Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Password Recovery

Once again you find yourself in the familiar situation of having to access something but not having the authentication details to do so. In this case it’s the product documentation system. Everything had been going so well with your latest product release. Developers had signed off on it, testers were ok, and the only sticking point was updating the release notes in the documentation.

The guy who normally updates the documentation is no longer working for the company. Your other colleague with his own login is travelling and is in a different timezone. While the person who was responsible for the original install is long gone. IT know nothing about this system and you have to update it today.

What to do. What to do.

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VMware ESXi on a white box

I’ve been researching server virtualization lately, and looking at several solutions. One of which is VMware’s vSphere hypervisor (previously known as ESXi server).

There’s a free version of vSphere available, that only requires you to register to download it along with a license. Installation on the other hand, proves to be extremely difficult when using hardware that isn’t on the official hardware compatibility list.

In computer hardware, a white box is a personal computer or server without a registered brand name – Wikipedia

Difficult… but not impossible.

As there turns out to be an unofficial whitebox list on

Additional drivers are available from here, then see instructions on how to use this automated script to populate an ISO/USB stick with a custom installation image.

Home Media Server

A while ago I purchased an HP Home Media Server as an external storage device for backups and other files. I really like the form factor and how it has a decent CPU. Most NAS boxes are crippled by their processor which severally limits network throughput. Not so with this guy.

There are many reviews out there saying how great this thing is. Hyping the merits of WHS (Windows Home Server) and the whole backup architecture. Some even proclaiming it has saved their marriage.

I admit that WHS is a cool concept, and for general home users it is great. More advanced users have even gone as far as creating custom add-ons that extend the original functionality. Then there are users such as myself who want even more control; so end up just installing Linux on the thing.

“WHY?” I hear you scream. “Why would someone want to replace the existing operating system that is purpose built for the box, and replace it with a harder to use system?”

Control. Being able to easily control which software is installed and what services are provided. This means my server now boots to a network ready file serving state in under twenty seconds. This would easily take over a minute if not more with WHS. Then again most users would leave their server running all the time. But we’ve already established that I’m not most users…

Biggest problem to installing Linux on the MediaSmart server is that it doesn’t actually have a VGA/DVI/HDMI/display port. So you can’t even see what you are doing. Thankfully ymboc on broke out an oscilloscope and worked out how to wire up a VGA port. Which is why you can see a VGA connector on the front of my server (pictured).

Everything else pretty much works out of the box. Except for the front LEDs. One of which blinks annoyingly at full brightness. This of course drove me nuts and I ended up writing a little utility to control them all.

Source for that Linux LED control utility can be found on bitbucket.


Found another itch that needed scratching. File hashing.

Every now and again I come across the need to calculate the hash of a file. Either to verify its integrity, check a copy routine, or verify a checksum routine. Most solutions to this are overly complicated. So I’ve created a simple command line program called hash.

> hash –-sha1 hash.exe
sha1(hash.exe)= 519e13cb8bb5e28a7fd161594b4e54289042229a

Hash is available from the programs section.

USB orientation

Like most people I used to get the orientation of the USB connector and the port wrong. However, once you finally notice that the USB symbol is always on the top of the connector things get easier. Better yet, this is actually stated in the USB mechanical specification (emphasis added):

6.5.1 USB Icon Location
The USB Icon is embossed, in a recessed area, on the topside of the USB plug. This provides easy user recognition and facilitates alignment during the mating process. The USB Icon and Manufacturer’s logo should not project beyond the overmold surface. The USB Icon is required, while the Manufacturer’s logo is recommended, for both Series “A” and “B” plug assemblies. The USB Icon is also located adjacent to each receptacle. Receptacles should be oriented to allow the Icon on the plug to be visible during the mating process.

So as long as you can see the USB Icon, it should fit first time.