Enable automatic fsck upon booting OSMC (Raspberry Pi3)

With the absence of a small button to wake-up or boot-up the Raspberry Pi3 when running OSMC, being forced instead to cut-off DC power via some switch or leave it permanently on, I felt the need to introduce a more persistent file-system integrity check upon each boot or reboot of the device.

This is where fsck comes in, from the world of Unix; however, I had no idea where to enable it for running during boot-time.

Thanks to the people at the OSMC Support and especially to user DBMandrake (who is an OSMC developer) I, too was able to find the location of the files to edit, as well as the additional changes needed.

Obviously, you need to have SSH installed and know how to connect to your Pi3 device and then log in with the known credentials for OSMC via SSH that are osmc/osmc for username/password, respectively.

According to DBMandrake we need to make 2 specific changes in our system:

For anyone who wants to enable an automated fsck with repair, right now all you need to do is edit file /etc/fstab and change the second number at the end of each line from 0 to 1 (systemd doesn’t make any distinction between 1, 2, 3 etc. so using numbers above 1 makes no difference) then edit the file /boot/cmdline.txt and at the end of the same line, add a space then add fsck.repair=yes option. You should now see a two line fsck scan in the top left corner of the blue splash screen momentarily during boot. When no repairs are needed it only takes a couple of seconds.

So with this solution in hand, I was able to log-in via ssh from Terminal on my Mac OS X, and quickly modify these 2 files as explained. For Windows users, PuTTY is the obvious and straight-forward tool for SSH. Just remember that since it may be the first time ever to connect to your Raspberry Pi3 device, you may be asked to confirm the key fingerprint of the secure connection.

In my screenshot you can see the end-result after connecting to an OSMC system.

Install missing AppStore purchase that’s not visibly available (like macOS Sierra)

Once macOS 10.13.0 High Sierra became officially available to the public, I decided to keep a backup of the macOS 10.12.6 Sierra installation application on my Mac, for archiving reasons. I normally do this when every new macOS release is out, since the 10.xx.0 versions tend to be buggy. I did the exact same thing with El Capitan 10.11.6 when Sierra was officially out, last fall.

However, to my surprise, when I visited the AppStore on my Mac, I could not find the Install macOS Sierra entry, which I had very well downloaded some time ago. It was either deleted from the AppStore or visibly not available to end-users, anymore. This was just days after High Sierra was out.

Whilst searching for answers, I stumbled across a discussion over at MacRumors Blog where people confirmed this, too, and expressed their dissatisfaction to the fact that Apple had removed Install macOS Sierra from their AppStore so quickly; not to mention a theory that this specific download doesn’t really make part of official or registered purchases by end-users, like all previous (and still available) Mac OS X releases. Strange.

But thanks to user jasminetroll and his/her straight-to-the-point tip, I was able to re-download Install macOS Sierra.app officially, using some Terminal magic and with very little hassle, compared to other (evidently, more painful) methods such as the one described over at 7 Labs.

The main tool needed is the mas-cli utility by Dmitri Rodionov, found at GitHub. Download the latest version (currently at v1.3.1) and unpack, then copy the binary executable to a location that you can freely run from; for example /opt/local/bin/ if you have MacPorts already present, or simply /usr/local/bin/ through Administrator authentication.

Next, just go to any temporary location such as ~/Downloads/ and run the command with the following parameters, as jasminetroll points out:

mas install 1127487414

The process will launch the download of the selected AppStore application (in this case, 1127487414 is linked to Install macOS Sierra) on both on the Terminal and Dock:

This rather easy process results to an application bundle that evidently contains a properly-signed MAS receipt linked to my connected Apple ID, it seems:

Once the download is complete, user jasminetroll advises to confirm the signature information as proof that it is indeed an official download of the Sierra installer:

codesign -dv /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app

…that results to the following output on Terminal:

Executable=/Applications/Install macOS Sierra.app/Contents/MacOS/InstallAssistant_springboard
Identifier=com.apple.InstallAssistant.Sierra
Format=app bundle with Mach-O thin (x86_64)
CodeDirectory v=20200 size=321 flags=0x2200(kill,library-validation) hashes=4+3 location=embedded
Signature size=4605
Info.plist entries=30
TeamIdentifier=K36BKF7T3D
Sealed Resources version=2 rules=7 files=137
Internal requirements count=1 size=124

Now, an official Install macOS Sierra application is available to run!

…which also includes the very useful createinstallmedia tool by Apple that allows the creation of USB installers (via Terminal, of course).

Speed up SMB transfers in El Capitan Mac OS 10.11.x

Until recently, I’ve been working on a Mac using Yosemite 10.10.5 and was quite happy with it, but since Sierra 10.12.2 was out, I knew I had to move on in my life, so I decided to make a clean installation (dual boot) of El Capitan to the latest available version 10.11.6 including all recent updates from Apple. However, I soon realized that my connections to both network backup HDDs via SMB was painfully slow, evidently much slower than I was used to, when synchronizing files from my Mac to my Western Digital network drives.

This meant that Apple most likely fiddled again with SMB (Samba) protocol in this OS X release, and once more we had to find a fix for returning to “status quo”. After all, I was using on my Gigabit home LAN two different WD network storage devices, namely MyBook II World (2x1TB) and MyCloud (1x2TB), most likely with different SMB implementations each.

I had read that in the older days, a quick solution to force Mac OS X to use older SMB versions, was to use CIFS protocol; but today, this didn’t work. So, this time I mounted via Finder both drives (Cmd + K) forcing the smb:// protocol:

Finder Server Connect

Next, in Terminal.app the following output was presented, after running the needed query command smbutil per volume:

SMB Shares Information

This showed that older MyBook World II negotiates with SMB 1.x protocol (latest firmware v01.02.14 available) and later MyCloud storage asks for SMB 2.x protocol (firmware v03.04.01-230 kept on purpose) therefore causing a possible performance issue with latest Mac OS X systems, due to their newer and seemingly more secure SMB implementation.

After digging around, I read that there’s a hidden fix for SMB, just like the one posted by Dan Roncadin in his related article, which apparently increases transfer speeds due to the fact that it disables “client signing”. As Dan Roncadin writes:

The issue seems to come down to Apple’s SMB forcing default enabling of “client signing” which ruins performance.

The fix consists of setting a parameter in file nsmb.conf in folder /etc/ with sudo privileges, forcing the system to obey the parameter on the next use of SMB protocol (and after each reboot, obviously):

[default]
signing_required=no

The way to implement this parameter is to quickly open Terminal.app and apply this command as your administrator password will be requested:

sudo printf "[default]\nsigning_required=no\n" | sudo tee /etc/nsmb.conf >/dev/null

Then, either restart your Mac (if you’re used to do this, due to some older Windows habit like mine) or simply unmount and re-mount your SMB shares. Please note that on a clean installation of El Capitan, this file (and therefore, parameter) does not exist, due to the fact that Apple considers this a lesser security measure; but for home connections, it is fine by me.

Through the application “GoodSync” I was able to re-check the speed and it seems things returned to normal; I didn’t go into much detailed speed measurements, but I am sure any improvement is welcome at this stage. Also, this is confirmed to have a positive effect on speed, as mentioned by users over at Computer Audiophile where they post their (positive) results after applying this fix.

Finally, should you wish to reverse the “fix”, simply remove this file (better via Teminal, again) by running:

sudo rm /etc/nsmb.conf

References and articles:

Setup Windows 10 with as little user information leak as possible

We need to embrace the future, at some point in life, so I decided to install and try out Windows 10 (64-bit) on my virtual machine, despite being happy using the now depreciated -by Microsoft standards- Windows 7 operating system, on my work laptop and other virtual machine on my Mac computer. Windows 10 is here and I need to find more how to get around it, as I had decided to skip Windows 8.x fooling around, altogether.

I heard many people and friends in IT telling me that Windows 10 is good enough and deep down resembles to previous Windows iterations, but the only serious drawback was the widely-publicized and criticized “leak” of user data and information, a very deterring issue for whoever wants to move across and take the… leap of faith. So I decided to read and collect articles and bits about the security of Windows 10 and how to enforce user-preferences for the least leaking possible.

Also, despite the numerous and detailed articles, I was also happy to encounter private efforts of people that put all those needed system changes and tweaks in one, concise tool, that would help speed-up the “securing” procedure and also make sure that no communication “hole” -based on up-to date knowledge- is left open.

FURTHER READING IS A MUST

There is a large number of interesting articles found on the Internet, providing step-by-step instructions on how to disable such “spying” by means of Control Panel settings. The most notable for me, are:

1) Windows 10 violates your privacy by default, here’s how you can protect yourself by TechRepublic.com (with screenshots of each window’s settings)

2) Fix Windows 10 privacy by IsLeaked.com (includes Windows 7 and 8 fixes, too, that I ignored until reading the article)

3) How to Configure Windows 10 Privacy Settings During Setup by MakeUseOf.com

4) The Ultimate Windows 10 Security and Privacy Guide by HeimdalSecurity.com (with explanations on each security switch that needs to be turned off)

It seems that even during setup of Windows 10 on any machine, choosing the correct privacy settings is equally critical, for starters.

RUN IT AFTER YOU’VE DONE IT

Following the tips and steps that most of these -and similar- articles advise, I could not rest assured that the work was fully done. As usual with our modern world, suspicion crawled in and I felt that there was more to be done to secure my privacy.

This is lunacy, considering how much effort and time is spent on protecting my own data and related information or statistics, when such “leaks” from the new Windows OS could have not been included the first place! The IT world is definitely taking an unknown, darker path.

Thus, based on the original article by BGR.com titled 6 free tools that stop Windows 10 from spying on everything you do -despite being written over a year ago- I was still happy to see that some of these tools have still been around and kept updated, making our life towards better privacy a little more easy.

Until today, a year after Windows 10 was released, there are 2 tools that really stand out of the crowd.

“W10Privacy”

First to be considered is the tool called W10Privacy from a German developer (found here) now with English/French/German/Spanish menus -most likely due to its grown popularity- what started as a private own project.

With its simple, straight-forward interface, W10Privacy wins the power-user but may scare novices, a little. It includes a comprehensive list of security tweaks and checks, most of them not found anywhere near Control Panel. As the website mentions:

Microsoft generously enables everybody to change the concerning settings, but hides them in countless menus, where a normal user does not want to search for!

The program should therefore be a help, to display the available settings relatively clearly and to set the desired options if necessary.

Do not be overwhelmed by the many tabs; it’s just a logical split of tweaks instead of having them all-in-one list. It is intimidating -for sure- but the list seems quite exhaustive. The user or administrator is assisted with color-coding of each tweak, denoting severity and recommendation level. The developer also writes that the project is work-in-progress so we are bound to see more settings to be enabled or disabled with coming versions.

W10Privacy Main Window

Using W10Privacy relies on selecting the tweaks for each category, and then apply them. There is an option for creating a -many times needed- restore point, so the user can revert in case some functionality… well… get “screwed”.

“DoNotSpy10”

Secondly, the tool DoNotSpy10 seems to rise to the occasion, too (found here). It also includes a long list of security tweaks, but the interface does not intimidate the user that much. Through its lighter design, running the tool checks for the fixes already present; color-coding warns the user of the severity of the fix, if applied.

DoNotSpy10 Main Screen

I can only trust the developer(s) of DoNotSpy10 tool that their list of fixes is full and nothing’s been left out (except those yet to be discovered?) as I don’t have the luxury of time to dig further into the matter of deeply enhancing my Windows 10 privacy experience. The only reported drawback of using the tool is found in the installation procedure: It seems to install the OpenCandy framework, as DoNotSpy10 is ad-supported. Per user quietman7 comments:

[DoNotSpy10] appears to be detected as a Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP) / Potentially Unsafe Application (PUA) most likely because it includes OpenCandy.

OpenCandy is an advertising application distributed by the OpenCandy Software Network which displays ads in other programs. The use of advertisement is a way to promote software packages and recover development costs. The OpenCandy FAQs answers many questions users may have about this product.

OpenCandy is technically not installed on a computer, does not collect personally identifiable information and in most cases allows the user to choose whether or not to install advertised software recommended by the vendor. Although no personal information is collected, the software does collect anonymous statistics about events and other data during installation. See What information does OpenCandy collect?

So just a word of precaution: although the developer(s) of DoNotSpy10 tool would like to seemingly obtain a small source of income to cover costs -and rightfully so- we are prompted to donate if we are happy with the tool, thus receiving the OpenCandy-free installer. In my honest opinion, OpenCandy doesn’t feel like a show-stopper and is seemingly harmless, definitely less important to deal with compared to all those privacy leaks of Windows 10.

 

Have a good time with Windows 10, privacy-leak-free, everyone.

Replacing with silent fan on Icy Box IB-3620U3 enclosure

I have recently purchased the well-built Icy Box IB-3620U3 dual hard-disk (3.5″) enclosure by Raidsonic, featuring an aluminum chassis and USB v3.0 connectivity, making it ideal for local backups, even side-storage for more demanding work.

Despite the build quality and rather compact size, the embedded stock cooling fan (rear) that came with the Icy Box was more noisy than expected, despite being a relatively decent brand (Yong Lin Tech Co. Ltd.) from Asia.

Following a couple of excellent articles (by Pavel Rojtberg and Robin Jakobsson) that show how to remove the stock fan and replace with a newer, silent one, I decided to take a slightly different approach and replace mine with an equally slim fan, but silent (still more expensive than average fans of 10mm or 15mm thickness).

The stock fan is model DFS601012M and features a brushless blade, 60mm diameter with thickness 11mm approximately, powered with 12V by just 2 wires (i.e. constant speed at 4200rpm with an air-flow of 17.74CFM and acoustic level of 31.6dB, according to its specifications). After constant searching for a closest alternative, I eventually ended up buying a Xilence replacement fan, as it was the only fan that featured low-noise and was available -rather fast- in the local market (buying it from the local market would most likely secure it as an original Xilence unit, instead of some knock-up on eBay, as it’s hard to detect them).

Stock Fan Specs

The closest Xilence model found is COO-XPF60S.W at the same 60mm diameter, almost same thickness (it’s 12mm) and quieter operation (12V with speed of 2100rpm at an approximate 12CFM air-flow and 22dB noise level).

Fan Comparison

Thanks to the two other articles for the Icy Box units, the removal of the rear cover (fan and enclosure) seemed rather easy, but then I realized that I had the wrong power-plug for the fan. The Xilence comes with 3-pin Molex connector but the stock Yong Lin Tech fan had 2-pin power and smaller (2.0mm) plug! (apparently found on VGA-cooling fans) Instead of cutting and soldering, I decided to dig the internet and find a low-cost adaptor from Asia, thus making the fan replacement rather simple. The needed pin-adapter was eventually found, with the title “3 pin to 2 pin adapter, fan cable, 12V cooler fan, VGA cooling fan 2 pin, mini 2 pin, 2.0mm” on AliExpress.com; few days later, I received it and confirmed that it was spot-on choice.

2-Pin / 3-Pin Molex Adapter

The procedure is simple but needs some caution, as with all such parts being replaced; the use of a long, thin Phillips screwdriver is advised.

Screws Location

1. Unscrew the 6 screws that hold the rear cover first; remove it carefully. Be sure to not strain the fan’s 2-pin power cable; then, remove the fan’s plug from the small circuit board. Now the cover is totally free.

Rear Panel & Cable Removal

2. With the rear cover free, remove the 4 screws that hold the fan protection cover, thus freeing the stock fan itself.

Rear Fan & Protection Removed

3. Plug the 2-pin/3-pin adapter cable onto the circuit board; this adapter cable should normally be quite short.

Cable Adapter Plugged

4. Make sure that the 3-pin Molex (female) plug is visible through the fan opening on the rear cover; put the cover back in place and screw it (6 screws in total).

Rear Cover Screwed Back

5. Plug the new fan onto the adapter cable that’s hanging through the fan opening; if needed, wrap the fan cable with some cable-tie, as it’s longer than we need, but be sure there’s some slack i.e. freedom of cable movement.

New Fan Plugged

6. Carefully place the new fan in position, making sure that the excess cable is pushed on the top-side (there’s a visible metal bracket that covers the internal HDDs) so that it doesn’t get damaged in any way (even if ever re-opened); once the fan is set, put the fan protection cover back, and screw it (4 screws in total).

New Fan Put In Place

That’s it. Now, you can power-on the enclosure and witness the lack of noise 🙂

The resulting noise (or lack thereof) is pleasing to the ear, and the 1mm extra thickness of the new Xilence fan is barely noticeable (thankfully, the screws of the fan protection cover are quite long). With both 1.5TB WD Green drives running, the enclosure is not getting warmer to my experience (i.e. due to the lesser RPM and CFM) but that’s just my own environment and room temperature.

New Fan Protrudes

A couple of things to note:

1. Be wary of the new fan orientation, when placing it on the rear cover. Pay attention to the blades of the stock fan (when removing it) and be sure that you respect the (outward) air-flow, as both fan(s) are too thin to mention air-direction on the side (like on most thicker 20-25mm PC fans, denoted by some arrow).

2. Also be careful of the fan power-cable position; the assembly at factory had the cable going down towards the right corner. Be sure that when you place the new fan back in, the cable is not obstructing air-flow.

3. You may need to add some small, thin foamy pads (as stickers) on a couple sides of the new fan, as the stock fan already has 4 of them (i.e. on each side). I am not sure where one can find such pads, but they seem to minimize the vibration of the fan itself, as well as keep it firm inside the rear panel.

Foamy Pads Suggestion

Turn off IPv6 due to VPN client on Mac OS X 10.10 or newer

I recently purchased a VPN account, so I can get first-hand experience on using such technology, and decided to give NordVPN a try, as their service seemed to be affordable for my educational budget. After downloading and installing their client, I noticed that I could still not be “protected” so I decided to contact their Customer Service via chat.

A nice representative told me that their service currently does not support IPv6 (for whatever reasons that I didn’t ask) and that I should disable IPv6 on my active network interface, for the VPN connection (to their network) to work properly.

The first guide that I consulted after a quick web-search pointed to an “Off” option in the TCP/IP tab of the network interfaces, which seems unavailable for my Yosemite 10.10.5 installation. I was puzzled as I had seen screenshots of that option being there, on other websites.

No IPv6 Off Option

Apparently, this missing “Off” option is the case for fresh El Capitan 10.11 installations, too.

Upon further search, I stumbled across an older article on OS X Daily that shows how to directly switch IPv6 feature off, via a special Terminal command.

I studied the command and realized that the article had reference to the generic interface(s) of Mac OS X, but on my machine these weren’t valid. This action thus requires some more attention if you wish to disable IPv6 via Terminal, namely to type the exact name of the interface to be disabled. In my case, I had a different name — and this exact name, as it appears in the list of “Network” settings, should be copied across.

Rather using the generic interface names, such as:

networksetup -setv6off Ethernet
networksetup -setv6off Wi-Fi

…I had to use my own, custom-named interface instead (with quotes):

networksetup -setv6off "Ethernet (en1)"

This command prompts the user to enter his/her administrator password, and immediately applies the setting that results to an “Off” being now available as an option.

IPv6 Off Option Set

Reverting to “normal” is equally easy; either select “Automatically” in the TCP/IP tab of the network interface in question (and apply) or use the corresponding command in Terminal:

networksetup -setv6automatic Wi-Fi
networksetup -setv6automatic Ethernet

Now we can use the VPN services… Hopefully, a future update (to the NordVPN client, that is) will render such action obsolete.

Useful haxies installing Windows 7 (Part 1)

I recently needed to install Windows 7 (Home) on my old Dell Inspiron Mini 10V (1011) netbook so my mother-in-law can learn how to type. Quite a strenuous procedure, as I have been spoiled with Mac OS X that has had the smoothest of installation procedures, including all updates (it took almost 24h to get all Windows 7 x86 updates on that small, slow computer).

First of all, an easy and quick way to avoid CD/DVD media burning (of the Windows 7 ISO) is to create a bootable USB disk, through Microsoft’s own free Windows USB/DVD Download Tool tool, requiring an original Windows 7 (x86 or x64) ISO image (e.g. from MSDN).

Then, once the USB preparation is done, a simple hack that requires a single file to be removed (called ei.cfg) will allow to bring up -during installation- a list of choices of Windows “operating systems” to install i.e. Starter, Home, Professional, Ultimate, etc. regardless of the ISO you have used. However, the architecture remains same across: that is, x86 or x64 (depending on the used ISO) and not both (on same USB with this creation method, anyway).

WindowsChoices

A list of actions that I must perform next, will be described here below, for the sake of my next reference instead of searching the web. It’s nothing advanced, just some stuff to remember to do… perhaps useful to you, too.

1. Switch to the automatic logging of main user to Windows
I keep forgetting the command to run is “netplwiz.exe” as found in this useful article. Simply select the user account from the list, uncheck the “Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer” checkbox then click the apply button.

Auto-Login Setting

2. Complete the Windows Update procedure and reclaim space
With a small (in capacity) and old SSD installed in that netbook, I needed to reclaim the wasted space after installing those painfully slow updates. From an initial 30GB drive, after installing Windows 7 (with SP1 integrated) I got left with some 17GB and now down at 10GB due to the storage of the Windows Update backups!

The supposedly magic command is “cleanmgr.exe” as per this article, but I did follow the tips of this other article, too.

UpdateCleanup

3. Remove that annoying Windows 10 Upgrade notification
Ever since it appeared on the bottom taskbar and scared off people as a hoax, I have been searching for a permanent and official way to remove it. It appears it’s related to some Windows Update and more specifically to KB3035583 that needs to be uninstalled from the Windows Update items/list. Unfortunately, in the description that appears (on the right) to this KB3035583 in the Windows Update list, there’s absolutely no reference to this new “Windows 10 Notification” so one need to remember KB3035583 and never install it (and hide it).

KB3035583

4. Change the system language without “Ultimate” version installed

The installation ISO that I used to create that bootable USB was in English language, but the target computer (the Dell notebook) should eventually end up in another system language. As I installed “Home” and not “Ultimate” edition of Windows 7 (x86) I could only get the system language changed via Vistalizator to any other language of my choice. This excellent tool accomplishes the task easily and in a couple of steps, to the point of being fool-proof. It officially downloads the chosen language pack from Microsoft’s own servers, so the end-result is the real deal. Despite being created for Windows Vista originally, Vistalizator remains a highly valuable tool.

Vistalizator

Please note that it is recommended to switch to another system language (via Vistalizator) first thing, after a clean Windows 7 installation.

5. How to facilitate further Windows Update items
Since there was never a Service Pack 2 released (SP-2) to the dissatisfaction of most Windows 7 users (that would indeed make our lives easier) and rather than creating a bootable Windows 7 installation disc/image with slipstreamed updates (not a procedure for everyone) there appears to be a miraculous tool called WSUS Offline Update filling this gap, that is thankfully still being updated.

This tool is seemingly helping users to download and group those (dreadfully many) updates once and in one place, allowing for off-line use in many Windows 7 installations. From the website, one reads “Using WSUS Offline Update, you can update any computer running Microsoft Windows and Office safely, quickly and without an Internet connection.” Of course, any machine-dependent device drivers that normally appear as “updates”, are not downloaded via this tool (for example, Network, WLAN, Graphics, etc.) so you will still need to use the normal route of Windows Update service on your computer.

WSUS

Despite its simple documentation, I have not spent enough time with this tool in order to get a personal opinion or experience using it. My first attempt was to quickly download the main Windows updates for the x86 architecture, and then run its UpdateInstaller.exe on the target machine, as instructed.

UpdateInstaller

However, due to the fact that I used Vistalizator to change the system language (from English) earlier, I am not sure if all the acquired updates were succesfully installed or if WSUS Offline Update was confused about which updates were applicable (due to the new system language) despite saying “multilingual updates” on its main window. It did install some updates, but the target computer’s Window Update service eventually found many more to download and install that I didn’t expect, but excluding device-drivers of course (which is normal).

The next time I ran WSUS Offline Update was to download the Windows updates for both architectures (x86 and x64) as I plan to test the tool on my next VMware Windows 7 installation, on my Mac, to see how it behaves and what updates eventually remain to download/install.

END OF PART ONE