Need advice to get on-air

Before I changed jobs at the beginning of the year, I’d commute around 1hr each way each day to the office, and every month or so, I’d get about 3 or 4 days where I’d try to get on my local repeater. When I changed jobs, I suddenly realised that I don’t have any way to get that repeater access from here, as I live in a significant bowl in the landscape.

It’s a bit annoying really, I’ve got a Baofeng UV5R for mobile use, a lovely ICOM-IC2725 and an Alinco DR-605, all of which do 2m and 70cm, and I have a magmount antenna that isn’t mounted on my car any more… So, in theory, if I can get a ground plane up, somewhere that the kids won’t trip over, I could use that with either of those radios.

I’ve seen some suggestions about joining one of the VOIP systems for connected radios, e.g. DSTAR, and hooking up the antenna to a dummy load, then using my Baofeng to join calls over the internet via that network connected radio… Which would probably work, as I have a couple of raspberry pi boards I could dedicate to radio interfaces… But how easy is that too get started?

I can’t really afford to spend much more than £30-£50 on this (the ICOM and Alinco radios were part of a silent-key estate I inherited, all I’ve been able to justify spending on were the Baofeng and the magmount), so my other option was to make an antenna. In the past I built a ladder line J-pole but I really don’t trust my building skills any more, and I can’t really afford to replace the radios if I blow them up with a badly measured antenna.

So… If you were in my boat, fellow radio amateur, what would you do?

Game Review – Kingdomino

Today saw a new game added to our collection – Kingdomino by Blue Orange.

In Kingdomino, you play the ruler of a single square of land, and each turn you compete with the other players to select which piece you get to play into your kingdom next. Each piece has a value on it’s back ranging between 1 and 48, with the lower rated pieces having less chance of increasing the value of your kingdom, and the higher value pieces (complete with crowns) helping each patch score more points.

The game is pretty quick to pick up (match at least one side of your tile with another piece you’ve played already, maximum board size of a 5×5 grid, the crowns offer a way to score points, multiplied by the size of the patch of same-land-types) and easy enough to play that my 3-year-old managed it. Two determined adults (Jules and I) got through two games in 30 minutes. The kids took a little longer (but not by much).

Make sure you have something to tot up the scores at the end though!

Podcast Summary – The Ubuntu Podcast, S10E26

In two weeks I have appeared in three podcasts, and this is the third!

I was asked to participate in The Ubuntu Podcast – S10E26 – Endurable Wiry Bird because of my organisational involvement in the most recent OggCamp. I also mention a VPN product I think is useful for protecting yourself on public WiFi, and I mention my struggles with “Bash on Ubuntu for Windows” (symlinks of directories and FUSE filesystems). My wonderful and constructive wife said that I wasn’t very good at being interviewed (I kept having to be dragged back to talking to “normal people” level), but that it sounded like a professional radio show.

I really enjoy being on all these podcasts… I just wish I was a better guest on them!

Weird technical note: I have recently taken to recording the feeds from two separate microphones and submitting them both to the podcast for mixing purposes. On this occasion that back-fired… The “better” microphone picked up the other people in the audio from the “more rubbish” communications headset I use at work, that we were using to have the conference call. Fortunately, I’d recorded the audio from that too, as that had removed (or, more likely, never picked up) the audio from the other parties on the call… So next time, I need to either use better in-ear headphones for that, it just stick with the comms headset, and hope for the best!

Podcast Summary – Admin Admin Podcast #58

Less than two weeks after my last “Live” show with the podcast, I’m once again contributing to the show. This time, I’m covering for Jerry as a guest presenter on The Admin Admin Podcast – #58 The Correct Answer to the Microsoft Question? this time being a bit controversial for anyone who knows me… By defending Microsoft. I also mention using Ansible to automate server software deployments, and tried to work out how small IT firms work out when to get support contracts. I briefly mention kanban as a task tracking methodology and a specific implementation for MS Outlook.

The Admin Admin podcast is a really nice and broad ranged podcast by three guys who work in IT support at different levels of the support chain. I think, if you work in IT, it’s probably worth having a listen.

Outlook based “Kanban”

Do you use Outlook for your email? Do you sometimes wish you could use a Kanban board with Outlook? Well, look no further!!

Thanks to an internal post about improving workflows, someone mentioned this git repo called “Outlook-Taskboard”, that gives you the ability to create and manipulate your Outlook tasks in a Kanban fashion.

Because it’s “just” native Outlook tasks, you can still manage them using the sidebar or the mobile apps, but when you get back to Outlook, you get to see their status and manage your tasks appropriately.

Podcast Summary – Admin Admin Podcast #57

I’m back again! I’m standing in (again) for Andy as a guest presenter on The Admin Admin Podcast episode #57- Live at OggCamp talking about getting Open Source products under support in a proprietary company. The “famous” Martin Wimpress stands in for Jerry.

As I said last time I was on there, the guys who host the Admin Admin podcast are a really nice, and cover a really great range of subjects about working as a server or network administrator. They have a chat room on Telegram, so if you’re interested in being an admin, it’s worth having a listen, and then maybe join the chat room!

Check Point Management API tips

I was very fortunate yesterday to spend some time with two Check Point engineering staff. Check Point make high-end firewall products that I’m using at work. During the conversation, I mentioned two issues I’ve had during automated builds of Checkpoint appliances…

  1. During the build process, I want to add lots of devices. In my build, however, I need to log in to the management API, and therefore hand into the clear-text userdata field the credentials for the user account – NOT GOOD! What I was told was that actually, you don’t need to operate like that! If you’re running commands on your manager, you can instead run the command in “root” mode to make it bypass any requests for authentication, and as an added “win” it publishes every change you make on exit too! Here’s how:mgmt_cli -r true add host name "New Host 1" ip-address "192.0.2.1"
  2. My other option was to make it so that we can finish our Ansible deployment of the OpenStack server, and then, once it was up and accessible… call out against the API. But how do you do this during the build? Well, you can run four commands against the server to allow remote access to the API, and then you should have access from all the same places your GUI client can access it from! Here’s how:mgmt_cli -r true login domain "System Data" > id.txt
    mgmt_cli -s id.txt set api-settings accepted-api-calls-from "all ip addresses that can be used for gui clients" automatic-start true
    mgmt_cli -s id.txt publish
    api restart

My sincere thanks to Javier and Uri for their guidance. For those wondering about those API calls – see these links: Using the -r flag and configuring the API for remote access.

Podcast Summary – Admin Admin Podcast #55

This week sees the publication of The Admin Admin Podcast episode #55 in which I guest present (and guest introduce!) about network infrastructure. I also answer some questions about using certbot (the free TLS certificate provider), about where to put script files on Linux and a bit about MTU (Message Transfer Units) – although that’s a bit outside my area of expertise, so if I got it wrong, let them know!

The guys who host the Admin Admin podcast are a really nice, and cover a really great range of subjects about working as a server or network administrator. They have a chat room on Telegram, so if you’re interested in being an admin, it’s worth having a listen, and then maybe join the chat room!

One to read: “SKIP grep, use AWK” / ”Awk Tutorial, part {1,2,3,4}”

Do you use this pattern in your sh/bash/zsh/etc-sh scripts?

cat somefile | grep 'some string' | awk '{print $2}'

If so, you can replace that as follows:

cat somefile | awk '/some string/ {print $2}'

Or how about this?

grep -v 'something' < somefile | awk '{print $0}'

Try this:

awk '! /something/ {print $0}' < somefile

Ooo OK, how about if you want to get all actions performed by users when the ISO formatted dates (Y-m-d) match the first day of the month, but where you don’t want to also match January (unless you’re talking about the first of January)…

# echo 'BLOGGSF 2001-01-23 SOME_ACTION' | awk '$2 ~ /-01$/ {print $1, $3}'
(EMPTY LINE)
# echo 'BLOGGSF 2002-02-01 SOME_ACTION' | awk '$2 ~ /-01$/ {print $1, $3}'
BLOGGSF SOME_ACTION

This is so cool! Thanks to the tutorials “SKIP grep, use AWK” and the follow-up tutorials starting here…

Today I learned… Cloud-init doesn’t like you repeating the same things

Because of templates I was building in my post “Today I learned… Ansible Include Templates”, I thought you could repeat the same sections over again. Here’s a snippet of something like what I’d built (after combining lots of templates together):

Note this is a non-working code sample!


#cloud-config
packages:
- iperf
- git

write_files:
- content: {% include 'files/public_key.j2' %}
  path: /root/.ssh/authorized_keys
  owner: root:root
  permission: '0600'
- content: {% include 'files/private_key.j2' %}
  path: /root/.ssh/id_rsa
  owner: root:root
  permission: '0600'

packages:
- byobu

write_files:
- content: |
    #!/bin/bash
    git clone {{ test_scripts }} /root/iperf_scripts
    bash /root/iperf_scripts/run_test.sh
  path: /root/run_test
  owner: root:root
  permission: '0700'

runcmd:
- /root/run_test

I’d get *bits* of it to run – basically, the last file, the last package and the last runcmd… but not all of it.

Turns out, cloud-init doesn’t like having to rebuild all the fragments together. Instead, you need to put them all together, so the write_files items, and the packages items all live in the same area.

Which, when you think about what it’s doing, which is that the parent lines are defining a variable called… well, whatever that line is, and if you replace it, it’s only going to keep the last one, then it all makes sense really!