Our Two UPS Have Gone Down

Belkin UPSsWe have a pair of uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) on the property. Both are somewhat vintage models from Belkin. A 1000 VA model (F6C1000) in my office rack powers our network core. A smaller, 900 VA model (F6C900) in a central closet, powers those network components that live in the house. Both of them have been misbehaved in recent weeks. At this very moment they are basically non-functional.

I’ve long believed that the network core should survive minor power line irregularities. This belief stemmed in part from our migration to IP-based telephones for home & office. Our phone service should survive a power line bump. With both UPS in their fault-riddled state a loss of line power, even just a power line switching bump, caused our entire network to go down. This situation eventually had to be addressed.

The sealed batteries is consumer UPS such as ours have a fixed lifespan. At a certain point they simply cannot retain a charge, and the device throws an error. From that point onward they become nothing more than an overweight outlet strip.

Continue reading “Our Two UPS Have Gone Down”

Deal Alert: Nexus 7 (2013 model)

Nexus7 verticalI still like my Nexus 7 tablet. In fact, I like it enough that I could use a spare. Moreover, there are currently two noteworthy deals being offered:

Groupon has new 16 GB models for $135 with free shipping. It’s actually $149.99, but you can use a coupon (SALE10) to drop another 10% on checkout.

If that’s not good enough, Staples has them on offer as well. They have the 16 GB model (SKU: 215186) for just $99 and the 32 GB model (SKU:215185) for $128. This notice comes courtesy of User Quote, who also has an online inventory checker.

Sadly, my nearest Staples doesn’t have any in stock. It might be worth a drive to get one from a suburban store. I have some novel new application ideas for such a tablet, especially now that I have the ASUS Official Nexus 7 Tablet (2013) Dock.

Ars Technica: 12M home and business routers vulnerable to critical hijacking hack

DIR 600 FrontYesterday Ars Technica ran an article once again detailing how millions of consumer and SMB routers are vulnerable to exploit. This exploit, dubbed Misfortune Cookie, leaves the network open to those who would penetrate your systems and steal your personal information. The vulnerability is many years old, and the fix almost a decade old. Even so, it seems that there are still devices being offered that include the vulnerable code.

Announcements like this make me glad that we rely on well-proven, open source software for our network edge. We’ve long used m0n0wall and pfsense around here. Software such as these running on a small, single board computer, are a compelling solution. Sure, it costs more than a bargain router from Frys. The piece of mind is worth the extra $100.

A recent little project that I’ve been working on has used some Buffalo routers, but in that case we use those models that run DD-WRT, the open source firmware for small consumer router hardware.

There are so many great, open source solutions available. I see no reason to risk the cheesy consumer routers.

A Challenge: WebRTC Screen Sharing v2

screenshare-composite-example2-300pxIt’s been a year or more that tools like Google’s Hangouts have supported the ability to share a host computer screen with the viewing audience. This was rightfully heralded as “a very good thing indeed.” However, it’s current incarnation is considerably less than ideal and seems to be stalled. I’d like to lay out a challenge to see if anyone is interested into taking this to the next level, which is something that we’ve tried to do with a few VUC calls earlier this year.

Here’s the fundamental problem; people use screen sharing to give demos of software and share documents, which includes giving presentations a la PowerPoint, Keynote, etc. Currently, Hangouts, Jitsi Video Bridge and the like show either the screen share or the camera. In the case of slide presentations there can be very little activity in view as the presenter speaks to the points shown on the current slide. This creates less than compelling visuals.

Continue reading “A Challenge: WebRTC Screen Sharing v2”

A Gift For Geeks 2: A Magic Bus

Anker USB3 hubThere are often little conveniences that we deny ourselves. At least, that’s true around here. To the observant, these can be the basis for a thoughtful and unexpected gift.  For example, do you have a high-quality USB 3.0 hub at your desk? Does your intended giftee? Very few people have such a handy little item. I’ve come to think that an exceptionally good one, the sort we would not buy ourselves, makes a great gift.

A USB 3.0 hub acts very much like a port replicator to a laptop. It allows you to have multiple devices connected at once, far more than the number of ports provided on the laptop. In fact, some ultrabook models now offer only one or two USB ports, making a hub even more useful.

Continue reading “A Gift For Geeks 2: A Magic Bus”

Lenovo – The Day The Dock Died

Lenovo X1 Carbon and Docking StationThis is the tale of my first interaction with Lenovo on a matter of warranty support. As you may know I’ve owned a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon ultrabook since January of 2013. It’s a nice, light computer. While it’s coming on two years old, it still serves me well enough.

Since a change in career path in April 2013 I’m not the road warrior that I was for so many years. In fact, I’m largely home office-bound. That puts the X1C in a diminished role, secondary to my desktop. Even so, I’ve augmented the little X1C, adapting it to have greater connectivity.


Continue reading “Lenovo – The Day The Dock Died”