Ooohhh! This looks cool: USB Charger with a Built-in Ethernet Adapter!

USB-OTG is very handy. It allows someone to connect a variety of different USB devices to a tablet or mobile phone. Most often I’ve made use of a simple USB OTG cable to connect a flash drive or USB headset to one of my devices.

You can also use a USB hub to connect multiple devices, all while keeping the tablet powered. I have on occasion connected a USB headset or Blue Yeti microphone. These I use in conjunction with Audio Tool.

Today I discovered that Google offers a USB charger that has a built-in Ethernet adapter. Called the Ethernet Adapter for Chromecast, it’s just $15 from the play store!

Ethernet Adapter for Chromecast

This is fantastic since it eliminates reliance upon WiFi as the primary means of connectivity! That could make many things, admittedly obtuse things, that I might wish to try more reliable. As I’ve stated previously, wherever possible I prefer to leverage Ethernet over WiFi.

I simply had to have one of these for use with my new nVidia Shield K1 tablet! There’s an open question as to whether it will work with the K1, It only delivers 850 mA, which may not be enough for some devices. At just $15 it’s a risk I’m willing to take. More news to follow once the goody arrives.

Netgear Routers Hailed as Dangerous – Here are some alternatives worth considering

netgear-R7000CERT, a US Federal government agency tasked with cyber-security research, has issued an alert advising consumers to stop using various models of Netgear routers. These devices are subject to a trivially simple command injection exploit. Ars Technica has a nice overview of the matter.

Normally I’d have literally nothing to say about this, since it simply doesn’t impact us. Wanna know why it doesn’t impact us?

We don’t use a consumer router that runs closed source firmware.  We don’t think that you should either. In fact, you probably shouldn’t let your friends and family use that junk either.

Perhaps this holiday season, and all of the travelling & visiting that goes along with it, presents an opportunity to help someone unsuspecting secure their home network.

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SOHO Tech: Power-Over-Ethernet is Awesome!

Over the years I’ve come to admire 802.3af standard power-over-Ethernet (aka P.O.E.), even for small- or home-office applications. What follows is an introduction to the topic, and some novel ideas about its use in possibly unexpected applications.

IEEE 802.3af Power-over-Ethernet is the industry standard approach to delivering DC power to network attached devices. Given a P.O.E.-capable switch, or a P.O.E. inserter, DC power is delivered over the same Ethernet connection that provides connectivity. Thus one wire is all that’s required to a distant device on the network.
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User Experience: T-Mobile’s Continental Plans

TMobile-Phones-CoOmpositeEarlier this year T-Mobile altered their US Simple Choice Plans to include coverage in Canada and Mexico without roaming charges. The plans eliminate roaming while out of the country, but also eliminate international long distance when calling Canada and Mexico. Further, they include “4G LTE data in Canada & Mexico.” Since we go to Canada to visit family at least once a year the new plan sounded quite useful.

Change is hard…

Last month we made our annual trek to the Great White North. While making plans an associate, who is also a T-Mobile customer, recommended that I call T-Mobile and make sure that we had the correct plan. Failure to do so would result in us incurring the usual roaming charges for platinum-plated voice and data service while travelling.

On the very eve of our departure I remembered to call T-Mobile and make the change to the account. In fact, I called from the airport (IAH) while we were awaiting the departure of our initial flight to Toronto.

Of course, I called the from my mobile phone. The automated system advised that there would be some on-hold time, and I could opt to have them call me back, which I did. The callback took about ten minutes.

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Chances Are Your Router’s Firmware Blows

Linksys WRT-54G RouterYou surely have a lock on your front door. Do you have such a lock on your network? Though you may think so, but it may well be wholly unlocked. Or at least, you may not be able to know for certain that it’s locked. If you use a commercial Wi-Fi router from your ISP, or one of the big names like Linksys, Belkin, DLink et al, your network may not be as secure as you think.

At the outset let me state that, as someone who reads hereabouts, you’re no dummy. You’ve taken steps to ensure that the router doesn’t still have  the default admin password. You’re using modern encryption on your Wi-Fi. You’re being responsible, but there are things beyond your grasp.

The simple fact is that the firmware the runs most retail, commercial routers is closed source. As such, you have no ready way to verify it’s behavior. Yet, the manufacturer, by virtue of necessity, uses various common software modules to create their firmware. They may even use some open source modules, but end up with an closed source binary in the end.

The upshot of this reality is that you have a very small team of developers responsible for maintaining the code. That means updates come along slowly, if at all for older devices. By extension, serious security issues get addressed slowly, if they ever get addressed at all.

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Powerline Ethernet: Boldly Going Where Others Cannot Reach

asus-22.0.0Most people think that Wifi is awesome. It certainly is convenient, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. No matter how freaky your Wifi router looks….

Wifi Is Not Always Your friend!

The very nature of Wifi is in some ways problematic. It’s a lot like a hub in the bad old days. It’s essentially a single connection shared between all of the connected devices. As the number of Wifi devices in our lives continues to multiply, they must compete for access to bandwidth.

This contention for access is not always a problem. It doesn’t really matter if your Nest thermostat is slightly delayed in checking in with our largely benevolent overlords at Google. Nor does it matter if Outlook finds it’s access to the email server to be a bit sluggish. However, for real-time applications like streaming media, continuous, reliable bandwidth is utterly essential!

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