Computers Linux Mac

Unbrick a Netgear WNDR3300

I borrowed a brand new Netgear WNDR3300 from a colleague the other day. I quickly powered it up and accessed the internal configuration web page only to be met by the automatic update function which I hadn’t seen in previous Netgear wireless routers. Before I knew it I had mistakenly aborted the update and the router was more or less dead. The power LED just kept blinking, the router replied to ping but the configuration web page was nowhere to be seen.

I managed to solve the issue by downloading the firmware file from the Netgear site. It is a 3MB file with a .chk file extension.

I then uploaded the firmware using TFTP. The following step-by-step guide is from my Mac but should work on Linux. Start by connecting the wireless router to the computer but don’t power it up. Then open a terminal and type:

rexmt 1
timeout 60
put WNDR3300_V1.0.29_1.0.29NA.chk

Directly after the last line you should then power up the WNDR3300 and wait. Hopefully it will pick up the firmware file from the TFTP client. Once the file has been transferred it will take a few minutes while the router flashes its memory with the new firmware. This is normal. Just wait and hopefully you will have your wireless router back.

Computers Gadgets Linux

Track your whereabouts with a Nokia phone

This is a follow-up article to a previous story on how to use the GPS in a Nokia phone. The last article described how to use a Python script to query the phone on the position. In this article we will add to the Python script to make it also dispatch position reports as UDP packets as well as a server script that saves the data to a sqlite3 database which is then used to display a web page with a map. The end result will look something like this:


All files are contained in the attached file at the end of this article. The server scripts have been written for Ubuntu 8.04 but will no doubt work on other distributions. Please note that you will need to install a couple of packages (php-sqlite3, php5-sqlite3 and libdbd-sqlite3-perl) to make the scripts run. The various scripts assume that they are all placed in the same location (i.e. in the web site folder). Read the security section below to ensure that the scripts are not publicly available.

Client script
The script ‘’ should be copied to the phone according to the instructions in the previous article. Before copying it to the phone it must be edited. You will want to change the server host, the port and the secret.

Sqlite3 database
The data is kept in a sqlite3 database. The initial database is created by running the script Do not run that script again as it will completely wipe the database.

Server script
Edit the file ‘’ and set the port number (line 8 ) and the secret (in the regexp on line 23) to the same values that you set in the client script. The server is then started by running the server script ‘./ &’. Add the command to /etc/rc.local if you want it to start automatically when the server is restarted.

Web pages
Create a web site and point the document root to the folder where you put the files. Then reload the server.

Start the script
Finally, start the script on the phone and wait for it to acquire a GPS fix. This should cause the new position to be reflected on the web page.

As mentioned above it a wise thing to prevent access to the script files if they are located in the same folder as the web pages. The easiest is to add an .htaccess file in the web folder with the following content:

<FilesMatch "\.(db|pl|sh|py)$">
Deny from all


Computers Linux

Ruby on Rails application could not be started

If you try to run an application with Passenger (mod_rails) and get the error “No such file or directory – /nonexistent” it could be due to some files in the Rails application being owned by root. To fix the issue just change the owner to some other user.


Computers Linux

Acerfand crashes Acer Aspire One 110

I have an Acer Aspire One 110 Ab that I have upgraded with 1 GB RAM (for a total of 1.5 GB) as well as upgrading the BIOS to version 3309.

Before upgrading the BIOS, which was done in an attempt to improve the stability of 802.11 networking, the acerfand program worked wonders to keep the fan running as little as possible.

Once I upgraded the BIOS to 3309 the acerfand program no longer worked. Instead of turning the fan off the fan was running at full speed for a second every other second.

On March 14th, version 0.07 of acerfand was released and I tried it out in the hope that it would fix the fan issue for by BIOS version. While it did turn off the fan, it caused the computer to reboot after a few minutes. Clearly, this was even worse than the alternative.

I did some trial and error and changed the value 0x20 to 0x21 (two places) for the 3309 specific values. In other words, roughly half-way down in the file, my acerfand file now looks like this:

	#change: handle 3309 seperate 0xAF -> 0x20

This has completely solved the issue. The fan now stays off as long as the temperature is below 70 degrees Celsius. The rest of the time (which is virtually always) it is dead silent. Case closed. For now.

Computers Linux

Target fix for Statpress Reloaded

Statpress Reloaded by Manuel Grabowski is a nice and simple plugin that helps to keep track of the hit rate to WordPress blogs and is something I personally use it for this site.


Apart from the fact that the plugin is a bit slow it miscalculates the monthly target hit rates. This has been mentioned to the plugin maintainer but until that fix gets added, here is a short description and fix.

The following sections in statpress.php are repeated in four places and is used to normalise the number of hits so far this month over the entire month.

/ date("d", current_time('timestamp')) * date('d', mktime(0, 0, 0, date('m', current_time('timestamp'))+1, 0, date('Y', current_time('timestamp'))))

However, this uses entire days which leads to incorrect results. The error is more predominant early in the month and early in the days.

I have replaced the above segment (four instances) with this:

/ (time() - mktime(0,0,0,date('m'),date('1'),date('Y'))) * 86400 * date('t')

This uses seconds since the beginning of month as the basis for normalisation which is more precise. It is not perfect – among other things it will fail exactly on midnight on the first of each month due to a divide by zero.

Computers Linux

Increase upload size to Drupal site

If you run a Drupal site and want to upload big files you may have run into the default file size limit of 1 MB. While this is probably fine for most blogs it is way too small for most intranet deployments.

The limit for PHP is by default set to 2 MB for file uploads.

To increase this to 10 MB, add the following to the .htaccess file in your Drupal directory or to the Apache site definition:

php_value upload_max_filesize 10M
php_value post_max_size 20M

More information can be found here.

Computers Linux

Using Drupal to run an intranet

I have been looking for ways to replace a Sharepoint driven intranet with something else. The driving force behind this has mainly been one of platform compatibility. Sharepoint is great if you use Office and Internet Explorer on Windows. For all other users it is a usability nightmare.

There are lots of hosted or shrink-wrapped solutions for sale but the market of intranet solutions is now so mature that I felt there had to be open source solutions.

I found Alfresco, LifeRay and a few others and installed most of them. I was perplexed, however, by the sheer amount of features that were enabled out of the box. I really prefer something that starts off light and can then expand according to my needs. KnowledgeTree felt lighter but didn’t do much more than document management and I knew I also wanted a wiki as well as forums.

For a while I tried to integrate KnowledgeTree with MediaWiki and phpBB for a best-of-breeds solution. I couldn’t get all of the them to play nicely together and allow users to authenticate using accounts from a Windows Active Directory.


In the end I settled on Drupal. Why? It starts off light but has a truck-load of modules that can be added. I like the structure of the code. And it feels fresh – perhaps almost too light. I would have liked to see some professional free themes targeted for intranets, they would have helped to sell in the concept internally in competition with professional offerings.

The question of the authentication integration with Active Directory was solved very nicely by the module “Webserver authentication” and adding HTTP authentication to the web site in Apache where the web server is configured to use the bindings provided by Samba‘s WinBind. The only thing to remember is to set the Drupal administrator to the the same login name as the administrator in the Windows domain. After that you should disable the log out menu option in Drupal. The only thing remaining is to add some Javascript code to be able to provide a link to make the browser forget the cookie in order to force a relogin.

Computers Linux

Accessing an Oracle database from Perl

In the previous post I described how to install the Oracle Database 10g Express Edition on Ubuntu and to add some data. In this article I will show how to access that data from a Perl script.

I assume you already have Perl installed, together with the DBI framework for generic database support. We will need to add DBD::Oracle which is available from CPAN. To install this module, run this as root:

# perl -MCPAN -e shell
cpan> install DBD::Oracle

Two things are worth noting. First, the root user must have the same Oracle environment set as described in the previous article. Just issue ‘source /usr/lib/oracle/xe/app/oracle/product/10.2.0/server/bin/’ to fix that. The second thing to note is that you will most likely get errors during testing of the newly built module which will prevent it from being installed. To override that you will need to add ‘force’ before the command, i.e.:

cpan> force install DBD::Oracle

Now, the groundwork is done and we just need to write the script. Save this in and make it executable.

#!/usr/bin/perl -w
use strict;
use DBI;
my $dbh = DBI->connect( 'dbi:Oracle:xe',
      ) || die "Database connection not made: $DBI::errstr";

my $sql = qq{ SELECT id,name,age FROM persons };
my $sth = $dbh->prepare($sql);
my($id, $name, $age);
$sth->bind_columns(\$id, \$name, \$age);

print "List of persons:\n";
while( $sth->fetch() ) {
    print "$name [$age]\n";
Computers Linux

Oracle under Ubuntu

I am a rather proficient user of MySQL but I recently needed to set up an Oracle database to test against. Since I haven’t worked with Oracle databases in more than ten years it took literally hours to get something up and running. What follows is a description on how to install Oracle XE on Ubuntu 8.10, add a user, create a table and then drop the created schema. Everything will be done from the command line.

Note that this installs the Oracle Database 10g Express Edition. Although free it comes with similar constraints as the Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Express server – maximum 4 GB data, use maximum 1 GB of RAM and run on maximum 1 CPU.

First, add the Oracle repositories by appending the following two lines to /etc/apt/sources.lst

# Oracle Repository

deb unstable main non-free

Then, we must add the Oracle key to avoid warnings:

wget -O- | sudo apt-key add -

Now we are ready to install by using apt-get (either run the following as root or prepend every line with sudo)

# apt-get update
# apt-get install oracle-xe oracle-xe-client
# /etc/init.d/oracle-xe configure

The last command will present options to change some default settings. you can probably use most of the defaults. I just changed the HTTP port from 8080 since I already had another service running on that port. Note that the configuration script takes a very long time to finish.

When the script is finished it is possible to access the Oracle web interface at (or some other port if you changed the default). However, it will only be accessible on the local host. If you are installing on a headless remote server like me you can port-forward using SSH:

$ ssh -L 8080: user@host

Or, you can remove this limitation as described further below.

Next step will be to add the Oracle environment to your shell. The installation will have added scripts to set up the environment under /usr/lib/oracle/xe/app/oracle/product/10.2.0/. There are actually two scripts: server/bin/ and client/bin/ I don’t think it matters which one but it makes more sense to use the one under ‘server’.

Append this to your .bash_profile file:

. /usr/lib/oracle/xe/app/oracle/product/10.2.0/server/bin/

Then log out and back in – or run ‘source .bash_profile’.

Now it is time to log onto the system:

$ sqlplus system@localhost 

If you would have logged on remotely you would have written ‘sqlplus system@host’ – but we haven’t enabled remote access yet.

Type the password you selected during installation. At the SQL prompt, enter:


Now it is time to add the first user. Save the following to a file (oracle_create.sql).

-- oracle_create.sql
GRANT CREATE session, CREATE table, CREATE view, 
    CREATE procedure, CREATE synonym TO myrole;
GRANT myrole TO scott;
-- Switch user
CONNECT scott@localhost/tiger;
CREATE TABLE persons (
	id int,
	name varchar2(32),
	age number
	(id, name, age)
	VALUES (1, 'Joe', 35);
	(id, name, age)
	VALUES (2, 'Mary', 32);

You can then create the user and populate the table by running:

$ sqlplus system@localhost
> @oracle_create
> SELECT * FROM persons;

The ampersand indicates that SQL statements should be read from a file. Since the file ends with .sql the extension does not have to be stated. Please note the connect statement in the SQL file. This means that after that point we will be running as the user scott.

To drop everything we have created run the following:

$ sqlplus system@localhost
> drop user scott cascade;
> drop role myrole;
Computers Linux

Configure postfix to use smart host

My ISP filters outgoing SMTP traffic so to be able to run a mail server running at home I need to use the ISPs SMTP server to relay outgoing email. If they would have allowed open relaying from their customers I could just have set their SMTP server as ‘relayhost’ in /etc/postfix/ and be done with it.

However, they require that I authenticate to their SMTP server which complicates matter slightly. This is how I did it:

  1. Create a password file, assigning username and password to SMTP relay hosts. Create the file /etc/postfix/relay_password and edit it to have the following content (replace the hostname with whatever relay host your ISP is providing and use your password and login) :
  2. Change permissions for the credentials file and create a map file

    # chown root:root /etc/postfix/relay_password
    # chmod 600 /etc/postfix/relay_password
    # postmap /etc/postfix/relay_password
  3. Update postfix configuration

    relayhost = []
    smtp_sasl_auth_enable = yes
    smtp_sasl_password_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/relay_password
  4. Restart postfix

    # /etc/init.d/postfix restart
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