Categories
Backups

Duplicati – A free file based backup solution

This is a snapshot of what the Duplicati Dashboard looks like.

Do you have a bunch of Data that is not being protected? Maybe you have hundreds or thousands of family pictures that are just sitting on your PC hard drive just waiting to be lost in your next Hard drive crash? How about your High School or College paper that you have been working on for months, could you afford to have to rewrite it the night before it is due?

Well have I got the answer for you, Duplicati 2.0. Duplicati is a free web based file backup software that works on Windows, Mac, and a few Linux distros. The team behind Duplicati are constantly working on updating it and making improvements.

Duplicati offers many backend (destinations) to backup to including local and cloud based storage and offers 256 bit AES encryption to keep your backups nice an secure. It is Web based (it runs out of your web browser) and is very light weight so it does not take up a lot of resources on your Computer. Most importantly is the price point…. FREE!!!

As touched on earlier, you are able to backup to almost anywhere, like an external HDD or SD (like these ones here you can find on Amazon), a NAS or Network Attached Storage, or cloud based storage like Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, AWS S3, Backblaze, or Microsoft Azure cloud Storage.

I have been running Duplicati on all my personal machines for a few months now and I have to admit it works great. The only downside that I have come across so far is the false positive messages that you get. Meaning if you have a file open that is supposed to be backed up, you will get a warning message that the file could not be backed up, but a recent update is supposed to fix a lot of those messages that we have been getting so I look forward to see what happens with that.

If you are interested in learning more about Duplicati, I suggest that you follow the link above. If you would like to setup Duplicati but are not sure where to start feel free to reach out to me via the Contact Us page. I would love to lend you a hand and I can offer a really great rate on a place to store your data.

Remember that the question is not IF your hard drive is going to die, it is a matter of WHEN your hard drive is going to die. It is just a matter of time, and data loss can be right around the corner.

Categories
Virtualization Vmware

vCenter 6.5 – Unable to Authenticate

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you all had a great weekend and Holiday. Guess what happened to me this morning? I came into the office (virtually of course) and discovered that our VDI vCenter environment was inaccessible. Now this is an older environment on its way out the door so I am not too concerned with it. However it would make our lives easier to have vCenter working for the decommissioning process.

When I tried to log into this VCSA Server I would receive the following message in a red banner across the top of the screen:

[400] An error occurred while processing the authentication response from the vCenter Single Sign-On server. Details: ‘Trusted root certificates’ value should not be empty.

When I said this environment is old, it was upgraded from 5.5 and is now comprised of a VCSA appliance and an external PSC. Although the database has been migrated to a vPostgress DB instead of the SQL database that is started on, we have still noticed issues as time has gone one.

We tried to log in both with AD credentials and the local administrator user and both failed. Which was very concerning as we did have an issue with a DNS a few months back which knocked out AD authentication and all of our hosts in a different environment. Resolving that issue required a ticket to be opened with VMware.

I logged into the VAMI on both the PSC and the vCenter server (AD Authentication on both) and I did not see any issues there. Everything looked health and good. Since this environment is going away we decided to see if a good old reboot would fix it since we could not remember when the last reboot on this system occurred.

After rebooting the VCSA appliance everything seemed okay. In fact the vCenter console logged me in automatically. We plan to look into this more, however with this environment being decommissioned in the next few days I don’t think we will find anything of value.

If I do find a root cause for this one I will make sure to post a update on this.

Categories
Fitness Tracker Product Reviews

Wyze Fitness Tracker

So continuing my search for the perfect fitness tracker for my lifestyle I came across the Wyze Fitness Tracker. I first discovered Wyze while doing research in the Home Automation space as they make low cost Cameras and other devices. I only paid around $30 for the Fitness tracker which I felt was a pretty good deal.

From the moment you get the fitness tracker you will be able to tell that the Wyze device is in a different league. It is very light weight and I often forget I am wearing it and its display is vibrant and from what I can tell it works great. It also has some water resistance as I was able to pull the plug on my bathtub with it on and it kept working.

The Wyze app it something completely different. From the Wyze app you are able to not only control all your smart devices, but you are also able to manage your health information, integrations, and notifications. For integrations, I am able to send information from the Wyze app to Google Fit which is a definite plus for me, as I have been using it for years. You are also able to specify which apps you want to vibrate your Fitness Tracker when you get a notification. This affords me the ability to only allow apps I deem important to notify me such as SMS or Phone apps and not be spammed with Facebook notification.

One final thing that sets the Wyze Fitness tracker apart is that it has beep integrations with Alexa (which I don’t have…. yet). I can’t wait to explore the ability to control my home from my watch!!

As for the downsides for this device, I would have to say the weak point for the Wyze Fitness Tracker is that the battery only holds a charge for about a week. I have been using it for about 6 weeks now and that is really my biggest complaint.

So if you are good with having to charge your Fitness Tracker once a week, then this may be the fitness tracker for you.

I hope you found this post helpful, and if you do, please share it with your friends and families.

Categories
Microsoft Tools Uncategorized

Need help resizing your Hard drive?! AOMEI Partition Assistant to the rescue.

I was asked to assist with a SSD replacement for a drive that was starting to degrade. I started off by using CloneZilla to backup the drive but de to the degradation of the 90 GB SSD I was not able to complete the backup to my drive. In order to get around this issue I was able to use the Windows backup utility to create a disk image (which for some reason worked) an then restore the image to a new 1 TB drive.

At that point I thought I was made in the shade. Until I realized that I was not able to expand the C:\ Partition as there was another partition at the end of the disk. Windows Disk Manager would not allow me to move partitions (thanks Microsoft!) so I had to look for a third party solution to help. I came across AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard which said it would do the trick.

For the purpose of this exercise I went with the freeware download as I was only going to need to do this once and the Freeware edition should have been able to do what I needed. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed.

I installed it on the computer and from there I was able to not only move the partition on the disk, but I was able to expand the C:\ from 90 GB to 990 GB all at the same time. After submitting the job, it asks for a reboot which took a while but once the computer came back up it was working great!.

If you are ever in this situation you should totally check these guys out as they are now going to be a staple in my tool kit for the foreseeable future.

Categories
Fitness Tracker Product Reviews

Is the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 Fitness Tracker the BEST Value?!

Read this post to find out if this is the Fitness Tracker of your dreams.

Intro

Over the past 10 years or so I have owned 4 or 5 Fitness Tracker watches and most of them were from Samsung. Every couple of years or so I get the idea in my head that I need/want a fitness watch. I don’t know why, but if I had to guess, it probably coincides with my on again/off again relationship with the Gym.

Homer Simpson discovering the all night GYM
I couldn’t have said it better my self.

After being without a Smart Watch for a while I decided to take a look at what was out there. I eventually came across the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 Fitness Tracker on Amazon. Coming in at $35 USD I was shocked. I had seen some other reviews on this smart band that it could hold a charge for 4 to 5 weeks. That has to be too good to be true. It took me a few days to pull the trigger because I just could not believe it was real. Who knew what I was going to get when I placed that order with Amazon?

My Impressions

I really wish I had kept the box to show you how this thing made it to my house. There was not a whole lot to it, Just a cardboard sleeve with the fitness censor, a band, a Charging Cable, and a 2 inch book that had the same instructions written in 10 languages. There was no power button or anything telling me how to turn it on, so I decided to plug in the sensor and charge it up (usually that will turn on an electronic enough to figure out how to work the darn thing).

Xiaomi Mi Band 4 Fitness Tracker

After about 30 minutes or so the Sensor was charged, powered on and I was off to the races. I downloaded the Mi App from the Android App Store and began to pair it to my phone. I found the interface of the app to be very intuitive and the band had a very minimalist design and pleasing to the eye. The band itself is very light on the wrist, sometimes you forget that it is even there.

On to the good stuff!!

As for a step tracker it does a great job, and it even pairs with Google Fit which has been my app of choice for a few years now. It even uses location services to track your walks so you can share it on Social Media (if you are into that sort of thing). As for the battery life, I have owned it since March and I have only charged it 3 times. Seriously 3 Freaking times.

It also offers some protection from water, but I didn’t trust it half the time. It did survive a dip in my pool. I also had the opportunity to wear the the Fitness Tracker on the beach, and I have to say it was the best experience I have ever had with a fitness tracker. Due to the way the Xiaomi Mi Band 4 Fitness Tracker is designed there is no creases or crevices for sand (AKA the bane of my existence) to get into and plague you for months on end.

The Down side

During the course my my use of this watch, I somehow cracked the screen. In spite of that still works and the display is not messed up which means the LCD panel is fine, however it is not a durable as I would like. Also the sleep tracker stopped working completely, and the heart rate monitor and step tracker seemed to randomly stop sharing data with Google Fit. However if you are fine using the Mi App then it works great.

Final Thoughts…

Personally I think that this is a great budget option for a fitness tracker even with it’s faults listed above. If I didn’t move on to a different smart watch I would have continued to use this until it died. I think that this would be a great option for teenagers, beginners, or people who are prone to losing or breaking your device.

If you found this post helpful, please share it with your friends. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Categories
Home Assistant Home Automation WiFI Z Wave

Upgrading your home security with August Smart Locks

Introduction

Well it finally happened, I decided to take the plunge into the world of smart locks. More specifically, the August Smart Lock Pro Generation 3 with Connect Wifi Bridge. I have actually been looking into it for a while and I had the opportunity to purchase a first generation August Smart Lock on clearance at Walmart for $50. That was such a great deal that I thought it had to be a lie. So I passed it up. Fool!!

In all reality it was not that big of a deal. A few years ago, August Smart locks were only able to be managed via Bluetooth. Meaning you had to have your phone (or tablet) with the August Smart home app near the lock to be able to use it. This would not have been an ideal long term solution as I would not be able to remotely manage it.

Moving on to present day, the catalog of items available from August has expanded, to say the least, to include WiFi and Z-Wave as options for management and integrations to include platforms like Voice Assistance (Google Home, Alexa, and Apple Home Kit), and Smart home platforms such as Home Assistant (which I use in my own home).

Unboxing

Upon opening the box I have to say I was pretty surprised at how little there was inside. You get a lock, a bracket, the connect bridge, a door sensor, a little baggie with plastic tubes, and masking tape… and that is about it. Now that I write it down it seems like a lot of items, however the way it was packaged made it seem so insignificant. One thing not in the box that took me for a loop was the lack of instructions. There was a slip of paper that instructed me to download their app.

Installation

So following the “instructions” I downloaded the app which then walks you though the process of creating an account. Once you are logged in, you will be given the option to add a device. From here it is pretty much follow the steps on the screen as it walks you through mounting the lock and connecting it to your device and then downloading and installing firmware updates.

This is where I had a problem, because your phone has to connect to the lock via Bluetooth which means you have to stay near the lock while it updates. This can take some time depending on how close you stay to the lock.

Once the firmware has been updated you will be then prompted to setup the Connect WiFi Bridge which was pretty quick and straight forward.

Troubleshooting Issues

So because I am impatient I may have messed up the firmware update the first time which left my smart lock in an inconsistent place. This also gave me the opportunity to call tech support. Which was an interesting experience. Since I registered my cell phone number when I created my account, when I called, I was greeted with “Hello, Kenneth”. After navigating the call tree I was then told that the hold time was 59 minutes. I dropped the call and just did a factory reset on the lock.

First Impressions

I have to admit that it is pretty cool once the lock is installed and app is connected. It is very easy to unlock from your phone, and you are able to invite other members of your family to use your lock with relative ease. Even the transition from Bluetooth connected to WiFi happens seamlessly. So far I am giving this product my stamp of approval. I will do an update on this once I get it fully integrated into Google Home, Alexa, and Home Assistant.

I hope you found this post helpful and if so please consider sharing this with your friends and family who might me interested in purchasing a smart lock.

Categories
DNS OpenDNS Security

OpenDNS: Your first line of defense for your Family on the Internet

This morning I was going through my home network configuration due to power outages caused by the storms that just rolled through. I noticed that my one of my wireless networks was using a weird configuration for DNS.

DNS (Domain Naming System) is one of the key services that allow you to access the internet. You see every website or service that you go to online uses a nickname to allow you to get to it easily. It’s like me saying meet me at Ken’s house, do you know where that is or how to get there? No, the same thing happens when you tell your favorite web browser that you want to go to Youtube.com, Amazon.com, or hulu.com. The first time you ask to go to one of those sites your computer has no idea how to get there, but it has something called a DNS server to ask for direction. Long story short, without DNS, getting to your favorite website or service would be very difficult if not impossible!!

Thankfully we don’t need to picture a world without DNS, but we should be worried about a few other things around DNS. For instance, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) which would be Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and others, provide you with a DNS Server to use. Even some wireless routers that you may have purchased have them pre-configured as well. Which is Great! Except for the fact that the servers that they have you pointing to are slow and old and can really slow down your Internet Connection.

You may be asking, “What can I do about this?”

Enter OpenDNS. OpenDNS is a Free (for home users) DNS Server that you can point to which will offer better performance than using your IP’s DNS Server. It doesn’t require you to sign up or give them a credit card. You can just go to their website and follow their setup guides.

You might now be asking, “Well this is great, but what about defending my family?”

Well I am glad you asked, OpenDNS is already configured out of the box to block access to Adult content and other things that you might not want your family to have access to. You also have the option to create an account with OpenDNS which will allow you to see all of the things your family is doing on your network. It also allows you to set the level of restriction on your home network

“How can I configure this to work?”

Well you can either configure every device in your house to do it manually, which lets be honest is a pain, or you can configure it one time on your internet gateway and be done with it.

If you have questions or are interested in getting something like this setup for your home/business (yes there is a business option available as well) feel free to reach out to me via our Contact Us form.

Categories
Home Assistant Home Automation Z Wave

Inovelli Smart Bulbs

While I was in the planning phases of my blog move I wanted to find new sources of content for the blog. As I was shopping on Amazon for ZWave sensors I came across this company called Inovelli. I had never heard of them before and I kind of dismissed them and went on my way. But after a while I figured I would check them out.

Inovelli is a US based company and they make all their own products even down to the firmware. For my test of their products I decided to order 2 smart bulbs (one is being and open box and discontinued as the other one is their brand new Ilumin Bulb) since I had just purchased the Merkury Wifi Smart Bulb from Walmart and I was not unfamiliar with smart bulbs.

The packaging was not very impressive, in fact it was a little hard to figure out which was the open box and which was brand new aside from the label on the box. The bulbs were just rattling around in the box and were a little difficult to get out. That aside I am pretty impressed with the product.

The setup was pretty simple (after you read the instructions) and once the device was paired and I rebooted my Z Wave Controller it showed up immediately. They also work great with Home Assistant just an FYI there. The lights were bright and very responsive.

My Usage for these bulbs

You might be asking, Why do you want/need a ZWave smart bulb when you can get a smart switch? For me I am using one of these bulbs for a 2 fold purpose. The first being I have a pull chain light switch in my utility room in my basement and I don’t want to have to go through the trouble of setting up a smart switch. and secondly, as they are connected to power 100% of the time, and they actually will act as a ZWave extender/repeater (which I can go into at a later time) to expand my network.

I think if you are in need of a smart bulb and already have an existing Z Wave network you should really look into these Inovelli Smart Bulbs. I really regret not purchasing their colored bulb which I hope to purchase soon and have a review up for it soon.

Categories
Home Lab PowerCLI Starwind Virtual SAN Virtualization Vmware

Home Lab 2.0 – Starwind VSAN : The Greatest addition to my Home Lab

At the end of my previous post about The Beast I mentioned about lacking shared storage for my Virtual Hosts. My first thought was to go out and purchase a NAS like a Synology or a QNAP NAS. However I am trying to do this on the cheap and an extra $1200 when figuring in the cost of drives is just not in my budget. Now I am not sure about Synology, but I believe that they are comparable to QNAP in the sense that you can present disks as iSCSI LUN. Which I have done several times in the past and works brilliantly.

So here I am sitting in my office looking at the Beast and I was racking my brain trying to figure out what I can do with all this storage in this one box and how I can share it among my Virtual Hosts. I started looking at FreeNAS and running it as a VM in VMware Workstation and that worked! Until I had a power failure and the virtual disks became corrupted and I could not get them to come back online. Very Frustrating, my search continued.

Anyway, after doing some research I discovered Starwind VSAN. It allows you to take storage on a Windows machine and present it as an iSCSI LUN. I thought this is great and I signed up for a trial which gives you the ability to install it on one host but no graphical interface (it uses PowerShell) but unlimited LUNs. After some quick googling about the syntax I was able t piece together the commands with relative ease. Within a few minutes I was up an running with three new iSCSI LUNs and they were mounted in vCenter.

I mentioned earlier about having issues with FreeNAS and power failures, well ironically we had a power failure but Starwind VSAN came back online without a hitch. I was very impressed with how resilient it was. I have not had the chance to really put it through it’s paces, but so far I think I found a winner.

I plan to s follow up post once I really get off and running to the races so stay tuned for updates.

Categories
Home Automation

Is this $5 Smart Bulb the Best bang for your buck??

So I was walking through Walmart the other day and on the end cap between Hardware and Electronic (a very fitting place for this) I found this little nugget of Gold!

For just $5 ($4.66 since it is Walmart) I was able to add this puppy to my collection. The Merkury Innovations Smart WI-Fi LED Bulb which appear to be made by Greeni.

You can purchase the same one on their website located here and the color one for $12 here.

Now I must admit that my expectations were really low considering the cheapest LED smart bulb I had ever encountered before was the IKEA TRADFRI which starts at $12 a bulb.

Upon first inspection the bulb itself felt like it should and is about the same weight as the TRADFRI. Upon plugging it in the light turns on like normal and then starts to blink… I assume this is a pairing mode. The instructions want you to install a smart controller app called Greeni App which looked oddly enough like the same screen that Smart Life or Tuya use.

Having a few products that work with Tuya I thought what the heck and opened my app. As soon as I did it found the smart bulb and asked if I wanted to add it to my managed devices which I did and because of that it was automatically added into my Google Home…. Bonus Point!!

From my app I was able to control the brightness and even turn it on and off which is awesome.

For now I am very happy with this decision and I think if you want to get into the smart home market this is a great way to start. All you need is the Device and WiFi. Now if you want to get fancy with automation and rules you can start to do that from the app, however there are limitations.

If you are interested in learning how to do more complex automation reach out to me using the Contact us form.