So Complicated!

Why has the world of technology become so complicated? All in the name of “we can do it”, right? But this is almost unfathomable. It really makes my head hurt.

  • In VMware, you have a choice of UEFI or BIOS mode. Good luck figuring out which one is the better choice, because there isn’t.
  • Ubiquiti has twenty UniFi products to choose from, not counting the new UniFi Dream Machine. This has become almost impossible for even a VAR to make the best decision of which product to recommend.
  • Ad blocking has become a huge nightmare battle as the content providers have become even smarter in their detection of ad blockers. Yet what is a privacy-conscious consumer to do? The choices are not clear at all.
  • Everything has a microphone and camera built-in and even the super-liberal Engadget and I agree that consumers have no privacy left.
  • The efforts to keep hackers at bay seem trivial compared to the massive horde of bad people growing every day. It’s like endless wave of zombies attacking your stronghold. Why does convenience come at the price of security?
  • Google Assistant is broken badly on my Android phone. I asked it “remind me when I get home to wash my car” but even using my most clear voice it just wouldn’t understand me. This is supposed to make my life easier but all it did for about 2 minutes was make my blood pressure spike into unhealthy levels.
  • My Dell PowerConnect broke a few months ago, so I “upgraded” to an HP ProCurve. It has frequent issues that require me to restart devices. So I am waiting for a Juniper EX2200 to arrive from eBay.
  • I need a new Android phone but there is definitely no clear decision. Instead I’m just going one day at a time wondering if something new will be released that will be the right decision.

I wish life was simpler.

Which Came First? AD or VMware?

This was a particularly frustrating issue to solve on my home network. The answer to the question posed by the title of the post is obviously AD. But don’t tell that to my network. Sigh…

It all started with the untimely dying of a UPS battery. Investigation later showed that I got at least 3+ years of lifetime from the pack before it required replacement. Cannot complain there. But this particular UPS likes to notify me that it’s time for new batteries by shutting off entirely. The only two things getting power from this unit: (both) power supplies from the VMware server and the Dell gigabit managed switch. A recipe for disaster.

I’ll keep this post short. The whole reason why there was an issue was that the VMware server was not properly shut down. Oh, and in the process of trying to start up the server, the UPS died again. Joy… Anyway, because I have battery backup capability, I do not worry about sudden power failures. Therefore (and for other reasons too) I run my OS drive datastore in a RAID stripe array (without parity). Performance is great; redundancy, not so much. Upon starting up the AD controller, there were some issues. DHCP would not start at all. Who knows what else? So I made the decision to restore from backup. I use Veeam to routinely image the VMware guests through vCenter. Everything is happily married to Microsoft AD for security and easy authentication. Well, when you have to restore the AD controller which must be shut off, that makes it nearly impossible to authenticate the proper connectivity points through vCenter and Veeam to restore the guest. And this is why Microsoft (and VMware) always tell you to have a physical DC at every site.

The ultimate solution was to edit DNS of the services not properly authenticating to use an off-site DC. That worked like a charm. Pat myself on the back for that ability. Meanwhile after the dust has settled, I am starting a new experiment: virtualizing another DC as a guest on FreeNAS.

A Tale of Two NAS’s

Finally I met with success in two Network Attached Storage devices on my home network. Surprisingly, both at the same time, but different solutions.

I have a Synology DS1010+ that has been in use for the better part of a decade and I also had a FreeNAS homebuilt computer. The Synology’s job was for Plex media storage (PMS) and mass file storage. 5x 2 TB drives in a Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) array. For a few years, the admin portal kept telling me there was array errors, yet all the files were accessible and the drive checks out were good. I purchased a WD 10 TB USB 3.0 drive on President’s day and painstakingly copied all the files from the Synology to the single drive over the past few days. I then wiped the Synology and let it rebuild over about 10 hours. When I brought it back up, SHR was not an option when creating the array. Only normal RAID levels. So I selected RAID 5 and went on my way. 24 hours later, no array errors are present. I think it’s fixed. Also, I found out how to use Domain Admins as admin accounts for the Synology (joined to Active Directory, obviously).

As far as the FreeNAS, apparently the motherboard was dying. I found a suitable replacement and used the latest version of FreeNAS, which is a completely different GUI. It seems to be working much better and I don’t have any errors when using Veeam to backup my VMware ESX server. This is the exclusive purpose of the FreeNAS system. It has 3x 2 TB drives in a ZFS RAID 5 array. The protocol is SMB. iSCSI proved too much hassle to get working. I’ve done it before, but simple Windows share is fine for me.

That’s all today, folks. Maybe next time I’ll announce my new 10 GbE network.

Amazon Lists

Just a post of Amazon links that I don’t want to forget.

https://twentytwowords.com/31-handiest-gadgets-amazon

https://twentytwowords.com/37-inventions-thatll-make-say-dang-thats-clever-2

https://twentytwowords.com/31-gadgets-youll-want-try-instant-see

https://twentytwowords.com/37-interesting-gadgets-amazon-25-2

https://twentytwowords.com/35-handiest-products-amazon-30-youve-never-seen

https://twentytwowords.com/37-things-amazon-100-again

https://twentytwowords.com/33-things-i-dont-own-and-really-want-on-amazon

https://twentytwowords.com/37-brilliant-gadgets-somehow-5-amazon

BlackBerry KEY2 and Verizon Wireless

Carrier and Model

This is a very unique accomplishment. I’ve hoped for this moment for a very long time and now that it has happened I am very happy and pleased. The BlackBerry KEY2 (BBF100-2) is fully compatible with Verizon Wireless. I am referring to voice, text, and LTE data. Also HD voice (in fact, only HD voice because the phone has no CDMA capability).

Please note, I am NOT referring to the BlackBerry KEY2 LE. See screenshot to the left. I am referring to the original BlackBerry KEY2, retail cost $650 USD.

BlackBerry BBF100-2 specifications:
https://www.gsmarena.com/blackberry_key2-9187.php#bbf100-2

When this phone was launched in Q2 2018, it was advertised as specifically not compatible with Verizon Wireless. I tried this myself and indeed placing a VZW SIM card in the phone said “Invalid SIM” and nothing worked. Then in Q1 2019 due to other events I tried a VZW SIM card in the phone again and this time it identified as “Verizon Wireless LTE”. The correct phone number populated and incoming/outgoing phone calls worked flawlessly on HD voice. I was able to brows the Internet and conduct a speed test. I assume that VZW has allowed more LTE bands to communicate on their network, which falls in the compatibility of this device. GSM Arena lists the capability of the BBF100-2 as LTE bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 17, 20, 28, 29, 30, 38, 39, 40, 41, 66. I don’t know what VZW utilizes, but it must include some of these bands.

Unfortunately SMS (text messages) did not successfully test. I was able to send outgoing SMS messages but I could not receive incoming SMS messages. After many hours of troubleshooting, I finally received the definitive answer:

This device is not supported and will not be supported by the Verizon Wireless network. It is not compatible with our network.

VZW Tier 2 Support

I knew the solution was to add the SFO code 83856. This code provisions the network to accept a “CDMA-less device” and allow SMS messages to be received. VZW support could not add this SFO code to my account. I tried multiple times with multiple calls. Every one failed. I stumbled upon the solution randomly thinking about my issue. I borrowed a friends BlackBerry KEY2 LE (BBE100-5), put in my VZW SIM card, called VZW support, added SFO code 83856, then put my VZW SIM card back in my BlackBerry KEY2 (BBF100-2). As of that moment, all incoming SMS messages were successfully received from all tests on all networks.

Now that I posses the knowledge of how to get this phone to operate 100% on Verizon Wireless, it does not seem very difficult, yet it took me almost 3 weeks to become successful. You do have to find a donor BBE100-5 though. Best Buy will not allow you to use an in-store demo (I tried this). I am very frustrated that VZW told me the device is “not compatible” yet it obviously is compatible. I feel like I was lied to. I want to complain to Verizon Wireless management about this discrepancy.

Update: August 25, 2020
I wanted to report that if you decide to change from the KEY2 to another phone and remain on Verizon Wireless, you will need to specifically call Customer Support and request the specific SFO code be removed from your line, otherwise you will not be able to send/receive SMS messages. Speaking from experience!

There’s Still Moisture in South Texas

Dropped WAN packets like crazy.  Called Spectrum.  Took two technicians to figure out the line between the outside box and my Arris modem was bad.  I moved it to a backup location (a better RG-59 cable) and problem solved.

Meanwhile I’m wondering what caused the original cable to go bad.  Then I recall that some years ago I had to cut it and put two ends on it and a female-female connector.  I’m sure the connection steadily degraded over the years and caused noise.  Remember kids, always use pre-made cables wherever possible.

Losing Hope

Honestly there is not much hope left in technology for me anymore.  With Microsoft releasing “beta” (my word) software but calling it ready for prime-time and charging you like it when all the features are clearly missing in one product.  Meanwhile, I have to uninstall my Bluetooth driver software just to use Remote Desktop Connection again.  Google is releasing “Wellbeing” software for Android to help you use your phone less (sounds familiar? it’s called the tobacco industry).  Ford doesn’t make cars anymore.  Facebook is as trustworthy as a homeless man on the street (no offense to the homeless population intended).  What can I put my hope in?  Anything?