Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
For reasons unknown to me at this time, I've decided to start messing with my Linksys Routers again. I've posted before about it, about my trials and tribulations (mostly tribulations) about getting it to work. Getting WDS to work, trying to link an entire apartment building with Sveasoft's Alchemy and Talisman firmware, replacing the default rubber duckies on the main router with some higher gain antennas and then, when I thought I had everything set up and everyone in the complex was happy with their internet access, I'd realize that the VoIP would drop calls, or Xbox Live wouldn't work very well at all and we'd get our asses handed to us (faster than normal) in Halo 2.

Once that was all out of the way, then it was the Prismiq's turn to squawk. The Prismiq also only supported WEP and not WPA or WPA2 encryption, so my encryption was only WEP. I've given up on the Prismiq now, it's sitting on the floor behind the TV, unplugged. The SVideo and L-R audio cables that were plugged into it are sitting there looking lonely, but I plug my laptop into them now when I want to watch stuff on a bigger-than-12.1" screen. With that out of the way I can now move up to WPA encryption.

I'd also like to get the VPN endpoint set up so that when I wander into a random hotspot and connect to the big 'ole Internet, I can tunnel through to here and then go out from my router,keeping all my info that's transmitted to the public AP encrypted. QoS is also important, for the Packet8 phone and the Xbox, as well as making sure that any torrents that happen to be coming down don't choke out web surfing or emailing.

After using Sveasoft firmware for nearly a year, I'm switching to DD-WRT. It does everything I want it to, and has better documentation. One of the biggest sources of frustration was getting answers from the Sveasoft forum. If you had good search-fu you could find where someone else had already asked the same question you had, but more often than not, it was not answered by anyone, or answered by someone saying "it's been answered already. use the search function" and lots of messages from Sveasoft saying "it'll be fixed in the next version." "But when is that?" 'soon.' I still have the binaries I downloaded for my routers from Sveasoft, so I can always go back if I need to, but for now Im switching to DD-WRT. If you don't see me online for a few days, you'll know why :)
Wednesday, April 19, 2006 7:01:09 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Linux | Wireless#
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
...You might end up administratively locking yourself out of Windows
Wednesday, June 15, 2005 7:00:52 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Tech | Linux | Microsoft | Travel#
Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Well it took me, what? Six months? something like that anyway. I finally got a config working that's linked up all the units in my apt building to share an internet connection. Here's some things I found out along the process:

Linksys' firmware does not support WDS very well. A WAP54G will function well as a repeater to another WAP54G or a WRT54G, but a second WAP54G will not function properly when it's a repeater pointed at another repeater.

Sveasoft's Talisman firmware (as of the time of this writing) was still too buggy to run reliably. It locked up the router and required a hard-reset about once a day. If that once a day happened while I was at work, I was stuck without my resources at home until I could get home and power-cycle it. That also meant that anyone who was trying to use the internet connection was out of luck, too.

Sveasoft's Freya firmware for the WAP54G causes a lot of WAp54s to just die during upgrade. Fortunately, I was able to rescue mine and bring it back to life. Their forums are very convoluted. Lots of questions, and no answers, and lots of questions with stale answers. Every now and then I'd find a question similar to what I was looking for, and the only reference was to “search on these terms, there's tons of topics about it already” but really there aren't.

There's no way to tell that you're actually using the Freya firmware, other than noticing that the firmware revision number is LESS than what it was when you took it out of the box, and there's an extra option under advanced settings that allows telnet access. There's no mention of WDS within the web config pages or the help files at all. I assume that when you put it into repeater mode, that's WDS, and went with that. Sveasoft has been talking about a Talisman Micro edition for the WAP54, and to “just wait for that to come out” but those messages saying “soon come” go back as far as January of 2004, and continue to this day.

Linksys' WRE54G is a piece of shit. The WRT54G is their wireless/wired router and is rock-solid. The WAP54G is an AP-only version of the WRT54G and runs a stripped-down version of the WRT's firmware on less memory. The WRE54G is a stripped down version of the WAP54G with one little antenna and no ethernet port. The theory of it works well, but in practice, it's dinky little antenna was not powerful enough to replace another WAP54 (which has dual antennas and an ethernet port for configuring/AP client mode). It's also more expensive than even a WRT54G is.

Linksys' support in India is hit-and-miss. The first time through the guy really had no clue about networking or even the products he was supposed to be supporting. He asked me to plug in the WRE54G via it's wired port and configure it that way, when that POS doesnt HAVE a wired port. When I said that, suddenly there was technical difficulties and the chat session was dropped. The second time through, last Friday night, I chatted with another tech for over an hour. She was the one who told me that pointing a repeater at another repeater was not supported and had me power-cycle everything at the end, breaking my connection and disconnecting me from the chat session. She said she was going to send me a different (older probably) firmware to try, but that never appeared, just the transcript of the chat session.

In the end, I had to buy another WRT54G. I “upgraded” both WRT54s to Sveasoft's Alchemy firmware and set them up as with a WDS link. I then configured the one WAP54 as a repeater to the far side of the WDS link, and it works. The two WRTs have their radio power turned up to 84mw (from 28mw) and the WRT in my apt has replacement high-gain antennas on it as well. It all works now, finally.

I'll get around to an updated Visio drawing and post it up later on.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005 6:27:42 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Wireless | Linux#
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
...or how I learned a lot more about Linksys internal workings than I ever thought I'd want to.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005 4:57:33 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Linux | Wireless | Gadgets#
Monday, May 9, 2005

Well, I'm still not entirely sure WHAT happened to my hard drive. The drive was still there, but Windows wouldnt recognize it and said “Drive F: is not formatted, would you like to format it now?” uhhhh NO! I figured I'd give Knoppix a whirl, as I had read about it last week. I downloaded the torrent of it (686mb in about 60 mins) and burned the image to a CD, popped it in and booted up.

Knoppix came up and found all my hardware, even my USB drives that were plugged in. The only gripe I had with it at that point was that the resolution was low, 640x480 I think. I probably could have entered one of the “cheat codes” that comes with it to up the resolution on startup, but whatever, it worked.

The odd thing was that it found my hard drive at /dev/hdb1 and it showed the entire file structure and all the files... my biggest gripe of the day came when I found out that I couldn't write to an NTFS disk with it. Apparently there is a way to do it, and I googled around for a bit. You're supposed to click on the K, go to Knoppix, Utilities and there's a program called CaptiveNTFS that lets you read and write to an NTFS partition, but it wasnt there. I read something about Windows XP SP2 “breaking” captive NTFS with a new version of the NTOS kernel file, so I was pretty much dead in the water. I thought about doing it 1gb at a time with my USB drive but gave up on that after one revolution through that process. I thought maybe I could do it 4 times, burn a DVD, do it 4 more times, burn a DVD but if that was the case, I'd still be sitting there now with cobwebs in my ears trying to copy off all the data.

In the end I used the network to do it. Knoppix had enough Samba stuff built into it that I could connect to a share on my network and copy-and-paste the files over the network. I got a full 11mbps when I was copying from my Knoppix desktop to my XP laptop and then via USB2 to another hard drive (even though I have an entirely 802.11g network capable of 'theoretical' 54mbps throughput) and was getting 1MB/sec throughput. I turned off my wireless radio on my laptop and plugged it in via cat5 ethernet to theoretically get a max of 100mbps speed. I DID get 20mbps and 2MB/sec transfer rate, so I was content with that.

I managed to save all the TV shows I haven't watched yet, and all the data files I had stored on the drive as well. I sacrificed a few movies I had stored on the drive, my backup of my Mp3 library, my backup of my photo library and a bunch of other “assorted” video clips that I was storing there for network sharing purposes.

Once all that was done, I rebooted back into Windows and used disk manager to delete the partition and create and format a new partition on that HD. It seemed to work, and the disk is now a pristine, empty 155gb again, but I'm not sure that I trust it with 'critical' data. I don't know why it failed. The weird thing is that my previous Maxtor 160gb drive that was in this enclosure failed the same way, about a year ago. I'm wondering if maybe it's because we're approaching summer, and the tempurature in the apt is too high during the day when there's no A/C on and the computer is still running. I'll have to look around for some temperature monitoring software and run some tests on it to see if I can get a baseline on the temperature in my case during the day compared to at night.

Monday, May 9, 2005 5:51:36 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [1] | Tech | Linux | Microsoft#
Saturday, May 7, 2005

My laptop is in dire need of an OS refresh. It takes forever to do just about anything. It's a real pain in the ass. I keep putting it off because backing everything up, making a list of things to re-install, then actually doing it and then re-installing all the apps takes a long time.

My external hard drive was getting full, too. 155gb and I had something like 13mb free. Now that a lot of tv seasons are over, (which I was waiting for) I made preparations to start backing things up to DVD. I did that this morning and had a few folders with 4.3gb in each that would fit on a DVD. I fired up Nero and it crashed. I fired it up again, and it crashed. I tried to uninstall Nero and the control panel applet crashed. Things were a bit flakey, so I shut down and restarted the computer. This is a fairly fresh install, by the way. just a few weeks old. so when I restarted, it crashed out again. I started to do a little further investigation, and realized that my F: Drive (BigDog) was saying it was Local Disk (F:) Odd.... I tried to open it and windows crashed. uh-oh.

A few little tests and it was confirmed: Bigdog was toast. With 150gb of data on it. I went looking in my downloads folder for a recovery utility, and of course they all boot from DOS... which means I need a diskette. Who the hell has diskettes anymore? Computers arent even coming with them anymore, you have to buy it and pay extra.

SO, I'm trying something new, while I wait for some floppy diskettes (Johnny Rotten is in town and picking me up some so I should get em in a couple hours). Im downloading a disk image of Knoppix. Knoppix is a flavor of Linux that's designed to boot and run entirely from your CD drive. It comes with the Linux kernel, KDE and then a buttload of applications on it, including data recovery tools for other OSes. There was an article I read online last week (I cant remember where or I'd post a link) about using it for windows system recovery, so Im going to give it a shot. It can't hurt, the data is already lost, right?

I unthrottled my BitTorrent client so Im downloading it at 150KB/sec, to the detriment of everyone else trying to use my network. :)

I'll post up how it worked and any snags I run into here later... what a great way to spend a weekend! (not)

Saturday, May 7, 2005 2:07:09 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Linux#
Thursday, March 17, 2005
If you don't know what the title is, you don't have to read on, you won't understand it. This post is so I'll have a permalink to use to refer to this document in the future. :)
Thursday, March 17, 2005 7:34:17 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Links | Tech | Gadgets | Linux#
Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Last time I tried out Linux, it was 1997 and I installed Redhat Version.. I dunno 4 or something on an old 486 box with two NICs in it to use as a firewall when I first got a cable modem. It booted off a floppy and installed the entire OS via FTP. Bob had to help me with it, and then we had to get another of his friends to finish it off for us. All it really did was be a NAT server with a shell command prompt on it. I didn't really even flip over to it's screen very often.

That's all Changed with Fedora Core 1(Redhat V10 if you will) So far all I've done is install it on my second machine (a PIII/500 desktop) and I've fired up Mozilla on it to look up a couple things, and I have to say I'm pretty darned impressed with it so far. Everything that I do with Windows currently was installed during the install process. web browsing, ftp, news, the GIMP, and OpenOffice. I havent tried anything out with it yet, it's getting too late tonight to mess with it, but I'm looking forward to it and learning as I go. I've introduced a new category to the blog now, Linux, to keep track of these posts. I'm going to see what happens if I try to use USB and Wireless and stuff with it, just for shits & grins. Nothing dramatic like what Richy & Steve pulled off (check the blogroll for their sites) but it'll be fun to tinker with over the next while.

Will I switch and ditch Windows XP Pro? highly doubtful. I didnt spend all this time, and all the money getting Microsoft Certs to abandon it, and we use Windows Servers at work. I'll continue to putter and experiment with Linux on my desktop at home though.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004 8:39:23 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Linux#
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