Monthly Archives: April 2010

Sandisk Sansa Clipp+ Review

I recently decided to start hating freedom less, and ordered a 4GB Sandisk Sansa Clipp+ portable audio player. This player costs around 50€ depending on where you order. The main interesting features are:

  • Small size (pictures later)
  • Fairly cheap
  • Expandable memory (MicroSD slot, with SDHC support)
  • Ogg support

Of those, i actually concentrated on the ogg support. Very few players have .ogg support nowadays, it’s all mp3 drm mumbo-jumbo. There is a list of known Ogg players on the xiph site, which can be found here. I basically wanted a smaller device, which plays a multitude of formats. My previous player is the iPod Video (5th Generation). While the screen and user-interface is nice, I didn’t really use the screen for anything. I mostly listen to podcasts, and some music. In this sense, the Clip+ is ideal. The microSD slot means you can just pop in an up to 16GB card, and presto, you have tons of space with no moving parts.

So on to the actual review.

What’s in the box?

The box is, as the device, small. Contents are: the player, headphones (the cheap earplug style), 20cm mini-usb cable and assorted paper manuals. To start using the Sansa, connect it to a USB port on any computer, and let it charge until full (didn’t take long, i had maybe a 70% charge out of the box). Charge meter shows how much charge is in the device while charging, so you can follow the charging more closely. The power button on top of the device takes  a short press to turn the device on. First you’re greeted with a Sandisk logo, and then it tells you the database is updating. What it probably does is indexes the contents.

First sign of trouble!

First problem struck right here. It got stuck in the indexing phase, and it was unable to continue. To turn the device off if it’s crashed: press the power button for 10-15 seconds. This, however, did not help. Every time the device booted it stuck in the same spot.

So, off to google and did a little browsing. Turns out you can use a Windows machine to re-format the drive. When the Clip+ starts, it checks the storage, and creates necessary files/folders if they are missing. So apparently (and in my case) you can just format the entire thing without doing any damage to it.

After the re-format, the device started fine, and i haven’t had similar problems since.

Usage

To use the device, connect to your computer, and copy over some music. I tried a bunch of ogg files, copied them to the Music folder on the Sansa, and ejected the player. Started up… updating database…. And soon i was given the main menu. The main items are: Music, SlotRadio, FM-radio, Voice and Settings. All of those are self-explanatory, except the SlotRadio, which is apparently some kind of pre-loaded MicroSD card, containing..something. I haven’t seen these in Finland, so i’ll just skip that part.

Music, obviously contains your music. There is playlist support, but you can also use functions such as shuffle, on-the-go lists (ad-hoc playlists), or just browse all the songs in one large list. There’s also a simple EQ with a few presets and a custom setting, with 5 bands.

Navigation happens with the four “arrow” keys, and you can return to the main menu by pressing the “home” button. The home button also functions as keylock when pressed for a few seconds. Do it again to deactivate.

As the name indicates, the rear end of the Clip+ is a giant clip, which makes it easy to clip on anywhere. The 28 gram weight means you can put it anywhere and hardly notice it.

Conclusions

So far i’ve been pleased, except for the out-of-the-box error i had. The firmware is easily updated, and can be done either manually, or using a windows utility which detects the player and automatically downloads the correct version for you. The device seems very open, and there was talk of a rockbox firmware available for the device. The expandability means you can probably use this device for a very long time, if your needs don’t change. You could potentially get the 2GB version for like 30-40€ and then use a pre-existing memory card to expand it further, keeping the price very low.

It’s not user friendly like an iPod, nor will the battery last for longer than about 8 hours, but i still like it. I like devices that can be expanded and are not artificially constricted by laws or stupid corporate creeps. I like to choose my format, and not need any kind of special software to copy it onto the device. This is just like any memory stick that plays your music.

Overall, i’d maybe give it 8/10, with a Stallman badge for good measure.

nat and pf on OpenBSD 4.6

So maybe you have an old computer and you’d like to put it to good use? How hard is it really to convert an old piece of shit machine to a fully fledged NAT box with a built in firewall?

Not too hard.

What you need

What you need to do this build are the following items:

  • An old computer
  • Two good network cards. I can’t emphasize this enough. Preferably Intel cards, 3com is fine too.
  • Some CAT5 / 6 cable
  • A switch (optional, if you want to have more than one machine behind the firewall)
  • A USB memory stick, or a CD with OpenBSD 4.6 (4.7 is coming out in May)
  • The ability to read and understand written instructions

Not too insurmountable, eh? No, despite the “eh”, i’m not from Canada.

Step one – Preparations

Make sure your old machine boots, and doesn’t show any obvious faults in POST. If unsure, run something like Memtest86 from a Ubuntu Live CD, or something, and any BIOS diagnostics that may be available. Make sure your disk doesn’t have bad sectors or that it doesn’t make any funny sounds. Trust, me you don’t want to do a re-install one week after, just because your disk bought the farm.At this stage, also make sure your machine is set to boot from the media you are using (CD or USB).

Prepare your boot media. This is what you’ll be using to install OpenBSD with. Instructions for installing from a USB stick are here (warning, this is a new method, and not very tested, so if  you are not of the experimenting type, go with the CD) . Go to this page http://openbsd.org/ftp.html and pick a mirror closest to you. Once inside the FTP site, browse to 4.6 (or 4.7 when it’s out)/i386/ and download the file named install46 (or 47).iso

Burn this file to a CD. This file contains all the necessary files to install a working OpenBSD system, so you don’t have to put together too much yourself. It’s pretty small by today’s standards, so it’s fast to download.

Slide that CD/USB in to your old POS, and boot the machine from that. Pick Install when asked what to do. Choose to use the entire disk, and use recommended partition layout. Easiest at this point, and works fine for most installations.

Set network settings accordingly. One of your network cards should have an external address, usually given to you by your router, modem or whatever. The other should be in a private ip-block, such as 10.x.x.x, 172.16.x.x – 172.31.x.x or 192.168.x.x (when in doubt, check the openbsd installation guide), and finish the installation. It’s not as hard as it looks.

Once done, follow the instructions for booting into your new installation.

To use your machine as a NAT and packet filter, you need to set a few system variables, and edit a few configuration files. The instructions written here, are based on this brilliant guide, that i’ve always used as a base for my installations.

The basic steps are as follows:

  1. Edit the file /etc/sysctl.conf and change the value of net.inet.ip.forwarding to 1. This enables NAT.
  2. Check that PF is enabled (should be default in 4.6), by looking at /etc/rc.conf.local. If the file is empty, just make a line pf = YES
  3. If you want to have DCHP enabled, so you don't have to give out IP's to hosts by hand, enable dhcpd by following these instructions. Once it's done, it makes life easier, if you have to add and remove workstations a lot.
  4. At this point, i usually reboot, just to see that the services start on default.
  5. Here we start the "hardest" part; editing /etc/pf.conf. This file controls how the packet filter works, and is essential if you want to offer security to your network. An incorrectly configured pf.conf means evil guys, like my friend Bob, can gain access to your stuff.
  6. You can use my file as the reference, and change as necessary. You can download the file here. The lines are commented, so you can change it pretty easily. Just make sure, if you leave comments (or with everything for that matter) that everything fits on one line! Otherwise they will be interpreted as new lines, that is to say, new rules.
  7. After the file has been edited, load the file in to pf, by using the command pfctl -F ALL. This flushes all the previous rules and such. Load the new configuration file you just made by running pfctl -f /etc/pf.conf. If no errors are shown, your file is good to go. Otherwise it's usually a case of a typo her or there, which makes the file not parse correctly.

You’re done. Either let your clients get addresses by dhcp, or configure manually, depending on how you set up your interfaces and dhcpd. Test that traffic flows correctly.

OpenBSD is commonly considered to be one of the most secure operating systems on the planet. If you keep it patched, and don’t fuck up configurations, there is very little chance of your box getting compromised.

Any questions, feel free to ask. I’m by no means an OpenBSD guru, but i have been using it for this particular purpose for a few years now.

Footnote: This is what’s currently doing all of the above:

puffy on the desk

Quote of the Day

I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.

– Bryan, played by Liam Neeson from the movie “Taken” (2008)