Monday, January 14, 2019

Useful things every parent should carry (EDC for Parents)

Everyday carry (EDC) has a bad rap.  Those who "practice" are either doomsday 'preppers', have a peculiar fascination with the subject in and of itself, or both.  Both approaches come off as crazy.

Still, here are some items that I think are useful for any parent of small(er) children to always have around when you're out and about:

1.  A keychain flashlight, like a Nitecore Tube.  I've spent more time looking around dark schoolyards, classrooms, gyms, etc. for mittens, hats, toys and water bottles than I care to recall.

2.  A tiny pair of folding scissors.  I've lost track of the number of tags, threads, etc. I've cut off with these.  I like the old, crappy bent-metal kind.

3.  An ordinary plastic shopping bag.  Good for unexpected school / daycare crafts, projects, gifts, books, homework, etc. etc..

4.  Big Band-aids; better for larger scrapes at the playground or camping.  (Or small ones, at least.)

5.  Spare change or small bills.  Good for those "I forgot I needed a dollar for school today" problems.

6.  A safety pin.  Good for last-second / emergency / temporary fixes to special clothes/costumes, bags, backpacks, etc.

7.  A small comb or brush.  Very useful for school photo day, school plays, special occasions, or whenever your kid looks embarrassing.

8.  A spare blank check.  Very useful when you have to sign up for something today, either because you forgot or didn't see/get the notice.

These range from very cheap to practically free.

A little duct tape doesn't hurt, if you don't mind taking the time to:

-  Find/buy some flat duct tape;
-  Find/buy a small, portable roll; or
-  Wind some around a spindle yourself.  I recommend using an eye lag screw, which is the kind used for drop ceilings.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Samsung Galaxy S9 / S9+ suddenly stops making phone calls after firmware update

Situation:  You've had a Galaxy S9 or S9+ for a long time with no issues.  You have not installed any new apps recently.  No app updates have occurred.

However, after a Samsung firmware update, the phone will (very frustratingly) no longer make voice calls.  It will attempt to dial and give up after 10-30 seconds without ringing through. 

Booting to safe mode does not help, but does remove all your widgets.  (ARGH!)

Possible solution:  The firmware update has enabled voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) calling support, but your carrier / access point doesn't support/allow for it.

To fix, go to Connections -> Mobile networks -> VoLTE calls and disable VoLTE calling.

You should be especially suspicious of this feature if you are using a femtocell or cell phone boost device.  These devices probably don't support the newer VoLTE feature.

Oh, and hey to Google - F-you for removing all my widgets in Safe Mode.  My God, you couldn't have saved their previous state somewhere to restore afterwards?  Seriously, that is SO HARD?

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Difficult-to-answer questions on the Insta360 One X 360 degree action camera

Here are some of the questions I found it difficult to answer regarding the (relatively) new Insta360 One X action camera.  That is, they required more research than I would have thought necessary.

Many of these relate to indefinite shooting outdoors.  This involves the use of an external power source, as well as waterproofing / weather protection.  The primary application is filming motorcycling in uncertain weather conditions, where it is not practical to stop and dismount the camera every time there is a drop of rain.

For reference, on my last trip, we were rained on for 11 hours straight returning home.  We were utterly soaked, and any non-waterproof camera would have been ruined.

External Power

Q:  Where is the damn USB port?

A:  It's on the left side of the camera, near the base.  See here.

Q:  What kind of USB port is it?

A:  It's a micro USB.  The camera comes with a short USB-A to micro-USB adapter cable.

Q:  Does the One X charge and operate from an external power source?

A:  Yes, it does.  The camera will charge and operate from external power, allowing indefinite shooting times.

(Reference here, here, here.)

Q:  Will the camera run without the battery on an external power source?

A:  All sources say NO, but this user was able to use the One X with no internal battery on an XT power bank. 

Q:  What current capacity is required for the external power source?

A:  I read one reference - which I can no longer locate - that stated you needed a 2A source.  Lesser sources may not fully supply the camera and result in the battery running down even though it is plugged in.

Note that many external USB battery packs are limited to an output current below 2A.  These types of packs may not fully power the One X.

There are references to a similar problem affecting the Sony FDR-X3000, which is a non-360 action cam.  So, though I don't understand the behavior, it is evidently possible.

Admittedly, this one does not make sense.  As the 1200 mAh battery lasts 30-60 minutes, one would expect a 20-40 mA draw - not a 2A draw.  Even accounting for "bursty" current consumption when writing to the SD, 2A seems excessive.

Plus the camera would likely overheat at such draws, which it does not, and users would likely be complaining that some battery packs don't work, which they are not.

(This reference cites the battery chargers at 2A, but that is not the same thing.  Obviously you want to charge the batteries as quickly as reasonably possible, but that has nothing to do with camera current draw.)

Q:  Does the software stitch out the USB cable?

A:  Surprisingly, it seems it (mostly) can.  Not quite fully, but the cable is mostly invisible.  At worst, it should be quite easy to work around.

I would recommend using a right-angle plug and taping / arranging the cable directly to the body of the camera in order to minimize exposure, as shown in this video.

Astute viewers will note the bike owner used a USB cable with a fat ferrite core near the plug.  This was actually the USB adapter cable that ships with the camera (see 3:30 of this unboxing video), to which he presumably added a USB extension cable.  Even with this relatively giant core, the One X software eliminates nearly all of it.

One should be able to get a lower-profile USB cable third-party, in which case it might be fully stitched out.  The ferrite will be unnecessary since the longer cable will (presumably) only be used for power, and not data transfer.

(Sample video here.)

Note that all videos from "A Bike Thing" shows his bike lights strobing.  This is an artifact of the video recording process, and is not happening in real life.

Venture Case / Dive Case

Q:  Does the Venture Case / Dive Case include a 1/4" tripod mount?

A:  Yes, they both do.  The Dive has a 1/4" socket built-in, while the Venture has a GoPro-like mount with the socket at the base.

Presumably this is so the Venture can be used with the various existing GoPro mounts on the market, as well as allowing relatively easy removal/replacement.  There is no need for these capabilities with the Dive Case since you don't need quick R&R underwater.

Q:  Does the software fully eliminate the Venture Case from the footage?

A:  Yes.  However, stitch lines may become slightly more prominent.

Note you must select the software option to stitch for the Venture Case, or else the case will be visible.  See this video for an example of what happens if you stitch incorrectly.  (I do not know if this occurs in camera or in post.)

(Reference here.   Sample videos here, here, and here.)

Q:  Does the software fully eliminate the Dive Case from the footage?

A:  No - the base of the Dive Case is still visible, and you have to work around it - that is, you will need to avoid pointing the perspective at the bottom of the camera.  Otherwise the case is fully invisible.

If you hold the stick a bit low, it is still possible to get a clear view of the operator (i.e. yourself, the diver) during your dive.

(Reference here.  Sample videos here, here, here, here, here. If video links don't work, see original Facebook post here.)

Q:  Can you use an external power plug with the Venture Case?

A:  No, as there is no opening in the Venture Case for an external power plug.

If you want to do this, you'll have to drill a hole in the Venture Case and somehow seal up the opening.  There are no known examples of anyone doing this (yet).

Hopefully Insta will come up with a Venture Case that includes an optional port that mates to a waterproof USB cable, like the X-PWR system for the GoPro.  No comparable system yet exists for the Insta360 One X.

For those interested in such modifications, see this video for how the Venture Case operates.  The camera battery compartment is on the latch side of the case, while the USB port is on the hinge side of the case.

There are no good views, but it may be possible to permanently mount a USB cable into the Venture Case and seal it up with silicone, while still allowing the camera to be inserted and removed.  This is not confirmed.

(Reference here.)

Q:  Can you use an external power plug with the Dive Case?

A:  No.  For obvious reasons, modifying the case for this capability is not recommended, as the resulting hole will never be able to seal against water pressure.

Dive time is typically limited to 45-50 minutes, at the most, due to tank limitations (novices or especially active swimmers may get only 30 minutes).  Only experience will tell if the 30-60 minute battery of the One X will be enough to handle an entire dive.

(Reference here.)

Q:  Does the Dive / Venture Case support a TF card extension cable?

A:  This is not mentioned by Insta and is unknown / unsupported.  In theory, the camera will not know that there is an extension cable, but the speed of the card might be compromised.

The thin profile of the extension cable may allow the Venture to seal even with the cable poking out; in practice, your mileage may vary.

The Dive case is unlikely to seal well under water with a TF cable poking out.

SD Card / Recording Time

Q:  What kind of SD card do I need?

A:  You need a microSD card of V30 speed class or better, formatted to exFAT (FAT64).  Inferior cards will not be able to handle the data dump from the camera.

Some sources claim the One X has an unlimited card size, but Insta states that the maximum size is limited to 128 Gb.

Note that microSD and TF (originally known as TransFlash) cards are functionally identical.

An excellent rundown of recommended and compatible cards can be found here.  Other recommendations here.

Q:  How big of an SD card do I need for my recording time?

A:  Without a camera in-hand this can only be estimated.

The One X (at 5.7k) has a data rate in between that of the original One (4k, 8.125 MB/s) and the Pro (8k, 43.75 MB/s).  Various sources list it as 100 mbps (12.5 Mb/s) or 2 streams of 60 mbps.

Anecdotal estimates place a 60 minute video at 43 Gb, indicating that actual bitrate is closer to 100 mbps.

Assuming about 100 mbps, that is approximately 12.5 MB/s, 750 Mb/min, or 45 Gb/hr.  Giving recording times of:

-  32 Gb card:  42 minutes
-  64 Gb card:  1 hour 25 minutes
-  128 Gb card:  2 hours 50 minutes

Unfortunately, this video shows an actual One X, set to 5.7k, with a 32 Gb card, having an estimated recording time of 30 minutes, not 42 minutes.  64 Gb and 128 Gb cards would top out at 1 hour and 1.5 hours, respectively.  Suffice to say that extended recording in 5.7k is really not possible.

This seems to be typical of 360 cameras.  This Gear360 shot (reference here) shows a 4k Gear using a 128 Gb card having a 4 hour recording time, rather than the predicted 4.7 hour time.  The One X would probably get the same 4 hours when set to 4k.

IF the One X supported 256 Gb and 512 Gb cards - which it seemingly does not - the recording times would be about 5.5 hours and 11 hours, respectively.  These would be suitable for all-day touring, and cards are not even that expensive.

It is unknown if the camera will actually function with such cards, or if a firmware update may come that enables large-card support.  If one was being uncharitable, one might suspect that Insta deliberately limited the recording time to push users towards the far more expensive Pro models.

Note that 360 Rumors stated that the recording time was limited by file size to 30 minutes.  This was apparently fixed by a firmware update.

Time-lapse video should substantially extend this time, provided you want time-lapse at all.  There is an example of a 6 hour time-lapse video, shot with unknown settings on a 128 Gb card.

This video shows an actual One X with a 32 Gb card allowing 5,500 JPG (not RAW) photos when set to 18 MP.   However, the camera appears to take 2 shots per photo, doubling the storage per shot.  That's 45 minutes at 1 second intervals, or 3 hours 49 minutes at 5 second intervals, when doing time-lapse in photo mode.

That's with a relatively puny 32 Gb card, and using JPG.  RAW and larger cards will obviously change this.

Q:  Can I use an SSD instead of an SD card?

A:  There is no indication anywhere that the One X supports an SSD.  To get that, you need to pony up $5k for a Pro model.


Q:  How does the Bluetooth remote work?

A:  Sample video here.

Q:  What does timelapse look like?

A:  Sample video here.

Q:  What do embedded statistics / GPS overlays look like?

A:  Sample videos here, here and here.

The camera must be wirelessly connected to a phone - or, maybe, the new GPS remote - to receive GPS data while filming.  This will cut battery life.

There is little data available on how the GPS overlay works.  I don't know if the overlays are added post, or are embedded in the video in real time.  Which is, I don't know if they can be optionally added after or are forever embedded in your video.

An idea for an alternative waterproof / weatherproof case is here.

Other references:

Insta360 One X on motorcycle
Insta360 One X motorcycle mount example
More motorcycle mounting options
Philip Bloom review of One X 
A good critical video comparing the One X to the GoPro Fusion
A good critical video on what is / was wrong with the One X

Special thanks to:

- Steve at A Bike Thing for his helpful series of videos on using the Insta360 One X for motorcycling.

360 Rumors for what is possibly the most complete information source on the One X available today.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

LiPo batteries for Nerf Modulus ECS-10 blaster

I have an ECS-10 in my basement, but it's for an Xmas present.  So I don't want to unpack and measure it (yet).

Note: this information applies, in a limited way, to the Stryfe.  The Modulus ECS-10 has additional extra space under the battery tray; the Stryfe (apparently) does not.   Stryfe owners have the option to buy an extended (deeper) battery cover - Modulus owners do not.

Also note this assumes you remove the stock ECS battery tray completely.

See this video for a good look at ECS-10 disassembly and internals.  Also see this video for how to wire a plug.

If you don't understand the battery specs below, see this video.

Voltage: 7.4V (2S) for stock motors; 11.1V (3S) for some upgraded motors.  If in doubt, go 2S.

Current:  Higher C rate is better.  But unless you are truly hardcore, anything over 25C is likely fine.

I have to mention many people get C discharge rate wrong.  The discharge rate is the number times the capacity of the battery.  That is "20C" on a 1500 mAh cell is 20 * 1500 mAh = 30A.  20C is not 20A!

This means that batteries with bigger capacities will tend to have lower C rates, but can still deliver high currents.

Capacity:  Well, bigger is better, duh.  Price is proportional, of course.  No one knows how many shots/mAh you can expect.

Size:  The ECS-10 takes four AA batteries in a tray which is clearly a simple boxSuch a holder is typically 109 x 31 x 15mm minimum

Length is fixed by the blaster.  Say, 110mm limit.

Width: Batteries are max 14.5mm in diameter (call it 15) plus three 1mm walls, so call it 33mm
Maybe another 1-2mm by shaving the edges of the blaster, so 35 max?.

Depth is uncertain, 15mm for a battery, 1mm wall, plus another couple in the blaster.  Say, 18mm? 

Tons of room for plugs and wiring around that area, no need to add any space for those.

Add a little margin, we have 109mm x 33mm x 16mm(-ish).  I've seen someone fit a 34mm wide pack in without difficulty, but their blaster had shaved edges around the battery tray location.  35 miiiight just fit.

Plug:  As you install your own plug into the Modulus, it's dealers choice.  Make sure the balancing plug is compatible with your charger!

Some prefer XT60 or T-plug over JST, arguing the JST is not rated for the current.  However, the limit is really the temperature rating of the connector, which is 85*C and well beyond most hobby applications.

My experience with the WLToys L959 buggy indicates that JSTs do fine and do not get even barely warm, so I'm confident JST is OK.  If concerned, go with T-plug / Deans plug (50A) or XT60 (60A).

Wire:  All cells will come with appropriate wire.  The wires are very short and therefore very low resistance, and highly unlikely to heat up on anything other than a dead short.  Experience with JST-equipped 1500 mAh packs in L959 bear this out.

For the same reasons, I do not believe that upgraded wire in the Nerf is required regardless of what you do, but I've not tested it personally.

The following batteries have been reported to fit the Modulus ECS-10:

Turnigy 1000 mAh 2S 30C (73 x 34 x 15, 30A peak) [Ref, Link (Hobbyking)]
Turnigy nano-tech 1800 2S 25C (103 x 35 x 13, 45A peak) [Ref, Link (Hobbyking)]
Turnigy Graphene 950 mAh 2S 65C (72 x 26 x 15, 58A peak) [Ref, Ref 2, Link (Hobbyking), Link (Amazon)]
Turnigy 800 mAh 2S 20C (55 x 30 x 18, 16A peak)

Also several Zippy Compact cells, but I don't have model numbers.

Turnigy Graphene 1300 mAh 3S 45C (75 x 36 x 27, 58A peak) [Ref, Link (Hobbyking)]  <- May be too deep, YMMV.

This would make the peak size about 108 x 34 (or 35) x 18mm.   (I'm leaving out the 3S cell, above, as I don't believe a 27mm deep cell will fit a Modulus.)

For cheaper options, look at NFStrike or Banggood.  Note Banggood can have problems shipping due to upgraded regulations on shipping lithium batteries.

I wanted my packs to do double duty in my L959 and L969 RC vehicles.  Maximum dimensions for the RCs is 84 x 35 x 18mm.  I prefer T plug (a.k.a. Deans plug) because my chargers and L969 are T-plug. 

So my packs have to be 84 x 34 x 18mm, max.

HobbyKing has a selector that will let you search their lipo cells by size - go hereHere are my results using the dimensions above.

My first choices (not yet actually verified to fit my ECS-10s):

Zop 1500 mAh from Banggood.  (Perfect, but they can't currently ship to Canada.)
Turnigy nano-tech 1300 mAh 2S 20C from HobbyKing.

1400 mAh from NFStrike, which is half the cost of the Turnigy.
Other 1400 mAh from NFStrike.

1300 mAh seems to be the limit for brand-name packs.  The Zop and NFStrike cells ratings are probably exaggerated, but probably not enough so I'd notice.

I will likely buy the Turnigy nano-tech 1300 mAh 2S 20C from HobbyKing.  Mostly because it is 34mm and most likely to fit the ECS-10.  Other packs are 35mm and I just don't know if it will fit.


-  NFStrike usually has a 10% off coupon.

-  Hobbyking has $50 free ship to Canada, but only from USA warehouse (not Global Warehouse).  That can save you $20-$30 overall, and may make a more expensive battery cheaper than a less expensive battery.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

First impressions: Seidio Surface Combo vs. Encased Rebel on Galaxy S9+

Big fan of Seidio cases, but not that thrilled with the Surface for the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus.  I decided to try an Encased Rebel instead.

Construction:  Both two part outer hard shells with one-part inner liners.  If you don't like this, tough - it seems it's the only option these days for the larger phones.  Seidio liner is a little thinner.

Size:  Seidio is a little slimmer.  The holsters are not interchangeable due to the difference in thickness.

Fit:  Seidio case halves slide on easily - so easily, in fact, that the bottom half has detached and started to come off the case five times already.  The Encased has more friction, making it more of a job to take on and off, but no risk it will spontaneously come apart.

(Yes, the Seidio does have a "latch" to keep the case halves together.  It doesn't work well.  I was considering using double-sided tape to keep it from falling apart.)

Appearance:  Seidio is "smooth" and "soft-touch" plastic, and looks smeary.  Encased Rebel is neither and looks cleaner (so far).  Seidio is very slightly spiffier with the silver kickstand.

Grip:  Seidio "soft-touch" plastic is low friction and hard to grip.  This was is the first thing that put me off the Surface case as I always feel like I'm going to drop it.  It's hard to describe but it is definitely low friction.

The Encased is barely better on the back with a slightly textured feel, but includes rib-n-groove sides that greatly increase the grippability of the phone.  Overall a good improvement, IMHO.

Drop protection:  Didn't test.  I expect they're nearly identical.

Holster:  Seidio holster is a touch easier to lock/unlock, but I don't expect it will make a difference long term.  Seidio clip is more aggressive and less likely to accidentally come off, Encased less so and more likely to accidentally detach.  Both are about the same size and feel equally durable.

Buttons:  Seidio definitely has the edge here - buttons are very easy to locate and push.  This is both a pro and a con as I often find myself pushing them unintentionally, but they feel great.

Encased Rebel buttons doesn't have the same feel or ease of location, and require more force to push.  It's more than tolerable, but not as good as the Seidio.  (Less chance of pushing the stupid Bixby button, though.)

Port cutouts:  Both have big fat cutouts, so a draw.

Kickstand:  Surface has non-adjustable magnetic kickstand on the phone.  Rebel uses the holster as the stand.  I hardly use the kickstand so I don't care much either way.

Price:  Encased tends to be a little bit less expensive.  YMMV.

I have both cases now so time will tell if the relatively poor clip of the Encased holster will be enough to make me switch back.  But the GS9+ with the Rebel immediately feels better in my hand than the Surface ever did, so for grip the Rebel is the winner.
In retrospect I should have purchased a Seidio Dilex, but it's clunkier-looking and lacks a kickstand.  (I know I said I don't use the stand, but I had one on my Galaxy S5 and I hate to go backwards.)

Besides, the photos of the Dilex make me think it uses the same plastic finish as the Surface, meaning it's not any more grippable.  As that's kind of the problem, I'm not willing to try out the Dilex.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Bosch SHP65T56UC dishwasher won't work, but drain pump constantly cycles

Problem:  For no visible reason, and suddenly, a Bosch dishwasher (such as a 500, 600 or 800 series, our model SHP65T56UC) starts with the following:

-  No indicator lights or display
-  Does not respond to buttons
-  No beeps or lights of any kind

and, most importantly:

-  The drain pump turns on continuously, or cycles on and off over and over / periodically, with or without the door open, even though the machine is not on and has no water in the tub.

This may happen right after plunging or otherwise clearing a clogged sink drain.

Power cycling at the breaker does not help.  Pouring water into the DW to try to fool it also does not help, though the pump will happily drain whatever your pour in.

Potential solution:  A small (possibly tiny) amount of water has leaked in to the bottom of the dishwasher, tripping the flood protection.

Basically, the bottom of the dishwasher is the last place to catch a leak.  So there is a small float, made of Styrofoam, built in to the bottom of the unit.  If water leaks from the wash tub into the bottom of the machine, it will shut off and run the drain in an effort to prevent flooding.

I know the description above does not really help very much.  I read similar descriptions on other sites but did not know what I was looking for.  So here is some pictorial help.

The first thing most DIYers may want to do is to remove the kick plate at the front of the machine.  Good, do that. 

But all you will see is an up/down leveling screw and an otherwise impenetrable wall.  You can't get in that way - you have to pull the unit out of the counter.  Bummer.

Fortunately, this is not (usually) too hard.  Installations vary, but many under-counter installs will use simple mounting brackets at the top, like this:

Unscrew any brackets (often 2), then pull out the dishwasher.  (It's actually fairly light, so there is little worry it will hurt your back or scratch your floor.)

On some installations, the top sound insulation (matting) will get caught up on the counter.  You can just ignore this, to an extent, and pull the DW out anyway (I did) or you can go to the bottom and crank the DW all the way down.  If you do this, be sure to level it again after pushing it back in to the counter.

Also, when pulling the DW out, keep in mind that the drain hose and/or electrical cables probably run into an adjoining cabinet.  Make sure there is some slack there so they don't end up getting pulled out of the DW machine itself.  When you shove it back in, be sure the pull the slack hose back through to the opposite cabinet so it doesn't get in the way of the DW itself.

After about  8-12 inches, you will be able to get to the left-hand corner of the DW.  There is no panel there - it is fully open, covered only by the soundproof matting.  Fold the matting up and out of the way:

My handy-dandy flashlight is making the otherworldly glow there.

Get down there and look inside, and you will see this:

You are staring at the white, plastic bottom floor of the DW.  

See that  round area in the middle?  That's the overflow "tray".  It's nothing more than a circular depression in the bottom of the DW. 

Look closely and you will see the the styrofoam "float" resting inside.  Stick your hand in there, you can feel it.  The plasticky box on top is the float switch.

So: if water leaks into the bottom of the DW, it collects under the styrofoam thingy, which rises.  The switch activates, shuts down the DW, and keeps the drain pump cycling until things dry out.

Chances are, when you stuck your hand in there, you felt a little bit of water with your fingertips. That's tripped the flood protection and shut down your DW.

Now, if you didn't feel any water, and don't see any, then one of two things has likely happened:

-  The float switch has gotten stuck in the "up" position; and/or
-  The float itself has gotten stuck in the "up" position.

In either case, you will need to replace the offending part(s), or otherwise figure out how to get them functioning properly. 

In my case, there was only a tiny amount of water around the float - just enough to trip the switch.  Cleaning it up with a couple of wads of paper towels was all that was needed to resurrect the DW back to working condition.

I was surprised by this, as I was expecting at least a half-inch of water filling up the DW bottom in order for the flood protection to trip.  But not so.

 In fact, there was so little water in there that I would have to say this was a premature trip.  There was less than a millimeter of water, and not even enough to fully surround the float - barely a Dixie cup full, if I had to guess.  To my mind this is not enough water to justify disabling the DW.

On the other hand, the bottom of the DW should be bone dry all the time.  So I can't really fault Bosch for being conservative here.  I wish they hadn't been, since it cost me time, but I can see their side of it.

I can also see why they felt unable to put some kind of error message on the unit display - they wanted to shut everything possible down to prevent electrical problems due to possible flooding.  But I'm still rightfully annoyed all to hell by that, and I'm the customer, dammit, so I'll be annoyed if I want to.

A lot of people report that this problem occurs when their sink becomes clogged and they end up plunging it to clear it.  I'm not sure exactly what happens that makes the DW leak water, but that is undoubtedly what occurred in our case.  

I've cleared the sink drain before, but this one was unusually difficult, and it required a lot more work than usual - and that is saying something, for our kitchen sink.  It's been a mess ever since we got the new DW, so perhaps the DW is dropping more junk into it than our old model did.

I also - wisely or not - use the "5-second plumber" pressurized gas canisters a lot, since clearing our sinks seems virtually impossible without them.  Somehow, a tiny bit of water leaked into the base of the machine during this last round, even though it wasn't an issue the previous three bouts.

Now, sure, my (excessive?) efforts to clear the sinks could have damaged something - there could be a crack in the internal DW drain hose, or something else I broke.  So if the DW shuts down again, I'll probably call a guy to find and fix the leak.  But there is no need to do so if all the repairman has to do is sop up a tiny bit of water due to a backed-up sink drain.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Setting up Letsencrypt certificate on Synology DSM 6.0

HTTPS is already the de facto standard.  With Google Chrome now shaming non-HTTPS websites, little guys/gals like me running legacy insecure web servers are now on the wrong side of the line and risk losing business / traffic.

Fortunately, Synology DSM 6.x has a baked-in solution using the free certificate services from Let's Encrypt.  It looks scary at first, but it's very easy once you know all the steps. 

Things to know:
-  It's perfectly free, no cost.
 -  It works with dynamic DNS services.  You do not have to renew the security certificate if your IP changes.
-  It works with virtual hosts.
-  It is maintenance-free, as it auto-renews itself.
-  DON'T read the "Get Started" information at Let's Encrypt.  It will just confuse the hell out of you. 
-  Did I mention it is free?

This article assumed you have Web Station set up and your website(s) are running correctly.  If not, you obviously have other things to fix before you get around to HTTPS support, so go away and fix it.

It also assumes you have DSM 6.x.  If you are like I was, and still running DSM 5.x, you will have to upgrade in order for the security certificate to auto-renew.  Otherwise you will have to manually renew it every 90 days, which sucks.

I've gotten very conservative in my old age, as I've seen waaaay too many "upgrades" cause waaaay more trouble than they were ever worth.  So the prospect of accidentally borking my main file server frankly terrifies me.  However - and in my experience - upgrading from DSM 5.x to DSM 6.x was painless, so woman up and do it.

Note, however, that in 6.x, Web Station moved from within the Control Panel to its own application.  Look for it in the app box at the top left-hand corner of the web interface.

How to enable HTTPS on your Synology Web Station website(s):

1.  Make sure port 443 is open in your firewall.  (Somehow, nobody mentions this - I guess everyone assumes everyone already knows?)

Depending on your setup, the firewall may be in the Synology, or it may be in your router.  It will be in the same place where you have port 80 open for your website(s) to work in the first place.

While you're at it, disable any port forwarding you're not still using.  I had some old ports open from some old PVR applications that I stopped using ages ago.  Typically, all you need open is 80 (for HTTP) and 443 (for HTTPS).

2.  Go to Control Panel / Security / Certificate.  Click "Add", then "Add new certificate".

3.  Choose "Get a certificate from Let's Encrypt". 

4.  Fill in the blanks:
  Domain name = the domain name of your website [i.e.]
  Email = the contact info for that website  []
  Subject Alternative Name = the www server name  []

Note: if you don't put the "www" version of your domain in Subject Alternative Name, the certificate won't cover the web server name, and you'll get verification errors.

 5.  Click "Apply".

6.  The screen will return to "certificate" with the new certificate listed.

7.  Click "Configure".

8.  For the target domain ( change the "Certificate" from "" to the new certificate for that domain (also

9.  Certificates are tied to the domain name.  So if you have multiple (virtual) hosts on different domains, repeat the above with each one of your vhosts, so they each have their own Letsencrypt certificate.

If you only have one domain / one website, and/or you don't know what "virtual hosts" are, you don't need to repeat anything.

10.  Use SSL Checker to ensure you get everything right. 

Common errors: 

-  Can't resolve:  Your dynamic DNS is borked.  Fix it.

-  Port error:  You didn't open port 443 in your firewall(s).  Go fix it.

-  Untrusted certificate:  You forgot to click "Configure" and change the domain name setting from the default Synology certificate to your new certificate.  Go fix it.

-  Unlisted / Incorrect hostname:  You forgot to list the "www" version of your website in Subject Alternative Name.  Restart the process with "Replace an existing certificate" and fix it.

Done.  Ta-da!

Kudos to Synology for baking this directly into DSM 6.x.  People often whine they are not user-friendly, but if this isn't user-friendly, then what is?  I mean, come on - like 10 clicks and you're done.  Give them some credit.