Using T-Mobile Cellspot Safely

The T-Mobile Cellspot is a miniature Cell Tower for your home. If your cell service is bad at your home or other location and you are a T-Moble customer, they will “Give” you a Cellspot to use with a “Return Fee” in case you don’t eventually return it to them.

I don’t know for sure, but I think it uses the same protocols as the “Real” cell towers employed by T-Moble. The reason that I am guessing this is because the device requires “Open Ports”, which is a problem for most modern routers. Modern Routers do not “Open Ports” but rather use “Port Forwarding”. Here is the support page for the CellSpot. Notice the list of UDP ports that are required to be open.

“Open Ports:” mean that the firewall does nothing with traffic on those ports. The traffic passes directly onto the LAN – local area network. Modern routers do not support “Opening Ports”. Instead they support “Port Forwarding”.

“Port Forwarding” which modern routers provide, establishes a relationship between one or more LAN addresses and arriving packets with certain port numbers. This allows the router to know that the incoming packets are to be “forwarded” to the desired devices. This is not necessarily secure. And certainly “Open Ports” is not secure, since it allows attackers on the WAN – wide area network – to get up to any kind of mischief in attacking your home network.

And at this point your eyes are probably glazing over. Rather than showing your how to set up Port Forwarding on your router, or struggling with your ISP to do that, which they will probably refuse to do. Xfinity has no way to “Open Ports” in their router for you, apparently. This article provides another way to use the Cellspot.

In the following discussion I’m using Xfinity as an example of an ISP. The same discussion and requirements will apply regardless of your “Broadband” provider, whether it’s Cable, DSL or Fiber. Click on images below for a larger view and click on the X at the top right to close the image.

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Buy or Build New Computer?

So, what if you need to purchase a new computer today?

Let’s assume you are of modest means and modest needs. Not a gaming system. Just something to use the web, and documents.

Requirements:

Modern CPU – Intel or AMD. Core i-5 or better. Released in last two years.

  • 32GB Memory – More than minimum since we want this system to last a few years.
  • 1TB of Storage. Solid State Disk for system. Only an SSD of 1TB, or a smaller SSD and a HD if necessary to bring total to 1 TB.
  • No graphics Card. Use a processor with Graphics built in since we are saving money and are not “Gaming”.
  • DVD not required but nice. DVD media have been replaced by “Thumb Drives” these days.
  • Modern connection for a monitor. Display Port or HDMI.
  • Hard Wired Ethernet cable. Adding WiFi is ok, but Hard Cable is a requirement.
  • A Real Power Supply. Not a Brick like a Laptop.
  • Expandable if that does not cause too much in higher prices.

Let’s see what we can find.

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Linux Mint Broken on VirtualBox

I updated Linux Mint 20.1 this morning on VirtualBox.

Update: Apparently this is about two weeks old, but not fixed as of 17 Aug 2021. Here’s a LM Forum post. I tried the work around to disable 3D and that works.

And this is what the menus look like now:

Rebooting does not fix anything. It is permanently stuck like this. Completely unusable / unfixable of course.

I’ve been using Linux Mint on VirtualBox for years and specifically LM 20.x for as long as it has been available. Sometimes there are minor problems, but this completely breaks LM on VB.

Reinstall From Scratch?

I created a new VM and reinstalled LM 20.2 on the latest VirtualBox. It worked fine as installed, but with the first update, it went back to the same problem. Here are the details:

After the clean install of LM20.2 on a new VBox on the latest VBox on a Windows 10 host the Linux Mint appears to work properly. After the guest updates – latest with latest install of VirtualBOX – everything is fine. Apparently. But the update completely trashes the graphics. I have no idea what caused it.. Maybe kernel, maybe something else. But I have work to do so I’m not going to diagnose it further. I’m just not going to update until I can confirm that this problem is fixed.

Here are the updates that LM 20.2 did after the install.

So apparently the only recourse I have is to REINSTALL THE WHOLE THING FROM SCRATCH AGAIN. and then NOT UPDATE IT.

Please do some QA on VirtualBOX before you SHIP an update.

Thanks
:ww

WordPress and Ghostery Today

I just started a post today. And it failed. Just got a white screen.

I’m a user of Firefox and Ghostery. Ghostery is a privacy and anti-malware plugin that

So now I can’t post unless I “Trust” wordpress. This is new behavior. Always before I have been able to post and do all the other things with Ghostery enabled. I have submitted my unhappyness to WordPress and listed the trackers and other stuff that they are using that Ghostery blocked.

So wordpress wants to track you and suck in other stuff that is questionable, even if you pay for their service, which I do to the tune of $100 per year.

Not happy. And said so.
:ww

AnyDesk – Local is Local

My use of “Remote Desktop Access Software” has a long and storied history. It started years ago with LogMeIn, which is still around, and worked fine, but it no longer [at least to my knowledge] has a Free Option.

But Why Shouldn’t I Pay for Remote Desktop Software?

Here’s a long list of Remote Desktop software. After LogMeIn went behind a paywall, I used TeamViewer for a while, but they did the same thing. I do not use these programs as part of a business. I use them for personal use and to help friends – even before lock-down restrictions – maintain their computers, without pay.

So I need a totally free solution.

But What About Microsoft Remote Desktop?

I have never studied Microsoft Remote Desktop in detail. But my understanding is that it is not “Firewall Friendly”, but is rather designed for experts on both ends who either only use it on their LANS or know how to perform the arcane incantations to spirit connections through Firewalls.

What’s the Big Deal with Firewalls?

In order to be “Firewall Friendly” or in other words to “Allow NAT Traversal” or to Allow Traffic through a Network Address Translation Firewall, requires that the two machines find each other using a server out on the internet somewhere. Here’s where the costs might come in. Just like the Zoom or Discord or other services we use, the traffic must go from one machine, through those servers and then on to the other machine. All the time the connections are open with only 10s of millisecond latency. To be sure, a remote desktop connection has vastly smaller traffic requirements than a zoom call with a half dozen folks.

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Computers Breaking

So, back on 6 October 2020, my main computer broke. This story is going to be complicated, so let’s call this one “Crystal”. I name my computers after the cases they are in, usually.

The verdict from the shop was the the CMOS battery was weak – replaced. And that the Ryzen 1800x CPU was bad. Good enough to run memory tests, but could not access storage. When the shop put in a Ryzen 5 CPU into the motherboard, the system ran just fine.

So I purchased some upgrades.

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Computer Failed Today

Back in October 2017 I built a new system with an AMD Ryzen 1800x CPU. The system has been great. With 8 cores and 16 threads and a nice Nvidia RTX 2060 Graphics card, it has been a real performer for gaming and video editing.

In January 2020, the power supply died and I replaced it with a similar model to avoid having to rewire the system power lines.

Today, I’d played FFXIV through the morning and just finished a 1/2 hour dungeon run – nothing special or stressful. And as I finished that and it suddenly stopped working. Just rebooted out of no where. No blue screen. Just a reboot. Boot loop. I tried to trigger a repair but looks like windows has removed “Safe Mode” boot. But after booting a couple of times, it displayed a message  that it was attempting to “repair and restart”, but it just kept rebooting.

I assumed at this point that the SSD was bad, or so worn out that it was causing the error. So I tried SpinRite, a HD diagnostic that I have which boots into DOS from a DVD. No go. That booted, but then just looped forever with the message “Discovering Systems Mass Storage Devices…”.

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Windows 10 Random Beeps

For the past few weeks I’ve noticed Windows 10 beeping at random times. These beeps don’t seem to be correlated with anything I’m doing. I finally did a google search. It turns out that this has been a thing for quite some time.

I could not get the troubleshooter to work. But continued searching found that the beeps were an indication that the Event Log was being used. And using the Event Viewer – just type Event Viewer into the white search box at the bottom left of the desktop – showed errors in the Application log. And these errors were ESENT 455 errors. So a google search of that showed that the problem was easily solved.

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