Archive for the ‘Technical’ Category

Product Review — Logitech Harmony Touch

Friday, October 19th, 2012

I’m a big fan of the Logitech Harmony product line.  Before purchasing the Touch, I already own the Harmony One Advanced Remote and the Harmony 620 Advanced Remote.

My Harmony 620 has been struggling lately.  The LCD screen completely died and the button have not been as responsive as they used to be.  So, I jumped on the Logitech web site to see what they had to offer.

The Harmony Touch was released on October 1, 2013 — just 10 days before my search.  But, at $250, it was a pricey clicker to say the least.  I thought about getting the Harmony One remote but at $200, it wasn’t much of a downgrade in price.  So, off to Newegg I went and bought a new Touch.

When the box arrived, it’s a behemoth.  You can see the packaging stealsa lot of queues from Apple’s.  The boxes are thick and sturdy. The directions are quick and to the point and the device is presented in a very simple plastic cradle.

I plugged the charging base into the wall (yay!  no more batteries) and let the remote charge overnight.  The next evening, I went to, installed the necessary software and plugged the remote into my laptop.

As a prior owner of Harmony remotes, I knew what to expect.  This was my first time using  My previous two remotes used the thick Harmony software that installed on my laptop.  Both the MyHarmony site and the Harmony software are pretty straightforward   My biggest complaint with the software is that you could not use multiple remotes under a single login.  So, since I had two remotes, I had to remember two logins.  With the MyHarmony this limitation is removed.

Setting up my devices in MyHarmony is really easy.  You enter in the brand name and the model number of every device in use.  After the site knows all the devices that are in use, you setup all the Activities.  I have a fairly limited number of devices but they do some fairly complicated things.

Here is my hardware:

  • TV
  • Receiver
  • Cable Box
  • Remote Camera Receiver (we have a camera installed in my sons room so we can watch him)

Here are my activities:

  • Watch TV (TV, Receiver, Cable Box)
  • Listen to Music (TV, Receiver)
  • Watch my Son (TV, Receiver, Remote Camera)

MyHarmony goes through a very brief question and answer session for each activity and programs the remote for the activities   The Watching Music and Watching my Son activities presented some minor problems for the software as the settings to bring these actions to live are not default standard   But, since I have some known experience with my other two Harmony remotes, I was quickly able to customize my remote to do exactly what I want and programmed it without issues.

I’ve now been using the remote for about a week and there are things about it that I like and things that I don’t.

Things I like:

  • Size/Weight/Materials
    • My favorite part of my Harmony remotes is the design.  They have a dog-bone shape to them where your hands fits perfectly inside the thin part of the remote.  Your thumbs, for the most part, can reach all the import buttons with ease.  The Harmony Touch is similarly shaped to my previous remotes, with one big improvement.  It has a slightly grip material where your hand sits that really feels nice.
  • Touch Screen
    • The touch screen with the icons is very similar your SmartPhone screen.  It’s fast, responsive and very slick.  The Favorite icons you can setup make it very easy to jump from channel to channel.  This has shown to be a great benefit to my 3 year old son.  He knows what the channel icon is for Disney Junior and he just clicks and it’s on.  No numbers, no guide.
  • DVR Button
    • Finally, a DVR button.  Both other remotes did not have this and I was always too lazy to program one.  So, I ended up just clicking menu, and finding the DVR selection under there.

Things I don’t like:

  • Touch Screen Location
    • Yes, I said I liked the touch screen and I do.  The problem is the location.  It’s smack in the middle of the remote.  So, the common buttons like channels, volume, DVR, menu, Guide are at the buttom of the remote near your thumb. This is a great spot.  Right above these common buttons is the touch screen.  Above the touch screen and at the top of the remote is the Play/Pause/FF/RR buttons used for DVRs/DVDs.  So, everytime I want to skip commercials, pause the TV or play, I need to slide my hand to the top of the remote.  This was not the case with my other remotes and for me this is my biggest complaint.
  • Price
    • $250?  Are you shitting me?  I’m glad I have a nice wife.
  • No number pad
    • This isn’t 100% accurate.  There is a number pad, but it’s built into the touch screen.  So, it takes a click or two to bring it up.  I understand the need to consolidate and improve, but I miss my number pad.
  • No keyboard
    • My Vizio TV has lots of neat-o applets that run things like Twitter and Pandora.  They require input for the username and password only once and then they are saved.  Most of the time.  Every once in a while, my SmartTV decides to be dumb and forget everything I taught it.  I then need to input all my logins again, via it’s onscreen keyboard.  I usually end up digging out the Vizio remote which has a very slick slider keyboard built in.

Overall, it’s a nice remote.   It’s very snazzy, has a cool touch screen and the MyHarmony site is probably easy and workable for most situations.  Is it worth the price?  Nah, that’s a serious premium for a remote control.  Most folks that want a easy to use, functional remote would be perfectly happy with the $50-$100 device that Logitech makes.

Porsche Boxster Alternator Replacement

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

The alternator died on the Boxster so I decided to tackle this project myself.  I have never done a major repair to any of my cars, but figured I’d give the alternator replacement a try.  All of the articles on the internet and in my tech manual made it look pretty easy, so what the hell?

I decided to document the project via a video, so here it is:

Here are the links to the references:

PTY allocation request failed

Friday, July 29th, 2011

My hosting provider, Razor Servers, recently moved hosted centers from the 401 North Broad St location in Philadelphia to a building right next door.  As part of my VM move to the new location, I was no longer able to SSH into the device.  I got this strange error about PTY allocation request failed.  In addition, the SPAMD process was not running on the box.  I tried to re-install SpamAssassin, I tried to re-install Exim and I even tried a complete upgrade of cPanel.  No go.  I thought the two might be related so a Googling I went…

After a good long while of Googling the problem, I found this site with my exact error message.  Via the web console, I checked to see if /dev/ptmx existed, it didn’t.  I ran the command as noted on the page:

sbin/MAKEDEV -d /dev ptmx

Restarted the ssh daemon:

service sshd restart

And, presto, I was able to SSH back into my box.  No idea why that file would disappear after a VM move, but it is all fixed now.

How to configure a Checkpoint UTM device without using the GUI

Friday, March 18th, 2011

There is an annoying aspect of configuring a Checkpoint UTM appliance, you are forced to enter the web based GUI to do some basic config before using the command line interface (CLI) to complete the install.  If you try to use the CLI before using the GUI, you receive the following message:

Welcome to VPN-1 UTM Appliance

You can not use the ‘sysconfig’ and ‘cpconfig’ utilities until you successfully complete the First Time Wizard in the Administration web GUI.

Press Enter to continue…

If you run the following command, this message is not displayed and you can use the CLI for the full config:

  • SecurePlatform OS:
  • Gaia OS:


How to configure DNS NAT or DNS Doctoring on Checkpoint FW-1

Monday, December 13th, 2010

In some topologies, it is required to DNS reply traffic from a DNS server so that the querying host will think that a certain DNS entry (example is resolvable to a different IP address than the one written in the database of the DNS server.

The feature has a global on/off switch, in the objects_5_.C file, called fw_dns_xlation (by default set to false). When it is set to true, the regular NAT Rule Base is used to determine how to change the DNS packets.
The regular NAT rules used to NAT the internal servers will suffice. There is no need to define special NAT rules in addition to the regular ones defined.

To enable the fw_dns_xlation property, perform on the SmartCenter server:

  1. Close all SmartConsole clients connected to the SmartCenter server.
  2. Open the GuiDBedit utility and and connect to the SmartCenter server.
  3. Find the fw_dns_xlation property.
  4. Change the value of this property to true. Click OK.
  5. Select File -> Save All.
  6. Open the SmartDashboard and re-install the Security Policy on the Security gateway.

From this point on, the Security gateway will NAT the DNS data, according to the NAT Rule Base.
You must also enable the DNS protocol protection for UDP in the IPS (formerly, SmartDefense). To enable this protection:

For the Security Gateway R70:

  1. Open the IPS tab in the SmartDashboard.
  2. Go to the Protections -> By Protocol -> Application Intelligence -> DNS view.
  3. Open the ‘DNS – General Settings’ Protection Details.
  4. Click Edit.
  5. Verify that either the ‘UDP only’ or ‘Both TCP and UDP’ checkbox is selected.

For all other versions:

  1. Open the SmartDefense tab in the SmartDashboard.
  2. Go to the Application Intelligence -> DNS -> Protocol Enforcement view.
  3. Verify that the ‘UDP protocol enforcement’ checkbox is selected.


  1. The manual rules for network objects or Automatic NAT Static rules for host objects must be used. This feature does not work with Automatic NAT Static rules of network objects.
  2. Traffic will be modified based on the destination address of the NAT rules without considering the source of the traffic.
  3. The feature does not work for a DNS zone transfer (used to synchronize DNS databases between to internal DNS servers).
  4. The feature does not work for DNS queries over TCP.
  5. The Security gateway must be between the querying host and the DNS server.
  6. On Security Gateway R70, DNS traffic cannot be accelerated when using this feature.

If the “NAT for DNS payload” option is enabled and the “UDP DNS protocol enforcement” protection is disabled on at least one of SmartDefense/IPS profiles, the Security Policy installation will succeed but the following warning will appear:
“You enabled NAT on DNS payload, please make sure that DNS UDP protocol enforcement defense is enabled on the desired gateway.”