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Restauring an old iRiver iHP-120, Part 1

In a time before smartphones, people used so called "digital music players" for portable music. One of them was the iRiver iHP-100 series, which came to the market in October 2003. It had up to 40 GB of storage, which was really a lot these days. It had a playback time of up to 16 hours. It had a remote control with a separate display. And it is the only pocket-size player I know that is also equipped with an optical line-in and line-out.

I got my player in 2004, and I used it for many years, until the hard disk started to show first signs of failing. Then I stored it away to save it for "special occasions" that never came. Many years later, I did not dare to charge it again, as I distrust over-aged Li-Po batteries that have been discharged for a long time. So my player became a Sleeping Beauty, waiting for the day it would be rediscovered and properly restored. The day was now.

In this first part, I will replace the original battery. In a second part, I will replace the 20 GB hard disk with a modern 128 GB MicroSD card, which is a lot more than the size of my entire music collection. After more than 16 years, it will be a modern portable music player again. (Well, sort of… I know it's still inferior to a smartphone.)

Before we start: Li-Po batteries are delicate. A damaged battery can cause severe damage to your home and your health. Please be very careful. If you're not confident enough for the operation, please ask someone for help.

The player is opened by removing the eight screws from the top and the bottom cap with a T6 screwdriver. The caps are glued in place, but can be pulled off with a bit of force. After that, the back cover can just be lifted off. The attached battery cable is very short, so be careful when lifting.

This is a photo of the inside. To the left is the battery pack that we are going to replace. To the right, we see the 1.8" HDD. Yes, the iHP uses an actual hard disk, with spinning platters and arms and all. In part 2, it will be replaced by a MicroSD card.

The battery connector is on the other side of the PCB, so we have to disassemble more. First we remove the HDD, it just needs to be gently lifted and then pulled out of the connector. There is a screw on each of the two side panels, they need to be removed as well. Then we remove all visible screws on the PCB.

The display frame is glued to the front cover, so we need to use a bit of force to remove the PCB. Be careful, the display is very sensitive to scratches. Also we don't want to have hairs and dust caught between the display and the front cover when we reassemble the device, so make sure you work in a clean and dust-free room.

Now we can disconnect the battery from the main PCB. Sadly, the power connector is in the way, so we need to twiddle with the connector and use a bit of force to get it removed. If you use a screwdriver, take care not to slip off and damage the PCB. Also, take care not short circuit the battery cable.

In the next step, we can remove the old battery pack. It is glued to the back cover, so we need a lever tool (e.g. a plastic opening tool) and some patience to gently remove it.

Be very careful when you remove the old battery pack. Do not use blades or pointy tools, and do not use force. The battery pack may burn if bent, damaged, or punctured.

You got the old battery removed now? Please don't just throw it away, but make sure it is properly recycled.

Before we insert the new battery, we should have a look at the cable first. On my replacement, the cable was considerably longer than the original one, so I decided to align it with the other corner of the back cover. If your cable is shorter, or if you are not sure, use the same corner as the original battery. In any case make sure that the cable is at the bottom edge of the back cover. If there is some of the glue tape left, it will firmly hold the new battery in its place.

If you think it was difficult to disconnect the old battery, you will find out that it is even more difficult to connect the new one. Check that the polarity of the connector is correct, the black wire must be closer to the USB connector than the red wire. Take care not to cut or break the wires while inserting the connector. If there is absolutely no way to push the connector into the socket, you need to remove the USB daughterboard. It can be unplugged after unsoldering the wires on its four corners.

I was lucky. After a few attempts and some frustration, I finally got the new battery connected.

When reassembling, make sure the battery cable is correctly routed like in the next photo. It must not be pinched anywhere. Now the PCB can be placed back onto the top cover again.

This is the right moment to check if there are visible dust particles or hairs caught between the display and the front cover. If so, use a photo lens brush to gently brush them away. Do not use a cloth, as it may cause tiny scratches.

Now close the bottom cover for a test. The battery cable should fit properly and should be tension-free.

After that, you can reassemble the device in the opposite order. Congratulations, you have given a new life to this amazing piece of hardware!

In the next part, we will replace the HDD with a MicroSD card. It will not just conserve some battery power, make your player faster and keep it cooler, but also greatly extend hard disk space for your music.

Access alternate certificates with acme4j

On January 11 2021, Let's Encrypt will change the default intermediate certificate from the cross-sign IdenTrust DST Root X3 certificate to their own ISRG Root X1 certificate.

The good news: The ISRG certificate is widely trusted by browsers by now, so the transition will be unnoticed by most users.

The bad news: The ISRG certificate is not included in Android devices before "Nougat" 7.1. These devices will show an error when trying to access sites that are signed with the new intermediate certificate. According to Let's Encrypt, stunning 34% of the Android devices out there shall be affected.

To mitigate the problem, Let's Encrypt provides an alternate certificate that is still cross-signed with the IdenTrust DST Root X3 certificate. If you have a web service that is accessed by a relevant number of older Android devices, you may want to use that alternate certificate. It will be available until September 29 2021. The IdenTrust DST Root X3 certificate itself will expire after that date, so this is a hard limit. Let's hope that the problem is going to be solved on Android side in time.

As acme4j fully implements the RFC 8555, it is easy to change your code so it will use the alternate certificate. Based on the acme4j example, this code block will use the first alternate certificate if present, and falls back to the main certificate if not:

Certificate certificate = order.getCertificate();
certificate = certificate.getAlternateCertificates().stream()
        .findFirst()
        .orElse(certificate);

Remember to remove the workaround after September 29 2021 January 2024, so you won't accidentally use other alternate certificates that may become available in the future.

PS: getAlternateCertificates() was added to the latest acme4j v2.11. If you have an older version, fear not: you just need to have a Login object, so you can bind the alternate certificate yourself. This is how it would look like in the example client:

Login login = session.login(acct.getLocation(), userKeyPair);

Certificate certificate = order.getCertificate();
certificate = certificate.getAlternates().stream()
        .map(login::bindCertificate)
        .findFirst()
        .orElse(certificate);

UPDATE: Let's Encrypt found a way to extend the Android compatibility until January 2024. However, this extension may only work for Android devices. To quote the article:

The new cross-sign will be somewhat novel because it extends beyond the expiration of DST Root CA X3. This solution works because Android intentionally does not enforce the expiration dates of certificates used as trust anchors.

Special: Festplatten richtig löschen

Tagebücher und private Fotos, persönliche E-Mails, Bankverbindungen und Kreditkartennummern, Passwörter… Oft sind wir uns gar nicht bewusst, was für persönliche und geheime Informationen unsere Festplatten gespeichert haben. Nehmen wir uns nur mal als Beispiel das Cookie, durch das wir uns nicht mehr im Onlineshop anzumelden brauchen, oder all die Passwörter, die der Passwort-Manager des Browsers bequemerweise für uns gespeichert hat.

So gibt es immer wieder Aufsehen erregende Berichte über Computer oder Festplatten mit höchst vertraulichem Inhalt, welche gebraucht verkauft wurden, ohne vorher ausreichend gelöscht worden zu sein. Ein anderes, etwas amüsanteres Beispiel stammt von dem Käufer eines gebrauchten Notebooks, welches sich als defekt herausstellte. Da der Verkäufer nicht bereit war, das Geld zurückzugeben, veröffentlichte der Betrogene aus Rache allerlei private und delikate Details, die er auf der Festplatte des Notebooks vorfand.

Trotzdem kann es vorkommen, dass man Festplatten in fremde Hände gibt, weil man sie verkaufen, zurückgeben oder entsorgen möchte. Wie löscht man dann alle vertraulichen Daten sicher und zuverlässig?

Ein paar wichtige Worte vorweg!

Dieser Artikel bezieht sich auf Linux-Systeme und richtet sich hauptsächlich an Privatpersonen. Nicht etwa, weil ihre Daten weniger schützenswert wären, sondern weil der Gesetzgeber bei gewerblich genutzten Festplatten mit personenbezogenen Daten eine fachgerechte und dokumentierte Löschung der Daten erwartet.

In diesem Artikel beschreibe ich außerdem, wie Daten sicher und zuverlässig gelöscht werden. Mit nur einer Fehleingabe können in Sekundenschnelle auch Daten vernichtet werden, die eigentlich nicht gelöscht werden sollten. Man sollte deshalb genau darauf achten, ob das Festplatten-Device wirklich das gewünschte ist, und sich das Kommando lieber einmal mehr anschauen, bevor man die Eingabetaste drückt. Wichtige Daten, die nicht gelöscht werden sollen, sollten stets auf einem aktuellen Backup gesichert sein.

Im folgenden Text wird die zu löschende Festplatte beispielhaft unter /dev/sdX angesprochen. Man sollte mit hdparm -I /dev/sdX vorab prüfen, ob es sich tatsächlich um das zu löschende Festplattenmodell handelt.

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Fedora: SSD kurz und schmerzlos

Es gibt schon viele Artikel, wie man SSD-Festplatten richtig in Linux einbindet. Aber entweder sind sie veraltet, unvollständig oder recht lange. Also, hier eine tl;dr-Fassung – SSD mit Fedora, kurz und schmerzlos.

Trimming

Wenn die SSD trimming kann (was mittlerweile bei ziemlich allen SSDs auf dem Markt der Fall ist), sollte es natürlich auch verwendet werden. Dadurch ermöglicht man wear levelling, gibt also der SSD die Möglichkeit, den Verschleiß der Speicherzellen zu verteilen.

Seit Fedora 33 ist Trimming bereits standardmäßig aktiviert. Hier braucht man sich keine weiteren Gedanken mehr zu machen.

Bei älteren Fedora-Versionen muss man den Trim-Timer einmalig manuell aktivieren:

pre. sudo systemctl enable fstrim.timer

Die Dateisysteme werden dann wöchentlich gesäubert.

Das Trimming kann mit dem Kommando fstrim auch jederzeit von Hand erfolgen:

sudo fstrim -v /
sudo fstrim -v /home

Swappiness

SSDs können beliebig oft und schnell gelesen werden, verschleißen aber bei Schreibzugriffen. Swapping auf eine SSD-Partition ist zwar möglich, aber der Lebensdauer nicht sehr zuträglich. Folgende Zeilen in der /etc/sysctl.conf reduzieren das Auslagern auf die Swap-Partition auf ein Minimum.

vm.swappiness=1
vm.vfs_cache_pressure=50

Bei den günstigen Preisen selbst für üppige RAM-Ausstattung wäre es bei Desktop-Rechnern eine Überlegung wert, ob man eine Swap-Partition überhaupt noch benötigt. Nachträglich kann sie durch Auskommentieren der entsprechenden Zeile in der /etc/fstab deaktiviert werden.

Little Java Regex Cookbook

Regular expressions, or short "regex", are a pattern of characters and metacharacters that can be used for matching strings. For example, the pattern "gr[ae]y" matches both the strings "gray" and "grey".

While regular expressions are an integral part of other popular languages, they have been introduced to the Java world rather late with the release of Java 1.4 in 2002. Perl, certainly the mother language of modern regexes, already turned 15 that year.

Regexes are sometimes hard to understand, but once you got the hang of them, they will soon become your weapon of choice when you have to deal with texts.

In this article, I focus on Java code patterns for common scenarios. If you have never heard of regular expressions before, the Wikipedia article and the Pattern JavaDoc are good starting points. The Regex Crossword site is a great place for working out your regex muscles.

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