27 March 2022

Monitor Desk Mount

After getting a new desk you need to get some hardware to finish dialing it in how you want. For me, after getting a new desk at home, one of those things that I needed was a way to mount my monitor. I spent more hours reading through product reviews than I’d like to admit, but the end result was something I’m happy with.

So heading into my search I had a few things in mind. First, I’m not against purchasing expensive items if their value is worth it. That said, I did not want to go spending a few hundred dollars on a new mount. I felt like there were so many Chinese knockoffs on the Amazon alone that I could surely find a good deal on something of middle-of-the-road quality. Ideally, I wanted to spend under $100 on it. The second thing I really wanted was a mount that would fit dual monitors The plan was to search for a dual monitor stand so I could have two screens running. The third thing I was looking for was for it to be a clamp-on style mount. Having a child in my house I wanted something that would be secured to the desk. Something that I wouldn’t have to worry about being top-heavy and toppling over if the little one was screwing around and “bumped” the desk too hard.

So now that I laid out my wants, how did I do, and what did I decide to get?

After reading a ton of reviews I decided to shift from a dual monitor to a single monitor stand. Having two individual arms would allow me better flexibility on the screen size. With my current monitors being two different sizes (32″ and 21″) this makes things easy and in the future, I don’t ever have to worry about the monitor size as a limitation.

I had lots of clamp-style mounts to choose from on Amazon. It ended up being pretty easy to find one that I liked. However, one thing that I hadn’t originally considered getting was a reinforcement bracket for the clamp. It helps to distribute the pressure from the mount’s clamp and protects the desk from stress fractures over time. It’s basically just a small steel plate that sits between the desk and the clamp. After looking at my desk and giving it some thought, I figured it’d be worth the few extra bucks it cost.

My final purchase was a fully articulating arm for up to a 32″ monitor. I spent $32.99 on it and I feel like I got a good deal on it considering how high some of the arms can cost. The one I purchased was the MountUp Single Monitor Desk Mount.

I paired that with the WALI Steel Reinforcement Bracket for $16.99

And because nothing can ever go smoothly, the VESA mount holes on the arm and one of my monitors were different sizes. So I ended up getting the Husky Mounts VESA adaptor for it for $10.95. It solved my issue no problem.

So I managed to get a solution that works for me all for $50 per monitor (not including the VESA adaptor). I think that I did alright getting everything I wanted for $100.

What sort of monitor stand or mount do you use?

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15 October 2021

Dell iDRAC RED007

So I was updating the iDRAC (version 8) firmware on some servers, and I kept getting stuck on an error. You’re supposed to be able to upload a new firmware’s .exe file and the iDRAC can do its thing to extract the firmware image and update itself… Well, that simply wasn’t working for me. The error I kept seeing was:

RED007: Unable to verify Update Package signature

I of course consulted Google to see what it knew, and it didn’t disappoint. The common reason for this error is that the iDRAC module isn’t aware of the certificates used to sign the ‘new’ firmware you’re trying to apply. (This happens after firmware versions 2.40.x from what my googling would tell me.) The recommended workaround for this is to incrementally step up each firmware version until you get to the newest firmware. As you should, fingers crossed, have the signature certs loaded from each incremental load.

I headed over to the Dell website and downloaded all of the incremental firmware releases that I was missing and tried to try applying them in incremental order. Well, crap…. that didn’t work for me.

After a bit more googling, I found a KB post that talked about extracting the firmware’s .img file from the .exe. Let us try that…

I was able to launch 7zip and then use that to view one of the .exe files I had downloaded from the Dell website. Low and behold, sitting there was a “firmimg.d7” file. I extracted that .d7 file, and attempted to load it into my iDRAC, then attempted to install it…

What do you know… I found that I was able to successfully upload and install that “firmimg.d7” to my iDRAC modules with no issues. That solved that issue!

23 April 2021

Owlcam Dashcam

My vehicle got broken into 3 times within a year. I was getting tired of going down to my car, and then feeling violated after realizing someone had broken into it. I was also getting tired of paying the deductible to get the car fixed after each break-in. I needed to find a solution! With so many things these days being ‘cloud-based’, ‘always on’, or ‘IoT connected’, I found it odd that there isn’t a large market of dashcams battling it out in this arena. Cellular connected “smart” dashcams seem to be a fairly new-ish niche in the dashcam market and there are currently only a few players. The Owlcam dashcam caught my eye early on in my searching and ultimately, in the end, they are who I chose to use as the dashcam on my vehicle for now. Other brands/vendors are now making products though, so it’ll be interesting to see how this niche matures and what sort of dash cameras and features will become available.

So I’m creating this writeup as I wasn’t able to find a lot of info about Owlcam when I was looking into dash cameras. There were a few mixed reviews that were helpful, highlighting the good features and those that still needed improvement. And a few bad reviews I found of Owlcam that were usually not of the camera itself but related more toward the business of what happened when the original startup was bought out (ie – service interruptions and service cost increase).

Important note: This review consists purely of my own opinions and feelings about the Owlcam device. I have not been compensated in any way.

I’ll be reviewing the Owlcam 5.0 in this article, it’s Owlcam’s newest camera. Its main improvements include IR LEDs to better light up the interior of the vehicle – even in pure darkness, 160GB onboard storage which equates to 160 hours of video, and a new “OK Presto, I’m being pulled over.” voice command to record your interaction with any law enforcement.

Like its predecessors, it still includes 4G LTE, A.I. surveillance, live video view into the vehicle, two-way talk with the vehicle (great for parents of driving teens), voice tagging, anti-theft beacon, video history, real-time alerts and notifications, and reports you can forward to your insurer to expedite your claim. One feature (or rather perk that I hope I never have to use) that I really love about Owlcam is that if someone breaks into your vehicle and steals your dashcam, they will replace it for you if you provide them with the video and police report. Since your video gets pushed to the cloud, it’s not a problem to retrieve. If that were to happen with any other brand of dashcam, you’d have to drop both the cash to replace the camera on your own and then dole out your insurance deductible to fix your ride.

The box is nothing fancy. It lists all of the dash camera’s specs on it.

It opens up and has a card describing everything that is inside the box and instructions.

The OwlCam is small enough that it easily fits into the palm of my hand.

It was pretty easy to plug the connector into my vehicle’s OBD port and route the cable up to the center of my windshield. I used their tool to tuck the cable out of view. I then attached the appropriate tailpiece for my vehicle for the mount and stuck it up in my front window. The camera has a magnetic point on the bottom of it that “snaps” onto the mount. That was it. In less than 15 minutes, I had opened everything, read the instructions, and installed it in my vehicle. So simple!

I download the Owlcam app from the App Store before I had gone out to install my dashcam. After I mounted the Owlcam, I started the car which also turned on the Owlcam. When you first start the OwlCam it will display a QR code. From the OwlCam app, you can scan the QR code and it will join/link your OwlCam to your account. I was instantly able to start viewing a live feed from my Owlcam. That part of the setup only took a couple of minutes and it too was simple! The app itself is pretty easy and intuitive to tap thru and find either the settings or the video clips you have saved.

Overall the OwlCam dashcam is super simple to install and set up. I’ve been impressed with how easy it was. Now comes some time for “field trials”… I’m going to try it all out for a week or so and I’ll report back, in this post, about how I feel about it and any likes/dislikes after I’ve had some time to actually utilize it.

Day 1: It’s been over a day now that I’ve had it installed and I got to drive around and try it out. I’ve got no problem admitting that I’m still on the learning curve trying to figure out what all it can do. Being my first dashcam, it’s going to take me a bit to get used to it.

The camera itself seems to be working as expected. It’s recording both the interior and exterior. I’ve been able to successfully issue the “OK presto” command and tag clips while driving. I’ve also been able to fetch the clips on my phone from the device. I can’t wait to catch my wife on camera being silly, hee hee hee. For those of you who are curious, when giving the “OK presto” command, it’ll tag a 21-second clip for you. One thing that I have yet to figure out is the difference between “OK presto” and their new “OK presto I am being pulled over” commands. The latter being one of the new features that they tout about the 5.0 camera.

My biggest disappointment so far is that no notifications have popped up on my cell phone. NO ALERTS AT ALL! I have the Owlcam app set up to notify me of ‘Yellow’ events. These are small movement events. The camera is successfully catching stuff because when I look in the app, I can see it catch the movement of my neighbor either parking his car or leaving. I’ve triple-checked my iPhone and the app definitely has permissions to give notifications. So…. What gives? How will I know if someone is peeping into my vehicle. Or worst case, and my biggest concern, will I even be alerted on a ‘Red’ event if someone is breaking into my vehicle. I’m hoping this is just user error on my part.

Day 5: So the “no alerts” issue has been fixed. I did end up opening a support ticket for it though. Support was easy to work with and pleasant enough for me. It ended up being an issue on their end and they got the problem patched up. I was actually surprised when the first alert came though as I hadn’t realized it was fixed.

The camera itself has been working well. The video quality has been good. My only current complaint is that when pulling the video history and watching it, it can be a bit grainy and laggy streaming it to my phone. The exported video isn’t bad, just the streaming video.

Day 8: So I’ve had the dash camera for just over a week now. It’s a neat device. It definitely does what it claims. It records what going on, both inside and outside the vehicle. It’s AI is pretty good at recognizing movement and bumps. I’ve been able to get yellow alerts (tracking movement) and red alerts (bumps). The “bumps” were actually from getting my vehicle serviced, not from bumps “in the wild”.

While I don’t have personal experience with any other dash cameras, I have to say that this dash camera has met my desires. It will alert me when someone breaks into my vehicle, I’m comfortable enough to believe in that.

The application (at least on iOS) isn’t bad. It’s pretty intuitive overall. My main grievance with it is actually with managing the video clips. Deleting unwanted clips takes more work than it should be. You have to select and delete each clip individually, and the fact that it records both the internal and external clip for each ‘event’ it captures, means that you have to do multiple taps to delete. There should be an option to select multiple clips and remove them. Anyways, that is just my two cents…

Overall Opinion: It’s a keeper. If you’re in the market for a new dash camera, I would recommend that you check out the Owlcam and compare its features to other cameras that you are considering. I think you’ll find it impressive and that it’ll be worth your while!

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21 February 2020

iDRAC Firmware & BIOS updates

Today I got to push some updates to some physical Dell servers. Instead of updating everything with a SmartBootable ISO, like i usually do, I used the servers’ iDRAC to push only the individual updates these Dell FC630s needed. It saves some time which is ultimately what i was after.

Head on over to the DellEMC Support page, type in your server’s Service Tag, and find the various updates you need. Alternatively, you can also use the DellEMC Repository utility (which you host internally on your own server or vm) to pull down your updates for the hardware you specify.

Server BIOS updates

The good news for us is that you can download the windows .exe file version of the BIOS update. Even if your physical host is a ESXi or Linux server. The iDRAC is smart enough to extract the bios file it needs from the .exe file you downloaded.

Once you have your BIOS .exe file. Open up the iDRAC webgui for your server. In the left hand side, Click on “iDRAC Settings”. Then click on “Update and Rollback”.

You will see a box to use to upload your file to the server. For File location, select “Local”. Then click on “Choose File”. Navigate to the file you downloaded and select it. Click “Upload”

You’ll see you the status of it uploading.

After it has uploaded, you have two option in the lower right corner of that box. You can choose to “Install and Reboot” the server now, or “Install Next Reboot” where you’d have to reboot the server later at a more convenient time. Choose which works best for you.

Note: Remember to pause workloads on your server if you choose to reboot now. ie – If its an ESXi server, put it in maintenance mode. As iDRAC doesn’t really care about the state of your VMs, it just wants to initiate the reboot.

Once you click “Install and Reboot” you’ll see the iDRAC push/download the file to the server and initate it’s reboot. Below are some screenshots from the “Install and Reboot” process

If you selected “Install Next Reboot” you’ll see the job listed in the “Job Queue” as scheduled.

Once you manually reboot your server, if you are watching the it’s console, you will see the update get applied.

iDARC Lifecycle Controller

The process is very similar for updating the iDRAC’s firmware on the server. Go to the DellEMC Support page (or your DellEMC Repository) and download the .exe update for the iDRAC.

On you Windows workstation, double click on the file to run it. Let it extract it’s files, noting where they are saved to. Navigate to that folder and look for the folder named “payload”. Double click on the “payload” folder, and look for the firmimg.d# file. For my servers, they’re running iDRAC 8, so the file is going to be .d7.

Open up the iDRAC webgui for your server. In the left hand side, Click on “iDRAC Settings”. Then click on “Update and Rollback”.

You will see a box to use to upload your firmimg.d# to the server. For File location, select “Local”. Then click on “Choose File”. Navigate to the extracted .d# file and select it. Click “Upload”

After the upload completes you’ll see the same two options I mentioned earlier in this post “Install and Reboot” and “Install Next Reboot”. Pick which ever works for you to complete your iDRAC firmware update.

Other Updates

This same process will work for other firmware updates you need to push to your hardware too. I’d suggest following the same instructions that were used for the BIOS update. In most cases, iDRAC is smart enough to extract the necessary files it needs to apply the update. If it doesn’t work, you can try extracting it yourself.

Thats it!!! Hope that this post helps you keep your DellEMC hardware all up to date!