DEC VAX nostalgia

Between 1988 and 1996 I worked for a couple of companies that operated DEC VAX computer systems. I was initially employed as an Analyst/Programmer for Westland Helicopters in Yeovil, Somerset, and used a DEC VAX 11/750 in their Composite Systems department (host name “COMVAX”) to develop various applications in VAX Basic, using FMS and RMS. We also used Datatrieve to build various reports. Oddly we didn’t just write applications for the Composites Department (which was responsible for producing helicopter rotor blades), we wrote applications for pretty much any department in the company.

I have a lot of fond memories of working on that VAX. It was completely isolated with no network connectivity at all but it provided a brilliant introduction to the world of DEC VAX minicomputers. It only had something like 5MB RAM yet supported in the region of 30 concurrent users (using VT220 and VT320 terminals) which were all hardwired via RS232 25 pin “D” connectors into the back of the VAX. I soon became proficient at DCL and also DEC’s version of Basic, which was incredibly flexible. Many hours were spent fiddling with ASCII terminal codes to control the cursor on the VT terminals, which meant we ended up with some pretty smart menu driven applications.

I remember when COMVAX got a DECnet connection into the wider Westland network. We were just an end-node and we used a serial port to connect into another, bigger VAX that took care of the routing. But all of a sudden we were able to use “set host” to login to other nodes and send mail to people on other VAXes. This was my first taste of networking and was way before I heard about the Internet or TCP/IP protocols.

My main achievement was writing an application to track avionic “black boxes”, as there were often quite a few that went missing or were “borrowed” from other helicopters. The application basically tracked each component through the use of its part code and serial number, and so long as operators logged the location of each component, then they could all be accounted for. Back in the late 80’s, bar code technology was just starting to take off and we were trialling bar code label printers and scanners and it would have only been a matter of time before we could have barcoded each black box to make tracking easier, but in early 1990 I got itchy feet and decided a change of job was required.

Next stop was Vosper Thornycroft down on the south coast, and at the tender age of 21 I left Yeovil and moved lock, stock and barrel down to Southsea, Hampshire. Now I was put in charge of running, supporting and maintaining a bunch of VAX systems. First there was an 11/750 (which I was obviously familiar with) which was used as a development platform running CORAL and Contex cross-compilers for Vosper’s range of x86 based embedded real-time control systems, then there was a VAX 8350 which had two CPUs (wow!) and ran the company’s production systems (such as IMPCON).

VAX 11/750 & VAX 8350

VAX 11/750 & VAX 8350

RA80, RA81 & RA60 Disk drives

RA80, RA81 & RA60 Disk drives

We also had various stacks of RA80, RA81 and RA60 disk drives, tape drives and a number of MicroVAX II’s scattered around the place. Quite a lot of this was new to me, especially the Ethernet thickwire backbone that ran the whole length of the building and the various DECserver 200 terminal servers scattered around the place. I took over from a guy called Matt Helms, who gave me a quick handover before scarpering. Rummaging around on the 8350, I found we had copies of VAX Basic, Fortran and TDMS. I also found a directory of games, one of which was a version of Space Invaders written in Fortran. I was able to compile this and was quite amazed how well it ran on a VT320 terminal, all using ASCII characters.

 

RA60 removable disk drive

RA60 removable disk drive

The network was pretty much based around that single Ethernet thickwire segment. The terminal servers were connected directly into it (using bee-sting transceivers), but over time we started to deploy thinwire segments with RG58 co-ax and “T” pieces all over the place. I hadn’t heard of RJ45 UTP cabling back then, and it was several years before we started using UTP cables with hubs and switches.

Over time we acquired some VAXstation 3100s and also a network of Sun SPARC IPC/IPX workstations (for CAD) and also a number of SPARC 5’s, which where being used instead of the VAX 11/750 to develop new real-time systems using ADA (instead of Coral Context). The SPARC 5’s were named after planets, such as mars, jupiter, uranus – yes we had lots of fun using Unix commands such a “finger uranus”. Anyway, this meant now that not only was I learning about DECnet, LAT and VAXclustering, I also started to learn about TCP/IP so that we could get the Suns and VAXes talking to each other. We loaded up TGV Multinet on the 11/750 so that it could talk to the Suns using TCP/IP.

My messy desk, VT220, VAXstation 3100 & MicroVAX II

My messy desk, VT220, VAXstation 3100 & MicroVAX II (note the “grey wall” in the background!)

Back then I didn’t have a clue what RFC1918 was, so had to pick a network range to use for the internal network. All I remember was reading the Sun manuals and looking at some examples in the /etc/hosts file on one of the Suns and it was using a network address of 192.9.200.0/24, so I just used that as my local network address (turns out that range is actually registered to Sun/Oracle!). As the Suns were on their own network, one of the Suns would route out to the VAX network, so the VAX network was given the next sequential network address, 192.9.201.0/24. I still remember the IP address of one particular device – the HP DesignJet A0 plotter we used to produce CAD drawings. It used to go through ink cartridges and rolls of A0 paper so quickly that I was always refilling and servicing it. It was on 192.9.201.60 and we used TGV Multinet on the VAX 11/750 to handle the print queue as it was easier to manage than using the print spooler on the Suns.

O'Reilly TCP/IP Network Administration

O’Reilly TCP/IP Network Administration

As I was now having to use SunOS quite a lot (this was before Solaris came out), I got myself an O’Reilly book that gave me a great introduction to TCP/IP network administration.

At the time we only had about six IBM AT PCs, but before long, more and more PCs started appearing on the network. We standardised on Compaq ProLinea’s for a while, they were 486DX/33MHz machines and did us well for a few years. We’d been running DEC Pathworks and used the VAX 8350 as a file server, but as more and more people wanted to get to the Suns we had to start loading a TCP/IP stack onto them too. Dual-stacking when you only have 640K conventional RAM become a real challenge, and I remember spending lots of time tweaking EMM386 to load drivers into upper memory or expanded/extended memory. This was back in the days of MS DOS 6.2 and Windows 3.0/3.1. A 1MB memory expansion card took up a full length AT expansion slot back then! I remember we also had some DEC Rainbows, which were just plain weird (DEC’s idea at producing a PC), and a couple of DEC VAXmates that ran an early version of Windows (it might have even been Windows 1.0) – yet another attempt by DEC to produce a PC. As the PCs were connected via thinwire Ethernet “T” pieces, I became quite proficient at terminating RG58 co-ax with BNC connectors, but there were occasions where someone would disconnect a BNC connector because they wanted “to add in another PC” and then would wonder why everyone’s PC dropped off the network!

ID Software's Doom

ID Software’s Doom

When ID Software’s Doom came out it caused a sensation, but it only ran on Netware IPX stacks and wasn’t compatible with the network stacks our PCs were running. I remember creating boot floppies with the IPX stack so people could reboot off the floppy and load up Doom – we had about 6 people playing Doom after hours one day, I didn’t dare do this during the day after hearing stories of corporate networks being taken down by this game. We still only had a pretty flat network at the end of the day with all the PCs on a single bridged Ethernet, and I heard stories of Doom swamping ethernet segments with traffic. We are talking 10mb/s shared Ethernet here, not switched UTP segments!

1MB memory board for VAX 11/750

1MB memory board for VAX 11/750

Anyway, back to the VAXes… I was still in touch with my old boss at Westland and he told me they had “upgraded” from the 11/750 to an 11/780 – one was going spare from another department and he managed to “acquire” it, but it was a beast of a machine, took up loads of room, generated loads of heat and also needed a 3-phase power supply. I went back down to my old place of work to see it and he showed me the 8” boot floppy they had to use to boot it into standalone backup mode. The thing generated so much heat I remember the computer room being really quite warm! It wasn’t even that much more powerful than the 11/750. I asked him what happened to the 11/750 and it was out the back looking very sorry for itself. They were about to scrap it but he agreed to let me strip out the memory from it so I could install it into my 11/750 (which only had 4MB RAM). I remember pulling out these huge cards, each one with 1MB RAM on it, covered in chips. I packed them up and took them back with me and managed to install 3 of them in my VAX, so I now had a massive 7MB!

The 8350 was only running VMS 4.6 at the time, and to get proper symmetric multi-processing between the 2 CPUs you needed to upgrade to VMS 5.x. I think only one CPU was used for compute and the other for I/O in VMS 4.6. So I upgraded it to VMS 5.4 and certainly noticed a difference. Processes now got more CPU time so they did run a bit quicker, but generally the system could handle more load with the second CPU now available for compute. It was able to handle more load so we got a bit more life out of it before we finally refreshed it.

After a few years, the kit was getting a bit long in the tooth so we scraped some money together and replaced the 8350 with a VAX 4200 – it would have been nice to go for a 4300 but the budget wouldn’t stretch that far. We also replaced the 11/750 with a VAX 3100, I can’t remember the variant, either a model 80 or 90 I think. So we had quite a bit more power and everyone was pretty happy but it was nowhere near as impressive to look at. Instead of containing a huge hunk of metal, the computer room ended up containing a couple tables with some small boxes on it. It didn’t feel the same somehow, certainly not as impressive to look at.

In the mid-90’s we started to trial Windows 95 but concluded most of our PCs would need upgrading, we also got our first dial-up Internet connection courtesy of Demon, and I remember playing with NCSA Mosaic and using “Lycos” and “Alta Vista” to search for stuff, this was way before Google. I built an internal telephone directory using basic HTML – the brave new world was just around the corner! However, 1996 came and I moved on to a company called Integralis, working in their tech support dept. I had jumped the fence from end-user to vendor-land, and that job became a spring-board for the rest of my career. Maybe I’ll write about that some day, maybe not!

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Comparing ear plugs

It seems to be incredibly difficult to find out all the different attenuation levels that different ear plugs provide. By scouring Amazon Q&A, product pages and images I have managed to start building a list.

There are two ways that manufacturers rate their plugs, either by individual frequencies, or by a more general H/M/L rating, which also normally includes an SNR number (Single Number Rating) and NRR (Noise Reduction Rating).

There also seem to be US and EU standards, and three different levels for each frequency – I have just listed the mean attenuation here to try and keep things simple and allow a like for like comparison.

If you are looking for the “strongest” plugs that will give you the most protection, then it’s looking like the LiveMus!c HearSafe plugs with the white filter might be the one for you. I am currently using Alpine MusicSafe but might give the HearSafe plugs a go as my tinnitus is getting to the level now that I am continually conscious of the noise. I go to a lot of raves and want to keep going as long as I can without damaging my hearing any further.

Custom fit earplugs are a different matter altogether and outside the price range of the plugs listed below, I am aiming at the sub-£30 market here. Custom plugs will offer much better protection but obviously require a custom fitting and have a price to match. Some might say they are worth the price if you value your hearing and that’s certainly an option I might take in the future. But for now I just want to try out something a bit “stronger” than my Alpines. I am going to Trance Sanctuary on 9th March so maybe I’ll get a chance to try them there!

Plugs 63Hz 125Hz 250Hz 500Hz 1kHz 2kHz 4kHz 8kHz
Alpine MusicSafe Classic (gold filter) 18.8 15.6 16.0 18.5 27.7 23.9 22.0
LiveMus!c HearSafe (white filter) 25.8 26.2 26.9 28.8 34.0 35.3 39.0
Senner MusicPro 20.9 20.6 22.8 20.8 27.4
EarDial 17.7 16.8 18.6 19.7 22.2 27.1 26.7 30.5
Sonica
Tiger Professional
EGGZ 14.4 15.1 15.4 17.9 19.9 26.9 17.7 29.9
EarPeace HD (red filter) 18.6 19 20.8 20.2 26 22.2 29.6
EarPeace HD (black filter) 20.1 23.3 25.6 28.7 31.1 28.5 34.1

 

Plugs SNR NRR H M L
Alpine MusicSafe Classic (gold filter) 18 16 20 15 13
LiveMus!c HearSafe (white filter) 29
Senner MusicPro 20 19 19 19
EarDial 20 11 21 17 14
Sonica 23 19 19 19
Tiger Professional 20 23 17 12
EGGZ 19 12 19 17 14
EarPeace HD (red filter) 20 14 21 18 16
EarPeace HD (black filter) 26 19 27 24 19
Posted in Health and wellness, Music | Tagged | Leave a comment

Torrent trackers – June 2018

Torrent trackers come and go, and it can be hard to find a reliable list. I just re-seeded the RN510 firmware for the upgrade post I wrote here and needed to find a new list of trackers. After some googling I found a long list but many of them were off-line, however there were a few that worked (as of 7th June 2018) and I list them here for anyone else that wants to try them (clients such as uTorrent like to have a blank line between them for some strange reason):

http://173.254.204.71:1096/announce

http://173.254.204.71:1096/announce

http://182.176.139.129:6969/announce

http://5.79.83.193:2710/announce

http://mgtracker.org:2710/announce

http://mgtracker.org:6969/announce

http://open.acgtracker.com:1096/announce

http://tracker.internetwarriors.net:1337/announce

http://tracker.mg64.net:6881/announce

http://tracker2.itzmx.com:6961/announce

udp://182.176.139.129:6969/announce

udp://5.79.83.193:6969/announce

udp://62.138.0.158:6969/announce

udp://bt.xxx-tracker.com:2710/announce

udp://eddie4.nl:6969/announce

udp://mgtracker.org:2710/announce

udp://open.stealth.si:80/announce

udp://public.popcorn-tracker.org:6969/announce

udp://shadowshq.eddie4.nl:6969/announce

udp://shadowshq.yi.org:6969/announce

udp://tracker.coppersurfer.tk:6969

udp://tracker.coppersurfer.tk:6969/announce

udp://tracker.eddie4.nl:6969/announce

udp://tracker.internetwarriors.net:1337/announce

udp://tracker.leechers-paradise.org:6969

udp://tracker.leechers-paradise.org:6969/announce

udp://tracker.mg64.net:6969/announce

udp://tracker.opentrackr.org:1337/announce

udp://tracker.opentrackr.org:1337/announce

udp://tracker.tiny-vps.com:6969/announce

udp://151.80.120.114:2710/announce

udp://9.rarbg.com:2770/announce

udp://9.rarbg.me:2790/announce

udp://9.rarbg.to:2720/announce

udp://91.218.230.81:6969/announce

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Configuring the Audi MMI WiFi hot-spot

If you want to use the Audi MMI WiFi hot-spot to route data over your phone’s 4G/LTE connection rather than the embedded (eSIM), there are a couple things you need to know.

Firstly, the eSIM does not come with the ability to route hotspot data over the cars connection unless you buy a data bundle – but most people already have data bundled into their mobile phone contract, so why would you want to buy a separate bundle?

If you try it you might see something like this:

image

Secondly, if you want to use your phone’s connection, the steps you need to follow are going to be different depending on what type of phone you have. I have a Samsung Galaxy A5 which is for personal use, but I also have an iPhone 6s which is my work phone. So I have both phones paired with the MMI but the Samsung is the primary phone and the iPhone is the additional phone. The current crop of Samsung phones support the rSAP Bluetooth profile (Remote SIM Access Profile), which makes it much easier to share the phone’s data plan. iPhone’s do not support rSAP, so a different approach has to be taken, such as enabling the wifi hotspot on the iPhone and connecting devices to it, but I think this is an inferior solution as it drains the battery and you also have to remember to turn it on and off. Using rSAP means the car will automatically connect to the phone and the kids tablets/phones will automatically connect to the car’s wifi – a much more elegant solution.

If you want to use a Samsung or other phone that supports rSAP, then you might need to make a change in the connection manager to get it to work. If you open up the connection manager you might see something similar to this:

image

Move the jog wheel to the right to bring up the options for the primary phone (assuming you have a Samsung or other rSAP device paired as as the primary phone):

image

Select “Display Bluetooth profiles”:

image

If “Car phone” says “Not connected” then the phone is currently connected using the Handsfree Bluetooth profile, AFAIK this does not support data sharing. Select “Car phone” and your phone should now connect via rSAP, and you will see this message:

image

If you select “Yes” then the rSAP connection will be aborted and the phone will remain connected via the Handsfree profile and the WiFi hotspot won’t work. You need to select “No” – this will route all data through your phone, including Audi connect services such as navigation data. You should then see something like this:

image

And notice in the bottom left corner you now only see one SIM card signal strength (because the eSIM is now disabled – in earlier pics above you will see two signal strengths, one for the eSIM, the other for your primary phone):

image

Connection manager should also show the phone being used for “Data connection” rather than “connect SIM”:

image

If you connect to the WiFi with a phone or tablet you should now be able to browse the web, access YouTube, Spotify etc.:

image

Now just have to hope the kids don’t get travel sick!

Posted in Computers and Internet, Mobile telephony/computing, Motoring | 13 Comments

Installing racadm on CentOS 6

I needed to install Dell’s racadm utility on CentOS recently. The bundles that you can get from Dell only seem to support RHEL, and whilst CentOS is supposed to be compatible, the Dell installer unfortunately performs an O/S level check and exits if it can’t detect RHEL.

So that left me with the option of installing the necessary files manually. Unfortunately the server I was using didn’t have internet access (it’s on a management network), so tools like wget and yum were useless. After a bit of digging around, I identified a tarball to use here:

http://www.dell.com/support/home/us/en/04/Drivers/DriversDetails?driverId=T7VD0

I extracted the files and changed into the sub-directory: ./dell/linux/rac/RHEL6/x86_64

These are the files:

-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 1487016 Jan 25 2017 libsmbios-2.3.1-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 108852 Jan 25 2017 smbios-utils-bin-2.3.1-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 54048 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-argtable2-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 668984 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-deng-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 43520 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-deng-snmp-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 1145768 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-hapi-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 3052 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-idrac7-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 678876 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-idracadm7-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 847392 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-idracadm-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 183344 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-idrac-ivmcli-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 59976 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-idrac-snmp-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 1273128 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-idrac-vmcli-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 4347156 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-isvc-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 364064 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-isvc-snmp-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 2370876 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-omacs-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 1561944 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-omcommon-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 36716 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-omilcore-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 292576 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-racadm4-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 600744 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-racadm5-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 32852 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-rac-components-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
-rwxrwxrwx 1 504 504 30292 Jan 25 2017 srvadmin-racdrsc-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm

Next, I found another post that said which rpm’s were needed to install racadm, so I followed that as follows:

# rpm -i libsmbios-2.3.1-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
# rpm -i smbios-utils-bin-2.3.1-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
# rpm -i srvadmin-argtable2-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
# rpm -i srvadmin-omilcore-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
error: Failed dependencies:
 pciutils is needed by srvadmin-omilcore-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64

At this point I had to source the pciutils rpm in order to resolve a dependency – I found it here:

https://centos.pkgs.org/6/centos-x86_64/pciutils-3.1.10-4.el6.x86_64.rpm.html

# rpm -i ../../../../pciutils-3.1.10-4.el6.x86_64.rpm

Then I was able to continue installing the Dell packages:

# rpm -i srvadmin-omilcore-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
**********************************************************
 After the install process completes, you may need
 to log out and then log in again to reset the PATH
 variable to access the Server Administrator CLI utilities

**********************************************************
# rpm -i srvadmin-hapi-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
# rpm -i srvadmin-deng-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
# rpm -i srvadmin-idracadm-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm
# rpm -i srvadmin-idracadm7-8.5.0-2372.10488.el6.x86_64.rpm

Finally I logged out and back in as su, and sure enough racadm was now available and I was able to connect to multiple iDRAC’s in our environment.

Here is the output of the help command to serve as a reference:

# racadm -r 10.247.1.21 -u root -p calvin help
Security Alert: Certificate is invalid - self signed certificate
Continuing execution. Use -S option for racadm to stop execution on certificate-related errors.

help [subcommand] -- display usage summary for a subcommand
 arp -- display the networking ARP table
 clearasrscreen -- clear the last ASR (crash) screen
 closessn -- close a session
 clrraclog -- clear the RAC log
 clrsel -- clear the System Event Log (SEL)
 config -- modify RAC configuration properties
 coredump -- display the last RAC coredump
 coredumpdelete -- delete the last RAC coredump
 fwupdate -- update the RAC firmware
 getconfig -- display RAC configuration properties
 getled -- Get the state of the LED on a module.
 getniccfg -- display current network settings
 getraclog -- display the RAC log
 getractime -- display the current RAC time
 getsel -- display records from the System Event Log (SEL)
 getssninfo -- display session information
 getsvctag -- display service tag information
 getsysinfo -- display general RAC and system information
 gettracelog -- display the RAC diagnostic trace log
 getversion -- Display the current version details
 getuscversion -- display the current USC version details
 ifconfig -- display network interface information
 kmcselfsignedcertgen -- generate self signed certificate for KMC Server
 krbkeytabupload -- upload kerberose keytab file to the RAC
 netstat -- display routing table and network statistics
 ping -- send ICMP echo packets on the network
 ping6 -- send ICMP echo packets on the network
 racdump -- display RAC diagnostic information
 racreset -- perform a RAC reset operation
 racresetcfg -- restore the RAC configuration to factory defaults
 remoteimage -- make a remote ISO image available to the server
 serveraction -- perform system power management operations
 setniccfg -- modify network configuration properties
 setled -- Set the state of the LED on a module.
 sshpkauth -- manage SSH PK authentication keys on the RAC
 sslcertupload -- upload an SSL certificate to the RAC
 sslcertdownload -- download an SSL certificate from the RAC
 sslcertview -- view SSL certificate information
 sslcsrgen -- generate a certificate CSR from the RAC
 sslkeyupload -- upload an SSL key to the RAC
 sslresetcfg -- resets the web certificate to default and restarts the web server.
 testemail -- test RAC e-mail notifications
 testkmsconnectivity -- test KMSConnectivity
 testtrap -- test RAC SNMP trap notifications
 usercertupload -- upload an user certificate to the DRAC
 usercertview -- view user certificate information
 vflashpartition -- manage partitions on the vFlash SD card
 vflashsd -- perform vFlash SD Card initialization
 vmdisconnect -- disconnect Virtual Media connections
 vmkey -- perform vFlash operations

There’s probably other, easier ways to do this, but it worked for me.

I hope this helps someone. 🙂

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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!

Posted in Computers and Internet | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

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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