The Shining Path of Least Resistance


Archive for the ‘geekery’ Category

Installing Debian 8.6 on a BeagleBone Black

Posted by mattray on October 14, 2016

1996-01I’ve finally had practical reason to get the BeagleBone Black out of the drawer and start using it as an home server (more later). It’s a nice, quiet little machine with 512 megs of RAM and a 1ghz ARM CPU. I followed the instructions from to connect to it via the serial port over USB, which allowed me to connect to the web server on the included OS. Turns out I didn’t really need to do this, all I needed to do was flash my microSD card and install Debian on it.

For more in-depth Linux notes, I referred to

I downloaded the latest Debian stable “Jessie” build for ARMHF from here. That image turned out to be a bit bloated with X and desktop tools, so I switched to the “IOT” image. I flashed the image onto a 32 gig microSD card with Etcher for OSX, which was quite painless.

Debian on the BeagleBone Black

Next I popped the microSD card into the BeagleBone and rebooted into Debian. I was able to connect to the serial console over USB with instructions from here. For my instance, the command was

screen /dev/tty.usbmodem1413

I changed the debian user password away from the default and plugged in a network cable.
Once it was on the network I could SSH to it, I probably didn’t need to use the serial console at all if I’d just looked for the IP address off the router.

I copied over my SSH key so I wouldn’t need to use my password when logging in.

scp ~/.ssh/ debian@

Next I did an apt-get update; apt-get upgrade to get the latest bits and then shut it down.

I plugged directly into the router and powered via the USB port, since it’s meant to be an externally-accessible bastion box.

Final touches

I also needed to make sure we used the whole microSD, so I followed these instructions:

cd /opt/scripts/tools/
git pull
sudo ./
sudo reboot

I checked the list of timezones and set mine to Sydney.

timedatectl list-timezones
sudo timedatectl set-timezone Australia/Sydney

and finally

apt-get install emacs-nox

Now it was ready to use.

Posted in geekery, linux, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

ZoneMinder Chef Cookbook

Posted by mattray on February 20, 2014

D-Link 930L

D-Link 930L

A recent rash of burglaries in my neighborhood encouraged me to set up a security camera for my front door. I’d recently heard the FLOSS Weekly episode for ZoneMinder, so I figured I would check it out. The wiki listed the D-Link 930L as an working option, and it was about $40 on Amazon. It is wifi-connected and does 640×480 video, so it’s a pretty good basic solution. I plugged it in, set it up and everything “just worked”. Rather than subscribe to D-Link’s cloud service, I configured ZoneMinder to record video when motion was detected. The Android app actually lets me see the video live from anywhere and I’ve hooked it up to my Roku as well.

I published a Chef cookbook for installing and configuring ZoneMinder, following the configuration guide. The monitor configuration is stored in the database and I didn’t feel like spending the time to set that up, so the cookbook is pretty basic since additional configuration was done in the web UI. The code for the cookbook is at

Here are screenshots of the configuration screens:

Monitor: General Settings

Monitor: General Settings

Monitor: Source

Monitor: Source

ZoneMinder: Options

ZoneMinder: Options

Posted in chef, geekery, monitoring | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Treadmill Desk

Posted by mattray on January 30, 2014

Treadmill Desk
A little over a year ago I decided to build a treadmill desk based on the design at I’d been having back issues (since resolved surgically) and figured the additional exercise would be good for that and better health in general. I followed‘s setup almost verbatim, the same model of treadmill ($250 on Amazon) and silencing the alarm. The default setting of 1 mile per hour is perfect for a walking desk and the timer conveniently runs for 30 minutes. I already had the IKEA bookshelves and purchased the tabletop with legs for less than $50 total. I wall mounted my monitor and have another on my desk next to the treadmill desk. I switch video cables to my laptop and physically move my keyboard and trackball when I move between desks.

Walking on the treadmill while working is not as distracting as you might expect, I have enough focus for reading and responding to email, browsing the web or talking on the phone. I typically start my day with a half hour on the treadmill doing email and catching up on the latest news, occasionally I eat lunch while walking. If I’m on a conference or phone call the chances are very good I am on my treadmill. My decidedly low-tech approach to tracking time and distance are tick-marks on a post-it note (each half an hour at 1 mph). I typically average at least an hour a day, despite travel and a few weeks of recovery for back surgery I walked 199.5 miles in 2013.


The treadmill is quiet and the maintenance is simple. Luckily I have a private office with plenty of space, so I don’t annoy my coworkers except while video conferencing. If your working arrangement is amenable to it, I highly recommend a treadmill desk.

UPDATE: Only 85.5 miles in 2014, a bit more travel and feeling better lead to less mileage. Gonna shoot for more in 2015.

UPDATE 2: Only 44.5 miles in 2015, too much travel but still feeling good. 2016 probably will be about the same.

UPDATE 3: Only 26 miles in 2016, that’s because I packed up the treadmill and moved to Australia mid-year.

Posted in geekery, health | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Potential OpenStack Compute Demo Box

Posted by mattray on November 17, 2010

I was fortunate enough to be at the OpenStack Design Summit last week in San Antonio, TX and one of the ideas that came up that I found really intriguing was the concept of a single-box easy install for OpenStack Compute (maybe Object Storage could fit on the same machine, not sure yet). To help facilitate this, we started up an OpenStack-Chef mailing list where we’ll be discussing automating installation of OpenStack Compute as well as deploying to a running Compute instance.

Hopefully we’ll free up some time to work on it soon, but while I was there I started putting together some rough specs for a machine we could use for testing and eventually using with Chef training to replace using EC2. We figured we needed enough horsepower to run 20 or so instances on the server, and shoot for around $1000 on the price. Here’s what I found on NewEgg.

So really it comes down to about $730 plus whatever storage option you go with. SSD is still expensive but might be worthwhile, but $165 for 1.1TB RAID5 isn’t too shabby and might make running Object Storage a potential option. Prices keep dropping of course, so this is probably close to being out of date already.

Posted in chef, geekery, openstack | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Crowdsourcing Gone Awry

Posted by mattray on May 23, 2009

I figured I needed to capture this before it gets removed, but the IMDB Parental Guide to Mary Poppins is a classic.

A few of my favorite bits:

an extremely violent movie involving a witch sent from hell and many grizzely murders

A little boy is chased around a room then a wagon rolling by itself flies at him and he is swept from his feet and brought into the closet. Mary Poppins is waiting in the closet then molests him numeros times (clearly seen on camera) then slowly slices his head open and eats his brain.

A little girl is chased down hall sucked up a fireplace then beheaded Mary Popins puts her head in a bag then flies off with her umbrella

Several elderly women are sucked into hell and fly into the air and smash into things while flying so fast. The scene is very bloody and violent.

A man is sucked up a fireplace then droped down the chimeny while the fire is still on below (you can clearly see his skin pealing and bleeding as he burns to death)

Another man is split in half by dark magic (guts and gore are visible during the scene)

A woman gets her hair violently pulled out then mary poppins takes her eyes out and eats them. The women is thrown off a building later after much suffering and torchure.

Mary Poppins cheats in a horse race by killing off the competitors.

Mary Poppins uses a kite to strangle then hang a young boy near the end of the movie.

It ends as a decapitated bird head starts talking to mary and she moves on to the next town.

Posted in geekery, humor | Leave a Comment »


Posted by mattray on April 17, 2009

Today’s frustration is brought to you by iCal and Zimbra. My work Zimbra account subscribes to several company-wide calendars which I have ‘view’ privileges, but not ‘write’ privileges. Attempting to write to them throws a cryptic error that can usually be undone. But somewhere along the line I had selected “Delete Events 120 Days After They Have Passed” in iCal. The company-wide calendars recently started having events older than that, and I was getting a cryptic error about ‘CalDAVDeleteEntityQueueableOperation’ in iCal. Google was of little use, neither was Apple’s support or Zimbra’s support. I stumbled into the solution by deleting away all my preferences and calendars for iCal. Moral of the story, never touch anything.

Posted in geekery, osx | 1 Comment »

Making my Whack IT Predictions for 2009

Posted by mattray on December 17, 2008


I got a chance to be on the IT Management Podcast yesterday with Michael Cote’, John Willis and Dave Rosenberg.  Had a good time making my whack predictions for 2009:

  • Microsoft buying RIM (and shutting down Windows Mobile)
  • Apple making a cloud move
  • Sun getting diced up in a hostile takeover
  • Amazon selling Android apps
  • Amazon buying up some of the cloud providers
  • The Big 4 not buy any open source competitors
  • and more!

Missed out on my chance to call 2009 the Year of the Linux Desktop, but it could happen, I’ve got a good feeling this time.

Posted in geekery, interviews | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Making iPhone Ringtones from MP3s

Posted by mattray on August 24, 2008

I recently made the transition from minimalist, pay-as-you-go phone user to a new iPhone. Between making lots of extra calls on my phone for work and my geek-lust for GPS in a phone it was a no-brainer. I was actually fairly happy with my old phone, a Motorola v195 that I chose specifically because it was unlocked, had bluetooth file transfers and syncing with iCal and the Mac address book. Of course the iPhone has all that, but I wasn’t able to transfer all my custom mp3 ringtones that I’d made to it. Mr. Chippy pointed me to making them in Garage Band, but this was slow and tedious. I had them already as MP3s, I just needed to batch convert them all to the proper format. Enter Max, a handy OSX audio file converter (and great CD-ripper). I configured it to output “3GP Audio (AAC)” and batch-converted my mp3 ringtones to .3gp files. Apparently if you rename these with the .m4r and drop them into iTunes, they magically become ringtones for uploading. Here’s a screenshot of the Automator bulk rename, it’s a handy trick (I’m getting lazy on the Bash scripting).

If you’re interested, here’s a tarball containing the ringtones (Autechre, Mr. Lif, Stetsasonic, Aerosmith, Slick Rick, The Price is Right, Strauss, Raising Arizona).

Posted in geekery, osx | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »