pfSense- How to Get Rid of DNS Rebinding Warning

pfsense

 

Introduction

 

If you’ve ever used pfSense, you know how great it is. It’s jam-packed with features, its reliability is unparalleled, and it brings an advanced business-class firewall to us lowly home owners in need of something more than what a consumer router can provide. With that though, sometimes you run into issues you typically wouldn’t find in run-of-the-mill Best Buy routers.

One of these is DNS rebinding protection that’s enabled by default. In itself, DNS rebinding protection is a good thing to have enabled. This prevents an attacker from using your public IP address from within the LAN to gain access to your router configuration page through a malicious browser script, even if you have public-side access turned off.

If you use a software DDNS solution that comes built into servers such as WHS 2011 or a QNAP Turbo NAS and try to use it to log into your network devices from inside the LAN, you’ll see this warning.

It’s great that pfSense protects you from a DNS rebinding attack, but it’s also easier to log in using a domain name than it is typing the IP address of the device you want to access. Luckily, pfSense allows you to add an exception for just this scenario.

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Logitech Harmony- How to Preset Denon Receiver Volume

 

Introduction

 

So here’s the scenario- Game of Thrones  is coming on so I crank my Denon receiver up loud enough for my neighbors on a late-night stroll to hear it from the sidewalk on the other side of the street (why aren’t they watching Game of Thrones  too??!). This is partially to immerse myself in a theatrical experience full of dragons, sword fighting, and corruption, and partially because I’ve worked around loud industrial systems my whole life. Plus, I love the bass rattling the walls while the surround sound makes me feel like I’m right in the middle of all the action! I usually keep the volume up when I’m watching my favorite sports teams too.

The only problem with this is, sometimes my wife or I forget to turn the volume down before we go to bed. Our 6 year old is finally getting to the age where he doesn’t need to wake us up first thing in the morning. It’s a little unnerving when we wake up anyway to the sounds of Disney Jr. at Game of Thrones-type volumes, very much disturbing us from those last few winks we would have gotten from sleeping in for another hour or two.

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QNAP NAS- How to Enable On-the-Fly Transcoding for User Accounts

 

Introduction

 

A common complaint amongst QNAP NAS users is they can’t use on-the-fly transcoding from a user account. It makes no sense to have transcoding restricted to the built-in admin account, but that’s the default setting (at least for the TS-651 Turbo NAS running firmware 4.3.3.0262).

On-the-fly transcoding allows for converting and streaming video simultaneously. This helps to save time since a user doesn’t have to wait for the file to be converted before they can stream it. The TS-651 is capable of hardware accelerated transcoding, and the Intel Celeron J1800 CPU is decent enough to get the job done.

The settings for on-the-fly transcoding permissions aren’t found in Control Panel, which I think confuses a lot of users. Instead they are hidden away inside the settings for Video Station.

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SmartThings- How to Create a Routine

 

Introduction

 

SmartThings is a fully capable home automation platform. There are several ways to achieve automation with SmartThings. This post is all about routines.

Routines can be manually or automatically started. When you set up an automatic routine, you will need a trigger. A trigger is what causes the routine to run. The trigger can be a presence sensor (mobile phone or dedicated arrival sensor), the time of day, a switch, a motion sensor, a contact sensor, or even a button. When the routine is told to run, it will operate the devices you tell it to: turn on or off lights and switches, lock or unlock doors, and open or close garage doors. You can also use routines to change the status of Smart Home Monitor (Armed (Home), Armed (Away), Disarmed) and SmartThings’ mode (Home, Away, Night).

Routines are manually started from within the app or from a home screen widget. I typically only start a routine manually if I’m testing to see if it works.

There are 4 default routines: 1) Good Morning! 2) Goodbye! 3) I’m Back! and 4) Good Night! You can alter or delete these to meet your needs, and you can also add new ones to use for specific situations.

Routines are the cornerstone of automation with SmartThings . They are nothing more than cause-and-effect-based scenarios, so they’re very simple and easy to create. There are a few things that you should know though.

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How to Automate Your Home with Tasker

 

Introduction

 

Android enthusiasts have been tinkering with Tasker for years- and with good reason. Tasker is a versatile app that is capable of creating a personalized Android experience like no other. It’s described as a way to automate your phone, but when you consider the sheer amount of plugins available, it’s way more than just that. Tasker can use your phone’s apps, files, sensors, and network signals to automatically make your phone behave a certain way- adjust the volume, turn WiFi/Bluetooth/GPS on or off, control the screen brightness, etc. Plugins can extend this functionality, allowing you to use your phone to control other things too, like controlling your home’s lights . It works best with root, but there are a lot of things you can do without root too. None of my devices are rooted, and there’s still plenty I can do with Tasker.

This post is focused on how you can use Tasker on an unrooted Android phone or tablet to control your smart home devices using SmartThings. This will require two apps, Tasker ($2.99 Google Play Store) and a Tasker plugin called Sharp Tools (free to download from the Google Play store, but SmartThings integration will cost $2.49 – $3.49).

If you’ve never used Tasker before, it can be a little overwhelming at first. This post will offer an introduction to pseudo-programming using Tasker, and a step-by-step tutorial to integrate your SmartThings devices.

Before we get to that, we need to discuss what I’m trying to accomplish. I have a wireless charger for a Samsung S7 Edge that I use to charge my phone while I sleep. If my phone is on that particular charger, then I assume I’m going to bed. Thus, I should turn off all the lights in the house, turn off the TV, make sure doors are shut/locked, set my home security alarm, etc. Likewise, when I wake up, I want to turn on lights and unset my alarm. We’ll see how easy it is to use Tasker to do this.

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How to Integrate Alarm.com with SmartThings

 

Introduction

 

There’s a lot of things that you can easily do with SmartThings , but some things take a little bit of effort to make work. Our home security system is through Alarm.com, which is sort of a competitor to SmartThings. We had an Alarm.com tech come to our home to talk about the feasibility of integrating our SmartThings system with Alarm.com. His solution was to move all of our Z-wave devices to the Alarm.com system, and then charge us for each individual device. Paying a higher price for access to devices that I already operate for free wasn’t really an option. After a little bit of searching, I found a forum post on SmartThings’ website that ended up being the answer.

Disclaimer: Keep in mind what you’re actually doing here. This tutorial shows you how to connect your Alarm.com home security system to the internet. It’s a small risk, but it is a risk, especially if you choose to add a Disarm switch. If you are ok with the risk in exchange for the convenience of operating your Alarm.com home security system through SmartThings, then continue reading.

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How to Create Your Own Neat Cloud

 

Introduction

 

If you own a Neat scanner , you probably realize how good the hardware is. Unfortunately, Neat’s software leaves a lot to be desired. Their shift to the cloud in the past couple of years has left desktop users frustrated, since their PC software is now dead. Their big push is for users to have their data synced to the cloud, and it’s then available on all devices. One of the biggest disadvantages here is that Neat’s cloud software also sucks, and it’s almost impossible to get in touch with someone on the phone or via chat if you encounter any problems with your data not syncing. While it’s nice being able to use the scanner with multiple PCs, I have virtually no use for a mobile app. What’s more is how ridiculous the Neat cloud pricing for consumers is. Frankly, it’s just too expensive to justify the convenience. Their cheapest plans start at $80 per year.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to sync the data yourself, thus giving you the ability to use the scanner with more than one computer. This works if you need a PC-to-PC solution and don’t want to pay to use a crappy service.

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QNAP NAS- How to Fix Snapshot Problem

qnap nas snapshot

 

Introduction

 

I recently had a problem with my QNAP TS-651 NAS where there seemed to be a “ghost” snapshot. The system alarmed at the NAS , so I went to the web interface to find out I was getting a threshold reached warning on my data volume. After sifting through Storage Manager, it became obvious that it was being caused by snapshots. The only problem was, Snapshot Manager wasn’t showing any snapshots at all!

My first attempt to clear up space on the volume was deleting some old security camera recordings, but then the rogue snapshot grew to take up that space too. I have my snapshots set to 10% reserved space. When that fills up, it should delete the old one. I think the problem with my set up is that it will never reach the 10% allocation without alarming, because my data volume is thin-provisioned and takes up 90% space. The was poor planning on my part, but it has nothing to do with the actual problem of a snapshot not showing up in Snapshot Manager.

The biggest drawback in this situation is that even though my data volume is only half full (around 6 TB out of 12 TB used), the system is basically seeing the storage pool as full. Services such as Qsync started shutting down, and I couldn’t delete files in File Station. I think this is a ridiculous way to do things, especially for those of us who are used to the way Windows works, but apparently that’s the way things are in QTS.

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New SmartThings Dashboard

smartthings

 

Introduction

 

The SmartThings app just received an update that many users have been clamoring for- make the dashboard more useful! The old dashboard pretty much consisted of Smart Home Monitor. The only people that were really benefiting from that dashboard were the ones that had Smart Home Monitor set up using security cameras, smoke detectors, door/window contact sensors , or leak detectors. Everyone else was kind of left out. The latest version of the dashboard now includes a Favorites section, to go along with Smart Home Monitor. The new section allows quick access to the devices you select.

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How to Determine if a Smart Home is Right for You?

 

Introduction

 

I’ve been reading a lot in the tech news lately about the state of the smart home, specifically the seemingly never-ending controversy surrounding the ubiquitous Internet of Things (IoT). It’s generally a widespread belief that technology can be used to make our homes more efficient, our cities safer, and our industries more productive. Yet I’ve read dozens of articles about the pitfalls of inviting IoT into your home. Some people are concerned about the lack of interoperability, others are scared that not enough is being done to secure IoT devices. Still, others are saying that hubs are dying a slow death and that voice assistants are the way forward. Some people are advocating a “wait-and-see” strategy, others say just go for it. With all the chatter out there, how do you know what to believe?

First of all, each of these are valid concerns that should be thoroughly investigated by the consumer prior to purchasing a smart home device or system. Each have a certain element of truth to them, but they are not nearly as bad as some articles lead you to believe. Sometimes the headlines are overblown, especially regarding security flaws, to bait people into reading the article.

What’s important to know is what’s out there, how it works, and what works with it. Currently, there is no dominant player in the smart home space. Samsung’s SmartThings platform comes close, and can meet most needs, but it probably won’t do everything you want. There is no dominant communications protocol. WiFi, ZigBee, and Z-wave are popular, but competing protocols. A WiFi device cannot talk directly to a ZigBee device. Hubs are a nice solution for solving the incompatible protocol problem, but then you’re relying on one manufacturer to support another manufacturer’s hub or device. Sometimes this happens, sometimes it doesn’t.

Some people have different ideas about what a smart home should be. Some think of a smart home as a residence where everything is connected, perhaps “my alarm clock is going off, start making me a pot of coffee.” Others believe that a smart home includes automation that augments our daily lives to perform specific tasks under certain conditions, i.e., “it’s dark outside, so turn on my lights.”

While the ideal smart home system would use a standardized communications protocol with hardware that’s impossible to compromise, this isn’t a very practical expectation at the moment. The smart home is still in its infancy, and manufacturers as well as consumers are still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

If you’re interested in adding some smarts to your home and you’re not sure what to make of what you’ve read online, keep reading to hopefully shed some light on these arguments.

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