Testing a New PBX

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to deploy and test a call centre PBX product to gauge if its viable to offer as a product and how it will sit within our infrastructure.

Installing and poking around the GUI is all well and good but to really find out how a PBX behaves it needs some traffic, to find outs its performance in regards to resources but also to find out what a vendor’s interpretation of an advertised feature actually is.

To generate sample calls, instead of registering handsets/softphones and dialling manually it would be better to automate this, and SIPp is the perfect tool for this.

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Automated Timelapse: 2019 Update

I like this time of year, a chance to reflect on the last 12 months and take stock of accomplishments and realise the achievements. And something I like to gauge a success on is the longevity of a solution, and a time-lapse comparison 6 months apart is seemingly my go to example.

To elaborate on this achievement, earlier this year was the setup of a homebrew CCTV solution using an array of Raspberry Pi’s with cameras, and a VM Cent OS server acting as a PVR host. A surplus Pi W Zero was pointed at the hills and used as a time-lapse experiment.

The real achievement is that since its conception in early June, it has been stable enough to run in the background, capturing footage for such an occasion.

So here I present my latest time-lapse, a split screen video on the difference between a June day and a December day:

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Motioneye – Cent OS CCTV Server

If you’d ever searched for Raspberry Pi projects that involved a camera then the results would certainly include Motioneye OS, an easy to use self-contained operating system that is truly (write then) plug and play.

Looking for a CCTV project earlier this year I too was drawn in by this, and with my small abundance of RPi spares it was the cheapest choice, using a couple of RPi 3B+ for video, and a Zero W for time-lapse image capture. All processing was self-contained on each Pi with capture data passed over via SMB to a Windows file share.

This worked, but had a couple of problems that prevented it from being trustworthy. Firstly, it stops recording video after a few days of uptime, by creating empty files. And secondly the time-lapse camera seemed to reset every few minutes that created in white out image capture as the camera’s exposure setting recalibrated, ruining a time-lapse video.

Looking wider there was also the performance issue. In Motioneye OS’ default state of managing all features, the highest FPS seemed to max at 15 fps even on the Pi 3B+. Forums suggest this is due to the motion eye daemon handling all the image processing in software, putting a strain on the Pi’s modest CPU.

The idea and goal is to move the processing and IO responsibilities to my server, which would be far more capable than the then latest available RPi, and as I have chosen Cent OS to be my go-to Linux OS of choice, this is what I’ll be using.

A gateway to make this possible is an option in Motioneye OS, Fast Network Camera. This when set relinquishes the Pi of all processing duties and serves to just stream the camera capture as best as possible via MJPEG.

Here’s how to set up Motioneye on a Cent OS server to be a central data hub for a network of RPi Motioneye OS cameras.

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Taking Things for Granted – The RDP Attack.

Before we start, a story. When I created my first web server, I’d found a copy of Windows NT Server 4.0, upgraded it to Service Pack 6a to get IIS enabled, opened port 80 on the router and viola, working webserver. This was 2001 and unfortunately my creation of a webserver coincided with the spread of the Code Red virus, and it reached my server within days of it being online.

Not knowing at the time, and thinking it was a one off, formatted the hard drive and completed the whole setup again. A day passed before the virus was back. Now with the knowledge of what was happening and wary of it happening again. I rebuilt the server and this time put the website behind port 8080, this time the virus never returned.

I thought to myself that this was security through obscurity, and with the victory over Code Red, was something I held onto for many years.

I applied this method when it came to opening RDP access to the outside world, choosing a seemingly obscure port 8021 on each network setup. However, I’ve been dealt a wakeup call following what I’ve just seen…

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Restoring a Joomla website

From time to time we come across legacy applications and deployments that you didn’t know exist until something goes wrong with it. This week it was an unbeknown to me Joomla website that had been ticking over since 2012. However recent visits to the site got this result:

A report came in on this issue and a few checks of the domain DNS revealed it was on a platform we use for domains and web hosting.

Not overly familiar with the hosting company from a website standpoint and even less with Joomla, it was time to first fathom out how it works, and them find the problem and fix

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VMWare: No Keyboard on Newly Virtualised Machine

As the years pass by we find ourselves moving on from an old computer to making a clean start with something more relevant, and when migrating to a new PC or laptop its always a worry that you may leave something behind. Luckily these days, instead of having a laptop laying about in its last used state for fear of losing that once forgotten file or program, the whole system can be virtualised on a server or donor machine for such eventualities, paving the way for the physical machine to be reused or recycled.

My method is to use VMware Standalone Convertor Wizard to convert physical machines to an ESXI 6.5 host. All previous conversions have been seamless however the latest conversion of a Fujitsu U904 laptop didn’t go as so, the conversion process completed without a hitch, but when starting the newly created VM I found that keyboard input was unresponsive.
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Windows 2012 Server Backup 0x80780119 Error

While setting up a backup solution for my home network, I had an issue where my Windows Server 2012 R2 backup task would fail, with the following status:

“There is not enough disk space to create the volume shadow copy on the storage location. Make sure that, for all volumes to be backed up, the minimum required disk space for shadow copy creation is available. This applies to both the backup storage destination and the volumes included in the backup.

Minimum Requirement: For volumes less than 500 megabytes, the minimum is 50 megabytes of free space. For volumes more than 500 megabytes, the minimum is 320 megabytes of free space.

Recommended: At least 1 gigabyte of free disk space on each volume if volume size is more than 1 gigabyte.

Detailed error: Insufficient storage available to create either the shadow copy storage file or other shadow copy data.”

This doesn’t really explain the issue, as setting up a schedule with Windows Server Backup in 2012 involves the utility checking available storage before creating the backup task, and a manual check showed there was ample storage on the destination volume, with the source volume having 86% free space.

Delving into the Event Viewer for more detailed error message, I get this:

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Find the True Speed of Your Website

When running a website from a home server, viewing it locally will make it seem that the site is responding lightning fast and there are no issues. But what about the outsiders wanting a look at your content, are they getting the same performance? Chances are they are not, as a visitor’s machine needs to negotiate the internet and its equivalent of back streets and country roads to get to the home server’s location.

Where a home server can differentiate greatly from hosted solutions is the speed and relative location on the net. Visitors who view a website relies on the upstream connection at the server end to receive the content, and when this is via domestic internet connection the upstream can much smaller than the heavily advertised downstream connection. So it’s worth checking the theoretical upload speed to establish what kind of service and content can be served.

Viewing your website on a local network compared to the internet.
Viewing your website on a local network compared to the internet.

In terms of location, hosting companies are as close to the internet backbone as feasibly possible to get the best speeds and lower latency. The backbone of the net is handled by major operation companies that handle the bulk of all internet traffic between countries and continents, these in turn have datacentres where the traffic from countries are trunked to the different internet providers and down to the end user. As data makes its way from the backbone to the end user, it can hop between different servers as it meanders towards the final destination. For each hop the networking equipment has to read where to send it on, and route it on the right path. This all takes time, even though it is measured in milliseconds, an extended number of hops and the volume of data packets needed may produce a noticeable wait for a user to see the desired page.

All home user’s computers need deal with negotiating its way through the service providers’ local infrastructure to get to most sites, but when visiting a site hosted on a home server, data may need to navigate another service providers’ network to reach the site. This is where visitors may experience slower loading times compared to mainstream sites.
So how to tell if your home hosted website will be speedy when out in the wild? There’s a few different ways to check:

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Easy CCTV Solution using IP Cameras

For a while I have been looking for simple CCTV solution, where video is captured on a long loop, so when the storage is full the earliest dated footage is deleted to make way for new. And of course, footage is available for immediate review.

Many newer IP cameras, including my Trendnet TV-IP572W comes equipped with a microSD slot for recording on a rotating basis. However, this has two main caveats, firstly the investment in a microSD card to be used solely for this purpose and of a high enough capacity to record enough footage, especially with the introduction of HD capture. Secondly is accessing the footage, as it is effectively held on the IP camera it is the gateway to the data. In my experience this process is slow, with having to download each video file manually and slow transfer speeds.

Imagine wanting to view an event that could have happened over a span of a few hours, and with video captured in segments of 5 minutes at most, the whole process can become tedious very quickly.

Therefore, I came up with another solution, one that uses my server’s hard disks for video storage to save on money while allowing larger video retention than a micro SD card. Also the ability to automatically delete older files to make way for new. This method uses Samba settings of an IP camera to save video to a Windows Server, and on the server itself, employing Disk Quota management to effectively trick the camera into thinking it only has a certain amount of disk space, to allow the cyclic video retention and prevent the footage taking up a whole drive on the server.

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Review: Intel NUC5CPYH N3050

With the untimely demise of the Gigabyte Brix, I needed to find another solution for a small machine that would handle all web traffic to my sites. My fingers got burnt by using Gigabyte so this time I decided to track down an Intel marketed machine, they were the first to pioneer the net-top device and so commanded a premium over other manufacturers.

Price always at the forefront, I picked up an Intel NUC5CPYH, at £120 for a barebones system it featured an Intel Celeron 2.16Ghz processor at the helm, with the same single DDR3L slot and support for a 2.5 inch HDD/SDD as the Brix, which I recovered from the deceased system.

nuc1

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