Choice of OS: OpenSUSE

The first step in my quest for liberation is the choice of OS.
In the past few weeks I tried various kinds of GNU/Linux, to see how they perform nowadays.

A little and probably incomplete summary of my installation and user tests:

  • Arch Linux
  • Sabayon Linux
  • OpenSUSE
  • Fedora
  • Elementary OS
  • Gentoo Linux

The final verdict is that my choice of OS has become OpenSUSE Leap 42.1 using Gnome 3.16. Why? It just works!

My current PC setup is a 4k NVidia GTX960 and Dell P2715Q setup. Some distributions had some issues with it. Fedora 23 for example. The included was too new. Too new for the proprietary NVidia drivers to support. OMG!

Elementary OS was sooooo cool. But hey, they have some serious issues on 4k fullscreen video in their custom implementation. Lots of tearing.

Gentoo/Sabayon. Ok, but not very distinctive for workstation use.
Arch Linux. Same as Gentoo.  It performed well after the installation, but not worth the effort.

A big one I didn’t mention above, because I don’t wanted to test it, is Ubuntu. I think Canonical is an evil company like Google and Microsoft concerning user privacy. They have known spyware embedded in their Ubuntu OS. Both on the desktop and the phone/tablet version. Besided that, Ubuntu isn’t a company that contributes much to the community. Ah well. They did built Unity….the application that drove a wedge in the Gnome community.

OpenSUSE just works out of the box. Not a single glitch. I have warm feelings for OpenSUSE. My first Linux experience was in 1996 using a boxed version of S.u.S.E Linux 4.2. I loved it back then and I still love it.

Next time my journey continues. I will try to ditch all the online services that damage my privacy.

Back to Linux and owning my own data

Linux keeps pulling me. Since 1996 Linux and I had a relationship with ups and downs.
In the meantime I switched to between Mac, Windows and Linux. All this time it was about the quest finding the best operating system. Well..the best OS does not exist.
The last few years we all saw the uprise of Facebook, GoogleDocs, GoogleMaps, YouTube, Dropbox, Android, Whatsapp, Twitter, Pinterest and probably thousands more. All those services make your life easy, or add some fun to it.
All of these services are free or super cheap.

What do they have in common? Your pay for these services by using them, and providing those companies access to your data. Facebook for example studies your behaviour all the time, and experiments with you.
Take a look at THIS article.
If you feel you’re a lab rat and are fine with that. OK. Most users don’t read those license agreements and privacy statements.

Another example is Android. Sure it is an OS for you. For Google it is nothing more than a platform to spy on you, and leverage that data in their services. Take a look at Google Maps traffic information. Your Android phone makes this possible. You’ve become a traffic sensor. If you’re fine with that. OK. Most users don’t read those license agreements and privacy statements.

All those services are detrimental to our privacy and data ownership. Concerning data ownership, take a look at the Terms of Use of Instagram (a Facebook company).
Using Facebook you give them a license (which they may sub-license) to display your content in a different context.

Yes, yes. Windows 10. The new flagship from Microsoft. The Microsoft we all know is a software company. Since Dos 3 in the 80s they gained an enormous userbase. This means they did something right in the early days. The last few years, and especially since Satya Nadella, Microsoft is moving from a software company to a service provider. More and more it becomes a company like Google, and they are trying to do some Facebook-a-like business as well. What about Windows 10?
Windows 10 is becoming a platform to enable Microsoft services. A bit like Google Android. For my personal use I need an OS. I don’t need services I don’t need.
Nevertheless a few lines from the Windows 10 privacy statement:
“We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to protect our customers or enforce the terms governing the use of the services.”
That is a very broad spectrum of good faith you will need to trust Microsoft with your data. I don’t trust them too much.

All of the above concerns my personal use. At my work, I work all the time with Windows and other proprietary software. A concern is keeping my personal data strictly away from those systems. For me it is pretty easy, but a lot of users nowadays merge business and personal data and application use.

Enough talk.

I have decided to switch to a no-nonsense OS, and keep my data close to me.
In the coming weeks I will post my quest to liberate my data and my digital life.

Windows 10 IOT Core — Fail for now

Last saturday I received the Raspberry Pi 2. Loaded Windows 10 IOT Core on the SD card and booted it up! Wow that looks cool.
First thing I started is a Powershell session to the RPI! Haha very nice. But..hey wait..where is the FTDI support? FTDI…so basic, and so usefull for the IOT. Microsoft didn´t even take the effort to put something like this in their IOT flagship! Ok ok. The Windows 10 IOT Core is a preview version. I wait for the next release.

EzTemp&RH crowdfunding project

Today Eloísa Romero sent me an email presenting me her EzTemp&RH crowdfunding project.

20140912094736-EzTnRH_labeledI really like it. It takes away a lot of the hassle you encounter when measuring temperature and humidity. It also features some quite precise components, including an auxiliary connection for an additional sensor of your choice. Great for an Raspberry Pi!

Take a look at the projectsite.

Cresta TX320 longer antenna

Last week I bought 5 sensors of the type Cresta TX320 for my Domoticz system. Unfortunately they have a very weak transmitting signal strength. One HR++ glass pane and a concrete floor is too much to reach the RFXTRX433e transceiver. I removed the old internal antenna and exchanged it with a solid wire matching the length of 1/4 of the wavelength of the 433Mhz band. That is 17,3 cm from the PCB to the end of the wire.

Please note that I routed the whole antenna out of the top of the device. Routing it downward causes quite a lot of the signal strength to be absorbed by the batteries, which then are close to the antenna.

This setup still has a weal signal strength, but just enough to reach my transceiver.

Cresta TX320 with longer antenna

Cresta TX320 with longer antenna

Cresta TX320 with longer antenna

Cresta TX320 with longer antenna



Home Automation System – Part I

Last week I managed to get WiFi working on my Pi. Because yesterday my Slice of Pi arrived from Ciseco, I could continue building the heart of my Home Automation System (HAS).

The core of my HAS will be the Raspberry Pi. It will be connected using WiFi but communication between sensors and actuators inside the HAS will be done over 868Mhz using XRF modules. So today it was time to add an XRF module to the Pi using the newly arrived Slice of Pi, and an XRF radio I had in stock.

After assembly I installed Minicom on the Raspberry Pi, and connected to its serial port. Then I plugged in a SRF Stick in my Mac to check the connection using the handy tool “CoolTerm”. Everything turned out to be working. Very nice!

Please note that Raspbian has a getty on the serial port by default. So do remove it to get an interface to the XRF. Remove the references to ttyAMA0 from /boot/cmdLine.txt and /etc/inittab.

Next: Building a framework on the Raspberry Pi in Java which will be used for data retrieval and event triggering. Also have to decide which DBMS will be used on the Pi.

To be continued…..

Soldering the Slice of Pi

Finished soldering the Slice of Pi

Finished the assembly. One problem….the case can’t be closed anymore.

Casing fits after making a hole ;)

Cheap and green homelab – Part III

The last few weeks my homelab made a whole different turn. No ESXi, No Hyper-V, No XEN Server. I gave Proxmox a try, and I’m loving it. You get a fully functional and competing virtualisation environment for free. Yes, you can buy support subscriptions, but apart from that you get the whole package opposed to VMWare.

The web interface is pretty awesome. Taking over the console is easy and uses a small Java applet or Spice. This is a huge pre for Proxmox compared to ESXi and Hyper-V which require a Windows client for management purposes.

Give it a try. You’ll love it!

Raspberry Pi WiFi

Today I decided to buy myself a Raspberry Pi – Model B. Going to use it in my home automation system. Because the Pi doesn’t have WiFi onboard you’ll have to use a WiFi dongle. Still had a Sitecom N300X4 laying in the drawer. After trying some different setups, I now have a good one.

——– lsusb listing of the N300X4
Bus 001 Device 004: ID 0df6:0060 Sitecom Europe B.V. WLA-4000 802.11bgn [Ralink RT3072]

——– /etc/network/interfaces – wlan0 config
#allow-hotplug wlan0
auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet manual
wpa-roam /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf
iface default inet static

——– /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf – WPA2 WiFi
ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev

pairwise=CCMP TKIP

Ditching Ziggo VOIP

After Ziggo (my ISP) announced to stop (april 1st 2014) the free calls between Ziggo members, I decided to take a look at something different. The new offer of Ziggo is to pay them 9,95 Euros per month to get our free calls back. Huh? Free calls? !@*&^%$

Some calculations:
At the moment our subscription consists of a standard 9,95 Euro fee each month. No free minutes in that subscription, but because we mainly call other Ziggo members we get a lot of minutes for free that way. It was a selling point years ago.
An average month:

  • 205 minutes to other Ziggo members = 0 Euros
  • 80 minutes to non Ziggo members = 7,20 Euros

This brings the total of such a month to 17,15 Euros (standard fee + minutes).
As of the 1st of April I will pay them (at least they hope) 35,60 Euros (285 minutes at a 9 cent rate + standard fee). Ziggo, are you nuts?

Ah well, they have their great offer now. If I pay them 9,95 Euros (standard fee) plus an additional fee of 9,95 Euros, I get free calls to everyone. Free calls after paying 2,75 Euros extra each month. That’s not going to happen!

So I decided to take a look at some cheap VOIP providers. I don’t need you for my voice dialling Ziggo!

Looked at Skype, VOIPBuster but eventually ran into CheapConnect. A Dutch company offering VOIP for great rates. At MAX ICT I bought a Cisco SPA112 ATA which can convert VOIP to an analog signal my home telephone can use. This is because when I leave Ziggo VOIP, they won’t let me use the VOIP-port on their modem. 😉

Today I went to pickup my SPA112 and it turned out to be a good investment. Hooked the thing up to a test account at CheapConnect, and I started calling within 5 minutes. Good sound quality and excellent rates.

A calculation:

  • Voip In/Out account = 0,75 Euros per month (8,95 Euros per year)
  • 265 minutes = 6,30 Euros per month (0,0238 Euro per minute)

Compared to the Ziggo offering, this solution is 12,85 Euros per month cheaper! I should have done this much earlier.

Ok, lets be honest. I had to buy the SPA112 costing me 42 Euros, and I have to pay CheapConnect a one-time fee of 5 Euros to port my old number from Ziggo. That’s a one-time investment of 47 Euro which I will earn back in less than 4 months.

Ziggo, thank you! Thank you for trying to let people pay extra for free minutes. Thanks to you I will save 155 Euros each year!

Cheap and green ESXi homelab – Part II

After a week of giving several hypervisors a try, I came to the conclusion that Microsoft Hyper-V is my current preferred choice.

Why? ESXi seems to be an obvious choice, but VMWare is clearly taking the home labs out of business by silently making the VSphere Client obsolete. I also tried Citrix Xen Server. A nice product, but something simple like adding additional local storage can’t be done through the GUI. That’s just plain stupid, and I don’t like stupid products.

Currently I’m sticking with MS Hyper-V Server 2012R2. It’s free to use, and comes with a nice feature set. Setting up management in a workgroup environment can be a bit pain in the ass, but eventually it works quiet well. The Hyper-V Manager though is a bit error prone when working on a weak WiFi connection with lots of packet loss.

Today I bought a new WiFi router. It’s a Asus RT-N66U. It performs great even through my concrete floor. Ping times are stable around 3 ms and the throughput is 5 times faster than my old router.

Additional posts on this topic won’t be called “Cheap and green ESXi home lab”, because of the choice for Hyper-V. 😉