Sunday, December 18, 2016

How to find good yogurt in Canada

While living in Croatia in the 80s, I enjoyed plain yogurt every day. After moving to Canada, I was very disappointed with the yogurt here.

Now I can find good yogurt in Canada. It's really quite simple: look at the ingredients. Yogurt is supposed to contain milk ingredients and bacterial culture. It is not supposed to contain various gums, gelatin or corn starch. I suppose factories add that to create consistent texture even when they're unable to make proper yogurt which would have a good texture on its own.

Astro Original is consistently good. Middle Eastern brands like Halal and Phoenicia are also good. Danone usually disappoints.

In Canada you can buy lots of different yogurt with added flavour and/or fruit. I generally avoid those, because they have lots of added sugar or artificial sweeteners. It's better to enhance yogurt with fruit on your own. Sour cherries which were washed and pitted in the summer are great for this. Preparing it is a lot of work one day, but it's kind of fun and after that they're easy to use. I freeze them in small containers which after defrosting last for a week or so.

Don't shy away from fat. Research shows that fat isn't that bad, sugar is far worse, and even artificial sweeteners are unhealthy. Without fat, it's hard to get the right consistency and flavour, and many low fat products add other unhealthy things instead. So, 3% yogurt is fine, and don't assume 0% is better.

The same general advice applies to other milk products like kefir, huslanka and even sour cream.

Facebook friend request accepted even though I never sent one

A while ago someone I stayed in touch with over 10 years ago appeared in my suggested friends list. That was probably due to a mutual friend. I looked at the suggested friend's page and public posts for a bit, and decided to not send a friend request. Later that day I was told that he accepted my friend request.

I don't think I made a mistake and accidentally sent a friend request. Furthermore, in the friends activity log at I see a "became friends" entry, but no "sent a friend request" entry. I just scrolled through the entire log, to the beginning of my time on Facebook, and still see no friend request. For various other people I see a "sent a friend request" entry followed by "became friends".

This isn't a problem and what happened was probably a good thing. So, I'm not complaining. It's just weird and I'm wondering why this happened.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Notes about unlocking a Vonage VDV23 VoIP box

I got a used Vonage VDV23 VoIP box to play with. Vonage seems expensive and limited compared to other VoIP providers like, so I decided to unlock the box for use with other providers. A guide is available, but I ran into various problems trying to follow it, and this was quite an adventure. You can access the guide for free, but need to register at and log in there. The comments here are meant as a supplement to the guide, not a replacement.

Note that buying this device for use with Vonage may be pointless. Vonage will give you a new adapter if you sign up, and may not allow you to use an old one.

Firmware loading via TFTP

Always use the internal phy. It will tell you if autonegotiation worked and you got an Ethernet connection. I never had any success whatsoever when I selected external phy.

Network connectivity from the bootloader sometimes seems terribly unreliable. Pinging the VDV23 only worked once. Other times it at best answered a few pings, often with delays of more than a second. Received pings also spit out error messages to the console. Trying to ping first may even break subsequent TFTP attempts. Don't bother testing the network connection with ping; just try TFTP.

After trying my main PC and router, I ended up using the Ethernet port on this Inspiron 6400 laptop. Also, I was always setting up the network immediately after startup, not later on via the menu. When I did this, TFTP always worked.

The "Board IP Gateway" must exist, because the VDV23 will perform ARP queries for it when starting TFTP. Yes, it will even do this if the address is within the LAN. I just set it to the TFTP server address.

Getting the Admin password

Ignore the password at BF7F0118. Yes, there seems to be a password there, but I could never log in using it. If the password at BF3D00FA is all zeros, you didn't wait long enough for the VDV23 to download the password from Vonage and configure itself. If you wait too long, it will start upgrading firmware.

The first time I couldn't log in with the password from BF3D00FA either. I'm not sure if the "safe" vdv21-3.2.6-na_boot.bin firmware needs to get the password over the Internet from Vonage again. It may also start upgrading firmware if you wait too long. So, you need to disconnect from the Internet and continue with the rest of the guide.

Configuring SIP

I chose to configure via the XML file. First I tried to use an address accessible from the blue WAN port, but I didn't see any HTTP requests. Then I chose the default address and it worked via the yellow Ethernet port.

The device always sends an HTTP request soon after booting, so I was just unplugging it and plugging it back in to change the configuration. Seems like it first configures itself using stored parameters. Then if the XML file has different parameters the phone light will go out for a while as it reconfigures itself. Don't take the phone off hook during that process, because it will be testing the line. You may end up with a blinking phone light and a console complaint about the ringer equivalence number (REN) being too high.

Pay attention to the dialPlan lines. The one in the provided XML isn't enough for some numbers, leading to a fast busy. I couldn't figure out how to support 2 and 3 character * codes except using *xx.T, which waits for a timeout before proceeding with the call. For experimenting, I could reconfigure dialPlan once from the console and see immediate results.

I forwarded port 8660 because it is localPort in the XML, but am not sure if that was necessary. The device is meant to be directly connected to the Internet and act as your gateway, providing NAT while prioritizing VoIP traffic. Since I'm still playing with it, I'm not going to do such a drastic change to my network.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

How to set the MAC address when connecting to wireless using /etc/network/interfaces

If you try to set the mac address using hwaddress ether xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx in /etc/network/interfaces, that fails. It seems ifup tries to set the address after connecting to WiFi. The address needs to be set before, while the interface is down. If you need the MAC address to connect, you won't connect, and if you don't need it and connect, you'll get RTNETLINK answers: Device or resource busy at the end. The solution is to use a pre-up ifconfig wlan0 hw ether xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx line instead of the hwaddress ether line.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Exiftran for Windows

The Windoze 10 Photos app doesn’t actually rotate JPEG files, and instead just sets the EXIF orientation. I want my photos to always be displayed in the correct orientation, so this is not acceptable, because the flag is ignored in many situations. Photos can be rotated with jpegtran, but my camera photos also contain a JPEG thumbnail in the Exif data, which also needs to be rotated. I used exiftran for this in Linux and I cross-compiled it for Win32 from Linux using i686-w64-mingw32-gcc. Download the build directory here. I'm distributing the whole thing because of the GPL. To use exiftran, rename exiftran to exiftran.exe and run it. For example, to rotate a file by 90 degrees in place, replacing it with a losslessly rotated version, use "exiftran -9i file".