Tag Archives : Hardware

Morning Coffee 155 – Dueling Conference Edition

  • If you don’t want to watch the video of yesterday’s MIX keynote but still want a sense of what happened, check out Tim Sneath’s keynote liveblog. (via Sam Gentile)
  • Other announcements from Mix day one keynote that I missed (all via Tim Sneath)
  • Quick side note – Installing Silverlight 2 in order to check out the DeepZoom Hard Rock demo was smooth, fast and easy. It’s hard to believe there’s a whole CLR in there.
  • Now on to public stuff I saw @ TechFest:
    • One of the problems with touch screens is that your fingers obscure what you’re trying to touch. Lucid Touch solves this by having you touch the back of the device, while rendering a virtual shadow of your hand – a technique they call “pseudo transparency”. You really need to watch the video to “get” this. It’s not currently feasible – the prototype uses a webcam on a foot long boom to track hand and finger position. However, they expect a future version will have some type of imaging sensors embedded in the body of the device.
    • The Berkeley Emulation Engine version 3 (aka BEE3) (video) is a high powered hardware simulator. Apparently several orders of magnitudes faster than conventional simulation. Frankly, most of this demo was over my head and I’m not really a HW guy. But it sounds really fast.
    • BLEWS or “what the blogosphere tells you about news”. Given my interest in political blogging, it’s not a surprise I was interested in this project. This tool categorizes news stories according to their reception in the political blogosphere. It provides a visualization showing not only how many links from a given ideological sphere there are, but how strong the emotions are running. Kinda like Memorandum on major steroids.
    • Music Steering (video) is an “interactive music-playlist generation through music-content analysis, music recommendation, and music filtering”. Sort of like LastFM + Pandora on your Zune.
    • In-Depth Image Editing (team site) showed some cool photo editing software that reminding me of Microsoft Max.
    • MashupOS (paper) is a set of abstractions to improve the browser security model, allowing for isolation between blocks of code from different sources while still allowing safe forms of communication.
    • MySong (paper, video) “automatically chooses chords to accompany a vocal melody, allowing a user with no musical training to rapidly create accompanied music”. Karaoke singers rejoice! Actually, it’s pretty cool. You can adjust sliders to adjust characteristics of the generated music like “Jazz factor” and “Happy factor”. Actually, I just want a happy factor slider in all my software.
    • I saw some cool projects from the Socio-Digital Systems group and MS Research. My wife is a sociologist and always says there’s no way she could ever get a job in the big house. Maybe after she checks out this team, she’ll stop thinking that.
    • The Worldwide Telescope booth was so crowded that I couldn’t get anywhere near it. From what I could see from standing in the back, it looked fantastic. It’s not live yet, but you can check out the video from the TED conference to get a sense of it.

Morning Coffee 149

Upgrading My Home Wireless Network

A few weeks ago, I put out the call for advice on improving my home network. I got a bunch of responses, both for and against PowerLine. I ended up upgrading my wireless network because 1) I was having laptop connectivity issues and 2) wireless equipment is so fraking cheap. I might still go PowerLine later, though I’m thinking it’s “good enough” until I really bite the bullet and run Cat5 under my house.  

Yesterday, I picked up a couple of Buffalo Wireless routers: a WHR-HP-G54 and a WHR-G125. The first one has a high-powered antenna, so I hoped that would solve my range problem. Both support Wireless Distribution System (aka WDS), so the plan was to use the WHR-G125 as a repeater and/or bridge. Also, both support 3rd party firmware, a la DD-WRT and OpenWrt. In fact, I chose these models specifically because they’re listed on DD-WRT’s Supported Devices page as best range and cheapest, respectively. Best Buy had them both on sale, so together they cost around $90 and I didn’t even have to wait for them to be shipped.

I also moved my cable modem from the loft to the living room. That way, the Xbox 360 – with all the large demo and video downloads – gets the best bandwidth, typically around 8Mbit (though SpeedTest.net has clocked my connection as high as 18Mbit).

Moving the cable modem meant putting my loft desktop machine on the wireless network. At first, I used the G125 as a bridge. Getting it setup as a bridge using WDS was fairly straightforward, except that these routers only support WEP in that configuration and WEP is essentially broken.

At this point, I figured I had to either live with WEP (*BUZZ* wrong answer) or upgrade both routers with DD-WRT firmware. According to their wiki, DD-WRT firmware supports WPA for WDS. Then I remembered a third option, detailed by Scott Hanselman a few weeks back. I had been using an Xbox MN-740 wireless bridge to get my Xbox 360 on the wireless network. However, since my Xbox is hardwired now, I didn’t need it anymore. Scott’s posted about flashing the MN-740 with the firmware from the D-Link 108AG gaming adapter (they’re the same hardware under the hood) that supports WPA. It took several tries before it worked, but eventually I was able to flash the device.

So now I am using the WHR-HP-G54 as my main router and access point in the living room and the flashed MN-740 to put my loft desktop machine on the wireless WPA-secured network. That desktop has all my media and is running Vista Ultimate, so I was able to get both media sharing and the Media Center Extender working. According to the network diagnostics on Vista, the connection is fast enough to stream SD video, but not HD. So I figure I’ll still need to run some Cat5. But for now, I’m not trying to stream HD video from the machine in the loft so I figure I can wait on the Cat5.

Plus, I have the G125 to experiment with. For $35, it was cheap enough that I can upgrade it with the latest DD-WRT firmware without worrying about losing my “investment” if I brick the thing. If I get it upgraded and working, I’ll do the HP-G54 too, and be able to use the G125 as a repeater and/or bridge. Maybe that will make the network fast enough to stream HD video, but I doubt it.

Thanks to those who offered me their advice. Any of you want to come over and help run a little Cat5 under my house, beer & BBQ is on me!

Home Networking Question

I’m a software guy, so here’s a couple of home networking questions I’m hoping one of you readers can answer. My internet connection (cable) comes in upstairs in the loft (aka where all my computer stuff lives). My TV and Xbox are in the living room on the opposite side of the house, downstairs. Between the distance and general house interference, the network perf in my living room stinks, with both my laptop and Xbox.

I’d basically resigned myself to running Cat 5 cable from my living room to the loft, which is a pain because it would have to run thru the crawlspace and up the side of the house to the loft and punch in thru the outside wall. Frankly, I haven’t been able to make the time commitment to do that yet.

I was checking out the Linksys site and right there on the homepage is a promotion for their Powerline products. Now that would be MUCH easier than running Cat 5. But how good is it, really? They claim “Data rates up to 200Mbps”, which is plenty fast if they really reach that throughput. Anyone out there had any experience with this Powerline stuff? For around $200 and getting to skip running cable under the house, it’s probably worth it for me to take a shot. Worse that happens is that I have to take it back.

Regardless if I use powerline or run Cat 5, that solves the Xbox problem but I still want a stronger wireless signal on that side of the house. So for my second question, what’s the word on multiple access points? Should I set up multiple wireless APs or should I set up a repeater somewhere in between to boost the signal. I’m actually looking at getting a new wireless router/AP anyway, so maybe I could just get one of the ones with some type of range boost. I currently have a now-discontinued MN-700 (what do you want, I’m a company man) so it’s a good time to get a new AP anyway.

Another option to the wireless strength question is the AuraGrid, which tunnels your wireless antenna signal over the coax cable in your home to give you multiple antennas all over the house. So I could easily add a wireless antenna wherever there’s a cable jack. Anyone have any experience with that product?

Anyone who wants to give me free advice, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line. Thanks in advance.

Lunchtime Doughnuts 9

  • I am a few days behind on this, but Joe McKendrickwrites an interesting piece on if businesspeople are begging for SOA. It is fascinating because I believe that SOA should come from the business, not because of the delivery mechanism, but because of the results. If services will truly make a business more adaptable and responsive to change shouldn’t all business people desire those results? At the same time they don’t care how that end is achieved, just that it is. That’s where we in the IT industry need to do a better job of working out the details amongst ourselves and show the business how SOA can benefit them. Once we do that we should see more SOA adoptions go smoother and real ROI can be seen.
  • Joel Dehlin has blogged on the myth of youth being the ones that use instant messaging, publish and read blogs, participate in social networks, etc. I agree that the technology has been integrated into every layer of society. If you have ever been at the airport or at a Starbucks you know what I mean. Who is it exactly that has a Crackberry addiction? It seems technology has really become a part of our culture, and that it’s not just one age group that is adopting the changes.
  • Visual Studio 2008 shell was announced at TechEd yesterday. Even Harry who was on-site missed the release, but it certainly looks cool.
  • If you have ever met me you would quickly discover I have quite a background in Unix. That being the case I couldn’t ignore the news that Sun is releasing new blades for the desktop. I had a blade on my desk for several years and it was really a nice system to use. For those that would bash me since I work at Microsoft now I will just say that when you support Solaris boxes, having one on your desk is quite helpful. I don’t take sides in the Holy War. :-) (via Scoble)