Updating Realtek Drivers for PFSense on a ZOTAC ZBox

January 25, 2019 3 comments

A long while back I built a ZOTAC Zbox (ZBOX-CI323NANO-U) to run PFSense and act as my router. For the most part, it has worked pretty well.  The features are great, without any of the gimmicky stuff you’d find on a consumer router. It’s also a lot more upgradable than a consumer router.

One problem though, on occasion I’d have to restart the ZBOX when the internet would stop working. The display I had connected to the PFSense machine said this during a failure:

re1: watchdog timeout

Each time the error occurred, I would hunt around the internet for a few minutes to find a solution, but I was never able to find one. I gave up for a while. But recently I took a deeper dive.

I found some pages blaming the default network adapter drivers and how they don’t work well with realtek adapters. I also found this page announcing new realtek drivers. I’ve dabbled with Linux a bit, but I’d still consider myself pretty novice. It was pretty difficult for me to get the drivers copied over to the machine, and then installed.

Here’s the process I followed to get them installed:

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Whole Home Humidifier

January 23, 2018 2 comments

1320352173735008201water-droplet-hi.pngDry air is very unpleasant to be in for extended periods of time. Last winter I tried to rectify the problem by using a single ultrasonic humidifier. It seemed totally inadequate, so I purchased a second higher capacity unit. I quickly became annoyed at how tedious it was to fill the reservoirs. And neither really solved my problem well. This year, I decided to install a whole home humidifier system.

Installing a Humidifier is not an easy task, and required quite a bit of knowledge of different building systems. See below for all of the work that I did, what I learned, and a list of parts.

System Selection

The most common type of whole home humidifier is a bypass humidifier, where water trickles down a special mesh pad that heated air passes over. The humidifier unit itself is quite large and must be attached to a fairly large surface area of unobstructed flat ductwork, as well as have a return/supply bypass. Unfortunately I did not have the space on either side of my furnace (cold air return, or heated air supply) to place the bypass unit.

I did quite a bit of research to find some alternatives. I selected a steam humidifier; an AprilAire 800. The AprilAire 800 is a steam generating machine which placed on a wall/support close to the hot air supply of the furnace. A steam pipe is connected from the steam generator to the ductwork. The AprilAire 800 has a replaceable canister with electrodes in it.  The unit fills the canister with water and generates steam. Periodically, the system will flush the mineral rich water out to reduce mineral buildup in the canister.

A significant benefit to a steam system is that it doesn’t need the furnace to run heat at the same time it is humidifying, it only requires air circulation.

The unit has a capacity of 34.6 gallons a day, but my configuration will be at 23.3 gallons a day. Seems the maximum capacity of a bypass unit would be about 12 gallons a day. Ultrasonic units have a capacity closer to 3 gallons a day.

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Fixing my Zyxel NWA1123-AC

October 6, 2017 Leave a comment

My home network is pretty advanced. I have a PFSense home-built router (based on Zotac ZBOX CI323) that connects to my modem, several smart switches (Netgear JGS524E), and 2 wireless Access Points.  The two access points are both made by Zyxel; an NWA1123-AC and an NWA1123-ACv2.  I thought it would be prudent to upgrade the firmware of both devices this week but ran into a problem.

Since both need different firmware, I first downloaded the firmware for the v2 device, and then did the v1 device.  Somehow I managed to download the NWA1121-NI firmware for the v1 device, and then applied it. As I was doing some configuration on the device, I saw I was missing the 5 Ghz settings, which lead me to figuring out I had flashed it with the wrong firmware. I thought it would be easy to revert back since I was able to go one way, but that proved wrong! The device wouldn’t accept the correct firmware.

I did some hunting around the internet, gave up quick, and submitted a technical support request.  Zyxel got back to me the following day saying I would have to RMA the device, sending it back to them, assuming it was in warranty. After some following correspondents,  it was determined that I was out of warranty/support. I turned back to the internet.

I found, on Zyxel’s website (PDF), they had directions on how to have the device pull firmware from a TFTP server before the router fully booted. However, there were some critical steps missing.

  • There’s no serial port on the AP; WHAT?
  • How do I unzip a bin file? And how do I unzip what comes out of that?
  • What software do I use to TFTP?
  • What software do I use for a terminal?

Zyxel support insisted that this KB article on their site did not apply to my AP problem, and there was no way I could recover the device without sending it in to them.

I did some more hunting and found someone over at the OpenWRT.org site posted the internal parts of the NWA1123-AC AP, as well as some serial port details. I also found a page for serial port specifics saying I needed a USB TTL adapter.  The same page had details on the pins to connect the adapter to on the AP (see: Router with serial port / header / pins). Turns out Amazon and my local MicroCenter both carried a USB to TTL adapter, for use with RaspberryPi devices. I biked over to MicroCenter, and picked one up.

Once I got home, opened up my AP, connected everything, downloaded and set up Tera Term and TFTPD64, and starting going through the KB article. I used 7zip to extract the contents of the bin file, and the contents of the subsequent file. I ended up with the files shown in the KB article, so even though 7zip said there was extra contents that wasn’t extracted, I figured I was on the right track.

Everything seemed to work great, and got my device flashed with the correct firmware! Sadly, Zyxel’s poor design required me to clear my browser cache to get the AP’s config page working correctly, but if that was the only hiccup, I wasn’t too angry, and I had been stupid enough to flash the wrong firmware on the AP in the first place.

Access Point saved from certain death!

Amazon Alexa Skill – Electric Price

July 26, 2017 3 comments


I was sick of opening up my phone to check the ComEd hourly price of electric supply, so I decided to make an Alexa app for my Amazon Echo!

It took about 2 hours. It was strange I had to set up both an Alexa skill and the AWS Lamda function, then link the two. I ended up copying most of the code from someones reference code on checking stock prices. Changed the regular expression function which found the stock price to a substring of the ComEd API returned text. Works pretty well! Only problem I’ve had is when the ComEd API is down. If it happens too much, I guess I’ll have to update it with some error handling.

Alexa Skill: Electric Price

Ask: “Alexa, ask Electric Price for Current Price.”

The logo is crap, I know.  And I couldn’t use the ComEd company name in any of the program details/functions, so its a bit generic.  But pretty good for my first try if I do say so myself!

Raspberry Pi CTA Tracker Kiosk

February 9, 2017 Leave a comment



I purchased a Raspberry Pi 3 about a year ago and finally got around to creating a fully functional CTA bus/train tracker out of it.

Parts Needed

Raspberry Pi

Micro SDHC Cards


Cable (Cable that came with screen was defective)

Keyboard and Mouse (any will do, but I like this)

CTA Tracker URL:

Create your specific CTA Tracker URL and save it for later

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Generating XML in PL/SQL

January 17, 2017 Leave a comment

At work we have historically been using concatenation for generating XML Data. I stumbled upon these XML functions the other day, and thought it was worth sharing. They seem to be the proper, and I’m sure more efficient, way to generate XML using Oracle PL/SQL. I’m dumbfounded that our developers didn’t use this method, but who am I to judge!

Oracle Documentation:


Easier to Understand Guide:


Example Query for Delivery Lines

Should produce XML for a Delivery with its lines, where lines contain the Item Number, Description, Shipped Quantity, and Requested Quantity.

 msib.segment1 AS "ITEM_NUMBER",
 FROM wsh_delivery_assignments wda,
 wsh_delivery_details wdd,
 mtl_system_items_b msib,
 mtl_system_items_TL msibTL
 WHERE wda.delivery_id = wnd.delivery_id
 AND wda.delivery_detail_id = wdd.delivery_detail_id
 AND wdd.inventory_item_id = msib.inventory_item_id
 AND msib.organization_id = WND.ORGANIZATION_ID
 AND wdd.inventory_item_id = msibTL.inventory_item_id
 AND msibTL.organization_id = WND.ORGANIZATION_ID
 FROM wsh_new_deliveries wnd
 WHERE delivery_id = :delivery_id))
 AS xmlserialize_doc