Is DIY-BIO the Personal Computing of the 21st Century?

Bento Lab Starter KitLast last year I ran across the following article in IEEE Spectrum: Tools for Would-Be Biohackers.  Since I have a daughter with interests in Biology, I considered getting her one of these “mini-labs” as a Christmas gift.  The high cost had me wondering if this was an outrageous idea.  It works out that adjusting for inflation, these mini-labs aren’t any more expensive than 8-bit home computers of my youth.  My wife asked what seemed like a totally reasonable question, “What are they even good for?”  It’s a good question, and it was probably the same question my parents asked about those early personal computers.  It got me thinking about whether this kind of Do-It-Yourself home biology (actually genetics) is going to become the same kind of technological revolution that the personal computer became?

I don’t have a ready answer.  I do know that I’m not willing to dismiss the idea out-of-hand, and I want to learn more.  While I think the kits above are really cool from a technological perspective, I’m planning on doing some small scale (i.e. cheaper) things first.  It will be interesting to see if I can find an answer to my wife’s original question, and if there is a whole new world of innovation to come.

Here are links to the various mini-labs:

Getting FreeBSD 11 working on my Asus Zenbook UX31A

Sigh… not sure why this was so painful. After years away, I thought it would be nice to re-visit FreeBSD on my dedicated malware analysis laptop. While I had used FreeBSD for over a decade on personal server systems, I’ve never really used it as a desktop system, but I’m tired of the Linux disto situation. Besides, I’ve always been more comfortable on BSD-based systems.

But let’s face it, some Linux distros are much better at working as desktop systems. Here’s my (on-going) work to get FreeBSD 11.0RC2 going on my spare ultrabook.

During install make sure to configure the internal drive as GPT partition table and be sure the EFI partition is listed first.

After the install, enter the firmware to create “a new boot option” and indicate the location of the proper UEFI boot file.

Add boot option: Internal SSD
Select Filesystem: [accept default]
Path for boot option: \efi\boot\bootx64.efi

Form here, I’m basically just going to follow the FreeBSD desktop install instructions from CoolTrainer: https://cooltrainer.org/a-freebsd-desktop-howto/

Next swap CapsLock and Ctrl keys, because that’s just better:

echo 'keymap="us.ctrl" >> /etc/rc.conf

Then go into the System->Preferences->Hardware->Keyboard->Layouts and select “swap ctrl and caps lock”.

 

Some additional things I had to do:

  • installed emacs (text editor)
  • installed redshift (like flux)
  • installed slim (login manager)
  • installed cairo-dock (like Mac OS X dock)
  • installed cairn-dock-plugins
  • installed launch (like Alfred/Quicksilver)
  • installed compton (compositing window manager)
  • installed Chromium

Things I still need to work out:

  • Removable Media
  • SD card
  • Touchpad
  • WiFi panel for Gnome
  • Gnome 2/Mate sound

QNAP 451+: Hardware Accelerated Transcoding

I’m having problems with Plex using too much CPU to transcode files. Actually, I’m not sure why it’s transcoding to an AppleTV 4, it should be able to Direct Stream .mkv files. I’m trying to go ahead and use the QNAP hardware accelerated transcoding engine.

First problem, all transcode requests are returning, “Failed: File read/ write error“. No logs for the failure, so off to ssh I go. The transcode command lives in: /mnt/ext/opt/medialibrary/bin. There are three commands we care about:

  • mfytranscodesvr
  • mytranscodecmd
  • myvatranscode

Running the first seems to indicate it already running, and the second seems to kick-off another failing transcode. The third command is interesting because it appears to the be accelerated version. It’s actually a symbolic link to: /mnt/ext/opt/QDMS/bin/myvatranscode.

A quick check shows that the entire /mnt/ext/opt/QDMS directory is missing. This is apparently because I turned off DLNA streaming. By re-activating the “Media Streaming Add-on”, the accelerated streaming appears to be working now.

We’ll have to see if Plex is smart enough to pick-up the transcoded version when available.

QNAP 451+: SABnzbd/Sickbeard setup

  1. Install the Python 2.7 from the QNAP app center.
  2. Install the following qpkg from the QNAP community app repository:
  3. Configure SABnzbd with Usenet servers, and SickBeard with shows to search.
  4. Make sure that SABnzbd is configured to post-process by using the nzbtosickbeard.py script.This will also require configuring the values in: /share/Download/nzbToMedia/autoProcessMedia.cfg.
    Specifically

    • SickBeard integration had to be activated
    • The port had to be set to 7071 (based the SickBeard.qpkg config).
  5. If necessary, patch the first line of: /share/Download/nzbToMediaCharTranslator.py to use:
    #!/usr/bin/python2.7 -OO
  6. If necessary, patch: /share/CACHEDEV1_DATA/.qpkg/SABnzbdplus/SABnzbd.py to fix a bug causing SSL timeouts while  fetching nzb files from indexers using HTTPS (as per this forum post):
    opt_out_of_certificate_verification = True
    if opt_out_of_certificate_verification:
        try:
            import ssl
            ssl._create_default_https_context = ssl._create_unverified_context
        except:
            pass
    
  7. If necessary, patch: /share/CACHEDEV1_DATA/.qpkg/SickBeard/SickBeard/sickbeard/helpers.py errors related to searching for nab files (from this forum post):On line 227, remove the str() from around the e.code so it reads like:
    logger.log(u"HTTP error " + e.code + " while loading URL " + url, logger.WARNING)
    

    Then, do similar down on line 234 so it reads like:

    logger.log(u"URL error " + e.reason + " while loading URL " + url, logger.WARNING)
    

3D Printer: Rigidbot

We purchased a Rigidbot during their Kickstarter campaign last year, and it arrived in the middle of last week.  It took 8.5 months longer than projected, but frankly by Kickstarter standards that’s not bad.

Since it was so close to the end of the kids’ school year, I saved it as a project for the weekend.  I spent Father’s Day assembling our new 3D printer with the 13 year old.  I think we both had quite a bit of fun!   We finished basic assembly late last night — so no test print yet.  This evening, we plan on tidying up the cabling, performing calibration, and running our first test print.  Pictures and comments to follow.