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A Month with Project Fi

ProjectFi

I’ve been using the Google Nexus devices since the launch of the Galaxy Nexus. I’ve just found them to be exactly what I need, without the bloatware that other manufacturers install, and at a great price point. I recently purchased a Nexus 6p, as my Nexus 5 was feeling a little dated. With the purchase, I decided to try out Google’s new cellular service: Project Fi.

Prior to the switch, I had been using T-Mobile’s $30/mo plan that included unlimited data and texts, and 100 minutes of talk time. When I initially switched to T-Mobile about 2 years ago, the service was lacking in rural areas, but over the past year their coverage had vastly improved. The 100 minute limitation was beginning to be a problem, however, as I transitioned from working in an office to being 100% remote. This is what led me to give Project Fi a look.

With Project Fi, you get unlimited minutes and texts and pay $1/100MB. Their cheapest plan is $30 and gives you 1GB of data. Plans go up $10/GB from there. Additionally, if you don’t use the data that you pay for, they will refund you what you didn’t use.

My first issue with Project Fi is that it does not work with Google Apps accounts. My main Google account is a Google Apps account, so this is a slight annoyance in that now I have to have two accounts tied to my phone. However, this is minor. Signing up was a breeze, and within a couple days I had my SIM card. The initial activation is also very simple, the Project Fi app walks you through it and you should be up within 5 minutes with little to no interaction needed.

Project Fi does an excellent job of trying to send all data through a Wi-Fi connection. Since I work remotely, I’m almost always on Wi-Fi, so I don’t use that much cellular data at all. However, even when out and about, if your phone is near an open hotspot that Google deems “trusted”, it will automatically connect as well as fire up a VPN connection to keep your data secure while on the public Wi-Fi. This all happens seamlessly without any user interaction needed.

Halfway through the month, I installed an app called “Fi Spy” that allows you to not only see which network you are on (Sprint or T-Mobile), it also allows you to switch at any time by inputting a carrier code into your dialer. Now, Project Fi will do this automatically from time to time to ensure you get the best service, but I like having the ability to see which network I’m on, as well as switch manually if need be. I will say that the T-Mobile network is much faster than the Sprint network. I also had issues sending MMS messages when connected to the Sprint network.

At the end of the month, using the 1GB plan, Google actually owed me a refund for .27GB unused of my 1GB allotment. This resulted in a $2.70 refund. The Project Fi app will allow you to track your cellular data usage throughout the billing cycle. I’ve gotta say that I did my best to stay under that 1GB mark the first month, and it paid off (literally). This month, however, I’m going to be over.

Screenshot_20151217-103839

Overall, I’ve been very pleased with the service and support. I have no reason to go back to T-Mobile, nor switch to any other carrier at this time. If you have a Nexus device, I definitely recommend Project Fi.

 

Installing and Configuring OSSIM 5.0

Coming from a Linux background, and being in InfoSec, I always try to stay on top of the Open Source Community’s offerings to our space. I have installed/managed AlienVault in the past, but I haven’t used it in a few years and wanted to see just what I could come up with on my home network. If you wanna follow along, by all means:

  1. Download the latest version of OSSIM here: http://downloads.alienvault.com/c/download?version=current_ossim_iso
    1. For the paranoid, get the MD5 sum here and make sure it matches!: https://www.alienvault.com/open-threat-exchange/projects
    2. In my scenario, the MD5 Checksum is 80d915f3dfb5aedab31b5981efff582f. If you are using Linux, it’s easy to determine the MD5 checksum of the file. Just open a terminal and use the md5sum command. If you are on Windows and have PowerShell 4, execute Get-FileHash <file> -Algorithm MD5. On < 4, run an obnoxious script.
  2. Fire up your VM software of choice (VMware Workstation, VirtualBox, Hyper-V) and build yourself a VM with the aforementioned .iso. Truth be told, an appliance like this is best installed on physical hardware, but if you just wanna check it out, using a VM is fine.
  3. Install OSSIM
    1. 2015-05-02 19_52_57-OSSIM - VMware Workstation
  4. Give yourself an IP (preferably outside of the DHCP range of your router).
    1. 2015-05-02 19_56_18-OSSIM - VMware Workstation
  5. Create a nice password.
    1. 2015-05-02 19_57_19-OSSIM - VMware Workstation
  6. Let ‘er eat.
    1. 2015-05-02 19_59_45-OSSIM - VMware Workstation
  7. And we’re done! Navigate to the web console, just like it tells ya’ to!
    1. 2015-05-02 20_07_49-OSSIM - VMware Workstation
  8. Fill out some basic info to get started.
    1. 2015-05-02 20_09_29-AlienVault OSSIM [alienvault - 192.168.1.100]
  9. That’s it for now. You’ll get prompted for a wizard which you should follow if you’re new to all this. I’ll keep you updated as I work through it and apply more of the features to my home network.
    1. 2015-05-02 20_12_24-AlienVault OSSIM
  10. This is super cool. Automatically deploy HIDS to your hosts!
    1. 2015-05-02 20_18_18-AlienVault OSSIM
  11. And automatically load log management plugins based on OS and vendor of network components.
    1. 2015-05-02 20_22_11-AlienVault OSSIM

Brightness Adjustment for Yoga 13 – Ubuntu

You may have noticed that even though the brightness icon is appearing on your screen, it’s not actually adjusting the brightness. Here’s how to fix it.

From command line, run the following:

sudo gedit /etc/default/grub

Add the following lines to the end of the file.

#For adjusting brightness on Yoga 13
acpi_blacklight=vendor

Save and close the file.

From terminal, run:

sudo update-grub

Finally, blacklist the other device:

sudo gedit /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf

Add the following lines to the end of the file. Save and close it.

#For adjusting brightness on Yoga 13
blacklist ideapad_laptop

Now, save your work and reboot.

Wireless Drivers for Yoga 13

I have a Lenovo Yoga 13 and love it, except for the fact that I couldn’t get wireless working on Ubuntu. That is, until now. Thankfully, a github user by the name of lwfinger has a solution. If you have an internet connection, via a USB dongle, simply perform the following in the terminal:

apt-get install git
git clone https://github.com/lwfinger/rtl8723au
cd rtl8723au
make
sudo make install
sudo modprobe 8723au

If you don’t happen to have internet connection, just grab this package and copy it to your home folder, then run the following:

tar xzvf yoga13realtekwireless.tar.gz
cd yoga13realtekwireless
make
sudo make install
sudo modprobe 8723au

lwfinger also has the Bluetooth driver if you visit his github site.

Double-Hopped Jamaican Hot Chocolate IPA

It’s been a while since I’ve brewed a batch of beer (or updated this blog for that matter), my kegs are empty, it’s cold outside, so what better way to spend a few hours than brewing a beer? My favorite kind of beer is an IPA. I’m a hop head and I’ve found that it’s best just to brew what you enjoy the most. I also enjoy a good spicy dish, and since a good friend of mine has recently been making his own hot sauces, I figured I would combine the two tastes in one awesome beer.

I was initially going to try to do a Habanero IPA, but my buddy convinced me to try a different style of pepper that is a little more fruity. He brought me a Red Savina and a Jamaican Hot Chocolate and asked me to smell both. After doing so, the choice was clear, I was going to use Jamaican Hot Chocolates for this recipe (however, I threw in a Red Savina because I didn’t want to see the one he cut open go to waste).

First step, steep the grains (1 lb. Caramel 20L) and make wort. Basically, just steep the grains while you are heating your water. I steep mine for ~20 minutes at 155°-160° F.

Steeping Grains
Steeping Grains

After the steeping has commenced, you will have some of your fermentable sugars in the form of wort. The rest of the fermentable sugars in my brew will from adding liquid malt extract (LME).

Wort after grains had been steeped
Wort after grains had been steeped

Hops are a funny thing. Some are for bittering, some are for aroma, and both can be altered based on how long you boil them . I have Cascade Hops for bittering and Willamette for aroma.

Beautiful Things
Beautiful Things

I added the Cascade hops (I purchased an extra bag in addition to what came with the kit) at the beginning of the boil because I want the full 60 minutes to really bring out the hoppiness of them.

Cascade Hops
Cascade Hops
All 84g of them
All 84g of them

 

After adding the hops
After adding the hops

After adding the Cascade hops and 3.3 lbs of LME, I boiled for 40 minutes. At the 40 minute mark, I added an additional 3.3 lbs LME. It was starting to look lovely. At this point, I decided to pour myself a little bourbon.

Hops & LME
Hops & LME
A little bourbon for sippin'
A little bourbon for sippin’

With 10 minutes left in the boil, I added three Jamaican Hot Chocolate Peppers and one Red Savina. They smelled absolutely awesome while boiling.

Peppers
Peppers

With 5 minutes left, I added the Willamette hops. After terminating the boil, I cooled the wort and pitched my yeast. Today, I went to check the beer to see if the yeast was doing its thing yet, and sure enough, she was bubblin’.

Bubblin'
Bubblin’

A month from now, I’ll get to see how it turns out. A friend made a good point about the peppers: “If it’s not good for drinking, it will make excellent beer cheese.”

Now we wait.
Now we wait.

Let’s hope I don’t end up making 5 gallons of beer cheese.

 

Moving VMs in VMware Fusion

I ran into an issue with my VMware Fusion implementation where I needed to move my VMs off of my local hard drive and on to an external drive. I am currently running a single SSD in my laptop, and as you know, SSD storage ain’t cheap. The VMs are just test machines, so I am willing to take the performance hit. If you are running into the same issue, or just want to know how to safely move your VMs to a new disk, follow this (hopefully) simple guide:

1. Turn off your VM! This means to shut down your VM completely, even if it’s in a current state of suspension. You could probably just save state and be ok, but it’s better than to be safe than sorry.

2. Find your VM bundle. This is relatively simple. With VMware Fusion as the active application, select Window > Virtual Machine Library. Then Ctrl-Click your VM and select Show in Finder (it’s most likely in /Users/<your name>/Virtual Machines).

3. Drag and drop, it’s that easy, kinda… Ya see, Mac’s default action is to copy. To move, like we want to do, hold the Command key while you drag and drop. Your dialog box should say “Moving “<your vm name>” to “<new location>”.

4. Completing the process. After the file move process is complete, you are gonna want to start your VM. To do this, with the Fusion app active, click File > Open… and select your VM in its new location. When VMware asks you if you moved or copied the file, tell it that you moved it. If you tell Fusion that you copied the VM, it will generate a new UUID and MAC address, which can cause configuration problems.

5. Clean up. I like to tidy up after myself in my projects, and I’m going to assume you are no different. Now that your newly moved VM is up and running (you started it to make sure it works, right?), you’re gonna want to remove the old one. With the Fusion app active, click Window > Virtual Machine Library and simply two-finger (right click) the old VM shell and delete it.

That’s it! Now you have reclaimed some of your HD space for more important things, like cat photos.

Charter Filters MAC Addresses

A couple of days ago I noticed that my internet was no longer working. I tried to ping 4.2.2.2 with no avail. My network setup consists of a Motorola Surfboard Cable Modem and a Netgear WNR3500L Wireless-N router. I connected my laptop directly to the cable modem and it worked perfectly. I thought that perhaps it was just a power-cycle issue, so I connected the router back to the cable modem and rebooted both. Still, no internet access from the wireless network.

I did a little more digging and found that the cable modem wasn’t assigning the wireless router an IP address, yet if I plugged my laptop directly in to the modem, DHCP worked flawlessly. It then dawned on me that perhaps Charter was doing some type of MAC address filtering to determine which devices to authorize DHCP to use.

MAC (media access control) addresses are the physical address of network cards, both wired and wireless. The first three octets of the MAC address specify the manufacturer of the network card. This allows Charter to differentiate between a wireless router and a laptop computer.

If you are having this issue, there is an easy fix. First, determine the MAC address of your wired connection. If you are on a Windows machine, open a command prompt and type “ipconfig /all”. You will get the following prompt:

The MAC address is the line that says “Physical Address.”

If you are on an Apple/Mac computer, open a terminal window and type “ifconfig”. The local wired connection is en0. The MAC address is the field that says “ether”:

Next, log on to your router and determine where you can set the MAC address, it will look something like this:

Input your physical MAC address and apply your settings. After that, you should be able to obtain an IP.

The only reason I suspect Charter does this is to force you to buy their “Wireless” bundle.