Disabling Wi-Fi on an LG Smart Refrigerator

Our LG LFXS30766S refrigerator is broadcasting an open Wi-Fi access point. I’m sure it’s doing that so LG’s Android app can connect to it and deliver pairing instructions for another AP. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any way to disable this feature. LG: If you’re listening, nobody asked for this garbage. Making the door shelves adjustable would be pretty great, though. A $2,300 fridge should have adjustable shelves.

I also see LG recently posted a firmware update for this fridge to their website. There are no release notes; You need proprietary hardware to install it, and it requires fridge disassembly. Seriously? I hope it’s not needed to close a gaping security hole in that open Wi-Fi access point… No, that would be silly. They’re never going to fix those security holes.

I may end up looking for a service manual so I can try to physically disable the Wi-Fi.

Welcome to the shitty future.

May 5, 2016 Update:

Forum discussion on refrigerator Wi-Fi
Video showing how to disable Wi-Fi on a Samsung refrigerator

Emulating a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive

I occasionally encounter situations where a bootable CD or DVD is necessary. Most recently, I had to load an operating system on a server. Before that, I had to burn and boot a CD to update the firmware of a device in my computer. I found out last week that hardware emulators are available that can read .ISO files and pretend to be a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive. On the recommendation of a co-worker, I got a Zalman ZM-V350B. It holds a user-supplied 2.5″ hard drive or SSD. Aside from the emulation features, it has a built-in display and jog controller that lets you choose which ISO file you want to emulate (if any), whether the host can see the hard drive or “optical” drive or both, or even write-protect the drive hard drive.

The product works well, but there are some gotchas. The documentation didn’t mention it’s necessary to use an MBR partition table and an NTFS filesystem. You can have multiple partitions, but the ISO files have to reside in the first partition. I had to install a firmware update to make it work reliably, and the newest firmware had a lower version number than the firmware that shipped with the unit. Windows is necessary to install firmware updates. I was able to do accomplish the firmware update using a virtual machine, but I had to use a USB 2.0 cable to make VMware Fusion talk to the device using Windows 7. In all, I wasted half a day on those hurdles.

I used a 256 GB SSD, and set aside 10 GB for ISO files and formatted the rest JHFS+ so I could use it for backups. I wanted FileVault 2 encryption of the backup, which only works with GPT (not MBR). I was able to use a Hybrid GPT/MBR partition table to have my cake and eat it, too.

Since figuring out the device’s quirks, I haven’t had any issues. It’s fast with the SSD, delivering 350MB/s sequential read/write. Overall, it’s a really handy tool and it’s nice to not have to burn single-use discs anymore. Still, it’s hard to recommend this product to anyone but the most dedicated geek.

LED strip light experimentation and impressions (Part 1)

The first custom lighting project in our new home will be under-cabinet lights in the kitchen. After researching various choices for high-CRI LED strips, I decided to purchase a reel from Flexfire LED’s for experimentation. I settled on the Ultrabright High CRI Series Warm White LED Strip Light.

Let me start by saying I’ve never purchased or played with LED strips before, but these are the real deal. I’ve played with demo strips at electronics stores, and the Flexfire strip is much brighter and the color is quite natural.

This product is sold by the reel or by the foot, and comes in three color temperatures. In a home, 2700k (aka “Soft White”) is almost always the safest choice. Most LED strips seem to start at a cooler 3000k. Flexfire’s specs say their warm white ranges from 2700k – 3200k. It’s not clear why the range is given. Is it marketing or is the binning of the LED chips that wide? In any case, this particular strip appears to be at the high end of the stated range, probably at least 3000k. I’d prefer slightly warmer white, but I think these will work well in the kitchen.

For test purposes, I hooked up a 300-watt, 12-volt Magnitude constant-voltage LED driver and a Lutron Diva DVLV-600P dimmer. Both products are frequently recommended for this application, so for my proof-of-concept test I decided not to venture off the beaten path.

For initial power-up, I set the dimmer to its lowest and turned it on. I was surprised by the initial surge of nearly full brightness, followed quickly by dimming to about the lowest practical setting. The surge is slightly annoying, but not necessarily a deal breaker. The dimmer works perfectly throughout its range, although there is some barely perceptible flicker at some levels. Perhaps that’s caused by PWM? I’d like to try another dimmer. The Lutron is clicky and has an ugly neon lamp under the switch paddle to help find it in the dark.

I may end up using these at full brightness most of the time. My old Xenon under-cabinet kitchen lighting was rated at 177 lumens/foot; This strip is rated 402 lumens/foot. I reasoned that the LED strip should be incredibly bright at about 50%, and with reduced brightness it should last nearly forever. It will be interesting to see if that works out or not. After all, is it possible to have too much light in the kitchen?

At maximum brightness, the LED strip gets too warm to touch for prolonged periods. I can see now why Flexfire didn’t want me using a cover lens on this product. Any additional heat would lead to premature death.

In summary, I’m impressed with this product, but not blown away yet. I’ll post an update once I’ve been able to test it while positioned over a countertop.

Lighting our new home

I’ve been fascinated with lighting since building my first home in 2003. The ceilings in that place have more 6″ downlights than anyone would reasonably install. Continuous Xenon lighting was used under the cabinets in the kitchen and bar. I like a lot of light, and that home demands it with its high ceilings and lack of natural light in the main living spaces.

We started out with horrible incandescent 130-volt BR40 reflectors in the ceiling fixtures. The builder installed them because they’re cheap and long-lasting. When you take a 130-volt bulb and run it at 120 volts, two things happen: The color temperature turns slightly orange (yuck), and they last a really long time. Some of the bulbs we never got around to replacing were still original when we sold the home in 2015.

In the main kitchen, dining, and living areas, I began experimenting with light bulbs intended for retail display applications to improve light quality and efficiency. The bulbs cost a lot more up-front, but were better in every other way compared to the halogen bulbs I could get from a hardware store.

As LED retrofits like the Cree LR6 became available, the future seemed within reach. Cree made LED lighting desirable: They offered attractive lights with incredible longevity, efficiency, and ample, high quality light output. They weren’t for normal folks. At a cost of over $2,000 to retrofit my kitchen and den, I never bought one.

Eventually the CR6 was launched as a 6-inch retrofit lamp for normal folks. They were initially priced at a reasonable $50, and today you can typically pick one up for $20 before any utility subsidies kick in. If you still have incandescent (or worse, CFL) bulbs in your ceilings, give these a try. They’re amazing, unless you have really high ceilings and need something more luminous.

This summer, we bought a 1960’s ranch home.  It leans toward a mid-century modern design aesthetic, which I really like. The previous homeowner had filled it with CFL’s and fluorescent tube lights. The lighting was shadowy and had a sickly color. We took the opportunity to remove the existing light fixtures, patch the drywall, and consider how to light a home 2015-style. To bridge the gap, we bought some fairly basic ceiling fixtures for a few rooms and stuffed them with Cree A-lamps. The kitchen is still shadowy, but at least the nasty color cast is gone.

The next step seemed obvious: Under-cabinet lighting. The Xenon under-cabinet lighting in our former home was stunning, but the transformers failed frequently, and it’s expensive. LED seems like an obvious choice, but many fixtures we saw in lighting stores have poor color rendering. (Read this if you’re interested in LED color accuracy.) And what happens when a light module fails? There’s a good chance the entire under-cabinet lighting system would need to be replaced.

Last weekend we visited some friends who are in the final stages of a kitchen remodel. What I saw under their cabinets surprised me: LED strip lights. These lights are typically sold on a 5-meter spool for anywhere from $5 to $300. With a pair of scissors you can cut these strips down to just about any size you could want. They’ve earned a lousy reputation because the cheaper strips from China proliferate; They don’t have enough copper to dissipate the heat they generate and they use low-grade LED chips, so they fade quickly and offer subpar light quality. I hadn’t considered these seriously until I saw someone using them.

It’s nearly impossible to judge the quality of these products online, but It turns out there are a few companies offering apparently high-quality LED light strips.  Flexfire LEDs and Diode LED offer strips with a tremendous amount of luminosity and impressive color quality. Klus Design offers an amazing range of affordable aluminum extrusions for building custom lighting with LED strips. I’ve ordered some pieces to tinker with, and I’m really excited about the possibilities. I’m not sure I’ll have much reason to install recessed lights now.

Take a look at the Klus Design catalog [PDF]; It’s amazing.