normally do not answer and just let the calls ring through to my voicemail.

But I recently discovered the blacklist feature that is buried deep in Android. On another phone (Samsung) it is called a reject list, and also seems to have a different way of reaching it, but every time I get called I have been adding the number to the blacklist and have built up a nice little list now that is starting to yield dividends, as I am starting to get Android notifications that the blacklist is blocking calls from some of these numbers. Result!

So if you want to pre-emptively create a blacklist to block these calls, rather than waiting to be called, simply add the following list of numbers to your blacklist. This is by no means exhaustive, but it works for me and I will add more to this list as I collect them – please, if you discover a PPI number that is not on this list, feel free leave a comment and I will add it. Thanks.

Number Date added
01143032988 01/04/2016
01293344620 01/04/2016
01347722059 01/04/2016
01362788090 01/04/2016
01442509072 01/04/2016
01483608845 01/04/2016
01579212168 01/04/2016
01670432126 01/04/2016
01722580297 01/04/2016
08454290081 01/04/2016

Thinking about this a bit more there must be a cleverer way to do this, and it looks like this app (Should I Answer?) may well do the trick, so I’ll load this on and see if it helps. Stay tuned for the results! Smile

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Adding a second wifi antenna to Acer Idea 500/510

I upgraded the Wifi card in my Acer Idea 510 some time ago to a 802.11n model that supports 300mbps, but for some time I have known that I have not been getting the full performance from this card, mainly because it has been operating with only 1 antenna connected. This would often result in stuttering and buffering when trying to play 1080p movies over the wifi from my NAS. To get the full performance from this card requires connecting a second antenna, but there is only one available on the Acer Idea.

Then I stumbled across a post on avforums where some chap had added a second antenna and it got me thinking “of course why not?!” Smile

First I needed an RP-SMA pigtail and extra antenna, I got these both from Amazon for about 3 quid all-in including postage (all the way from China)!…

I originally drilled a 6mm hole in the back of the case but found it wasn’t big enough, so opened it up to 6.5mm. I did this carefully using a hand drill, drilling from the outside to the inside so that the drill bit would pull the swarf back up the bit and out of the case. I stuck a sticky label loosely behind where I was going to drill to collect any swarf that ended up inside the case, in order to prevent it dropping onto the motherboard. This worked fine for me but you do have to be extremely careful if you are going to do this without removing the motherboard, you don’t want to short something out when you power it back on!

You can see in the following pics where I drilled the hole between the LAN port and TV antenna connectors and screwed in the connector, you can also see all the swarf on the table and the sticky labels I used to collect any remnants inside the case:

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Here’s a pic from behind:

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Here you can see both pigtails connected to the upgraded Wifi card:

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In this pic you can see both antennas connected, the newer one is much bigger than the stock one, I might order another one so they match:

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Finally I did a quick performance test by copying a large movie across to my NAS and I got around 9MB/s, which is about triple what I was getting before:

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Another test involved playing a 1080p MP4 file directly from my NAS over the wifi, sure enough it played fine, whereas before it would stutter and buffer.

Mission accomplished! Smile

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DRAC 5 “Error when reading from SSL Socket”

I had this error this morning, it has something to do with later versions of Java disabling support for SSLv3, I know there have been some serious SSL vulnerabilities of late so it may be related to that.

Anyway, it seems that in order to get the remote KVM console redirection working with DRAC 5, you have to enable SSLv3. To do this find the java.security file on your system and edit it. I found it in C:\Program Files (x86)\Java\jre1.8.0_66\lib\security.

Search for the line that starts “jdk.tls.disabledAlgorithms” and comment it out by putting a hash at the start. Save the file. The line ended up looking like this in my java.security file:

#jdk.tls.disabledAlgorithms=SSLv3, RC4, DH keySize < 768

Now try your remote console again and hopefully it’ll work.

Posted in Computers and Internet, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Upgrade to 2TB HDD in Sky+ HD Box (Amstrad DRX890)

Like many people, I was finding the default HDD size in the Amstrad DRX890 Sky+ HD box to be a bit small. Too many HD recordings were taking up too much space and it was a constant battle to watch stuff in order to free up enough room to record new stuff! I regularly ran out of space when recording the F1 Grand Prix on Sky Sport F1HD.

So I finally bit the bullet and decided to embark on an upgrade. As usual I had to read pages and pages of forum posts, and couldn’t really find anything that just told me how to do it.

So here is my experience!

After a bit of research I settled on a 2TB Seagate Pipeline HDD model no. ST2000VM003. This drive runs at 5900 RPM and seems to be a good compromise between speed, economy and noise. Some people had said that other faster drives were either too noisy or drew too much current and placed too much strain on the Sky box’s PSU.

I was a little concerned after ordering it as I stumbled across some forum posts (e.g. here) that said people had also been having problems with this drive, but others had said they had managed to get it working okay after using a jumper to set the drive to SATA-II (3.0 Gbps) mode rather than leaving the drive set at it’s default SATA-III (6.0 Gbps) mode.

NOTE: Since this article was written the Seagate drive has failed and I lost all recordings stored upon it. I have since replaced the Seagate with a WD AV-GP WD20EURS, which is working fine and doesn’t require any jumper configuration. The rest of this article still refers to the Seagate drive but I can’t recommend it, I would go for the WD drive if you can, specifically the AV-GP version, which I gather is optimised for video streaming applications.

When the drive turned up, I noticed it was a bit fatter than the drive that came out of the Sky box and on the label it said it drew more current than the old drive (0.55A vs 0.316A). So straight away I was a little worried that this wouldn’t work!

image

20151119_133410

Old drive on the left, new drive on the right.

To give me the best chance of this working, I decided to jumper the drive straight away and not bother trying it without, it’s such a faff taking the Sky box apart that I didn’t want to keep doing it just to have to put the jumper on later if it didn’t work.

Trying to track down info about how to jumper the drive was quite hard, the docs for this drive says the SATA mode can be set in software and doesn’t say anything about jumper settings, but if you look hard enough there are instructions for jumpering older, smaller Seagate drives, so I just used the same process. You will have to find a jumper from somewhere, I was lucky I had one on an old laptop drive I no longer needed, so used that. You have to jumper the two pins that are farthest away from the SATA connector.

image

Jumpering the drive

So I already had my Sky box in bits, there’s various guides on the net if you google it. Note, you don’t have to remove the back panel nor the little circuit board on the top.

Next step involved copying all the programmes off the old HDD. I was originally going to use Sky Copy Plus, but this doesn’t seem to be compatible with the latest version of Sky+ (something called “Darwin”), so I opted for some other software called ExPVR – it does cost £20 but it’s worth it.

Also I purchased a USB 3 SATA drive caddy so I could just plug it into my laptop and copy everything off it. This one from ORICO here worked a treat.

If you do use ExPVR, you just need to select all the programmes and create a drive image. I didn’t have enough room locally so stored it on my NAS – it did take a few hours. Also it reported an error, it seems the version I downloaded (v3.9.12) is not bang up to date for the latest Sky+ planner, however, everything copied across and it all worked a treat.

expvr error

After copying everything back onto the new drive, I put the Sky box all back together, as you can see from the pic, although the drive is thicker, it still fits fine.

20151119_142101

The new drive installed and ready for action.

Finally I plugged it back in, turned it on and checked how much space was free. Whereas before I only had about 15% free, now I have 88% free. Result!

20151119_144208

There have been people reporting failures and weird issues after running this drive for a little while, so I will report back here if I experience any issues.

Posted in Computers and Internet, Entertainment, Gadgets | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

How to root a Samsung S5 Mini

I needed to root my Samsung S5 Mini so I could have a play with an app called “Intelli3G”, but as usual when searching the net I came across various forum posts that stretched to numerous pages without giving any concrete info. I get fed up of wading through pages and pages of posts, I just want a page that tells me what I need to do! So hopefully my blog will help others who are also trying to do this.

Anyway, I have used my laptop for rooting Android devices before, so unfortunately don’t have a clean system with which to start with, but I can give you some tips about how I rooted my device. I used a Windows app called “Kingoroot” (not the similarly titled Kingroot) to root my Samsung S5 Mini – you can download it from here. Note that there is also an Android app that you can download to try and root it without connecting to a PC, but it did not work for me. My Samsung is running Android 4.4.2 – I’m not sure if this will work if you are running a different version.

Before you can use Kingoroot you will need to make sure you can talk to your phone via USB. Probably the easiest way to do this is get hold of the Samsung Kies software – I used Kies 3 which you can get here.

Once you have verified that you can talk to the phone with Kies via USB, you will need to enable USB debugging. Go to your “Settings” menu and select “About Device”. Scroll to the bottom and tap “Build number” enough times until debug mode becomes available. Go back up to the settings menu and the “Developer options” menu should now be available. Select USB Debugging.

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If your PC can see the phone at this point, a message should pop up on the phone asking you to authorise your PC for USB debugging. It will show an RSA key, so just click “OK” to allow it.

image

You may not get this USB debugging authorisation prompt. This is where things get a little flaky due to my PC having been used before for rooting. Go to device manager on your PC (you can find it in Computer->Properties) and see if you have a device called Samsung Android ADB Interface displayed under Android Phone.

image image

If your device manager doesn’t show this, it’s possible Kingoroot may still work, but I couldn’t say. Because I already have the ADB software installed from the Android SDK, I can run ADB commands to query the phone – I suspect Kingoroot does the same under the covers, they just don’t show you how they do it!

So, let me know in the comments if Kingoroot can talk to your phone at this point or not and I will update this post accordingly.

If it can’t, then you may need to try installing the Samsung USB drivers. I also have these loaded, in fact I installed them before I installed Kies, so again I am not entirely sure whether these are required or not. But if you want to try them you can download them from here.

Don’t forget you need to allow your PC to do debugging, if you missed the RSA Key message, click on “Revoke USB debugging authorization”, untick “USB Debugging” and try ticking it again. Now hopefully, with all the drivers installed, you should get prompted to authorise debugging.

On my PC, when I use ADB I get the following message before authorising debugging:

C:\adb>adb devices
List of devices attached
3204df9e465fa15f        unauthorized

After authorising debugging on the phone, I get this:

C:\adb>adb devices
List of devices attached
3204df9e465fa15f        device

Don’t worry if you don’t understand all this ADB stuff, you don’t need it.

Now you should be able to run Kingoroot. It takes a little time to run, probably 5-10 minutes whilst it analyses the phone for a rooting method. Eventually it will show a screen saying it is ready to root and give you the usual warning about it possibly bricking your device. It’s quite scary, and again it does take a little time, about 10-15 minutes, during which time the Android robot comes up on the phone and it warns you not to turn it off! Give it time and eventually the phone will reboot.

I installed an app from Google Play called “Root Checker” – this will confirm if you have rooted your phone or not.

image

You don’t need to install “SuperSU” or any “su” apps, Kingoroot installs one for you, so every time an app requests root access you can grant or deny it and it maintains a list of apps that have requested root access.

I didn’t realise this so went and installed “SuperSU”, which buggered up my root access, so I had to re-run Kingoroot again! But it still remembers I installed it so guess it’s still hanging around in the phone somewhere:

image

Good luck, let me know in the comments how you get on.

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Poor call quality/signal strength on 4G/LTE

I recently ditched my old BlackBerry Bold work phone in favour of a Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini, the main reason being that loads of web sites do not display very well on the Bold, I was constantly getting SSL certificate errors, and well, I had had it for over 3 years and it was time to get with the programme!

I do have Android in the house already on various tablets and a separate personal phone, so am used to Android, but this is the first 4G/LTE capable phone I’ve had.

All was going well until I was on a voice call and the guy at the other end was complaining I was very choppy and hard to hear. I noticed I only had 1 bar of signal even though I would normally have a full 5 bar signal, the mast is literally just down the road.

So I went into network settings and changed my mobile network to 3G and also tried 2G/GSM. Turns out I get 4 bars on 3G and 5 bars on GSM. I switched the phone back to 4G and it drops to 1 bar.

So the solution seems to be to switch the phone to 3G or GSM when I’m at home as I don’t really need 4G because the phone is connected to my wi-fi for data.

But switching it manually back forth is a real chore, so I searched for an app. There seem to be plenty out there but the one I picked is called “Intelli3G”. This switches the phone to 2G or 3G when it detects you are connected to wi-fi, then switches back to 4G when the phone disconnects from wi-fi (i.e. when leaving the house).

It’s awesome but quite tricky to install, you need to root your phone and install the xposed framework. That is a subject too big for this post so I’ll write about that another time.

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