Using 2 ISPs at the same time, any routers!

I have another blog posting where I talk about how to use 2 ISPs at the same time and the router load balances the outbound connections.

Since then, I’ve upgraded my other Internet connection such that it’s not even worth keeping the other one. I now have one WAN link that’s over 500mbps and another that’s 20mbps. How do we load balance that? Why bother with the 20mbps? For that reason, I just unplugged it for months…

Then I thought about it and turned it back on. It was initially to be used as a backup, in case my primary goes down, which always does and comes back up again, but now, I use them both concurrently. Since I have an older router that was laying around, so it made my decision easy. If I didn’t have the extra router, I may not have gone out to buy another one.

Basically, the way I’m using it is like this:

192.168.0.1 is my primary router. It has my primary WAN link and all of my Internet traffic goes through it, with the exception of some DNS traffic.

Just a screenshot of my primary router settings. Why am I not using ASUS-Merlin? I don’t know. It didn’t support AImesh when I first set up the mesh. Merlin does now, but I keep thinking that I’ll be giving something up. Maybe I’ll do Merlin someday soon. I’ll be sure to blog about it if I do.

192.168.0.6 is my secondary router. This is where my hosts go to get Internet access if my primary goes down. Hopefully, the primary link doesn’t go down for an extended period of time. If it does, this is what I will use. I do need to manually configure my clients. Basically, just change it from automatic DHCP to manual and instead of using 192.168.0.1 as the default gateway, switch it to 192.168.0.6. I use the same DNS servers. I turn off DHCP on this router.

Very simple DD-WRT secondary router setup

DNS server – I have a separate caching DNS server that runs just to cache DNS requests. On it, I use forwarders to resolve DNS requests to avoid full recursive lookups if possible. To get to those forwarders, I put 1/2 of them through my primary ISP and 1/2 of them through the secondary.

My bind configuration options look like this:

forwarders {
    9.9.9.9;
    208.67.220.220;
    1.1.1.1;
    8.8.8.8;
    208.67.222.222;
};

My routing table looks like this:

Kernel IP routing table
Destination Gateway Genmask Flags Metric Ref Use Iface
0.0.0.0 192.168.0.1 0.0.0.0 UG 0 0 0 ens160
8.8.8.8 192.168.0.6 255.255.255.255 UGH 0 0 0 ens160
68.87.20.6 192.168.0.6 255.255.255.255 UGH 0 0 0 ens160
96.114.157.81 192.168.0.6 255.255.255.255 UGH 0 0 0 ens160
192.168.0.0 0.0.0.0 255.255.255.0 U 0 0 0 ens160
208.67.220.220 192.168.0.6 255.255.255.255 UGH 0 0 0 ens160

With this configuration, basically I’m just using 1 ISP for everything, with the small exception of DNS. When my primary ISP goes down, I don’t really think about DNS. Maybe I’ll check next time to see if DNS is still working. Usually when it goes down, I look at my router and see that my modem is likely rebooting.

Anyway, when I want to fail over to my 2nd ISP, I do it simply on the device like this:

When configuring manually, you’ll need to configure the DNS as well.

Hope this helps! Please leave any comments or questions below!

Don’t skip inutoc . !!! (AIX)

I’m not an AIX expert. I’ve only been on an AIX command line probably 3-4 hours at the most in my entire career.

I just know that when you’re installing AIX packages, make sure you run inutoc . I have some notes on AIX here.

Basically, after you copy an ipfl file into a directory, say /tmp, you will need to run the 2 commands like this:

inutoc .
installp -ac -gXY -d. ipfl

Otherwise the install will fail with some message that I can’t remember.

Binge watching the Condor Trilogy series

Thanks to the Corona virus, the people of San Francisco have been sheltered in. One of the things that I’ve enjoyed doing is watching the Condor Trilogy 射鵰三部曲 series. I got the idea of doing this because of nostalgia. I always enjoyed wuxia as a kid. I don’t know which I watched first – Bruce Lee or Chinese kung fu movies. For that reason, I didn’t even think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was that awesome when it first came out – thought it was just like another Chinese kung fu movie. Hero though, the film with Jet Li and Donnie Yen, was really awesome! I watched the The Return of the Condor Heroes 神鵰俠侶when I was a kid. My late aunt graciously recorded it for me and I watched while being babysat at my great-grandmother’s house. Only upon watching it for the 3rd time, this time in order without missing any episodes and with subtitles, did I really know how much of the story I missed and how poor my Cantonese is.

When I was a kid, I only cared to see the kungfu action. At least that’s what I thought I cared for. Having watched it very recently, I still enjoyed the kung fu action, but also really enjoyed the story. I also enjoyed seeing the lots of beautiful women cast in the series. It’s almost like watching the UFC actually. Which guy doesn’t like watching violence mixed with beautiful women? With the UFC or boxing, you have ring card girls. I know the movies aren’t real fighting. It’s more of a dance than a fight scene. If I want to watch real fighting, I’ll watch the UFC. That said, this is a series that has a remake every decade. Jin Yong wrote some masterpieces. There’s no other reason they would do a remake every 5-10 years.

So I spent about 30 hours watching the 1983 version of 神鵰俠侶 with Andy Lau and Idy Chan. I enjoyed the series a lot. Andy Lau plays brilliantly and Idy Chan is a goddess. Among them were many other talented and beautiful stars as well. I knew I had to watch it from from the beginning to the end to really understand the film. The moment I started watching the series, I started to notice that I needed to keep track of the characters so that I wouldn’t get lost in remember who was who. I ended up using wikipedia as Cliffs notes. I wish I had known about the fandom link at the time. I would’ve used it as well. I’m not the best at remembering Chinese names. I did my best, but also sadly couldn’t resist reading and finding out what happened prior to seeing it actually happen. It was still entertaining and exciting to see how the directors set up the scenes and how they were executed.

There’s a video below that talks about how they shouldn’t make these series because the ratings seem to be getting lower and lower. I might agree perhaps for the older series e.g. the 1990s and 2008, but would wholeheartedly disagree for the 2017/2019 versions. Also, the guy makes his argument based off of ratings. Well, ratings are based on the time and what was available at the time. If you watch the 1983 神鵰俠侶, you’ll see that the Jinlun Guoshi is wearing a wig that doesn’t match his skin color. You would also see that in a lot of scenes, the backdrops are terrible – totally obvious that it’s done on a set.


Think about it. Why would anyone in their right mind create a remake of a series, spend a shitload of money, and make a series that’s worse than the original? Nobody would. Nobody would invest. Nobody would play the parts. Unless they’re just milking the cow – if they already own something and just want to get as much money out of it as possible before it dies. I don’t think that’s the case with these series. You should expect that every series is better than the next. There are many reasons for that. If a series was successful, people usually would like to replicate that success somehow. With better technology and a bigger budget, they can often produce a better product as well. For example, back in 1984, the best they could do to simulate 小龍女 XiaoLongNu’s bees was to make little lights flash on screen. Technology has gone a long way since then.

At the end of the series, I had a decision to make. Did I want to see the prequel and sequels? Well, it was a resounding yes. Jin Yong can really tell a story! I had no doubt that I wanted to see the other 2 parts of the series. That said, there are about 3-4 different versions I could choose from. My first thought was to try the Amazon prime version. I watched 1 episode of the Legend of the Condor Heroes there and decided immediately that it wasn’t for me. My issue was that the English subtitles get superimposed over the Chinese subtitles and made it hard to read. Another issue was that I think they went overboard with the special effects and computer generated imagery. I guess you’ll never know how far you can go until you have crossed the line. I feel that the 2008 version did just that. I then watched 1 episode of the 2017 version and felt good with it. I’m glad I did.

李一桐 Li Yitong plays Huang Rong 黃蓉, one of the main characters in the Legend of the Condor Heroes. She won 2 well-deserved awards for her performance. I absolutely fell in love with her character. I was looking forward to her character to come on the entire time. She was super cute, witty, intelligent, the whole package. In an interview, they asked her if she had watched the previous drama series. I’m glad she didn’t. That’s not to say that her predecessors didn’t do a good job. The late Barbara Yung Mei-ling 翁美玲 and Athena Chu Yan 朱茵 are also fantastic in their respective versions of the series. I can’t pick a favorite because I’ve always been a huge fan of Athena Chu’s since her performance in A Chinese Odyssey. I’ve now also become a huge fan of 李一桐 Li Yitong!
The beautiful Athena Chu in the 1994 version of The Legend of the Condor Heroes.
Viola Mi 米露 plays a fantastic and underrated Mei Chao Feng 梅超風. Doesn’t she look like she came out of a comic book? Viola, clearly very attractive, looks fantastic as a goth villain. She plays the role of a blind woman pretty convincingly and I believe this is the best version of her costume as well. She switches from a master villain role to a subservient role well when the master Huang Yaoshi 黃藥師 shows up.
I haven’t seen a better version of the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan 江南七怪. These guys were not in the series that much, but at least you see the different characteristics of the different characters. In the 1983 version, apart from the leader Ke Zhen’e 柯鎮惡, it’s hard to tell one from the other.
陈星旭 Chen Xingxu looks totally innocent, doesn’t he? He plays a pretty good bad guy, 楊康 Yang Kang, switching to being a bro of Guo Jing. Heard from an interview that he was nervous about the role because the guy that played Huang Yaoshi played his role in 1983. Frankly, I think Chen did a better job, but Michael Miu 苗僑偉 played a very good Huang Yaoshi.
Meng Ziyi 孟子义 sure is beautiful, isn’t she? She plays 穆念慈 Mu Nianci. Internet says she had some plastic surgery.

After watching the The Legend of the Condor Heroes, I proceeded with watching Heavenly Sword and Dragon Slaying Saber. I figured I would go with the 2019 version since it was the latest and it didn’t disappoint. This is available on Amazon Prime video as well, but unfortunately only in Cantonese. Since the movie was filmed in Mandarin and I always prefer to see lips in sync, I opted to watch in Mandarin.

Chen Yuqi 陈钰琪 or Yukee Chen has also earned a fan in me. Her acting was superb and she earned 2 well-deserved awards for her performance as Zhao Min, the Mongolia princess.
See the source image

Bambi Zhu Xudan 祝绪丹 is gorgeous, isn’t she? She plays Zhou Zhiruo, a beautiful, sweet, and innocent woman. Does she look like she could kill anyone!? Well, she played a very convincing role when switching over and also deserved the 2 awards she won for her performance.

No way! You’re a total catch!
Watch a comparison of scenes here. I think it’s pretty clear that the remakes are better.

I do have one complaint about the casting. There’s no shortage of talent in Hong Kong or China. Why do they reuse the same actors for different parts? The only reasons I can think of are budget or directors wanting to work with the same people. Here are some examples of some that look the same. There are more, but since the series are over a decade apart, the actors no longer look the same and they played the parts well. Kathy Chow Hoi-mei 周海媚 played Zhou Zhiruo in the 1994 Legend of the Condor Heroes series and played an awesome evil Abbess Miejue in the 2019 Heavenly Sword and Dragon Slaying Saber. Michael Miu played Yang Kang in the 1983 series and Huang Yaoshi in the 2017 Legend of the Condor Heroes series.

The same guy plays one of the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan in the 1980s version of the Legend of the Condor Heroes and then plays the 公孫止 character in the Passionless Valley.
The beautiful Li Zeng 曾黎 appears in both, The Legend of the Condor Heroes and Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber. I guess she commits suicide as Guo Jing’s mother 李萍 and then reincarnates as the Poison Goddess 王難姑 over 100 years later. I don’t mind seeing more of her by the way! She’s stunning!
Li Zeng in The Legend of the Condor Heroes. In my dreams, she’s married to me!
Ning Wentong plays 周伯通 in the Legend of the Condor Heroes and then plays 胡青牛in Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber.

Normally, when watching any drama series, after the whole thing, I feel like I’d wasted my time. After all, it is many hours of my life. After Breaking Bad, arguably one of the most successful series of all time, I felt like I had wasted many hours of my life and wish I hadn’t seen it. I felt the same after watching the IP Man tv series. The Donnie Yen movies were great. The series, not so much. I also watched many episodes of Boardwalk Empire – perhaps 1-2 seasons. At some point, I feel like it’s never going to end and I quit. This is one of the few series that I cannot seem to get enough of. Eventually, I may read the books, but now, I’m content with watching what I can on tv or YouTube and reading on wikipedia and fandom. The reason I feel that I could be critical about the different versions is because I actually went through the different ones that I’ve talked about and found my favorite scenes and watched them in the various versions. You can find almost all of them on Youtube.

If you do watch this series however, don’t watch it in the order that I watched it in, unless you want to know what happens later. It is a little fun to know how the characters already progressed, but I think it’s better to watch them in order. 🙂 Start with The Legend of the Condor Heroes 射鵰英雄傳, move on to The Return of the Condor Heroes 神鵰俠侶 and finish with The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber 倚天屠龍記.

I can’t wait to see the New Return of the Condor Heroes starring 佟梦实 Thomas Tong and 毛晓慧 Mao Xiaohui.

Thanks for reading and please leave some comments below.

Rebroadcast your neighbor’s wifi for yourself (wifi extender) with Tomato firmware

My parents recently swapped Internet providers and since they didn’t know that it would take a week for the application to be completed, they were out of Internet service for about a week. The neighbors graciously allowed them to use theirs, but the signal didn’t reach the entire house. To make it reach, we configured the router to rebroadcast their wifi. If you’re going to be doing this, please make sure you get permission first!

The easiest way to do this is to just get one of those wifi extenders. We just didn’t happen to have any at the time. Since the router was Tomato compatible, I first flashed the router with tomato. The screenshots you’re seeing are Tomato by Shibby, just with a custom skin.

To do this, you first need to find out what IP address range you can use. I did this just by connecting a laptop to their wifi. Turned out that the IP address their DHCP server gave me was 192.168.7.x. I tried to ping 192.168.7.253 to make sure it wasn’t taken and sure enough, it wasn’t. I assigned 192.168.7.253 to my router.

Next, I needed to disable DHCP. You don’t want your DHCP competing with the neighbor’s. Lastly, use the default gateway that you get from their DHCP server. In my case, it was 192.168.7.1. You can use the DNS server from them also or you can use others. I like Quad9’s 9.9.9.9 or Cloudflare’s 1.1.1.1 or Google’s 8.8.8.8.

After that, you can match up your wifi settings with theirs’ so that it can connect. Use the exact same SSID, shared key, and use “Wireless Ethernet Bridge” for the Wireless Network Mode.

Lastly, optionally, you can put up any your own wifi settings as virtual wifi settings so that you don’t need to reconfigure any of your own devices.

The virtual setting is the wl0.1. Just add it and that’s it!

That’s all you need to do to make your own Tomato Wireless Extender. This has much better range than a regular wifi extender and was available at the time.

What in the hell is zypper!?

Had an issue recently with SUSE Linux where I saw this:

warning: /var/cache/zypper/RPMS/rpmname-9.3.0-6104.s12.x86_64.rpm: Header V3 RSA/SHA256 Signature, key ID 7baa810c: NOKEY
Checking directory paths.

2019-11-16T10:29:00-05:00 Package installation failed

If you run into this, I would recommend:

  1. Run the command “zypper ref -s” to see if it would refresh the cache and service.
  2. Check if the quota exceeded on the server by reviewing the SUSE knowledge base article: https://www.suse.com/support/kb/doc/?id=7017376

Don’t travel without an adapter with USB ports!

If you’re ever going overseas, you’ll need an adapter converter for any electronics, probably your iphone/ipad/laptop. I would highly recommend a travel adapter converter that includes some USB charging ports. Most hotels nowadays will have these things, but most airports don’t and probably most airbnbs don’t either.

There are other kinds. The ones you want to avoid are the ones with many parts. I was embarrassed when I was in Singapore and had a travel adapter that didn’t fit! One end was literally made to fit in another and it didn’t fit! This one is one piece, so besides the cords, there’s not much that can break. Additionally, there’s a USB-C port. Many tablets and phones now are exclusively usb-c, so this one works great for that use case!

The adapter/charger I got is the Achoro one. I don’t know if there’s a named brand one of these, but this one has served me well for a few uses. I plug this one into the wall where I get a nightlight builtin and charge my iphone/ipad/watch/laptop overnight at the same time with it. https://usgiftgiant.com/achoro-4-usb-ports-travel-adapter/

For just $20, I would say this is a great deal. I would recommend putting one in the suitcase and one in the backpack just in case – these things can easily be lost and unless you’re in Asia, they’re pretty expensive to buy when you need them immediately.

Samsung Refrigerators are pieces of shit!

If you’re considering a new fridge, don’t buy a Samsung! We bought it because we thought it looked good. Also, it was about $1500. Not cheap. We didn’t think that an expensive fridge would be of such poor quality. I should’ve decided based off one of the reviews I read. Since there were relatively few of the same review, I didn’t think this problem would happen to me. Boy was I wrong! The fridge I got was a piece of crap! It worked for just over a year, just for it to go out of warranty and had to be fixed.

The vegetable boxes (crispers) were getting filled with water! Whatever food we had there got wet. If there was packaging, the water would seep through the packaging. The wife used paper towels and sponges and towels to absorb the water. As shown in the picture below, the water that made it out of the crisper into the fridge would become ice. It was a total nightmare!

I fixed it using a YouTube video. Here are a few I watched.

I have not tried draining the water in the back. I will junk the fridge before going through that pain!

We bought the Samsung RF18HFENBSP fridge 12/5/2016. The crispers filled with water around 1/15/2017. I cleared the ice out of the back of it and drain around that time. It filled up again around May 2018.

I tried calling Samsung technical support and they were almost utterly useless. They offered to pay for the parts, but not the labor for repair. In this episode of CBC Marketplace (Canadian show), the woman is persistent and gets Samsung to fix it free.

Around the end of the year, January 2019, we decided on a last ditch effort to save the fridge. If this didn’t work, we would give up and junk it. We decided to clear out the fridge and the freezer for 2 days. Just let all of the water out and it totally flooded the kitchen. We were prepared for it – we left towels all over to make sure that the water didn’t go anywhere we didn’t want it to go.

Hopefully it fixed it, but I think the problem will probably come back again. I’ll post the status in a few months.

Please post in the comments section below if you have any ideas or experience. Would love to get some help on this.

Thanks!

Trip to China … what I learned, what to expect, what to do.

China was a wonderful trip and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone. I wasn’t introduced to much that was unexpected – at least not at the level at which people who I’ve talked to have overly exaggerated about. It could have been due to the protection of the tour guides or what people have told me to watch out for, but seems to me that Beijing and Shanghai are just regular cities, differing very little from San Francisco. Well, they’re unique in their own ways, but the “culture shock” that people have talked about, isn’t really didn’t hit me. Well, this is the list of the expected:

  1. Don’t drink tap water
  2. Toilets could be just a hole in the ground with a lid. (Squatting toilets)
  3. Some toilets don’t have toilet paper – bring your own.
  4. Traffic is pretty crazy – rules are different.
    That’s about it. I think the rest is pretty much the same.

So what was unexpected? If you go on a tour, it’s likely that the service you get anywhere you go, is much better than that in the United States. Of course you pay for what you get, but I assure you that service in China is among the best in the world – maybe not the way they speak, but the way they act for sure. There were times where I felt disrespected, but those are only because I had based them on American values. Pushing and shoving, spitting on the sidewalk (I do it too by the way), and much of the way people say things in China can be offensive to Americans. I’m a firm believer that actions speak louder than words and that it’s just the way you see things. You choose your point of view and will be offended only when you choose to. It’s just a different culture. I bought an apple pear for 2.5 Yuan. For the 2.5 Yuan, the lady peeled it for me. In the States, I don’t ever see this happening. 2.5 Yuan is currently about $0.30 USD. You can’t buy an apple pear for $0.30 and it’s not likely that you can buy one peeled for you and ready to eat, for $3.00. When buying a belt in a store in Guangzhou, I talked to the salesperson for twenty minutes before deciding on the belt I wanted and even after that, I had him agree to adjust the belt size for me. Total cost for the belt was 29 Yuan. In American dollars, it’s less than $4.00. Another thing is that I haven’t heard very many “thanks” after purchases. I think it’s just another example of the Chinese “show me, don’t tell me” culture.

What did I learn? Well, I was told a lot (kind of like lecture in class). What did I learn due to my own curiosity? I learned that little kids instead of using diapers, have pants with holes in them – the just change pants. I learned that some people here are not nearly as fortunate as we are in the States. Well, I already knew that, but had a massage today and talking to the lovely young lady that gave it to me, I learned that she had just a high school education (maybe just junior high) and that she had no chance to go to college because she had two other sisters that she had to take care of in one way or another that wasn’t clear to me. Sounded very sad and I was thinking about what I could do to help her and give her some opportunity. Unfortunately, I was too shy to ask questions that might be too personal and was afraid to take responsibility for any promises I could make. I just left her a bigger than recommended tip. Her job is very hard although she doesn’t have to do it much. It’s usage of a lot of energy and is very damaging on her fingers.

Some advice for those that will be visiting China:

  1. Try squatting on a western style toilet seat (just put your feet up on the seat and try using the toilet that way and get the experience).
  2. Bring your own water, buy bottled water, or boil before drinking – never drink tap water.
  3. Bring your vitamins. Bring your medicine. Bring stomach medicine. Bring mouthwash.
  4. Always have extra toilet paper or tissues.
  5. Check the foreign exchange rate before exchanging currencies. Do not exchange it with people from the street (don’t want counterfeit money) – be sure to do it in a hotel or a bank or just withdraw money from an ATM.
  6. Don’t give money to beggars. The people in the country that work hard deserve more for working. Also, if you give to beggars, you might see a swarm of them come after you after you give to one.
  7. You don’t have to tip in most cases – if you follow a tour, it’s likely that the tip was already included in your meal. You may want to ask your guide before tipping. I like tipping though. In the States, you’d pay a lot more in tips. I think that people in China deserve a lot more also. By their standards, I over tip them by a lot.
  8. Always bargain when purchasing any goods on the street. Also, there are many little stands that sell the same stuff. It might be good to do comparison-shopping. Here’s my template for bargaining:
    a. Buyer: How much?
    b. Seller: Some number
    c. Buyer: (No matter how reasonable) That much!?
    d. Seller: Yes.
    e. Buyer: I want cheaper.
    f. Seller: How much are you willing to pay?
    g. Buyer: How much lower can you go?
    h. And from here, you decide on how you can play. You may want to ask for quantity discounts, etc. As a rule of thumb, I would shoot for 1/4 to 3/4 the amount originally stated. Use your common sense of course. If you’d shopped around and someone offers something to you for less than you’d paid before, it’s not likely you’d get a discount. Also, if it’s a really cheap item like a bottle of water for 3 Yuan, it’s not likely you’ll get a discount either.
  9. Buy stuff away from the tourist areas and places where the locals shop also. You’ll get a better deal that way.
  10. Don’t buy too much if you will be flying in China domestically. There’s a fee for going over a certain weight limit when carrying cargo. Buy most of what you want at your last stop in China.
  11. Bring your 240-110 volt converter if you have one. If not, make sure that the one you borrow from the hotel is a real converter – it should be heavy. You don’t want to blow out any of your devices.
  12. Bring extra batteries and a camera with a flash. 400mm film or a digital camera was recommended to me. Bring a camcorder if you have one.
  13. Don’t bring too much clothing. One or two sets of warm clothing should suffice. (So that you have a smaller load to carry). You could buy more warm clothing on the street should you need it. It’s much cheaper to buy in China than anywhere in the States.
  14. Try to learn as much Mandarin as you can. That’s China’s national language.
  15. Work out and get in shape. Walking the Great Wall and up the mountains in Guilin is quite exhausting.
  16. Buy foot massages whenever you can. You probably won’t get them anywhere else in the world for a similar price. It’s well worth it. (Also remember to tip)

I think that the best way to learn is this. Teach your children their history and let them take a tour of the place of where it happened. Of course, you’ll have to have a good tour guide that knows the history. We were immensely blessed with having accomplished tour guides that were courteous and easy to understand.

We had a wonderful tour guide by the name of Lisa Lee. We had initially met on bad terms however. At the time we arrived at the airport, there was no one there to pick us up! There were 18 of us in the group and it turned out that we had waited 3 hours before anyone had arrived to greet us! What the heck did we do for the 3 hours? Not surprisingly, the first stage was obviously shock. Interestingly (and luckily), we’d all found each other (the rest of the group of tourists). Then again, we would’ve all found each other anyways because until the next plane arrived, we were practically the only ones in the airport! Some of us wondered if we’d been had – if this tour was really just a scam. I don’t think any of us had ever bothered to check with any of the hotels to see if reservations had ever really been made. The next thing we did was try contacting them. Funny thing was, their phone number was changed and that they were no longer at that number. To keep the story short, we probably didn’t know until an hour and a half later whether or not someone was really coming (or not!). A lot of things were going through our minds as we waited. Whether we should take a taxi to the hotel and whether or not the touring company would pay for the ride, what we were going to do if they didn’t show up – there’s a lot that goes through just one person’s mind when puzzled; just imagine 18 minds. Meeting Lisa was an immediate relief. Her enthusiasm and friendliness easily overcame all barriers that I may have put up and she had instantly left me a good impression. The following days had only strengthened this notion, as I was extremely impressed with her knowledge of Beijing. She explained a lot of the tour sites and the events that occurred there. With over 5000 years of Chinese history and over 3000 years of written Chinese history, you can imagine there’s quite a lot to talk about. I think that my lack of vocabulary really limits the amount of good things I can say about her. She really took care of us as to talking about how China differs from more developed countries. She also brought us to the more developed areas. For instance, she told us which restrooms to use – showing us where the cleaner ones were. She protected us from the locals – not to say that the locals are bad, but she made us aware of what could happen. She told us to watch our purses and wallets at least twice before entering WongFuJing. She told us to avoid any political talk before entering the Forbidden City. Furthermore, her mastery of the English language was also impressive. I did not expect anyone to speak English at her level.

In the 2 days, we’ve visited the monumental sites of Beijing and have the pictures to prove it. First was the Temple of Heaven. This is the main site for Beijing tourism – being there, you could really imagine and admire and appreciate the work. Buildings erected at times where there were no bulldozers even cars for that matter. The main building in the temple of heaven is a pagoda with 3 roofs and was built without nails or cement. Our tour guide explained how it was built – having the many different pillars and the way it was supported. Unfortunately, like many of the different magnificent treasures of China, the lights were not on in the building. Not that it’s a big deal, but my guess is they didn’t want tourists to mess the place up. Wonder what would happen if the tourists decided to step over the line. If they just decided to walk on in. They were blocked off by nothing but one thick wire. Anybody can easily go over or under. For that matter, I would think the same as on a plane – one that I will be on in a couple of hours – what would happen. It’s quite a sick thought.

Tiananmen Square. After a long walk and a tour around the outside of the Forbidden City, the first sight of the inside was breathtaking to say the least. Seeing it on television or in print is one thing, but being there, I can tell you, it’s different. The size and complexity of it requires a map to navigate (unless it’s familiar territory – luckily for us, we had a guide) .The king must’ve had a really great life – the servants, the view, the perks! You can really admire the piece of art. If you look, you won’t think there are windows in the buildings. As a matter of fact, there are no transparent glass or plastic windows. So how do the buildings get oxygen? You can see the windows in the little designed cuts in the walls. Also, if you have the good fortune of touring on a rainy day, you could see water coming out of the dragons’ mouths. It wasn’t a sight that I’d witnessed first hand, but it’s quite a concept. The reason for design is in event of a fire. Since the dragons’ mouths could hit practically every part of the landmark, if there ever is a fire, firefighting would be a relatively easy task. It’s no wonder that they could make such a landmark with so much wood. By the way, this was all built just less than a century before Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue in 1492! I think the documented date is 1430.

The Great Wall – the pride of China. While taking pictures on the bus, another tourist said to me, “Why? You have plenty of places to take pictures – look at how long the wall is!”

The rest of Beijing was pretty simple compared to the first two sites. We had remarkable lunch at what used to be Yuan May Yuan – it was at a very pretty place with awesome service. The Summer Palace. A Tea House. A massage. Dinner. Watched an Acrobat show. Ming Tombs. Peking Roast Duck. WongFuJing

The three key areas for me in this trip was Beijing for man-made sights, Guilin for natural sights, and Guangzhou for food. The rest was icing on the cake. It’s really difficult to be impressed by anything after seeing the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square. Not to say that I wouldn’t have loved to live along the lake in Suchou or have tea in the gardens, but I think that just walking through the Forbidden City is a magical experience in itself. If you think about it, it’d be extremely difficult to build the Great Wall even today with all the great technology we have, let alone centuries ago.

Gift cards expired? Maybe not!

I recently found an old gift card that had expired and was thinking of throwing it out, but a friend of mine in the past had told me that in California, they’re not allowed to expire, so I decided to look into it.

A quick search found me this website: http://www.ncsl.org/research/financial-services-and-commerce/gift-cards-and-certificates-statutes-and-legis.aspx

You can see what the legislation is in your state. It looks like now gift card vendors have worked around expiration dates with dormancy fees.

Luckily for me, I had recovered $50 I thought I had lost. I just called up the company on the number that was on the card and they said they would send a replacement.

WordPress is under attack! Watch it! Password Protect it!

What? What do you mean? There’s already a password. Yes, you need to log in when you want to put up a new blog post or do maintenance of some sort. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have an additional layer of protection. Not only can you have it, WordPress actually recommends it here: https://codex.wordpress.org/Brute_Force_Attacks

I looked in my nginx access log and I saw a bunch of messages that looked like this:

95.219.148.136 - - [16/Nov/2017:06:34:33 -0800] "GET /wp-login.php HTTP/1.1" 402 195 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1"
95.219.148.136 - - [16/Nov/2017:06:34:34 -0800] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 200 21587 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1"
202.152.71.21 - - [16/Nov/2017:06:40:48 -0800] "GET /wp-login.php HTTP/1.1" 402 195 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1"
202.152.71.21 - - [16/Nov/2017:06:40:49 -0800] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 200 21589 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1"
177.221.4.36 - - [16/Nov/2017:06:55:42 -0800] "GET /wp-login.php HTTP/1.1" 402 195 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1"
177.221.4.36 - - [16/Nov/2017:06:55:42 -0800] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 200 21589 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1"

After doing some investigation, it appeard to be the sathurbot attacking my blogsite. It’s some sort of distributed piece of malware that attacks poorly maintained or blogs with weak passwords. The malware tries to attack the wp-login and something else. You can read more about it here: https://www.welivesecurity.com/2017/04/06/sathurbot-distributed-wordpress-password-attack/.

The first thing I did to counter this issue was configure Cloudflare to under attack mode. This gives the client a short delay when connecting to your site so that can’t get to the file. This should stop the entries in the log completely, immediately. Since I don’t want users to see the delay all of the time, I decided after the attacks slowed to have nginx password protect the file so that when trying to request it, nginx will ask for a password as well. This way, you’ll need to authenticate twice to get into WordPress, but it’s okay. The extra trouble gives me peace of mind that I’ll less likely be attacked.

With nginx, I did it this way:

location ^~ /wp-login.php {
 auth_basic "Administrator Login";
 auth_basic_user_file /etc/nginx/conf.d/.htpasswd;
 include fastcgi.conf;
 fastcgi_intercept_errors on;
 fastcgi_pass php-wphandler;
 fastcgi_buffers 16 16k;
 fastcgi_buffer_size 32k;
}

The .htpasswd is a hashed file. You can create it with the htpasswd command that comes with the apache2-utils package. The file would look something like this:

alton:[email protected]$SDFapr1$yDoxiXVW$aFe

Now in my logs, I get 401 messages instead of 402 messages.

172.68.242.50 - - [29/Nov/2017:09:36:50 -0800] "GET /wp-login.php HTTP/1.1" 401 195 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1" "134.196.23.66"
172.68.246.96 - - [29/Nov/2017:09:45:48 -0800] "GET /wp-login.php HTTP/1.1" 401 195 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1" "193.93.187.11"
162.158.91.51 - - [29/Nov/2017:09:49:22 -0800] "GET /wp-login.php HTTP/1.1" 401 195 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1" "93.172.55.76"
141.101.77.120 - - [29/Nov/2017:10:08:03 -0800] "GET /wp-login.php HTTP/1.1" 401 195 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1" "41.100.125.248"

I also know that they’re less likely to hack my site. 🙂

Happy blogging!