by acls us

If…. and the plastic Ducks

Random thoughts that hit you from time to time…..

If....I was watching the classic 1968 British, Lindsay Anderson, film “If….” and I remembered the debate, in the years after the film’s release, about the use of Colour and black & White screens in the film. There was much talk of why particular scenes where shot using which type of film. This went on until Lindsay Anderson explained that it was due to running short of cash and having to shoot the remaining scenes in Black & White. Films not being shot in chronological order, the Colour and Black & White scenes appears in an almost random order in the finished film.

It’s an example of a consequence of an alteration to a modern world process that gives a new outcome. Admittedly, in this case, that endless committees of Film Fans could debate the finer points of the artistic meaning behind Colour vs. Black & White scenes but it gave them something to do. 


Then there’s the 28,00 plastics Ducks. With the vast majoring of international freight packed into forty foot containers stacked as high as possible on massive cargo ships, from time to time the odd container can fall off out at sea. Falling from an hight, the container can let it’s contents out. Now if it’s contents floats and are non-biodegradable they can go off on a long sea journey. This happened to a container of plastic bath Ducks which set off on something like a ten year voyage up to the North Atlantic and round to the East Coast of the United States. Giving rise to some very confused Americans who watched plastic Ducks make landfall on the the beaches of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

Once again, a consequence of an alteration to another modern world process. This time, causing some confused Americans but also giving a means for a research team to use a set of tracking devices (the Ducks) to study Ocean currents in the North Atlantic.

The point is, the alterations to these modern world processes cause unexpected but not necessarily bad effects on their systems. Giving rise to new opportunities. So this is about problems giving rise to opportunities, the storm cloud with the silver lining. When something goes wrong there may well be some good to come out of it.

Extending the reach of Grafana Data Sources

GrafanaHere’s a short overview of a recent project for a client of ours that run some very large WiFi networks and need to let their clients have access to a simple status and performance Dashboard.

The sensible decision had already been made to use Grafana as the front-end Dashboard display Server. Grafana is built to allow for the construction of Dashboards using a wide range of visual styles and obtaining data from a range of Data Sources. However, the range of Data Sources was not quite wide enough for this project. Much of the data being held in MySQL databases (from Grafana 4.3+, a MySQL Data Source is provided) originating from a customised SugarCRM and a freeRADIUS Server. Also, much of this data needed to be reformatted and summarised before ending up on a Dashboard. Data was also to be used from a Zabbix Network Monitoring Server and a Graylog logging Server holding data for Graylog.

Data that was either not directly supported by Grafana or needed further processing through some intermedia system was handled by Pentaho which was used for summarising and converting the data and passing it to InfluxDB databases so that it could be directly used by Grafana. Some of the data from Graylog could be read directly from the underlying ElasticSearch Indexes and all the data from Zabbix could be accessed by Grafana via the Zabbix Grafana plugin by Alexander Zobnin.







Are Ubiquiti actively blocking installation of Third Party Firmware?

In my particular case this question relates the UniFi AP v2 but has more general implications.

One would imagine this to be a simple question to answer with a yes or no answer but not for Ubiquiti it seems.

I have been asking this question of Ubiquiti for about a month now after having problems loading OpenWRT 15.05.1 into a number of UniFi AP v2 units. The answers from Level 1 support (via their forums) has been, "It shouldn't be blocked" (hoping for a Yes or No), "It's ok in the latest release" (it wasn't), "I'll have to check with Development" (still waiting for that), "We don't support Third Party Firmware" (wasn't asking for support) or (the most honest) "I don't know". So I pressed for an answer, they escalated it to the next level but were very vague about what that meant. Oh and it seems Level 1 support at Ubiquiti have no SLA what so ever with the team they escalate to. They also have no way to communicate with them after an escalation. So the question has gone some where in Ubiquiti to be answered at some unknown time.

My own feeling is that they are avoiding answering the question as they took the excuse of the FCC rules relating to unauthorised changes to Wireless parameters that could be part of Third Party Firmware, to do this. Of course the FCC rules only applied to 5Ghz not 2.4Ghz Wireless and, as the FCC have stated, was not intended to be used as a reason for blocking Third Party Firmware. TP-Link got caught up in this too. So they cant say they are blocking.

I also think they are actively blocking. Firmware Images for the UniFi AP v2 have a different device type in their header but this is easy to cater for by either making changes in the OpenWRT firmware builder to generate a correct header (sorry not going to go into derail on that here) or by using a binary editor to change it manually. The real issue is that the Ubiquiti Firmware images have a new RSA signature section at the end. The U-Boot loader, already on the device and included in Ubiquiti Firmware updates, checks the signature and rejects images that don't have it, making TFTP updates not work. fwupdate.real used to do upgrades via the command line, also checks and rejects images without the signature giving the "Invalid FW Part 3 MAGIC 'END.'" message.