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Zebra maintenance

I’ll be doing some maintenance on Zebra server. Some downtime possible.

Raspis troubles

Raspis server is down, no idea why. Let’s hope it’s just temporary and not a hardware crash.
Will keep you updated.

EDIT: it’s down for over 2 hours. It may be a hardware crash after all. In that case, the earliest time I can resolve this is tomorrow at about 2:00 PM EET, since that’s the earliest time I can get to server’s physical location.
I’m very sorry for service disruption. If you need any downloads from Raspis, don’t hesitate to contact me by email: dds[alpha]ddscentral.org

EDIT: Nov. 10th, 1:45 EET: server back online.

Zebra upgrades

Zebra server is currently being software updated, some downtime possible.
Sorry for the inconvenience.

EDIT: Update complete, should be fine now.

Server issues

Sorry for the downtime, hosting provider did some maintenance and it seems that not all services were restarted correctly on boot.
Should be fine now.

Raspis downtime

Raspis (raspis.ddscentral.org) server software is being updated, some downtime is possible.

EDIT: update complete. Everything should be fine now.

New server online

I’ve recently upgraded my home connection to Gigabit fiber (1000 mbps down /500 mbps up) and, since I now have 500 mbps of upload bandwidth, I’ve set up a new server.
https://zebra.ddscentral.org/

Since this server has faster upstream connection that that of Raspis, I’ll probably move some of my stuff from Raspis to this new server in near future.

Server specs for those interested:
CPU: Intel G4600
RAM: 4 GB DDR4
NIC: 3x Realtek Gigabit NICs (separate NICs for Router, Internet and IPTV)
Storage: 6 HDDs, approx 3.33 TB of storage.

EDIT: Speedtest (that’s with IPTV and some other stuff running).
Speedtest

Again, I forgot to make a new year post… Dammit.

Let’s start with some good news first. I bought myself a Raspberry Pi 3  for Christmas.

Bought it without a case, because I wanted to buy a Kodi edition FLIRC case for it.

Now, the fun part. There are 2 suppliers of this case: The Pi Hut in the UK and FLIRC (the manufacturer) in the US.

I’m in the EU. Guess which supplier I’ve ordered from ? No, you guessed it wrong. I had to order it FROM THE USA, because the Pi Hut, despite all my attempts to convince them, refused to ship the case to my country, telling me some bull**it about too many lost parcels. Yeah, right… I’ve ordered from the UK dozens of times and had only one or two lost orders. If the US supplier CAN ship to the EU why can’t they ?

I had to wait 3 weeks for the case to arrive from the US (instead of just a week, had I ordered the case from the UK supplier). Had to run my Pi barebones during that time.

That was the good news.

———

The bad news is that the primary server is down again. But this time it seems it’s the server’s ISP (yes, an entire ISP) went offline, because their homepage and corporate page are both down too, not even DNS works. WTF ?

Will update on this.
EDIT: it seems everything is back online now. Downtime lasted about an hour.

Adventures with Linux and DNS

Finally found some time to write a blog post.

First, some background. I’ve had an ancient Pentium 3 PC (upgraded with Intel Gigabit NIC and USB 2.0 card) with Windows 2003 running as my home server for many years. This old beast had many uses in the past, including being my web code testing sandbox, torrenting box, IPTV multicast bridge and others. Recently however, the server was only being used as a DNS filter (mostly for ad blocking and mapping local IPs to hostnames) and DHCP.

I’ve been thinking of transferring these duties to my Asus RT-N66U router (running DD-WRT and Debian) for a while but never found time to do it. Well, I finally did it. For those interested in how to do transfer DNS and DHCP from Windows 2003 to Linux, read below.

 


First, the easy part: DHCP. I mostly used Windows 2003 DHCP to map MAC addresses to static IPs. Since DD-WRT has this functionality built-in (heck, even most stock router firmwares have this built-in), all I had to do is copy existing static IP assignments to DD-WRT configuration (Services -> Static Leases). I know this method isn’t very suitable for those with a lot of assignments.

For users with a lot of assignments, the best way to go would be to export DHCP configuration and process it to generate a database of static leases (eg. using a script). But how to do it is outside the scope of this post.

 


Now the hard part: DNS. Like I mentioned before, I mostly used my local DNS server to do Ad domain blocking and mapping LAN IPs to hostnames. To block a domain (and all of it’s subdomains) using a local DNS, all you need to do is create a zone record for that domain in your local DNS server (you can optionally point it to a local IP, eg. for displaying an error message to the user).

There are a lot of domains hosting Ads out there. Over the years, my zone count grew to nearly 200 domains. Copying all these zone records manually to Linux BIND server (which is what I wanted to use) would have been a pain-in-the-a**, so I started looking for a more automated way of doing this.

Here’s what I found:

For those not using Active Directory for DNS, dumping zone files is very easy. They are stored as text files in C:\Windows\System32\DNS.

Unfortunately, I was using unknowingly AD for my DNS zones because this was the default setting when creating new zones. So I had no zone files in C:\Windows\System32\DNS. I had to use a shell script to dump all the zones from AD. I’ve used powershell, but any other language will work as well. Basically, what you need is to run:

dnscmd /enumzones

Then process the output of this command to get a zone list and run this for each zone:

dnscmd /zoneexport <zone name> <export file>

eg. dnscmd /zonnexport example.com example.com.txt

This will export the zone files to C:\Windows\System32\DNS (I strongly suggest using zone name as export file name).

To use these zone files, you’ll also need to generate a config file for BIND. I did this by just getting list of all zone files in generating a config entry for each of them, using file name as zone name. Entries look like this:

zone “example.com” {
type master;
file “/etc/bind/zones/example.com.zone”;
};

After generating the config file, all you need to do is copy all your exported zone files to /etc/bind/zones/ and include your generated config file in BINDs configuration.

This is a rough guide. If you need any help with this guide, do contact me dds[alpha]ddscentral.org.

February update

Another long story. Again, to avoid mixing up things, it consists of two parts.

  • Part one: A really cooked laptop

My cousin gave me his dead laptop to see if I can resurrect it. The system is an old but still decent Toshiba Tecra S-11 equipped with a dual core i7-640M, 8GB of RAM, Nvidia Quadro NVS 2100M video card and a 15.6 widescreen display with 1600 x 900 resolution. There was no hard drive or DVD.

The system was totally dead, not even a single LED worked. I suspected a bad mainboard. I’ve tried searching eBay and other places for a replacement board but found nothing. So I’ve decided to bring the laptop to a local computer shop (they have a service center as well) to see if they could do anything. The shop confirmed my suspicions: the system’s power IC was totally fried.

They did manage get a new (well, refurbished) board from a local Toshiba service center. I paid 100 € for a new board and re-assembly.

Since the system had no hard disk or DVD drive, I’ve also bought an 120GB SSD and a DVD burner for about 72 €.

Before installing the SSD and the DVD burner, I wanted to do some basic tests to see if the system works. So I’ve plugged in my boot flash drive and tried to boot my custom Windows PE recovery environment. It failed to boot with a BSOD. Then I’ve tried a Linux Live DVD. It also failed to boot with a kernel panic caused by a MCE (machine check exception).

I could only get anything to boot by disabling the second CPU core or limiting the OS CPU count to 3. That really smelled like a CPU problem to me…

I know my cousin did some heavy compiling on that system and it was overheating badly (the cooling system is very poor) but to damage a CPU ? How hard do you have to torture a system to not only fry the mainboard but to damage a CPU as well ?

Indeed my suspicions were confirmed. After I’ve replaced the original i7 with a slightly weaker i5-560M (which I got for 35 €), all MCE errors disappeared.

So, after paying 207 € and spending a few hours on dis-assembly and re-assembly, I had a fully functional system. Yeah, I know I paid too much, but whatever…

The complete specs:

Model: Toshiba Tecra S11-14P

CPU: Core i5-560M (Dual core with HT)

RAM: 8GB DDR 1066 (2x 4GB)

GPU: Nvidia Quadro NVS 2100M

Storage: 120 GB SanDisk Ultra 2 SSD

DVD: LG (HL-DT-ST) GTC0N

Wifi: Intel AGN 6200

Display: 15.6″ 1600 x 900

 

  • Part Two: bad luck with T100TA

I’ve smashed my T100TA AGAIN. The damn thing fell down while it was in the bag. The glass was totally smashed and unusable, way worse than my first time.

The screen on that tablet is extremely fragile. I’ve dropped my old TF300T countless times without any damage and only managed to crack the screen by accidentally pushing it against the phone charger while the tablet was in the bag.

But the glass on T100TA’s screen is nothing like that of TF300T: it’s thin. Really thin. Seems like you could crack it by just pushing your finger harder against the screen.

I haven’t yet decided whether I will replace the screen. I can get an used T100TA for about the same price as a new screen. But then again, I’m not sure I even want another T100TA.

I will try bringing the tablet to a local computer shop to see if they can repair the screen for less that what Asus service charges. If they can’t, I will probably just get a new tablet.

Will update.

 

 

January 2016 – News

First post this year (OK, second if you count the NY post). To avoid mixing up things, it consists of two parts.

  • Part One: my G751JY

My G751JY returned from Asus service center. They have replaced the mainboard. The good news is that the M.2 slot is still there. The bad news is that my Windows 10 Pro installation refused to activate on the new board. MS says you have to reinstall 8 and re-upgrade to 10. Windows 8 key will not work on Windows 10.

I AM NOT reinstalling the whole system and all my software…  So I’ve just tossed in a KMS activator and called it a day. I hate having to resort to such things, considering I have a legit Windows 8 Pro key, but I do not want to waste time reinstalling all my stuff because of M$’s upgrade policies.

Also, I’ve replaced my SM951 with a 500 GB EVO 850. I’ve decided that SSD space is more important to me than speed.

 

  • Part Two: PC service adventures.

I’m amazed how some PC vendors cheap out on parts. A new PC has arrived for service (built by a local computer shop), owner wanted me to install Windows 10. Since I did not have Windows 10 image prepared, I had to prepare it. I have installed Windows 10 to a VM, installed some commonly used programs and then sysprepped the system. I then imaged VMs hard drive to create the final installation image, which could then be used to install Windows 10 (along with my installed programs) on any system.

I did choose EFI boot when preparing the image, because that is what is most commonly used for new systems. But when I went to actually installing my Windows 10 image on client’s system, I was amazed. That system had a 6-core AMD CPU, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, a GT 750 Ti GPU and a 1 TB hard disk. Not a monster system but should be enough for an average gamer.

What suprised me was the mainboard. When I accessed the BIOS setup, I could not find any options for EFI boot… Strange, I thought (even my 2012 P67 board has EFI bios). Another strange thing was the BIOS date, 2013… WTF ?

Then I’ve checked the board model. It was an Asus board, but it was a 2013 (!!!) model, based on an ancient AMD 7 series chipset… Are you kidding me ? AMD 7 series chipset board ON A NEW PC ? That chipset is on legacy support mode already…

That means: no USB 3.0, no SATA 6.0, no PCI-E 3.0 and not even a UEFI BIOS…

 

And the vendor even managed to put a 500 euro price tag on that system. For extra 100 euros, the owner could have purchased a modern system with a last generation i5, 8GB RAM and a Geforce 950 GPU.

I do know that the computer shop which built that system is known to cheap out on parts on prebuilt systems (a Codegen PSU for example, is a common sight), but I really did not expect this… Using an old mainboard on a new PC ? Where did they even find that board ? Had it in unsold inventory pile ?

But let’s return to the EFI part. Since the system had no EFI BIOS, I had to convert my image to legacy boot. Fortunately this is doable easily. For those interested, here’s how it’s done:

1. Deploy your EFI system image as usual (I used Paragon HDM for creating and deploying images, but any other imaging tool will do).

2. Convert GPT partition table to MBR.

3. Delete EFI partitions: usually, there will be 3 of them: Recovery, EFI and Service. After deleting, resize OS partition to fill the empty space.

4. Mark OS partition as active (this is important for legacy MBR boot).

5. Boot from Windows 10 installation media (a DVD or USB flash drive will do), choose the Repair option.

6. Enter the following commands:

bootrec /fixmbr
bootrec /fixboot
bootrec /rebuildbcd

Then reboot. The system should now boot using legacy mode.

 

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