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  • Gadget Review–The Fridge Friend

    Fridge Friend 1

    I was recently asked by Carla at IdeasByNet if I’d take a look at a “Fridge Friend”.

    Since I’m always interested in new gadgets I was more than happy to take a look!

    The Fridge Friend allows you to record short video messages and has a magnet in the back so that it will easily stick to your fridge (the clue is in name!)

    The main idea is that you can replace the traditional “can you pick up some milk” post-it notes you may leave for another member of your family.

    You could also leave yourself a message telling you that you’ll only regret eating the bar of chocolate that’s on the top shelf of the fridge unless you go and do some exercise first.

    Or if you’re just a child at heart then leaving silly noises for other family members to discover is another option (I’ve not done that…honest)

    It’s a doddle to use. Stick a couple of AAA batteries in, put it on something made of metal and turn it on!

    There are only two buttons, on/off/play and record/stop/delete and once you’ve recorded a message the power light will occasionally blink to get your attention. It’ll allow you to keep 15 records that are up to 80 seconds in length.

    While using the device there are various on-screen icons to let you know what you’re doing. A big red light in corner when you’re recording. A trash can to indicate which button is to delete, etc. I thought this was a pretty nice touch as I’ve used other devices where you have to memorise the instructions to figure out how to do anything. .

    It’s not badly styled so doesn’t stick out in a big way and the magnet keeps it in place nicely.

    The video quality is actually pretty good in natural lighting which brings me onto the first of two things I think could be improved.

    Under the right lighting conditions, which in my house meant daylight, the image quality was really good. However, the quality was significantly different when it was dark outside and I was using just the kitchen light. It’s possible this might change with a better light as I’m using an energy saver bulb so it’s not all that bright. (where are those affordable LED lights!?)

    If I was going to be picky about anything else it would be that the sound quality could be better. This could be because the speaker is on the back and sounds a bit muffled. It’s not so bad that you can’t tell what’s being said but you do sometimes have to listen carefully.

    Both of things things aren’t a huge problem for what the device is. It’s not a media tablet designed to play high definition audio! It’s just meant for quick and easy memo style videos and it does that just fine.

    They RRP for £24.99 and if you’re interest in one the contact details are on the IdeasByNet home page.

    ** Usual Review Disclaimer – IdeasByNet kindly sent me one of these to try free of charge **

  • Buffalo Linkstation LS-WXL–Can’t Login

    Wow…a technical post! These have been a bit thin on the ground recently!

    I wasn’t able to get at the web interface or the shares on a LinkStation LS-WXL we have on one of our clients sites.

    I was able to ping it..but that was all! Having asked the client to power cycle it I still couldn’t do anything with it so I duly went to site.

    I fired up the NAS Navigator software which found the device ok. However it reported the NAS was in EM Mode which is Emergency Mode (or Emergency Mode Mode if you’re picky about how these things are written) which basically means the device couldn’t load the firmware from the hard disk.

    * Disclaimer – if you try anything I mention below you run the risk of data loss – it’s not my fault if you lose anything! *

    So the normal advice for getting out of EM Mode is to download the latest firmware version and install that, which I did. However, once I’d done this I wasn’t able to login with the password that had been previously set. The default password didn’t work either.

    My next plan of action was to perform a factory reset.

    The steps for this are:

    Power the NAS off, hold the function button on the back and power it back on, once you start to get some flashing lights on the front press the function button again.

    It took a little while to get the timing right for this but it appeared to work as the IP address reset back to default.

    I still couldn’t login though.

    A little puzzled I decided to investigate my options as to cracking the password. There is a lively community around the Buffalo NAS devices where they modify the stock firmware to do lots of things it wasn’t originally intended for (media servers, etc)

    I did come across a couple of potential options but nothing really worked and I was very worried about totally “bricking” the device.

    So my next train of thought had me wondering that if the main firmware is ran from the hard disk, what would I do if a hard drive needed to be replaced?

    Not a stupid question apparently, using information from this guide and this guide, I managed to get it working.

    In short, if the device can’t find anything to boot from it’ll look for a TFTP server on 192.168.11.1 – it’ll then use this to load a very basic firmware which can then be discovered in NAS Navigator where you can then reload the latest firmware.

    Here’s what I did:

    I took the hard disks out, plugged them into my PC and removed all the listed volumes (there were several)

    Next I set the IP address on my laptop to 192.168.11.1

    Then I downloaded and ran the TFTP Bootloader

    image

    I put the drives back into the NAS and started it up. It booted and the status light on the front flashed red to indicate there was nothing to boot from.

    Pressing the function button caused it to connect to the TFTP server and download the boot files.

    image

    After a bit of waiting around the device finally appeared back in the NAS Navigator software which also indicated the NAS was in EM Mode.

    I was then able to use the firmware update utility to force a reload (using this guide) and rebuild the partition table.

    image

    Once this completed ok I reset my static IP on my laptop and on the NAS using NAS Navigator I was able to browse to the web interface and login with the default user name and password.

    However everything was in Japanese!

    To change this back to English

    Click the second tab from the right (System)
    Click the first sub-tab from left (Settings)
    Click third bar from top, or lowest bar (Language)
    Click the bottom button (modify)
    Change display and Windows languages to English and then click left button (Save)

    Done!

    I was then able to set up the NAS again.

    The biggest downside to this was I obviously lost all the data on the device. It wasn’t a big deal in this scenario but there is an excellent article that talks about NAS recovery. It covers a lot of the things I’ve mentioned above as well as additional areas such as attempting to copy the data from the hard disks.

    I’m still not entirely sure why this all happened in the first place but I’m glad I managed to get it back up and running again – these notes are so I’ve got the process written down somewhere – maybe it’ll help someone else too!

    Some useful community resources I used during all of this:

    http://buffalo.nas-central.org

    http://forums.buffalotech.com

    http://forum.buffalo.nas-central.org

  • I remember 2011 like it was only last week

    Ah…the obligatory end of year, start of year post!

    This time last year I was writing about how challenging 2010 had been.

    I’m pleased to report that on the whole 2011 didn’t throw up as many major problems as the previous year.

    We’ve settled quite nicely into our new house, Bryony’s hearing didn’t get any worse and I managed to start playing football again after recovering from my knee operation as well as losing a couple of stone in weight as a by-product of that. (Christmas may have undone a little of that work though!)

    On the geek front I purchased an Amazon Kindle, a HP TouchPad and a Windows Phone.

    I also expanded my collection of retro games and consoles alongside visits to Replay Expo and the Retro Computer Museum

    On the gaming side of things Portal 2 was without a doubt the highlight of my gaming year. I’ve not played as many games on my Xbox as in previous years on account of spending so much time on the retro stuff but Portal 2 was so refreshing and entertaining I’m glad it had some of my attention (taking nothing away from Arkham City which I’m thoroughly enjoying at the moment!)

    On the personal front I stepped out of my comfort zone and spoke at a Pecha Kucha event in Coventry as well as realising the writers block I had was actually a symptom of not spending enough time resting and thinking about something other than work. I celebrated 10 years of being with my significant other, Bryony and wrote all about how the Internet changed my life!

    In sadder news, Tony Sale passed away. I visited Bletchley Park the weekend beforehand and as ever it was great to see the fruits of his labour. He’ll also have been pleased to know that Bletchley Park’s future is safe.

    On the business side of things 2011 was also much better than 2010. The second half of the year was one of the busiest I can remember for some time and this in conjunction with my decision to make sure I spend enough free time “not working” meant some things had to be dropped down the priority list – this blog included – but I’m happy that I’ve learnt my lesson from the summer.

    One of the things that also dropped off quite badly in the second half of the year was the amount of reading I did for the same reasons outlined above. It didn’t stop altogether but the pace with which I was getting through books at the start of the year was totally different to the end of the year. My reading tracking experiment showed between the start of 2011 and May 3rd, I’d read 18 books – the final total for the year was 26. A much slower pace! I’m happy with my experiment though. It’s been good to look back and see what I’ve actually read this year which also makes recommendations to others easier too. Richard Tubb wrote a great piece recently about why reading is important which is worth a look.

    Christmas always reenergises me when it comes to reading though. My family always know that books are a good choice when it comes to gifts and I’ve got some excellent ones again this year!

    So 2011 was pretty decent – I’ve met some great people and done some really interesting things – thank you to everyone that contributed to my year whether that was virtually or in person.

    Bring on 2012!