Sunday, October 30, 2016

Google Opinion Rewards

One day at lunch a former co-worked asked me if I used Google Opinion Rewards. I hadn't heard of it. I found it in the Play Store and installed it.

Surveys pop up in the notifications bar and you can ignore them by swiping them away or clicking on them and taking the survey.

Upon completion Google gives you a nominal award of Google Play credit. Most run less than 50¢ but add up quickly.

Here are a couple of the recent surveys offered to me.

Thansks to for the gifs.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Not UPnP

If you don't read Krebs on Security you should. Recently his website was attacked by the largest Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack ever seen. Investigation showed that it was powered by infected Internet of Things (IoT) devices, mostly media devices.

Subsequently he wrote a post on "Who Makes the IoT Things Under Attack?"

To me the key point in this post was:
...many IoT devices will use a technology called Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) that will automatically open specific virtual portholes or “ports,” essentially poking a hole in the router’s shield for that device that allows it to be communicated with from the wider Internet.
If you don't know what Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is go read the wikipedia article here.

But that article is long and dry. The problem with UPnP is finally described here:
NAT traversal One solution for NAT traversal, called the Internet Gateway Device Protocol (IGD Protocol), is implemented via UPnP. Many routers and firewalls expose themselves as Internet Gateway Devices, allowing any local UPnP control point to perform a variety of actions, including retrieving the external IP address of the device, enumerate existing port mappings, and add or remove port mappings. By adding a port mapping, a UPnP controller behind the IGD can enable traversal of the IGD from an external address to an internal client.
Now read that again.
Many routers and firewalls ... allowing any local UPnP control point to ... add or remove port mappings.
Do you realize how BAD that is?

But the solution is easy. In your router just disable UPnP.

Do it NOW.

Update: Listen to Security Now 583

Update 2: I told you - Connections are allowed into the device from the outside world via UPnP.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How to Turn Off LTE

There is currently a situation involving BlackBerry PRIVs and various mobile networks. The symptom is that your phone displays "No Service" and you have to reboot to restore service.

Along the way, I came across a technique to disable LTE and leave HSPA enabled.

LTE is a notorious consumer of battery and HSPA typically yields around 10Mbps down so even without the "No Service" issue turning off LTE is probably worth considering.

First go to the Dialer. Enter *#*#4636#*#*.

As soon as you enter the final asterisk, your phone should display a "Testing" menu.

Tap on "Phone Info".

The 4G LTE Switch app in the Play Store will take you directly to this menu. Scroll down until you see "Set preferred network type:"

Just below that you'll see the current network type, probably "LTE/GSM auto (PRL)" and a little "twistie" over to the right. Remember what that value is so you can reset to that if needed.

Tap on that "twistie."

Scroll through the resulting menu.

Tap on "GSM auto (PRL)". Now tap on the back button until you exit this menu. Don't just tap the home button.

Here's the download speed I'm getting.

You may have to repeat this after you restart your phone.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Insteon Smarthome

My daughter came up with an idea to have her outside lights turn on at sunset and turn off at bedtime. That sounded simple until I tried to actually do it.

I found switches that actually had an embedded processor that you told the latitude and longitude and the time and it calculated sunset/sunrise.

That seemed straightforward but it was not to be.

She added an additional requirement that she wanted to be able to turn them on from her bed. That complicated it tremendously. Now the switches had to be networked.

Well, this did simplify the timing. The clock/timing could be managed centrally and the switches could just be sent on and off commands.

What I found was's Insteon system.

The switches would fit in a regular plate.

They could be managed by a controller.

Let's just say "Don't do that." Smarthome replaced the Controller with their Hub.

Smarthome has an app that controls the Hub.

That seemed so simple. It wasn't.

Thankfully the 3 circuits involved were all single switched circuits. 3-way circuits are much harder.

So I removed the old switches and installed the Insteon switches. After lots of reading manuals and a couple of calls to Smarthome's support (actually pretty good) I got 2 of the 3 working.

To net it out, the switch that wasn't working was on a different leg of the breaker box. I had an electrician come out and move the breaker for the non-working circuit to the "right" place.

He didn't understand it either. He just moved it around in the breaker box and it was still on a different leg.

So I started looking for alternative ways to bridge the legs.

I found a Range Extender that bridges the legs.

Smarthome said you had to use the Range Extenders in pairs but I read the documentation closely and decided that the Hub would act as the other member of the pair. I moved from receptacle to receptacle around the house until the light turned green and I was done!

Total elapsed time - 18 months!

Then she moved. I inherited the parts and pieces and moved them to my house where they worked fine the first time.

I'm so satisfied that I have expanded my system with a lamp module.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Disconnect Windows 10 From Microsoft Account

Ok, so I've done it TWICE. That is I have twice inadvertently associated my Microsoft ID with my Windows 10 instance. When (not if) you do this, here's how to unassociate your Microsoft ID.

The best instructions I have found are here. I have cleaned up the language a little. This is for Windows 10 1507 so the screens may be slightly different.
  1. Firstly, setup another admin account so that you have a way in if things go wrong.
  2. Next, save all your work because it may lock your mouse/screen and won't let you save your work at the end of this process.
  3. Then, go to your start button
  4. Go up to the top and click on your profile name/account
  5. Then click "change account settings"
  6. In the "your account" tab, just above your account picture there will be an option to select a button saying "log on using local account" or "change log on to local account" (something along these lines)
  7. Click this and it will give you an opportunity to (from now on) log onto your computer using a new password that IS NOT linked to your Hotmail or Microsoft account.
  8. Then when you use the admin as the account name, it will complain that the account is already in use. So use a different name, say tmp.
  9. It will ask you to save your work and logout (but may not give you a chance to save. Proceed to finish the process/logout.
  10. Now login to an admin account (either the new "tmp" account if it was administrator or the other one that you created). 
  11. Go to control panel, user accounts and eventually find the setting to rename an account.
  12. Rename the tmp account (now delinked from online account) back to the name it was.
  13. Logout and back in.
  14. You are set.
Worked for me, twice.