HomeKit and Philips Hue – as of yet not that easy to install

Today I dealed with setting up a Hue 2.0 bridge and setting it up to connect to HomeKit properly. In short, as of the time of writing this article it’s quite a pain. Partly due some shortcomings of Philips offical app but also due some issue of HomeKit. I won’t go into detail here how to do the basic setup, more I want to give hints and tips how go around the pitfalls and how to setup later rooms for Siri.

First to go around trouble, you want to have your iOS devices on 9.2 (currently beta) to go around the issue of having one device able to control things with Siri, and the other always keep telling you “iCloud Data sync in progress”. Without iOS 9.2 i found no way to get around this bug, and I tried a lot of the guides out there; with 9.2 it syncs without any hassle. Also, if you wanna try to use HomeKit commandos on your Apple TV 4, forget about it for now, I tried and only got the answer that Siri is not able to help me with HomeKit right now. It’s kinda disappointing but anyway, thats just on a side note.

Assuming you have setup the Hue lights and gave them name, and also communicated those to Siri (if you changed them, go to the Siri settings in the Hue app, and then Lights. The ones whose name you changed have a “!” to them, tap them once and he syncs the new name to Siri (why they not do that automatically… i don’t know). Scene setup works pretty much fine via the Hue app, but if you wanna setup rooms, its not possible with the Hue app. There I can suggest as a free solution the Elgato Eve app¬†(link takes you to the iTunes Store). Start it up and its pretty much obvious build, also it accepts the Philips bulbs easily since its centered around HomeKit instead of putting a own system into the front and HomeKit seconds like it feels with Philips own application. Tap the cogwheel to enter the settings, goto Rooms, add a couple of Rooms. If he doesnt accept the name for the room, ensure nothing else (scenario, bulb) have a similar name, everything for HomeKit requires a unique name. What works fine is to call the bulbs for example “living room one, living room two, etc.” and then create a room “living room”. Just a word of warning, i advice against changing the device names from the Elgato app. It kinda messed up my settings, so you should refrain from that. For some reason he doesn’t read the names from the devices, just names them after their default. To go back to the rooms, once you have created them, go back and in the settings go devices, and tap each device to add it to a room you created. once that is done, you can go like “Turn on the lights in <your room here>” or “set the lights in <your room here> to green”, since now you have rooms setup successfully.

It’s a bit tricky to get things working but slowly it comes around. The remote access also seems to have yet issues, I manage to turn on the lights but can’t turn them off again and such. But that you can do reliable via the Hue app, so its no trouble for me. But the Elgato app is a cheap and pretty good filler for now for the short comings of the Philips app.

Upgrade a Crucial M500 series SSD firmware on OS X

Updating a Crucial M500 SSD with a usb flash drive on OS X is possible and I show you how:

First download the ISO with the update from the Crucial webpage¬†http://www.crucial.com/usa/en/support-ssd-firmware¬†(you want the “manual boot file” download). Next we need UNetbootin to install all on our flash drive and make it bootable. Grab it over at¬†http://unetbootin.github.io. The rest came with our OS X already (well, beside the flash drive, you need to supply that ;).

The¬†first step is to make sure the stick got a MBR and a FAT32 format. This can easily archived by using the OS X tool diskutil on the command prompt. To do so, open a command prompt, enter “diskutil list” and find your flash drive. There should be a line like “/dev/disk3 (external, physical):” and in the lines below it can (depend if the drive is named) also mention the name. The “/dev/disk3” part is interesting for us, the number behind “disk” can vary depending on your own system. If you wanna make sure not to accidentally kill one of your usb hard drives, unplug them before and only plug the flash drive. Also be sure it say “external, physical”, since the build in drives say “internal, physical” so we can differ between them and we don’t wanna kill the internal hdd(s).

Once we determined the drive number, we can repartition/reformat our flash drive to MBR partition table with one partition and a FAT32 file system format. To do so we punch in at the command prompt “diskutil partitionDisk /dev/disk<number> mbr fat32 FWUPDATE 0b”. I left our here willingly the number to keep you from accidentally killing the wrong drive by just doing blind copy/paste. Please replace “<number>” in the line with the earlier determined number. After the command is done, we have a usb flash drive with a MBR partition table that have one partition named “FWUPDATE” formatted FAT32 which takes all available space. Below you can see how it is supposed to look once you finished with the two commands.

Terminal with the commands successfully executed.

So now we need our UNetbootin. Unpack and launch it, you need administrative privileges to do so as he need to modify the boot sector of your flash drive and can’t do that unless he have admin rights. Once it is started, set it up like in the picture below (select disk image, select the downloaded iso, and make sure the right flash drive is selected by comparing the number to the one determined in the earlier step).

Settings supposed to be selected in UNetbootin. 

When it is done, he shows a message that this flash drive is prepared but can not be started on a Apple device. You can safely ignore this, I can assure you it does (here a Mac Mini Late 2012 with OS X 10.11 El Capitan at the point of writing this article). It looks like this:

Showing the final window of the UNetbootin process.

Now we are ready to get updating. Reboot the Mac that have the SSD installed and which needs updating while the flash drive is plugged. To get into the boot selection at the start up you need to press and hold the “alt” or “option” key on the keyboard when the startup chime is playing. The you should get a picture like this after a bit:

Showing the boot device selection menu of a Mac.

There select “Windows”, and he boots from the flash drive. It takes him a little bit, so it might look at first as if he crashed but then it goes on; have patience. Also notice that regardless what OS is installed on that stick, he always call those boot media “Windows”. Once the stick is up, you get a menu with a blue background. There select the 2nd menu entry called “default” with a lower case d. The first is not functioning and thus not of interest to us.

Boot menu that pops up after the boot.

Once that is done, the real upgrade begins. He boot a DOS system,¬†start the upgrade tool, give you a overview if there is a upgradeable ssd detected and ask you to confirm. If the SSD is present and available to upgrade, enter “yes” and press enter. Then he upgrades, and once the “A:\>” prompt appears, power-cycle your Mac to start regular again as we are done (if he didn’t told you there was an error during the flashing).

Display after the firmware update is done.

“Downloading” here means that he download the new software onto the drive, so be not confused by that. I hope this guide was helpful to give you a hint how to upgrade your SSD without taking it out of your mac for the upgrade.¬†




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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.