hints for adding a serialport on your mac

Once a while makers and tech-guys like me are in the need of a 9-pin serial port to flash upgrades/firmware, change the configuration or just get some display output. But on a mac we don’t have the typical plug’n’play experience ¬†we’re used to with other devices.

picture of a serial2usb converter

serial2usb converter

So since I came to that said situation while I was making changes to my firewall (which runs on a PC-Engines Alix 2D13 board with no display connector) and found solutions I want to share them here with you guys out there. As for the hardware I was still having my good old trusty vivanco converter (as you can see in the example picture above). Those who need to get (a new) one, I suggest to take a peek at the page for the OSX driver. The said driver is to be found on Sourceforge, and on the right you find 3 Amazon with compatible hardware. Who still have a converter should try out if the PL2023 driver works for him too like in my case. The driver itself is opensource, so if you can improve it, go for it. ūüėČ

Seconds most of us are on the hunt for a proper terminal program. Since I was too lazy to compile me minicom (my personal favorite on Linux), and as far as my knowledge goes OS X has none on board, I had to look around. After a few attempts I found SerialTools in the MacStore. They’re simple but do a fine job in terms of a simple terminal which I was looking for to gain access to the console of my firewall. It features also things like a protocol analyzer and a monitor, but since I’m not using those I can’t say anything about it. The terminal feature works fine and comes for free, so I’m totally happy and can further suggest this. If you require a tool able to handle XModem and similar, I yet have to find something. If you have a tool that can do that, let me know, so I can expand this entry.

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the perfect keeper for your AppleTV is bloc

So, after the Apple Mac mini I got me a Apple TV. It’s a nice device but it begun me to annoy that the remote was always lying around, giving off a “chaotic” vibe. That’s when I remembered at first a totally different company that sells wooden covers for Apple devices, and through them came to bloc. What is bloc you ask ? bloc is a wonderful keeper for your Apple TV and it’s remote made entirely out of wood and 4 rubber stands.

bloc (standing alone, front up view)

bloc unpacked

This is bloc. It’s made out of a single piece of wood, no layered stuff or other cheap ass placebo. It’s surface is¬†polished and have a wonderful organic natural feel to it. Even thinking right now about it make me somehow excited. It comes in a nice black box, which I must say really add to it and give you a great feeling of getting something classy. Must say¬†Austin (the maker behind bloc) is knowing what people enjoy, and this is a superb piece of equipment.

bloc (still packed in it's black box)

bloc still inside the box in which it arrived

bloc's box opend, lid next to the open box and the coupon

the box which holds bloc opened

On the down side it has 4 little rubber feet so it won’t scratch your furniture. The bloc you see here is the cherry variant. It’s also available in hard maple and walnut, so you have a choice which fit’s the best to the surrounding furniture.

bloc bottom up to show the rubber feet

the bottom of bloc with the rubber feet

bloc (setup in living room)

bloc with a apple tv (with a cherry wood cover from Lazerwood attached) and the remote in a real life living room setting

The whole setup is a real nice eye catcher and a great way to organize your Apple TV and the remote tidy. It makes me still happy like the first day, and I would buy it every time again I get a new Apple TV. The only thing I would change is the inlay, since it’s a real pain to attach and lacks the nice finish from the bloc. The only thing I wouldn’t get again is the cherry wood cover from Lazerwoods since it was a pain to attach it and also it lacks the nice finish that bloc have. Here is how bloc looks with a regular Apple TV.

bloc with a apple tv and the remote (no cables attached)

bloc with a Apple TV and the remote

For everyone who don’t want to put the remote along with the Apple TV there is also the bloc mini, which is like this bloc but without the place for the remote and thus smaller. Also the bloc mini can be used for the Apple AirPort Express and Extreme to give them a nice place to stay. What does bloc cost ? The regular comes at 42.95$ and the mini at 38.95$ at the time of the writing of this post. This is excluding shipping since shipping varies depending on where you live. It’s a fair price for a great product and totally worth for what you get here. If you want to get your own bloc, you can order it at blocs.tv.

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Mounting a Fritzbox NAS share on *nix

Since I had some trouble mounting the share of a AVM Fritzbox 7270 on my FreeNAS box, I did some research how to do it. The solution was quite easy after I figured why he was whining that he couldn’t find the server (turned out the VPN caused a problem with the NetBIOS resolution). The required share name was also one thing that irritated me since normally you can see that name when you browser the CIFS server. Here actually not, but this is nothing you can’t change with a bit of “smbutil view //server”. In the end the command to successfully mount the share on FreeBSD and Linux is as following:

mount_smbfs -W <workgroup> [-I <fritzbox ip>] //[username@]<fritzboxip>/FRITZ.NAS /mnt/<target directory>

Example: mount_smbfs -W WORKGROUP -I //myuser@ /mnt/fritznas

It’s quite simple. The parameter “-I” is optional, same goes for the username. Set those as needed and fitting to your settings on the Fritzbox itself. If you need a username/password, he will ask for the password interactive. For how to setup this mount command without password prompt check the manual of smb.conf.

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Adding copyright/creator infos to your photos made easy

I was lately wondering how I could add copyright/creator information easy to my pictures. First I thought after some reading I could have my camera do it for me, but sadly it’s only available on the more expensive cameras. So how we can still do it without much pain? The solution is easy, it’s ExifTool. With it you can easily add Exif/IPTC information to your photos.

ExifTool is a commandline tool for Windows, OSX, Linux and more. On the website you find packages for Windows, OSX and on Linux/others use your package manager. Once installed, it’s an easy task. Open a commandline, navigate into your photo folder, and issue the following command:

exiftool -by-line="[your name]" -CopyrightNotice="© [your name] ; Licence: Creative Commons cc-by-nc-sa 3.0 United States (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/)" -artist="[your name]" -Copyright="© [your name] ; Licence: Creative Commons cc-by-nc-sa 3.0 United States (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/)" -v0 -progress -E -overwrite_original *.JPG

The command overwrite the original files, if you don’t want that remove the “-overwrite_original” parameter. And yea, don’t forget to insert your name and change the licence to one of your liking. And if you want process whole folders recursive, then add the parameter “-r” to the line.

You wonder why all the stress ? Well, this way people can tell who made the picture and for what they can (not) use the picture. This especially interesting if you post them public like on G+, Flicker and so on where they can spread uncontrolled. Also it helps you tracking them (unless someone remove the infos).

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How to tame the B.E.A.S.T. in your SSL

Since I was looking the details how to tame the B.E.A.S.T. (Browser Exploit Against SSL/TLS) once again, I thought I write a few lines down about it. The exploit actually was discovered last year by Juliano Rizzo and Thai Duong. More details about the exploit can be found at h-online.com. To hinder the BEAST from attacking you, one way is to enable TLS 1.1 in your browser, but I plan to go another way.

I actually disable the vulnerable CBC modes. To archive this with apache and mod_ssl/mod_gnutls, do the following:

– mod_ssl:

SSLHonorCipherOrder on

– mod_gnutls:


I found this information in the German IT-security forum over at XING.

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VirtualHost Overlap on Port 443

When I was fiddeling with mod_gnutls to get full power forward with the new Wildcard SSL Cert I got me, I came across the problem that Apache 2 was whining about the VirtualHost Overlap with a message like this:

[warn] _default_ virtualhost overlap on port 443, the first has precedence

Also, he refused to serve the content from the additional ssl vhost. After a little searching, I found on the page webchalk.hubpages.com the hint that let me fix this behavior. I just needed to add another NameVirtualHost directive to the ports.conf. So now it looks like this:

NameVirtualHost *:80
NameVirtualHost *:443
Listen 80
<IfModule mod_gnutls.c>
Listen 443

With that now I can create my <VirtualHost *:443></Virtualhost> and Apache don’t complain anymore. And with mod_gnutls he also shut up about multiple SSL hosts.

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Getting subtitles from YouTube made easy

When I wanted to save me some hillarious video from YouTube I encontered a the problem to get the subtitles since they’re part of the fun. But thankfully I found a solution on Sourceforge called “Google2SRT“. With this lil’ program its piece a cake to grab the subtitles you want (except the automatic generated speech2text ones).

[singlepic id=8 w=320 h=240 float=none]

Its very simple to use, just select Web, insert the URL of the YouTube video, hit “Read”. Then he present the found subtitles to you and after selecting which you want just hit “Go”. After that he grabs the subtitles and converts them into SRT (SubRip Subtitles) from where you can easily merge them into a MP4/MKV or edit/convert them into another formats. Since the program is written in JAVA it practially runs where JAVA runs, like Windows, Linux, OSX and more. Used it on a Ubuntu 12.04 (64 bit) and worked fine.

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Perfect codec for fluent video editing on Linux is called DNxHD

I came across DNxHD just a short while ago, searching for a solution to be able to fluent edit my videos from various occasions. So far it was a bit of a problem since the video editing software had trouble to decode it fast enough (we speak about 1920×1080 AVC video), and so it was a pain to just cut them into pieces. But with DNxHD its piece a cake, the only downside is the fact it need a lot of space¬†(8 min equals ~11 gb when the video is 1920×1080) but the positive aspect is that its visually lossless. Before I used H264 lossless mode, but yea, same problems as with the AVC files from the cam itself, through a bit better since its not in M2TS format anymore. I really wish they would finally add VDAPU (nvidia) and its AMD counterpart to the known video editors. Anyway, to convert a source m2ts to our DNxHD mov (yes, Quicktime, otherwise it won’t work) just do the following on a console after navigating into your video folder:

avconv -i 20120526130908.m2ts -vcodec dnxhd -b 185M -s 1920x1080 -aspect 16:9 -deinterlace -r 25 -acodec pcm_s16be -v verbose -y Shiroku_live_1080_dnxhd.mov

Here I convert the live performance of Shiroku that I captured on the¬† Dokomi this year into DNxHD for editing. The file also needs deinterlacing and decimate since its taken in 50i. If you capture in 60i (NTSC) you want to change the “-r 25″ to “-r 30″. Also you can change here already the resolution if you plan to use a lower res later or your camera actually takes a lower res. To do so change the “-s HxW” parameter, for example for 720p go for “-s 1280×720″. When you change the picture size you also can change the video bit rate. I found a useful table at this page. Currently ffmpeg just support 8 bit DNxHD, and through that our video editing software also only support 8 bit since practically all software on Linux use ffmpeg for de/en-coding in the end. If you system don’t have “avconv” just replace it with “ffmpeg”. I migrate from the ffmpeg to the avconv command since with ffmpeg-0.8 the “ffmpeg” command is marked as legacy. Also I found it quite useful to export from my video editing software to DNxHD, and encode the material with Handbrake. The DNxHD export works way faster than the usual H264 export, and Handbrake tends to encode the H264 more efficient then the video editing software does. If you still look for software to edit with, here is a list of software I use(d):

And if you have suggestions for more video editing software, just post a comment. I’m always open to try something new.

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How to get into the hidden menus of a Panasonic TV

First of all, a (usual) word of warning: PLEASE BE CAREFUL AND ONLY PLAY WITH THESE MENUS IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING! If you do not know what you do there, it’s quite possible to get unwanted effects and in worst case you might even destroy the panel/circuit boards or just lock yourself out of the device^^.

But after that, there are 2 menu’s which you can use. Let’s begin with the more interesting of them, the so-called “hotel menu”. Why more interesting? Well, most settings I can imagine that are useful to you are to be found in this one. To access it press and hold the button “-/V” and while holding it press in a fast sequence the “AV” button or “TV/AV” button (depending on your remote).

Then a new menu opens, and there you find the settings. Here are some hints on what settings save and which put your device in the danger of becoming unusable unless a service tech undo those:

Save ones

  • “Initial INPUT”: Let you select which input gets selected on startup (like HDMI1/2/3,TV,etc)
  • “Inital VOL level”: The sound volume at startup
  • “Maximum VOL level”: how loud can you make them at most, nice to keep the kids from overdoing it^^
  • “Inital POS”: let you select the TV channel that he selects at startup

Dangerous ones

  • “Remote lock”: deactivates the remote control
  • “button lock”: deactivates the buttons on the TV itself

Found those info in the German Hifi Forum here. The picture I found on PC Creator’s blog.

And for those who know what they’re doing and who really want into the so-called “service menu”, you can use it via pressing and holding “-/V” on the tv and at the same time repeated pressing “0” on the remote. Navigation gets done by the colored buttons on the remote. But I can’t really give any information on that menu, since I don’t have the knowledge, just came along those information at some page.

And a last warning, I don’t take any responsiblity for those information to be correct and/or flawless since those are inofficial and so can be wrong. It is up to you if you want to make use of them or not, and the later results are also your responsibility.



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