Category Archives: Tech

Tech related tips

No more Google AdSense plugin for WordPress + yellow background color on responsive ads

Not too long ago, I received an email from Google AdSense stating they are dropping their plugin for WordPress. Within the email, they provided two options in placing AdSense ads into WordPress sans the Google plugin. I was able to apply both methods to my site. I made a quick tutorial on how I did it. Check it out.

I encountered a problem with the responsive ads that were generated. If the ad chosen by Google was smaller than the size of the container, a bit of yellow shows. I figured I’d tweak the code generated by Google by adding "background-color:transparent" setting to the style attribute. I decided to go inline instead of tweaking the style sheet. My logic is: if I decide to change my theme, the inline code should stay the same, whereas, the external style sheet will update with the theme.

Review: The Roost Laptop Stand


v1_unmountedFront In 2013 The Roost was successfully crowd funded via Kickstarter.com. I was lucky enough to stumble upon the project. It was an easy sell; I jumped on board and backed it.

The Roost was a unique product. It folded flat for easy transport and converted to a laptop riser like a transformer (sans sound effect). The Roost lifted the laptop at the hinge point. It would wedge itself at the hinge and the base of the laptop would sit on the lower crossbars. There were four contact points: two at the hinge area and two at the base.

The Roost (ver1)

The Roost version 1 with a MacBook (2010).

v1_mountFocus v1_mountFocus2

The Roost ver 1 + hinge mount

The Roost version 1 with focus on the hinge mount area.

There’s a slight flaw. None of the four contact points have any traction. It is smooth plastic or smooth resign material. This left the laptop to The Roost mount a little squirrelly. Any sudden jarring (like a bumping of the table or nudge on The Roost/laptop) and the laptop would come off the hinge (literally).

Fast forward to 2015. The Roost comes back with a version 2 offering. Since I backed the original Kickstarter project, I was notified of the second project. I was still using (and liking) The Roost (version 1), but I also liked the redesign of the 2nd version.

The Roost version 2 still used four contact points, but it no longer used the hinge as the main anchor/support. The main support will fall on the base of the laptop falling into a C (it’s more like a “G”) channel. The channel/groove has a rubber-like grip to it, so the laptop is more secure. This resolves the issue I had with the fist version. v2_unmountedv2_mountSolid

Another addition to the redesign makes the second version adjustable in height. There are three locking positions in which to set the laptop. You can pretty much get it to a position to meet your ergonomic needs. The original version was not adjustable in height.

Now let’s discuss the bad. There is a little hazard when adjusting the height level. You need to depress the white trigger to unlock the height setting. If you’re not careful, you can pinch a finger (or two)… and I did (check it out on the video).

The second flaw is the C/G channel in which the laptop base sits in. From the looks of it, The Roost version 2 was designed to fit laptops of a specific size. I’m guessing 2014 MacBook Pros and smaller. I’m still using a 2010 MacBook (the last plastic kind before Apple changed to an all aluminum body). My MacBook is fatter than the current Apple laptops (current MacBook, the MacBook Pro line, and the MacBook Air line). It barely fits. For fatter laptops, like my Lenovo G505, it kinda fits. The G505 does fit in the channel, but it has an awkward tapper shape that dislodges from the channel when trying to adjust the height of The Roost.v2_mountSolidBitev2_mountZoomed

The two flaws that I found in The Roost version 2, can be avoided by the user. The fix is to not mount the laptop until the desired height is set. Do not try to adjust the height when the laptop is mounted on The Roost. You can, but you have to be aware of the finger pinch factor, and if your laptop is a little fat, be aware that it can get unseated from the channel during the height adjustment.

Overall, I dig The Roost. I was happy with the first version. I’m even happier with the second version. For more info go to: http://www.therooststand.com/

Android Marshmallow

Android Lollipop to Marshmallow (6.0)

I received an over-the-air notification on my Nexus 5 for Marshmallow (Android 6.0) a few days ago. I put off on doing the update until today. I wanted to make sure I had enough time to migrate all my apps and time to troubleshoot any issues.

In this post, I’m just going to give a quick overview of my update from Lollipop (5.1.1) to Marshmallow (6.0.0). I’ll also provide links to the downloads.

Backup:

I ran a backup of all user apps using Titanium Backup. Instead of re-downloading the apps from Google Play, I reinstalled the apps  from the backup.

Since this is a major upgrade, I also ran a full Nandroid backup of Lollipop via TWRP.

Upgrade:

My Nexus is rooted. I’ve had issues with updating the various Lollipop versions. My resolve was to manually flash each of the system files. I approached the Marshmallow upgrade with the same technique. I downloaded the factory image and ran through the steps (see this post for the steps). Here’s the link to the factory image.

Recovery:

This was also a straight forward process. I used the most current version (2.8.7.1). This is the same version I used on the last Lollipop update. Here’s the TWRP Nexus 5 (hammerhead) link.

SuperSU:

Reestablishing root was where I came across a problem. I used the Lollipop rerooting method (see this post). I was able to boot into Marshmallow without any issues. The problem was when I tried to update SuperSU via Google Play–it failed. I did a quick search and found Chainfire’s SuperSU 2.52 beta file. I sideloaded that… bad decision. I was stuck in Marshmallow’s boot animation (boot loop). I had to do more digging and found that there is a corresponding boot.img file that needs to be flashed in tandem with the SuperSU beta file.

I got out of my boot loop by holding the volume up & down, and the power buttons together. The resulting key combo boots into bootloader. I connected my Nexus to my Mac and flashed the boot.img file. I then booted into recovery, and installed Chainfire’s SuperSU beta file.

Here’s the XDA post that has a link to the boot.img file. The beta file is found here.

Bonus: workaround for Android Pay credit card input issue

To input a credit card to the Android Pay app, you’ll need to disable root (there’s a checkbox that needs unchecking; check the settings in SuperSU app). Input the credit card info and then reestablish root by checking the box again. I was able to input my credit card using this method. I haven’t tested Android Pay. There’s a possibility this will still fail.


Yosemite install on USB

Create a Mac OS X bootable USB Thumb Drive (using createinstallmedia)

Apple stopped making their software available on CD/DVD ages ago. Applications including the entire OS is downloaded only through their App Store.

When you download and install the OS from their App store, it performs an upgrade to the existing operating system. Your applications and a large majority of your settings are preserved. But what if you want to perform a clean install? Wipe everything off and start anew? Well to do that, you’ll need to have the installer on another media. Such as another hard drive you can connect to, a CD/DVD, or flash memory (thumb drive, SD card, etc.).

To transfer the OS installer to a secondary storage media requires more than just copying the installer to the media. It has to be bootable. You will need to install the OS on the secondary media. The general method is to format the target destination (flash memory, hard drive, etc.) and run the installer on the target.

createinstallmedia is an easy way of installing the operating system to the secondary storage media. This was introduced in Mavericks. (Unfortunately I didn’t know about it until now because I skipped Mavericks.) createinstallmedia is packaged in their OS installer. There is no need to download it separately. createinstallmedia is a program that needs to be run in Terminal.

There are numerous tutorials available online (video and writeup). From what I’ve read and seen, the steps require downloading the OS installer, formatting the target media, copying the code and pasting into Terminal, and then executing the code. The tutorial steps are straight forward. If you don’t deviate from them, then you will succeed with a bootable system.

For my tutorial, I’m targeting the command line averse. The method I employ gives more leeway. For example, the majority of the tutorials online have you download the installer from the App Store and leave it alone (that is, don’t move it from the Applications folder). Well, say you’ve downloaded the OS already and have is stored in another folder or another volume (a different hard drive)? If you try to execute the command based on their tutorial, it will fail because the path is wrong. The method I use will ensure the path is filled out correctly. I’m using a USB flash/thumb drive as my target destination, but this should work on any other form of flash memory or external hard drive. The only caveat is the target destination must be large enough to accept the OS (min is about 6GB; 8GB is ideal).

Resources:

Nexus 5 manual update to 5.1

I encountered issues when I updated my rooted Nexus 5 from 5.0 to 5.01:

archive does not contain 'boot.sig'
archive does not contain 'recovery.sig'

(You can read about that here: blog post). For the 5.1 update, I decided to manually flash all the files, so as to avoid running into the same errors.

The following is a step by step process of how I updated my rooted Nexus 5.

Notice: If you don’t know how to use adb and fastboot, you should just stop right here. You’ll have to reference another tutorial. For those that proceed, you are responsible for your phone. If you brick it, it’s on YOU!

Prerequisite

  • download and install adb & fastboot
  • download latest TWRP recovery (openrecovery-twrp-2.8.5.2-hammerhead.img)
  • download 5.1 factory image (“hammerhead”)
  • download and prep Chainfire’s CF-Auto-Root (XDA link)
  • run a Nandroid backup and transfer a copy of the backup to your computer
  • (optional) run a full Titanium backup of all your apps and transfer the copies to your computer

Prep of 5.1 factory image

  1. expand the hammerhead-lmy47d-factory-6c1ad81e.tgz file
  2. expand the image-hammerhead-lmy47d.zip file
  3. rename the folder for easier reference (e.g.: extractedZip)
  4. move/copy bootloader-hammerhead-hhz12f.img and radio-hammerhead-m8974a-2.0.50.2.25.img files to the extractedZip folder
    • the img files are found in the expanded tgz file from step 1
expanded hammerhead-lmy47d-factory-6c1ad81e.tgz

This is the expanded hammerhead-lmy47d-factory-6c1ad81e.tgz file with the three important files highlighted

final modified folder

The folder contents of the extracted zip file, including the relocated bootloader & radio .img files from the .tgz factory image

5.1 update via manual flash

  1. connect computer to phone via USB and boot phone into bootloader
    • command: adb reboot bootloader
  2. install bootloader-hammerhead-hhz12f.img
    • command: fastboot flash bootloader bootloader-hammerhead-hhz12f.img
  3. install radio-hammerhead-m8974a-2.0.50.2.25.img
    • command: fastboot flash radio radio-hammerhead-m8974a-2.0.50.2.25.img
  4. install system.img
    • command: fastboot flash system system.img
  5. install userdata.img
    • command: fastboot flash userdata userdata.img
  6. install boot.img
    • command: fastboot flash boot boot.img
  7. install recovery.img
    • command: fastboot flash recovery recovery.img
  8. delete the cache
    • command: fastboot erase cache
  9. from the phone, boot into Recovery
    • background image is of an Android on its back with chest open and red triangle (default system recovery)
  10. press Power + Volume Up buttons to enter into Recovery options
    • note: do NOT press and hold the buttons too long, as this will result in booting into the system (the phone), which will not boot… you’ll be stuck with the boot animation
      • if done accidentally, reboot back into bootloader: Volume Up + Volume Down + Power and continue from step 9
  11. select Wipe data/factory data reset
  12. reboot phone when data wipe is completed
    • booting into a newly installed system will take awhile — be patient!

After installing 5.1 update: Re-root & install custom Recovery

After the update, your phone has a fresh and clean install of Android 5.1… meaning there is no custom recovery, nor root access. However, Bootloader will still be unlocked. The default settings will not have USB Debugging enabled. USB Debugging enables you to run commands from your computer to your phone via USB.

Install TWRP recovery and Chainfire SuperSU:

  1. setup the phone with your existing Gmail account
    • recommend setting up as a new device and use Titanium Backup to reinstall your apps
  2. setup USB Debugging
  3. connect computer to phone via USB and reboot phone into bootloader
  4. flash TWRP recovery: openrecovery-twrp-2.8.5.2-hammerhead.img
    • command: fastboot flash recovery openrecovery-twrp-2.8.5.2-hammerhead.img
  5. execute Chainfire’s CF-Auto-Root
    • Mac command: ./root-mac.sh
      • on a Mac, this will require the admin password of the Mac computer
    • the background will have a red pirate android
    • when complete, the phone will automatically reboot
  6. in Google Play store, update SuperSU to the current version
  7. SuperSU requires updating binary
    • select “Normal” and reboot when finished

Reinstall apps & check phone settings

To reinstall apps, download Titanium Backup and restore from there. If you have issues, I would recommend also using Nandroid Manager (Google Play Store Link). I resolved most of my issues by using Nandroid Manager to install the app and Titanium Backup to install the data.

I recommend checking the phone settings. I’m on Ting (MVNO provider on the Sprint network; CDMA), so I updated my PRL and profile. The default for “Preferred network type” is set to Global; I had to update that to LTE.

Multiple RSA key pairs using ssh-keygen & .ssh/config (Mac OS X tutorial)

I got tired of typing my password after ssh‘ing to remote servers. After some googling, I found the solution, the ssh-keygen command and ssh-copy-id command. ssh-keygen generates an rsa private/public key pair. Once you generate the keys, you’ll need to store the private key on your computer and the public key to the server. ssh-copy-id command is used to copy the rsa public key onto the remote server. This command will also create the necessary file and change the necessary permissions to make this all work.

I followed a tutorial from Ramesh Natarajan (http://goo.gl/fX68N). I got stuck on trying to copy the public key to the remote server. I’m on a Mac and apparently ssh-copy-id command is not built in. I found the Mac install (located at GitHub, MacPorts or Homebrew) and completed Ramesh’s tutorial. I was able to quickly connect to the remote server without typing in the password… How sweet is that?

All was good until I started to frequently connect to different servers. Ramesh’s tutorial covers a single rsa key pair. For security, it’s best to have a unique rsa key pair for each unique connection . After some searching, this can be accomplished by modifying the ssh-keygen command and using the config file located within the hidden .ssh directory.


I first began by creating another unique rsa key pair:

ssh-keygen -f ~/.ssh/id_rsa_userA -C "userA @ server1"
  • The -f flag specifies the filename of the key file. In the example, it is “id_rsa_userA“. The private key will be “id_rsa_userA” and the public key will be “id_rsa_userA.pub". As you can see from the absolute path, the files will be locate in the home directory and within a hidden .ssh folder.
  • The -C flag is for commenting. The string that follows will be appended to the end of the rsa public key. This helps when you copy the public key to the remote server — you’ll know it was copied because of the comment you provided.

The following is what you will typically see after you execute the previous line of code.

Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase): [enter something complex]
Enter same passphrase again: [confirm by entering it again]
Your public key has been saved in /Users/username/.ssh/id_rsa_userA.pub.
The key fingerprint is:
81:d4:12:cd:57:aa:42:47:12:de:4c:23:6a:34:62:78 userA @ somedomain.com
The key's random art image is:
+--[ RSA 2050]----+
|        ..+0.    |
|         .. .    |
|         *.*     |
|       +.o o     |
|     .. +        |
|      S.  ..     |
|        ..       |
|       o + . . . |
|        .  +o.oE+|
+-----------------+
  • After generating the rsa key pair, you have the option of entering a passphrase. You should do this! Check out this GitHub article on that (http://goo.gl/rR1ebp)
  • The location of the public key is given.
  • The fingerprint and random art image is also generated.

Repeat the ssh-keygen command for the other connections. Be sure to keep the filename of the key file unique and the comment unique, as well as relevant to the connection.


Use ssh-copy-id to copy the public rsa key to the remote server. (Install via GitHub, MacPorts or Homebrew).

ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/id_rsa_userA.pub userA@somedomain.com
  • The -i flag allows you to specify the public key to upload.
  • The last argument (userA@somedomain.com) is the remote host connection info.
  • ssh-copy-id will create the authorized_keys file if it doesn’t exist and append the public key (specified after the-i flag “~/.ssh/id_rsa_userA.pub"). It’ll also update various file and folder permissions.
  • You will be required to type in the account password to access the remote server (note: this is not the “passphrase” you created at the beginning of the tutorial)

Test the connection again by ssh command:

ssh userA@somedomain.com

Mac OS X will then ask for you to enter the “passphrase” you should have created when you used the ssh-keygen command. It is important to check the “Remember password in my keychain” box. By doing this, you eliminate from typing in the “passphrase” every time you login to this specific server.

keyChainBox


This step is not necessary, but once connected to the remote server, you can examine the authorized_keys file:

cat ~/.ssh/authorized_keys
  • Within this file, you should be able to see the long key, followed by the comment included when the ssh-keygen command was executed.

You should log out and try another ssh connection to the same server. This time, the “passphrase” is saved by Keychain Access, so you shouldn’t have type it again. If all is well, you should be instantly connected to the remote server.

Repeat the public key transfer of all the remaining server connections.


Next is to store all the connection info into a config file contained within the .ssh folder. This will speed up connection to the remote servers by assigning shortcut names to each unique connection.

touch ~/.ssh/config
vim ~/.ssh/config
  • The file doesn’t exist, so I’m using touch command to create the file.
  • I’m using Vim to input the connection info.

For demonstration purposes, the following contains basic connection info for two different accounts. There is a lot that you can put into the config file, but I only limited it to basic connection info.

Host userA
  HostName somedomain.com
  User userA
  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa_userA

Host userB
  HostName anotherdomain.com
  User userB
  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa_userB
  • Host userA and Host userBis are used for pattern matching and applies the declarations that follow it (note the indentation of the lines that follow it). userA and Host userB are the names I choose for their unique connections. This will also be used when you remote connect to the server. It’s the shortcut name, so keep this name unique.
  • HostName somedomain.com and HostName anotherdomain.com states the domain of the remote servers.
  • User userA and User userB states the user account to the corresponding remote server.
  • IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa_userA and IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa_userB states the specific private rsa key.
  • More info about what can go inside the config file can be found here http://goo.gl/FEF1a5 or by checking out the manual pages in terminal (man ssh_config)

That’s pretty much it. You can then quickly connect to the remote server, without inputting any password by typing in the connection type (ssh, sftp, etc) followed by the shortcut name as listed in the config file — the one after “Host“. Here are some connection examples:

  • sftp userA
  • ssh userA
  • sftp userB
  • ssh userB
factory image errors

Android errors: archive does not contain ‘boot.sig’ & archive does not contain ‘recovery.sig’

I tried updating my Nexus 5 with the latest Lollipop 5.0.1 version. My phone is rooted, so I can’t use the OTA (over-the-air) updater. I attempted to use the same process that I used to update from Kit Kat (4.4.4) to Lollipop 5.0. I’ll recap the process:

  1. I downloaded the 5.0.1 factory image (hammerhead) from https://developers.google.com/android/nexus/images
  2. unpackaged the .tgz file
  3. executed the flash-all.sh program (note: I’m on a Mac)

During step three, I encountered a problem:

archive does not contain 'boot.sig'
archive does not contain 'recovery.sig'
fastboot(99706) malloc: *** mmap(size=1006034944) failed (error code=12)
*** error: can't allocate region
*** set a breakpoint in malloc_error_break to debug
failed to allocate 1005027540 bytes
error: update package missing system.img

I thought this was due to my phone being encrypted. I tried to troubleshoot, but I ended up soft-bricking my phone. I got myself up and running by flashing the Kit Kat 4.4.4 factory image. I also reverted back to the 5.0 Lollipop backup I made before attempting the update. I later figured out, this is not an encryption issue (I was able to update my encrypted Nexus 7 to Lollipop 5.0.1 using flash-all.sh program).

From a forum post on XDA (link here) suggested flashing the files within the image-XXX.zip individually (comment from manasgirdhar). I found another forum that clearly state the steps and flashing order of factory images. The steps are found here (drill down to “Method 2”). Quick recap of the process:

  1. expand the image-hammerhead-lrx22c.zip file
  2. flash the bootloader.img file
  3. flash the radio.img file
  4. flash the system.img file
  5. flash the userdata.img file
  6. flash the boot.img file
  7. erase the cache
  8. from the phone, boot into Android recovery
  9. from recovery, select “Wipe data/factory data reset”
  10. reboot

I got hung up on step 9. I held down the Volume Up + Power buttons too long and ended up rebooting to the system. The system won’t boot until you do the data wipe step. The trick is to push the Volume Up + Power buttons simultaneously or, push and hold Volume Up, then press the Power button, making sure not to hold the buttons down too long. If you get stuck in the boot animation, just boot back up into bootloader (hold down: Volume Up + Volume Down + Power), then continue with step 8.

As with any system mod you perform on your phone, you and only you are responsible for the outcome. So, please be very careful. If you do not understand how to flash a file from your computer to your Android phone, then you shouldn’t attempt to do any of the stuff I’ve posted here. I posted procedural steps not literal computer commands. Simply copying and pasting the steps into a command prompt will not work. If you decide to proceed with “Method 2”, please follow the procedure thoroughly as stated in the XDA forum post.

adb push & adb pull to transfer from Mac to Android device

Here’s a screencast of a tip/tutorial on how to transfer files or folders between an Android device and a Mac. There is a GUI utility called Android File Transfer that’s more intuitive. The only problem is that it sometimes fails [read: crashes] on transferring large files. I found adb technique to be consistent and fast.

I also used adb shell to establish a shell in the Android device. I would then locate the target file or the target directory. Once found, I would copy and paste the path to complete the command:

adb pull /pathOfFolder_onAndroidDevice/filename /pathToMacFolder
adb push /pathToMacFolder/filename /pathOfFolder_onAndroidDevice

Using a two terminal window allows me to copy the path onto the other terminal window containing the command. This saves from exiting the shell in order to type the command.