Lesson learned: be careful flying a drone in the city, and at night, especially together and for the first time

So I tried to fly my drone, a Syma X5C, for the first time at night, and for the first time in the city… all in one night. It went rather poorly. The drone was nearly lost.

For one, my control range was very short – I assume due to RF interference. And once it got above the roof line, the wind swept it away. I spent the entire flight trying to get it to come back.

Luckily, I was able to slow the descent a little, I think it hit a roof, and then landed on the ground outside someone’s house. I was so lucky that I found it. It went about four streets over!

See video below.

 

Launch ‘Configure advanced user profile properties’ from Command Prompt

If you’re a Windows sysadmin in an environment with locked down user rights, and you want to perform an administrative action without needing to log out a current user, you can find yourself in a tight spot. Luckily, if you Shift-RightClick Command Prompt, click Run As another user, and login as your admin user, you can launch administrative tools all without needing to log out.

One such tool is the User Profiles window under Advanced system settings. To launch it from Command Prompt, type:

rundll32.exe sysdm.cpl,EditUserProfiles

 

Error Upgrading Fedora 27 to Fedora 28 with Cinnamon desktop

When attempting to upgrade my Fedora 27 to Fedora 28 running the Cinnamon desktop, I received the following error:

dnf system-upgrade download --releasever=28
Before you continue ensure that your system is fully upgraded by running "dnf --refresh upgrade". Do you want to continue [y/N]: y
Last metadata expiration check: 0:00:00 ago on Wed 02 May 2018 11:19:35 PM CDT.
Error:
Problem: package gstreamer1-plugins-bad-1:1.12.4-3.fc27.x86_64 requires libchromaprint.so.0()(64bit), but none of the providers can be installed
- libchromaprint-1.2-8.fc27.x86_64 does not belong to a distupgrade repository
- problem with installed package gstreamer1-plugins-bad-1:1.12.4-3.fc27.x86_64

It turns out the name for this gstreamer plugins package has changed names, and it’s goofing up the dependencies path for libchromaprint. Minor issue, but it stops my upgrade cold.

I came up with this workaround: upgrade libchromaprint and gstreamer1-plugins-bad-free before trying to update the entire distro. So:

sudo dnf install libchromaprint-1.4.2-2.fc28.x86_64 gstreamer1-plugins-bad-free --releasever=28 --allowerasing

You can now proceed with your regular upgrade process.

VLC missing title bar and window decorations on Fedora 27

Recently, VLC Media Player on my Fedora 27 installation running the Cinnamon desktop has been missing the title bar and window decorations, resulting in VLC not being a proper window and only a full-screen application. For me, this behavior is undesirable.

VLC without title bar

To restore normal functionality it’s easiest to simply delete the VLC configuration:

rm -r ~/.config/vlc

Now, VLC will function normally. Preferences will have to be recreated, but if you’re like me, you don’t need much more than the ability to play media.

x11vnc – stack smashing detected

My x11vnc on Fedora has recently started crashing with the following error:

*** stack smashing detected ***: terminated

This issue seems to come and go for a lot of people with x11vnc. Bugs have been reported, but nobody seems to be able to pin it down. One workaround is to recompile it from source with some memory protections disabled, but that is a lot of work .

This workaround takes care of it: launch x11vnc with  -noxrecord on the end. That’s it!

Windows Environment Variables from Command Prompt

If you’re supporting an end user on Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, or 10, and don’t want to completely log them out, you can use Run As on a Command Prompt as an administrator and then run the following:

rundll32 sysdm.cpl,EditEnvironmentVariables

Now edit your variables and relaunch your application. This is very useful if you find yourself needing to correct the PATH, let’s say, for Java.

Project Fi recommendation

I’ve been a Project Fi customer for over 2 years. We went from a Verizon bill of $140+ per month for 2 phones with 800 minutes, 100 texts, and unlimited data to Project Fi with unlimited talk and text and $10/GB on data, with an average bill of $50-55/mo. There’s bill protection, too, so if you go above 10GB (with 2 lines), they won’t charge you any more than $135. If you’re always on Wi-Fi, it’s a no-brainer.

Project Fi uses towers from Sprint, TMobile, and US Cellular, switching when the signal from the current carrier gets low. Also, Wi-Fi calling and texting works flawlessly – I’ve even taken calls over satellite Internet.

The only caveat with Project Fi is that you pay for your phone up front (which is becoming more common, anyway), and it has to be a phone that gets its updates directly from Google: the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Moto X4 Android One edition, Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6P, and Nexus 5X. That’s because traditional carriers do not include the network-switching software piece in the handsets they sell.

Here’s a referral code to get a $20 credit when you join Project Fi! Redeem it at https://g.co/fi/r/JFD22V

Android cannot delete emails from IMAP server

I’ve been having an odd problem with being unable to delete emails from the Inbox of my self-hosted email account from my Android phone, using the Gmail app, using IMAP. When I would delete a message, a copy would be created in the Trash folder, but the original would remain in the inbox – when viewed from webmail. When I refreshed the inbox, the original would reappear on my phone.

At first, I thought the problem was permissions on /var/mail – so I did various changes such as chmod 1775, but to no avail.

I then remembered that I had recently re-setup my mail account on my phone, and realized that maybe it wasn’t using IMAP previously. So, I deleted the account, set it up again as POP3, and enabled server-side deletion. It worked!

It turns out that most mobile IMAP clients do not support the ability to achieve true server-side deletion. Using POP3 is an easy alternative and there is no harm. Yes, POP3 is an outdated and cruddy protocol, but in the end, it works.

Cannot run xiwi applications in Crouton

Recently on my Chromebook running Crouton, I’ve had trouble running applications using xiwi after entering my chroot. I would receive the following error repeatedly:

write_image: Cannot find shm, moving on…
find_shm: Cannot connect to findnacl daemon. (Connection refused)

I tried re-updating my chroot, checking drivers, reinstalling the crouton integration extension, and none of those worked, but this did:

  1. Enter the chroot
  2. Run the following command: chown -R 1000:1000 “$HOME”

Apparently, permissions can get messed up and stop xiwi from functioning properly.