Posts Tagged ‘networking’

wiresWith more and more laptops and tablets becoming the mode we stay connected, the Ethernet cable is slowly becoming a thing of the past, especially with a recently reported 7 percent of north american consumers already dependent solely on smartphones for Internet access.  It easy to see the writing is on the wall for wired connectivity.  Add to that the slow shift from land-line telephones to cellphones, and you can see the winds of change blowing.

Those same winds are also helping to encourage workers to use their own devices at work.  The whole Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement is gaining momentum in the workplace and companies for the most part are encouraging it, seeing it as a free way to get new tech in the hands of the workers for no cost to themselves, or at least, very little cost.  That however, may be more dangerous than the corporate bean-counters are aware of.  IT needs to be aware of the situation and figure out how to best provide fast, secure, reliable wireless network access while remaining cost-effective.

Some interesting stats:  Wireless usage in the corporate environment is around 25%, and expected to be near 35% within 18 months.  Roughly half of all employees are using their own devices for business purposes, and the vast majority of those employees are using more than one device.

What this means is that right now about half of the people using their own devices are also footing the bill for their data consumption while at work, rather than connecting to the office network, but this is bound to change.  Employees will want the ability to use the corporate network, but IT will want to control the info and access to ensure security.  And rightly so.  On both parts.

Encouraging employees to work from outside the office can mean that employees are more readily accessible even during non-working hours which is a win-win for management when done with BYOD.  Wireless LAN can be a great way to encourage employees to work from anywhere within the office, and even from outside the office if a secure connection to the corporate network can be established, but it needs to be secure and monitored and limited.

The change is coming, make sure you and your company network is ready for it.  Wireless connectivity is soon to be a must have in any office, and VPN is not far behind.  Security is the most important part of the puzzle but hot on its heels so to speak is the need for a fast connection without bandwidth limits, and IT needs to spend the money now to prepare and get it in place ahead of the need rather than trying to retroactively address the situation.

It seems fitting to end with a quote from the man who pioneered electronic communication as we know it today, Alexander Graham Bell,… “before anything else, preparation is the key to success“.

-barkerp

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“oooh, so modern”

When I got my new Samsung LED/LCD TV, I was excited by some of the new features and especially interested in the whole Smart HUB side of things. From what I knew, it would enable me to share media directly with the TV from my computer.  Upon further investigation it seemed the answer to whether media could be shared was a fuzzy one.

First off, you need to read the e-manual, which fortunately has its own button on the remote since the written documentation is a bit thin with this TV.  I guess the idea is they give you what you need to get it installed and connected enough to then be able to use the “e-manual”.  Not a bad thing at all since I’m sure most consumers would never use half of the features of this TV nor would they read the whole manual.  Me, I like a dry read.  Must be the tinkerer in me that likes to see how things work, and conversely, how to fix things once I screw them up, so I read it from cover to cover.  Once I got thru the initial setup and connecting of the TV, I wanted to see what else could be done, especially when it comes to getting media off my computer without having to copy to a thumb drive or burn to disk.  This is what DLNA is all about, and one of the reasons I wanted this specific TV in the first place.

What does DLNA stand for? It’s the acronym for Digital Living Network Alliance. Which is basically just a fancy way of saying the standards that let our electronics talk to each other, regardless of manufacturer.  Devices get DLNA certified which means they adhere to the standards set forth in the interoperability guidelines first set forth in 2003.  This interoperability is what I was looking for but having difficulty getting to work between my MacBook Air and the TV.  Sure I could use the XBox360 and Connect360 as I had been doing for a while now, but I wanted to be able to get the media directly from the MBA to the TV without having another device in the mix. Was it because Samsung doesn’t like to play well with Apple?  No. They have been supplying components to them for years. In fact many laptop screens were made by Samsung.  So what was the problem? As it turns out, it’s Apple’s fault.  The Mac OS X does not natively support DLNA.  Unlike the latest versions of Windows, Apple has not been putting much time or effort into making devices other than their own work with each other.

grab the version that’s right for your OS

So what can you do if you want to get media off your Mac to your smart TV?  Try TvMobili. (I know, strange name.  might be easier to just click the following link rather than typing it)

Thankfully third-party developers are pioneering this service and making it available for free.  http://www.tvmobili.com/download.php

What it does is install a program that runs in the background of your computer which allows your Smart TV to detect it like any other DLNA device.

add your files or folders to share

change your settings as desired.

Setup is simple.  Just turn on the components you want, make TvMobili visible on your network, and share the File (s) or Folder (s) you want to be able to access with your TV.

The tools are fairly self-explanatory.  The main ones you will want to tweak are the Content Tab and the Settings Tab. Maybe the Status tab as well since it will show you how much media you are sharing, and how much you have streamed, which can come in handy if you are streaming to outside your network and are concerned about data usage.

The program has the ability and option to make your content available outside of your home too, if you so desire.

I prefer to keep my content more locked down than that so I have turned that feature off as you can see in the following screen capture.  It’s under the Settings, in the GENERAL section/ EXTERNAL ACCESS, nice and easy to find which I appreciate.

Whenever you launch the program it opens up in your web browser, but you don’t actually need to have the web browser open to use the service.  It is running in the background all the time.  In fact whenever I am at home and open up my MBA which is running TvMobili I get an alert message on my TV that my “AllShare Device Connected ” is available and offers to connect to it.  A simple click on the “connect” is all that is needed to watch the media from my MBA on my TV over my home network.

samsung’s smart hub screen

So far, streaming speeds have been excellent, there is no lag or buffering occurring at all, and the pausing, fast-forwarding, rewinding etc works seamlessly using the Samsung TV remote (or the iPhone Samsung remote app, which looks exactly like the physical remote that came with the TV once it is paired with your TV).  Removing one device out of the link between my media and the TV is a great start to simplifying the process of sharing media within our household.  I’m sure it’ll be something I’ll be tweaking and playing with for some time, with this TV being a central part of that process, with the help of TvMobili of course.

Samsung had the common sense to provide the hardware components necessary, but fell short on the software side a little by not providing a complete solution.  Another great example of free software filling a need for the consumer.  Not sure if that’s a good thing entirely though, since it seems to be making the manufacturers lazy to some extent because they know that someone out there will figure out a way to make all your tech work together as long as you give them some of the tools and spark the interest of the developers.

Kind of a new take on the old adage “if you build it, they will come“.  In this case it’s more like “if you build it, they will come and finish the integration for you“.

tcg

* television photo from publicdomainclip-art.blogspot.com

bell-unplugged-error

So, i was online reading an article the other night and was disconnected a few times in the middle of it.  Didn’t think anything of it at the time, until the next day when i got home and tried to connect to the internet and it was not cooperating at all.  My first thought was “we had a power outage this afternoon, must need resetting”.  Simple enough, unplug the Apple Time Capsule (TC) and plug it back in.  Nope.  Flashing amber light on the front of the TC.  hmmmm…  So i checked my Airport Utility to see what was up.  it seemed to be working fine, but no external i.p. address.  I was all ready to blame the faulty TC as you may remember this is my second one already, but i thought at first i would reset it again and then revert to factory default settings and then re-input all my settings, but none of that worked.

As you may guess, i was pretty annoyed, but then decided to check a little further and restart the modem to ensure i could connect directly to the WWW with that before drop kicking my TC out the door.  Glad i did, because it turned out that the wireless modem i have was not functioning properly.  I would unplug it and as soon as i plugged it back instead of acquiring an I.P. address and connecting to my ISP it would just flash all five lights and stay solid lit.  Damn.  That is not a good sign.  A call to my ISP eventually confirmed what i thought.  I had a faulty modem.   They were pretty good about it and said they would rush one out to me.  I asked what they considered rush and was told 3 or 4 days.  Yikes.  3 or 4 days unconnected?  fetal position here i come.  As it turned out it wasn’t so bad, thankfully there is always internet at my office and i have my iphone which is fine for staying connected so i managed.  As it turned out, it was only 2 days and i had a new shiny modem waiting for me at home.   I quickly swapped out the old one for the new one and powered it up, hoping for a seamless transition, but alas that was not to be.

I got an error similar to the one at the top of the post asking me to sign up for the service which i thought was strange since i already had an account so i called technical support again and sure enough they said i shouldn’t be getting that message (always love that response, its like they don’t believe you) and didn’t need to sign up again.  At first i was told there was system trouble at the time and i should wait and it would be fixed shortly.  “Try connecting again in an hour”.  That didn’t work so i waited two hours.  Nope. Nada.  After 3 hours i called them back and went through the whole explanation again.  This time i was told there was an erro with the modem serial number and they were fixing it.  “Should be working by morning”.  I figured, its late, been on the phone for about 2 hours total tonight, time to call it quits, so i thanked the tech support person and hung up.

The next morning, i was up with the birds (chickens being noisy outside the window actually) and decided to see if we did in fact have internet again.  Nope.  I called my ISP again and got into the whole situation, explained everything done to date, etc but didn’t have time to wait for them to discuss the issue with their supervisor because i had to get to work.  I called back later on and talked to yet another person, and eventually stumbled upon the fact that it may not just be the serial number on file that was incorrect but the MAC (Media Access Control) number as well.  Argh.  I had expected them to confirm this kind of info if it was a potential problem since they had confirmed the serial number umpteen times.  I went home and checked the MAC number they had on file for the new modem, and the one on the bottom of the actual modem and sure enough they did not match. Pretty sure i knew what the problem was, i called tech support one more time, and let them know of the issue as i understood it. Sure enough i was right, the incorrect MAC number was tied to the serial number of the new modem. i gave them the proper number and expecting to be told i would need to wait while it propagated through the systems i was surprised when the tech told me to turn off the modem for 10 seconds and it should be working. So, i have to wonder if their standard comment about everything taking a few hours to start working is a load of whooey? Is that just the pat answer when they are not sure what they are doing to buy them some time?

As it happened, i was cut off while checking the internet was working properly, and much to my surprise tech support called me back to make sure it was all working properly. Will wonders never cease? It was working fine and i had figured i’d never get through to the same person i was talking to, which is one of the troubles with call centres – you never get the same person and end up spending more time explaining yourself over and over each time you call in more than anything else – so it was a pleasant surprise to have someone take the time to follow up and make sure i finally had a working connection to the “interweb”. 4 days and too many phone calls to remember, but it was refreshing to know there are still a few people who actually want to do their jobs, and serve the customers. What a novel idea for someone in the customer service field. Who knows, maybe talk of this event may filter through the ranks and other people will try it too.

tcg

A little back story, i have 5 macs at home, all varying in vintage from the past 10 years +/-. It’s sad in some ways that a computer that is around 10 years is a dinosaur, but in the world of technology it is definitely true.

The particular mac i am talking about is a second generation clamshell ibook, a true inspiration of design and style, and one i haven’t the heart to mothball because it’s just so darn cool. Rather than spend a chunk of change on an airport card (if i could find one that is) I thought i would try to use a cheaper solution – a wireless USB network adapter. so I picked up a relatively cheap Trendnet USB wirelss adapter – model TEW-4224UB. First off was upgrading the OS. The ibook had OS 9.04, which from my brief researching on the web would not allow me to run the USB adapter i bought. I needed minimum os X.3 for that, so i began the upgrade process to os9.1, then updated that to 0S 9.2., to get ready for the jump to OSX.

My thinking was, I would install OSX and then jump straight to Jaguar. great idea in theory, but not in practice. I did the OSX install and then updated to OSX.1 because I remember how flaky OSX was in the beginning. So after that i inserted the Jaguar cd but it would not install. After a lot of head scratching and pondering I stumbled on the fact that the ibook only had 64 meg of ram, which did not meet the minimum requirements for Jaguar. Thankfully a friend had replaced a stick of ram in his old powerbook and the type was the same so i popped it in and voila, 128 meg ram. the minimum i needed, which made for a rather lengthy install os OSX.3 Jaguar but at least it was installing.

After the install was complete i updated to 10.3.9 and installed the generic software i found for the trendnet USB wireless adapter and then plugged that in. Nothing. Nada. No networks adapters available. I played around for a while with various network settings and resetting my router, making sure i had all security turned off – thinking some setting was stopping the adapter from connecting. Still Nada. At this point i’m questioning the function of the adapter so i install the software onto a slightly newer ibook and try it one there – again nothing. It looks like it’s not going to work. Either the hardware is faulty, or the software doesn’t work with this particular adapter. I’m leaning towards the latter.

All this because i am trying to get a non-supported wireless usb network adapter to work. Sometimes it makes sense to spend the extra money and get the proper hardware, but then again, to borrow a page from Apple, it can be fun to think different. This saga isn’t over yet, i haven’t given up so easily, i’m just taking time to rethink.

(to be continued)
TCG

Getting and Staying connected

Posted: March 17, 2007 in hardware
Tags: , ,

 

I was in a hotel in Dallas for a few days recently, and while playing around with the wireless connections available in the hotel it got me thinking about network connections in general, and some of the problems people may experience just trying to get onto the “interweb” (to quote the master of all things duct-tape Red Green).

Most of the time we use networks that are familiar to us, but the availability of wireless hot-spots is becoming more popular and the number of people traveling with laptops is increasing (point of fact, my flight back home from Texas had half the people in first class with laptops, and about 10 to 15% of the people in economy class with laptops as well.) It would seem that staying connected is important to us, and here’s a few pointers to help you do just that, while experiencing as little frustration as possible.

1. Use a web-based email program when traveling. This will eliminate the need to adjust smtp settings to be able to send your mail. Receiving email using pop is never tough, but sending can be depending upon how the network you are using/borrowing was set up. I can normally make my pop email work, but i may have to try 3 or 4 different outgoing smtp settings to find one that will send, whereas hotmail or gmail or some other web-based email program like that works without any necessary changes at all.

2. Check your network adapter settings. Network switches and server network adapters have to have the duplex settings matched for communication to function correctly. Both must be set to full-duplex or half-duplex. They cannot be mismatched. The computers on a local area network (LAN) typically share a common full-duplex network medium. This configuration permits two computers to transmit data at the same time. Connectivity problems may occur for a number of reasons, but there are two that are quite common for laptop users. If, for instance, the computer was moved to a new Ethernet switch port that automatically senses network speed. However, the computer’s network adapter is configured to force full-duplex communication with a static network transfer speed setting (10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, or 1 gigabit per second [Gbps]) this can cause issues. So you may be saying – huh? – half duplex/ full duplex – what do houses have to do with this?
“Full-duplex permits two-way communication between networked devices. Without full-duplex hardware, information is sent one way and then sent the other way. Packets frequently collide on the network in a half-duplex hardware configuration, and every time a collision occurs, the packets that collided must be resent. This creates even more traffic that can decrease network performance. With full-duplex, transmit and receive paths are separate. Therefore, you can transmit and receive at the same time, and collisions are prevented. Because of the increased throughput and lack of collisions however, full-duplex is more susceptible to bad cable terminations or to cable attenuation that exceeds recommended limits. This can generate data retransmissions that become sufficient to degrade performance.”

3. Another issue is some network adapters or switches with transmission rates of 10/100 megabits per second (Mbps) do not switch over correctly. Some autosense settings may not correctly detect the speed of some network adapters. You may find that “tweaking” your settings, ie: changing your speed, may give you better access speeds than letting your computer decide for itself. Unfortunately you may not have any access to these settings in a public environment, being as you are just using someone else’s equipment that they configured.

4. In the case of a hotel for instance, check with the front desk as to their rules for network usage and settings. If nothing else, they will be able to tell you which network to connect to (many times there is more than one that’ll will show up in your wireless sniffer, and knowing which one you are supposed to be using may speed things up). Sometimes you need to agree to a usage agreement before getting full internet access through their server, other times you may need to get a temporary password to be allowed to sign on.

And finally, always remember, you are borrowing someone else’s bandwidth, so try to be courteous and use it wisely, and only for legal purposes. In a perfect world, in the not to distant future, i can see freely available wireless networks all over the major cities, with hotspots being able to be linked to, the way your cel-phone links from tower to tower, but if we have to limit their usage and installation due to misuse, and end up clicking okay to usage agreements every time we change access points, it will only hinder the progress.

chow y’all (sorry, a bit of texas got in me)
TCG