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Showing posts from 2010

DG834 resolved - v5 is where it's at

After much wrangling, I didn't get the Netcomm to work properly, the VPN was still no good and I was unable to get VOIP running across it. Fortunately I ran into an old buddy and he suggested using the v5 of the Netgear router. Lo and behold, it uses a Conexant chipset, not Broadcomm and I put two in, one at either end. Both have been very stable, no dropouts and the VPN works perfectly. Following this small victory I then deployed one at home and it's working fantastically well. I've been hammering it too so it's all going along nicely and my VPN is working properly too. While the Netcomm is undoubtedly a powerful device, the lack of configuration in the VPN side of things and the fact it won't send VOIP data properly are big strikes against it. I've redeployed one of these routers elsewhere and the user loves it so that's a win and no financial loss on my part. The love affair with Netgear is renewed!

Things I'd like to see on the iPhone

The number one thing I'd like to see on the iPhone is to be able to turn push mail on and off according to time automatically. My venerable e66 had this - it would check my mail faithfully throughout the day between 8am and 6pm and then stop. It did wonders for the battery life and for my sleep patterns. If I inadvertantly forget to disable this when I go to bed, nagios wakes me up as it's monitoring failing servers or systems. In fact, the ability to have auto on/off dependent on time is something that the iPhone could apply to a bunch more things too - like changes of ringtones etc. It's probably too hard to do for Apple so as my old dad says - wish in one hand and pee in the other and see which hand fills up the quickest! The other thing I'd like is for a slightly more robust design, but hey - you can't have everything. My Motorola Backflip (MB300) is more rugged and seems to go pretty well.

Netcomm NB8WVPN and the Netgear DG834

After the woes I've experienced with the DG834 I cast about looking for a replacement device. It needed to be a decent ADSL 2+ router (with built in modem) and support site-to-site VPN tunnels - none of this VPN pass through garbage. After looking around a bit, I found the NB8WVPN from Netcomm which promises all sorts of things about how wonderful it is etc etc. So I purchased two and set them up at one of my problem sites - both ends. Now each of these sites has an Alcatel-Lucent phone system that use a VOIP link to put calls through to each other. Naturally this VOIP link has to go across a VPN. With the VPN established between the two sites, I had some connectivity between them - that is, I could ping and browse the network etc but the phone systems couldn't talk to one another. The initial part of the VOIP signalling goes through, but the call itself doesn't. Remarkably frustrating I must say. After alterations to the phone systems (and I must add: the VOIP worked perfe

Netgear DG834 woes

For quite some time I've used the Netgear DG834 as my router of choice, particularly as a low end router providing easy site-to-site VPN's. These little white routers will support up to 5 VPN tunnels and have proven themselves to be quite reliable under most circumstances. Unfortunately, I think I've discovered the circumstances that these routers do not work well under. I have two sites under my management that have had no end of trouble with these routers. Here is the situation and the symptoms: both sites are ADSL2 both sites have a single VPN connection to them as the responder both sites have appropriate ADSL2+ capable filters and short cables etc both sites drop their ADSL connection (not line sync) after 13 to 16 days and then fail to reconnect. A restart of the device (soft or hard) and the connection will stay up for anywhere between 5 and 16 minutes - whatever the time length is, it will always die after that time e.g. if it's 10 minutes, then it will lose co

Tips and Tricks: Monitoring with NTOP and IFTOP

For monitoring networks I have an old GX260 Dell desktop in the small form factor. Packed into this little device are a couple of network cards, added on are a wireless NIC and an extra USB network device. The purpose? To slot this in between the router and the network and see what's going backwards and forwards - very useful in the situation where a client is hemorrhaging bandwidth and doesn't know why. I'm running Ubuntu 10.04 LTS on it and it behaves very well. Two of the main tools I use are ntop and iftop. For those of you not familiar with them, ntop monitors a particular interface and creates some nice webpages to be checked by the user in order to see what's going on through the network. iftop is similar but real time and is available through a console - which is the real appeal for me. The server in question has two internal NICs, both are 100MB cards and are scripted to come up as a transparent bridge - br0. Basically I monitor that bridge and use one of the o

Google Apps and the Wonder that they are

Generally I've used Google Apps for mail and shared calendars and little else. I have, however, been asked to play with them to host a website and I've found them to be truly excellent in what they can do. Firstly a few tips: If you want your to point to your Google Apps site, make sure you set up the "sites" page to something like and then create your Google site and point it to www. via DNS. A CNAME DNS entry will take care of this. Make sure your DNS is nice and tidy for all of this to work properly. When creating your site, if it's the site for everyone to reach don't forget to make it public. There is a great range of templates and options for configuring your webpage and I urge you to play with them all. I've found many amazing different options for working with the site and the ability to easily use Google Maps and embed other things like shared calendars is terrific. I've also found the response times fro

Review: Motorola Backflip - an update

So after having used the Backflip for a while now I can offer some insights. Firstly I have had to reset it to factory default and re-install everything. The reason was simple - the damn phone was resetting at random intervals and when I need to make a call... an urgent call to Police, the bastard thing wouldn't work and reset twice before I was able to get through. Completely unacceptable and I was ready to throw it out the bloody window and stamp on it. After recovering from my hissy fit, I reset it on advice from my local Optus dealer and re-installed some of the applications. One of the most commonly installed apps - Advanced Task Killer lite - was causing all of the grief. I paid for it and have had no problems since then so I'm happier. I've played with lots of widgets and things and found that once the phone's uptime reaches about 400 hours, it needs a reset. If you aren't making a lot of changes it's settled and you can leave it for longer without any pr

Review: Motorola Backflip

Just recently my beloved Nokia e66 passed away in a freak water related accident (read: it fell in the loo). I was far enough through my contract that I was able to update to the Backflip. I'd been looking at Android mobile phones for a while now to see if I could find one that would be suitable for what I do and the Backflip looked like it fit the bill. I want a phone that does the following: email texting simple games WiFi good application support The Backflip specs didn't fill me with excitement initially but it does have something I really like - a full QWERTY keyboard. Although the onscreen keyboard of the device is pretty good and the screen is big enough I can drive it easily, I like the tactile feedback of real keys. My iPhone drives me crazy periodically with typing difficulties and so the Backflip came into it's own with this. Prior to purchasing the Backflip I noted that there were quite a few reviews out there that paid out on the phone for it's lack of appl

The joys of SPARC

When I was beginning in the IT game it was a long time ago and Sun Microsystems, IBM, SGI were all huge names. Microsoft was a beginner and all the big machines were Unix based and so were the servers. I was first introduced the web on an old Sun box running lynx. I couldn't think of anything I wanted to look at on the Internet so I left it alone :-) As time went on, Sun boxes were still the class act. Ultra10's came in and I was fortunate enough to have one with an 18.1" LCD on my desk. Ah the joys of the stability of that machine. Very nice indeed. When the new Sun Blades came out I was too damn busy with dirty old Windows boxes and just starting to get into Linux in a big way so I didn't get to play with them. As my job has changed over the years, my ability to play with these machines has never been renewed... until now! Recently from eBay I managed to gain for a very small amount both a Sun Blade 150 and a Sun Blade 1500. I haven't had much of a chance to play

Interoperability and the Way of the Penguin

Recently I've been tasked by a client to look into alternatives to Microsoft supplied products. Why I hear you ask? Simple - while 2003 Small Business Server was a real winner for this client, 2008 SBS has been an unmitigated disaster. A previous IT provider installed it and then left it unmanaged for quite a while. Even though I have subsequently re-installed the system in accordance with Microsoft best practice, we're still having periodic problems. For exmaple, about every 12 days, Active Directory, DNS, Exchange and IIS stop talking to one another. I'm yet to find the precise cause of this and I've just updated this system with all recent updates etc as required. The client's 2003 SBS server was exceptionally stable. No problems, no failures nothing. It ran beautifully for several years and experienced almost no issues at all. So on to the new task - they've learnt about GNU/Linux from a friend. This friend gave bugger all details but enough to hook them in.

Syncing the Nokia e66 with Gmail and Calendar

There are a number of posts about this on the net already and I followed them with little success. I've figured out the reason why. Here's the setup of the phone: Firstly install Mail for Exchange. Once that is done configure your initial profile using the appropriate details i.e mail server is, your, password, secure connection etc. Make sure you go through and tell it to sync email (obviously) and calendar. DO NOT try to sync Tasks. This was the issue I was having. It kept saying (annoyingly) "System error. Try again later." I refreshed the profile, I started again, I re-installed Mail for Exchange. Oh my god it worked! The sync worked immediately, cleaning up my calendar, tidying my email. Ah sweet sweet workings. Very nice. So to be brief - don't enable task synchronisation. It doesn't work and isn't supported. The combination of the ever sexy Nokia e66, Mail for Exchange and the wonderful gmail make for a winning combin

Review: Linux Mint

I have long been an advocate of Debian GNU/Linux (hereafter referred to as Linux). It's wonderful for servers, stable, with a predictable development cycle. The Ubuntu distribution builds on this with a lovely desktop and wonderful, easy hardware and software management. Mint builds on this again with a polished distribution that I'm finding quite enjoyable to use. You can find Mint here at: It's a regular 700MB download iso and uses Ubuntu repositories. As usual, you have the options of using the included software manager (which is good) or aptitude or apt (my preference). The machine I'm using for this is a HP/Compaq Presario C300. It's an older laptop, with a Celeron M processor and I've bumped the RAM up to a gig which gives me plenty to play with, even given that the video card steals some RAM. The C300 also has a lovely wide screen with that glossy look I normally despise but find to be very eyeball friendly at the moment. It only has a

iPhone App store compared to Nokia Ovi Store

Recently I was given an iPhone for work. Given that I use an e66 Nokia for my personal stuff I thought I'd compare and contrast the two devices' application stores. Ovi vs iTunes. Clearly the base operating systems are significantly different - Symbian S60 3rd Edition (e66) vs iPhone OS (iPhone (naturally)). Clearly given the differences in the OSes, the iPhone seems to lead itself to better application support. This, plus Apple getting in first, have given the iPhone a significantly better application store, variety and apparent implementation of user provided applications. I'm quite sure that Nokia wanted to get on board with this, but given that Apple got there first I'm not sure they'll catch them. The Ovi store is still developing from what I can tell and the phone based interface to it is not terribly impressive. Taking into account the difference in the user interface (non-touch phone vs touch phone), the iPhone is still better. Navigating the Nokia Ovi menu