heyrick1973 -at- yahoo -dot- co -dot uk

Winter Sales

It's now the time of the Winter Sales. There isn't a lot on offer that interests me, but there are some things...

 

New shoes

Last week, these would have cost a few centimes shy of fifty euros. In the sales? Half that.

They are leather. I wouldn't buy anything else as I need shoes that are fairly soft (hard shoes are quite uncomfortable) yet able to cope with water, given, you know, this is farmland and I need to cross a grassed field to feed the cat, etc.
Fake leather shoes just don't cut it. Basically the fake leather is a piece of fabric with a sort of foam mousse onto which the plastic outer is attached. The problem is that the mousse degrades quite rapidly, leaving the upper attached to the sole via a piece of thin plastic flimsier than a free carrier bag (not that such things exist any more!).
Anyway, I have an older pair for doing the field walking, I just stood in some grass for this picture. Then I put the kettle on because it's bloody cold again. :-(

 

Canon Pixma MG2450

With my printer's print head seemingly unable to print magenta (at all - electrical fault?), I decided that since mom sometimes asks me to photocopy stuff, we ought to at least have access to something that can make copies.

For this, I decided upon the Canon Pixma MG2450. The list price in Amazon was about sixty euros. I picked it up for half that as my supermarket wanted it gone. The deep irony is that it comes supplied with two "standard" cartridges so at the price I paid, the printer would have only cost me about a fiver more than buying a replacement cartridge set. I had considered the idea of buying one to use and one to take apart (given that price), but alas it was the last one.

The printer itself has very little intelligence. About the only cool thing it does is that it can print out a print head alignment sheet, then scan it to set itself up.
There's no media slot, no scan to media or print photos. Without a computer attached, the best it can manage is to produce copies in either colour or black and white.

It is actually quite quick at copying. The photo above is of a copy of a publicity flyer. In comparison the colours are slightly less intense as the flyer was printed with a laser printer, however the problem with lasers is they can be a bit heavy handed. The Canon's reproduction is not only remarkably faithful given the difference in technology, but also managed to make the photos look better!

The controls are dead simple. There's an On/Off button, a Stop button, a Black and white button, and a Colour button. There's also some LEDs to warn on ink status or printer error. That's it. For the point of view of copying, one simply turns the printer on, places the thing to be copied on the scanner glass, closes the lid, then presses B/W or Colour as applicable. If ink wastage is a concern and the copy isn't that important, holding down the B/W or Colour button for about four seconds will start the copy in Draft mode.
There are some hidden facilities available by holding down the Stop button for a certain number of blinks of the error indicator. Something like four blinks is for head cleaning, six for alignment, and nineteen for configuring Quiet Mode. There are a few described in various parts of the online user guide, but I do wonder - what happens if you wait for thirteen blinks? These don't seem to be documented anywhere - nobody has bothered to hack their printer...

Now for the good news/bad news part. The bad news is that this printer has print heads built into the (remarkably small) ink cartridges. This means that when an ink runs out, such as yellow that seems to be consumed the most, the whole thing needs to be replaced. Since it is a modern printer, the ink consumption is encoded into the cartridge, so refills are not simply a matter of boring a hole into the cartridge and injecting ink (as I used to with my Lexmark). Since the print heads are built into the cartridge, they are expensive - even clone/reconditioned ones.
The good news, on the other hand, is that this printer has print heads built into the (remarkably small) ink cartridges. This means that there will never be a case of the ink drying out due to infrequent use, thus risking trashing the entire printer. If a cartridge dries out, just fit another. It also means that there is no risk of damage to the printer from the use of clone inks - the clone inks will come with an equally clone print head, and if it all goes horribly wrong somehow, just pull it out and put a new cartridge in.
Accordingly, most of the printers that I looked at were rejected because the ink cartridge was only ink. Yes, it would be nice to have a fancy WiFi enabled printer, but if it contains a built-in print head, there's a worry that I'm only going to be facing the same sort of problem as I had with the Brother.
I also rejected HP on principle. They have on-cartridge heads (good) but they recently snuck in a DRM check in a routine firmware update that would reject non-official cartridges. I believe they backed down from the heat of Internet bashings, but, sorry, given printer ink costs more than designer perfume or fuel, I well understand that it's a nice little cartel to make inexpensive printers and recoup the price from official inks, just as I hope that HP understand that it is my printer, my choice. HP attempted to remove that choice, so I removed HP from my choices.
I also had to remove Samsung (not that my supermarket had any), as HP now owns that.

I don't print photos (I prefer the instant 25¢/photo machine as the ink isn't water soluble like an inkjet), I rarely print full-colour A4 pages. It is usually stuff downloaded, pages of datasheets, bits of code, rubbish like that... plus whatever mom wants to copy which is usually something out of a recipe book... so I'm hoping that this printer will serve me better than my Brother. Don't get me wrong, I liked the Brother, but if dried ink can put the print head out of commission (and that's with it runnings its cleaning cycles automatically every few days!), what use is it?

...actually, I will keep the Brother around as it makes it a doddle to scan to JPEG or assemble a PDF of scanned pages (like I did for the Hearsay manual). It's a shame the Canon doesn't do this, but for those sorts of features I would have paid considerably more.

 

Verbatim Mediashare Wireless

Running it at twenty euros, a dinky little box about the size of a USB harddisc:

What it is, primarily, is a device to permit you to attach a USB harddisc and share the contents to a mobile device, such as a tablet or a mobile phone. It contains a 3000mAh battery inside (claims four hours, or threeish if powering a harddisc), so it can run autonomously to stream stuff to kids in a car, for example. It is capable of handling up to five simultaneous users, though obviously the realistic number depends upon the bitrate of the material being streamed. It appears that the device can manage about 10Mbit/sec, so can do one high quality HD stream (such as GoPro video which may be around 10Mbps) or up to five downloaded videos (which are more likely in the 1-2Mbps range).
However, there is another rather interesting feature. It can act as a bridge to extend a WiFi network. I have "good" WiFi in my bedroom right now, and coverage extends into mom's bedroom (which is usually a black spot for coverage from the Livebox). The WiFi capabilities of the device are not actually that good, only marginally better than the iPad Mini and that's the worst device I've ever owned in that respect; however I can move the MediaShare a little closer to the door where it can better acquire a signal.

Setting up the device was not all that hard. I powered up and started the official app on my phone. This got me logged in and looking at the content of an SD card. Setting up the WiFi bridge was a bit more complicated. I chose the SSID and entered the long password (actually, pasted from clipboard) and the device then decided to forget the network I was trying to connect to. I repeated the operation a number of times (five or six?) and then it just stuck. It wasn't a signal issue as I went into the living room and stood next to the Livebox. I dunno, that was a bit weird. But once the setting stuck, I could connect to the MediaShare and then call up websites with no obvious delay. Using SpeedTest, I have measured a latency of 30ms via the MediaShare versus 26ms directly to the Livebox. Download speeds were 1.97Mb via the MediaShare versus 2.03 directly to the Livebox. Upload speeds to Orange's server in Paris tell me it's about 0.24mbit which is far off the mark. A test a few minutes before told me it was 0.89mbit (about right) via the MediaShare to a server in Saint-Lo (which only gave me 0.65Mbit download speed). The moral of this story is twofold: 1, Ookla's SpeedTest is all over the place and probably can't be used as a reliable indicator of anything; and 2, there's little difference in SpeedTest results via the MediaShare or direct to the Livebox. As such, we can say that it being in the chain has a minimal effect.

The WiFi uses a password. It's WPA/WPA2-PSK, and it supports b/g/n. The default password is printed on the bottom of the case. Unlike the Livebox, it is fairly short but you can supply your own in the configuration. The default login is "admin" with no password, though the web interface will prompt you for a password.

Open ports on the device are 23 (telnet), 80 (http), 81 (?), and 139 (NETBIOS). Poking around, it looks as if port 81 is the web server, only it replies without the normal HTTP headers. Maybe it's for the app?
Telnet is more interesting. You can log in as the user with the username/password combination (default is "admin" with no password), or you can log in as root with the password 20080826 which appears to be hardcoded into the device. Silly Verbatim for not realising these things can be cracked. Thanks to Michael's friend for cracking that, so the rest of us don't have to. I can confirm it works.
/proc/meminfo says there's 28MiB of available memory (probably 32MiB with a ~4MiB kernel). /proc/cpuinfo tells me it's a Ralink MIPS 24K (RT3xxx) managing about 240 BogoMIPS. I didn't look at how much Flash there was. I think, from a quick scan of /proc/kmsg that it was 8MiB, but don't quote me on that.

The web interface looks like this. It needs scripting and Flash on a PC, but works (and looks the same) on my phone (which has no Flash...?).

User lets you change your password. You don't get to change the user name, you're "admin" and that's that.
Disk tells you about attached media and partitions. You can dismount media from here, which you should always do before removing. The device supports FAT, exFAT, and NTFS. Being based on Linux, it probably also supports stuff like ext3, but these options rarely turn up in domestic harddiscs!
Network is for setting the hostname, the WiFi settings, and so on. If you are using the device as a bridge, it needs to be running on the same channel as your main access point, however unlike my Vonets WiFi adaptor (where I had to disable the bridge function), the MediaShare does not spew so much junk that WiFi communication dies. Obviously the more that is going through the MediaShare, the more everything else will slow down due to radio collisions. It's a choice - the convenience of a WiFi bridge, or the speed of two independent radio frequencies.
Services is for turning Samba on and off.
System is for setting up a time server, backing up the settings, upgrading the firmware, or restoring factory defaults.
Wizard is if you want to run the first-time-setup wizard again.

The Information displays tell you the media type and free space, or the model version, or network information (such as IP addresses).

Here is the Explorer:

The icons along the top are: Refresh, Upload, Create folder, Copy, Move, Open, Delete, Rename, and Photo Viewer. On a PC, you can right-click on a file for some options.

I do not know if the Samba server is bugged or if iOS software is bugged. I was able to set up an SMB share fairly easily on my Android phone. Scanning for the device in ES File Explorer did not work - it gave me a share called IPC$ and all subsequent attempts to log in failed. However setting up a new share to the IP address (10.10.10.254 by default) and providing the username/password up front worked, and gave me IPC$ (which can be ignored) and the wanted share "SDCard_Volume1" (for an SD card, obviously) with the files within.
But two SMB capable programs on iOS, one saw the shares and failed to connect, one saw nothing and failed to connect.

Don't panic. There's a potentially more useful workaround. Simply go to http://10.10.10.254/data/. If you have not logged in, you will get an authentication prompt, so give the username/password combination. You will then need to navigate, possibly to either UsbDisk1 or UsbDisk2 ("USB Disc" even if SD card!), and then to Volume1, and then you will see your files. When you see what you want to play, copy the link and then open MX Player (Android) or VLC (iOS). Go in the menus to the part where you can play streams. Paste the copied link, and you're away. No, really, it's so simple you might just give up trying to get SMB to work.
Actually, there is a viewer built into the iOS browser that can come up right away making it almost too easy, but I don't know how well that viewer does with fruity things like MKVs and subtitles. If you have a set of straight DVD rips or YouTube downloads, it'll probably work just fine simply clicking on the files and watching them in the browser.

That's not all. If you have set up the device to act as a bridge, it will also have an IP address on your local network. Using that address you can access files held on the MediaShare in exactly the same way. In my case, it was http://192.168.1.13/data/, find the file, and then paste it into SMPlayer or whatever. You may experience some buffering issues and delays when skipping around in the video, as it isn't as responsive when the MediaShare has to send the data to your access point, which sends it right back to you. A direct connection is preferable, in which case media playback is just like having the storage media directly connected. Well, obviously it isn't given the limits on data transfer, though a normal video probably isn't going to pass over 10Mbps (for a single user). It may be more complicated for multiple users, though I've just played the same animé to my PC, phone, and iPad at the same time and everything worked just fine.
I have repeated the test, and discovered that while VLC on iOS and SMPlayer can cope with a long URL, such as http://192.168.1.13/data/UsbDisk1/Volume1/Joe%20Hisaishi%20in%20Budokan%20%e3%80%8e%e4%b9%85%e7%9f%b3%e8%ae%93%20in%20%e6%ad%a6%e9%81%93%e9%a4%a8%e3%80%8f%20%20-%20Studio%20Ghibli%2025%20Years%20Concert%20-%20YouTube%20(720p).mp4, SMPlayer cannot, it clips off the "MP4". So I will rename this and try again.
Okay, dropping the end of the filename worked. Skipping to 47m02s (the really cute bit), the same video played effortlessly on both the iPad and my phone at the same time. I also had it running on the PC as well, but due to going via the AP it buffered a lot.
I performed another test with a FullHD H.264 video running to about 1.3mbps. The iPad, on its own, was juddery and kept breaking up. When I added my phone in addition, it played fine on the phone. Interesting to see the iPad suffer with a FullHD video given it's own cameras can record 1920×1080; though despite this the iPad is actually nowhere near as powerful as my phone. At any rate, the MediaShare kept up.

Another interesting test was that SD video was erratic and stuttery when I tried playing media from an old 320GB FAT32 harddisc (ironically, a Verbatim!). Connecting a 500GB NTFS Toshiba allowed me to stream HD fluidly, including rapid skipping around in the file. So it is worth noting that if there are problems with playback, it may not be the fault of the MediaShare. The Verbatim harddisc streaming FullHD to my iPad Mini would be an exercise in pain. The Toshiba harddisc streaming to my phone? Just as good as if the Toshiba had been plugged into the phone itself.

For controls and status on the device itself, there are four indicators as you can see in the photo above. On the left is a battery light. Green is good. Flashing green means it is charging. Red means you're low (10%-30%). Flashing red means you're under 10% (and it may shut itself down). The next indicator along is marked R/W and it is steady blue when media is connected, and blinking blue when accessing files. Then is the WiFi indicator. Steady blue means WiFi active (device operating) and erratic blinking means data is being transferred. This indicator also blinks steadily while the MediaShare is booting, a process that takes about forty seconds. The final indicator, on the right, lights up green when connected to the internet (as a bridge).
There is a slot for an SD card (that clicks into place, it isn't a cheap slide like some SD readers) and there is a USB2 socket for a harddisc. The MediaShare successfully powered two different harddiscs by itself.
On the left is a micro USB socket for charging. The device charges fairly slowly, so won't overload your USB power pack. I've been charging it from my iPad's charger, which I think manages a little under an amp, and it's only warm. It's good to know it won't try stupid things like drawing 2A (unfortunately my USB battery pack is greedy like that so I charge it on the computer which has proper current limiting, unlike most plug in power adaptors). Just behind the micro USB socket is a small switch, press to turn the MediaShare on, it takes about forty seconds to boot. Press again to power off. That takes under five seconds.
Finally, in between the SD slot and the USB socket, there's a little push-switch for resetting the device. I have not needed to use this. The device did seem to hang up once when setting up the networking (though it could have been the app lost track of what it was doing?) so I just shut it down and restarted, which worked okay, so the device hadn't frozen up. So it may well have been the app's fault. Either way, no big deal. Reboot and restart the app, stuff worked again.

The MediaShare is a mini NAS, and in my non-exhaustive tests performed better than I expected. While there is something odd with its SMB, the http way of accessing the device means that I can pretty much ignore the app and stream video into the player of my choice (for some reason, the app doesn't consider MX Player as a target to provide data to). The web interface is a bit clumsy, dismounting media may not be entirely intuitive, however it is sufficient that I don't need to bother much with the app. The primary test was to play video in VLC on my iPad, and MXPlayer on my phone. Both were successful. The addition of a WiFi bridge? That was a lovely added bonus, which means I can stream stuff and then hit TVTropes without faffing around switching WiFi connections (which is a PITA with the iPad given the weak signals).

Unfortunately, there has to be a downside, and that is 20080826. That companies are still hiding default non-unique passwords inside stuff like telnet access is depressing and shows why the Internet Of Things will fail hard before it gets successful. Just like with my IP camera, a person who has access to the MediaShare can log in as root. If that doesn't mean anything to you - that's God level. They could probably, with a few short commands, reformat your flash filing system and leave the device inoperable. There may be a bootloader to enter a recovery mode, but it would have been better if the default root password just didn't exist. Why can these devices not be set up to use something based upon a variable component like the MAC address? Accordingly, make sure your ADSL box firewalls all access to telnet from the outside world.

It's a pretty big fail, but on the whole this device (when used in a more secure environment, or with people that have no idea what a command line is) is pretty nifty and well worth the twenty euros I paid for it.

 

 

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jgh, 16th January 2017, 17:03
Winter sales? Any discount tents? :) 
Jim , 25th March 2017, 21:22
Although its been a while... Marvelous, teardown on the os and its capibilities/flaws per you and Mike. I was interested to see if one could alter/add to fw, the ability to pass info to a printer or possibly stream vid from usb cam (unlikely as wouldnt have proc power) Cheers from the States

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