Gaming, home tech, politics, music, whatever really

Category: Nerdery (Page 3 of 3)

The Raspberry Pi 4

I was lucky enough to get hold of one of these within a few days of release, and I’ve now got samba, Nextcloud and Plex running on it and a USB3 RAID box hooked up as storage.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Pi – a cheap, credit-card sized multi-purpose computer that can run Linux and connect to pretty much anything. What’s not to like? It’s always been a bit under powered for any serious work though.

Not any more. The Pi 4 is – for its size and price – an absolute beast. I can be streaming music from Plex, uploading files to NextCloud (with encryption turned on) and working on files over SMB, all at the same time, and it barely breaks a sweat.

I’m flabbergasted by the thing, really. Performance comparable to a lower-end x86 from just 6 or 7 years ago, in a form factor the size of a credit card, and for less than 60 quid even for the 4GB RAM version.

Eben Upton deserves to be extremely rich.

Chatty chatty, Roku

I have a Roku streaming stick at home. It’s a convenient way of hooking Netflix, Amazon Video and NowTV up to the telly in the living room without having a mass of boxes, cables and so on.

As a streaming device, it’s great and works really well. But, as is so often the case these days, it turns out there may well be a sting in the tail.

See, I recently decided to set up pi-hole on my home network. It’s a great tool, and super-helpful in the never-ending battle to keep Internet nasties, creepies and snoops away from my kids. And it revealed something that I didn’t know.

The Roku phones home. Like, a lot. A host called “cooper.logs.roku.com” shot straight to the top of the most queried domains in the pi-hole. Seems the Roku tries to hit it twice per minute, every minute. It seems that it is, by a country mile, the chattiest thing on my home network. Which, when I tell you that we have multiple Amazon Echos, IP telephony and every games console under the sun, you will appreciate takes some doing.

I get that the device would need to phone home periodically to check for software updates and stuff. That’s pretty normal; sensible, actually. But, every 30 seconds? What on earth is it doing?

I got curious. So, I went and had a look at Roku’s privacy notice.

Reading between the lines, it looks to me like the Roku stick is basically sending all of our viewing habits back to HQ. The privacy notice doesn’t say why, or on what legal basis. It looks like it might also have mapped my home network and sent all of that info back to Roku too (although some Wireshark sniffing didn’t capture anything interesting other than SSDP traffic, which you would expect from a home media device).

Either way, it’s sufficiently concerning that I’ve submitted a subject access request (which, despite being a tech lawyer, I’ve actually never done on my own account before). Assuming Roku honours it, hopefully it will tell me what they’re up to.

E3

I stopped caring about E3 years ago. I think that might have changed. Cyberpunk 2077. A remake of Panzer Dragoon. VTM: Bloodlines 2. Elden Ring. Witcher 3 on Switch. PC Engine Mini.

Dribble…

Speccy!

A few weeks ago I bought an untested, loft-find ZX Spectrum+ from eBay. This is the first model of computer I owned, and I still remember the endless hours I devoted to fiddling with it and playing the simple games it could run. It taught me to code, too. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the Spectrum+ was my best friend when I was a kid.

Anyhow, the untested loft buy didn’t work. Quelle surprise. But Speccies are pretty easy to fix; even my limited knowledge and rudimentary soldering skills can deal with a machine this basic, surely?

Turns out that I was right. First problem was that the power supply was shot. A modern PSU with the right pinout, voltage etc cost me about eight quid. With that in place, the machine powered up just fine. But the keyboard didn’t work. OK, so I replaced the membrane. Still no joy. After a certain amount of swearing it turned out I had neglected to reconnect both of the ribbon cables properly. Hook those back up … and everything works except the sodding Enter key. Which is a bit crucial, really.

So, after taking the keyboard apart again, I found that the rubber mat which presses down onto the membrane had lost rigidity under the Enter key and wasn’t quite making proper contact. A couple of small stickers to shim out the difference and … we have a working Speccy!

A bit of a scrub later, and I reckon it’s come up lovely.

Yes, I know. It’s no Amiga, or ST, or even C64. And yes, I do own examples of all of those machines. But the humble Speccy was my first love, and it’s wonderful to own a working one again. No, you have something in your eye.

Tricked out Atari

Here’s my now fully tricked out Atari ST:

It’s a 520STE upgraded with 4MB RAM and TOS 1.62. It has an HXC floppy emulator (for loading disk images from a USB thumb drive), an adaptor to allow for a modern-ish USB mouse rather than those horrible bricks from back in the day, and best of all an UltraSatan, courtesy of the magnificent Lotharek.

I do own rarer or more collectible retro machines, but the ST is a bit special. I’ve deliberately kept it very close to how the the original machine would have been in the 90s, just adding a few useful modern conveniences here and there rather than going overboard on the upgrades.

When I was a kid with a Spectrum+, it was the Atari ST that I drooled over rather than the Amiga, for some reason. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Amiga very much. I own two of them. And yes, I know that the Amiga was technically superior to the ST. But there was something about those old Silica Shop adverts that made the ST seem like this whole other world of possibilities. And let’s be honest – it just looks way cooler than the Miggy. Look at the slant on those function keys; totally pointless, but so awesome.

DIY NAS Project – part 2

Well, that was a piece of piss. Blast the image onto an SD card, hook up the USB drive, fire up the Pi, let it sort itself out, find its IP address from the router, log in, change default passwords, partition and format the USB drive, set up users and shares, and bingo. Took less than half an hour, and it was all done through the web interface; I didn’t have to touch the command line once. I am very, very impressed indeed with Open Media Vault. Free software at its best.

Next task is to catalog and organise the zillions of photos and videos I have scattered around various cloud drives and external hard disks. Happily, I came across this nifty little utility, which seems to do it pretty much automagically. It’s worth springing the paltry 9 bucks to get the pro licence.

DIY NAS project

Quite by chance, I saw that Amazon was having a special on USB hard drives, and that was all the excuse I needed. For ages I’ve fancied having a bash at building a Raspberry Pi-based NAS for my home.

So, I have a 6TB drive and an RPi3 winging their way to me. The basic plan is to blast some OpenMediaVault onto the SD card, then set up the 6TB drive for SMB sharing and move all the baby photos and old DV cam footage off of the nine year old Buffalo NAS device and the array of USB drives and cloud services they’re currently scattered across.

I’ll write up how it all pans out.

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