20 Years With Linux
The other day I plugged in a USB GPS device that has an old Sirf Star IV chipset in it. The serial port speed on Linux is typically 9600 baud and this GPS module had a communication speed of 4800 baud. To get them playing nicely with each other I starting to type in the command “setserial” and then it all came flooding back to me.
Sometime around 2003 or 2004 I was in Okinawa. I think Windows XP was the thing but I probably still had a Windows ME box. Windows 98 SE and Windows ME were AWFUL. Windows XP was much improved but a lot of hardware support didn’t cross over in the earlier days. So I had to keep both platforms running for a while. Anyway, it was during this stint in Okinawa that I decided I was going to start using this thing called Linux that I was reading about in all the computer magazines. By golly if you used Linux you were something known as a POWER USER. I wanted to be a POWER USER too.
The most practical way to get Linux in those days and in those conditions (living on a Japanese island with slow internet) was to go to the Exchange and buy a boxed set of Red Hat Linux. I can’t remember if it was Version 3 or 4. It came in a big box with a gigantic book that seemed to be written for much smarter people than myself.
Surprisingly, installation wasn’t that difficult, except after I completed it, my modem wouldn’t work. I had absolutely no idea what to do. So I grabbed that big book and used a Windows computer that did connect to the internet to start looking for answers. This was no easy task and it took me a day or two to figure out there was a serial port conflict. Then it took me a day or two to figure out what to do about it. The solution was a “setserial” command.
When I heard that modem squawk and connect for the 1st time after dozens of command line attempts, I WAS HOOKED. I was the King Of Linux. Since that time I have always had a Linux laptop. And I am currently working through the 5th generation of Raspberry Pi’s.
HiLetgo VK-172 USB GPS Review
U-blox 7020 in VK-172 GPS
I’m on a GPS kick lately and picked up a HiLetgo VK-172 GPS dongle ($12) from Amazon.
It claims to have a U-blox 7020 chipset inside but if I know anything it’s that most GPS modules you buy online that claim to be U-blox are usually counterfeit.
We might be in good shape here because the 7020 chipset is an older generation product according to U-blox.
The 7020 chipset is a GPS/GLONASS (Russian positioning system) and is small and low powered. It is my understanding that it will not do GPS and GLONASS simultaneously. You have to select one or the other in U-blox software. United States GPS is a bit more accurate than GLONASS and it seems to be default set to GPS. We’ll keep that setting for initial testing and toggle it to GLONASS later (if we can).
You can find these VK-172 GPS dongles all over the place but I think a large number of them have counterfeit chipsets.
Let’s test it with U-blox U-center software to see if it indeed an authentic chipset.
Mygica A681B TV Tuner Review
Earns John’s Tech Blog’s Coveted Piece Of Fucking Shit Award
Not a lot of hardware has the distinction of earning my coveted “Piece Of Fucking Shit Award”. But here we are.
I wrote a blog on using a computer offline and recommended a TV tuner from Hauppauge which probably costs around $75. As a swell public service, while scouring the net doing research on TV tuners, I found a Mygica A681B on Amazon for around half the price. And it claimed to work on Linux.
So I bought one.
What a mistake that was. Even though this thing does actually work it is still a POS.
USB GPS Receiver Uses
I have several blogs on GPS modules. Most of them deal with either counterfeit modules or using a USB GPS module on an offline computer.
Then someone recently emailed me and asked, “who the heck needs a USB GPS receiver”? That is a perfectly good question to ask. Most of us know right where we are, and besides, our phones and a lot of our cameras already have built in GPS. While you know your phone has GPS and you can drop a pin to someone………when’s the last time you actually saw the coordinates?
And ask yourself if you can share that GPS with other devices on your network?
GPS Linux GlobalSat Receiver Sirf Star IV Chipset
This will be a quick primer on how to use a GlobalSat GPS receiver on Ubuntu Linux.
It is actually quite easy since Linux doesn’t need any drivers loaded. Also this blog sort of augments the last blog I wrote regarding the capabilities of using a computer offline. In one section I used a U-blox GNSS module to capture GPS coordinates on Windows and Linux operating systems.
That U-blox module is not exactly what I’d consider to be weather proof. My intent here is provide a GPS solution that is in some sort of reasonable enclosure that is more conducive to getting bounced around in a backpack. Or more conducive to being used in an outdoor environment.
Using A Computer With No Internet Connection
What if you woke up and there was no internet connection?
I have written similar blogs a couple of times in the past but like to keep it up to date as technology cruises forward or if I discover new hardware. Just what would you do if you woke up and there was no internet connection? This could be due to a massive telecom hack, or natural disaster, or an act of war.
Surprisingly, your computer can do quite a lot without a network connection, even if you can’t picture in your mind how that could be. Let’s explore how we can use a computer with no internet connection.
What Can We Do With No Internet Connection?
Quite a bit actually. Let me make a quick list:
- Radio (AM, FM, shortwave, weather, air band, etc.)
- Monitor Emergency Communications (Police, Fire, EMS, Military, etc.)
- Establish Emergency Communications between computer using Long Range Radio (LoRa)
- Track Weather Satellites and download weather data
- Program Radios with CHIRP
- Files such as manuals
- Entertainment such as books, magazines, music, and movies
Let’s build our SHTF machine, shall we?
LoRa Meshtastic And Encrypted Communications
Lora Meshtastic V3 Board
If Edward Snowden taught us anything it is that almost all of our communications are simply not as private as we thought they were. Heck, a week or so ago it was revealed that AT&T was giving cell phone data to the Department of Justice (DOJ) without warrants. Encryption is cool and I bet if you are reading this you are in the same boat I’m in. I can encrypt stuff but no one else I know has the tech savvy to do it. It’s like owning one shoe. Now a new method of encrypted communications has come along. A marriage between LoRa and Meshtastic firmware.
LoRa stands for “Long Range” and it is a mesh network that uses low power, and wide area networking protocols. LoRa does not require internet, wifi, or cellular and is OFF GRID.
Meshtasic firmware is Open Sourced. That still means something these days.
Epson LW-K200PX Label Maker Review
I was done reviewing label makers for a while. And then Epson released a new label maker in their PX line of label makers. Since I own several more advance PX label printers, the Epson LW-K200PX ($39.99) seemed like something I should pass on. Then I realized they were offering a promotion in December 2023 to include any two PX tape cartridges for FREE! That could potentially be an up to $75 value.
I have literally bought used Epson labelers online that I know didn’t work because the included pics showed multiple tape cartridges. One guy sold a beat up labeler and had 7 cartridges for $25. I got it just for the cartridges and tossed the machine. So when I had the opportunity to get a couple extra cartridges that cost $55 or so for $40, AND GET A NEW LABELER, I was hooked.
To sweeten the pot the LW-K200PX comes with a cartridge of 1/2″ black on white tape. So you are getting THREE tapes to get started.
Epson LW-PX700 Label Maker Review
It is no secret that I love label makers. I have picked up yet another one in my quest to test them all. Today I will be testing the Epson Labelworks LW-PX700 ($129). Epson had a 15% off campaign and that’s when I jumped at the chance to get one.
Best of all after ordering mine directly from Epson I got an email stating that VIP members could get a Buy One, Get One label maker. I immediately emailed Epson who altered my order to BOGO. I lost the 15% discount but got TWO LW-PX700’s for the price of one. WOW!
It can also be purchased in the Deluxe Kit also known as the LW-PX700PCD ($209). I ALWAYS recommend getting the deluxe kits as they include a lithium ion battery, an AC adapter, a USB cable, magnetic mounting feet, and a roll of tape to get you started. Top that off with a hard carry case and you are all set.
Included with just the label maker is an AC adapter and 1 tape cartridge. No battery.
However, this time I did not get the Deluxe Kit. I already own the Epson LW-PX900PCD Deluxe Kit. All the accessories are the same. Most of the extra cost is wrapped up in the lithium ion battery ($79) which is NOT included when you buy just the LW-PX700.
Epson Labelworks LW-PX800 Label Maker Review
The latest acquisition to my label maker stable is the Epson LW-PX800 from Epson Labelworks. I’m actually partial to handheld label makers however, I decided to give a stand alone, network labeler a shot. And boy, I am glad that I got the Epson Labelworks LW-PX800. Before I get started I want to state that I intend to use this labeler with Mac OS, and connected via wired LAN. Or by the IOS apps Epson provides for free.
Epson Label Editor Software is Windows only however, a Lite version is provided for Mac OS. Label Editor Lite requires a driver and with the driver you download you need to select the box to also install the Epson Network Configuration Tool. More on that in just a bit.
Who Is This For?
You might think that the Epson LW-PX800 is for industrial and heavy office use. And you might be right. However, if you are reading this you undoubtedly have an interest in technology which means you have an interest in having the best tech possible. If you own lasers, 3D printers, or vinyl cutters, this is right up your alley. If you are a serious hobbyist or DIY warrior the LW-PX800 is your Huckleberry.