Initial Impressions of DirectTV Now

I’m a pretty happy user of Playstation Vue, especially since they recently released an AppleTV app.  But I can’t help but be tempted by the value proposition of DirecTV Now, particularly with their introductory offer, so I decided to sign up for the seven day free trial.

For me, it was great when I was streaming on my Apple TV in the mid/late afternoon. I also briefly tried the iOS app on my iPad and my iPhone.  After playing around for a few minutes, I left it playing in the background while I did some actual work.

No hiccups, until around 6:30pm, I got an error message about exceeding my streaming limit, even though the only stream I had running was on my Apple TV. I thought maybe the apps on the iPhone and iPad were still registering as connected somehow, even though they were no longer actively being used, so I force quit the application on both of those devices. The error message persisted.  Then, I force quit the application on my AppleTV and restarted it.

The first time I restarted the application, it reported that the service was “temporarily unavailable”.  I couldn’t do anything in the app at that point; there was no retry option. So I force quit again. This time it loaded up, and all seemed well, until a few minutes later when I got the error about exceeding my streaming limit again.

I discovered that if I switched channels, it would come back temporarily, but within a couple of minutes the error would reappear. The message referenced a particular error code to look up in their help center if the problem persisted. Unfortunately, all the help center did was basically repeat the error message: you can only have two streams active at a time. Duh.

I tried watching for another 15-20 minutes but finally gave up since the error kept reappearing every couple of minutes.  I switched back to my trusty PS Vue app for the night.

I’m glad they have a 7 day trial. I’m still on the fence. I love the value proposition and the number of channels (especially the +$5 for HBO which I pay $15/mo for now), but I really use the Cloud DVR a lot on PS Vue. I know they are supposedly adding a cloud DVR feature in “2017”.

Hoping that it was just capacity issues related to it being launch day.  We’ll see what day 2 brings.

Limited Edition IPhone 7+ with Wireless Charging

iPhone 7+ Charging on Samsung Wireless ChargerAfter experimenting with Android phones for about the last year and a half, I decided to switch back to iOS. I have no desire to engage in fanboy flamewars.  Android and iOS have their pros and cons, but for me, the applications I use regularly and the ecosystem I work in, iOS is just a better fit.

One thing I knew I’d be losing switching to the iPhone is the headphone jack. I know that bothers a lot of people, but for me, it’s not an issue because I’m a big fan of Bluetooth headphones.  On rare occasions, when I do want to use wired headphones, I use a Bluetooth adapter.  The one thing my Galaxy S7 Edge has that I really was going to miss was the convenience of wireless charging.

Despite all the talk about how awesome a world without wires is at the iPhone keynote, I was disappointed that Apple chose not to add wireless charging as a built-in feature of the new hardware.  Luckily, that turned out not to be much of an issue after all.  I found this wireless charging pad that plugs into the lightning port and sticks onto the back of your iPhone.  Obviously, it doesn’t look all that great on the back of your phone, but I bought a very inexpensive case which adds a little bit of grip and protection, and makes the charging pad pretty much invisible.  The case is thin enough that it doesn’t interfere with wireless charging at all.  A thicker case, or one with a metal plate for sticking to a magnetic mount probably wouldn’t work as well.  Wireless charging works great with the Samsung chargers I already have,  and the charging pad actually comes with its own wireless charger if you don’t already have one.

The only potential drawback is that if you need access to the lightning port on the phone for some reason, it would be kind of a pain to deal with.  In my case, the only thing I use the lightning port for is charging, and since I can do it wirelessly now (even away from the home or office) it’s not an issue at all for me.  It’s an inexpensive upgrade and I’m quite pleased with it!

20161023_104333 Back of the phone with charging padBack of Phone With Case Covering Charging Pad

Pairing a Logitech MX Master Mouse with Ubuntu 16.04 Using Bluetooth

Compared to when I used to download 3.5″ install images to set up Slackware on my machine, Linux has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of usability.  The majority of things seem to “just work” these days.  However, every once in awhile I run into some kind of weird issue.

In this case, I wanted to pair my MX Master Wireless Mouse with my Lenovo laptop running Ubuntu 16.04.  I don’t use the unifying receiver (which, to be honest, I don’t even know if I still have) because I generally just pair with Bluetooth so I have one less dongle to mess with.  That’s even more important in the case of a small laptop that doesn’t have a lot of USB ports to spare.

Adding a bluetooth device is theoretically pretty straightforward.  Go into the bluetooth settings and click ‘Add Device’ while the mouse is in pairing mode.  It actually finds the MX Master just fine, and even claims to complete the pairing process.

However, it still doesn’t recognize the mouse, and the led for the connection is still blinking instead of staying solid.  After a lot of googling, I finally found a solution that worked for me.  Once you have gone through the regular pairing procedure, enter the following commands (as root):

hciconfig hci0 sspmode 1
hciconfig hci0 down
hciconfig hci0 up

Voila, a working mouse!

Adding SSL with Let’s Encrypt!

screenshot-from-2016-09-18-16-48-46

Adding SSL to a website sure is easier than I remember.  I’ve been vaguely aware of the fact that free SSL certificates were now available from Let’s Encrypt.  I’ve been spending most of the day geeking out with AWS server stuff so I decided now would be a good time to see what exactly is involved, and I was absolutely stunned at how easy the process is!

I started with an Ubuntu Server running Apache; no SSL  configured at all.  I pointed my browser at https://certbot.eff.org/.  It gives you a couple of big, friendly drop-down menus where you specify the web server software and OS you are using, and it redirects you to a page of step-by-step instructions.

If you are at all familiar with working at the command line, the process could not be much simpler.  Following are the steps I took for Apache on Ubuntu Server, but I assume the process will vary depending on your environment.

On my server, I ran the command wget https://dl.eff.org/certbot-auto to get the software that bootstraps the process.  Once it downloaded, I ran chmod a+x certbot-auto to make the file executable, and then ./certbot-auto to kick it off.

At this point, certbot used apt to download all the package dependencies. Since I had a simple, bare-bones Apache configuration, it gave me the following dialog in a text interface:

No names were found in your configuration files. You should specify ServerNames in your config files in order to allow for accurate installation of your certificate. If you do use the default vhost, you may specify the name manually. Would you like to continue?

Being the slacker that I am, I naturally opted for the path of least resistance, and answered affirmatively.  Then it presented another dialog:

Please enter in your domain name(s) (comma and/or space separated)

Simple enough.  I entered my domain and then:

Please enter email address (used for urgent notices and lost key recovery)

After entering my email address, it provided me with a dialog to agree with the TOS.

Please read the Terms of Service at https://letsencrypt.org/documents/LE-SA-v1.1.1-August-1-2016.pdf. You must agree in order to register with the ACME server at https://acme-v01.api.letsencrypt.org/directory

Who am I to argue?  I agreed, and then got:

Please choose whether HTTPS access is required or optional.

Easy – Allow both HTTP and HTTPS access to these sites
Secure – Make all requests redirect to secure HTTPS access

Nice!  It even gives you the option of configuring your server so that non-secure requests are redirected to https.  Yes, please!

After a bit more churning:

Congratulations! You have successfully enabled https://ericasberry.com

You should test your configuration at: https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html?d=ericasberry.com

That was it!  Didn’t even have to restart apache (I presume it did that for me in the background).  I went ahead and verified the configuration as suggested, and my site is now A-rated!  That’s more than I can say for chase.com, which currently only rates a measly B grade.  Take that, mega bank!

The only catch seems to be that the certificates are only good for 90 days.  But it looks like all you have to do is set up a cron job to run “certbot-auto renew” every 3 months to take care of that.  Since I just set it up, I haven’t tried that step, but I’ll try to remember to update this post when the time comes.

Quick tip for joining lines with a separator in vim

Every so often I need to deal with some exported database id’s that come in the form of a CSV file.  The trouble is, instead of having the id’s one per line, I really need them on a single line, comma-separated so that I can use them in an ‘in’ clause in some kind of query.  I always remember this is easy to do in vim, but I can never remember the syntax.  So here it is, for my (and maybe somebody else’s) future reference:

:%s/\n/,/

: to enter command mode

% to select all lines

Then the substitute command to search and replace all newlines in the selected block with a comma.  Of course you could use the pipe character or whatever other delimiter you need in place of the comma.

Now that I’ve written it down somewhere hopefully I’ll never forget it!