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Fixing corroded battery contacts on the Wii Fit Balance Board

I inadvertently left some Duracell alkaline batteries in the Balance Board. Sure enough, they were already starting to leak – damaging the battery contacts in the Balance Board.

It turns out there is a relatively easy way to remove the gunk from the leaky Duracells: they are alkaline batteries, so a mild acid (household vinegar) should do the trick. After disassembling the Balance Board, carefully remove the corroded metal contacts from the battery holder and drop them in a small jar with household vinegar:

Dip battery contacts in small glass jar with vinegarIMG_5323

Watch the corrosion dissolve; if needed, use a toothbrush or Q-tip to brush the last bits of gunk from the contacts. Rinse with water, and allow the contacts to properly dry before re-assembly.

P.S. It seems that Duracell batteries are quite prone to leaking – quality sure went downhill over the years. I’m replacing all of them to prevent further damage.

Setting up email notifications on a Synology NAS using Google Apps

I recently purchased two DS413j Synology NAS devices, running Disk Station Manager 4.1.

They offer various notification options, including Email, SMS and Push. These notifications are really helpful, as they can warn you of impending doom (for example, a failing disk).

It’s a fairly straight-forward process:

  1. Set up a dedicated Google Apps user account for sending your notifications (do not forget to activate the account via the webmail interface)
  2. Configure email notifications on your Synology NAS
  3. (Optional) customize the list of events that send out notifications

Configure Google Apps

Log on to Google Apps as a domain administrator and go to the Organization & users tab. Click “Create a new user” and follow the instructions to create a dedicated user account for sending your notifications (for example, “notifications@your.domain”). Activate that account (log on using the web interface, fill the Captcha, accept the conditions, set a secure password) and try sending an email from the web interface to verify that the account works.

Configure email notifications

On the Synology, open the web interface and go to Control Panel – Notification. On the General tab, check “Enable e-mail notifications” and enter the Google Apps email server details:

SMTP server: smtp.gmail.com
SMTP port: 587

Check “Secure connection (SSL/TLS) is required” (see Google Support for up-to-date SMTP server names and port numbers)

Next up, click “SMTP Authentication” and fill in the username and password for the Google Apps account you just created.

Finally, we need to specify who should receive these notifications. Enter your email address here and click “Send a test email”. You should receive a test notification within minutes.

If all is well, click Apply to save these settings. Done!

Optional: Customize notifications

I recommend leaving these settings at default (all events will send out an email). If you want to customize anyway, go to Control Panel – Notification and switch to the Advanced tab. Here you can select what type of events should trigger a notification.


Getting started with the Raspberry Pi

From their FAQ: “The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard”. The RasPi is an ultra-cheap, energy-efficient Linux computer.

Preparing the SD card on Mac OS X

  • Get a supported SD card for the OS installation (I’m using a Kingston 8GB class 4 SD card)
  • Download the Raspbian ZIP-file from http://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads (I use the most recent Raspbian “wheezy”, 2012-12-16), unzip to get at the .IMG file
  • Open Terminal on OS X
    • Insert the empty SD card and determine it’s disk name (my card was mounted at /dev/disk4s1; use “df” before and after inserting to determine the name)
    • Run “sudo diskutil unmount /dev/disk4s1″ to unmount any partitions on the SD card
      (verify that disk name!)
    • Run “sudo dd if=2012-12-16-wheezy-raspbian.img of=/dev/rdisk4 bs=1m” to write the image to the raw disk device
      (again, verify that disk name!)
    • Run “sudo diskutil eject /dev/rdisk4″ after the image is written to SD card.
  • Remove the SD card from your Mac – done!

The Raspberry Pi lives!

Insert the SD card into your Raspberry Pi. Connect a monitor (I use an HDMI-to-DVI cable), USB mouse and keyboard. Optionally, connect it to the network. Once you power on the Raspberry Pi, you should be greeted with a familiar Linux boot sequence. After answering a couple of questions you should see a graphical desktop environment. It has a web browser, terminal etc. just like any other Linux computer.

Since I’ll be using the Raspberry Pi mostly as a small headless server, I’ve used “raspi-config” to disable the desktop and enable SSH.

Software updates and additional packages

To install any available software updates, run “sudo aptitude update; sudo aptitude upgrade”.

If you want to use the I/O pins (for your electronics projects), you will want the WiringPi and WiringPi-Python libraries installed.

sudo apt-get install git-core
git clone git://git.drogon.net/wiringPi
cd wiringPi
sudo apt-get install python-setuptools
git clone https://github.com/WiringPi/WiringPi-Python.git
cd WiringPi-Python
git submodule update --init
sudo python setup.py install

You can now access the GPIO pins using Python, or using the ‘gpio’ commandline tool.


It's 2013! Happy new year!

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2013.

Oh, and to a year with hopefully a bit more time to play with geeky toys like the Raspberry Pi and JeeNode ;-)

Happy New Year 2013

Initial impressions of FreeNAS 8.2.0-BETA3

Our recently installed FreeNAS on an HP ProLiant MicroServer N40L is currently being used for backing up VMs (CentOS 6.0 KVM).

The web-based GUI is quite easy to work with, and the filesystem (ZFS) is quite resilient as we found out after a couple of power failures caused by accidentally tripping our ground protection fault / RCD switch…

Still, I’ve ran into some issues that will hopefully be resolved in the next Beta-release:

  • Remote syslog does not work due to an error in the startup script (Ticket #1433)
  • Transmission PBI configuration does not work, always reset to defaults (Ticket #1477Ticket #1512)

The syslog configuration can be fixed manually in /etc/rc.conf. The Transmission PBI needs more fixing before it can becomes useful; at the moment it insists on saving downloads into the jail’s root directory, which has limited quota.

Overall verdict so far: FreeNAS is a great piece of software, ZFS snapshots are awesome, still a couple of rough edges but hey, it’s a BETA ;-)