Broadband to the home

Broadband to the home

We are thinking about some business opportunities in the home networking space. I’d love to hear from you all about your needs and problems. Some questions I have:

– Do you have a cablemodem or dsl connection to the internet now? Are you thinking of getting one?
– Do you have multiple PCs in your house that you want to connect up to the cablemodem or dsl connection? How are you going to do that?
– Are you worried about security of your PCs once you put them on this cablemodem or dsl connection? What are you willing to spend to prevent virus attacks each month? Do you spend money today on virus checking software, or a virus checking service, or on a firewall?
– Are you worried about your family’s use of the internet? What will you spend to filter out objectionable content for your kids? Do you spend anything today on this?
– Are you worried about backup of all the files on your PCs? Would you pay for a service to backup your files over your cablemodem or dsl connection so that they were safely stored up on the network? Do you spend money today on backup software or a backup service?
– Do you share photos today with your extended family? Why or why not? What is preventing you?

Thanks!

MP3 Receivers

MP3 Receivers

My friends Sam and Brad are playing around with the SliMP3 receiver. Ripping all their CDs to a server in their house and then streaming the songs out to this receiver elsewhere in the house. A bleeding edge thing to do now, but the way we are all headed.

Gaming PCs.

Gaming PCs.

I am getting ready to start spec’ing out and building my next PC. I am starting to collect inspiration — the alienware site has some cool machines but I fear I want more.

Tech Junkie also seems like a great source of inspiration. Quit a few articles on overclocking the GeForce 4.

Some current tech topics

Some current tech topics

My buddy Rich has a lot of great info up on his weblog about a variety of topics. Recently he and I have been captivated with low cost storage systems. He’s figured out the way to build a really low cost 120GB file server for your network, including full mirroring for disaster recovery purposes. Very cool, I will probably build one of these. With something like this on your home network, you don’t need to worry about buying big hard disks on your PCs in the future.

Another thing coming to your home network is wireless networking. This site is a great source of news and tech tips.

We’ve also noticed in compusa and other computer stores recently that routers and wireless routers for the home are flying off the shelves. For instance look at the top sellers at Amazon in this category right now. Everyone who has a dsl or cable modem connection is wiring up their house to get all their PCs on that connection — and wireless is often the way to go.

We’re excited about this. With all this networking getting deployed, there is the opportunity to provide the solutions and apps on top of this infrastructure that consumers really want. For instance, why is it so hard for me to share pictures with the rest of you? Why don’t new pictures that I take just show up on your home network for viewing?

Distributed Denial of Service Attacks

Distributed Denial of Service Attacks

A great article on another recent attack. A sidebar — if you all have recent Windows machines (Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP), you should all be running windows update periodically to ensure that you have all the latest security fixes. The fixes marked “critical” are the ones you want at a minimum.

Alterna Blog

Alterna Blog

So I am playing around with a new toy, Radio, created by Userland Software. I don’t grok it fully yet but it has some interesting features. For those of you who are really into blogs and web services and RSS and XML, you can visit my sandbox site and follow all the links there to learn more about.

Back Live

Back Live

Whew the server is back live. Had some problems which I hopefully cleaned up. Mostly stupid configuration problems on my part.

Actually take one part general insecurity of the internet, one part windows nt security holes, one part laziness on my part, and one part stupid misconfiguration, and ouila, you have what happened to me. First of all my system was identified as a valid NT server by the various profilers that are running on the internet and my IP address was stuffed away into all the profiler databases. Then all the standard tools were run against my server to find potential exploits and many were found — mostly because I didn’t keep my server up to date on security patches and lockdown tools. Then I screwed up and let anonymous users write to my FTP server.

Nothing particularly malicious happened, some folks just used my server as a staging area for some pirated PC software and some pirated gameboy advance software and some pirated music. I have a large disk drive, I didn’t even notice the usage for a couple days. Then as I was doing some directory maintenance I noticed some unusual directories that I had not created. A little investigation of the directory contents and logs and running tasks and ports in use on my machine let me know I had a problem and so I yanked the net tap. After investigating all the issues for a couple days, I concluded the best thing to do was to reformat the drives and reinstall Windows NT with all the latest patches and lockdown tools. And also tighten up the firewalls between my server and the open internet.

Thankfully my website content is actually stored elsewhere and just propagated regularly to the server so I didn’t actually lose any content. Just some time. And I learned some great lessons along the way. In a strange way it was fun.

Glad to be back tho…

Webcam

Webcam

Another new toy I am playing with. You can check out the view from our back upstairs deck by clicking on the Webcam link at left. I only update this picture once a day at 10am currently. i am playing around with camera settings and location so it may change from day to day.

Pictures

Pictures

I am trying out some simple picture posting ideas. You’ll see on the left some links to photos. These are stored up on Shutterfly as we use that as a photo printing service. You can actually print photos from there if you want some of these.

Let me know if any problems viewing these.

Busy Weekend!

Busy Weekend!

On Friday, I finally joined the ACLU and the EFF after years of claiming I was going to. I am all for tracking down terrorists and bringing them to justice, but in our zeal to do so, I hope we don’t crush important civil liberties.

On Friday night, We went to the Father/Dottir Dinner at school and had a wonderful time, while C and John stayed at home and had a movie night. Great bonding all around.

On Saturday, we went with the rest of the lemmings to see Harry Potter. While not an A+ movie in our view, it was still a great deal of fun. We all agree, we like Ron the best.

On Sunday, digital age disaster! We had taken a lot of pictures Saturday with our digital camera, hoping to use one for our Christmas card. And we had a lot of other pictures in the camera. On Sunday I took the compactflash memory card out of our camera and attempted to upload the pictures to my PC. Oops, the card was corrupted. And it was no longer readable by the camera. All our pictures were gone.

Major unhappiness. Thankfully I knew people at Microsoft who knew the experts on compactflash, and they directed me towards Ontrack. Not for the faint of heart, this is a pretty techy tool, I had to figure out that my compactflash card had a FAT32 file system on it and had to scan the compactflash card many many times, but I finally recovered 90% of the pictures.

Lesson learned yet again — back up early and back up often. Never leave pictures sitting around for months in your digital camera, get them uploaded and stored securely right away.

One more digital disaster — I love my blackberry, but I am getting blackberry thumb, a variant of carpal tunnel. ouch.

This Day In History

This Day In History

First of all, when it comes to doughnuts, we’re #1!

I hope the weather doesn’t prevent us from consuming even more doughnuts.

More importantly, let’s wish the microprocessor a happy birthday. In one form or another it has had a huge impact on our lives. Certainly on my life anyway.

I still remember the first Bowmar Brain that Dad brought home. Wow. I was entranced. I soon graduated to the TI-59, which introduced me to primitive programming. Then I managed to buy a TI 99/4 and had my first personal computing experience. This machine was a dog but the notion of personal computing was infectious for me.

I quickly ditched the TI (which again was a dog) and got an Apple ][ which was a great machine. I loved buying software in ziplock bags at the Microcenter on Lane Avenue. I loved the huge market of addon cards. I loved the nascent computer industry press — Byte magazine and Creative Computing were my monthly bibles.

Then I read an article about the Smalltalk programming environment in Byte magazine and was hooked on the idea of a graphical interface, and bought a Mac at the first possible moment — my second year in grad school, C and I had absolutely no money, but I managed to buy a Mac the first day it was on the market.

Then I moved out west here and had to adopt Windows and PCs wholeheartedly. By now I am probably on my 20th Windows PC in the workplace and probably 10th at home — my latest being a hardcore game machine from Alienware.

And of course I now use microprocessors in about 100 other machines in my daily life — in my stereo, in my car, in my MP3 player, in my cell phone, in my Blackberry, etc…

It has been fun so far…

Weblogs

Weblogs

Perhaps the best way to build a personal website these days is as a weblog, or blog for short. This site is an example — your typical blog is a set of short notes posted in chronological order, most typically with references to other sites. It is kind of the web equivalent of a diary!

You can get more information on blogs at lots of places — the blogger site has lots of info and is the tool that I use to build and maintain my site. Super easy to use, and I can add new items to my website from anywhere — at home, at work, at a friends house, anywhere. Weblogs.com also has a ton of info and you can buy software up here to help you build and run a blog (or any other kind of website). There is more info on these sites than I can possibly summarize, including a lot of info on or near the weblogs site concerning web services and xml which is a whole ‘nother discussion.

To get started building a blog using say blogger, you’ll need to first decide where to host your blog — i.e. what server will it physically reside on. If you don’t care what domain name you have, then you can use a free homepage service like Talkcity . You’ll have limited storage and probably some ads inserted in your page but hey it is free.

If you want your own domain name like I have, you’ll need to register your name at someplace like Network Solutions. This isn’t hugely expensive — $35/year is the listed price tho i think i have seen cheaper deals. Then you’ll need to pay some more to host the domain somewhere — you should be able to get this done for $10 a month or less. Or you can do like I do and host it at your workplace for free, though you will need a friendly employer.

Once you have your free homepage or hoisted domain set up, just point blogger towards it and go! I’ve skipped about a zillion details but part of the fun is learning how to do all this and I don’t want to spoil your fun!