Computers and Networking17 May 2010 02:32 pm

With the last of /home dealt with, I will be powering tsuki down tonight to prep for a rebuild. In my locating its drives the other day, I noticed that I have a spare 160GB IDE drive. That will make a perfect start for it. Additionally, the 250W power supply that’s in the 2U case already should suffice for the system since it’s not going to be using an overpowered video card. So that’s two items down in the setup.

Rebuilding tsuki in the 2U case will be the first step in rearranging and rebuilding my network to a point past its former zenith. The next step is moving the printer and my mother’s computer out of the computer room into the kitchen. The second step is probably more important as it will clear up a rather large amount of desk space for me to move my desktop to a temporary location as I continue to clean up the computer room in preparation for the rack.

Once enough room has been cleared out for the rack, I’ll roll it in and start putting hardware in it. The first things to go in are the rackmount switch and tsuki, then once I get a large enough shelf, my desktop. Putting my desktop in the rack will allow me to return to my old computer desk after being away from it for almost 8 years. My crazy idea back in ’02 to switch my old desktop to a server pulled me away from it, but soon I will be back in front of it. I rather liked that desk, and the router Mac is sitting in its computer spot.

I have a few other machines that will need rackmounting, so I’ll be picking up more shelves for them. Pictures will definitely be posted once this is all set up.

And once the initial transfer is done, I get to start pricing even more equipment to get the remaining machines set up how I want them. Should be quite the fun project!

Embedded and Networking and UNIX07 May 2010 04:16 pm

Sometimes I dislike slow days at work as I start reading and reading and reading. I reread the EVDO Stompbox Project and something clicked with me: I remembered the mini-PCI slot in my net4501. While I’ve only used mini-PCI cards in notebook computers over the years, I never had a need to use it in the Soekris because I had a PCI wireless card and it has a single PCI slot.

But further research lead to something I’d read a while ago as well: the state of ral(4) in OpenBSD. Ralink released the hardware specs for their wireless chipsets without an NDA, so the drivers are very very very well written and stable, plus they support WPA-PSK.

I can find a supported Ralink-based mini-PCI wireless card for a very low price, u.fl-smaF pigtails are probably cheap, and I have several antennas for 2.4GHz already.

This solves one issue in the network box problem!

Cellular and Computers and Networking05 May 2010 12:49 pm

A long time ago in a college campus not far from here, I sat and built out a notebook computer that I wanted on Dell’s website. As I went down the list of options, I picked most of the standard options until I got to one that stumped me, the network card.

I had a choice between an ethernet/modem combo card (which I later went with) and a wireless card. In that day, notebook computers often had only one mini-PCI slot for interfaces as wireless LANs weren’t nearly as widespread in 2002 as they are today in 2010. I picked the combo card because I didn’t have a WLAN at home at that point, nor did I come across too many until a while later. I also knew that I could use the PC Card slot for a wireless card without adding too much bulk to the machine.

So in April 2002, I decided to go for wifi at the house and picked up a Linksys WAP11 and an ORiNOCO Silver card for my laptop. While I still was unable to locate wireless at school, I was wireless at the house, and soon afterwards we set up a WLAN on 56k at work. While the work WLAN was ludicrously slow thanks to 56k’s lack of speed, it worked. But, I still didn’t have access at all places I hung around as the school still didn’t have wireless.

The biggest boon to my connectedness was porting my cell number to T-Mobile from Sprint in early 2004. Moving to a GSM network enabled me to use GPRS, later EDGE, and even later HSDPA, via Bluetooth tethering. While this was significantly slower than my home connection, it allowed me to have access wherever I went. As I got better and better phones, I started leaving the laptop behind as regular phones became more and more “smart.” Furthermore, I started seeing fewer and fewer reasons to bring the laptop along as I had gotten most of my personal projects done and was done with classes.

Today in 2010, however, society in general is almost too connected. I and many other people carry Blackberries, the iPhone is probably the best selling phone of all time, Windows Mobile still has a strong market, and the Droid and other Android-based devices are gaining market share rapidly. Additionally, many people who have the aforementioned smartphones also carry aircards with them so they can use the phone at the same time as their laptops.

All of this has lead to more random research on my part. While I mentioned before that OpenBSD doesn’t have good support for my aircard, the Huawei UMG181, I have discovered that FreeBSD indeed does have support for it in 8-STABLE. The u3g driver has its device ID in the source, so I will very likely load that up on my netbook and build that module from recent source. While I appreciate Linux’s merits and can be made to stand Windows, all in all, I tend to prefer the BSDs (which I’d include Mac OS X in, heh).

In closing, while the proliferation of wireless connections, either WiFi or 3G cellular has created an “always on” society and enabled people to remove the tether from their desk and go out of the office to work, by and large, the old traditional wired network is the best option whenever possible. Reason being that you can have higher throughput, potentially gigabit or faster, and better security as the data is transmitted on a wire instead of “free to air.” For this reason, I still run wired ethernet to my desktop at home. I guess I’ll never get over this prejudice against wireless for something that’s not a laptop, but it will eventually necessitate itself I think.

I still need to find more excuses to use my aircard though. But that’s a subject for another post.

Cellular and Conventions and Embedded and Hamfests and Networking24 Apr 2010 12:16 pm

Earlier this week, I read on that T-Mobile was making another promo on their webConnect (aircard) service. I had cashed in on a promo plan towards the end of last year for $50/mo instead of $60/mo, but this one is even more awesome: “Overage Free” rate plan for $40/mo. What this means is that while the (now) soft cap of 5GB exists, past that they may throttle you down to EDGE speeds. I can live with that, and the fact that it isn’t a guaranteed throttle makes it even better.

What does this mean for the net-in-a-box project? It means EPIC AWESOME. I no longer have to worry too much about whether or not it goes over 5GB, and even if we go over 5GB at a con, I’m certain that EDGE speeds are still faster than a hotel connection shared with a full hotel. That’s assuming they enforce it heavily.

Needless to say, I phoned up 611 yesterday morning and got the plan switched over. I definitely await the forthcoming summer activities with this semi-unlimited data plan!

Networking and UNIX26 Mar 2010 11:38 am

A few years back during one of my silly phases, I translated all the computers in my house’s names into Japanese, using either the actual word or something similar. I had named my desktop ‘lunar’, so that became ‘tsuki’ (moon), the gateway machine was named ‘kadoguchi’ (gateway), and I had named my parents’ machine ‘iris’ so that became ‘shibori’ (camera/eye iris). This practice has continued to this day.

Why did I choose this naming convention? No reason, it’s just a somewhat unique one and certainly more interesting than the typical room1pc1 setup a lot of people do.

‘tsuki’ later became a FreeBSD server when I discovered that making my laptop my primary machine was the best idea for me as a commuting college student, where it remained until about 3 years ago when I switched it off “for good.”

With spring upon us, the want to do some serious cleaning in the computer room to make room for the rack one of my friends has for me has arisen. With a rack, I will need machines to put in it, so I decided that with the 2U case I have, I’ll rebuild tsuki. The motherboard and CPU will be the same, but I’ll put new RAM, a SATA controller card, and new drives in it.

The basic plan for now is to use FreeBSD 8.0-RELEASE, with a 320 GB IDE drive for /, and a 1 TB SATA RAID-1 array as /home, using gvinum. I will probably set up Asterisk in addition to the usual suspects: ssh, Apache, Shoutcast, and the like.

While the base system is an older Sempron, running 2GB of RAM should be more than sufficient for the day-to-day operation of it.

Once tsuki’s rebirth is completed, I will very possibly begin work on a Windows server, based on this older Tyan server board I picked up. This one will be the multi-TB drive array machine, if only for hilarity’s sake.

All in all, getting all this up and running again will be a fun task that should keep my brain working for a while.

And now, back to work!

Embedded and Networking and UNIX12 Mar 2010 11:45 pm

I decided to dig out the big plug strip and hook all the materials up to see if they worked together before I begin the pure DC phase of the experiment. After massaging pf a little bit to make the bridge work, I managed to get an IP wirelessly with the WAP plugged into the 3rd NIC port instead of the hub. All the devices cooperated nicely and it all seems to work fine!

Now to begin plotting on the second phase: acquiring the elements for powering the system via DC direct instead of multiple wall warts.

Once the power is figured out, then comes building the box itself. Going to need to do some measurements and figure placements out. Once the box is built out, field testing will commence!

Embedded and Networking and UNIX12 Mar 2010 10:15 pm

I loaded OpenBSD on the Soekris and did the necessary configuration tweaks to get all the interfaces assigned properly and the like tonight. I also adjusted the Cradlepoint (turning off WiFi, adding DMZ, etc.) for the system. Now to get it all hooked up and tested at some point.

Embedded and Netbooks and Networking and UNIX12 Mar 2010 04:49 pm

A few years back, some friends and I had the crazy idea to utilize my MFJ-1800 2.4GHz Yagi antenna and a PC set up as a “reverse AP” to allow us all to use the hotel’s free wifi at a convention. The only downside to this was that we didn’t have wireless for ourselves, but that wasn’t too big of a deal: we had circumvented the pay access in the room using technology. Sadly, that hole was plugged the next year, and we were forced to pay for access… Such is life.

Moving forward to last year’s convention and our staying in a different hotel, I decided that I’d just suck it up and pay for access as it wasn’t too much. Though, before we actually settled down in the room that evening, I had ran by the T-Mobile store at the nearby mall and came extremely close to purchasing one of the webConnect USB sticks (which I now have) so we would have access without having to pay the hotel. I opted against that, but planned to get one before the year was out. Fortunately for me, T-Mobile had a promo for $10 less/month on the access not long afterwards, so I now have one to use for access mostly everywhere.

The obvious item for aircard owners with friends that attend conventions and trade shows is to pick up one of the aircard routers on the market. While I own a Soekris net4501 and have long thought to emulate the EVDO Stompbox Project using it, the lack of good driver support in OpenBSD for the Huawei UMG181 webConnect stick and my dislike of iptables had me pick up a Cradlepoint CTR350 broadband travel router to use. One thing I missed in the documentation was the client limit of 15 on its wireless. While I seriously doubt I’ll ever exceed that number, having a hard limit on the amount of clients that could be attached didn’t sit well with me at all, so I started brainstorming.

Back last month, I set up an old Power Mac G4 as an OpenBSD router using the macppc port. It functions flawlessly, and the flexibility of pf continues to shine. I thought about one of the major purposes that Soekris boards are used for and ran by Micro Center to pick up a good 2GB CF card to toss in it once I get OpenBSD built out on it. Fortunately for me, the author of flashdist has disk images set aside already for the net45xx series, which I will throw on the CF card sometime this weekend. The only downside to this setup is the utilization of “double NAT” in connectivity. Of course, this is no different than what we’ve already been using, so I really don’t see an issue with it.

Just how am I going to get around the 15-client limit of the Cradlepoint? While I certainly could use the Soekris as an access point: it’s one of those little green boxes’ primary uses, I’d much rather have a dedicated WAP set up like I do at home because of a couple of small things that may not work right: namely, UMA for my Blackberry. Just so happens I have an old La Fonera wireless router with DD-WRT loaded on it. I ran this as my WAP for a while at the house, and I reloaded it with DD-WRT before the convention last year and set it up as the WAP. While it works flawlessly, it gets rather warm. Not too much of an issue for a system that will run very infrequently.

Now how does this all piece together? Turns out that every single device I plan to connect together to create this connectivity backbone runs off either 5v or 12v DC. The two 5v devices, the Fonera and the CTR350, can be plugged into a 12v source using cigarette lighter sockets. The Soekris and my old Netgear EN108TP 8-port hub are 12v, so they will plug right in. My original plan involved debricking the WGR614L I toasted last year and using it as it was 12v and would reduce the amount of cig plugs.

The trick to this was building a small power distribution panel with screw terminals so they’d be very secure. Turns out this would be more of a pain than I originally thought, so I went back to the original plan that I thought of: using Anderson PowerPoles for the power connections and a power panel with those on them. In the end, deciding to go with PowerPoles for the power connections really was best: I won’t be tied down to the power supply, so I could feasibly run the setup off my car’s battery if I so decided. I probably will never do that, but it is an idea.

Converting standard wall current to 12v for the network devices was something I mulled over a lot with my original plan. I needed a small (10A or so) power supply with a cigarette receptacle on it. The smallest I could find at work was 25A and way overkill for what I needed. After I decided on PowerPoles, the decision was simple: Astron SS-10 switching power supply. It’s quite small and supplies enough power: 7A continuous, 10A 33% duty cycle. I seriously doubt all this hardware I have will ever exceed 7A for more than just a short period of time.

Now the really hard part is figuring out how to connect all of this together in a secure matter. I’ve done a lot of research in the past couple of days on the “go boxes” used by people who handle various events. One idea that probably won’t be too difficult to set up is to build a shelf and mount it in a case of some sort for carry. I’d probably pick something waterproof like an ammo box in case I get rained on for the convention like what happened last year. Otherwise, I’ll build out something very easy to set up and carry.

Overall, this is going to be one fun project. I’m very glad I have just over 6 months to get it set up! I do think that in the long run, streamlining my portable network setup will be very beneficial for myself, my friends, my family, and whoever else I can think of.

If anything, it’ll give me something interesting to write about as I continue to build it out.

Netbooks09 Jan 2010 01:56 pm

As I finally decided to do something with again, I’m gonna post a blog post then decide what to do with the root site (currently just a blank index page).

While the new forthcoming rage is sure to be the second (third?) iteration of the Tablet PC shown at CES, I am still drawn to a device that has an actual keyboard on it. I think this still stems from my trust of a keyboard vs my handwriting for entering things like passwords, keyboard commands in games, and keyboard commands in text editors. Not to mention shell commands when using SSH.

For now, though, I have a rackmount case on the way to me to rebuild  my old router PC using OpenBSD with, which will be a project for the near future. With any luck, setting that up should be simple, and I’ll be back online with a proper router between myself and the ‘net instead of a consumer-grade, low-memory router.

Computers and UNIX26 Dec 2006 01:57 am

So I’m writing this entry from the Vaio that’s running Ubuntu Linux now. I’m thoroughly impressed with this distribution. For one thing, I got all the hardware (save for the modem which is a winmodem) working right out of the box. It’s insanely easy to setup and use. And kismet and airsnort worked without any trouble!

I’m impressed by this distribution as you can tell. And I’m posting this from Drivel instead of on the site itself.

I used Drivel as a LiveJournal client a while back and I thought it was neat, so I’m using it to update my blog.

OK, so 3 months between posts is fine? I dunno, I really need to start writing in this more. But I can’t figure out what to write about, heh.

Oh well. Back to more futzing around with Linux.

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