Saturday, 26 April 2008

I'm pulling my hair out (what I have left, anyhow) trying to find a good home/home office wireless router that includes all the features I need. Granted, I'm a bit of a power user, but I'm honestly a bit surprised I can't find what I want out there somewhere. You'd think someone would build it. My list of features and performance requirements includes:

  • Gigabit WAN and LAN ports - and needs to have four LAN ports
  • VPN capability that I can use cross-platform - an SSL VPN might be the best option, but whatever works well and lets me connect with Windows, Mac, etc. is what really matters to me
  • Working, reliable and effective QOS - routers I have used in the past have either been terrible or mediocre at properly shaping and allocating traffic for VoIP and other services
  • Reliable and full-featured administrative capabilities in firmware
  • Quiet, reliable hardware
  • IPv6 support
  • Wireless-N

Until recently, I have been using a D-Link DIR-625 router, which has been stable and reliable. But it's a 100-megabit device and the QOS is marginal for VoIP traffic in my experience. Plus the firmware has not been updated recently and there is no VPN capability. It's rock-solid at what it does, though. I've only had to reset it a couple times since I have had it.

I've looked at the D-Link DIR-655 router, which is their currently-touted gigabit version of the 625 model. It's still on my list possible solutions, but with no VPN it doesn't meet all my needs, and D-Link doesn't seem to have one that includes all the features.

Yesterday I picked up a VPN router with gigabit and QOS made by Linksys, the WRVS4400N. It's not cheap and honestly I'm not sure why I allowed myself to buy a Linksys product after all the headaches I have had with them before. The net result of the past 12 hours of use is that I'm going to return it today. Between the slow reboots required with every other change I make and the lack of capabilities in the software (and some stuff that just doesn't work), it's already frustrating me. D-Link has seriously spoiled me in the Admin interface/firmware capabilities department, even without releasing any updates. Add to that the high-pitched whine the Linksys router makes and the heat it generates when plugged in and there's just no way. The whine is pretty awful, and gives me a serious headache within minutes if I am near it. Back to the store it goes.

So, I am left without a solution that meets all my needs. I may just have to pick up the D-Link DIR-655 and live without VPN and then find a separate VPN solution, but I don't want to if I don't have to. Any ideas anyone? Is there an option out there that will meet my needs and expectations?



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IT Security | Tech
Saturday, 26 April 2008 13:36:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 24 April 2008
Last week I wrote about an issue in VMWare Fusion on my MacBook Air. Well, looks like VMWare has released an update in v1.1.2 with enhanced MacBook Air and Time Machine support.
VMware Fusion 1.1.2 addresses two MacBook Air-related problems. Previously, MacBook Air users would encounter a crash if a virtual CD/DVD drive was connected to the virtual machine but a CD/DVD drive was not connected to the MacBook Air. This update fixes this issue.  Also, this latest VMware Fusion update adds the ability to burn CD/DVDs with the MacBook Air’s USB Superdrive.
The new release also includes compatibility with Time Machine, Chinese localization, and a slew of other fixes for USB devices and other stuff. I have been using Fusion quite a bit lately to run multiple VMs on OS-X at the same time (namely a Linux custom machine and Windows Server 2003). The multiprocessor support is really nice and running Windows apps in Unity mode on the Mac desktop is still pretty amazing to me.



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Apple | Tech
Thursday, 24 April 2008 16:23:40 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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If you haven't seen the Tech-Recipies site yet, you should check it out. Nice compact, useful and interesting posts about how to do useful and cool things. I found it via my Twitter account feed. I'm finding lots of good stuff via Twitter these days.

I just finished reading a post at Tech-Recipies that describes how to use QuickTime Pro to remove the dead space often seen in videos that are letterboxed or have the side curtain bars (pillars). Essentially you use a simple image mask to define and remove the extra space, nice and simple.

Check out the tutorial at this link, or watch the hi-res screencast here.



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Tech
Thursday, 24 April 2008 10:41:07 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 18 April 2008
IPv6 has been around for something on the order of 15 years, yet it has yet to see widespread adoption. It was recently enabled on Internet core DNS infrastructure, and had been adopted in some network like those operated by certain mobile carriers. The current IP addressing and allocation scheme, dubbed IPv4, will eventually run out of IP addresses. There's been a sort of boy-called-wolf debate over whether we're really going to allocate the entire IPv4 address space anytime soon or not. But eventually we'll run out - some say in 2010.

Sean Siler, Program Manager responsible for IPv6, joined Richard Campbell and me for a RunAs Radio show. Sean really knows his stuff and did a terrific job of describing IPv6, comparing it to IPv4, and other useful information.

IPv6 enables a lot more than just additional addresses, though. Sean discusses what's the same, what's different and what's new (hint: IPSEC and multicasting everywhere). He also offers a great analogy to describe the enormous size of the IPv6 address space. It's mind-boggling, really.

If you don't understand or know much about IPv6, this interview is a great place to start learning, and you truly need to be doing so if you do network design or other work in your job. The change is significant, but not impossible - so go listen to the show and get learning!

Other resources:



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IT Security | RunAs Radio | Tech
Friday, 18 April 2008 10:06:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 17 April 2008

One of the main reasons I decided I would buy the MacBook Air recently was that I knew I would be able to run Windows on it, either in a bootable install or in a virtual machine. In fact there is really one main app that I use all the time on Windows that I just can't get for the Mac, but that's a topic for another post. I'm quite happy with the Air - It's a great machine and  I have to admit that OS X has grown on me.

I bought a copy of VMWare Fusion after doing my required research. Compatibility with OSes and a variety of different features/capabilities put it at the top of my list for a virtualization host. I have a couple copies of Windows Server 2003 lying around here that I never broke the shrink wrap on, so I built a trimmed down virtual machine for use on the Mac.

In fact, I built three of them. But every time I installed a new VM and got it up and running, every time I restarted the machine VMWare would simply quit, die, crash - console and all. No running process and nothing on the screen.

Long story short, I searched and searched and searched and then went to the VMWare user forums, where I found a note about issues people have been having with Fusion and the MacBook Air when using the Air's external DVD drive. Apparently because I was unplugging the DVD drive and then restarting the machine without it attached, Fusion was somehow wigging out (my term) and closing unexpectedly.

After reconfiguring the VM in Fusion's control panel to no longer show the missing drive as "connected," the VM fires right up and works. Hopefully this is something VMWare will address in it's next Fusion update. It's tough keeping up with the nuances of new hardware, to be sure, so looking forward to a fix. In the meanwhile, manually removing the DVD drive in the VM's settings works like a charm.



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Blogging | Tech
Thursday, 17 April 2008 14:16:56 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 14 April 2008
I'm not a huge fan of using credit cards, but with that caveat I discovered something last night that I thought was a great idea and service offered by Capital One for their US-based customer's credit cards: Use your own images.

Under the program, every 30 days you can create a replacement card using your own pictures (provided your account qualifies and you have the rights to the images you use, of course). You go to the web site, provide some information, upload your picture (or choose from one in their library if you're dull and boring like that, heh), and submit your design. Once approved, they send you the card in the mail. Pretty simple and cool.

I decided to create my personal card from this image, which I took off my front porch a couple years ago one morning:



... and once I was done shifting the size and sliding the image around on the card for optimal fit, here is what I ended up with. It's almost like God created the view just to be put on a card (except of course that I'd bet God doesn't like credit cards one bit and the whole idea is just ridiculous):

XX

If you're a Capital One credit card holder, you can check out and use the Image Card service at http://www.capitaloneimagecard.com/.

Now I just have to wait 30 days to make another one, heh. I wonder if we can get the state DMV to let us do this with our license plates?



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Photography | Random Stuff
Monday, 14 April 2008 06:43:43 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 13 April 2008

Richard Campbell and I sat down and discussed virtualization with Anil Desai. Released in beta with Windows Server 2008 and soon to be released in it's final form, Hyper-V is an interesting and worthwhile technology that leverages 64-bit computing and allows you to run different virtual OS'es on the server with full symmetrical multiprocessor support. Virtualization is a primary role of Windows Server 2008. The release candidate of Hyper-V is available now.

You can download and listen the MP3 version of our interview with Anil by clicking here, or click over to the RunAs Radio site for more formats (like WMA, AAC), which is where our weekly IT audio talk show "lives."

For more information from Microsoft about Hyper-V, check these links:



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RunAs Radio | Tech
Sunday, 13 April 2008 12:23:57 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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I downloaded a new iPhone native app this morning called Twinkle, which is a terrific Twitter client with integration to the iPhone's camera and the radio geolocation abilities. Even without those two enhancements, Twinkle would be - by a long shot - the best option for the iPhone when it comes to Twitter. To get Twinkle, you need to install it via the Installer.app program for jail-broken iPhones (see below for some more info).

Twinkle automatically figures out (approximately) where you are using Erica Sadun's FindMe utility, and uses that to label your Twitter posts with your location - very cool. It also allows you to cclick on a "near me" button to find posts from people located - you guessed it - near you. You can fine tune the distance and it's a nifty addition to Twitter.

A few observations:

  • Twinkle is a very fast app - which is welcome since web-based options tend to be very slow, to the point of painful. This app, however, races.
  • The UI design and usability to pretty darned terrific. It's quite well though-through.
  • I wish I could follow people from within Twinkle. That's one feature that's missing. I hear it's coming soon though.
  • Looks like I cannot click on URLs in tweets - that's certainly a missing feature (also coming soon).
  • Need links to pics that are posted in the tweet - Can't see a reference to the image in the web Twitter interface if I include a pic.
  • The app has has crashed on me a number of times while it's trying to do the geolocation, not sure if my fringe-area location has anything to do with that or not.

Of course, the app creator has a Twitter account, and you can see how popular it's becoming when you look at tweets that refer to Twinkle on TweetScan.

A few iPhone screen-grabs to show it off (click each one to view full-size):

Twinkle1
View of my followed peeps' tweets

Twinkle2
You wouldn't normally see this too often. My
fringe coverage area means I'm hard-to-locate.

Twinkle3 
Viewing an individual tweet, with ability to
reply, direct message, or go to the tweeter's
individual profile/post page.

Twinkle5 
Replying to myself. Yeah, that's a little weird.

Twinkle6
What you see when you view an individual
profile. Nice.

Twinkle7
Ah screen-door effect. Taking a picture
to attach to a tweet.

Twinkle8
Note the paperclip showing a picture is
attached. Also, the character count actually
works and is accurate, which is a weakness
of many twitter clients.

Twinkle9 
Clicking on the paperclip allows you to
view the attached image - a nice friendly
addition. You can also remove the image
from here, if you change your mind or
want to shoot a new one.

Note: In order to use Twinkle today, you have to "jailbreak" your iPhone, a modification that allows third-party applications to be installed on the device. In the future, you will hopefully be able to download Twinkle from the Apple app catalog (once it's made available). But not today. An obligatory word of warning... If you do the jailbreak process, Apple won't provide support on your phone in the event you need it (unless you restore the phone to non-jailbroken status of course). The ZiPhone jailbreak app is slick and simple - you can just download for Windows or Mac, plug in your iPhone, click a few times, wait a few seconds and you're done. Google it if you want, you'll find it.



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Apple | Mobile | Tech
Sunday, 13 April 2008 12:09:15 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 12 April 2008
Since I "needed" a new high-def disc format player (specifically Blu-Ray Disc) to take the place of my suddenly-antiquated HD-DVD hardware, and since Thursday was my 41st birthday, I decided to get what is arguably the best Blu-Ray player out there. The Playstation 3. Ah mid-life and gadgety toys, heh.

As luck would have it, my dad called me and asked what I'd like for my birthday. We go through the same conversation each time, and it's really kind of funny. I say I don't know and we end up in a friendly stalemate. I told him what I was looking at buying for myself, and he got interested. It was too much money, really - but he insisted (thanks, dad!). And so I went to the local big box store and picked one up and brought it home last night.

I'm not going to do a PS3 review. Yes, it's great hardware and the Blu-Ray discs play great. Watched 3:10 to Yuma last night (good flick). I was impressed, just as I was with HD-DVD.

But you know what impresses me more? In the past few weeks I have seen device after device - from different, even competing manufacturers - communicating with each other to share media on the network.

My Windows Home Server and Windows Media Player devices can share out media with the Xbox 360, with my DirecTV HD-DVR receiver, and now I see also with the new Playstation 3. Streaming audio around the house that's stored on the Home Server is a daily occurence around here. The XBox 360 is, of course, also a front-end for Media Center (which runs on my Vista Ultimate machine), and once we see a real-world version of the DirecTV USB component receiver (dubbed the HDPC-20 and currently in limited beta we're told), that's going straight into my den and should truly round out my interconnected, media-driven home.

With about 2TB (yeah, terabytes - who woulda thunk it a few years ago eh?) of Home Server storage and all these devices spread around that stream various media, it really is turning into a whole different kind of user experience - and a good one at that.



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Home Servers | Tech | Windows Media Technology
Friday, 11 April 2008 23:28:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 08 April 2008
A technical event for the whole family? Yep. With content for technical and non-technical people alike. This weekend. Passing along some info here...

Load up the whole family (seriously) and get your geek on this Saturday, 1 p.m. at the OGI School of Science and Engineering at the PDX Webfoot event. The registration page is here and the PDX Webfoot site with all the info is here.

From the site:
On April 12th, we'll be participating in the first Webfoot event in Portland. Webfoot is a web-focused event for all creatures, techie and non-techie alike. Bring the whole family for a day of education, entertainment, and fun!

Technical topics include Silverlight 2, Internet Explorer 8, and hopefully some sessions from the Firefox and Adobe gang if we can get them to show up. :)

Non-technical topics for the normal people include safe Internet browsing.

We'll have food and even some activities set up for the kids, such as Lego Mindstorms.

When: Saturday, April 12th
1:00pm to 7:00pm (dinner provided)

Location: OGI School of Science and Engineering
Wilson Clark Center for Lifelong Learning
20000 NW Walker Rd
Beaverton, OR 97006



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Tech
Tuesday, 08 April 2008 10:03:06 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 07 April 2008
Today in the mailbox I received a letter from Best Buy with the previously-promised $50 gift card to help compensate for the fact that the HD-DVD player I bought from them is a no-longer offered format. Cool stuff, and well ahead of the "expect it by May 1st" timeframe they established in their original communications.

Great service on this one, and again kudos to Best buy.

Some interesting trivia from the letter in the mail: "Customers will get a gift card for each player or HD DVD attachment they purchased. While we can't supply a specific number of gift cards that will go out, it's safe to say that, through this program, Best Buy will distribute more than $10 million in gift cards to customers across the country."



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Random Stuff
Monday, 07 April 2008 15:56:41 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Sunday, 06 April 2008
Mark Russinovich, a Microsoft Technical Fellow, presented a very good session at the TechEd IT Forum last year on the topic of advanced eradication of malware on Windows machines. It's a great session and has some useful advanced techniques for removal. It is also a very good resource for those who want to better understand how malware infects and what some of the risks are. Lots of practical information and how-to's in this one.

Fortunately, the session was recorded and is available online for anyone who wants to see it. If viruses and malware are a part of your job or if this type of security topic is of interest to you, it's an hour and twelve minutes well-spent. I went looking for this session online hoping to find the PowerPoint and found the whole session with video and demo and everything - terrific stuff.

(Updated 4/7 - link to video fixed)



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IT Security | Safe Computing | Tech
Sunday, 06 April 2008 22:16:56 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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˙ʎoɾuǝ ˙ǝɹǝɥ ʇı ʇǝƃ uɐɔ noʎ 'ƃuılǝǝɟ ʇɐɥʇ ʇsnɾ ɹoɟ ƃuıʞool ǝɹ,noʎ ǝɔuɐɥɔ ʎq ɟı ʇnq ˙ƃuılǝǝɟ unɟ ɐ ʇou

¿noʎ uo ɹǝʌo pǝlloɹ pɐɥ ʇı ǝʞıl ʇlǝɟ plɹoʍ ǝloɥʍ ǝɥʇ puɐ pɐǝɥ sʇı uo pǝddılɟ sɯǝǝs ʇsnɾ ƃuıɥʇʎɹǝʌǝ uǝɥʍ 'sʎɐp ǝsoɥʇ ɟo ǝuo ǝʌɐɥ ɹǝʌǝ

(via Guy Kawasaki on Twitter)



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Humor | Random Stuff
Sunday, 06 April 2008 09:48:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Count me in as one of the people who will line up to get a 3G iPhone - whenever it comes out. It looks as if the community has determined via tear-down methodology that the chipset inside the current iPhone is not 3G capable, so a software upgrade doesn't seem likely (something I had hoped might be possible based on early information, but ah, oh well...).

The most recent oh-by-the-way rumor/news about a 3G iPhone comes via Walt Mossberg, who says it will available in 60 days. And Walt is certainly a person to be in-the-know. In the video where he made the side comment also discusses the current state of "broadband" around the world and talks about where technology bottlenecks are preventing future growth and areas where consumers are not yet satisfied. It's a good clip to watch.

The 3G iPhone part is about 6:50 into the video.

Add to Mossberg's comment the recent orders of 3G chipsets and related ramp-down of 2G production at the company Apple sources their equipment from, plus side comments by other industry execs and some good Apple-style business common sense thinking, and it all really does start to add up.

Looks like it's time to start tossing that loose change in the ol' jar again each day.



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Apple | Mobile | Tech
Sunday, 06 April 2008 09:02:05 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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A super-fast, new global network's controllers will turn it on sometime this year, but exactly when it will be available to you and me, in the same way the Internet we know is today... Only time will tell.

As is practically always the case, the new technology driving the "Grid" network was borne out of need. The Times Online published an article discussing the new network:
"Cern, based near Geneva, started the grid computing project seven years ago when researchers realised the LHC would generate annual data equivalent to 56m CDs - enough to make a stack 40 miles high.

"This meant that scientists at Cern - where Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the web in 1989 - would no longer be able to use his creation for fear of causing a global collapse.

"This is because the internet has evolved by linking together a hotchpotch of cables and routing equipment, much of which was originally designed for telephone calls and therefore lacks the capacity for high-speed data transmission.

"By contrast, the grid has been built with dedicated fibre optic cables and modern routing centres, meaning there are no outdated components to slow the deluge of data. The 55,000 servers already installed are expected to rise to 200,000 within the next two years."
Imagine high-definition holographic video conferencing, or downloading movies and other massive pieces of data (well, massive by today's standards anyhow) in a couple seconds or less. Even if the Grid network is never made available to the public and is used solely by researchers, the technologies that are created and used to drive it can be used in the public space to drive change for everyone.

Let's just hope people seriously think about security this time around, during design rather than after the fact.

(one of several interesting links found today via Warner Crocker)



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Tech
Sunday, 06 April 2008 08:44:43 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 05 April 2008
Over at Lifehacker, Adam Pash has written an article describing in some very useful detail how to use a couple freeware apps to trim down a Windows XP installation so you can create a lighter-weight install disc for whatever purpose you may have.

I'm interested in this because I plan (at least at this point) to use a Windows Server 2003 install disc as the starting point for a VMWare Fusion virtual machine on my Macbook Air, and I want to keep it as lean and mean as I possibly can. That way I can run the couple/few Windows apps that I really need to make my computer life complete.

Why Windows Server 2003? Because I have a couple unused copies sitting on my shelf just screaming to have the shrink-wrap removed. Come to think on it, it might be the first time I have opened an actual shrink-wrapped Windows Server box since around 2000. I've grown quite used to electronic delivery and volume licensing discs. Wow.

Does anyone have any solid information that would point to benefits of using the 64-bit edition of Server 2003 over the 32-bit version? If so, please let me know! Comment below, or the email link is over there on the right side of the page.

I'll report back with results after I get it all set up. Should be interesting and a bit of fun.



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Apple | Geek Out | Tech
Saturday, 05 April 2008 10:09:52 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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