HiFiPi – A High Resolution Audio Player


This is a quick post to showcase our HiFiPi. I’ll try and update it in the future, but knowing me I’ll probably forget.

The software I used is called Volumio and it’s available here. They have some additional features available as a subscription service which you might like, but the core software is open source and free. They also sell pre-made high quality devices if you’re not into DIY 🙂

I seem to remember having a couple of issues getting it configured the way I wanted it, but I didn’t document any of it, so that will have to wait until I can figure it out. Overall nothing too taxing though.

Grandstream GXP1610 Reboot-o-matic


I wrote a nice little script to fix a problem I’ve been having with my work VOIP phone. It would lose connection but the screen wouldn’t let you know it had. I didn’t notice that it hadn’t been connected for *two* weeks until someone left a voicemail.

The phone did have a built in SSH interface, which had a reboot command, so I tried using ssh -i key admin@phone < commands.txt to feed it a bunch of commands. I had to pipe a text command to ssh because it doesn’t use a ‘real’ shell on the phone, just Grandstream’s proprietary command interface, which doesn’t accept commands directly when called from ssh.

This was okay, it restarted the phone but it would also reset the password back to ‘admin’. Not very secure really… So I looked for a way to reboot it using the web interface. I fired up Firefox’s network debugger and started to reverse engineer how commands were processed.

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Setting Up Auto Mounting Encrypted Raid Disks


This is a little guide (currently under construction) for how I handle encrypted disks on Linux. This won’t be the ultimate ‘tin foil hat’ guide, as the attack vector this is intended to protect from is physical theft of the hardware, so that the data can’t be accessed from elsewhere. It obviously will not handle a targeted hacking attempt or the $5 wrench method, but I believe it gives security and convenience to a level appropriate for me.

xkcd 538: describing the $5 wrench method of breaking security.

The reason this started is because my physical health is deteriorating and getting up to enter a password at the console on every reboot is tiresome. Therefore I came up with a new way of handling encrypted drives to not only increase security but also make things a bit more convenient.

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Debugging Windows 10 at Startup


It’s almost impossible to be able to hit F8 during Windows 10’s start up. The “official” way to get into the boot menu is to let Windows 10 start and get to the login screen, hold the shift key and click “Restart”. The problem with this is, what if you can’t get to the login screen?

Many times I’ve had a simple issue that could be fixed in Safe Mode or using the basic graphics mode available from the boot menu. I’ve found a method that makes this debugging easy and gives you plenty of time to be able to press F8 if you need to on boot, without taking too much time away from the actual boot. It’s a user configurable timeout too, so you can set it to what you want.

Of course before following any of these instructions, you should be aware of my standard disclaimer.

Firstly, enable the Legacy Bootloader, by opening an administrative command prompt.

bcdedit /set "{current}" bootmenupolicy legacy

This will enable the old style operating system selector from Windows 7. Next you set it to display the menu with the following command.

bcdedit /set {bootmgr} displaybootmenu yes

Finally you control how long the timeout is. The default 30 seconds is quite a long time to wait if you don’t press any key, so I use the timeout of 5 seconds, which gives me ample time if I need to get into the advanced boot options menu, but it doesn’t slow down the boot that much if I don’t.

bcdedit /set {bootmgr} timeout 5

That’s it! If you ever need to debug a simple start up issue, you don’t have to find your rescue CD, or reset during boot to launch “startup repair”. It’s saved my skin so many times already 🙂

Audio Terminal Bell (Software Bell) in Xubuntu with xfce-terminal


I have wanted a software audio based terminal bell in linux for years. Similar to in PuTTY on Windows you can chose any arbritary wav sound file as your terminal bell sound, I wanted this functionality on Linux, and I have wasted lots of time over the years trying to get this working. I haven’t had much luck… until today!

I was setting up a new Xubuntu 18.04LTS machine and was going through the preferences in xfce-terminal and noticed it had an option for “Audible Bell” in the advanced features menu. I turned it on and it didn’t work, but it prompted me to try and find a solution again.

Here’s the commands I used to get it working.

sudo apt-get install gnome-session-canberra sox
xfconf-query -c xsettings -p /Net/EnableEventSounds -s true
xfconf-query -c xsettings -p /Net/EnableInputFeedbackSounds -s true
xfconf-query -c xsettings -p /Net/SoundThemeName -s "freedesktop"

Then you need to add the following to the end of your .profile file in your home directory (~/.profile)


Then add the following to /etc/pulse/default.pa

# audible bell
load-sample-lazy x11-bell /usr/share/sounds/freedesktop/stereo/bell.oga
load-module module-x11-bell sample=x11-bell

Then restart pulseaudio with

pulseaudio -k

Make sure your “System Sounds” is turned up in the Volume Control applet and finally make sure the following appears in ~/.config/xfce4/terminal/terminalrc under [Configuration]


You can also set this under “Preferences/Advanced/Audible Bell”. You will probably need to logout and logon again, but other than that everything should work. You can change the sound to a .oga file of your choice by changing the path of the sound in the load-sample-lazy command above.

jcx’s Standard “New Drive” Procedure


Don’t forget: This advice is posted with my Standard Disclaimer. Please read that before proceeding.

01. If the drive is not a new sealed retail drive, check SMART values are okay before testing. (smartctl -a /dev/sdX), save to compare later.

02. Run SMART short test (smartctl -t short /dev/sdX)

03. Run SMART conveyance test (if supported) smartctl -t conveyance /dev/sdX

04. Some drives will only update some SMART attributes if offline data collection is enabled. To make sure, turn offline testing every 4 hours with smartctl -o on and then start an offline test (smartctl -t offline /dev/sdX)

05. Verify drive passed all these tests (smartctl -l xselftest,selftest /dev/sdX). Create a second log file for comparison later.

06. Zero the drive with dd (dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdX bs=4M status=progress).

[!] Keep an eye on the drive temperature (if supported) with smartctl -l scttemp the logged historical data will vary between manufacturers. [/!]

07. After ZEROing the drive, it will have reallocated any bad sectors from the factory. Compare the SMART values to the ones you took at the beginning, paying close attention to Pending and/or Reallocated Sectors.

08. Check the drive’s error log (smartctl -l xerror,error /dev/sdX) to see if there are any reports of non-fatal errors which haven’t resulted in a bad sector.

09. Next comes a full write test. You can either use the long test, using badblocks which will perform 4 full read and 4 full write tests. (badblocks -wvsb 4096 /dev/sdX) This can take tens of hours. If you are in a hurry, you can also use a single pass test. (nwipe?)

10. After completion again check the SMART values (smartctl -a /dev/sdX) and compare them to the original readings.

[!] Some drives also support extended device statistics (smartctl -l devstat /dev/sdX) which can show you some non-standard stuff. [/!]

11. If the drive passes these tests without error it will usually be a good drive. The surface has been written and read from several times to ensure there’s no major problems.

12. If you want to stress test the drive mechanism (actuator/heads) you can use fio to perform small reads/writes at random locations across the entire disk surface. Be sure to keep an eye on the temperatures while doing this. If the drive isn’t properly cooled you might run into problems. It is probably reasonable to run this test for around two or three hours.