Monday, September 1, 2014

Make a Phablet With Free Out/Inbound VoIP Calls

I think we need one last Google Voice hack before Google potentially messes it up by moving it to Hangouts, don't ya think? Okay, how about turning your tablet into a phablet using Google Voice and Talkatone and having free calls in and out? What's a phablet? A hybrid between a tablet and a phone, of course! I just made my Android tablet a phablet by doing these simple steps:

1. Install the Google Voice app on the tablet
2. Install the Talkatone app on the tablet
3. Go to a web browser and add the Talkatone phone number to the Google Voice account

So where does the hacking come in? It's like this: Talktone only let's you receive calls for free, but not dial calls for free. Once your introductory free minutes are gone, you've gotta pay up in order to dial out. Unless you're me or you, that is! You see, we are going to call out by making the Google Voice app call IN to your Talkatone app. Wait, you mean one app will call the other app, all on the same device??? Yup!!!

When you need to dial out, just go to the Google Voice app and dial your friend's number but choose your Talkatone phone number in the dropdown menu. The next thing that will happen is that your Talkatone app will ring. Once you pick it up, it will start ringing your friend's number. Just like my previous Google Voice hack, we are basically dialing out by dialing in! Enjoy free unlimited outbound/inbound VoIP on your phantabulet!!!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Test HDD using smartctl and automate status

I quite often test hard drives using various vendor specific live environments like SeaTools, etc. But what if you want to use a (live) Linux distro? This is quite doable with smartctl which is a part of smartmontools.

Below are steps to do this, complete with a cool way to automate the status of the test appearing on the screen. Without automating the status, you will not receive any stdout notification unless you run a command manually. Remember, on some distros you will need to use sudo. Also, you will need to have smartmontools installed. If you don't know how to install it, there is plenty of info on Google on that. Keep in mind, some drives don't support SMART, which is lame.

1. Start with looking at your disks to get the filename of the disk as it appears in /dev.

fdisk -l

2. Once you've determined the disk you need to check, you can do a basic health status check. This is not authoritative but gives you a basic idea. Be sure to replace [sda] with your disk.

smartctl /dev/[sda] -H

3. If you want to geek out on every last detail of the status/health of your disk which is currently available you can do that, too.

smartctl /dev/[sda] -a

4. Okay, now it's time to start a test. You can run a short test or a long test, etc. but I always like to run a long test because it's more thorough.

smartctl /dev/[sda] --test=long

5. Smartctl has one downside. It doesn't show you a status of the test running in the background unless you run smartctl -a and find the result within that information. To make things easier, I've provided a way to automate the status of the test so that it scrolls down the screen showing the percent complete. It will also display "...completed" when it is finished.

watch -n 1 smartctl /dev/[sda] -a | grep 'execution\|remaining'

(Note the backslash followed by a pipe for OR.)

6. When the test is complete, you will still need to manually check the result of the test to see if there were errors.

smartctl /dev/[sda] -a

7. Near the bottom of the output will be a section that begins with: "SMART Self-test log structure revision number..." Right below that, you will see the result of recent tests with the most recent (yours) listed first. The status will be shown, including the LBA of the first error, if there are any.

8. Here are a couple of other useful commands...

Help (useful in live Linux distros that do not contain man pages): smartctl -h

Abort a test that is currently running: smartctl /dev/[sda] -X


If this helped you, consider leaving a comment and saying hello!

Tested on...
smartctl: 6.0 2012-10-10 r3643
OS: AVG 2013-08-01 from live USB drive

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hack your DSL line to get phone service

When my ISP installed my DSL only service (no phone), the technician tested the line for a dial tone with a buttset. This got me thinking. I asked the technician why there was a dial tone if it was a dry loop with DSL only. He said that there is indeed a dial tone but that you can only dial 911 or receive calls. He said you can't call out to anything besides 911. I said to myself, "Wanna bet?"

I hacked it in under 5 minutes. Now I can call in and out, including free long distance. No, I didn't violate any laws or do anything highly technical. I just setup Google Voice! This saves me $20 a month. Now I'm not saying this will work with your DSL provider, but it did for mine so I thought I'd share.

Here's what I did:

1. Retrieved the phone number for my DSL service (this was provided to me when I signed up)
2. Added the phone to my existing Google Voice account with Gear icon>Settings>Phones>Add another phone
3. When Google Voice asked to verify my phone, I chose voice verification. My old POTS line phone rang and I typed in the 2 digit verification code.

That's it!

How dialing in works: If you dial my Google Voice number, it rings my home phone.

How dialing out works: Well, it's admittedly a bit clunky but I browse to, click call, put in the number, choose the "Phone to call with" and wait for it to ring. Once I pick up the phone, it connects me to the number I dialed from my browser. I can also do this from my Android device using the Google Voice app.

The beauty of this hack is that it dials out by dialing in. :)

Why have a home phone in the cell phone age? Well, cell phones are awesome but they run out of battery, get lost or damaged, etc. My home phone is powered by the phone line and sits there reliably on a shelf for when it is needed. Nice to have options.

Hope this helps someone save some money. Don't forget your DSL filter! If this helped you, leave me a quick comment.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Make UBCD's Parted Magic boot from a USB drive

I love UBCD. It's a bootable CD with tools to do everything from securely shred hard drives to modify Windows registry from Linux. I also love YUMI. It allows you to create a bootable USB flash drive with multiple operating systems on it and even has support for adding or removing specific distros without killing your whole setup.

One problem. If you use YUMI to create a bootable USB drive with UBCD on it, the bundled version of Parted Magic will not boot. Parted Magic is really awesome for rescuing systems, etc. so I was disappointed about this. I checked my md5sum and it was good but when booting from my USB drive it would complain that it couldn't find the sqfs. When I burned the very same ISO to a CD, Parted Magic worked fine, though!

After not finding the information on Google and banging my head against a wall for a while, I was able to figure it out. Here's what I did:

1. Download YUMI and UBCD and use YUMI to add UBCD to the USB drive. If you need help with that part, there's lots of info on Google.

2. Extract your downloaded UBCD ISO. There is lots of info on Google on how to extract an ISO, also.

3. Once you've extracted your ISO, look for the pmagic folder and copy it to the root of your USB flash drive.

That's it! Pretty easy but was a bit of a headache to figure out! Hope this post helps you! If so, please comment and say hello. I try to respond to as many comments as possible.

By the way, if you use WINE to run YUMI from Linux as I did, beware that YUMI cannot format the drive even if you use sudo. The only way I was able to use it from Linux (Kali) was to use a USB drive that already had YUMI on it (which I installed from a Windows box a while ago). In other words, you can only modify your existing YUMI install from WINE, you can't do the initial YUMI install. If anybody finds a way around this, please comment below and let me know! Also, don't forget you'll have to use winecfg to connect WINE to your USB drive.

Happy hacking!

Tested on:
Kali Linux 1.0
SanDisk 16GB USB flash drive
VirtualBox 4.3.10 r93012 (using raw disk hack to boot to USB drive)
Ultimate Boot CD V5.2.9