Published: 11.03.2021 | Edited: 12.03.2021 | Tags: 100daystooffload

Lockdown travel, SMS sync and factory reset

Today was a long day. Lockdown restrictions in our country currently do not allow traveling between counties. Some exceptions apply, but none of them for me. It is only allowed to travel longer distances between 01:00 and 05:00 in the morning. I had to wake up at 00:45 to make the ride legally. Such an early hour is a deer time and they made sure to be seen on the both sides of the road. Majestic animals though.

A few hours of sleep in a different bed. It was comfortable, have not slept here for a few months. No one did, the pillow was in the same position I have arranged it during my last visit. The room had gotten a few new inhabitants with a lots of legs and many eyes. I decided to let them be. It took them far longer to build their nests than I will stay here. Preventing unnecessary damage.

Morning

Breakfast taught me that a contact grill can somehow spit molten butter at my face, glad I wear glasses (except when a face mask diverts all the moisture I breath out at them and they become completely hazy). I did not have time to study the manual of that contraption. Bet it is still kept inside that original package. Doubt manufacturer mentions this cool feature there. Maybe it is written on the butter. I suppose I have been warned.

Plugging my travel router in proved that a signal strength denoted by a single little bar out of four was in fact possible. Never seen it so low before. Since it was still factory reset to OpenWRT, because I have accidentally touched the reset button a few days before, it did not show the signal on its LEDs. Deciding it is time to restore this functionality to find a suitable place for this little companion, I have learned that I had to keep the stock firmware image, because it is need for reverting back out of OpenWRT. Panic hit me because I have deleted the file a week ago.

Downloaded what I suspected was the exact same firmware file I used before I started the process of reverting back to the stock router firmware. My heart was pounding. I could already see the router bricked. Why did I even go down that route? Couldn't I just enable the script that made the signal LEDs glow nicely as before, find a place where at least three of them were happily emitting photons and move to the other tasks at hand? No, of course not. I wanted to know, If I made the reversible mistake. I didn't.

Afternoon

The router rebooted just fine and the stock firmware of course knew how to handle the LEDs. After changing the default password I have documented the newfound knowledge, pushed the stock firmware into the repository so now it won't wander into the trash bin or beyond and proactively built a custom OpenWRT image with the LED handling script baked in. It will come handy again in the future. I plan to switch to OpenWRT again, but having a WPS/reset button doing factory resets when anyone only looks at it, it is not a good idea. I have found out how to prevent this in a software, but then there is no possibility to a factory reset at all. Imagine locking out by losing a password (or a SSH key for that matter).

With the help of the LEDs the router found itself on a cozy place on the shelf near the Bionicle-like dragon and a book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, providing me with a stable connection. I could start doing other things. Sharpen your tools daily.

Having a metered connection for almost a two weeks prior did not allow me to for instance update the computer. A rolling release distribution that starts with words btw, I and use it gave me an significant itch due to not updating. I am used to do updates in a batch, so naturally I have started updating all the other devices I rely on as well. Even though updating remote devices over a metered connection is not incurring additional charges, since they usually have their own bandwidth, I like to start updates on the notebook, where I can catch some unexpected problems before they arrive at more critical points in the network.

Relying on a metered connection for so long prevented me from resetting my phone as well. I wanted to do it for some time, yet it is one of the things that is easier delayed than executed. Apart from the fact that re-downloading all the apps can be a significant data hog, I also had a lot of podcasts downloaded in Spotify. Resetting the phone would get rid of them as well. You can not just backup them in file somewhere, it is a proprietary solution. Somehow, Spotify do not play ads when listening to podcasts. It is still the simplest way for me to manage podcasts I listen to, although I did not look at any other proprietary or open-source solution yet, to be fair.

Evening

Knowing I have my photos and passwords backed up reliably, I did not consider I could lose important data with the factory reset. Mistake. Of course it could not go without a single hiccup. Soon when the phone was freshly reset, I realized I have lost all the SMS. There will be multiple promised broken due to this. How could it happen? I made sure I can access them with the browser using some Google Messages interface on the notebook. I must admit I did not put much thought into it. My line of thinking were like this: SMS were being handled by Google. They could be accessed from multiple devices. Therefore, they stored in the cloud. Well, no. Google makes sure to track my every movement, but it does not store the messages. I even have contacts still stored with Google, it should be a no-brainer for them. This was costly, amateur mistake. Won't happen again. When I was looking for the messages, Google made sure to offer me some Google Fi along with multiple price tags that would do something with my SMS messages. No, thanks. Now you can go Fi yourself.

As a fix to this, I have found an SMS Gate on F-Droid which backups SMS using SMTP/IMAP. It can also store SMS as files in the user space storage. I have set it up as folder handled by Syncthing, so I won't loose customer data this way in the future. The app claims I could even respond to SMS via email, which definitely sounds promising. I did not test this yet, but it is definitely being added to my todo list. Restoring the phone with the help of KeePassDX took most of the evening, but I got it done. Tomorrow I will set my foot outside, I look forward to it.

This is a 1st post of #100daystooffload.