Categories
Consumer Tech

Consumer Tech: Netflix video and audio out of sync using Firestick

Intro

While watching Mad Men last night on IMDB we saw a terribly annoying audio delay – probably about three seconds after the video. Then it cuts to the commercials and they were perfectly in sync. Then back to the show – still a 2 – 3 -second delay. Is it the brand of TV? We use a Firestick plus a Samsung LCD TV.

The solution

Well, my first inclination was to look for audio settings on either the TV or the Amazon Firestick which might be set to delay audio. I had such a setting on an old sound system, though I think it was only for a sub-second delay. But, there are no such settings on either Firestick or Samsung TV, so that’s not it.

An Internet search proved not too useful.

What I eventually realized – the in-sync commercials was a hint – is that I could rewind the show a tiny bit, and that might pop it back into sync. And…it did!

How it happens

I think it happens when I pause a show one night, to return to it a later time. It remembers where I was, which is great. But it sometimes gets out of sync this way. I have seen this with Netflix and IMDB. The common element seems to be the Firestick.

Categories
Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi photo frame using the pictures on your Google Drive II

Intro

This is basically the same post as my previous post, Raspberry Pi photo frame using your pictures on your Google Drive. The are several ideas I am introducing in this treatment.

  • better time separation of the photos for a more meaningful viewing
  • smart resizing of photos to effectively enlarge narrow photos
  • analysis of photos for date and time
  • analysis of photos for GPS info, converting to city and even address!
  • build up of alternate slideshow which includes date, file, folder and location information embedded at bottom of every picture
  • quality control check to make sure file is an actual JPEG
  • tiny thumbnail pictures are skipped

Mostly for my own sake, I’ve re-named most of the relevant files and re-worked some as well in order to avoid name conflicts.

I find this treatment is pretty robust and can withstand a lot of errors and mistakes.

So let’s get started.

The easier way to get the files

Because there are now so many files – 18 at last count! – I’ve bundled them all into a tar file. So to get them all in one fell swoop do this.

$ wget https://drjohnstechtalk.com/blog/downloads/photoFrameII.tar

$ tar xvf photoFrameII.tar

Then skip down to the section of this post called crontab entries, which you will still need to do.

But because I think the scripts could be useful for other projects as well, I’m including them here in their entirety in the following section.

The files

The brains of the thing is master3.sh.

master3.sh

                    

#!/bin/sh
# DrJ 1/2021
# call this from cron once a day to refesh random slideshow once a day
NUMFOLDERS=20
DEBUG=1
HOME=/home/pi
RANFILE=$HOME/random.list
REANFILE=$HOME/rean.list
DISPLAYFOLDER=$HOME/Pictures
DISPLAYFOLDERTMP=$HOME/Picturestmp
EXIFTMP=$HOME/EXIFtmp
EXIF=$HOME/EXIF
TXTDIR=$HOME/picstxt
MSHOW=$HOME/mediashow
MSHOW2=$HOME/mediashowtmp2
MSHOW3=$HOME/mediashowtmp3
SLEEPINTERVAL=1
STARTFOLDER="MaryDocs/Pictures and videos"

echo "Starting master process at "`date`


cd $HOME

rm -rf $DISPLAYFOLDERTMP
mkdir $DISPLAYFOLDERTMP

#listing of all Google drive files starting from the picture root
# this takes a few minutes so we may want to skip for debugging
if [ "$1" = "skip" ]; then
  if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo SKIP Listing all files from Google drive; fi
else
  if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo Listing all files from Google drive; fi
  rclone ls remote:"$STARTFOLDER" > files
# filter down to only jpegs, lose the docs folders and the tiny JPEGs
  if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo Picking out the JPEGs and losing the small images; fi
  egrep '\.[jJ][pP][eE]?[gG]$' files |awk '$1 > 11000 {$1=""; print substr($0,2)}'|grep -i -v /docs/ > jpegs.list
fi

# check if we got anything. If our Internt dropped there may have been a problem, for instance
flines=`cat files|wc -l`
if [ $flines -lt 60 ]; then
  echo "rclone did not produce enough files. Check your Internet setup and rclone configuration."
  echo Only $flines files in the file listing - not enough - so pausing 60 seconds and starting over... at `date`
# start a new job and kill ourselves!
  nohup $HOME/master3.sh > master.log 2>&1 &
  exit
fi

# throw NUMFOLDERS or so random numbers for picture selection, select triplets of photos by putting
# names into a file
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo "\nGenerate random filename triplets"; fi
./random-files3.pl -f $NUMFOLDERS -j jpegs.list -r $RANFILE

# copy over these 60 jpegs
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo "\nCopy over these random files"; fi
cat $RANFILE|while read line; do
  if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo filepath is $line; fi
  rclone copy remote:"${STARTFOLDER}/$line" $DISPLAYFOLDERTMP
  sleep $SLEEPINTERVAL
done

# do a re-analysis to push pictures further apart in time
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo "\nRe-analyzing pictures for their timestamps"; fi
cd $DISPLAYFOLDERTMP; $HOME/reanalyze.pl

# copy over just the new pictures that we determined were needed
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo "\nCopy over the needed replacement files"; fi
cat $REANFILE|while read line; do
  if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo filepath is $line; fi
  rclone copy remote:"${STARTFOLDER}/$line" $DISPLAYFOLDERTMP
  sleep $SLEEPINTERVAL
done

# QC: toss out the pics which are not actually JPEGs
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo "\nQC: Toss out the pics which are not actually JPEGs"; fi
cd $DISPLAYFOLDERTMP; ../QC.pl

# save EXIF metadata for later
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo "\nSave EXIF metadata for later"; fi
cd $DISPLAYFOLDERTMP; $HOME/get-all-EXIF.sh
rm -rf $EXIF;mv $EXIFTMP $EXIF

# analyze EXIF info to extract most interesting things
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo "\nAnalyze EXIF data"; fi
rm -rf $TXTDIR; $HOME/analyze.sh

# rotate pics as needed
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo "\nRotate the pics which need it"; fi
cd $DISPLAYFOLDERTMP; $HOME/rotate-as-needed.sh

# resize pics
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo "\nSize all pics to the display size"; fi
$HOME/resize.sh

# create text info + images
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo "\nEmbed pic info"; fi
$HOME/embedpicinfo.sh

cd ~

# kill any old slideshow
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo Killing old fbi slideshow; fi
sudo pkill -9 -f fbi
pkill -9 -f m3.pl

# remove old pics
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo Removing old pictures; fi
rm -rf $DISPLAYFOLDER

mv $DISPLAYFOLDERTMP $DISPLAYFOLDER
cp $MSHOW3 $MSHOW


#run looping fbi slideshow on these pictures
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo Start "\nfbi slideshow in background"; fi
cd $DISPLAYFOLDER ; nohup ~/m3.pl  >> ~/m3.log 2>&1 &

if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo "And now it is "`date`; fi

random-files3.pl

                    
#!/usr/bin/perl
use Getopt::Std;
my %opt=();
getopts("c:df:j:r:",\%opt);
$nofolders = $opt{f} ? $opt{f} : 20;
$DEBUG = $opt{d} ? 1 : 0;
$cutoff = $opt{c} ? $opt{c} : 5;
$cutoffS = 60*$cutoff;
$jpegs = $opt{j} ? $opt{j} : "jpegs.list";
$ranpicfile = $opt{r} ? $opt{r} : "jpegs-random.list";
print "d,f,j,r: $opt{d}, $opt{f}, $opt{j}, $opt{r}\n" if $DEBUG;
$mshowt = "mediashowtmp";
open(JPEGS,$jpegs) || die "Cannot open jpegs listing file $jpegs!!\n";
@jpegs = <JPEGS>;
# remove newline character
$nopics = chomp @jpegs;
open(RAN,"> $ranpicfile") || die "Cannot open random picture file $ranpicfile!!\n";
for($i=0;$i<$nofolders;$i++) {
  $t = int(rand($nopics-2));
  print "random number is: $t\n" if $DEBUG;
# a lot of our pics follow this naming convention
# 20160831_090658.jpg
  ($date,$time) = $jpegs[$t] =~ /(\d{8})_(\d{6})/;
  if ($date) {
    print "date, time: $date $time\n" if $DEBUG;
# ensure neighboring picture is at least five minutes different in time
    $iPO = $iP = $diff = 1;
    ($hr,$min,$sec) = $time =~ /(\d\d)(\d\d)(\d\d)/;
    $secs = 3600*$hr + 60*$min + $sec;
    print "Pre-pic logic\n";
    while ($diff < $cutoffS) {
      $iP++;
      $priorPic = $jpegs[$t-$iP];
      $Pdate = $Ptime = 0;
      ($Pdate,$Ptime) = $priorPic =~ /(\d{8})_(\d{6})/;
      ($Phr,$Pmin,$Psec) = $Ptime =~ /(\d\d)(\d\d)(\d\d)/;
      $Psecs = 3600*$Phr + 60*$Pmin + $Psec;
      print "hr,min,sec,Phr,Pmin,Psec: $hr,$min,$sec,$Phr,$Pmin,$Psec\n" if $DEBUG;
      $diff = abs($secs - $Psecs);
      print "diff: $diff\n" if $DEBUG;
# end our search if we happened upon different dates
      $diff = 99999 if $Pdate ne $date;
    }
# post-picture logic - same as pre-picture
    print "Post-pic logic\n";
    $diff = 0;
    while ($diff < $cutoffS) {
      $iPO++;
      $postPic = $jpegs[$t+$iPO];
      $Pdate = $Ptime = 0;
      ($Pdate,$Ptime) = $postPic =~ /(\d{8})_(\d{6})/;
      ($Phr,$Pmin,$Psec) = $Ptime =~ /(\d\d)(\d\d)(\d\d)/;
      $Psecs = 3600*$Phr + 60*$Pmin + $Psec;
      print "hr,min,sec,Phr,Pmin,Psec: $hr,$min,$sec,$Phr,$Pmin,$Psec\n" if $DEBUG;
      $diff = abs($Psecs - $secs);
      print "diff: $diff\n" if $DEBUG;
# end our search if we happened upon different dates
      $diff = 99999 if $Pdate ne $date;
    }
  } else {
    $iP = $iPO = 2;
  }
  $priorPic = $jpegs[$t-$iP];
  $Pic = $jpegs[$t];
  $postPic = $jpegs[$t+$iPO];
  print RAN qq($priorPic
$Pic
$postPic
);
# this is how we'll preserve the order of the pictures. ls -1 often gives a different order!!
($p1) = $priorPic =~ /([^\/]+)$/;
($p2) = $Pic =~ /([^\/]+)$/;
($p3) = $postPic =~ /([^\/]+)$/;
print "p1 p2 p3: $p1 $p2 $p3" if $DEBUG;
$picsinorder .= $p1 . "\0" . $p2 . "\0" . $p3 . "\0";
}
close(RAN);
open(MS,">$mshowt") || die "Cannot open mediashow file $mshowt!!\n";
print MS $picsinorder;
close(MS);
print "pics in order: $picsinorder\n" if $DEBUG;

reanalyze.pl

                    

#!/usr/bin/perl
use Getopt::Std;
my %opt=();
#
# assumption is that we are runnin this from a directory containing pictures
$tier1 = 100; $tier2 = 200; $tier3 = 300; # secs
$DEBUG = 1;
$HOME = "/home/pi";
# pics are here
$pNames = "$HOME/reanpicnames";
$ranfile = "$HOME/random.list";
$reanfile = "$HOME/rean.list";
$origfile = "$HOME/jpegs.list";
$mshowt = "$HOME/mediashowtmp";
$mshow2 = "$HOME/mediashowtmp2";

open(REAN,">$reanfile") || die "Cannot open reanalyze file $reanfile!!\n";
$ms = `cat $mshowt`;
print "Original media show: $ms\n" if $DEBUG;
@lines = split('\0',$ms);
$Pdate = $Phr = $Pmin = $Psec = 0;
$diff = 9999;
for($i=0;$i<@lines;$i++){
  $date = 0;
  $secs = $ymd = 0;
  $_ = $lines[$i];
  $file = $_;
# ignore pictures with names like 20130820_180050.jpg
  next if /\d{8}_\d{4}/;
  open(ANAL,"$HOME/getinfo.py \"$file\"|") || die "Cannot open file: $file!!\n";
  print "filename: $file\n" if $DEBUG;
  while(<ANAL>){
#extract date and time from remaining pictures, if possible
# # DateTimeOriginal = 2018:08:18 20:16:47
#    print STDERR "DATE: $_" if $DEBUG;
if (/date/i && $date++ < 1) {
   print "date match in getinfo.pyoutput: $_" if $DEBUG;
   ($ymd,$hr,$min,$sec) = /(\d{4}:\d\d:\d\d) (\d\d):(\d\d):(\d\d)/;
   $secs = 3600*$hr + 60*$min + $sec;
   print "file,secs,ymd,i: $file,$secs,$ymd,$i\n" if $DEBUG;
   $YMD[$i] = $ymd;
   $SECS[$i] = $secs;
}
} # end loop over analysis of this pic
} # end loop over all files
# now go over that
$oldfolder = 0;
for($i=1;$i<@lines;$i++){
 $folder = int($i/3) + 1;
 next unless $folder != $oldfolder;
   print "analyzing results. folder no. $folder\n" if $DEBUG;
# analyze pics in triplets
# center pic
   $j = ($folder - 1)*3 + 1;
   for ($o=-1;$o<2;$o+=2){
     $k=$j+$o;
     print "j,k,o: $j,$k,$o\n" if $DEBUG;
     next unless $SECS[$j] > 0 && $YMD[$j] == $YMD[$k] && $YMD[$j] > 0;
     print "We have non-0 dates we're dealing with\n" if $DEBUG;
     $file = $lines[$k];
     chomp($file);
     $diff = abs($SECS[$j] - $SECS[$k]);
     print "diff: $diff\n" if $DEBUG;
     next unless $diff < $tier3;
# the closer the files are together the more we push away
     $bump = 1 if $diff < $tier3;
     $bump = 2 if $diff < $tier2;
     $bump = 3 if $diff < $tier1;
# get full filepath
     $filepath = `grep \"$file\" $ranfile`;
     chomp($filepath);
# now use that to search within the jpegs file listing
     $prog = $o < 0 ? "head" : "tail";
     $newfilepath = `grep -C$bump "$filepath" $origfile|$prog -1`;
     ($newfile) = $newfilepath =~ /([^\/]+)$/;
     chomp($newfile);
     print "file,filepath,newfile,newfilepath,bump: $file,$filepath,$newfile,$newfilepath,$bump\n" if $DEBUG;
     print REAN $newfilepath;
# we'll get the new pictures over in a separate step to keep this more atomic
     $ms =~ s/$file/$newfile/;
    }
    $oldfolder = $folder;
} # end loop over pics
# print out new mediashow pics in order
print "Printing new mediashow: $ms\n" if $DEBUG;
open(MS,">$mshow2") || die "Cannot open mediashow $mshow2!!\n";
print MS $ms;
close(MS)

QC.pl

                    

#!/usr/bin/perl
# kick out the non-JPEG files - sometimes they creep in
$DEBUG = 1;
$HOME = "/home/pi";
$mshow2 = "$HOME/mediashowtmp2";
$mshow3 = "$HOME/mediashowtmp3";
$ms = `cat $mshow2`;
@pics = split('\0',$ms);
foreach $file (@pics) {
  print "file is $file\n" if $DEBUG;
#DSC00185.JPG: JPEG image data, JFIF standard 1.01...
  $res = `file "$file"|cut -d: -f2`;
  if ($res =~ /JPEG/i){
    print "This file is indeed a JPEG image\n" if $DEBUG;
  } else {
    print "Not a JPEG image! We have to remove this file form the mediashow\n" if $DEBUG;
    $ms =~ s/$file\0//;
  }
}
# print out new mediashow pics in order
print "Printing new mediashow: $ms\n" if $DEBUG;
open(MS,">$mshow3") || die "Cannot open mediashow $mshow3!!\n";
print MS $ms;
close(MS);

get-all-EXIF.sh

                    

#!/bin/sh
# DrJ 1/2021
# preserve EXIF info of all the images because our rotate step removes it
# and we will use it in subsequent steps
# assumption is that our current directory is the one where we want to read files
EXIFTMP=~/EXIFtmp
mkdir $EXIFTMP
ls -1|while read line; do
  echo file is "$line"
  ~/getinfo.py "$line" > $EXIFTMP/"$line"
done

analyze.sh

                    

#!/bin/sh
# DrJ 1/2021
# try to extract date, file and folder name and even GPS info, create jpegs with info
# for each image
# assumption is that are current directory is the one where we want to alter files
HOME=/home/pi
TXTDIR=$HOME/picstxt
# it's assumed EXIF info for each pic has already been extracted and put into EXIF diretory
EXIF=$HOME/EXIF
mkdir $TXTDIR
cd $EXIF
ls -1|while read line; do
  echo file is "$line"
  echo -n "$line"|../analyzeDate.pl > "$TXTDIR/${line}"
  echo -n "$line"|../analyzeGPS.pl >> "$TXTDIR/${line}"
done

rotate-as-needed.sh

                    

#!/bin/sh
# DrJ 12/2020
# some of our downloaded files will be sideways, and fbi doesn't auto-rotate them as far as I know
# assumption is that our current directory is the one where we want to alter files
ls -1|while read line; do
  echo file is "$line"
  o=`~/getinfo.py "$line"|grep -ai orientation|awk '{print $NF}'`
  echo orientation is $o
  if [ "$o" -eq "6" ]; then
    echo "90 clockwise is needed, o is $o"
# rotate and move it
    ~/rotate.py -90 "$line"
    mv rot_"$line" "$line"
  elif [ "$o" -eq "8" ]; then
    echo "90 counterclock is needed, o is $o"
# rotate and move it
    ~/rotate.py 90 "$line"
    mv rot_"$line" "$line"
  elif [ "$o" -eq "3" ]; then
    echo "180 rot is needed, o is $o"
# rotate and move it
    ~/rotate.py 180 "$line"
    mv rot_"$line" "$line"
  fi
done

resize.sh

                    

#!/bin/sh
# DrJ 2/2021
# To combat the RPi's inherent sluggish performance we'll downsize the pictures in advance to save fbi the effort
#
# on the pidisplay fbset gives:
#mode "800x480"
#    geometry 800 480 800 480 32
#    timings 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
#    rgba 8/16,8/8,8/0,8/24
#endmode
displaywidth=`fbset|grep geometry|awk '{print $2}'`
displayheight=`fbset|grep geometry|awk '{print $3}'`

ls -1|while read line; do
  echo file is "$line"
  ~/fancyresize.py $displaywidth $displayheight "$line"
  mv resize_"$line" "$line"
done

embedpicinfo.sh

                    

#!/bin/sh
# DrJ 2/2021
# To combat the RPi's inherent sluggish performance we'll downsize the pictures in advance to save fbi the effort
#
# on the pidisplay fbset gives:
#mode "800x480"
#    geometry 800 480 800 480 32
#    timings 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
#    rgba 8/16,8/8,8/0,8/24
#endmode
displaywidth=`fbset|grep geometry|awk '{print $2}'`
displayheight=`fbset|grep geometry|awk '{print $3}'`

ls -1|while read line; do
  echo file is "$line"
# this will create a new image with same name prepended with txt_
  ~/embedpicinfo.py $displaywidth $displayheight "$line"
done

Auxiliary files

rotate.py

                    

#!/usr/bin/python3
# call with two arguments: degrees-to-rotate and filename
import PIL, os
import sys
from PIL import Image
# first do: pip3 install piexif
import piexif

degrees = int(sys.argv[1])
pic = sys.argv[2]

picture= Image.open(pic)
# see https://github.com/hMatoba/Piexif for piexif writeup
# this method of preserving EXIF info does not always work, and
# causes script to crash when it fails!
##exif_dict = piexif.load(picture.info["exif"])
##exif_bytes = piexif.dump(exif_dict)
## both rotate and preserve EXIF data
##picture.rotate(degrees,expand=True).save("rot_" + pic,"jpeg", exif=exif_bytes)
# rotate (which will blow away EXIF info, sorry...)
picture.rotate(degrees,expand=True).save("rot_" + pic,"jpeg")

getinfo.py

                    

#!/usr/bin/python3
import os,sys
from PIL import Image
from PIL.ExifTags import TAGS

for (tag,value) in Image.open(sys.argv[1])._getexif().items():
        print ('%s = %s' % (TAGS.get(tag), value))

print ('%s = %s' % (TAGS.get(tag), value))

embedpicinfo.py

                    

#!/usr/bin/python3
# from https://auth0.com/blog/image-processing-in-python-with-pillow/
# fonts are described here:
# https://pillow.readthedocs.io/en/stable/reference/ImageDraw.html
from PIL import Image, ImageDraw, ImageFont
import sys, os

width = int(sys.argv[1])
height = int(sys.argv[2])
# for Pidisplay:
#width = 800
#height = 480
imageFile = sys.argv[3]
imageandtext = 'txt_' + imageFile

tfile = '../picstxt/' + imageFile
f = open(tfile)
txtlines = f.readlines()
f.close()

# our fonts
fnt = ImageFont.truetype("/usr/share/fonts/truetype/dejavu/DejaVuSans-Bold.ttf", 14)
#fnt = ImageFont.truetype("/usr/share/fonts/truetype/dejavu/DejaVuSans.ttf", 40)
fnt36 = ImageFont.truetype("/usr/share/fonts/truetype/dejavu/DejaVuSans-Bold.ttf", 36)
fnt2 = ImageFont.truetype("/usr/share/fonts/truetype/dejavu/DejaVuSans.ttf", 18)
fntBold = ImageFont.truetype("/usr/share/fonts/truetype/dejavu/DejaVuSans-Bold.ttf", 40)
# PiDisplay resolution is 800x480
margin = 35
# semi-parameterized variables
x0 = margin - 30
x1 = margin -15
cwidth = 6
yline = 27
ychevron=(yline-28)/2
ycoff = 5
yoffset = 12
yrec= -10
rpad = 15
#
textimagey = 130
textimagex = width

# menu items
textimage = Image.new('RGB', (textimagex, textimagey), 'white')
for t in txtlines:
    img_draw = ImageDraw.Draw(textimage)
    img_draw.text((margin, yoffset), t, font=fnt, fill='MidnightBlue')
    yoffset += yline

# merge three images together...
# black background covering whole display:
masterimage = Image.new('RGB',(width,height),'black')
# original image:
oimage = Image.open(imageFile)
# original image width
owidth = oimage.size[0]
# get offset so narrow pictures are centered
xoffset = int((width - owidth)/2)
masterimage.paste(oimage,(xoffset,0))
masterimage.paste(textimage,(0,height - textimagey))

masterimage.save(imageandtext)

fancyresize.py

                    

#!/usr/bin/python3
# DrJ 2/2021
import PIL, os
import sys
from PIL import Image
# somewhat inspired by http://www.riisen.dk/dop/pil.html
# arguments:
# <width> <height> file
# with and height should be provided as values in pixels
# image file should be provided as argument.
# A pidisplay is 800x480

displaywidth = int(sys.argv[1])
displayheight = int(sys.argv[2])
smallscreen = 801
imageFile = sys.argv[3]
im1 = Image.open(imageFile)
narrowmax = .76
blowupfactor = 1.1
# take less from the top than the bottom
topshare = .3
bottomshare = 1.0 - topshare
# for DrJ debugging
DEBUG = True
if DEBUG:
  print("display width and height: ",displaywidth,displayheight)

def imgResize(im):
    width = im.size[0]
    height = im.size[1]
    if DEBUG:
      print("image width and height: ",width,height)

# If the aspect ratio is wider than the display screen's aspect ratio,
# constrain the width to the display's full width
    if width/float(height) > float(displaywidth)/float(displayheight):
      if DEBUG:
        print("In section width contrained to full width code section")

      widthn = displaywidth
      heightn = int(height*float(displaywidth)/width)
      im5 = im.resize((widthn, heightn), Image.ANTIALIAS) # best down-sizing filter
    else:
      heightn = displayheight
      widthn  = int(width*float(displayheight)/height)

      if width/float(height) < narrowmax and displaywidth < smallscreen:
# if width is narrow we're losing too much by using the whole picture.
# Blow it up by blowupfactor% if display is small, and crop most of it from the bottom
        heightn = int(displayheight*blowupfactor)
        widthn  = int(width*float(heightn)/height)
        im4 = im.resize((widthn, heightn), Image.ANTIALIAS) # best down-sizing filter
        top = int(displayheight*(blowupfactor - 1)*topshare)
        bottom = int(heightn - displayheight*(blowupfactor - 1)*bottomshare)
        if DEBUG:
          print("heightn,top,widthn,bottom: ",heightn,top,widthn,bottom)

        im5 = im4.crop((0,top,widthn,bottom))
      else:
        im5 = im.resize((widthn, heightn), Image.ANTIALIAS) # best down-sizing filter

    im5.save("resize_" + imageFile)

imgResize(im1)

analyzeDate.pl

                    

#!/usr/bin/perl
# 20180818_201647.jpg
use POSIX;
$DEBUG = 1;
$HOME = "/home/pi";
$random = "$HOME/random.list";
$rean   = "$HOME/rean.list";
#$file = "Picturestmp/20180422_134220.jpg";
while(<>){
$GPS = $date = 0;
$gpsinfo = "";
$file = $_;
#open(ANAL,"$HOME/getinfo.py \"$file\"|") || die "Cannot open file: $file!!\n";
open(ANAL,"cat \"$file\"|") || die "Cannot open file: $file!!\n";
print STDERR "filename: $file\n" if $DEBUG;
while(){
  $town = "";
  if (/DateTimeOriginal/i && $date++ < 1) {
# DateTimeOriginal = 2018:08:18 20:16:47
#or...  DateTimeDigitized = 2016/03/07 00:57:49
    print STDERR "DATE: $_" if $DEBUG;
    ($yr,$mon,$date,$hr,$min) = /(\d{4}):(\d\d):(\d\d) (\d\d):(\d\d)/;
    print STDERR "$yr,$mon,$date,$hr,$min\n" if $DEBUG;
# my custom format: Saturday, August 18, 2018  8:16 pm
    $dateinfo =  strftime("%A, %B %d, %Y %l:%M %p", 0, $min, $hr, $date , $mon - 1, $yr - 1900, -1, -1, -1);
  }
}
# folder info from random.list
$match = `cat $random $rean|grep "$file"`;
($folder) = $match =~ /(.+)\/[^\/]+/;
print STDERR "matched line, folder: $match, $folder\n" if $DEBUG;

# if no date, use filesystem date
if ( ! $dateinfo ) {
  $jpegfile = "../Picturestmp/$file";
  $mtime = (stat($jpegfile))[9];
  $handtst = `ls -l "$jpegfile"`;
  @ltime = localtime $mtime;
  $dateinfo =  strftime("(guess) %A, %B %d, %Y %l:%M %p",@ltime);
  print STDERR "No date info. Use filesystem date. mtime is $mtime. dateinfo: $dateinfo\n";
  print STDERR "Hand test of file age: $handtst\n";
}

$dateinfo = $dateinfo || "No date found";
$gpsinfo = $gpsinfo || "No info found";

print qq(File: $file
Folder: $folder
Date: $dateinfo
);
}

analyzeGPS.pl

                    

#!/usr/bin/perl
# use in combination with this post https://drjohnstechtalk.com/blog/2020/12/convert-gps-coordinates-into-town-name/
use POSIX;
$DEBUG = 1;
$HOME = "/home/pi";
#$file = "Pictures/20180422_134220.jpg";
while(<>){
$GPS = $date = 0;
$gpsinfo = "";
$file = $_;
#open(ANAL,"$HOME/getinfo.py \"$file\"|") || die "Cannot open file: $file!!\n";
open(ANAL,"cat \"$file\"|") || die "Cannot open file: $file!!\n";
print STDERR "filename: $file\n" if $DEBUG;
while(<ANAL>){
  $postalcode = $town = $name = "";
  if (/GPS/i) {
    print STDERR "GPS: $_" if $DEBUG;
# GPSInfo = {1: 'N', 2: (39.0, 21.0, 22.5226), 3: 'W', 4: (74.0, 25.0, 40.0267), 5: 1.7, 6: 0.0, 7: (23.0, 4.0, 14.0), 29: '2016:07:22'}
   ($pole,$deg,$min,$sec,$hemi,$lngdeg,$lngmin,$lngsec) = /1: '([NS])', 2: \(([\d\.]+), ([\d\.]+), ([\d\.]+)...3: '([EW])', 4: \(([\d\.]+), ([\d\.]+), ([\d\.]+)\)/i;
   print STDERR "$pole,$deg,$min,$sec,$hemi,$lngdeg,$lngmin,$lngsec\n" if $DEBUG;
   $lat = $deg + $min/60.0 + $sec/3600.0;
   $lat = -$lat if $pole eq "S";
   $lng = $lngdeg + $lngmin/60.0 + $lngsec/3600.0;
   $lng = -$lng if $hemi = "W" || $hemi eq "w";
   print STDERR "lat,lng: $lat, $lng\n" if $DEBUG;
   #$placename = `curl -s "$url"|grep -i toponym`;
   next if $lat == 0 && $lng == 0;
# the address API is the most precise
   $url = "http://api.geonames.org/address?lat=$lat\&lng=$lng\&username=drjohns";
   print STDERR "Url: $url\n" if $DEBUG;
   $results = `curl -s "$url"|egrep -i 'street|house|locality|postal|adminName'`;
   print STDERR "results: $results\n" if $DEBUG;
   ($street) = $results =~ /street>(.+)</;
   ($houseNumber) = $results =~ /houseNumber>(.+)</;
   ($postalcode) = $results =~ /postalcode>(.+)</;
   ($state) = $results =~ /adminName1>(.+)</;
   ($town) = $results =~ /locality>(.+)</;
   print STDERR "street, houseNumber, postalcode, state, town: $street, $houseNumber, $postalcode, $state, $town\n" if $DEBUG;
# I think locality is pretty good name. If it exists, don't go  further
   $postalcode = "" if $town;
   if (!$postalcode && !$town){
# we are here if we didn't get interesting results from address reverse loookup, which often happens.
     $url = "http://api.geonames.org/extendedFindNearby?lat=$lat\&lng=$lng\&username=drjohns";
     print STDERR "Address didn't work out. Trying extendedFindNearby instead. Url: $url\n" if $DEBUG;
     $results = `curl -s "$url"|egrep -i 'street|house|locality|postal|adminName|name'`;
     ($street) = $results =~ /street>(.+)</;
     ($houseNumber) = $results =~ /streetNumber>(.+)</;
     ($postalcode) = $results =~ /postalcode>(.+)</;
     ($state) = $results =~ /adminName1>(.+)</;
     ($admn2) = $results =~ /adminName2>(.+)</;
     ($name) = $results =~ /<name>(.+)</;
     print STDERR "street, houseNumber, postalcode, state, admn2, name: $street, $houseNumber, $postalcode, $state, $admn2, $name\n" if $DEBUG;
     $state .= " (approximate)";
   }
# turn zipcode into town name with this call
   if ($postalcode) {
     print STDERR "postalcode $postalcode exists, let's convert to a town name\n";
     print STDERR "url: $url\n";
     $url = "http://api.geonames.org/postalCodeSearch?country=US\&postalcode=$postalcode\&username=drjohns";
     $results = `curl -s "$url"|egrep -i 'name|locality|adminName'`;
     ($town) = $results =~ /<name>(.+)</i;
     print STDERR "results,town: $results,$town\n";
   }
   if (!$town) {
# no town name, use adminname2 which is who knows what in general
     print STDERR "Stil no town name. Use adminName2 as next best thing\n";
     $town = $admn2;
   }
   if (!$town) {
# we could be in the ocean! I saw that once, and name was North Atlantic Ocean
     print STDERR "Still no town. Try to use name: $name as last resort\n";
     $town = $name;
   }
   $gpsinfo = "$houseNumber $street $town, $state" if $locality || $town;
   } # end of GPS info exists condition
  } # end loop over ANAL file
  $gpsinfo = $gpsinfo || "No info found";
  print qq(Location: $gpsinfo
);
} # end loop over STDIN

m3.pl

                    

#!/usr/bin/perl
# show the pics ; rotate the screen as needed
# for now, assume the display is in a neutral
# orientation at the start
use Time::HiRes qw(usleep);
$DEBUG = 1;
$delay = 6; # seconds between pics
###$delay = 4; # for testing
$mdelay = 200; # milliseconds
$mshow = "$ENV{HOME}/mediashow";
$pNames = "$ENV{HOME}/pNames";
# pics are here
$picsDir = "$ENV{HOME}/Pictures";

chdir($picsDir);
$cn = `ls -1|wc -l`;
chomp($cn);
print "$cn files\n" if $DEBUG;
# throw up a first picture - all black. Trick to make black bckgrd permanent
system("sudo fbi -a --noverbose -T 1 $ENV{HOME}/black.jpg");
system("sudo fbi -a --noverbose -T 1 $ENV{HOME}/black.jpg");
sleep(1);
system("sleep 2; sudo killall fbi");
# start infinitely looping fbi slideshow
for (;;) {
# then start slide show
# shell echo cannot work with null character so we need to use a file to store it
    system("sudo xargs -a $mshow -0 fbi --noverbose -1 -T 1  -t $delay ");
    ###system("sudo xargs -a $mshow -0 fbi -a -1 -T 1  -t $delay "); # for testing
# fbi runs in background, then exits, so we need to monitor if it's still alive
    for(;;) {
      open(MON,"ps -ef|grep fbi|grep -v grep|") || die "Cannot launch ps -ef!!\n";
      $match = <MON>;
      if ($match) {
        print "got fbi match\n" if $DEBUG > 1;
        } else {
        print "no fbi match\n" if $DEBUG;
# fbi not found
          last;
      }
      close(MON);
      print "usleeping, noexist is $noexit\n" if $DEBUG > 1;
      usleep($mdelay);
    } # end loop testing if fbi has exited
} # close of infinite loop

Optional script

mshowtmp.pl

                    

#!/usr/bin/perl
# add txt_ to beginning of filename
$DEBUG = 1;
$HOME = "/home/pi";
$mshow = "$HOME/mediashow";
$mshow2 = "$HOME/mediashowtmp2";
$ms = `cat $mshow`;
@pics = split('\0',$ms);
foreach $file (@pics) {
  print "file is $file\n" if $DEBUG;
# This \Q \E stuff is to work with filenames which contains characters like ( )
  $ms =~ s/(\Q$file\E\0)/txt_\1/;
}
# print out new mediashow pics in order
print "Printing new mediashow: $ms\n" if $DEBUG;
open(MS,">$mshow2") || die "Cannot open mediashow $mshow2!!\n";
print MS $ms;
close(MS);

crontab entries

                    
@reboot sleep 20; ./m3.pl >> m3.log 2>&1
26 5 * * * ./master3.sh >> master.log 2>&1

And... that's it!

Reminder

Don't forget to make all these files executable. Something like:

$ chmod +x *.pl *.py *.sh

should do it.

My equipment

RPi 3 running Raspbian Lite

Pi Display (probably would also work with an HDMI display)

Pre-install

There are a few things you'll need such as fbi, python3, pip, python Pillow and rclone. That's basically described in my previous post so I won't repeat it here.

Getting started

To see how badly things are going for you (hey, I like to be cautiously pessimistic) after you've created all these files and have installed rclone, do a

$ ./master3.sh

If you have your rclone file listing (which takes a long time) and want to focusing on debugging the rest of it, do a

$ ./master3.sh skip

Discussion

In this version of Raspberry Pi photo frame I've made more effort to force time separation between the randomly selected photos. But, that's not all. I blow up pictures taken in a narrow (portrait) mode (see next paragraph). And I do some fancy analysis to determine filename, folder, date, time and even location of the pictures. And there's more. I create an alternate version of each photo which embeds this info at the bottom - in anticipation of my even more fancy remote-controlled slideshow! I am afraid to overwrite what I have previously posted because that by itself is a complete solution and works quite well on its own. So this can be considered worthy of folks looking for a little more challenge to get better results.

The fancyresize.py script is designed around my small PiDisplay which has a horizontal resolution of only 800 pixels. It blows up a narrow, portrait-format picture only if the detected display has a horizontal resolution of no more than 800 pixels. It blows the picture up by 10%, chops off 3% from the top, 7% from the bottom, because that yields optimal results in my experience. If you like that approach but are using a larger HDMI display, you could edit the "801" in that file to make it a larger number (bigger than your display, like 5000).

Show pictures with embedded info

This process is not streamlined. But it can be cool to do it by hand. You could follow these steps.

$ ./mshowtmp.pl; mv mediashowtmp2 mediashow

If you wait the whole cycle the next time around it should display the pictures with the embedded info at the bottom. If you're impatient, do this:

$ sudo pkill -9 fbi; sudo pkill -9 m3.pl

$ nohup ./m3.pl > m3.log 2>&1 &

RPi lost Wifi

This could be a whole separate post. In the course of my hard work my RPi just would not acquire an IP address on wlan0.

Here's a great command to see all the SSIDs it knows about:

$ sudo iwlist wlan0 scan > scan.log

Then you can inspect scan.log in an editor. Turns out the one SSID it needed wasn't in the list. Turns out I had reserved a DHCP entry for it in my router. My router was simply not cooperating, it seems - the RPi wasn't doing anything wrong. I was almost ready to re-install the whole thing and waste hours... My router is an older model Linksys WRT1200AC. I removed the DHCP reservation on the router, then did a

$ sudo service networking stop; sudo service networking start

on the RPi, and...all was good! Its assigned IP won't change that often, I can always check the router to see what it is. The management software with the Linksys is quite good.

Conclusion

A more advanced treatment of photos is shown in this post than I have done previously. It is fairly robust and will withstand quite a few user errors in my experience. The end result will be an interesting display of your photos, randomly selected but in small groupings.

References and related

The tar file which contains everything: https://drjohnstechtalk.com/blog/downloads/photoFrameII.tar

Please see this popular post Raspberry Pi photo frame using your pictures on your Google Drive for more details.

m3.pl refers to a black.jpg file. It's not a disaster to not have that, but under some circumstances it may help.

There it is!

Categories
Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi advanced photo frame

Intro

I am assembling a lot of different ideas I have to do some more cool things than was possible with my original Raspberry Pi photo frame effort although that contained a lot of original ideas as well.

Skillset

Intermediate or better linux skills required. Beginners/newbies: please do not attempt as you will encounter insurmountable problems and be left in a trail of tears. I don’t have time to help.

I will be using this remote control which I can attest is indeed compatioble with the RPi:

The inexpensive Rii remote controller with keyboard works with your Raspberry Pi

But it has no CTRL key! I can’t survive without that. It seems aimed at media consumers. I guess those types never need that key. At this point in time my idea is to use the arrow keys + Enter button as a familiar way to navigate around a simple menu I plan to create, plus perhaps the menu key. the pre-defined keys fbi has created for navigation are simply not intuitive, nor are they adequate for the tasks I have in mind.

Rii keyValue
up arrow103
down arrow108
right arrow106
left arrow105
Menu127
OK28
Some interesting keys and their values when monitored

In my basic photo frame approach I had a simpler rotate image python script. This python program below rotates pictures by the specified amount and preserves the EXIF tags. It doesn’t update the orientation tag after rotating because for the fbi display program I use that doesn’t matter. I call it rotate.py.

                    
#!/usr/bin/python3
# call with two arguments: degrees-to-rotate and filename
import PIL, os
import sys
from PIL import Image
# first do: pip3 install piexif
import piexif

degrees = int(sys.argv[1])
pic = sys.argv[2]

picture= Image.open(pic)
# see https://github.com/hMatoba/Piexif for piexif writeup
exif_dict = piexif.load(picture.info[“exif”])
exif_bytes = piexif.dump(exif_dict)
# both rotate and preserve EXIF data
picture.rotate(degrees,expand=True).save(“rot_” + pic,”jpeg”, exif=exif_bytes)

As it says in the code you need to install piexif in addition to Pillow:

$ sudo pip3 install Pillow && sudo pip3 install piexif

Example call

$ ./rotate.py 90 20160514_131528.jpg

Difficult problem

I set for myself a problem that is much more difficult than anything I’ve tackled. I wanted to post a preliminary solution, but I don’t want to do constant re-writes which are time-consuming. I have a lot of code re-writes to do. I do have a menu system working, and a couple functions implemented to date. But there is so much more to do to even get to an alpha version.

To be continued…

Pie-in-the-sky To-Do list

  • Use of deep learning AI to toss out images which are poor quality
  • Use Facebook API to identify people in the images
  • Commercialization of idea
  • Smarthome enablement, e.g., hey Alexa, pause that picture and tell me about it, etc

Breaking those pie-in-the-sky ideas down, I believe the RPi is way vastly underpowered to do any serious image analysis; Facebook facial recognition is creepy and an invasion of privacy; commercialization sounds great on paper but in reality is a time sink doing unpleasant things for little or no profit in the end; and lastly Smarthome enablement is actually the most achievable and was my original thinking before I landed on the remote control. I may or may not get back to it one day.

References and related

A more basic approach to creating a Raspberry Pi – based photo frame is described here.

The Rii remote control I am using only cost $12! https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01CL3ZXGO/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

A great tutorial on the Pillow python package which I use for image processing: https://auth0.com/blog/image-processing-in-python-with-pillow/

The full documentation fills it out even more: https://pillow.readthedocs.io/en/stable/

The official Exif documentation is here: http://www.cipa.jp/std/documents/e/DC-008-2012_E.pdf . For instance, page 42 says UserComments get the Tag ID 37510.

Categories
Linux Raspberry Pi

How to create a software keyboard

Intro

This example will probably get used in my advanced Raspberry Pi photo frame treatment. I use image display software, fbi, which is designed to take key presses in order to take certain actions, such as, advance to the next picture, display information about the current picture, etc. qiv works similarly. But I am running an automated picture display, so no one is around to type into the keyboard. hence the need for software emulation of the physical keyboard. I’ve always believed it must be possible, but never knew how until this week.

I am not a python programmer, but sometimes you gotta use whatever language makes the job easier, and I only know how to do this in python, python3 specifically.

This will probably only make sense for Raspberry Pi owners.

Setup

I believe this will work best if your Raspberry Pi has only a keyboard and not a mouse hooked up because in that case your keyboard ought to be mapped to /dev/input/event0. But it’s easy enough to change that. To see whether your keyboard is /dev/input/event0 or /dev/input/event1 or some other, just cat one of those files and start typing. You should see some junk when you’ve selected the right /dev/input file.

The program

I call it keyinject.py.

                    
#!/usr/bin/python3
# inject a single key, acting like a software keyboard
# DrJ 12/20
import sys
from evdev import UInput, InputDevice, ecodes as e
from time import sleep
# set DEBUG = True to print out more information
DEBUG = False
sleepTime = 0.001 # units are secs
# dict of name mappings. key is how we like to enter it, value is what is after KEY_ in evdev ecodes
d = {
‘1’ : ‘1’,
‘2’ : ‘2’,
‘3’ : ‘3’,
‘4’ : ‘4’,
‘5’ : ‘5’,
‘6’ : ‘6’,
‘7’ : ‘7’,
‘8’ : ‘8’,
‘8’ : ‘8’,
‘9’ : ‘9’,
‘0’ : ‘0’,
‘a’ : ‘A’,
‘b’ : ‘B’,
‘c’ : ‘C’,
‘d’ : ‘D’,
‘e’ : ‘E’,
‘f’ : ‘F’,
‘g’ : ‘G’,
‘h’ : ‘H’,
‘i’ : ‘I’,
‘j’ : ‘J’,
‘k’ : ‘K’,
‘l’ : ‘L’,
‘m’ : ‘M’,
‘n’ : ‘N’,
‘o’ : ‘O’,
‘p’ : ‘P’,
‘q’ : ‘Q’,
‘r’ : ‘R’,
‘s’ : ‘S’,
‘t’ : ‘T’,
‘u’ : ‘U’,
‘v’ : ‘V’,
‘w’ : ‘W’,
‘x’ : ‘X’,
‘y’ : ‘Y’,
‘z’ : ‘Z’,
‘.’ : ‘DOT’,
‘,’ : ‘COMMA’,
‘/’ : ‘SLASH’,
‘E’: ‘ENTER’,
‘S’: ‘RIGHTSHIFT’,
‘C’: ‘LEFTCTRL’
}

# https://python-evdev.readthedocs.io/en/latest/tutorial.html
inputchars = sys.argv
ltrs = inputchars[1]
# get rid of program name

keybd = InputDevice(“/dev/input/event0”)

for ltr in ltrs:
ui = UInput.from_device(keybd, name=”keyboard-device”)
if DEBUG: print(ltr)
mappedkey = d[ltr]
key = “KEY_” + mappedkey
if DEBUG: print(key)
if DEBUG: print(e.ecodes[key])

ui.write(e.EV_KEY, e.ecodes[key], 1) # KEY_ down
ui.write(e.EV_KEY, e.ecodes[key], 0) # KEY_ up
ui.syn()
sleep(sleepTime)
ui.close()

And it gets called like this:

$ sudo ./keyinject.py my.injected.letters

or

$ sudo ./keyinject.py ./m2.plE

to run the m2.pl script in the current directory and have it behave as though it were launched from a console terminal. The “E” is the ENTER key.

Interesting observations

There really is no such thing as a separate “k” key and “K” key (lower-case versus upper-case). There is only a single key labelled “K” on a keyboard. It’s a physical layer versus logical layer type of thing. The k and K are characters.

In the above program I did some of the keys – the ones I will be needing, plus a few bonus ones. I do need the ENTER key, and I can’t think of a way to convey that to this program, so to send ENTER you would do

$ sudo ./keyinject.py ENTER

But I was able to have these characters represent themselves: . , / so that’s not bad.

Prerequisites

You will need pyhon3 version > 3.5, I think. And the evdev package. I believe you get that with

$ sudo pip3 install evdev

And if you don’t have pip3 you can install that with

$ sudo apt-get update python3-pip

Reading keyboard input

Of course the opposite of simulating key presses is reading what’s been typed from an actual keyboard. That’s possible too with this handy evdev package. The following program is not as polished as the writing program, but it gives you the feel for what to do. I call it evread.py.

                    
#!/usr/bin/python3
# https://python-evdev.readthedocs.io/en/latest/tutorial.html
import asyncio
from evdev import InputDevice, categorize, ecodes

dev = InputDevice(‘/dev/input/event0’)
# following line is optional – it takes away the keybd from fbi!
# there is also a dev.ungrab()
dev.grab()

async def helper(dev):
async for ev in dev.async_read_loop():
print(repr(ev))

loop = asyncio.get_event_loop()
loop.run_until_complete(helper(dev))

Note the presence of the dev.grab(). That permits your program to be the exclusive reader of keyboard input, shutting out fbi. It can be commented out if you want to share.

Conclusion

We have created an example program, mostly for Raspberry Pi, though easily adapted to other linux environments, that injects keyboard presses, via a python3 program, as though those keys had been typed by someone using the physical keyboard such that, graphics programs which rely on this, such as fbi or qiv (and probably others – vlc?), can be controlled through software.

We have also provided a basic python program for reading key presses from the actual keyboard. I plan to use these things for my advanced RPi photo frame project.

References and related

The python evdev tutorial is really helpful: https://python-evdev.readthedocs.iogeoh/en/latest/tutorial.html

Raspberry Pi advanced photo frame article does not exist yet. The basic RPi photo frame article is here.

Another piece to the puzzle is turning GPS coordinates into a town name. That brief write-up is here.

Categories
Linux Perl Raspberry Pi Web Site Technologies

Convert GPS Coordinates into town name or address

Intro

This is a small piece of a larger project – displaying your photos on Google Drive using a Raspberry Pi. That project will require completion of many small investigations, this being just one of them.

I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to ask your photo frame when and where a certain picture was taken? I thought that information was typically embedded into the picture by modern smartphones. Turns out this is disappointingly not the case – at least not on our smartphones, except in a small minority of pictures. But since I got somewhere with my investigation, I wanted to share the results, regardless.

Also, I naively assumed that there surely is a web service that permits one to easily convert GPS coordinates into the name – in text – of the closest town. After all, you can enter GPS coordinates into Google Maps and get back a map showing the exact location. Why shouldn’t it be just as easy to extract the nearest town name as text? Again, this assumption turns out to be faulty. But, I found a way to do it that is not toooo difficult.

Example for Cape May, New Jersey

$ curl -s http://api.geonames.org/address?lat=38.9302957777778&lng=-74.9183310833333&username=drjohns

<geonames>
<address>
<street>Beach Dr</street>
<houseNumber>690</houseNumber>
<locality>Cape May</locality>
<postalcode>08204</postalcode>
<lng>-74.91835</lng>
<lat>38.93054</lat>
<adminCode1>NJ</adminCode1>
<adminName1>New Jersey</adminName1>
<adminCode2>009</adminCode2>
<adminName2>Cape May</adminName2>
<adminCode3/>
<adminCode4/>
<countryCode>US</countryCode>
<distance>0.03</distance>
</address>
</geonames>

The above example used the address service. The results in this case are unusually complete. Sometime the lookups simply fail for no obvious reason, or provide incomplete information, such as a missing locality. In those cases the town name is usually still reported in the adminName2 element. I haven’t checked the address accuracy much, but it seems pretty accurate, like, representing an actual address within 100 yards, usually better, of where the picture was taken.

They have another service, findNearbyPlaceName, which sometimes works even when address fails. However its results are also unpredictable. I was in Merrillville, Indiana and it gave the toponym as Chapel Manor, which is the name of the subdivision! In Virginia it gave the name The Hamlet – still not sure where that came from, but I trust it is some hyper-local name for a section of the town (James City). Just as often it does spit back the town or city name, for instance, Atlantic City. So, it’s better than nothing.

The example for Nantucket

From a browser – here I use curl in the linux command line – you enter:

$ curl -s http://api.geonames.org/findNearbyPlaceName?lat=41.282778&lng=-70.099444&username=drjohns

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="no"?>
<geonames>
<geoname>
<toponymName>Nantucket</toponymName>
<name>Nantucket</name>
<lat>41.28346</lat>
<lng>-70.09946</lng>
<geonameId>4944903</geonameId>
<countryCode>US</countryCode>
<countryName>United States</countryName>
<fcl>P</fcl>
<fcode>PPLA2</fcode>
<distance>0.07534</distance>
</geoname>
</geonames>

So what did we do? For this example I looked up Nantucket in Wikipedia to find its GPS coordinates. Then I used the geonames api to convert those coordinates into the town name, Nantucket.

Note that drjohns is an actual registered username with geonames. I am counting on the unpopularity of my posts to prevent an onslaught of usage as the usage credits are limited for free accounts. If I understood the terms, a few lookups per hour would not be an issue.

I’m finding the PlaceName lookup pretty useless, the address lookup fails about 30% of the time, so I’m thinking as a backstop to use this sort of lookup:

$ curl ‘http://api.geonames.org/extendedFindNearby?lat=41.00050&lng=-74.65329&username=drjohn’

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″ standalone=”no”?>
<geonames>
<address>
<street>Stanhope Rd</street>
<mtfcc>S1400</mtfcc>
<streetNumber>439</streetNumber>
<lat>41.00072</lat>
<lng>-74.6554</lng>
<distance>0.18</distance>
<postalcode>07871</postalcode>
<placename>Lake Mohawk</placename>
<adminCode2>037</adminCode2>
<adminName2>Sussex</adminName2>
<adminCode1>NJ</adminCode1>
<adminName1>New Jersey</adminName1>
<countryCode>US</countryCode>
</address>
</geonames>

Note that gets a reasonably close address, and more importantly, a zipcode. The placename is too local and I will probably discard it. But another lookup can turn a zipcode into a town or city name which is what I am after.

$ curl ‘http://api.geonames.org/postalCodeSearch?country=US&postalcode=07871&username=drjohns’

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″ standalone=”no”?>
<geonames>
<totalResultsCount>1</totalResultsCount>
<code>
<postalcode>07871</postalcode>
<name>Sparta</name>
<countryCode>US</countryCode>
<lat>41.0277</lat>
<lng>-74.6407</lng>
<adminCode1 ISO3166-2=”NJ”>NJ</adminCode1>
<adminName1>New Jersey</adminName1>
<adminCode2>037</adminCode2>
<adminName2>Sussex</adminName2>
<adminCode3/>
<adminName3/>
</code>
</geonames>

See? It was a lot of work, but we finally got the township name, Sparta, returned to us.

Ocean GPS?

I was whale-watching and took some pictures with GPS info. Trying to apply the methods above worked, but just barely. Basically all I could get out of the extended find nearby search was a name field with value North Atlantic Ocean! Well, that makes it sounds like I was on some Titanic-style ocean crossing. In fact I was in the Gulf of Maine a few miles from Provincetown. So they really could have done a better job there… Of course it’s understandable to not have a postalcode and street address and such. But still, bodies of waters have names and geographical boundaries as well. Casinos seem to be the main sponsors of geonames.org, and I guess they don’t care. Yesterday my script came up with a location Earth! But now I see geonames proposed several locations and I only look at the first one. I am creating a refinement which will perform better in such cases. Stay tuned…

To get your own account at geonames.org

The process of getting your own account isn’t too difficult, just a bit squirrelly. For the record, here is what you do.

Go to http://www.geonames.org/login to create your account. It sends an email confirmation. Oh. Be sure to use a unique browser-generated password for this one. The security level is off-the-charts awful – just assume that any and all hackers who want that password are going to get it. It sends you a confirmation email. so far so good. But when you then try to use it in an api call it will tell you that that username isn’t known. This is the tricky part.

So go to https://www.geonames.org/manageaccount . It will say:

Free Web Services
the account is not yet enabled to use the free web services. Click here to enable. 

And that link, in turn is https://www.geonames.org/enablefreewebservice . And having enabled your account for the api web service, the URL, where you’ve put your username in place of drjohns, ought to work!

For a complete overview of all the different things you can find out from the GPS coordinates from geonames, look at this link: https://www.geonames.org/export/ws-overview.html

Working with pictures

Please look at this post for the python code to extract the metadata from an image, including, if available GPS info. I called the python program getinfo.py.

Here’s an actual example of running it to learn the GPS info:

$ ../getinfo.py 20170520_102248.jpg|grep -ai gps

GPSInfo = {0: b'\x02\x02\x00\x00', 1: 'N', 2: (42.0, 2.0, 18.6838), 3: 'W', 4: (70.0, 4.0, 27.5448), 5: b'\x00', 6: 0.0, 7: (14.0, 22.0, 25.0), 29: '2017:05:20'}

I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but the GPS coordinates seem to be encoded in the degrees, minutes, seconds format.

A nice little program to put things together

I call it analyzeGPS.pl and a, using it on a Raspberry Pi, but could easily be adapted to any linux system.

                    

#!/usr/bin/perl
# use in combination with this post https://drjohnstechtalk.com/blog/2020/12/convert-gps-coordinates-into-town-name/
use POSIX;
$DEBUG = 1;
$HOME = "/home/pi";
#$file = "Pictures/20180422_134220.jpg";
$GPS = $date = 0;
$gpsinfo = "";
#$file = $_;
$file = $ARGV[0];
open(ANAL,"$HOME/getinfo.py \"$file\"|") || die "Cannot open file: $file!!\n";
#open(ANAL,"cat \"$file\"|") || die "Cannot open file: $file!!\n";
print STDERR "filename: $file\n" if $DEBUG;
while(<ANAL>){
  $postalcode = $town = $name = "";
  if (/GPS/i) {
    print STDERR "GPS: $_" if $DEBUG;
# GPSInfo = {1: 'N', 2: (39.0, 21.0, 22.5226), 3: 'W', 4: (74.0, 25.0, 40.0267), 5: 1.7, 6: 0.0, 7: (23.0, 4.0, 14.0), 29: '2016:07:22'}
   ($pole,$deg,$min,$sec,$hemi,$lngdeg,$lngmin,$lngsec) = /1: '([NS])', 2: \(([\d\.]+), ([\d\.]+), ([\d\.]+)...3: '([EW])', 4: \(([\d\.]+), ([\d\.]+), ([\d\.]+)\)/i;
   print STDERR "$pole,$deg,$min,$sec,$hemi,$lngdeg,$lngmin,$lngsec\n" if $DEBUG;
   $lat = $deg + $min/60.0 + $sec/3600.0;
   $lat = -$lat if $pole eq "S";
   $lng = $lngdeg + $lngmin/60.0 + $lngsec/3600.0;
   $lng = -$lng if $hemi = "W" || $hemi eq "w";
   print STDERR "lat,lng: $lat, $lng\n" if $DEBUG;
   #$placename = `curl -s "$url"|grep -i toponym`;
   next if $lat == 0 && $lng == 0;
# the address API is the most precise
   $url = "http://api.geonames.org/address?lat=$lat\&lng=$lng\&username=drjohns";
   print STDERR "Url: $url\n" if $DEBUG;
   $results = `curl -s "$url"|egrep -i 'street|house|locality|postal|adminName'`;
   print STDERR "results: $results\n" if $DEBUG;
   ($street) = $results =~ /street>(.+)</;
   ($houseNumber) = $results =~ /houseNumber>(.+)</;
   ($postalcode) = $results =~ /postalcode>(.+)</;
   ($state) = $results =~ /adminName1>(.+)</;
   ($town) = $results =~ /locality>(.+)</;
   print STDERR "street, houseNumber, postalcode, state, town: $street, $houseNumber, $postalcode, $state, $town\n" if $DEBUG;
# I think locality is pretty good name. If it exists, don't go  further
   $postalcode = "" if $town;
   if (!$postalcode && !$town){
# we are here if we didn't get interesting results from address reverse loookup, which often happens.
     $url = "http://api.geonames.org/extendedFindNearby?lat=$lat\&lng=$lng\&username=drjohns";
     print STDERR "Address didn't work out. Trying extendedFindNearby instead. Url: $url\n" if $DEBUG;
     $results = `curl -s "$url"|egrep -i 'street|house|locality|postal|adminName|name'`;
     ($street) = $results =~ /street>(.+)</;
     ($houseNumber) = $results =~ /streetNumber>(.+)</;
     ($postalcode) = $results =~ /postalcode>(.+)</;
     ($state) = $results =~ /adminName1>(.+)</;
     ($admn2) = $results =~ /adminName2>(.+)</;
     ($name) = $results =~ /<name>(.+)</;
     print STDERR "street, houseNumber, postalcode, state, admn2, name: $street, $houseNumber, $postalcode, $state, $admn2, $name\n" if $DEBUG;
     $state .= " (approximate)";
   }
# turn zipcode into town name with this call
   if ($postalcode) {
     print STDERR "postalcode $postalcode exists, let's convert to a town name\n";
     print STDERR "url: $url\n";
     $url = "http://api.geonames.org/postalCodeSearch?country=US\&postalcode=$postalcode\&username=drjohns";
     $results = `curl -s "$url"|egrep -i 'name|locality|adminName'`;
     ($town) = $results =~ /<name>(.+)</i;
     print STDERR "results,town: $results,$town\n";
   }
   if (!$town) {
# no town name, use adminname2 which is who knows what in general
     print STDERR "Stil no town name. Use adminName2 as next best thing\n";
     $town = $admn2;
   }
   if (!$town) {
# we could be in the ocean! I saw that once, and name was North Atlantic Ocean
     print STDERR "Still no town. Try to use name: $name as last resort\n";
     $town = $name;
   }
   $gpsinfo = "$houseNumber $street $town, $state" if $locality || $town;
   } # end of GPS info exists condition
  } # end loop over ANAL file
  $gpsinfo = $gpsinfo || "No info found";
  print qq(Location:    $gpsinfo
);

Here’s a real example of calling it.

$ ./analyzeGPS.pl 20161029_163028.jpg

filename: 20161029_163028.jpg
GPS: GPSInfo = {1: ‘N’, 2: (41.0, 28.0, 40.9137), 3: ‘W’, 4: (71.0, 18.0, 55.1041), 5: 1.7, 6: 0.0, 7: (20.0, 30.0, 26.0), 29: ‘2016:10:29’}
N,41.0,28.0,40.9137,W,71.0,18.0,55.1041
lat,lng: 41.4780315833333, -71.3153066944444
Url: http://api.geonames.org/address?lat=41.4780315833333&lng=-71.3153066944444&username=drjohns
results: <street>Harrington St</street>
<houseNumber>68</houseNumber>
<locality>Newport</locality>
<postalcode>02840</postalcode>
<adminName1>Rhode Island</adminName1>
<adminName2>Newport</adminName2>

street, houseNumber, postalcode, state, town: Harrington St, 68, 02840, Rhode Island, Newport
Location: 68 Harrington St Newport, Rhode Island

Or, if you just want the good stuff,

$ ./analyzeGPS.pl 20161029_163028.jpg 2>/dev/null

Location: 68 Harrington St Newport, Rhode Island

Conclusion

An api for reverse lookup of GPS coordinates which returns the nearest address, including town name, is available. I have provided examples of how to use it. It is unreliable, however, and geonames does provide alternatives which have their own drawbacks. In my image gallery, only a minority of my pictures have encoded GPS data, but it is fun to work with them to pluck out the town where they were shot.

I plan to incorporate this functionality into a Raspberry Pi-based photo frame I am working on.

I have created an example Perl program that analyzes a JPEG image to extract the GPS information and turn it into an address that is remarkably accurate. It is amazing and uncanny to see it at work.

References and related

There are lots of different things you can derive given the GPS coordinates using the Geonames api. Here is a list: https://www.geonames.org/export/ws-overview.html

In this photo frame version of mine, I extract all the EXIF metadata which includes the GPS info.

One day my advanced photo frame will hopefully include an option to learn where a photo was taken by interacting with a remote control. Here is the start of that write-up.

You can pay $5 and get a zip codes to cities database in any format. I’m sure they’ve just re-packaged data from elsewhere, but it might be worth it: https://www.uszipcodeslist.com/

For a more professional api, https://smartystreets.com/ looks quite nice. Free level is 250 queries per month, so not too many. But their documentation and usability looks good to me. For this post I was looking for free services and have tried to avoid commercial services.

Categories
Perl Python Raspberry Pi Web Site Technologies

Raspberry Pi photo frame using your pictures on your Google Drive

Editor’s Note

Please note I am putting all my currently active development and latest updates into this newer post: Raspberry Pi photo frame using your pictures on your Google Drive II

Intro

All my spouse’s digital photo frames are either broken or nearly broken – probably she got them from garage sales. Regardless, they spend 99% of the the time black. Now, since I had bought that Raspberry Pi PiDisplay awhile back, and it is underutilized, and I know a thing or two about linux, I felt I could create a custom photo frame with things I already have lying around – a Raspberry Pi 3, a PiDisplay, and my personal Google Drive. We make a point to copy all our cameras’ pictures onto the Google Drive, which we do the old-fashioned, by-hand way. After 17 years of digital photos we have about 40,000 of them, over 200 GB.

So I also felt obliged to create features you will never have in a commercial product, to make the effort worthwhile. I thought, what about randomly picking a few for display from amongst all the pictures, displaying that subset for a few days, and then moving on to a new randomly selected sample of images, etc? That should produce a nice review of all of them over time, eventually. You need an approach like that because you will never get to the end if you just try to display 40000 images in order!

Equipment

This work was done on a Raspberry Pi 3 running Raspbian Lite (more on that later). I used a display custom-built for the RPi, Amazon.com: Raspberry Pi 7″ Touch Screen Display: Electronics), though I believe any HDMI display would do.

The scripts
Here is the master file which I call master.sh.

                    
#!/bin/sh
# DrJ 8/2019
# call this from cron once a day to refesh random slideshow once a day
RANFILE=”random.list”
NUMFOLDERS=20
DISPLAYFOLDER=”/home/pi/Pictures”
DISPLAYFOLDERTMP=”/home/pi/Picturestmp”
SLEEPINTERVAL=3
DEBUG=1
STARTFOLDER=”MaryDocs/Pictures and videos”

echo “Starting master process at “`date`

rm -rf $DISPLAYFOLDERTMP
mkdir $DISPLAYFOLDERTMP

#listing of all Google drive files starting from the picture root
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo Listing all files from Google drive; fi
rclone ls remote:”$STARTFOLDER” > files

# filter down to only jpegs, lose the docs folders
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo Picking out the JPEGs; fi
egrep ‘\.[jJ][pP][eE]?[gG]$’ files |awk ‘$1 > 11000 {$1=””; print substr($0,2)}’|grep -i -v /docs/ > jpegs.list

# throw NUMFOLDERS or so random numbers for picture selection, select triplets of photos by putting
# names into a file
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo Generate random filename triplets; fi
./random-files.pl -f $NUMFOLDERS -j jpegs.list -r $RANFILE

# copy over these 60 jpegs
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo Copy over these random files; fi
cat $RANFILE|while read line; do
rclone copy remote:”${STARTFOLDER}/$line” $DISPLAYFOLDERTMP
sleep $SLEEPINTERVAL
done

# rotate pics as needed
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo Rotate the pics which need it; fi
cd $DISPLAYFOLDERTMP; ~/rotate-as-needed.sh
cd ~

# kill any qiv slideshow
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo Killing old qiv and fbi slideshow; fi
pkill -9 -f qiv
sudo pkill -9 -f fbi
pkill -9 -f m2.pl

# remove old pics
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo Removing old pictures; fi
rm -rf $DISPLAYFOLDER

mv $DISPLAYFOLDERTMP $DISPLAYFOLDER

#run looping fbi slideshow on these pictures
if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo Start fbi slideshow in background; fi
cd $DISPLAYFOLDER ; nohup ~/m2.pl >> ~/m2.log 2>&1 &

if [ $DEBUG -eq 1 ]; then echo “And now it is “`date`; fi

I call the following script random-files.pl:

                    

#!/usr/bin/perl
use Getopt::Std;
my %opt=();
getopts("c:df:j:r:",\%opt);
$nofolders = $opt{f} ? $opt{f} : 20;
$DEBUG = $opt{d} ? 1 : 0;
$cutoff = $opt{c} ? $opt{c} : 5;
$cutoffS = 60*$cutoff;
$jpegs = $opt{j} ? $opt{j} : "jpegs.list";
$ranpicfile = $opt{r} ? $opt{r} : "jpegs-random.list";
print "d,f,j,r: $opt{d}, $opt{f}, $opt{j}, $opt{r}\n" if $DEBUG;
open(JPEGS,$jpegs) || die "Cannot open jpegs listing file $jpegs!!\n";
@jpegs = ;
# remove newline character
$nopics = chomp @jpegs;
open(RAN,"> $ranpicfile") || die "Cannot open random picture file $ranpicfile!!\n";
for($i=0;$i<$nofolders;$i++) {
  $t = int(rand($nopics-2));
  print "random number is: $t\n" if $DEBUG;
# a lot of our pics follow this naming convention
# 20160831_090658.jpg
  ($date,$time) = $jpegs[$t] =~ /(\d{8})_(\d{6})/;
  if ($date) {
    print "date, time: $date $time\n" if $DEBUG;
# ensure neighboring picture is at least five minutes different in time
    $iPO = $iP = $diff = 0;
    ($hr,$min,$sec) = $time =~ /(\d\d)(\d\d)(\d\d)/;
    $secs = 3600*$hr + 60*$min + $sec;
    print "Pre-pic logic\n";
    while ($diff < $cutoffS) {
      $iP++;
      $priorPic = $jpegs[$t-$iP];
      $Pdate = $Ptime = 0;
      ($Pdate,$Ptime) = $priorPic =~ /(\d{8})_(\d{6})/;
      ($Phr,$Pmin,$Psec) = $Ptime =~ /(\d\d)(\d\d)(\d\d)/;
      $Psecs = 3600*$Phr + 60*$Pmin + $Psec;
      print "hr,min,sec,Phr,Pmin,Psec: $hr,$min,$sec,$Phr,$Pmin,$Psec\n" if $DEBUG;
      $diff = abs($secs - $Psecs);
      print "diff: $diff\n" if $DEBUG;
# end our search if we happened upon different dates
      $diff = 99999 if $Pdate ne $date;
    }
# post-picture logic - same as pre-picture
    print "Post-pic logic\n";
    $diff = 0;
    while ($diff < $cutoffS) {
      $iPO++;
      $postPic = $jpegs[$t+$iPO];
      $Pdate = $Ptime = 0;
      ($Pdate,$Ptime) = $postPic =~ /(\d{8})_(\d{6})/;
      ($Phr,$Pmin,$Psec) = $Ptime =~ /(\d\d)(\d\d)(\d\d)/;
      $Psecs = 3600*$Phr + 60*$Pmin + $Psec;
      print "hr,min,sec,Phr,Pmin,Psec: $hr,$min,$sec,$Phr,$Pmin,$Psec\n" if $DEBUG;
      $diff = abs($Psecs - $secs);
      print "diff: $diff\n" if $DEBUG;
# end our search if we happened upon different dates
      $diff = 99999 if $Pdate ne $date;
    }
  } else {
    $iP = $iPO = 2;
  }
  $priorPic = $jpegs[$t-$iP];
  $Pic = $jpegs[$t];
  $postPic = $jpegs[$t+$iPO];
  print RAN qq($priorPic
$Pic
$postPic
);
}
close(RAN);

Bunch of simple python scripts

I call this one getinfo.py:

                    
#!/usr/bin/python3
import os,sys
from PIL import Image
from PIL.ExifTags import TAGS

for (tag,value) in Image.open(sys.argv[1])._getexif().items():
print (‘%s = %s’ % (TAGS.get(tag), value))

print (‘%s = %s’ % (TAGS.get(tag), value))

And here’s rotate.py:

                    
#!/usr/bin/python3
import PIL, os
import sys
from PIL import Image

picture= Image.open(sys.argv[1])

# if orientation is 6, rotate clockwise 90 degrees
picture.rotate(-90,expand=True).save(“rot_” + sys.argv[1])

While here is rotatecc.py:

                    
#!/usr/bin/python3
import PIL, os
import sys
from PIL import Image

picture= Image.open(sys.argv[1])

# if orientation is 8, rotate counterclockwise 90 degrees
picture.rotate(90,expand=True).save(“rot_” + sys.argv[1])

And rotate-as-needed.sh:

                    
#!/bin/sh
# DrJ 12/2020
# some of our downloaded files will be sideways, and fbi doesn’t auto-rotate them as far as I know
# assumption is that are current directory is the one where we want to alter files
ls -1|while read line; do
echo fileis “$line”
o=`~/getinfo.py “$line”|grep -ai orientation|awk ‘{print $NF}’`
echo orientation is $o
if [ “$o” -eq “6” ]; then
echo “90 clockwise is needed, o is $o”
# rotate and move it
~/rotate.py “$line”
mv rot_”$line” “$line”
elif [ “$o” -eq “8” ]; then
echo “90 counterclock is needed, o is $o”
# rotate and move it
~/rotatecc.py “$line”
mv rot_”$line” “$line”
fi
don

And finally, m2.pl:

                    

#!/usr/bin/perl
# show the pics ; rotate the screen as needed
# for now, assume the display is in a neutral
# orientation at the start
use Time::HiRes qw(usleep);
$DEBUG = 1;
$delay = 6; # seconds between pics
$mdelay = 200; # milliseconds
$mshow = "$ENV{HOME}/mediashow";
$pNames = "$ENV{HOME}/pNames";
# pics are here
$picsDir = "$ENV{HOME}/Pictures";

chdir($picsDir);
system("ls -1 > $pNames");
# forther massage names
open(TMP,"$pNames");
@lines = ;
foreach (@lines) {
  chomp;
  $filesNullSeparated .= $_ . "\0";
}
open(MS,">$mshow") || die "Cannot open mediashow file $mshow!!\n";
print MS $filesNullSeparated;
close(MS);
print "filesNullSeparated: $filesNullSeparated\n" if $DEBUG;
$cn = @lines;
print "$cn files\n" if $DEBUG;
# throw up a first picture - all black. Trick to make black bckgrd permanent
system("sudo fbi -a --noverbose -T 1 $ENV{HOME}/black.jpg");
system("sudo fbi -a --noverbose -T 1 $ENV{HOME}/black.jpg");
sleep(1);
system("sleep 2; sudo killall fbi");
# start infinitely looping fbi slideshow
for (;;) {
# then start slide show
# shell echo cannot work with null character so we need to use a file to store it
    #system("cat $picNames|xargs -0 qiv -DfRsmi -d $delay \&");
    system("sudo xargs -a $mshow -0 fbi -a --noverbose -1 -T 1  -t $delay ");
# fbi runs in background, then exits, so we need to monitor if it's still alive
# wait appropriate estimated amount of time, then look aggressively for fbi
    sleep($delay*($cn - 2));
    for(;;) {
      open(MON,"ps -ef|grep fbi|grep -v grep|") || die "Cannot launch ps -ef!!\n";
      $match = ;
      if ($match) {
        print "got fbi match\n" if $DEBUG > 1;
        } else {
        print "no fbi match\n" if $DEBUG;
# fbi not found
          last;
      }
      close(MON);
      print "usleeping, noexist is $noexit\n" if $DEBUG > 1;
      usleep($mdelay);
    } # end loop testing if fbi has exited
} # close of infinite loop

You’ll need to make these files executable. Something like this should work:

$ chmod +x *.py *.pl *.sh

My crontab file looks like this (you edit crontab using the crontab -e command):

@reboot sleep 25; cd ~ ; ./m2.pl >> ./m2.log 2>&1
24 16 * * * ./master.sh >> ./master.log 2>&1

This invokes master.sh once a day at 4:24 PM to refresh the 60 photos. My refresh took about 13 minutes the other day, but the old slideshow keeps playing until almost the last second, so it’s OK.

The nice thing about this approach is that fbi works with a lightweight OS – Raspbian Lite is fine, you’ll just need to install a few packages. My SD card is unstable or something, so I have to re-install the OS periodically. An install of Raspberry Pi Lite on my RPi 4 took 11 minutes. Anyway, fbi is installed via:

$ sudo apt-get install fbi

But if your RPi is freshly installed, you may first need to do a

$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

python image manipulation

The drawback of this approach, i.e., not using qiv, is that we gotta do some image manipulation, for which python is the best candidate. I’m going by memory. I believe I installed python3, perhaps as sudo apt-get install python3. Then I needed pip3: sudo apt-get install python3-pip. Then I needed to install Pillow using pip3: sudo pip3 install Pillow.

m2.pl refers to a black.jpg file. It’s not a disaster to not have that, but under some circumstances it may help. There it is!

Many of my photos do not have EXIF information, yet they can still be displayed. So for those photos running getinfo.py will produce an error (but the processing of the other photos will continue.)

I was originally rotating the display 90 degrees as needed to display the photos with the using the maximum amount of display real estate. But that all broke when I tried to revive it. And the cheap servo motor was noisy. But folks were pretty impressed when I demoed it, because I did it get it the point where it was indeed working correctly.

Picture selection methodology

There are 20 “folders” (random numbers) of three triplets each. The idea is to give you additional context to help jog your memory. The triplets, with some luck, will often be from the same time period.

I observed how many similar pictures are adjacent to each other amongst our total collection. To avoid identical pictures, I require the pictures to be five minutes apart in time. Well, I cheated. I don’t pull out the timestamp from the EXIF data as I should (at least not yet – future enhancement, perhaps). But I rely on a file-naming convention I notice is common – 20201227_134508.jpg, which basically is a timestamp-encoded name. The last six digits are HHMMSS in case it isn’t clear.

Rclone

You must install the rclone package, sudo apt-get install rclone.

Can you configure rclone on a headless Raspberry Pi?

Indeed you can. I know because I just did it. You enable your Pi for ssh access. do the rclone-config (or whatever it’s called) using putty from a Windows 10 system. You’ll get a long Google URL in the course of configuring that you can paste into your browser. You verify it’s you, log into your Google account. Then you get back a url like http://127.0.0.1:5462/another-long-url-string. Well, put that url into your clipboard and in another login window, enter curl clipboard_contents

That’s what I did, not certain it would work, but I saw it go through in my rclone-config window, and that was that!

Don’t want to deal with rclone?

So you want to use a traditional flash drive you plug in to a USB port, just like you have for the commerical photo frames, but you otherwise like my approach of randomizing the picture selection each day? I’m sure that is possible. A mid-level linux person could rip out the rclone stuff I have embedded and replace as needed with filesystem commands. I’m imagining a colossal flash drive with all your tens of thousands of pictures on it where my random selection still adds value. If this post becomes popular enough perhapsI will post exactly how to do it.

Getting started with this

After you’ve done all that, and want to try it out. you can run

$ ./master.sh

First you should see a file called files growing in size – that’s rclone doing its listing. That takes a few minutes. Then it generates random numbers for photo selection – that’s very fast, maybe a second. Then it slowly copies over the selected images to a temporary folder called Picturestmp. That’s the slowest part. If you do a directory listing you should see the number of images in that directory growing slowly, adding maybe three per minute until it reaches 60 of them. Finally the rotation are applied. But even if you didn’t set up your python environment correctly, it doesn’t crash. It effectively skips the rotations. A rotation takes a couple seconds per image. Finally all the images are copied over to the production area, the directory called Pictures; the old slideshow program is “killed,” and the new slideshow starts up. Whole process takes around 15 minutes.

I highly recommend running master.sh by hand as just described to make sure it all works. Probably some of it won’t. I don’t specialize in making recipes, more just guidance. But if you’re feeling really bold you can just power it up and wait a day (because initially you won’t have any pictures in your slideshow) and pray that it all works.

Still missing

I’d like to display a transition image when switching from the current set of photos to the new ones.

Suppressing boot up messages might be nice for some. Personally I think they’re kind of cool – makes it look like you’ve done a lot more techie work than you actually have!

You’re going to get some junk images. I’ve seen where an image is a thumbnail (I guess) and gets blown up full screen so that you see these giant blocks of pixels. I could perhaps magnify those kind of images less.

Movies are going to be tricky so let’s not even go there…

I was thinking about making it a navigation-enabled photo frame, such as integration with a Gameboy controller. You could do some really awesome stuff: Pause this picture; display the location (town or city) where this photo was taken; refresh the slideshow. It sounds fantastical, but I don’t think it’s beyond the capability of even modestly capable hobbyist programmers such as myself.

I may still spin the frame 90 degrees this way an that. I have the servo mounted and ready. Just got to revive the control commands for it.

References and related

This 7″ display is a little small, but it’s great to get you started. It’s $64 at Amazon: Amazon.com: Raspberry Pi 7″ Touch Screen Display: Electronics

I have an older approach using qiv which I lost the files for, and my blog post got corrupted. Hence this new approach.

In this slightly more sophisticated approach, I make a greater effort to separate the photos in time. But I also make a whole bunch of other improvements as well. But it’s a lot more files so it may only be appropriate for a more seasoned RPi command-line user.

My advanced slideshow treatment is beginning to take shape. I just add to it while I develop it, so check it periodically if that is of interest. Raspberry Pi advanced photo frame.

Categories
Consumer Interest Consumer Tech Network Technologies Raspberry Pi

Consumer Tech: Home Internet stopped working

Intro

We woke up yesterday to no Internet. The usual remedies consumers go through did nothing to resolve the issue. What to do?

The details – November 25, 2020

The usual restarts or my router and the cable modem did not work. I plugged in my work laptop directly to the cable modem for some quick tests but that did not work.

I plugged my work-issued VPN router directly to the cable modem and it did not pick up an IP and re-establish the tunnel.

When I logged into my router I saw that its WAN IP was listed as 0.0.0.0, which means none at all.

I called the ISP twice. Both time they said they could “see” my modem, and they tried to restart it on their end, but that did not seem to do anything at all, based on the constant status LEDs (see picture below). I got my service visit moved up from Dec 11th to Dec 2nd, but still that would mean a week without Internet – not so great when three people are relying on it for their work.

I rebooted the cable modem a couple times at least. Nothing changed.

Then I started some research on quickie alternatives. Ask a friend from work for a spare Cradlepoint air card? They’re already out on vacation. Get a Chinese-made unlocked hotspot with pre-purchased data? Seems fishy, and ultimately expensive. Verizon brand hotspot? We had a borrowed one. Very finicky. And no ethernet ports.

Raspberry Pi + DIY approach?

At one point in the evening, convinced I would have to wait days for for a visit from the cable guy, I rigged up a spare Raspberry Pi to act as a router between a mobile hotspot (a companion tablet to a Verizon phone) and my Linksys router. Why bother? Why not just use the hotspot directly? Mostly because it’s a pain in the rear to reprogram all those Internet of Things devices one has in ones home these days, notably the several Echo Dots, but as well, a wireless printer, a few laptops, Firesticks, tablets, etc. With this approach I keep the WiFi SSID as it was for all those devices. And, it sort of worked! At least I got one Echo Dot to work. I didn’t push my luck. This stuff consumes a lot of data, even when “idle.”

To be continued…

Linksys WRT1200AC status lights – when healthy!
Cable Modem tatus lights – when operating normally

But I am pretty good at troubleshooting. What I know that less experienced people may not is that all the testing I’ve done to that point was not ironclad proof of failure of the cable modem. I know the traditional advice of old is to hook up a laptop directly to the ethernet port and work with it that way. Furthermore the cable company support said that my status lights were reading normally. So, when I tested my work laptop? Are you kidding? That thing has so many problems when I switch between SSIDs due to some new security software – it loves to display the Globe in the system tray, and the only recourse is to reboot. That’s what I was seeing, but notice I said a quickie test? I did not have time to do that reboot and all that. And that work-issued VPN router? I don’t know how that thing really works either. Never having set it up that way I did not trust reading too much into its results (which was essentially an orange status light instead of the usual white).

So when I had more time in the evening, I hooked up a home laptop which I know should work. After a cable modem reboot in fact I did get an IP and could surf the Internet. That was a glimmer of hope. So I put my router back in place. Still it did not pick up an WAN IP address. Still reading 0.0.0.0 for its IP.

Then I put the laptop back, writing down the IP, subnet mask and default gateway. Then I put my router back, switched its WAN mode from DHCP to fixed IP, putting on the exact IP address the laptop had picked up, with correct subnet mask and default gateway. Still it was not working. When the router is not working the WAN status light is sort of orange-ish. It’s white (pictured above) when the WAN link is communicating.

I decided the fault should lie more with my router than anywhere else, and since it wasn’t working and no number of power cycles was changing that situation, I decided that a factory reset is the thing to try. The last thing I could try. I noted the exact name and passwords of my SSIDs, held the reset button for 15 seconds until the status lights flicked out, and let it start up. It went through a start-up process, which i saw after connecting to its default IP of 192.168.1.1. It was clear it was not seeing the cable modem at the point where it should, but it had some very specific advice to try: power off cable modem, wait two minutes, power it back on, and then it would try again. And that did work! Yeah!

What may have precipitated this

My local cable company was recently bought by a much bigger company. I know for a fact what my WAN IP used to be, and I see it has changed. They now draw from a giant pool of IPs – a /14 in CIDR notation – that’s 262,000 addresses – that belongs to the new owner. So I believe the problem occurred due to a poor implementation of the dhcp protocol within my router, or a poor interplay between my router’s DHCP client and the ISP’s DHCP server. But I can’t research that line of troubleshooting because the ISP’s DHCP policies would require a lot of time-consuming experimentation on my part to reverse engineer based on observed behaviour under different conditions. And I would need an open source DHCP client – but I have the Raspberry Pi running dnsmasq for that, so that end could gather all the needed client information.

Prior to this acquisition I would tend to keep the same WAN IP for years – that’s how stable it was.

Another approach

Very germane to this topic is the fact that my neighbor down the street experienced his own Internet outage the day after I did! His solution was to buy a better cable modem. I did not know you could do that – I thought they were proprietary. He also saw his router with the 0.0.0.0 WAN address. And his approach also worked. This makes me less sure my router was really at fault – maybe Altice screwed up their DHCP service for half a day.

Conclusion

Unusual for me, I’m going to write the conclusion before writing the tedious part which is the full explanation in the middle.

By the end of the day I got the Internet working. After isolating the problem to my home router, the Linksys WRT1200AC, and determining that any amount of power cycling was not clearing things up, a factory reset did the trick! The cable modem and my cable Internet service was fine all along.

References and related

How to turn your Raspberry Pi into a router which shares your hotspot with your home router.

The Linksys WRT1200AC is no longer sold. It looks like the newer version is the WRT1900AC – it even looks identical. It’s a good router. I know there are fancier solutions out there, but there are also worse ones as well, so I can only give my qualified endorsement: https://www.amazon.com/Linksys-AC1900-Source-Wireless-WRT1900AC/dp/B014MIBLSA/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=linksys+wrt1200ac&qid=1606519765&sr=8-1

DHCP and CIDR notation are both described in great detail in their respective Wikipedia articles.

Categories
Security Web Site Technologies

Who’s hacking Drjohnstechtalk lately?

Intro

This headline was inspired by years of listening to our managed service providers: overpromise and underdeliver! Who’s hacking my web site? I have no idea. But what I can deliver is a list of badly behaved IP addresses over the last 24 hours.

Let’s do it

So, here is a dynamically-compiled list of offenders who have “hacked” my web site over the last 24 hours. They are IP addresses caught trying to fetch non-existent web pages (such as the default login page) or post unauthorized content to the site such as spammy comments.

Without further ado, here are the latest IPs which include up-to-the-minute entries.

What are they?

I don’t think it’s anything glamorous like an actual black hat scheming to crack through my site’s defenses, which would probably fall pretty quickly! It looks like a lot of the same type of probes coming from different IPs. So I suspect the work of a botnet that crawls through promising-sounding WordPress sites, looking for weak ones. Probably thousands of bots – things like compromised security cameras and poorly configured routers (IoT) orchestrated by a Command and Control station under the control of a small group of bad actors.

And there is probably a bit of access from “security researchers” (ethical hackers) who look for weaknesses that they can responsibly disclose. I’m imagining this scenario: a security researcher discovers a 0-day WordPress vulnerability and wants to make a blanket statement to the effect: 30% of all WordPress sites are vulnerable to this 0-day exploit. So they have to test it. Well, I don’t want to be anyone’s statistic. So no thank you.

But I don’t have time to deal with any of that. It’s one strike and you’re out at my site: I block every single one of these IPs doing these things, even based on a single offense.

Actual example hacks

Here are some from November 2020:

100.26.218.97 - - [22/Nov/2020:13:31:13 -0500] 704 "GET /blog/ HTTP/1.1" 200 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/88.0.4240.193 Safari/537.36" 818
100.26.218.97 - - [22/Nov/2020:13:31:14 -0500] 1 "GET /blog//wp-includes/wlwmanifest.xml HTTP/1.1" 200 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/88.0.4240.193 Safari/537.36" 386
100.26.218.97 - - [22/Nov/2020:13:31:14 -0500] 409 "GET /blog//wp-login.php HTTP/1.1" 404 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/88.0.4240.193 Safari/537.36" 371

Note the access at the end to /blog//wp-login.php, a link which does not exist on my site! I imagine the user agent is spoofed. Fate: never again to access my site.

46.119.172.173 - - [22/Nov/2020:12:31:43 -0500] 26103 "POST /blog//xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 200 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/88.0.4240.193 Safari/537.36" 1094

This one (above) is an xmlrpc.php example. The next one is a bit more infuriating to me – a blatant command injection attempt:

45.146.164.211 - - [22/Nov/2020:09:58:43 -0500] 673 "GET /blog/ HTTP/1.1" 200 "https://50.17.188.196:443/index.php?s=/Index/\\think\\app/invokefunction&function=call_user_func_array&vars[0]=md5&vars[1][]=HelloThinkPHP21" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/78.0.3904.108 Safari/537.36" 743

I caught it due to the presence of index.php – another string which does not have a legit reason to appear in my access log, AFAIK.

Then there’s the bot trying to pull a non-existent .env (which, if it existed, might have contained environment variables which might have provided hints about the inner workings of the site):

54.226.98.220 - - [22/Nov/2020:09:48:59 -0500] 1248 "GET /.env HTTP/1.1" 404 "-" "python-requests/2.25.0" 184

The 404 status code means not found.

And this one may be trying to convey a message. I don’t like it:

69.30.226.234 - - [12/Nov/2020:00:24:00 -0500] 623 "GET /blog/2011/08/http://Idonthaveanywebsite... HTTP/1.1" 301 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MJ12bot/v1.4.8; http://mj12bot.com/)" 723

Discussion

By looking for specific strings I realize I am implementing a very poor man’s version of a Web Application Firewall. Commercial WAFs are amazing to me – I know because i work with them. They have thousands of signatures, positive and negative matches, stuff you’d never even dream about. I can’t afford one for my self-hosted and self-funded site.

A word about command injection

If you look at the top 10 web site exploits, command injection is #1. A bunch of security vendors got together to help web site operators understand the most common threats by cataloging and explaining them in easy-to-understand terms. It’s pretty interesting. https://owasp.org/www-project-top-ten/

Conclusion

Sadly, the most common visitor to me web site are bots up to no good. I have documented whose hitting me up in real time, in case this proves to be of interest to the security community. Actual offending lines from my access file have been provided to make everything more concrete.

I have offered a very brief security discussion.

I don’t know who’s hacking me, or what’s hacking me, but I have shared a lot of information not commonly shared.

References and related

A great commercial web application firewall (WAF) is offered by F5.

Here’s the link to the top 10 web site exploits in clear language: https://owasp.org/www-project-top-ten/

Categories
Consumer Interest

Consumer Tech: how to wake the screen of a Samsung Galaxy A51

Intro

You’re talking on your Samsung Galaxy A51 when your screen goes dark and you want to hang up. What do you do?

My new A51 didn’t seem to respond to pressure applied to the bottom of the screen in order to wake it the way my old S9 did. I did a quick Internet search and just found all sorts of stuff, most of it oriented towards older models. And I am too lazy to read the user manual. So I experimented a little.

The answer

In my experience, tapping twice in rapid succession with the thumb on the lower part of the screen most reliably wakes the screen from its blacked-out, energy-saving, OFF mode. I liked the wake-on-pressure method of my old phone better, but that simply doesn’t work.

If you want to get good at the double-tap method, try holding your thumb down on the second tap so it can also read your thumbprint and unlock the screen as well as wake it.

Answer 2

If the phone has been sitting stationary, such as on a table, it suffices to pick it up in order to wake it.

Answer 3 – preferred method

This is really a generalization of Answer 2. In a big, sweeping gesture, with phone in hand and arm holding phone by your knee, raise phone upwards from low to high, until it’s facing you, then keep it steady. It should light up on its own within half a second of being stationary in front of you.

And after you’ve trained yourself, skip the big sweeping gesture and just tilt the phone up and hold it vertically in front of you.

Answer 4 – most reliable

Click the power button. On my phone with its thick case I don’t enjoy this method. However, for whatever reason, this seems to be the only method that works after the screen goes stone cold black during a phone call, which is annoying.

Wireless charging

And wireless charging? No longer an option. Not that I bought a car (Toyota Prius Four, 2016) with a built-in wireless charger which I used every day with my previous phone.

Categories
DNS Perl Raspberry Pi

Domain Services: does Backorder work?

Intro

This is a memoir of my personal experience with trying to obtain a DNS domain that was registered by another person and about to expire. Plus some technical discussion of how whois on linux probably works.

The details

I’ve been watching a particular domain for years now. It’s always been registered at auction sites, and has changed hands at least once, maybe even twice. So i was excited this year when it was about to expire at the end of September. I kept checking via linux whois – figuring, or really more like hoping, that a direct query to the authoritative whois server would not tip off the owner if it were done outside of a web page. The linux command is whois -h whois.epik.com drjohnss.com (ok, that is not the real domain, just using it for the sake of preserving anonymitiy).

So about 10 days after it “expired” – at which point I believe it is very easy for the owner to still renew it – I wanted to increase my chances so I decided to make a bid for it, figuring, the owner would face either my offer or the prospect of getting nothing for the domain or shelling out for the renewal. So I offered $150 which is what it’s worth to me.

To my surprise I got a return email:

Hello John,
Thanks for the inquiry.
This seller will not sell for less than $10K. What is your budget?

Christina

Wow, right? Then I thought for a few minutes? I’ve seen this before – at work. There was this no-name domain which matched something the marketing folks were planning, so we made an offer through a third-party service. The response was to the effect, The seller is not interested in selling, but for $47,000 you could buy it. WTF. You can’t make this stuff up. I don’t have a lot of respect for domainers because frankly, almost all my interactions have been negative. Consider the evidence. At work I constantly get unsolicited offers for company_name.nz. The emails always come from different email addresses to avoid spam filters. That is cyber-squatting. Deplorable. I once got an unsolicited offer for a domain similar to one we owned (without the “s”). I checked it and found it wasn’t even registered! So that con artist was trying to take advantage of our naivete. Scum. Then a month ago I was offered some $ for any GoDaddy account which had been registered years ago and so had access to its API auction service, which you apparently cannot get any longer. Sounds like an invitation to violate the terms of service to me – another dodgy tactic.

So I thought about that statement and decided, that’s just a negotiating tactic to make me cower and think unless I raised my offer to, say, $1000, I wouldn’t stand a chance. I decided not to cave. I am the world’s worst negotiator but here I felt I had somewhat a position of strength given my tepid feelings about the domain and the fact that it had officially expired. My – somewhat flip – response:

Hi Christina,
Thanks for the response. Well, I am content to see it expire so the seller gets $0. I know it’s been doing nothing for years now. I am a private person with no commercial interest in development of the domain. My budget is $200.

Christina’s response:

Thanks John.
I hear you.
I advise you to get the refundable exclusive backorder.
Just buy it and then don’t check it.
Regards,
Christina

So now this Christina lady sounds like she’s on my side seeing I wasn’t a big bucks buyer. At some point it’s a matter of trust. So I plunk down $200 for their backorder service and wait and don’t check.

Christina sends me this encouraging note:

John,
If you cancel the backorder, the fee is refunded.
And checking WHOIS is data we collect and which the registrant can see.
So, best to wait patiently.
Regards,
Christina

She encourages me to be super patient and asks what my plans are for it. My response:

Hi Christina,
Bragging rights at family gatherings, etc.
Then I’ll think about more ambitious things like a private social media site, but I doubt I’ll go there.
Thanks,John

So how did it end up?

Not so good. I eventually broke down and did a single whois check after a couple weeks and found the domain had been renewed. Foiled once again, and out the $200 backorder fee.*

*Technically not out since Christina also said it was refundable. I’m just going to sit on it until next year, and the year after that, …

What is that business model?

I had plenty of days to think about it, and I was trying to square two irreconcilable facts. 1) The seller was going to hold out for big money for a worthless domain, thereby losing money. 2) Yet, presumably, the seller is overall making money. Hmm. So I came up with this hypothesis.

Although to an outsider like myself the seller’s approach is irrational, I have a hypothesis for a business model which could justify it.
My hypothesis for a business model that supports such behavior is that some domainers own hundreds or even thousands of seemingly low-value domains – a domain farm – which they patiently cultivate. In the Internet there is commonly seen the long-tail phenomenon. Chris Anderson described it in a book. So instead of following a normal distribution around the nominal value of an unlikely-sounding domain, the actual value distribution has a long tail on the upside. So, if one owns enough domains, although any one may never get the big offer, it only takes a few big ones a year to hit, make up for all the losers and create positive cash flow. After all a domain is really worth what a buyer is willing to pay, not what the algorithms judge them to be worth. Some people will be willing to pay big.

An industry insider I contacted demurred when asked for confirmation or denial of my hypothesis, but insteadpointed me to this link: https://domaingraduate.com/ . If I understand it correctly, chapter 7, The domain Name Aftermarket, addresses this scenario. But it says it basically doesn’t work the way that I hypothesized. And that plus the other chapters in total present a much, much more complex story. There are business models, of course, but, well, just read it for yourself. I don’t care. I still like my domain farm plus long valuation tail concept.

About whois on linux

I need to investigate further what goes on when a simple whois lookup is done. Like everything, there’s a lot of history and it’s not so straightforward. This somewhat outdated article seems to cover it really well: https://securitytrails.com/blog/whois-lookup . I’m still digesting it myself. I’ve done a trace on port 43 for a whois lookup of drjohnstechtalk.com and see somewhat confounding results – it’s talking to two whois servers, a Verisign one (whois.verisign.com or similar), which provides some minimal information, and one which refuses to provide any information – whois.godaddy.com (GoDaddy is the registrar for this domain). My tenuous conclusion is that whois to Verisign does a static lookup and Verisign has a database which covers all of the .com domains with basic information. More detailed information can be provided by the actual registrar for that domain. But GoDaddy refuses to do that. However, it appears other registrars do accept these requests for details! In particular the registrars which are used by domainers to park their domains. Hence it is entirely possible, even from packet analysis, that a registrar gets tipped off by a linux command-line whois lookup (and therefore could provide metrics back to the registrant about these occurrences.)

Double however

I did still more research on whois, i.e., RTFM type stuff. It looks like there are switches which should turn off lookups on other server, like -r or -R, but when you try them they don’t actually work. But, I enabled verbose mode which shows you the whois servers being queried – no need to do a laborious packet trace – and I discovered that if you run the command this way:

$ whois –verbose -h whois.verisign-grs.com <domain_name>

then the query stays with Verisign’s whois server and there is no data leakage or data sharing with the actual registrar! So, mission accomplished. Note that the Verisign whois server probably only covers .com and .net gTLDs. For others like .io, .us, .info you have to figure out the principal whois server for yourself. Or ask for help in the comments section.

drjwhois makes it easier

I decided to write my own wrapper for whois to make this easier for anyone going down this path. Just bear in mind its limited applicability. It’s aimed at people interested in a domain, probably one on the after market, where they want to know if it’s about to expire or has actually expired, without tipping off the seller. As I said I call it drjwhois.

#!/usr/bin/perl
# DrJ's wrapper for whois - prevents data leakage
# Drj 11/20
$DEBUG = 0;
$domain = lc $ARGV[0];
# These are just the TLDs I consider the most important. Obviously there are thousands. Many do not have a resale market.
#to find the whois server just run whois --verbose
$BIZ = "whois.nic.biz";
$BR = "whois.registro.br";
$CA = "whois.cira.ca";
$CO = "whois.nic.io";
$DE = "whois.denic.de"; # de but whois server does not reveal anything! Must use their web site.
$ENOM = "whois.enom.com"; # biz
$IE = "whois.iedr.ie";
$IN = "whois.registry.in";
$INFO = "whois.afilias.net";
$IO = "whois.nic.io";
$ME = "whois.nic.me";
$ORG = "whois.pir.org";
$RU = "whois.tcinet.ru";
$US = "whois.nic.us";
$Verisign = "whois.verisign-grs.com"; # com, net, edu
%TLDs = ('biz',$BIZ,'br',$BR,'ca',$CA,'com',$Verisign,'me',$ME,'net',$Verisign,'edu',$Verisign,'ie',$IE,'io',$IO,'co',$CO,
'in',$IN,'info',$INFO,'org',$ORG,'ru',$RU,'tv',$ENOM,'us',$US);
if ($DEBUG) {
  foreach $key (keys %TLDs) {
    print $key . " " . $TLDs{"$key"} . "\n";
  }
}
$_ = $domain;
($tld) = /.([^.]+)$/;
print qq(Domain:\t\t$domain
TLD:\t\t$tld
WHOIS server:\t$TLDs{$tld}\n\n);
#$result = whois -h $TLDs{$tld} $domain;
#print $result;
unless ($TLDs{$tld}) {
  print "drjwhois has no information about this TLD. Instead use whois $domain\n";
  exit;
}
open(WHOIS,"whois -h $TLDs{$tld} $domain|") || die "Cannot launch whois -h $TLDs{$tld} $domain!!\n";
while(<WHOIS>) {
  if (/(whois|expir|paid|renewal)/i) {
    print ;
    $exists = 1;
  }
}
print "Domain $domain appears to be unregistered!\n" unless $exists;
print qq(\n\ndrjwhois is designed to only show information about the expiration
date of a domain, and if it has become unregistered, all without
leaking the query to aftermarket sellers such as Sedo, Epik, enom, etc.
If you want full information just use whois $domain
);

Example usage

$ drjwhois johnstechtalk.com

Domain: johnstechtalk.com
TLD:    com
WHOIS server: whois.verisign-grs.com

Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.godaddy.com
Registry Expiry Date: 2021-04-23T00:54:17Z
NOTICE: The expiration date displayed in this record is the date the
currently set to expire. This date does not necessarily reflect the expiration
view the registrar's reported date of expiration for this registration.

drjwhois is designed to only show information about the expiration
date of a domain, and if it has become unregistered, all without
leaking the query to aftermarket sellers such as Sedo, Epik, enom, etc.
If you want full information just use whois johnstechtalk.com

Anyway, I say the write-up is outdated because it’s a lot harder than it was a few years ago to get the registrant information. ICANN was chastened I believe by GDPR (data privacy) concerns and so most of the registrant’s personal details has been yanked, generally speaking. But there are left a few valuable nuggets of information.

How about all those nice web interfaces to whois?

I would personally avoid all the web interfaces registrars offer to whois – they seem to be run by the sales and marketing departments without exception. They almost guarantee data sharing with the registrant in addition to selling you services you don’t want.

Conclusion

My guess is that backorders rarely work out. Mine certainly didn’t. But if you like gambling it has a certain thrill to it since you never know…

If you want to play with the big boys and girls and make some money from buying and selling domains, my impression is that Epik is an honest broker, and that’s important to have when so many are not above coloring outside the lines in this business.

linux whois does indeed provide a way to avoid having your interest in a domain leak out to the owner. Use whois -h whois.verisign-grs.com <domain_name> and you are not giving yourself away.

References and related

An old blog post of mine which describes writing a program to GoDaddy’s api for buying a domain as soon as it becomes available.

Whois – what goes on behind the scenes during a whois lookup: https://securitytrails.com/blog/whois-lookup

Best resource I am aware of which covers the strange virtual world of buying and selling domains for a living.: https://domaingraduate.com/

If you’re dying to try out whois on linux but don’t have access to linux, you could either get a Raspberry Pi, though there is some set up and cost involved there, or install Cygwin on Windows 10, though there is some setup involved in getting the package setup, but at least there’s no cost.

On Centos linux, Raspbian (used by Raspberry Pi) and Cygwin, whois is its own package. On my Centos 8 server it is whois-5.5.1-2.