Desktop Storage: SSD vs Magnetic Hard Drive

HP Pavilion HPE H8 Desktop PC & Seagate DiskIt has been said that you have to sometimes look back to see how far you’ve come. A little over a week ago the traditional hard drive in my desktop computer started to fail. The BIOS reported a SMART alarm indicating imminent disk failure.

While this HP desktop was a good deal when it was purchased, the 1.5TB Seagate hard drive, spinning at just 5400 RPM, was part of what motivated the addition of the 256 GB SSD as the boot volume. The traditional hard drive was only for user data.

Despite the alarm state, the system seemed to be running fine. I ordered a 1 TB WD Black hard drive from Amazon. In making the choice of the WD Black I looked around online for research on hard drive reliability. I found a blog post by Backblaze, a company that provides online backup. They have consistently found Seagate drives to be the most failure prone. As a huge user of hard drives, it’s great that they make their data public.

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A Better Understanding of the Microsoft LifeCam Studio Webcam

Microsoft LifeCam Studio 300pxOver the last couple of years I’ve been exploring the realm of webcams. Along the way I’ve encountered some confusing things involving the Microsoft LifeCam Studio. To be more specific, some have claimed that it’s capable of delivering 1080p video, while Microsoft’s own information suggests otherwise. My recent experiments using vMix have shed some light into the actual capabilities of this inexpensive little webcam. I thought them worth sharing.

“You cannot change the laws of physics, Captain.” – Montgomery Scott

Remember that a USB 2.0 connected webcam is bandwidth limited to delivering a maximum of 480 mbps (60 Mbytes/sec) to the host computer. Because of this fact, and given that the video frames from the webcam are uncompressed, the USB 2.0 link can only deliver 720p30.

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Bye Bye Wirecast! I Just bought vMix HD!!

My 60 day trial of vMix HD came to an end last week. My experience using vMix was so much better than recent experience with Wirecast that I decided to purchase a license.

That said, it wasn’t clear which version of vMix was appropriate. The trial license is the “Pro” version, which is all-bells-&-whistles enabled. The “Basic” version is free, but limited to SD resolution and the number of inputs that it can accept. The “Basic HD” version, just $60 USD, adds the ability to operate at resolutions up to 1920x1080p.

The company lists the limitation on the “Basic” editions to “4 Total Inputs” and 3 “Capture Inputs.” This terminology is not exactly obvious. So, I began by purchasing the Basic HD license to see if it would meet my needs.

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OnSIP: When the SPIT Hits The Phone

In a recent blog post OnSIP noted that some hosted PBX customers using Polycom SIP phones were receiving phantom calls from an internet source. Such calls are known as Spam-over-Internet-Telephony, aka “SPIT.” They have been a topic of discussion in VoIP security circles for years.

As has been mentioned many times, we have a number of Polycom VVX Series phones hereabouts. Our phones are registered with OnSIP and ZipDX. Fortunately, we have not experienced such phantom calls ourselves.

I had not even noted the first OnSIP blog post until a former colleague reached out to tell me that his VVX-500 had received over 700 such calls in the past few days. He noted that the calls were an annoyance. If answered, there was no connection. He could tell that the calls were coming to the phone directly, since they were not rolling over to his cell phone in left unanswered. That implied that the logic of the hosted PBX was not in play.

The very next day OnSIP posted an update to this issue. They had implemented a solution that would cause Polycom phones to reject calls that were coming from a source other than their SIP proxy. This is based upon something that Polycom calls Incoming Signal Validation. Customers who have phones that use the OnSIP provisioning server need only reboot their phones to uptake this new setting.

We’ve recommended OnSIP for long time. In fact, since before Junction Networks launched the OnSIP brand. This weeks events are just another indication of why they’re such a great company.

Disclosure: OnSIP is a sponsor of the VoIP Users Conference.

Owning The Comcast CPE

Motorola Arris SB6141 cable modemFor the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about the Comcast issued CPE that lives in my office. It’s a modem/router combination from SMC. We’ve had the service a long while. All the while we’ve been renting the device for $12.95 a month.

I can’t recall exactly when we transitioned from consumer to business class service. If I assume that it was five years ago, then we’ve paid over $750 in device rental! This for a device that can be purchased outright for under $200.

Clearly, this makes no sense at all. So last week I replaced the Comcast CPE with a Motorola/Arris SURFBoardSB6141. The choice of the SB6141 was made by consulting Comcast’s list of approved devices, and cross-referencing the SmallWall forums where Lee Sharp had some helpful advice to offer.

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