Nilesh Gonsalves

Sep 182017
 

NPCI stands for National Payments Corporation of India. It is an umbrella corporation which a robust infrastructure for payment and settlement solutions in India. NPCI has been operational since nearly a decade but the awareness levels of the brand as a whole is not as expected.

Recently, NPCI arranged a blogger meet in collaboration with Indiblogger. The intention behind the NPCI Indimeet was to create awareness about NPCI and its various products and service among the blogging community. The bloggers would further spread this to the masses via the digital media. Thanks NPCI for warmly accommodating us at your office and enlightening us about the organisation.

History of NPCI

With the advent of digital age and the foreseen benefits of adopting it, the world started moving its service industry to zeros and ones. Financial sector was among the first industries to adopt it since they were well apprised with the potential increase in reach and ease of serviceability. World over the adoption was quick but the story in India was a quite different.

India had the financial infrastructure for paper based transaction but had to rely on a handful of foreign players for digital transactions. This attracted higher service change and limited the adoption to the “top cream” of consumers. The masses, though unintentionally, were left out. Lack of any standardization resulted in various service level issues including delays in payment processes. These delays later became standards of operation and the overall system had a lag in it.

RBI and promoting banks incorporated NPCI in the year 2008. The objective was financial inclusion of masses into this digital revolution and provide a uniform and a standard business process across all institutions. It has 10 promoting banks, including the biggies of the Indian banking like SBI, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank etc. International banks with India presence like Citibank and HSBC are also among the promoter banks.

Major Achievements

Since it incorporation, NPCI has launched various products and solutions to unify and better the payment infrastructure. NPCI with its products and solutions could be the biggest of India contribution to the world. You could even say that Indians taught the world how to use 0 and now Indians teach them how to transact online.

The government efforts in the digital revolution have helped NPCI in launching superior products like Aadhar enabled payment system. This continues to be the flagship product of NPCI. Their other products include, Bharat interface for Money, also called as BHIM. They have a large portfolio of debit, credit, contact less and prepaid cards under the brand RuPay. Following are few of the various important offerings from NPCI.

RuPay (#FriendsOfRuPay)

Rupay is a term coined by combination of Rupee and Payment. RBI concieved this card payment system to fulfill their vision to offer a domestic, open-loop, multilateral system which will allow all Indian banks and financial institutions in India to participate in electronic payments. One of the objectives of RuPay is to assist India in moving towards “less cash” society.

Under the RuPay banner, NPCI offers cards various debit, credit, prepaid and contactless cards. These cards cater to every need and intends to involve the people from all classes of society. Depending on the card you opt for, Rupay credit cards even allow the holders, access to lounge services, 24/7 Concierge Services and comprehensive insurance. This is in addition to the various offers and schemes available on all the cards.

You can use the RuPay prepaid range of cards to surprise your loved ones or your employees during festival season, and otherwise. The RuPay Global card provides access to various services world over via the tie up with major international partners like Discoverr, Diners Club International etc.

So lets be the #FriendsOfRuPay and opt for a RuPay card with your bank.

More information on the RuPay at their microsite at www.Rupay.co.in . You can also contact them on twitter @RuPay_npci

UPI (#HighOnUPI)

UPI, or the Unified Payment Interface is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application of any participating bank. It facilitates merger of several banking features, seamless fund routing and merchant payments under one hood.

UPI supports pay request and collect request. A Pay Request is a transaction where the initiating customer is pushing funds to the intended beneficiary. A Collect Request is a transaction where the customer is pulling funds from the intended remitter.

What UPI actually did was that it nullified the inter-operability issues arising due to different service level procedures followed by different banks. Pre-UPI era, the remitter and the beneficiary needed to exchange their details which included bank account number, IFSC code, branch etc. The banks would verify the details and the transaction would only be possible after the banks authorised the beneficiary.

While using UPI, the beneficiary need to only exchange his UPI address which could be in a format as simple as nileshgonsalves@upi. UPI also allows requesting money transfer. For example, if I am supposed to receive an amount XXX from a party YYY, I would just have to know the UPI id of that party. Then I could send a payment request to yyy@upi and would receive funds immediately upon acceptance by the remitter.

Note that the UPI id varies based on where it is created. For e.g. a UPI ID created using HDFC would look like xxxxxx@hdfcbank and the one created using Axis bank would look like xxxxx@axisbank. It is required to have a mobile number linked to the account which is used for UPI transactions.

So what are you waiting for. Go ahead and get #HighOnUPI

BHIM (#BHIMKADum)

The NPCI developed the BHIM app to enable the users to make simple, easy and quick payment transactions using Unified Payments Interface (UPI). BHIM is a 24 X 7 payment solution and anyone in possession of a phone number and debit card and use it.

The unique feature of this app is that it is generic. So if you link your HDFC bank account as the primary account to this app, the app home screen will convert to the shades of HDFC bank color scheme. This will make it easier to know which account you are using for transaction.

Along with the regular Send Money and Request Money transactions, you can also transact using QR Code. Whenever you are at a POS terminal, if the merchant has a QR code, you can make payment by scanning the QR code in BHIM app. Your will now need need to confirm and enter the pin to finalise the transaction. BHIM app provides facility to block request for collect from illicit source.

This shows the true power of BHIM or we can say its the #BHIMKADum

For more information on UPI and BHIM visit their microsite at www.Bhimupi.org.in . You can also contact them on twitter @UPI_NPCI and @NPCI_BHIM .

Other Services and Products

For information on their other products and services, click on the logos below.

Conclusion

What we have seen so far is convergence of products and services like in the case of BHIM and UPI. This enables the provision of more efficient and reliable service.

With all these services and products under its umbrella, NPCI aims to facilitate transactions faster than a Pizza delivery.

For more information, visit NPCI at their website www.npci.org.in. You can also tweet them on @NPCI_NPCI

(The logos and graphics used in the post are property of NPCI. The writer intends no misuse or personal gains using these logos. We use them to increase visibility of NPCI and its products portfolio)

Sep 152017
 

What is Aadhar about?

India is turning in to a digitally enabled country and the role of Aadhar(unique identification number) can be considered as pivotal. Though it took some time to gain momentum, Aadhar has started rolling along with speed and we keep on seeing large number of government and private services being linked to Aadhar. The latest in the list of services which was linked recently was PAN card details. Going forward, it will be mandatory to link phone number to your Aadhar number.

Aadhar is a 12 digit unique identification number which identifies an individual. Aadhar details currently contain lots of personal data including address, date of birth, phone number, biometric data etc. This data is used to provide various services while authenticating the identity via backend data servers. So naturally it is of prime importance that Aadhar data stays secure. If it falls in wrong hands, it could be misused resulting in unwanted losses and unpleasant events.

How to enable Aadhar biometric Authentication Lock

There is a way in which this data can be locked to prevent unauthorised use and unlocked whenever required. For that, you will need to go on to Aadhar webpage here.

Important : You need to have a phone number linked to your Aadhar before you can proceed. In case you do not have a phone number linked to Aadhar, you should visit a Aadhar enrolment center to get it linked.

So continuing, once you are on the webpage, you will be greeted with the front page as shown below

Click on “Lock/Unlock Biometrics” shown in the circle. You will get a pop up in which you have to click on “OK”

It will take you to another webpage which details out how the Lock/Unlock affects your Aadhar. Read it carefully. In brief it says:

  • If you lock the Aadhar, you will not be able to use biometric authentication.
  • To be able to use biometric authentication, you need to unlock it temporarily or disable the lock.

Remember if you Lock Aadhar, you should unlock it first before attempting biometric authentication for any service.

Now when you scroll down on the page, you will find the login page. Enter your Aadhar number and the security code displayed in the window. Then click on “Send OTP” button.

Next, you will get a One Time Password on your mobile(OTP) and the OTP entry field will be enabled along with Login button. Enter the OTP and click on Login.

This will take you to a page which gives you Aadhar biometric authentication service status. To enable the biometric lock and thus disabling biometric authentication using Aadhar, enter the security code and click “Enable”.

If you have done all the process in correct manner, your biometric authentication will be locked and the status will be displayed on next page as below.

How to disable Aadhar biometric Authentication Lock

To disable the lock, login using your Aadhar number and OTP as mentioned above. Once you are logged in, you will be greeted with a page which allows you to either temporarily unlock or disable the lock completely.

Enter the security code and click on the button of your choice(Unlock or Disable).

If you unlock the biometric authentication temporarily, it will be unlocked for only 10 minutes and will automatically get re-locked after 10 minutes.

If you disable the biometric authentication, it will be disabled permanently until you re-lock it using the above mentioned procedure.

Remember, if you lock biometric authentication ,you should unlock before you try to authenticate using biometrics for any service.

Sep 092017
 

The idiot box has been in control of our entertainment since quite a few decades. It has come a long way from B&W to Color, from the old CRT to the latest LCD and LED, from terrestrial transmission to satellite. But you have never been in control of what you view. The entertainment companies controlled your viewing habit and you will stuck with whatever was available.

But the advent of internet age has changed it all. Now is the time to take control of what you view on that rectangular piece of electronic equipment.

Introducing to you, the Amazon Fire Stick.

Exclusively available on amazon, its a very brilliant piece of equipment. All you need to have is a TV with HDMI port(even your computer monitor with HDMI port will suffice) capable of displaying HD resolution at 50/60 Hz and internet connection accessible on wifi. Your are all set to go.

The Amazon Fire Stick comes with a voice remote controller, a power adapter, two batteries for the remote and a HDMI extender. A quick start guide helps you to set thing up before you can watch your first video via the Fire Stick.

Here are a few features in brief:

  • The Fire Stick can be configured with your amazon account which will enable you to view all the contents served via the Amazon Prime Video service, right on your TV.
  • With the built in video and audio streaming apps, you won’t be wanting anything more. Play videos from YouTube, Netflix, Hotstar etc. right on your TV for everyone.
  • A remote which accepts voice commands is a very thoughtful addition to the setup.
  • You can move the Fire Stick along with you on that vacation of business conference and never miss the latest episode of your favourite TV show.
  • You can download various apps readily available in the inbuilt app store.
  • For the geeks, you can even configure the stick to access media on your network easily.
  • Works over wifi, so no messy wires hanging around your TV(of course you need to hide the power adapter)

So all you out there longing to buy a smart TV, wait. This might just be the thing which satisfies your need.

Note: Internet access over wifi needed to access most features. An unlimited data plan would be best for this product. For capped data plan, keep a tab of data consumption and use accordingly.

Buy on Amazon here.

 

Sep 072017
 

Apple is all set to launch its 10th anniversary edition of their iPhone lineage, the iPhone 8 or the iPhone X edition. Expectations are running high as we move in towards 12th September, the day when the phone is supposed to be launched. Knowing Apple, we can be sure of some surprises and a punch of upgrades in the latest scheduled release. There could be something to commemorate Steve Jobs too in the package of products slated to launch.

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Here’s what we expect to see.

  • The iPhone X could be the costliest flagship of all times. Expected to cost Rs. 1,00,000, it certainly is not within the reach of a common man. But then, Apple product has set certain precedents which, when broken, have not gone well for their product(remember iPhone 5c?).
  • Though the moniker “8” is a natural successor to “7”, seems like Apple just might skip the “8” and “9” and bring in iPhone 10 to coincide with their 10th anniversary. They could also have two different variants of their flagship, one a regular flagship and the second one a commemorative flagship. They could even move from their conventional numbering to Roman Numerals, iPhone X, probably representing the 10th anniversary edition while also creating the extreme aura.
  • Rumors suggest the latest iPhone X will sport a completely new design, thus departing from the tradition which is being followed since iPhone 4. A shift in fingerprint sensor from front to rear and integrated in the apple logo would not be a surprise. The front would thus be button free and could integrate a neat speaker grille or the front could be a simple touch screen with very narrow top and bottom bezels. What its going to be is hard to know as of now as we do not have those episodes of unintentional leaks as in case of previous iPhones. But we still have 4 day, so fingers crossed.
  • Apple may not look to jumbo sizing the iPhone above current levels and may just stick to the sweet spot of 5.2”
  • We can expect an upgrade to Processor and RAM. We can expect something in camera section too. Apple has been using their camera upgrades as their USP since some time now. Same could be the case with iPhone X.
  • Wireless charging could be a standard feature and the 3.5 mm may not reappear again. It seems likely Apple may help this transition further by including the airpods as in-the-box accessory.

Stay tuned for the official launch of the iPhone X on 12th September 2017. And check your bank accounts. You will need it on 15th September when the sale is expected to commence.

Sep 022017
 

The existence of a new real life game called “Blue whale” and the incidents of suicides related to it are all over the news. Quite scary to read. How few unknown people can take control of your life without ever meeting you, points towards the various dangers lurking out there in the digital world. We have to stay alert and keep ourselves protected from these dangers. And ensure that our kids are protected too. Modern age parents take pride in the facts that their kid of age 2 years very easily navigates through their phones, click photos on them, run apps like YouTube and make their parents proud. Have we ever wondered that the kids learn things very fast and it might be so that they manage to learn thing which even we adults find difficult. For example, installing an unwanted/forbidden app and using it without our knowledge. Its true that new generation kids shouldn’t be deprived of access to technology, but parents need to control and monitor properly.

Coming back to Blue Whale, it is said that it is not an app, but a social network group/page/whatever you may call it, which lures people in to taking up unearthly challenges and ending these challenges with the ultimate challenge to commit suicide. The facts are not yet clear but certain things are. It is not an app. Atleast not an app on Google Play Store or iphone App Store. These stores are monitored and controlled very closely and such a game would not have passed their scrutiny so easily. So even if it was an app, or ever is converted in to an installable app, it will be available via uncontrolled third party app stores or as a third party app which can be installed by clicking suspicious links. But the security features in Android and iOS doesn’t let you install such apps so easily, and even has security features which disable installation of third party apps. My advice, enable these security features first.

You can take certain measures to ensure that unwanted apps are not present on your phone.

Disabling installation of Apps from unknown source:

In android settings under security options, find the option “Unknown Source” and disable it. If this is enabled, you are giving access to installation of third party unverified application. If your kids click on unverified insecure links, these apps can be easily hidden behind the link and can get downloaded.

Uninstalling suspicious apps:

Now-a-days, all apps are required to ask for permission to certain device features which are security sensitive. Eg. access to your SMS application, phone book, camera etc. If you install an app which, when launched, requests permission to certain features which its doesn’t have any business asking for, do not give the access and uninstall it if it is not important. Ask the developer via the feedback regarding this access request if this app is very much required by you and give access only once you are sure what you are doing. For example, certain games ask access to phone book. This is required in case they have a feature where you can invite your friends on the phonebook to download the same app and play with you. But in case the app has no such feature, it has no business asking for phone book access. Its better to uninstall it rather than give them all information about your contacts.

Do not Root the phone:

In case you use lots of apps which are financially sensitive, like banking apps, on your mobile, do not root your phone. Even if you root the phone, ensure you give access only to legitimate verified apps, which really need the root access for their usage. The rooting of a phone is equivalent to giving administration access on your windows computer of super user access on Linux. A normal phone user doesn’t need root a phone as all his work can be done without root. Rooting is done only by super users who try to squeeze every bit out of their phones and a little bit more. They are the nerd and know what they are doing.

Update you phones regularly:

Keep on checking your phone for updates and update it as son as you get one. A good mobile manufacturer provides updates with latest security patches and features. These patches close any backdoors which might have been present in your phone which can give unauthorized access to a third party.

Coming to Blue Whale and securing your kids, there is nothing in this world which can protect them other than you. Keep an eye on their digital habits and their real life habits. You, as a parent, can easily detect any change in their habits and find the cause. No amount of other digital security can protect your kids as much as your sharp eyes on them.

Sep 022017
 

OnePlus, the famed Chinese manufacture of smart phones is celebrating their 1000 days in India. And on this occasion, they have announced a anniversary discount on their OnePlus 3T smart phone. OnePlus 3T is a well known flagship(though a generation old now) and the discounts offered puts this smart phone in a very mouth watering slop of pricing.

The phone is offered at a discount of Rs. 4000 and will be available for Rs. 25,999 instead of the usual R. 29,999 of the MRP. Of course this phone is sold at Rs. 27,999 on Amazon.in currently, a discount of Rs. 2000 over MRP.

Under the anniversary offer, additional cashback of Rs. 2000 can be availed by customers purchasing using Axis bank Credit or Debit cards. A discount of additional 2000 Rs. is available for exchange of old phone(also available on OnePlus 5. So all in all, this phone can be purchased for Rs. 21,999 which is a very sweet deal.

Other offers include zero interest EMI on major credit and debit cards and 100 lucky winners will get complimentary domestic flight vouchers from Cleartrip. It is not clear whether all the offers will be available only on One Plus e-store or also with their exclusive partners Amazon India. This will be clear when the offer period starts.The offer will be available between 5th September to 7th September 2017.

Currently, If you try to exchange on Amazon.in, you might be able to match the discount which is to be offered between the offer period.

The smartphones is powered by a Snapdragon 821 processor(known to be powerful as well as efficient) with 6GB RAM and 64GB/128GB internal memory, a configuration which puts itself somewhere near the current top levels. It boasts of a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with Full HD resolution protected by Gorilla Glass 4. The phone is available in Gunmetal and Soft Gold color options and in 6GB RAM/64GB storage options only.

Aug 302017
 

In my last post, I had promised to come back with a guide on setting up your Pi as a media server. It has been some time now, but here it follows.

Before we begin, how about some insight to media servers and certain technology standard called DLNA?

We all have a lots of media lying around in various storage devices and we(some of us at least) still use the stone age methods of transferring media to our media players(USB stick to use on smart TV, phones, tablets etc.). How good it would be if we were able to access our media right from its source without getting up from the chair!!

Enter media servers. These are a bit of software running on a network connected computer, which organise, and share your media to anyone connected on to the network. To unify the way these network connected devices access media, a certification standard was formulated by various electronics giants like Sony. The basic idea behind formulating this standard was to ensure that media can be accessed across various platforms with ease. So the media content might be on a windows based server but it could be accessed by DLNA compliant devices which could range from a smart TV with proprietary operating system, or a android based mobile phone(android was just in making back then but the standard was platform independent so could be adopted at a later stage easily) or even a linux based computer. More information on DLNA of Digital Living Network Alliance can be found here.

Anyway, if you are following this guide, it means you are a potential candidate to setup media server on your home network. This guide is specific to Raspbian OS and the prerequisites are to have a Raspberry Pi which is connected to your network(via wired network preferably) and your HDDs with the media folders mounted to an accessible folder. You can follow the guides in my previous posts here and here for that.

Let’s begin!!

Login to you pi via SSH. Remember we are running the device headless since we want to conserve the processing power. In case you are still using desktop, you can launch terminal from the desktop.

First ensure that your Raspbian installation is up-to-date. Run the following commands for that.

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get upgrade

Next install minidlna using:

sudo apt-get install minidlna

Once installed, backup the minidlna configuration file using:

sudo cp /etc/minidlna.conf /etc/backup_minidlna.conf

Open the minidlna configuration file in nano for editing using:

sudo nano /etc/minidlna.conf

(you can use sudo leafpad /etc/minidlna.conf to open in leafpad in case you are working on desktop instead of terminal)

In the configuration file, find(using up/dn arrow keys) db_dir and set its value to :

db_dir=/home/pi/.minidlna

Remember, most of these settings are commented out using #. Remove the # to uncomment them and make them usable.

Set minidlna media directories to point at the directories which hold your media as follows:

media_dir=V, /media/WD/movies

Here “V” stands for Videos. For specifying aa audio directory, use “A” and “P” for photos . The above line in the configuration file will specify that one of the media directory to scan for video files only is located /media/WD/movies. I have used WD since I have mounted one of my HDD at /media/WD and the “movies” is a folder in that HDD which contains movies. You will certainly have a different configuration so check your setup and edit this line accordingly.

If you are specifying media_dir=V, /XXX/XXXX/XXX, the server will only serve video files to the network. If you do not specify “V”, it will search for all media contents in music, photos, videos. So the line can also be :

media_dir=/media/WD/movies

You can have multiple configuration lines here. But I suggest you organise the media properly before sharing else your media devices will show you a lot of directories and you will find it difficult to locate specific media in them.

In friendly_name suggest a recognisable name. Mine is :

friendly_name=Raspberry Pi MiniDLNA

You can have anything you like.

Uncomment out the inotify=yes so that the server keeps on searching for new media, whenever you add new files.

Now click ctrl+x.. It will as whether to save the file. Select yes. Then run the following commands.

sudo service minidlna restart

sudo service minidlna force-reload

To ensure minidlna service starts at reboot run the command:

sudo update-rc.d minidlna defaults

No go for a reboot once using:

sudo reboot

If you have done everything right, upon reboot you should be able to see your media server on you DLNA compliant devices, or DLNA media player softwares.

Do ping me in case you have trouble.

Jul 232017
 

It’s a very common thing to have multiple hard drives in our possession these days. With all the data and media that we have with us, the inbuilt storage in our computers prove insufficient. External HDDs also provide easy portability for the media. But we always face an issue when we want to share our media or even the HDD space with others in our own home or on our internal network. One solution is to attach the HDD to the computer and configure it as a shared drive. But that would require a computer which is running 24×7 so that the drives are available at any given time to anyone. Not an ideal solution.

Another method is to configure a NAS or Network Attached Storage. NAS is basically a storage attached to a network device(typically a server, but can also be a dedicated controller) which is connected to a network and runs 24X7. You do get NAS devices in market but these devices are typically as costly as a single 2TB drive and are normally beneficial for higher speed transfers. The NAS configuration which I plan to discuss here, will give you transfer speeds of about 4-5 mbps over local network and should be suitable for home/home office networks. And we use a versatile computer which has very low footprint in terms of space and power consumption. The Raspberry Pi is one of the best suited computer board for this project.

Before you go further you need:

  • A Pi with Raspbian installed and connected over you local network. Use this tutorial for the same.
  • A powered USB hub sufficient to power your HDDs. Buy here based on number of HDDs you have

Warning : Do not attempt to power up your HDDs via the Raspberry Pi USB ports since the pi can handle only about 2.5 amps of current through it and may burn out in case overloaded.

So let’s get started.

(Note : This guide has been drafted based on my installation experience, which was further assisted by the guides available at howtogeek.com and instructables.com . Any errors during the installation, you can leave me a note or you can check the guides on their websites. Both websites listed different methods and I couldn’t get mine configured using them individually. But I succeeded when I followed both the guides together)

  • Connect your HDDs to the USB hub and connect the Hub to one of the USB ports on the Pi.
  • Open up shell via SSH( or terminal in case you have connected the keyboard/mouse and screen to your Pi)
  • Run the commands sudo apt-get update and sudo apt-get upgrade to update your Pi installation and repositories.
  • If your HDDs are NTFS format, you will need to run the following command in terminal.

sudo apt-get install ntfs-3g

This will get you Pi ready to understand the ntfs format on your HDDs.

Next step is to identify your drives

  • Type ls –l /dev/disk/by-uuid
  • The output of this command will be similar to below:

clip_image001

  • Here sda1, sdb1, sdc1 denotes the external HDDs. The number will vary as per the HDDs connected by you. We are interested in the 16 digit hexadecimal UUID against each of these. Note down the 16 digit codes and the corresponding HDD identifiers. eg. sda1 – 1C0CA2830CA25812 in the example above.
  • Next run code ls –l /dev/disk/by-label
  • The output will be something like this:

clip_image002

  • As you can see, my labels are Transcend, Storite and WD for sda1, sdb1 and sdc1 respectively. These are the actual labels which you have given to the HDDs. Note these down and match them with the UUID. So in my case it will be sda1 – 1C0CA2830CA25812 – Transcend.
  • Now that we have identified the HDDs, we need to mount these drives. But before that we create a location to mount these drives.
  • Run code sudo mkdir /media/DRIVE_NAME . eg. for my transcend drive, I created directory using sudo mkdir /media/transcend
  • Do this for all the drives that your have connected.
  • Next, mount each drive with the following command for each instance:

sudo mount -t ntfs-3g -o uid=pi,gid=pi /dev/sdxx /media/DRIVE_NAME

  • Where sdxx is sda1, sdb1, sdc1 etc and DRIVE_NAME is the corresponding mount point which you created earlier. So for my transcend drive the command will be:

sudo mount -t ntfs-3g -o uid=pi,gid=pi /dev/sda1 /media/transcend

  • Do this for all the drives.
  • If you have fat32 or ext4 drives, suitably modify the command:
  • ntfs-3g for NTFS drives
  • vfat for FAT32 drives
  • ext4 for ext4 drives
  • The drives should mount everytime we reboot. So we need to add it to startup script.
  • Run sudo cp /etc/fstab /etc/backup_fstab
  • Then run sudo nano /etc/fstab
  • Add the following correspondint to each drive

/dev/sda1 /media/transcend auto noatime 0 0

Use the correct drive identified sdxx and the corresponding correct DRIVE_NAME for each HDD.

  • Restart the Pi using sudo reboot
  • Next step is to install samba.
  • Run sudo apt-get samba samba-common-bin
  • Once installed, backup the samba configuration file before proceeding:

sudo cp /etc/samba/smb.conf /etc/samba/backup_smb.conf

  • Run sudo nano /etc/samba/smb.conf
  • In the configuration file that opens up, ensure that the workgroup is your local workgroup for your network. Ideally its WORKGROUP for windows. Modify it if you are using something else.
  • In the Authentication section, enter security = user to enable verification
  • Now scroll to the bottom of the file and add your drives as follows:

clip_image003

  • Here valid user = @pi is the username I selected. You may select anything you want eg. valid users = @josh .
  • You may also choose to share specific folders inside the HDD instead of the entire HDD. Modify path if that is the case. The read only attribute specifies the modification rights and the no flag specifies that the users on network can read as well as write to the shared drive/folder.
  • Save using ctrl+X, say yes and hit enter.
  • Run sudo /etc/init.d/samba restart
  • Add user to give access to the shared drive
  • sudo useradd josh -m -G users
  • sudo passwd josh
  • You will be prompted to enter a password twice.
  • Next enter the command sudo smbpasswd –a josh
  • Create password on prompt
  • Restart samba using sudo service smbd restart
  • The HDDs should be visible to you on other computers on your network. You can configure it as a network drive. You will need to specify username and password once for access.

Next time, we will see how to configure DLNA server on your Pi to share the media files to your DLNA compliant devices.

Jul 162017
 

If you follow tech world, you must surely have come across the name “Raspberry Pi” which has been making waves in its field for about 5 years. I had provided a basic insight regarding credit card sized(and thumbnail sized) computers in my previous post. These tiny boards cost from about 5$ to well over 100$, each with its own specialties. And they are the favorites of the geeks for small tasks, dedicated application or plain hobby projects.

But its not just the geeks who have the competence to use them. A common person like any of us can pick one up and configure with a little bit of research(nothing anyone can’t handle. Some basic configurations are straight forward.) You can use it as a simple linux based computer, a media server, a network attached storage controller, create a magic mirror, an interactive AI and pretty much anything you may want with a bit of advance tutorials.

The aim of my todays blog is to guide you through the installation of Raspbian and create a backup image of the setup. The back up will help you to copy the sd card in an image format which can be overwritten anytime you feel that the OS is not behaving well. I will also explain how to setup your pi to be used via a remote computer, thus dispensing the need to connect it to a monitor, mouse or keyboard. We shall set it up so that the pi is on static IP and easily accessible via shell or via VNC.

Note that the Raspbian OS is based on Debian distribution of Linux, so even though you get a GUI, be prepared to try out command line for advance configurations. They are fun to learn and not very difficult to remember(or to google for that matter)

What you need

  • A Raspberry Pi 3 with a 2.5 A 5V power supply(micro usb pin)– buy it here and here
  • A 16GB – 32GB micro SD Class 10 card – better a 32 GB version if you plan to setup more number of applications – buy it here
  • A keyboard/mouse/monitor(HDMI TV will do) for initial setup
  • NOOBS – download here (NOOBS is a “New out of Box Software”, a minimal intervention installer with OS packages built in)

Whenever you plan to buy a case for the pi, consider possibility of adding a fan and GPIO headers. Also consider that you may need to remove the micro SD card time and again in case you are using another card for another project. Make sure that the SD card is readily accessible.

Install Raspbian

Before you try to install raspbian on to your sd card, you will need to format in to Fat32 file system. You can use SDformatter for the purpose. Once the SC card is formatted, extract the downloaded NOOBS image in to the root of the SD card.

The installation method below gives the installations of only Raspbian OS with PIXEL desktop. You should be able to install and use any other OS listed within the list, once you are a little familiar with how it works.

  • Insert the card in to you pi in the card slot.
  • Connect the HDMI cable, keyboard and mouse to the pi.
  • Connect the power source.
  • The pi will start automatically. You will be taken to the list of available/downloadable OSes. Select Raspbian jessie with full desktop.

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  • On the top left hand corner, you will find a icon shaped like a hdd. It is your install button. Click on the button to install Raspbian.
  • Go have a cup of tea cause it takes 15-20 minutes to install. Yes, no further intervention necessary.
  • When you come back from your short break, you will be greeted with a message saying that OS is installed. Click ok. The system will reboot.

That completes the installation part. Once the system reboots, it will take you to the PIXEL desktop. It is essentially similar to windows desktop with the taskbar and menu docked to the top. But don’t let the appearances fool you. The core on which it is built is rock solid, highly customizable and very secure.

The round raspberry on top left gets the things started for you. Navigate around to get a feel. The other important icons which you would be using time and again are:

  • The blue globe near the raspberry, which is essentially the web browser.
  • The folder icon, which is used to navigate the file system
  • The black window, which I guess you know from your windows days, the console or the terminal

Navigate around the icons, they wont kill the system for now.

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Let’s change the default password

Ok, first thing’s first. We secure out pi before we connect it to network. Click on the terminal icon. The terminal, as below, will open up.

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Here, the “pi” is the current user and raspberrypi is the hostname. Let’s change the password. Type the following code in front of the prompt:

passwd

You will be prompted to enter the current password. The factory default password for user pi is raspberry. Enter the password and you will be asked to type in the new password, two times. Enter it twice and the password will be changed.

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Let’s setup static IP

Setting up a static Ip to your pi makes it easy to access it from another machine

  • Open terminal and type in sudo nano /etc/dhcpcd.conf
  • Here sudo mean you are telling the system to do something as a superuser. Something similar to run as administrator in windows.
  • nano is a text editor for terminal. another text editor available for GUI is leafpad. So when you are logged into desktop, you can type in sudo leafpad…… instead of sudo nano….. But it is a good practice to use nano since, once we switch off the GUI, console is all that you have until you switch it back on again. You will be able to use only the arrow keys and enter button in nano.
  • dhcpcd.conf is the configuration file for the network and etc is the directory where it is stored
  • scroll down to the bottom of the file that opens up and type in the following code:

(Edit 19 August 2017 : Raspberry Pi foundation has released the new version of Raspbian codenamed Stretch(old was Jessie). The procedure for setting up static IP is different and listed below)

interface eth0

static ip_address=192.168.1.95/24

static routers=192.168.1.1

static domain_name_servers=192.168.1.1

interface wlan0

static ip_address=192.168.1.96/24

static routers=192.168.1.1

static domain_name_servers=192.168.1.1

In the above code:

  • you can use either wlan0 or eth0 or both, depending on what kind of connectivity you plan. wlan0 is for wifi and eth0 is for wired connection.
  • static ip can be of your choice based on your network configuration (eg. some networks are configures 192.168.0.xxx). Make sure to keep the number /24 in the settings.
  • static router specifies the router to which the pi is to be connected. My router ip is 192.168.1.1
  • similarly static domain name servers can be as per your network configuration. My home network devices get their DNS from my router so I have entered my router address.’’
  • Press ctrl + S to save the settings.
  • Press ctrl + X to close the editor.

Edit 19 August 2017 : New procedure to setup static IP on Raspbian Stretch follows

In Raspbian Stretch, the network interface is no longer recognised as eth0 or wlan0. So we need to first find what it is called(different for different machines.)

  • type command ifconfig
  • you should get results like below

enxxxxxxxxxxxxx: flags=4163<UP,BROADCAST,RUNNING,MULTICAST> mtu 1500
inet 192.168.1.98 netmask 255.255.255.0 broadcast 192.168.1.255
inet6 fe80::35e0:4ba4:69da:a857 prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x20<link>
ether b8:27:eb:2d:0c:50 txqueuelen 1000 (Ethernet)
RX packets 22310 bytes 13188104 (12.5 MiB)
RX errors 0 dropped 6 overruns 0 frame 0
TX packets 11464 bytes 6083883 (5.8 MiB)
TX errors 0 dropped 0 overruns 0 carrier 0 collisions 0

lo: flags=73<UP,LOOPBACK,RUNNING> mtu 65536
inet 127.0.0.1 netmask 255.0.0.0
inet6 ::1 prefixlen 128 scopeid 0x10<host>
loop txqueuelen 1 (Local Loopback)
RX packets 25 bytes 1484 (1.4 KiB)
RX errors 0 dropped 0 overruns 0 frame 0
TX packets 25 bytes 1484 (1.4 KiB)
TX errors 0 dropped 0 overruns 0 carrier 0 collisions 0

  • The entire alphanumeric code above in yellow is how my eth0 is recognised. It will be something else for you.
  • Now type command sudo nano /etc/dhcpcd.conf
  • At the bottom of the file that opens up, add the following. Ensure you add the correct addresses for your network setup.

interface enxxxxxxxxxxxxx
static ip_address=192.168.1.98/24
static routers=192.168.1.1
static domain_name_servers=192.168.1.1

You can now connect to the home wifi, of ethernet, or both. The up and down arrow on your top right hand side of desktop will help you join a wifi network.

Once connected to internet, it would be a good practice to update your system before you go further.

Open the terminal and type in sudo apt-get update. Once this command is executed, use sudo apt-get upgrade. It is a good practice to use this two commands before installing any new software on your pi. They are used to update any packages which are installed on your pi and which have been updated ever since you installed. Fresh OS installations normally have some major updates available.

Let’s do away with that monitor, keyboard and mouse(Optional if you are comfortable running the show remotely via terminal. But that’s what these board is all about….accepting the challenge)

So now that you have changed password and set up static IP, let’s go a bit deep and dispense away that monitor. Only of course if you have a computer or a laptop from where you can control it. Remember, though the pi can be used as a regular desktop computer, it will run only may be one or two applications together because it simple lacks the resources needed for heavy multitasking. It is best suited for headless apps and servers, similar to ones which I have listed out in the beginning.

Open the terminal and type in sudo raspi-config

  • This will open the configuration tools for raspberry pi. Thins this as a BIOS for your PC with more configurations.

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  • Use the arrow keys and enter button to select Interfacing Options.
  • Select SSH and enable it. Next Select VNC and enable it. Selection is by pressing enter and arrow keys.

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  • Select Back.
  • Select Boot Options
  • Select Desktop/CLI
  • Select B2 Console auto login.

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  • Select finish and reboot.
  • Move over to your regular use PC.
  • Download and install a SSH client like putty. Run Putty on your pc.
  • Enter the IP address in the hostname field, enter a recognizable name in saved session field and click save

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  • Now double click on your saved session and a terminal window should open up asking you to enter username. Enter pi.
  • Next enter the password which you have set.
  • This will take you to console from where you can control your pi.

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Since you have configured only console login via configuration tools, you can access only via putty(SSH). If you configure to boot in desktop mode via configuration tools, you can use VNC to login to desktop too. You will need to download VCN on your computer to do that. Try it out, its easy. If in doubt, just leave a query. You can always go back to desktop login by using sudo raspi-config.

Let’s backup

Let’s try the easy way to backup today.

  • Download win32 disk imager and install on your computer.
  • Shut down the raspberry pi, remove the card and insert it in your computer(via SD card reader)
  • Run win32 diskimager.
  • Select the device to backup(our sd card).
  • Select a backup location on your computer and give a file name (eg, raspbianbackup.img)
  • Click on Read

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  • The backup will automatically be created at the specified location.
  • Next time, the setup on you pi doesn’t work as it should, run this program again and select this image we have created. Click write instead of read this time, to overwrite on the card.

In case you have any doubts or anything very clear or seems to be wrong, kindly leave a comment. In the next tutorial I plan to explain setting up a NAS server, a DLNA server and an always on bit torrent box.

Till then!!

Feb 272017
 

Picking it up from Moto G4 line of smartphones, Lenovo has expanded its portfolio of the moto lineup with the Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus. (Do not mistake moto with Motorola. Motorola no longer manufactures smartphones.) In my previous post, it was highlighted how Lenovo had departed from the Moto design tradition while creating the G series. Let’s see how they fare this time around.

                                          motorola-moto-g5-r1                                  motorola-moto-g5-plus-1

                                                                Moto G5                                                                            Moto G5 Plus

(Image source gsmarena.com)

The Moto G5 comes in two variants. The Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus. Here are the specifications:

Model

Moto G5

Moto G5 Plus

Screen Size

5”

5.2”

Screen Resolution

1080X1920 (~65.4% screen-to-body ratio)

1080X1920 (~67.1% screen-to-body ratio)

Screen Protection

Corning Gorilla Glass 3

Corning Gorilla Glass 3

OS

Android OS, v7.0 (Nougat)

Android OS, v7.0 (Nougat)

Chipset

Qualcomm MSM8937 Snapdragon 430

Qualcomm MSM8953 Snapdragon 625

Processor

Octa-core 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53

Octa-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A53

GPU

Adreno 505

Adreno 506

RAM

2/3 GB RAM

2/4 GB RAM; 3 GB RAM

Internal Storage

16/32 GB

32/64 GB; 32 GB

External Storage

microSD, up to 256 GB

microSD, up to 256 GB

Connectivity

Dual SIM/Single SIM  2G, 3G, 4G LTE

Dual SIM 2G, 3G, 4G LTE

Camera Primary

13 MP, f/2.0, phase detection autofocus, LED flash

12 MP, f/1.7, autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash

Camera Secondary

5 MP, f/2.2

5 MP, f/2.2

Video

1080p@30fps

2160p@30fps (USA)/ 1080p@30fps (EMEA)

Additional Connectivity

Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, WiFi Direct, hotspot
Bluetooth v4.2, A2DP, LE, EDR
GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS
NFC not mentioned
FM Radio
microUSB v2.0, USB Host

Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, WiFi Direct, hotspot
Bluetooth v4.2, A2DP, LE, EDR
GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS
NFC Yes (market dependent)
FM Radio
microUSB v2.0, USB Host

Sensors

Fingerprint (front-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass

Fingerprint (front-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass

Battery Backup

Non-removable Li-Ion 2800 mAh battery

Non-removable Li-Ion 3000 mAh battery

Weight

145 g

155 g

(Data Source : gsmarena.com)

Lets check out what’s expected out of the phone.

Screen Size : The G5 seems to have brought back some sanity in at least one department, the screen size. They have brought it down from the monstrous 5.5” in Moto G4 Plus(uncomfortable to handle) to 5.2” in Moto G5 Plus, which is very sweet of them. The G5 meanwhile shares the same size (5”) as it predecessor.

Resolution : Keeping the resolution at 1080 X 1920 ensures that the user gets best of both worlds, i,e. the battery as well as the viewing pleasure. The screen shall not be as demanding on the processing unit as the bumped up resolutions tend to be. The body to screen ratio is just above 65 and 67 for G5 and G5 Plus respectively, which hints at some wasted real estate. The fingerprint sensor on the front panel is the culprit.

Processing Power : The 600 series of snapdragon processors from Qualcomm are known to be the midrange processor which have the right balance of efficiency and power, required by a mid range user.The 625 processor used in G5 Plus is known to be a efficient upgrade over 617 in Moto G4 Plus. But the more efficient 650 would have been better choice, given that it was launched about a year back and should have been the natural choice based on it s efficiency results. The G5 plus meanwhile downgrade from its predecessor in terms of processor. The G4 had the snapdragon 617 at its heart while the G5 has been relegated snapdragon 430. Though a disappointment for users, it must surely be a business decision. The pricing of G5 may naturally be in a more budget friendly range. The graphics are handled by Adreno 506 and 505 for G5 Plus and G5 respectively.

OS : Both the phones are scheduled to come out with Nougat 7.0. That’s not as great as it would have been because 7.1.1 is already running on many devices across manufacturers and custom ROMS. It’s a shame that Lenovo has moved away from Motorola tradition of plain vanilla android experience and baking lots of proprietary apps in tp the ROM due to which future updates are either delayed or done away with altogether.

RAM & Storage : The phones come with the usual suspects of internal storage and RAM configurations. 2GB/4GB RAM with 32GB/64GB internal for Moto G5 Plus. It also has a 3GB RAM/32 GB internal variant which must be targeted for specific market.The G5 meanwhile comes in 2GB/3GB RAM with 16GB32GB internal configuration. Pick your choice. Its always better to pick up the highest internal memory configuration. 3 RAM meanwhile is quite sufficient for midrange phone. Go for the highest configuration in case the price difference is negligible.

Both cards support external storage up to 256 GB without a hint of the card slot being shared by second SIM card.

Camera : The Moto G5 Plus receives an upgrade in terms of f-number in that  it has a 12 MP camera sensor with f/1.7, an improvement over f/2.0 in Moto G4 Plus. Though the sensor is a downgrade from 16 MP, the bigger aperture should help in better photographs, especially in low light condition. The Moto G5 meanwhile stays at 13 MP, same as Moto G4. Both phones support 1080p video recording at 30fps.

The Secondary camera in both the phones is 5MP f/2.2, which should impress the selfie-holics. A selfie camera flash in G5 Plus would have been a item of awe, but I assume they have incorporated the selfie flash in the camera software which used the screen brightness as a makeshift flash(which is quite effective)

Connectivity : The usual connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, Wi Fi Direct, hotspot, Bluetooth v4.2 with LE, GPS and GLONASS, NFC in some markets on G5 Plus and FM radio on both phones. The phones also have a micro USB port with USB host interface capability.

Sensors : Fingerprint sensor with support for fingerprint gestures are placed below the screen on front panel. The phone also have gyro sensors, accelerometer and  magnetic compass.

Battery : The 3000 mAh battery on G5 Plus should be able to see you through the day. The G5 meanwhile sports a 2800 mAh battery, which reduces its footprint but can easily take you through the day due to the low powered processor under the hood.

Pricing : Motorola has traditionally maintained the G series within a tight budget consumer group and the G5s shouldn’t be any exceptions. We can expect the G5 Plus to sell somewhere around $225(INR 15000) where as the G5 could retail at $180(INR 12000). The G4s will surely be dropped down in the price bracket and this could be a good time for those who were holding their savings for the “right opportunity”.

Going by history, you can expect Lenovo to tie up with Amazon in India for launching this phones. Watch out this space for more news availability and price.

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