Pi-Hole Ad Blocker

I learned about Pi-Hole on a recent episode of the New Screen Savers.  Pi-Hole converts a Raspberry Pi (model 2/3) into a DNS server with a large database of advertising sites.  If a DNS querry is looking for one of the sites, Pi-Hole blacholes the request so ads are not served.  DNS servers can be configured via DHCP.  I set the Pi-Hole as my primary DNS and moved the OpenDNS servers down in my pFSense DHCP settings; this will let my computers failover to OpenDNS is the Pi-Hole is offline.

From a console on a Raspberry Pi (RPi) running the lastest Raspberian, run:

curl -sSL https://install.pi-hole.net | bash 

The instlal will go through a wizard for settings and provide a passowrd when finished.  This password is needed to acces the Pi-Hole admin screen:


Changing the password was not an option from the admin settings: for a password change, SSH into the RPi and enter:

pihole -a -p somepasswordhere

I disabled uBlock Origin on my browser and I cannot tell the differnece; the Pi-Hole appears to be at least as good as the extension.  it also will provide adblock for devices that cannot use uBlock- such as my phone or my Android tablet.


A Tale of Three PSPs

20171001_112756I purchased a used PSP (a ‘phat’ 1001 model) from eBay with the intent of repairing to play Patapon on a larger screen.  The unit I received was unrepairable (understandable for $10) but had some useable parts.  After comparing the individual component prices (TA-082 Mother board + ribbon cable) I found two similar PSPs on eBay for less than the cost of parts.  Between the three, I could Frankenstein together two working PSPs 

  • 1st PSP (TA-082):  Had obvious signs of water (more likely it was diet Coke/Pepsi) damage; there was corrosion on parts of the internal metal frame, the power and WiFi switches were sticky, the paper backing on the screen was deteriorated/torn/stuck, and there was a line of dark ‘goo’ encircling it beneath its silver edging.  The unit would not power on as a short had burned through three conductors in the ribbon cable (and the on-board connector) that connected the power board to the mainboard. (Also, a nice burn mark on the metal frame over that area).  Later I would find the screen had many diagonal streaks that appeared to be from a dark stain on the LCD or backlight panel.


  • 2nd PSP (TA-079): this was sold with a defective screen.  Powering also appeared to have issues, but it ended up being a problem with the battery not seating correctly.  I replaced the screen with one from the earlier PSP and it worked- but the screen has strange streaks across that looked bad.


    After replacing this, everything worked Ok and I could install a 6.6PRO-C2 custom firmware. (more on this later).
  • 3rd PSP (TA-086):  this unit was sold as-is untested.  The exterior was in much better shape but it initially would not power on.  I booted to a Pandora’s battery with some success, but ran into a problem as it would also try to access the UMD drive when powered on (with no UMD inserted), hang for 30 seconds and display a message that it was unable to read the disc.  After the delay, the PSP seemed to work, but I had power issues (I suspect my battery again).  I did find a spot of corrosion on the UMD ribbon cable that had eaten entirely through one of the traces (I had to use a jeweler’s loupe to see the break).  


The screen from this device was removed and installed in the 2nd PSP to make it 100% functional. I transplanted the 2nd PSP’s screen (the ugly one originally from the 1st PSP) into this. I also tried swapping the UMD assembly with the drive from the first PSP with the same pause on startup result. However, after I manually manipulated the sensor and eject lever in the UMD drive, it started working normally (save for the ugly screen).

I now have:

· One fully working PSP 1001

· One working PSP1001 with a bad display and a suspect UMD drive

· One dead psp: Dead board, bad power ribbon cable, bad umd ribbon drive, broken UMD door, broken screen…

I ordered a white full housing replacement for the working PSP from eBay.  I am still deciding if I want to purchase an additional PSP (for parts), order a replacement LCD screen, or recycle the partially working unit.

PSP Mods:

My old Pandora’s battery and Magic Memory Stick (MMS) was old and it flashed v3.71 onto the PSP 1001s.  They behaved oddly and I assume this was due to changes made with later firmware.  I found Rain’s MMS Maker v1.2 to make a newer (v5.00) MMS and this flash seemed to behave better.  (Note: hold down left trigger when booting with new MMS and inserting Pandora’s Battery; the older 3.71 MMS boots without this.)  I had trouble figuring out how to update to a newer version, and realized the Pandora’s Battery is now obsolete. 

Installing the 6.60PRO-C2 CFW is much easier:

1. Update to the official 6.60 firmware

2. Copy the 6.60PRO-C2 CFW to the Memory Stuck

3. Run the Update from the Games menu in XMB

4. Run the CIPL Flasher (only for PSP1000s and early PSP2000s)

This CFW will work on any PSP, but later model PSP 2000s and PSP3000s (and PSP Go) will need to re-run the Update on each hard reboot.

Memory Stick Replacement:

clip_image001[4]The PSP uses a MS Pro Duo memory card, that is still overpriced-as-fuck.  I had an old SDA-1800 dual Micro SD to MS Pro Duo adapter that I attempted to use: Although the manufacturer states it will take up to 1TB MicroSD cards, my unit would only recognize 29GB of a single 64GB.  I attempted to use different card configurations (using Rufus to format as FAT32 on my PC) but all would fail on a format from the PSP.  Single cards were limited to 32GB and dual SD card configurations would always fail (even in a 2 x 16GB configuration).  I realize there was an issue with the adapter as I had the same issues when connected to PC (My 128GB Micro SD was showing up as 1GB; two 32GBs showed up as 29GB, etc.). 

I eventually destroyed the adapter (crushed, broken and burned) and ordered a single Micro SD adapter from amazon. The new card will not work with my 128GB Micro SD but does work great with a 64GB card.  64GB can hold a lot of PSP CSOs (compressed ISOs).  :)


Old Playstation Tomfoolery

In a prior post, I mentioned finding my old PSP Go and regaining interest in the old Patpon game.  I have a dock for my PSP Go! and discovered there an option for sending the video out to my TV via an componet cable.  I also learned I could use a PS3 controller with the PSP Go while for control- put it requires a PS3 to pair it. Luckily I have an old (phat) PS3 in the closet..

Image result for CECHE01 PNGMy PS3 was second gen (CECHE01) and was running firmware 3.51. A google search revealed the PS3 is ‘hackable’ up to v3.55; after that, I would need a hardware device to downgrade to v3.55. 

I could find no explict instructions on how to upgrade an old 3.51 firmware to a modified 4.81.  The process I eventually used:

The last two updates probably could have been combined, but I was unaware of the 4.81.2 release until I began this post.

I also repalced the hard drive in my PS3 with a 1TB drive. 

MultiMan is a file manager tool that allows me to copy my PS3 games to copy and paly my games from the internal hard drive.  It also allows me to run PS2 and PSX games- but this may actually be handled by the Rebug firmware and MultiMan only provides and interface to launch.  I was able to play the orginal PSX Crash Bandicoot from my origial disk with no issues.  (This game also made me realize I do not like this genre of video games as much as I once did.)

During the upgrade proces, I kept my PS3 offline to ensure I would not recive a PSN ban for running a modified console. Rebug 4.81.2 indicates it should work with PSN ‘until the next firmware update’ (Sony’s last official update was Nov 1st, 2016), so I will give it a go; worst case scenario is I will only be able to play local games offline- which is my preffered gaming type.  

So far, I have been able to update the PS store app and download an update for Super Startdust Delta (v5.0 to v6.0) with no problem.

Additionally, there is a large amount of PS3 homebrew applications for console emulators, FTP, IRC, media players…There is even a cloud sync for game save backups.

Final result: I have an PS3 console that can hold all of my PS3 games, play older PSX/PS2 games, run emulators and homebrew. 


LG = Life’s (not so) Good

LG is a company that I want to like; they are not as big as Samsung or Sony, and their products have been fairly inovative.  However, I funally ralized their products are unreliable and their customer support is less helful than Comcast support (my former worst support). 

I am on my thrid- and last- LG cell phone.

MORE PICTURESThe LG G3 moved the volume buttons to the back of the phone- and that was amusing for a while.  The phone itself was slow and chewed through batteries.  I used this phone for ~6 months and ‘upgraded’ to the LG V10.

LG V10
MORE PICTURESThe LG V10 had a second screen for noticicaitons and an enahcned DAC for better sound.  It was also ‘ruggitized’ for duriability.  It had the rear volume controls around the power button and a fingerprint sensor in the button.  The first issue I had with this device is the fingerprint sensor would not work if the phone is in a case…

The GPS was unreliabe; several times I could not get a GPS lock while driving down the interstate in GA.  A reboot usually temporarily fixed this- but this also lead into its second issue: the battery would drain much faster than anything could charge.  On several occasions, I would try to use Google Maps for directions and the phone would steadly creep down the battery percentage while connected to a QC 2.0 charger.  I happily returned this phone when my ‘lease’ ended with T-Mobile.

MORE PICTURESMore recently I purchased the LG G5.  I loved the phone for the size, the performance and the USB C charging connector.  I picked up the LG G5 Camera addon and the LG 360 camera (more info my prior posts) accessory.  It seemed to be the perfect phone- until the volume control became intermittiant.  I am unsure if it is a hardware or software issue, but it usually stops working after I connect to a bluetooth audi device (headphones, car, etc).  A few reboots sometime fixes this, but is yet another LG pain-in-th-ass.

I have LG several chances to make me like them and have received poorly designed (and seemingly untested) devices complimented with poor support and broken support websites; my next phone will be a Google Pixil or a Samsung.


Recent Target Deals

I like to check the back endcaps in Target’s electronic department as they can get pretty aggressive at trying to discontinue items.  I found a few items at the Milton, GA store that I could not pass up.  Please note these closeouts may be store-by-store and pricing in other stores  may vary.  Today I scored:

View Master Deluxe VR Viewer: Marked down to $11.98 from $39.99

Image result for View Master Deluxe VR Viewer

This is yet another headset that uses smartphones as a VR device.  It is designed to work with View Master ‘experience packs’ (such as the Space pack below) and also doubles as a pretty decent Google Cardboard device.  One oddity is the front is see-through red and this tints any AR viewing via the phone’s camera.  (Rose colored glaases?)

One complaint is that it does not have a head strap option- and holding with my hand creates more shake than similar models that do have a strap.

View Master Space Experience Pack: Priced at $4.48 (from $14.99)

Image result for View Master space

I believe this is geared to a younger audience.  The AR and VR interaction is pretty cool, but it provides elementary school level info on planets, rockets, etc. that has no real depth.  One VR segment features a Saturn V rocket and has three points of interest (command module, stages, thrusters) which have pop-up windows with text information. 

At $5, this still feels like a waste of money.

PowerA Xbox Fusion Wired Controller: Was $49.99 and closeout at $14.98

Image result for PowerA Xbox Fusion

This feels like a decent quality controller; not quite xBox or Logitech quality, but fairly nice .  The handles feel better to me as they are a little more narrow than a normal xBox controller. The package provided three different style analog stick for customization.

Homedics Mercury Percussion massager: Also $11.96 (from their normal $39.99)

Mercury™ Percussion Massager with Heat 1

Just a hand held massager; I have been considering picking up something similar to this, and a 70% discount made it too good to pass.

I have a strong feeling I will tire of the first two items in a few days- but $17 for a few hours of entertainment is worth it.  I will likely donate to a thrift store once I am done for someone else to enjoy.


PSP CSO Batch File

Small Windows batch file to compress all ISOs in current directory (W:\ROMs):

for /r %%i in (*.iso) DO (
ECHO Source: "%%~ni.iso"
ECHO Destination: "%%~ni.cso"
w:\ROMs\ciso 9 "%%~ni.iso" "%%~ni.cso"
DEL "%%~ni.iso"

Copy the ciso.exe found in the \files directory under the PSP ISO Compressor folder in program files to the current directory.

The batch file will loop through files with an .iso extension to compress into a .cso and delete the original.

I would suggest commenting out the DEL line for a first run- just to make sure everything works as expected. ;)


PSP Go! Resdicovered

clip_image001I was cleaning out my closet and came across my old PSP Go! (with 6.20 PRO-B10 custom firmware).  This model as 16GB integrated plus a 16GB M2 Duo memory card- and can hold several compressed CSO ROMs.  :)

One of the ROMs on the my system is Patapon; a highly addictive rhythm based game.  After a few hours, I remembered why I  stopped playing: it can be frustrating as hell if you miss one beat in the middle of a large battle.  Luckily, the Internet has provided game save files with near completion or large amounts of resources. 

I also thought it would be fun to order an old 'not working – for parts’ PSP 1000 from eBay and attempt to repair.  The screen is larger (4.3” vs 3.8”) and the buttons feel better on the full-sized PSP.  Once I get the older PSP working (I may need to order another ‘for parts'), I plan to encase in a new shell (first choice is gold, but also considering the see-thru red and white housing) to make look decent.

I also still have a Pandora’s battery and ‘Magic Memory Stick’ that should allow me to put a CFW on the PSP1000…

LG 360 Camera Firmware

As mentioned in a prior post, I purchased an open-box LG 360 camera from a seller on Amazon- and the LG customer service experience began.  After several failed attempts to use various versions of LG Bridge and on different Windows and Mac computers, I had given up and was using an older 360 Camera application from the Google Play store.

Yesterday I chanced upon a post on the LG Users forum on Google plus that had a capture of the R10510L firmwareAnother post on the page made me aware of the ‘UPPERCUT’ application this able to load firmware to LG devices without using their bloatware LG Bridge (re: bloatware as I have zero interest in their mandatory LG Drive to run LG Bridge).

After installing LGUP (included in package) and UPPERCUT, I was able to update my LG 360 camera to R10510L.  :)

I am still unable to connect to the camera via LG Bridge.  The updated Android application is much faster to connect and take pictures (old app had a 1-2 second delay after pressing the on-phone button). 

My miserable experiences with LG’s US support has convinced me to stay clear of any future LG purchases; It really felt like it was lowest-bid out-sourced customer support as it was complete ‘I-don’t-give-a-fuck’ correspondence.


LG 360 Camera - Software Problems

The LG 360 camera is an interesting device with dual 180 degree cameras that provide a full 'sphere' photo.  It retails for $199 but was shipped as a bonus for many early LG G5 adopters.

I chanced upon one of these on Amazon at a reasonable price.  This post will chronicle the ongoing difficulties I have had trying to get this device to work as LG designed.

I ordered the camera on April 17th and received on April 19th.  After charging the camera powered up, can take pictures via the shutter button and I can retrieve the photos via USB cable.  The main issue is pressing the button requires me to be in each photo (with my arm extended towards the shutter button).

I downloaded the LG 360 Camera software from the Google Play store and tried to connect to the camera- and nothing.  I tried again with a Galaxy Tab S2; same results.  I repeated my attempts with a LG V10, a Samsung Galaxy S6, a Samsung Galaxy S5, a Google Nexus 5 and an Amazon Kindle HD8 with the same results.  I assumed the camera was broken and requested a return from Amazon.

Not being one to give up on a gadget, I thought I would take it apart to see if it was fixable before returning; the tear-down video from iFixit discouraged me from attempting.  I did have the idea to try the camera with the iOS version of the 360 Camera application- and it worked!

The connection to the camera is a little odd; in the iOS app, I tap the 'search' icon and it finds the camera via Bluetooth 4.0 LE.  The app connects and the camera makes a chirp to indicate it has enabled WiFi.  On the iPad, I connect to the LGR105xxx WiFi SSID of the camera and a the camera makes a different noise- indicating a device has connected via WiFi. Opening the application again reveals the camera connected and it can be remote controlled from the iPad.

Going back to android, I discovered I could initiate this by attempting to manually connect to the camera via Bluetooth.  This sounds the alert that WiFi is on and I can see the LGR105xxx SSID. I am unable to establish a WiFi connection to the SSID from any android phone.  (It does sometimes make the second noise- and Android OS times out when connecting.

After some research in several LG 360 camera forums, I found the latest versions (5.11.1 and 5.2.x) of the LG 360 Camera software for Android require a firmware update on the camera.  I managed to find a website with older versions of the LG 360 software.  Installing v5.1.9 allows me to connect to the camera from my android phone! :)

I believe the firmware (R10508e) on my camera is an early version. LG 360 forums indicate there was a large update in April 2016 (R10510e) and several updates since then (R15010L is current).  The phone is updated with the LG Bridge application- but it will not connect to the camera.  30 seconds after my camera is connected, LG bridge responds:

With this information, I opened a ticket with LG support as I was sure there was an easy fix.  After a few disappointing conversations with 'Abby', it was clear LG no longer cares about supporting this product.  

I was informed the latest LG Bridge software would allow me to update the firmware.  I tried to explain I had already tried this- on several PCs- and it does not connect.  I think I would have been better off beating my face into a concrete brick wall than bothering with LG support...  The 'tech' regurgitated her script, continued to apologize that she had no clue as to what was going on and provided me with instructions for downloading LG Bridge... 

Some forum users have reported issues with USB controllers so I tried on a few different PCs (five) and a MacBook Pro; all have the same issue.  The PC OSes vary between Window 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.  The camera was tested in different USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports on each PC with a variety of USB C cables; all exhibit the same issue.

LG 360 Camera User Forums:

I tried downgrading LG Bridge to an older version (v1.2.10) but it insists it needs and update when the application is started; if I decline, the app shuts down.  The work around is to disable Internet connectivity before starting LG Bridge.  I have tested on two PCs and both are unable to connect. (The latest LG Bridge also insists on installing LG's own 'LG AirDrive' cloud software that I have zero interest in using- and it required to use the LG Bridge software...)

The LG drivers were also downgraded from v4.2 to v4.0.4. (LG Bridge will try to update this if it is run while connected to the Internet) with no change in results.  

I am starting to suspect that LG has blocked the older firmware out of LG Bridge in a similar manner as they neutered the Android app for the same users.  I cannot use the new app without updating the firmware- but I cannot update the firmware was LG bridge will not connect...

The LG website also offers a PC Suite 'for older devices'- it also will not connect to the camera (Windows or MacOS version).

I am continuing to look for older drivers and firmware in the crazy idea I may find a way to update this camera and re-enable updates of the LG 360 Camera software in Google Play- but it is looking bleak.

Some tips:
  • Holding down power + shutter for 4 seconds forces a wireless reset of the camera (Bluetooth & WiFi?).  
  • The camera will start beeping if I press power + shutter for 8+ seconds.  Pressing the power button within 4 seconds will factory reset the device.  

Why the Hell is this so complicated LG?  Did you hire the lowest wage 'agile' developers and neglect to create an outline of what was needed before they started work?  Why does the LG 360 Camera that was launched with the LG G5 have so many software and hardware stipulations to make it work?

My final thoughts:
LG 360 Camera Hardware: 7/10
-compact design, good pictures, decent battery, quality feel
LG Software: 3/10
-Incompatibilities between camera firmware/Android app/LG Bridge make the device frustrating to use.  LG bridge requires most recent updates and their cloud program to be installed before the software will start (if connected to the Internet).  
LG Support: 0/10
-I wasted my time contacting LG support; Googling for LG 360 Camera Issues (ignoring the LG link) allowed be to connect my Android phone to my camera!

This experience (plus a failed controller board in an LG LCD TV) has left me with a bitter taste for LG products.  At one time (many years ago,) LG was one of my favorite brands.  Going forward, I think I will be better off considering devices from Samsung, Sony and other reputable vendors before rolling the dice with a future LG purchases.



Portable Working

I have issues with misplacing information while working on projects as I will work in the office, from home or from a remote terminal session.  I was looking for an encrypted cloud-based system that will let met pickup work from almost the same spot I stopped (on another computer).  I am also a huge fan of Notepad++ and came up with this:

Cloud Service: Google Drive
Encryption: Boxcryptor
App: Notepad++

1. install Google Drive
2. Install Boxcryptor
    a. Create a free Boxcryptor account (works for up to 2 computers)
    b. Specify Google Drive to use as the 'location'
    c. Boxcryptor will assign a drive letter (W:, for ex.) and link Google Drive under the new drive
    d. Select folders and encrypt them with Boxcryptor
3. Create a 'Notepad' folder in W:\Google Drive\ and encrypt with Boxcryptor
4. Install Notepad++
    a. Settings -> Preferences -> Cloud.  Point to W:\Google Drive\Notepad
    b. Settings -> Preferences -> Default Directory.  Point to W:\Google Drive\Notepad
    c. Settings -> Preferences -> Backup  Set Custom Backup Directory to W:\Google Drive\Notepad
    d. restart Notepad++
5. Repeat the above on the second computer


Today I learned...

Excel tips:

Delete empty rows:
1. Highlight column A
2. Press F5, Select 'special'
3. Select 'Blanks'
4. Hit Ok and 1st cell of each blank row will be selected
5. Delete -> Delete Sheet Rows
(note: column A is used as other cells may have merged contents)

Find duplicate cells:
1. highlight column
2. Conditional formatting
3. Highlight Cell Rules -> Duplicate Values...
4. Select a color and 'Ok'