Looks aren’t everything (wiring panels)

Today I had to replace a card access panel that was installed about 20 years ago with a newer (but still obsolete) panel with larger dimensions. The previous technician chose to put 4 panels in a square formation with PVC and metal conduit between them. He chose to route cabling for power and data up through one panel and through another until he reached the other panel. It looked very clean and tidy. But it made replacing one of the panels an absolute chore. There is one building where this approach was done with 14 panels!

I also had to label the cables (since he never bothered), and cut off about a dozen zip-ties inside a single panel. Again, it looked tidy, but tracing the unlabeled cables was near impossible until they were all cut free. Some cables had to be retracted through 3 of the other 4 panels while not disturbing or shorting any of the other panels.

Then I had to remove the conduit interconnects so I could remove the old panel. I got the new one situated and ran the cabling directly to the new panel instead of through the other panels. This makes any future troubleshooting and wiring logic a lot easier since I can tug on a cable and not confuse it with the cabling of another panel.

External cabling is fine so long as it is still tidy, and tidiness makes troubleshooting easier as well. Label your cables so another tech can understand what panel they belong to as well as the purpose of the cable. Document any unusual wiring and keep that information handy. I have hundreds of pictures and documents for this facility stored on their server that gets backed up nightly, because I won’t always be around to help them with the next project.

Can’t Type In Search Bar in Windows 10

A very odd error started on my work computer yesterday. I went to search for a file name on a drive and nothing would type in the search bar. I could type fine elsewhere, but not in any search bars.

I did the typical attempts to fix it like restarting the computer. I opened a ticket with our IT department and a good tech came by and found that he could get it to work if he ran ctfmon.exe first. But this had to be done each time I logged in. He also mentioned something about the Task Scheduler being empty.

This last statement made me look for the Task Scheduler service in the list of services. It was not even present! That is very odd. I did some looking for how to add the service as a default. I found that there is a registry entry that has to be made if it doesn’t exist. I ran regedit.exe (I’m an admin on the machine).


In this folder I added a DWORD (32-bit) called Start

Assigned a value of 2 hex

I closed the registry editor and restarted. This fixed the issue!

Gasoline can hell

Since the new gasoline/petrol can rules came out, it has been nearly impossible to find a decent plastic gas can. The nozzles are so complicated now that dispensing gasoline typically gets fuel all over the place, thus increasing the hazard dramatically. I’ve heard that the new anti-explosion measures were put in place to help protect Darwin Award candidates who pour gasoline on fires.

I bought some replacement nozzles on Amazon to try and bypass these new gizmos, and they looked very promising. Fast-forward two months and the thin indented gaskets used on the nozzles soften in the presence of fuel, and tear when the nozzle is screwed too tightly onto the gas can, meaning the new nozzle will also dribble rather a lot of gasoline when used. The other problem is the gasket they use is indented to fit over the lip of the nozzle and the white anti-flame gizmo inside the nozzle. This weakens the gasket and lets it tear or twist when the collar is attached, making the seal break and lets gasoline leak.

I chose to remove the white part and replace the single indented gasket with two gaskets, one on either side of the black nozzle lip. This seals both areas that could leak gasoline.

I’ve read that nitrile is the best material for gasoline resistance, but I also bought a sheet of Fel-Pro rubberized cork gasket sheet and cut a couple of gaskets to try. (Cut to the chase: the Fel-Pro cut in 44mm OD 33mm ID works perfectly, but only tighten collar until it stops. Any further will deform the gasket.)

COLLAR THREAD DIAMETER IS 1 5/8 INCHES OR 41mm (40mm OD gasket is slightly undersized for the can-side gasket, it falls out when taking off the yellow collar. 41mm OD should stay in place.) Trough of thread is 44mm. This is important for sizing a gasket that will fit inside the threads and be held in place.

COLLAR LIP HOLE IS 1 5/16 INCHES OR 33.5mm (33mm ID gasket hole actually lets nozzle neck fit through the gasket easily while being held in place by the collar lip)

Some brands of gas can like Blitz use a pressure fit rounded plastic part instead of a flexible gasket. That seems to work better than the thin flexible gasket, but I’m hoping a thicker gasket of nitrile will fix the issue of leaks on the replacement nozzles. If not, I may be investing in an expensive metal “Jerry can”.

Here was the original can and spout, Scepter brand:

This is what I had after replacing the nozzle:

The Fel-Pro rubberized cork gaskets worked perfectly. I cut out two (very rough) gaskets and placed them on each side of the nozzle lip. One seals between the red tank and the nozzle, and the other between the nozzle and the yellow collar. The lip of the nozzle is sandwiched between the gaskets. At first I tightened down as hard as I could, thinking it would seal better, but that leaked a lot because the gasket became deformed. I then re-seated the gasket and tightened just until it stopped. No leaking at all! W00t! This may be true for the indented gasket that comes with the kit, but I haven’t tried this yet.

I tried to find a better and cleaner way to cut the material than scissors and a drill, but this worked. Just don’t leave any pieces that could come off into your gas tank. Metal dies in 41mm and 34mm are too spendy for the amount I would use them. Cheapest I found were Mayhew though they can cut both holes at the same time.

I did just try 41mm OD x 33mm ID x 4mm nitrile rings. Failed. So far the solution seems to be the Fel-Pro material, perhaps because it is flat it seals better. I can’t seem to find flat o-rings.

Honeywell MPA2 Card Access Panel

I install a lot of card access panels and card readers, and up until now have mostly used the Honeywell NetAXS panels. But they have an outdated method of initial configuration via a built-in web page that uses TLS 1.0. Modern browsers are going to discontinue support for this since it is considered a security risk. When I contacted Honeywell about fixing this with a firmware update they said that they are discontinuing support for these panels… Great.

So I purchased their newer (2019) MPA2 panel for a new project. It only supports 2 doors instead of 4, but is $1000 cheaper than the NetAXS panel. The actual circuit board is 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the NetAXS panel but comes with an enclosure that could possibly fit two circuit boards.

The MPA2 panel is peculiar in how they designed the connections for both readers and latches (and REX and other gizmos). Instead of screw terminals, they have RJ45 jacks and custom plugs with built-in screw terminals. I had to spend hours going over the installation manual to figure out how to even begin wiring a reader. I had to compare the previous NetAXS panel that had color coded terminals along with text description of each wire, and then decipher what Honeywell intended with the new connectors.

The same process applied to the door latch cabling. They couldn’t just make it obvious, I had to spend hours digging and comparing their CAT6 images with the 18/2 cabling I will be using for the latch. Below are pictures of what I found along with brief descriptions of the wiring. First the reader wiring and then the strike/latch wiring.

The image on the top left is from the NetAXS panel screw terminal for card readers. I took their image from the manual and added colors to the Wiegand section. The lower left shows the new connector with an RJ45 plug. But all the colors are for Ethernet cable. I suppose some readers probably have CAT6 connections, but the ones we use are still 18/6 cable. So I made the chart below to help guide me in the field. I also added a blurb about the latch/strike wiring in the upper right. But I include a picture of what I mean down below.

Below is a picture of the latch/strike wiring for door 1.1 (they label the two doors 1.1 and 1.2). They provide two ways of wiring the strike cable, a green push terminal and the 2nd RJ45 jack from the left. Use one or the other. If you use the RJ45 you may need to also use their odd RJ45 connector. Both work at the same time, but you will probably use one or the other.

Barely visible on the green circuit board are the labels for the holes. I’m an old fart, so it took me a while to see those. But they seem to have got the NC on the left of the green connector incorrect. Or perhaps the jumpers to the right of the connector change that, I haven’t read that far. But the default from the factory is Normally Open on the bottom (I tested continuity). The black wire is in NC1 and the red in GND. I’d probably reverse those in real life, I just wanted a picture.

The odd RJ45 connector (shown above lower left) uses pins 4 and 8 for the relay. Using T568B color coding, those are the solid blue and solid brown wires in a CAT6 cable. There may be other choices but these were the ones I chose.

So there is my first foray into the Honeywell MPA2 panel and how to wire it. They abandoned the odd wall-wart power supply and include a new design inside of the metal enclosure. They also say that the board can be run via POE, but I have not yet tried that since the location for my panel is remote with no network switch.

Handbrake won’t open (Linux)

I installed Handbrake on Xubuntu with “sudo apt install handbrake” and it installed the latest version, as compiled by Ubuntu. But when I clicked it to open, nothing happened. I opened terminal and typed handbrake, and got this error:
undefined symbol: av_calloc, version libavutil_56

I eventually decided to try compiling it from source code, and followed the directions on this site: https://handbrake.fr/docs/en/latest/developer/build-linux.html

It took a while to run the configure portion, but once it was all done it worked fine.

TalkTalk and Yodel, Bad Service (Emails…)

Recently I began receiving multiple emails congratulating me on purchasing Internet service through TalkTalk, a company based in England. Except I live in the United States. I was going to reply and tell them that they contacted the wrong person, but every email from them says “Please do not reply to this email, emails are not monitored.” (info@consumer.talktalkplc.com). I wasn’t so cruel as to actually sign in and change the password for the new account their actual customer created.

Today I received a related email from Yodel, another British company, telling me that I can track my parcels from TalkTalk with their app. The email came from “donotreply@e.myyodel.co.uk”.

As I wrote previously about Uber and Lyft doing the same kinds of emails, the FIRST email from any company to a new customer should verify that the email address is correct prior to creating the account. If there is no verification, no account should be created. Simple, and most companies and websites do exactly that. Sadly, TalkTalk and Yodel failed utterly on these emails, and their real customer somewhere in Britain is likely wondering why they aren’t communicating.

(Yes, I checked my own financial records and nothing was charged. No, I didn’t try contacting them in any other way. Monolithic approaches to communication are stupid and maybe they will learn something from this.)

UPDATE May 11, 2021: I received yet another email about a FINAL DEMAND for payment, with threats of a collection agency, and of course the email gives telephone numbers in the UK to call and then summarizes with “Please do not reply to this email, emails are not monitored.” I’m boggled by the stupidity of some businesses that
1. Didn’t bother to VERIFY an email account actually belongs to their customer BEFORE CREATING THE ACCOUNT.
2. Didn’t bother to get payment up front for equipment and services.
3. Shield themselves from contact via email. At the very least provide a web-form to send a message because I’m never calling the UK to clarify the many ways you messed up and that I’m not the one to whom you sent equipment and services.

UPDATE June 12, 2021: They had a collections company “Debt & Revenue Services” (DRS) contact me, again via email which said “DO NOT REPLY TO THIS EMAIL ADDRESS, OUR CONTACT DETAILS ARE ABOVE“. They did however have a contact form on their website, so I explained that I live in the USA and don’t have an account with TalkTalk, etc. I received no reply, but did eventually get another email from TalkTalk saying they’d really like to keep me as a customer! Today I started getting a bunch of attempted subscription notifications in email to all kinds of nasty things, but at least they bothered to send confirmation emails before signing me up, unlike TalkTalk and Yodel.

HP, make drivers available for manual download and install

HP has adopted a new approach to download drivers. They want you to download software that will install the driver for you based on what it detects. Only it doesn’t. HP Smart is what they call it. It isn’t. It’s like their old logo HP Invent, when they really meant HP Acquire. They stopped inventing a long time ago, and began copying what others were doing to make quick money. But I digress, sort of.

HP Envy Pro 6458 printer. A friend has one and wanted to print to it via USB cable as a local printer. HP really doesn’t want to do that. They keep suggesting that it be hooked up via wireless. In a pinch, they’d begrudgingly will let it connect via Ethernet. I expected it to be recognized instantly when I plugged in the USB cable. Nope. Device manager sees it, but with an exclamation point, meaning the driver is futzed. If I install it via Ethernet, it expects that it will STAY a network printer. If I connect the USB cable again, the driver it installed over the network doesn’t work. Running HP Smart with just a USB cable… printer? What printer?

When a computer is connected to a VPN, and the VPN software is locked-down to prevent local network resources from being available (to protect the company network from things like ransomware), then it becomes important for a printer to be used locally, that is, connected directly to the computer via USB. But if the printer’s manufacturer doesn’t see the point of an all inclusive print driver, that makes life difficult for the user, not smoother and more efficient.

Manual downloads and installs have worked for the past 20 years. They would still work today, if HP would let them. But nah. They made it better. They made it easier. They made it work for most of their customers, and that’s good enough for them.

Firefox started saving JPG as JPEG

I’m not sure why it changed, but Firefox began saving all JPG files as JPEG files. I prefer the 3 letter extension. I use Xubuntu with XFCE as the user interface.

After much digging I found multiple references to a Firefox MimeTypes.rdf file, but that didn’t seem to exist on my system. Not sure if they still use it or not, but it was not a file even in hidden folders.

I opened the about:config page and searched for mime. One of the entries was /etc/mime.types

I viewed it and saw:
image/jpeg jpeg jpg jpe

I edited the file as sudo, and changed the order of the extensions to be:
image/jpeg jpg jpeg jpe

That fixed it instantly! W00t!

Netgear GS110TP physical mounting specs

Screws are head type Pan or Button for best fit, maybe dome or round, 3/16in (5mm) head diameter, apx 1/16in (2mm) max head height (thickness).

Machine screw: #6-32, Head Dia. 0.250 – 0.262″, Head Height 0.063 – 0.073″

Wood screws, #6 pan head https://www.amazon.com/SNUG-Fasteners-SNG603-Stainless-Phillips/dp/B089PVZ1YX/

Distance between mounting screws is 4 5/16in or 109.5mm (thanks for the round number Netgear!)

TIP: Make template with sheet of paper held in place on back of unit and rub the mounting holes to emboss the paper.

Alternatively, photocopy the back of the unit. But it is darkly colored, so may not show up well. Make sure that it is not resized during photocopying.

Back of unit could be painted and dried before photocopying.