Tips Use Belgacom 3G USB Dongle (Vodaphone) on my Fuhu Nabi (Android) tablet

I used to buy the 3G USB dongle of Belgacom to surf for free on the web with my laptop during the weekends. It’s a Vodaphone dongle (a “HUAWEI Mobile Connect – 3G Modem” inside). I was just wondering if I could use it on my Fuhi Nabi II tablet. The answer is YES if your tablet is rooted!

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My Tablet, a Fuhu Nabi II, is running Android 4.0.4. It has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi but no 3G. Since a few weeks, I have a “Belgacom Internet Partout Maxi” subscription, including mobile internet for free during the whole week (You have to go into your “e-Services” to modify your current “Mobile Internet Free Weekend” subscription and activate the “Mobile Internet laptop” as mentioned here). That’s why I was motivated to try my Belgacom dongle on my tablet.

Belgacom's vodafone 3G dongle

Belgacom’s vodafone 3G dongle

First, I had to install PPP Widget on my Tablet.

Next, I did add the Widget on the screen. At that time, you will see a status “Checking access” displayed by PPP Widget and you will be prompted to grant it root access. If you don’t grant it root access, you will see a status “No root access” displayed. I suggest you to re-add the widget on the screen and grant it access or you won’t be able to use it.

The status displayed next by PPP Widget should be No modem found”. Click on its “Configure” button to set the Belgacom parameters:

  1. Acces Point Name: internet.proximus.be
  2. Username: (keep it blank)
  3. Password: (keep it blank)
  4. Dialing string: (keep it unchanged: *99***1#)
  5. Check and set PIN: checked
  6. Pin Code: enter the pin code of the SIM plugged into the dongle
  7. HTTP Proxy: (keep it bank)
  8. Disable USB device sleep: unchecked
  9. Auto-Start Connection: unchecked
  10. Automatic Re-Connection: unchecked
  11. Automatic device detection: checked
  12. Manual port selection: unchecked

Then reboot the tablet to start from a clean situation. Once back:

  1. Disable the Wi-Fi.
  2. Connect a USB cable to the tablet.  I did use an official Samsung USB adapter I bought for my Galaxy SII.
  3. Connect the Vodaphone Dongle on the USB cable.
  4. The dongle’s led should start to blink “green”.
  5. When you are prompted by PPP Widget to “open PPP Widget when this USB devices is connected”, select “Use by default for this USB device” and click OK.
  6. Wait for a few seconds. If nothing happens, unplug and replug the dongle. You should soon see the following status displayed by PPP Widget:
    1. Prepare device…
    2. Seach for port…
    3. Setup modem…
    4. Disconnected (and the button “Connect” should now be enabled)
  7. Now, The dongle’s led should blink “blue”.

The Connect button of the PPP Widget will become “enabled”. Click on that button. PPP Widget will display the status “Dialing out…”. If it fails to connect, the status “Disconnected” will displayed. Otherwise, you should see “Connected!” and the dongle’s led should stay fixed “blue”. Enjoy !

If it does not succeed to connect, check that the dongle is still working on your laptop. Running the application “Vodaphone Mobile Connect Lite” on your Laptop, you will possibly get more details like “Sim card not found”, … Notice: I tried to use the latest version of the application “Vodaphone Mobile Connect Lite” on my Laptop (Windows 8.1) but got a message like “This program as compatibility issues”. I tried to run the Compatibility Troubleshooter, but it didn’t find a solution. Finally, although the application could start anyway, it didn’t detect the dongle. So I would recommend to use the software version available on the key itself.

You can also enable the log within PPP Widget, via the Configure menu.

Notice: if your tablet goes to sleep mode, you will be “disconnected” and the dongle will restart to blink “green”. When the tablet waked up, you should see PPP widget trying to re-detect the dongle and setup the modem. If it succeeds, you will be able to click on “Connect”. Otherwise, to unplug and replug the dongle.

Synology Configure Synology DNS + DD-WRT to access my blog from both Intranet and Internet

My blog is hosted at home on my NAS and accessed using the fully qualified domain name www.beatificabytes.be. Configuring adequately the Synology’s DNS service and my Buffalo router running DD-WRT, I can access it both from Internet and my Intranet using that url.

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To make my blog accessible from Internet, I have configured the “DDNS” service of my Synology.  Thanks to this “DDNS” Service, “Synology” links a hostname like “myNas.Disktation.me” to the dynamic IP I get from my Internet Provider – currently “Belgacom”. Next, I have configured a CNAME “www.beatificabytes.be” at my Domain Provider “Servage.net” as an alias of this hostname “myNas.Disktation.me”.

My VDSL Modem being the device physically accessible with the dynamic IP obtained from my Internet Provider, it is configured to forward incoming Internet traffic to my Buffalo router. And this one is forwarding the traffic for my blog to my NAS.

It obviously works fine for accesses from Internet. But if I try to access my NAS with that hostname from my home network (my intranet), the VDSL Modem does not forward me to the NAS via the router. Instead, I am redirected by the DNS of my Internet Provider to a page (http://Intranet IP of my Modem/dns_error) displaying:

Your internet connection is up, please close your browser and restart it again.

Uw internetverbinding is hersteld, gelieve uw browser eerst te sluiten en
daarna opnieuw te starten.

Votre connection internet fonctionne correctement, veuillez fermer votre
navigateur et le redémarrer.

My previous solution was to define the hostname www.beatificabytes.be in the host file (under C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc) of my PC. So, instead of being resolved into the dynamic IP got from my Internet Provider (reason why I was reaching my VDSL Modem), that hostname was resolved directly into the IP of my NAS.

Using the host file is however a real pain as it must be completed and maintained manually on all the devices. Also, it only works fine for Windows machines and not for my Phone, my Tablet, etc… So, I wanted a more global solution.

I found that I could configure a host file directly on my Buffalo Router as explained here: http://commonbits.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/using-dd-wrt-for-local-dns-and-dhcp/. More details here: http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/DNSMasq_as_DHCP_server.

I could also simply configure my Buffalo Router to provide each DHCP client with the IP of the ppen DNS of Google (8.8.8.8. and 8.8.4..4) instead of the DNS of my Internet Provider.

But I was interested in testing the DNS Server package of Synology. And I found that it’s not that hard to configure it to resolve the hostname locally instead of querying the DNS of my Internet Provider.

First, configure the NAS like this:

  1. Install and run the DNS Server Package via the Package Center
  2. Open the DNS Server Panel via DSM Start > DNS Server
  3. Select the “Zones” tab
  4. Click on “Create” and select “Master Zone”
  5. Select a “Domain type”: forward zone
  6. In “Domain name”, enter the domain name used by the blog
  7. In “Master DNS server”, enter the IP address of the NAS
  8. Keep other settings as by default and click “Ok”.
  9. Double click the new entry to edit its content. You should see two prefilled records respectively of type “A” and “NS”.
  10. Click on “Create” and add a new record of type “A”
    1. Name: (leave blank)
    2. TTL: (use the default)
    3. IP address: type the IP address of the NAS
  11. Also add another record of type “A” with Name “www”.

And that’s it for the DNS Server configuration. I didn’t change anything else, including in the “Resolution” tab, …

Next, configure the DD-WRT like this:

  1. Go to the tab Services
    1. Set “Used Domain” = WAN
    2. Set “LAN Domain” = Any name you want. It does not need to be the domain name of the blog. I am using my “Workgroup” (Yes, I still use a that)
    3. Check that the NAS has a static IP configured in the “Static Leases” table
    4. Set “DNSMasq” = Disabled
  2. Go to the tab Setup > Basic Setup
    1. Set “Connection Type” = Automatic Configuration – DHCP
    2. Set “Router Name” = SomeName
    3. Set “Hostname” = Same name as above
    4. Set “Domain Name” = (I kept it blank as I am not really working with a domain at home)
    5. Set “Local IP Address” = x.x.x.x (E.g.: 192.168.0.1)
    6. Set “Subnet Mask” = 255.255.255.0
    7. Set “Gateway” = local IP of the VDSL Modem (E.g.: 192.168.1.1)
    8. Set “Local DNS” = local IP of my NAS
    9. Set “DHCP Type” = DHCP Server
    10. Set “DHCP Server” = Enabled
    11. Set “Static DNS 1” = 0.0.0.0 (Later, I did set here the IP of my Adsl Modem which is configured to forward the DNS request to my Internet provider. I could also have use Google DNS: 8.8.8.8 or 8.8.4.4)
    12. Set “Static DNS 2” = 0.0.0.0
    13. Set “Static DNS 3” = 0.0.0.0
    14. Set “WINS” = 0.0.0.0
    15. Set “Use DNSMasq for DHCP” = unchecked
    16. Set “Use DNSMasq for DNS” = unchecked

This is working for me but DNSMasq being disabled, there is no caching on the DNS name resolution or even on the NetBios name (DNSMasq can intelligently add DHCP leases to its DNS database, providing local name lookups for any DHCP client, static or dynamic). And solving names seems to me precisely quite slow for the Browsers. So, I decided to try to enable DSNMasq.

  1. Back into the Tab “Services”,
    1. Set “DNSMasq” = Enabled
    2. Set “Local DNS” = Disabled (If I enable it, I lose access to the Synology DSN ?!)
    3. Set “No DNS Rebind” = Enable
    4. Set “Additional DNSMasq Options” = (I kept it blank but was hesitating to enforce a strict order on the DNS to be used to resolves name):
      1. strict-order
      2. dhcp-option=6,<NAS IP comes here>,8.8.8.8,8.8.4.4 (ex.: I use here the open DNS of Google).
  2. Finally, in the tab Setup > Basic Setup
    1. Set “Use DNSMasq for DHCP” = checked
    2. Keep “Use DNSMasq for DNS” = unchecked (If I check it, I lose access to the Synology DSN ?!)
    3. Set “DHCP-Authoritative” = checked.

I am actually not convinced this is correct and improving the resolution in any way. So,”to be continued”… But in the meantime, I can access my blog with its fully qualified domain name from both my Intranet and Internet and now a bit more about DNS configuration :p

Notice:  You can have a lot of troubles while testing the various settings on the DD-WRT as many values are cached either on the Synology, or on your PC. Ideally, you should reboot all the devices after each change in the router settings. At least, reset the network interface of your NAS (telnet as root and execute /etc/rc.network restart) and renew your PC network settings (ipconfig /release and ipconfig /renew). Best would be to do that after a Router reboot (telenet as root and execute reboot)

Tips Wi-Fi issues…

Information possibly useful to understand, investigate and solve Wi-Fi issues.

Click to Read More

Here is a really interesting paper. I did copy the most useful part here:

  • 0.5-2 Mbps: Is enough for chatting and mailing services, though it will slow down some content-heavy websites for users with a 20+ Mbps download bandwidth.
  • 4-5 Mbps: Enough for handling all websites and basic video streaming.
  • 20+ Mbps: Minimum required for HD streaming. Typical bitrate of a 720p iTunes TV show is 2-6Mbps, but routers need to compensate for dropouts, other connected clients and prebuffering…
  • 50+ Mbps: Enough for 1080p movies and over-the-air backups.

Some routers have a “Power savings” mode to save a few milliwatts. Unfortunately reduces bandwidth disproportionately.

By doubling the distance between a router and a client, the throughput could shrink to one-third of its original value.

Water acts as a blockade for 2.42GHz signals: Get all objects that contain any form of liquids out of the way Including radiators, flower pots, aquarium, …

Also make sure that metal objects are not in the way of the router and the clients.

Smooth and shiny surfaces are prone to reflecting signals and thus either creating drops or massive signal problems.

Use a Wi-Fi heatmapping tool to measure the impact of distance, frequency changes and building structures on signal strength such as Heatmapper for Windows.

Motherboards are working in the “Gigahertz” spectrum. That “noise” is being picked up by built-in Wi-Fi transmitter and the higher that noise is, the more likely it is for your wireless adapter to lower bandwidth automatically. As CPUs these days clock dynamically, the Wi-Fi adapter needs to constantly adapt the link rate which not only causes a variation in Mbps but may also be the cause for dropped connections. Especially on laptops, the Wi-Fi adapter is often built close to the memory and CPU bus, which is a major source for problems.

Modern routers with “dualband” send two network signals: one at 2.4GHz which is crowded, and one at 5GHz, which is far less crowded and offers more channels. Keep both networks enabled on the router, connect the mobile devices to the 2.4 GHz network (as they other don’t supprt 5GHz) and enable only the 5GHz network on laptops and desktops.

If choosing the 5GHz frequency band is not possible on the laptops/desktops, limit the router to sending out signals at intervals of 20MHz. It might reduce overall throughput a bit, but it will give a stronger signal with less dropouts.

Reminder: all info above come form a paper of Sandro Villinger posted on TechWorld.

Other information I have collected:

WiFi Channels/Frequencies

WiFi Channels/Frequencies

Here in Europe, the frequency 2450 MHz is used by microwave ovens. Those could possibly disturb the Wi-Fi channels 9 and 10 that are both next to 2450 MHz. But if one does, it must be replaced immediately! Radiation that escapes from a microwave oven while it is in use may not exceed 5 mW (per cm2 at a distance of 5 cm). So, if your experience Wi-Fi issues when using a microwave oven, the leakage radiation is probably exceeding a lot that limit (It happens as some of my colleagues already experienced).

Frequencies from 2400 to 2450 MHz (Wi-Fi channels 1 to 8) are used by “radio amateur”. Those could impact the Wi-Fi signal as their radio signal goes up to 120 Watts while Wi-Fi is usually around ~18-30 mWatts.

Channels 1, 5, 9 and 13 are known to be used by some wireless transmitter and camera (at least here in Europe). Based on this info and those above, channel 13 seems to be the best candidate to avoid issues. InSSIDer is a tool for Windows that can be used to get information on channel usage in the area.

Use iPerf to measure the improvement of the Wi-Fi signal.

Before moving to the channel 13, my Wi-fi signal was lost every few seconds… Since it is on the channel 13, it’s stable as a rock!

HardwaresSynology The perfect AirPlay Speaker for my Synlogy

I just bought 3 x Philips Fidelio SoundAvia wireless speaker AD7000W/12 with AirPlay. This model is must cheaper than any other AirPlay device and fully compatible with my Synology DS209+ running the Audio Station of DSM 4.2.

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Philips Fidelio AD7000W/12

Philips Fidelio AD7000W/12

I paid only 109€ (instead of the official price: 149€) for this device, which is reported as a good one (Look for reviews on the web). It’s especially much cheaper than any other devices except the Philips DS3800W/10. But this last one, which actually used to be more expansive than the AD7000W/12 in the past, is not as good although better designed. I took 3 AD7000W/12 (for the price of one single Soundlink Air, the cheapest Bose AirPlay device). I will  use them respectively in the bathroom, in the kitchen and in my room.

It’s perfect for a Synology as there is not useless feature, like a docking for iStuff that don’t need, no remote control as I have my mobile phone, etc… So I paid only for what I really need: a basic AirPlay Speaker.

Take note that there is no need for an iPad, iPod or iPhone to configure the Philips Fidelio AD7000W/12. It’s presumed to be configurable auto-magically via WPS but I didn’t succeed to do so (I.e.: using the PBC – Push-Button Configuration – which is the WiFi setup button on the back of the device). Fortunately, it is really easy to configure the AD7000W/12 with a browser from any wireless client device such as a tablet, a laptop, a mobile phone, …

Notice: when unwrapping the device, on the connectors at the back of device, there is a sticker explaining that one has to push the physical WiFi setup button for 5 sec to configure the network for the first time. This could be confusing if you read next the Quick Guide. Indeed, this one explains two ways to connect the device to the WiFi router: a first method using WPS and a second method using an iStuff. In both cases, you have to press the physical WiFi setup button. But the mistake would be to press this button for 5 seconds when using the WPS method. It must only be pressed for 5 seconds if you want to use the second method. So, here is my experience:

  1. Switch on the device. The button is on the back, close to the top, next to the Volume + and – buttons.
  2. On the back too, there is a green led blinking rapidly in the middle of the WiFi setup button, at the bottom, on the right of the USB connector. Wait for 35 sec until it starts to blink slowly. The device is then ready to be configured.

To connect the AD7000W/12 to a WiFi router using a browser (Connect the devices one by one if you have several):

  1. Press the WiFi setup button for 5 sec (= blinks 5 times). The led will then start to blink alternatively green and orange.
  2. Soon after you should see, with your wireless client device, a new opened WiFi network  named like Philips_Fidelio_AirPlay. Connect to that network.
  3. Open a browser and navigate to 192.168.1.1 to access the network configuration page of the AD7000W/12. If you are using a laptop, althoug configured to get an IP via DHCP, you could have to reconfigure it to use a fixed IP like 192.168.1.2, gateway 192.168.1.1, mask 255.255.255.0. I had to do even after I didn’t succeed with a simple “IPConfig /renew”. With a mobile and a tablet, it worked out of the box.
  4. In the configuration page, edit the name of the device to make it unique and select the SSID of the WiFi network on which it will have to connect. It works fine with my network configured to use WPA2.
  5. Type the Passphrase of the WiFi network and Apply the configuration.
  6. The led will restart to blink rapidly in green.
  7. As soon as device is connected on the selected WiFi network, it produces a clear “Beep” sound and the led stops blinking.
Philips Fidelio Configuration

Philips Fidelio Configuration

To connect the device using WPS:

  1. Press the WPS button on your WiFi router. It has better be configured to use WPA2
  2. Press the WiFi setup button on your device (a simple click of less than 1 sec). The led will start to blink alternatively red, green and orange.
  3. Wait for up to 2 minutes. The device should auto-magically connect on the WiFi router and produce a clear “Beep” sound once connected.

This second approach didn’t work for me ?!

As soon as the Philips Fidelio AD7000W/12 is connected on the WiFi network, it becomes available as a target device for the Synology Audio Station (either in the Web UI or in the Apps for mobile). One can see targets like “XXX( DLNA)”, “XXX (AirPlay)” and “Multiple AirPlay Device” where XXX is the name you gave to the device (“Philips Fidelio ####” by default). All those targets work but you will possibly have to be patient for the music to arrive with DLNA targets (?). I takes a few seconds more than with AirPlay on my infra.

If you don’t want to see the speaker as both an AirPlay device and a DLNA device, you must tick “Do not Search for DLNA devices” in the “options” tab of your Audio Station’s settings.

Notice that the feature “Multiple AirPlay Device” only works if turned on from Audio Station “browser based”. It means that you must first select that target in the Audio Station’s web based UI. You will then be prompted to select which AirPlay devices must be used. Once this is done, you can use the “Multiple AirPlay Device” target also within the Audio Station Apps for tablets and mobiles. There is no support (today) to select via the mobile App which devices are part of the target “Multiple AirPlay Device”.

Notice also that selecting the target device is really easy on a mobile phone via the App. First select the music to be played in a library. Then, on the next screen you will be able to select the target:

Audio Station Apps

Audio Station Apps

For an unknown reason, it’s not as obvious with the App on my tablet ? To select the target on my table I have indeed to open the settings of the App. This is really not convenient at all!

Notice finally that each device has its own queue. So you can then switch between target devices and manage their queues independently.

Synology Send Custom (email) Notifications from scripts running on a Synology

I use a custom script on my Synology DS209+ (DSM 4.2) DS713+ (DSM 5.1) to backup the databases and was recently asked how to notify the administrator about the success or the failure of that script. The easiest solution is to use the native Notification mechanism of the DSM. It notifies not only by email but also with popup messages, SMS, Skype, etc….

If you are using DSM 6.x, look at the new version of this post, located here.

Click to Read More

First, create the texts for the Notifications to be sent:

  1. Open a dos command prompt
  2. Execute: telnet <YourSynoHostname>
  3. Login as ‘root’
  4. Use the password of your Administrator
  5. Execute: cd /usr/syno/synoman/webman/texts/
  6. Execute: ls
  7. Now you see a list of folders for each language supported by your Synology. Assuming that your DSM is configured to run in English (the default), we will use here after the folder ‘enu’ (but read the notice at the end of this post if you want to configure Notifications for another language)
  8. Execute: cp enu/mails /volume1/web/
    1. I presume here that the web station is enabled, otherwise, copy the file ‘mails’ in any other shared folder.
    2. This file contains the Notification messages used by the Synology.
  9. Open now this file ‘mails’ with notepad++: \\<yourSynoHostname>\web\mails
  10. Add two new “tags” at the end of the file. E.g.: “MySqlBkpError” and “MySqlBkpOK” (see bellow for details to possibly be used for those tags)
  11. Save the changes.
  12. Back to the telnet console, execute: cp /volume1/web/mails enu/mails
[MySqlBkpError] Category: Backup/Restore,Important
Title: Database backup failed
Subject: Database backup on %HOSTNAME% has failed

Dear User,

Database backup on %HOSTNAME% has failed.

[MySqlBkpOK] Category: Backup/Restore
Title: Database backup succeeded
Subject: Database backup on %HOSTNAME% has succeeded

Dear User,

Database backup on %HOSTNAME% has successfully completed.

Next, complete your script to notify the Administrator about the Success or Failure of its last action:

  1. Edit your script with notepad++ once it has been copied in a shared folder of your Synology as made here above with the file ‘mails’.
  2. After the action to be reported, add the code here bellow.
  3. Save your changes and copy the file back to its original location

if [ $? -eq 0 ] then /usr/syno/bin/synonotify MySqlBkpOK
else /usr/syno/bin/synonotify MySqlBkpError
fi

Now, define those custom Notifications to let them appear in the “Advanced” tab of the “Control Panel” > “Notifications” pane where you will be able to enable “email”, “sms”, … for them.

  1. Go back to the telnet console and execute: cp enu/notification_category /volume1/web/
    1. If you want to define those notifications for another language, used the adequate folder instead of ‘enu’.
    2. Notice that I presume you are still in the path set previously, i.e.: /usr/syno/synoman/webman/texts/
  2. Edit the file ‘notification_category’ with notepad++
  3. Look for the following definition in that file: {“group”:”Backup/Restore”,”name”:”NetBkpS3OK”,”title”:”Amazon S3 backup completed”}
  4. Insert the following definition next to it (don’t forget the coma), save the changes and copy the file back to its original location: cp /volume1/web/notification_category enu/notification_category

,{“group”:”Backup/Restore”,”name”:”MySqlBkpOK”,”title”:”Database Backup completed”},{“group”:”Backup/Restore”,”name”:”MySqlBkpError”,”title”:”Database Backup failed”}

Finally, check that the “Notifications” are enabled on your Synology and tick options like emails, SMS, … for the new tags:

  1. In your DSM, go to “Control Panel” > “Notification” > “E-Mail”
  2. Tick the option “Enable e-mail notifications”.
  3. Complete all the fields in that tab. At least: SMTP server, SMTP port, SMTP authentication and Primary email.
  4. Send also a test mail from this tab to verify your settings.
  5. Go next to the “Advanced” tab
  6. Tick the “E-mail” option (and possibly others) for the two new tags which appear now in the list.
    1. If the tags do not appear, close and reopen the control panel.
    2. The tags appear with their title “Database Backup completed” and “Database Backup failed”

And here are the outcomes: a popup message and an email

Database Backup Email

Database Backup Email

Database Backup Custom Notification

Database Backup Custom Notification

Pay attention that the tags are case sensitive ! Also backup the changes you made in the file ‘mails’ and ‘notification_category’ as they will be overwritten for sure when you will update the DSM… Finally, delete the files ‘mails’ and ‘notification_category’ from your web folder…

Notice: to declare Notifications for other languages, you will apply the tips here above in the files under your own language folder. A reader, Kasak, kindly reported however that he had to declare the ‘tags’ not only in the ‘mails’ file under the folder of his language (E.g.: ‘fre’), but also under the English (enu) folder.

Notice: as reported by another reader, Pieter Hooftman, you will see your notifications in Control Panel > Notifications > Advanced tab if and only if you filter them on “All Notifications”. If you need to filter your custom notifications, you have to add it into each section of the file “notification_category” (there is one section per filter). Concretely, look for each occurrence of {“group”:”Backup/Restore”,”name”:”NetBkpS3OK” and insert your in front.

Notice: as reported by k13tas, it’s much easier to reuse an existing notification and customize its text via Control Panel > Notification > Advanced. Indeed, customized text are not lost after a DSM update. That being said, once a custom notification added in the file “notification_category”, you can also customize its text. Once this is done, the notification will always be available to be used with /usr/syno/bin/synonotify, even after a DSM update, although not visible anymore in the Advanced tab – which is far from ideal.

As creating manually custom notifications is far from ideal, please vote for my feature request on Synology’s forumhttp://forum.synology.com/enu/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=92727

Tips Enable Write-Caching on a Server 2012 Essential (or any Domain Controller)

Once a server is promoted to a DC, write cache is disabled by default. You can try to enable it, but it will revert back to disabled after a reboot. This is default and can’t theoretically not be changed. It’s done to protect the AD database as well as improve AD DC performance. There is however a registry tip that can force the server to keep that setting.

Click to Read More

I did experience this on my Server 2010 Essentials which is out-of-the-box a Domain Controller. Although not impossible, it’s not recommended to uninstall the DC feature from a Server 2010 Essentials. It’s not easy and various features could stop to run (More info here and here).
The write-Caching was disabled after a reboot only on the System Disk. Not on any other disk in the server… I finally read it was the default behavior for servers with a Domain Controller and found tips here:
  1. One option is to re-enable write-caching at boot with a script using dskcache. E.g.:

    c:\dskcache.exe +w
    exit

     

  2. also a hack that can be made in the registry and works really fine:

    Path: HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\NTDS\Parameters
    Value: “DSA Heuristics”
    Type: REG_SZ
    Setting this to “1” (Note: the type MUST be a string type) prevents AD service from disabling write cache.

Tips Boost Windows 8 Start-up Process

Although I am running my OS on one of the fastest SSD (a Samsung Serie 840 Pro), I still have the feeling that the elapse time is much too long between the log-on and the moment when I have the hand on Windows. This is due to the Services and Applications run at start-up.

There is fortunately solutions to  optimize your Start-up Process by delaying Applications and Services from starting up as soon as you log into your computer. Doing that, your computer becomes usable a lot faster.

Click to Read More

Delay the start-up of Applications

You can have a look on the applications started with Windows in the Task Manager (CTRLSHIFTESC) > Tab “Start-up”.

In that tab, you see which applications have an impact on the Start-up Process.There are several possible values:

  • High – the application uses more than 1000 millisecond of CPU time or more than 3MB of disk I/O
  • Medium – the application uses 300 to 1000 ms of CPU time or 300KB to 3MB of disk I/O
  • Low – the application uses less than 300 milliseconds of CPU time and less than 300KB of disk I/O
  • Not Measured – This could happen with some of the third party apps where windows is unable to determine the impact. An application like BootRacer (Free for non-commercial use) could be used to determine the impact.

Next, install “Startup Delayer” from R2 Studios, a simple but very flexible application used to postpone the startup of applications. You can customize how much you want to delay them and in which order you want to start them. E.g.: as long as there is not enough CPU available. I did delay all the applications that are not critical IMO to use Windows. I.e.: I kept only Acronis (backup), Avast (Antivirus), Audio and Video managers. And all the other ones have been delayed. A simple Drag&Drop can be used to move an application from “Normal Startup” to “Delayed” or “Disabled”, or to reorder the delayed ones.

Startup Delayer

In the screenshot of the Task Manager, all delayed applications appear grouped under “Startup Launcher”.

Start-up Applications Delayed

Start-up Applications Delayed

A famous alternative to “Startup delayer” is “WinPatrol” but it does much more than just delaying start-up applications. And as always, I prefer simple applications that fit one single need than one big application trying to fit all needs…

Delay the start-up of Services

Services starting up can be delayed via the Service Management console (Services.msc). Use the “Automatic (Delayed Start)” option:

Services Delay

Services Delay

Here are the services that I have delayed:

Delayed Services

Delayed Services

Tips Upgrade from MediaBrowser 2 to MediaBrowser 3 on my Acer Idea 510 with MediaCenter as a shell

I have always been using Windows MediaCenter as a replacement for the Windows Shell on my Acer, even after the upgrade of this HTPC to Windows 8 x86. But I have always been also a big fan of the MediaBrowser plugin for MediaCenter. I was unfortunately stuck to MediaBrowser 2 as the latest version was relying on a server component which couldn’t be run without the windows shell.

Good news, MediaBrowser 3’s server part can now be run as a Service as solve my issue!

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As a reminder (see here), I am user a “public” Windows Account (i.e.: with a blank password) to grant my kids access to Windows MediaCenter. Windows MediaCenter is replacing the Windows Shell to improve the user experience; it’s indeed much easier for the kids to start a cartoon if they don’t have to go through Windows Explorer to start MediaBrowser (embedded into Windows Media Center).

To upgrade from MediaBrowser 2 to MediaBrowser 3:

  1. Log on Windows with a local administrator Windows Account
  2. Uninstall Media Browser 2
  3. Install Media Browser 3’s server part
  4. Complete the server configuration wizard to define your libraries, etc…
    1. http://<your server>:8096/mediabrowser/dashboard/wizardstart.html
  5. I suggest to configure (*):
    1. One user profile without password to grant guests and kids access to public content.
    2. Another user profile with a password to protect accessed to private/adult content.
  6. Edit the “Custom User Interface” of the Windows Account without password to run Media Browser 3:  %windir%\ehome\ehshell.exe /mediamode /nostartupanimation /entrypoint:{CE32C570-4BEC-4aeb-AD1D-CF47B91DE0B2}\{FC9ABCCC-36CB-47ac-8BAB-03E8EF5F6F22}
  7. Check that you didn’t tick the option “Run server at Startup” in the “Advanced” tab as this is not compatible with MediaBrowser running as a Service.
  8. Stop the “Media Browser” Service via the Windows Services Management console
  9. Check that this Media Browser Service is configured to start ‘automatically’ and not ‘manually’
  10. Set the Windows account of a local administrator – with adequate rights to access your media (e.g.: on your NAS) – as a “log on” account on the Media Browser Service.
  11. Back to MediaBrowser’s configuration UI, rescan the media libraries via the “Scheduled Tasks” tab.
  12. Install MediaBrowser 3’s client part
  13. Possibly wait until the “rescan” task is completed and run Media Browser to check that you can access your media.
  14. Log-off.
  15. Log-on with your “public” Windows Account and check that you can access your media.

(*) The user profiles defined in MediaBrowser are not related to any specific Windows account. E.g.: the username and password set for those users is not used to access network resources, etc… There are only used to define various “profiles” within MediaBrowser. It’s also (among other) a replacement for the “pin code” that used to protect access to libraries depending on the “rating”.

Tips ING Home Bank: share data between computers via a NAS

I am using the off-line application of ING Home Bank, more confortable than the online version. But I don’t want to replicate the data on all my PC, so I am sharing those data via my NAS, which is not officially possible.

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  1. When installing the application, use the “advanced mode”.
  2. When you are prompted for a location to store the “userData”, give any valid path. At that time, don’t try to provide a UNC path as this is not accepted by the setup.
  3. When you are prompted for a location to store the “Security” data, give any valid path.
  4. Continue with the setup but don’t run the application after completion
  5. Now, open the file located at C:\Users\Public\Documents\ING\Off-line\Hboff.ini
  6. Look for the entry “DataPath” and replace the value of the path with a UNC path
  7. Look for the entry “SecurityModulePath” and replace the value of the path with a UNC path
  8. Run the application.

If you have any security error related to the access to the UNC path, you possibly have to add an entry in the registry:

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Command Processor] “DisableUNCCheck”=dword:00000001

Tips SSD: Samsung 840 pro vs Kingston HyperX 3K

I used to have a RAID 0 with two SSD Kingston HyperX 3K for my OS. The RAID 0 was managed by an on-board Sata III RAID controller of my Asus P9X79. I have replaced that array with a single SSD Samsung 840 pro. The difference is incredible.

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Samsung SSD 840 PRO – 128GB 2.5″ MLC Serial ATA 6Gb/s

Single SSD Samsung 840 Pro

Single SSD Samsung 840 Pro

RAID 0 with 2 Kingston HyperX 3K SSD Series – 120 GB 2.5″ Serial ATA 6Gb/s

Raid 0 with 2 SSD Kingston HyperX

Raid 0 with 2 SSD Kingston HyperX

I was not expecting such a difference between a RAID 0 of slower SSD and a single SSD. I am usually quite satisfied with the gain of performance when using disks in a RAID 0 array.

It was only a nightmare to backup the OS from the 2 Kingston and restore it on the Samsung. Fortunately, I found a free tool to shrink the system partition: MiniTool Partition Wizard Home Edition 8.1.1.