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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Raspbian Jesse (Lite) with Raspberry Pi 0

I really love tinkering with small computers to see what they will do. Recently, I purchase a Raspberry Pi 0 USB Stem. Which makes the Raspberry Pi 0 a USB computer. I keep on needing to go to another website in order to make changes to the burned image so I am just going to put them here so I don't have to look them up anymore. Don't get me wrong I love the site, but I always end up spending more time on that site drooling over electronics that I want and projects that I am dreaming of doing right now.

Click here to check out the site:

They give tutorials on their builds and I absolutely love the usb stem otg connector.

First step is to flash your micro-SD card with Raspbian-Jesse or Jesse Lite. I like to use Etcher to burn the image to the card.

Second step is open the boot partition and edit the config.txt file, adding dtoverlay=dwc2 to the bottom of the file.

Third step is to open the cmdline.txt file and add "modules-load=dwc2,g_ether" after rootwait.

Fourth is to create a new file named "ssh" in the boot folder.

After all this is completed you should be able to plug the Pi 0 into a USB port and SSH into it with Putty.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Alternatives to NES Classic and SNES Classic

When I was young I had a Nintendo Entertainment System that "Santa" brought me on Christmas morning. I had a blast playing it with my friends and parents. Ever since the NES Classic came out I have wanted one. I was really disappointed when they only produced so many of them and scalpers shot the prices up to a place where people could not afford or did not want to pay. Then the SNES Classic came out with some more of my favorite games with an affordable price and the same thing happened, but not to the degree that it did with the NES Classic. I then began looking at alternatives. Please feel free to click on the links and if you feel like purchasing that would be awesome because it supports my blog. If not that is ok too. At the bare minimum I just want to keep people informed that there are other alternatives out there that can be just as fun.

The Retro-Bit Super RetroTRIO combines the NES/SNES/Genesis into a 3 in 1 system where if you purchase the cartridges or already have them can play your favorite games and relive your fondest childhood memories. I did read some of the comments on the reviews. Some people did not have the proper TV to play with the Zapper and one person had one of their old cartridges fail. You actually need one of the old style CRT TV's in order for the Zapper to work. Be careful using the old cartridges because they can be up to 30 years old. I also have links to newer cartridges with a ton of games on them. The connection is an S-Video connection so it will not be compatible with HDMI without an adapter. If you want to take a look at this option here is a link:

The Retro-Bit Duo is also a good choice if you don't care for the Sega games or perhaps don't need the Sega. This one has a 4 out of 5 star rating on Amazon and is just like the link above with except for the Sega slot.

Here are a couple links to a cartridge that contains multiple games that should also work with this system.

I do realize that not everyone is a fan of Nintendo. There are some people out there that appreciate the Sega Classic as well. I actually bought this one just before my birthday not too long ago and I got it home and played it. I was not too big of a fan of Sega growing up, but I thought my son 10 year old son might appreciate it and he did.  I was able to go to Target and buy it in store. Mine did not come with HDMI, only the AV cables which I was slightly disappointed in when I saw the graphics on my Sony Bravia TV. However, I still found the games fun and entertaining. It comes with 81 games pre-loaded on it including Mortal Kombat, Golden Axe, and Sonic the Hedgehog.

There is also another Sega alternative that looks a lot like the old Sega Gamegear that I used to play as a kid. I also saw this on the shelf at Target.

If you are really "old school" like me I think you might also enjoy the Atari Flashback 6, 7, or 8.

These are great alternatives to the NES Classic and SNES Classic. I would recommend purchasing protection plans to go along with the console if you end up ordering one online. A protection plan will extend a warranty and I always get the extended plan when buying electronics. Thank you so much for reading my blog. I really appreciate it!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

IPSec VPN set up in Google Cloud

I see a lot of articles lately on things getting hacked. I thought it would be best to find out how to protect myself when I am out shopping and connecting to the open wireless networks that most retail stores have set up to serve their customers. Let me first say that I am a huge fan of Google and that if you don't already have a google account, you will need one for this set up. Google Cloud Platform has a free tier and this will work perfectly.

Step 1 will be to go to Google Cloud platform (just type it in the google search bar and you will see it come up) and go to the Compute Engine and select VM Instances and click the Create button.

What we are going to do next is create an instance as seen below.

Under the name you can name it what ever you want. Zone is important because you must make sure to pick an area that is closer to you. If you select Zone you will be able to select zones all over the world.

It is also very important to select Allow HTTP traffic and Allow HTTPS Traffic. I selected Debian GNU/Linux 9 as an operating system for my VM, I would recommend this at the time of this writing for you as well. I selected the micro (1shared vCPU) with .6GB of Memory. This is about all you will need for this depending on the traffic that you will use and this will be cheapest as well. I still have not incurred any billing because of Google Cloud Platform's always free tier. 

Click Create and it will create an instance of the VM, which should not take very long at all.

Step 2 we will need to create firewall rules. You will need to mouse over VPC network and then click on Firewall rules.

The Firewall Rule page will pop up and we are going to create a new rule.

The selections above worked for me and at the time of this writing they should work for you too. Now they should show up on your Firewall rules page.

Step 3 is configuring your VM. Go to your VM instances and you should see your VM with a green check mark next to it.

Click on SSH and it will log you in automatically. You will get a popup that says connection and then you should get a screen something like this.

This is the command line (aka bash) for your VM. This particular VM does not come with a GUI. While you are at this command line you will want to type in the following:

wget -O

This will download the script you need to automatically configure your linux Debian 9 server to act as the VPN server. After it is successfully downloaded you will need to use either nano or vim to open and edit the shell script with this command:

nano -w

We will type in what every you want to be your IPSEC Pre-shared Key, Username, and Password between the single quotes as it states in the paragraph above it. Do not share this information with anyone. Make sure you have a strong password and pre-shared key. Press CTRL+X to exit, Y to save changes and Enter to confirm the changes. You will now find yourself at the command line (bash). Now we will run the script by typing the following in to the bash:

sudo sh

This may take some time to install, but that is ok. After the script runs the installation is completed.

Make sure to annotate the Server IP, IPsec Pre-shared Key, Username, and Password. You will need these when you connect from your device.

Step 4 is connecting to VPN. I use an Android type phone so I will be showing you how to connect from that. There are also hundreds of tutorials out there that can help you whether you are connecting from a Windows system, iPhone, iMac, or other type of system. 

Navigate to the VPN settings as shown below.

Next, you will need to select the information as seen below:

You can give it whatever name you want, but make sure to select the L2TP/IPSec PSK. There are other types of VPN's and if those are selected in the drop-down then the connection will fail. Some phones may be different, but you will need to enter the IPSec pre-shared key, Username, and Password that you configured on the server. 

Very important to select Save account information so you don't have to remember username and password.

Select Connect and we should now be able to connect with no issues and enjoy browsing safely in open wireless connections. I hope this helps anyone out there that wants to set up a VPN. One thing to watch out for is that it will timeout when you are not using it and disconnect. Make sure the key symbol is showing on the top of the screen and you should be good. If it does ever time out just go back and re-connect and you should be fine. 

I do know that there are other ways out there to connect to a VPN and other solutions as well, but this was the easiest, has worked the best, and taken the least amount of time to configure and set up. I hope this helps anyone that needs it and please be sure to send me an email from my Contact Page if you have any questions or comments on my blog. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Best cheap laptops

I have been getting asked the same question lately. Should I buy a used laptop? My answer to that is a resounding, "NO!". You really don't know what you are getting when you buy a used laptop. My advice would be to buy one that is new. You can still buy cheap and still have some quality. Here are a few examples of good cheap laptops that won't break the bank. They are in no particular order, one is not better than the other depending on usage. I just find them to be affordable and useful. Click on the links to get more information.

  1. Acer Aspire E15

  2. ASUS L402SA

  3. HP Stream 11 Pro G2

  4. Samsung Chromebook 3

  5. Samsung Chromebook Plus

  6. ASUS Transformer Mini

These are my choices for laptops that are affordable, but still great for everyday web browsing, light office tasks, college and high school students. In my opinion, they are the best value for your money.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Micro PC's - The downgrade that is an upgrade

I know....confusing, right? As time goes on, technology seems to be getting smaller but more powerful. What I am referring to is known as Moore's Law. Intel co-founder Gordon Moore noticed that the amount of transistors per square inch doubled every year (or two years) since their invention. This makes computers smaller and more powerful. The receptionist and accountant at the office no longer need a giant desktop that they kick every time they get up from their desk or high end laptop with cables going every where hooking up to different screens with a docking station. The new Micro PC's will do the job just fine and depending on the configuration can be just as powerful or more so and consume a lot less power to get the job done.

The Intel NUC is one of my personal favorites. This particular one comes in at about $500. It comes with an i5 processor so it has enough power to run MS Office applications along with Navision, Quickbooks, or just about anything else people at the office need. Something like this would be ideal for a home lab if you are a student majoring in Computer Science or Information Technology.

The Gigabyte BRIX is also a good choice. This particular one comes with Intel Celeron Dual Core processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 120 GB SSD.

The next one is ideal for a project with your kids if you want to teach them about computers. It is "bare-bones" which means that it does not come with a hard drive (SSD), RAM, or an OS which will have to be purchased separately and installed later. However, the Core i5 that you can order along with the dual NIC's, 802.11ac wifi, HDMI, and Display Port more than makes up for that and would work brilliantly as a home lab or you could even build any number of different projects with it.

I have installed a few of these mini-PC's for customers and the love that they are small and don't take up much room and they still are able to get all their work done everyday. They can also be mounted on the back of a customers screen if the screen has Vesa mount screw holes on the back of the monitor. There are cheaper and more expensive ones out there, but for a small business or home user I would really recommend these because they are not too expensive and not too cheap so you don't feel like you are buying a piece of crap. I hope this helps on your next computer project or purchase.