Tag Archives: home-network

Apple AirPort Express Review


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Like many of you out there, I have a home network. In the past, mine happened to be called “the not-working home network,” but I digress. Have you ever had a problem getting everything configured just so on your network? You would be my hero if you managed to get every setting correct and every feature fully optimized without any help. It can be confusing and difficult to do. There are ways to minimize the amount of frustration that you have with your home network.

A few years ago, I bit the bullet and decided to try out the Apple Airport. I had been using a different router and some open-source firmware up until that point. I had tweaked it to the max – and still wasn’t happy with the performance. It just got to be more trouble than it was worth. Many of my friends and colleagues had recommended the Apple device, so I gave it a try – and have been very happy with that choice.

At first, I was a bit put off at having to install software on my computer in order to manage the Airport. Why couldn’t I just log into a webpage and do things from there? I quickly learned that managing things like this is much more efficient when done from within the desktop. Also, the installed software can tell me when the firmware is up to date. Until this point, I had never had a router tell me if an update was needed.

Recently, I realized I needed to extend the range of my wireless network. I had a Time Machine hooked up my to main Mac Pro and a base station on the other side of the house. I tried to extend the range using the Time Capsule, but there was too much interference going on. I went out and bought the AirPort Express in order to accomplish my networking goals.

This worked beautifully. The AirPort Express looks pretty familiar, doesn’t it? It looks similar to the power bricks which come with the Macbook line. Setting it up is simple: plug it in! There are a few cool features, as well:

  • Take the music from the iTunes library on your computer and sends it wirelessly to any stereo or speakers in your home.
  • Print wirelessly through AirPort Express – it’s almost like having a printer in every room of the house.
  • Wirelessly share photos, movies, and other files without having to worry about slow data transmissions.
  • The AirPort Express Base Station now features 802.11n, the next-generation high-speed wireless technology included with most shipping Mac computers and some newer PCs with compatible cards.
  • Industry-standard encryption technologies built into AirPort Express, including WPA/WPA2 and 128-bit WEP, plus a built-in firewall that creates a barrier between your network and the Internet.

After working with this device for about a week, I can say that it works fantastic. I’ve tried it out in several different areas of my home in order to make sure it was going to be exactly what I needed. By doing this, I also found out where it should be placed in order to give me the most optimal performance.

What’s nice with this software is that I can go through their step-by-step wizard and go with their suggested settings, or I can configure everything manually.

In comparison to a lot of junk I’ve seen, Apple gets home networking right. If you need your network to work – you’re going to go find something that actually works for you.

Manage Your Network With Tonido


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Tonido is a fantastic – and simple – way to manage your home network. Tonido lets you access and share all of your files, documents, photos, music and videos from anywhere, either via a web browser or your smartphone. There’s no uploading, no storage limit and no cost.

You can share large files, stream your videos, listen to your music, publish a blog and more using Tonido. Access your desktop using a personalized web address… your data is always safe and always stored locally with you.

How do you manage your network? Would you like a Tonido? Leave a comment on this blog post or video, and you’re automatically entered to win one of five devices of your very own.

iSCSI RAID NAS – Three-in-One Hardware Heaven


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This is my first SCSI device – ever. In all my years of owning computer equipment, I’ve never had a single SCSI device. I’ve had plenty of scurvy devices over the years since none of it ever had enough Vitamin C. SCSI is fast. That’s one of the reasons why they’ve decided to add it as a feature to the TS-459 Pro – a NAS device that is capable of swapping up to four iSCSI devices. Thanks to the folks at QNAP for sending this to me as a review unit.

The QNAP Pro 4-Bay Desktop Network Attached Server TS-459 can be utilized as the networked shared storage of VMware virtualization environments and Windows cluster servers. The unique “virtual disk drive” adds flexibility to expand the capacity of your NAS to allow file sharing across any platform. This makes for the perfect file server in business – or home – environments.

The TS-459 Pro is the powerful 4-bay network attached storage (NAS ) server, which is designed to provide an affordable and easy-to-management solution with iSCSI service for virtualized and clustered environment. The TS-459 Pro also offers versatile business applications to maximize the efficiency of the data center in the business environment. Incorporating the next-generation Intel Atom D510 1.66GHz Dual-Core processor and 1GB DDRII RAM, the Turbo NAS delivers exceptional performance and maintains high reliability for multiple concurrent applications and intensive data transfer with guaranteed low power consumption.

I’m no stranger to NAS devices. Why would you want this one in particular? SCSI is fast. Raid allows you to have redundancy with the data you’re putting inside this system. There’s a lot more to this thing, though. It has a file server built in. There’s an FTP server built in. It has surveillance station inside, meaning you can hook up a security camera. There’s a print server built in. It even supports IPv6 and delivers instant SMS and email alerts.

This powerful device can literally do almost anything you might think to throw at it. The list goes on and on. Why wouldn’t you want it? You may think the external hard drives you already have are sufficient. This machine comes with four USB ports on the back and two e-SATA ports. There’s a single USB port on the front for convenience.

The drives are hot-swappable, but what if you don’t want anyone swapping your drives? Psh. No problem – just lock it down using the included key.

I am more than happy to have this on my home network now. There’s even a VGA port on the back of this sleek little number. I absolutely love this, and can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Lady Gaga Tops Vevo

Startup video site Vevo was created by three of the largest record companies – Universal Music, Sony Music Entertainment, and EMI Music. Warner Music Group is in negotiations to join as well. They chose to start their site based on the huge following that music videos attract on YouTube. YouTube owner Google helped to create the site, believe it or not. In January, the site posted approximately 35 million unique visitors. That’s not too shabby for a site that only launched a few short months ago.

Lady Gaga has emerged over the past year as a music phenom. Whether or not you approve of how she dresses, you have to admit the woman can sing her face off. Her videos account for over a quarter of all views on Vevo! Additionally, if you click an official video of hers on YouTube, you’ll be redirected to Vevo to actually watch the content. That is the kind of partnership I like to see happening.

Vevo may not yet be profitable, but I have no doubt that it won’t take long. They are seeing billions of page views according to the website. Reactions to the site around our community have been very positive from what I’ve seen, and I admit to using it quite often myself! What are your thoughts on Vevo? Have you used the site yet? If you haven’t checked it out yet, I think you’re silly for waiting!

Don’t forget to stop by our software center to see what great new deals we have in store for you today!

How Often Do You Check Your Email?

Someone in my chat room earlier asked the crowd how often they check their email. I don’t think I actually ever “check” my email. My email program is never closed. I spend more time with my nose buried there than I likely do everywhere else combined. A lot of my business is conducted via email. I know that Kat is the same way. She doesn’t “check” her email so much as she does try to stop paying attention to it in order to get other things done.

What about you? How often do you check your email? Do you only do this once a day? Do you open it every few hours? Or are you like the rest of us Geeks, and keep your mail program open on a constant basis?

What else do you spend a lot of time doing at the computer? If you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of time checking out what others are up to in the community. It’s a great way to read about the latest news, hear opinions different from your own, and to learn about things you may otherwise not have known.

Everyone takes a day off now and again! Yesterday, our Downloads team took a break to share the holiday with their family. Never fear! They’re back at their desks today, and finding you the newest deals on some amazing software!

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How to Connect Devices to Your Network with Power Outlets


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The PowerNet 200 from the folks at Monster is geared towards those of you who have a house that may not have existing cabling for networking. It’s also perfect if you need a network port in a place where there isn’t one. This is a starter kit for Ethernet anywhere! The PowerNet 200 brings a high speed Ethernet connection to any room in your home. It instantly turns your home’s existing electrical wiring into a high speed whole-home network.

You plug one of the units into the wall near where your hub is. Plug the other unit in anywhere else in your house. Then you can network whatever you plug into it. Each adapter has two grounded outlets in it, and the Ethernet port connections. This is a great solution for streaming HD movies, or playing multiplayer games that demand a high speec connection – without the lag time. Sure, you could use WiFi, but it can keep you waiting when you want to quickly download a movie. It’s also too slow to play the online action games, or to stream a movie to another room in your house.

The PowerNet 200 maintains high speeds to even the room in your house that’s the farthest away from your office. It uses PLC Clean Power filtering, so that it reduces noise and interference on your electrical lines that is caused by appliances and electronics. This improves network speed, and lets the PowerNet work where other power line products usually won’t.

The Monster PowerNet 200 is the easy, fast solution for high speed networking and internet access virtually anywhere in your home.

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What is the Best Network Management Tool?


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I know many of you out there have to manage a network. The folks over at PacketTrap have been instrumental in helping our community grow. They’ve now come out with Perspective – an excellent tool to help manage your network! Brian and AK from PacketTrap came to visit via Skype, in order to help me explain to all of you what PacketTrap Perspective can do for you!

Monitor performance for routers, hubs, switches, servers, and applications in real-time – no matter the platform. Yeah, you can use this Windows tool to watch your Macs or Linux boxes!
Plus, it’ll watch the health of your VMware servers (and guest Virtual Machines running on ’em). And just in case you hate being tied to one machine, or if you have more than one person who might need to access this data, an unlimited amount of users can connect to Perspective via a thin client or Web browser (which means, you can access statistics FROM your Mac or Linux). There’s advanced email and SMS alerts for devices, too. Capture traffic data for any device on the network to boot.

You can see all of the web sites that are being served at your home or company. You can see who is loading what site! You can even see what impact this surfing is having on your bandwidth. Perspective will show you who is clogging up your network, as well as how they’re doing it. There’s a list of different tools and reports you can make use of.

You can view and manage every aspect of what’s going on within the network.

I have tried so many network scan tools in the past, and haven’t had much luck. Perspective is very intuitive, and easy to set up (even for geeks like me). I’m not used to seeing a lot of these enterprise-class tools work so quickly, right out of the box. It’s definitely worth a look for network admins who haven’t found what they’ve been looking for as of yet.

Perspective auto-discovers system resources and their metrics, including: hardware, operating systems, virtualization, databases, middleware, applications, and services. Give it a shot – and that’s the link to use.

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What do you Need for a Wired Home Network?

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Mattstech writes: “Thought I’d share a basic top 6 list on how to hardwire a home network. For power users like me, wireless just doesn’t provide the speed and reliability that I need. I ran some CAT5e over to my room about a month ago, and wanted to share some tips with the community on how to get started.”

  • Get the cable and accessories. You can usually buy network cable by the foot at home improvement stores, such as Lowe’s and Home Depot. The big decision here is: how much and what type. As far as quantity goes, you could measure exactly where the cable will be run, but an educated guess can be just as effective. However, it might help to overshoot your estimate by about 10%, so that you don’t end up missing some cable. As for type, there are two major categories of network cable: CAT5e and CAT6. The main difference between the two is related to data transmission capabilities. CAT5e is usually capable of approximately 100 MHz of bandwidth, while CAT6 comes in around the 200 MHz mark. Yes, CAT6 is better, but it is also more expensive. If CAT6 is in your price range (check with your local home improvement stores), by all means go for it. If not, CAT5e will still produce excellent speeds, especially when compared to wireless. There are also some accessories you will need to purchase. Pick up some low-voltage wall boxes (one for each wall plate), RJ-45 jacks, and faceplates to cover it all up with. You also might want to think about getting some fish tape or glow sticks to make it easier to run the cable down the wall.
  • Cut the hole(s) for the wall jack(s). Before you cut anything, be sure to check where the studs are in the wall. You can do this by either using a stud finder, or just by knocking on the wall. If it sounds hollow, there is no stud in that location. If it sounds (and feels) solid, don’t cut there – you’ve got a stud! Once you’ve found an appropriate location to cut, hold up the low voltage plate to the wall, trace the outline, and score it lightly. Next, cut along the lines you’ve scored until the piece of sheetrock falls out. It helps to have a keyhole saw to do this, but a serrated kitchen knife will also do the job. It helps to pick a location close to other wall plates, such as cable and/or power. That way you won’t have to worry about drilling a hole in the attic to get the cable out from inside the wall.
  • Insert the low-voltage box(es). If you scored and cut correctly, then the low-voltage wall box should fit snug inside the hole. Once it is in, fold up the pieces of metal hanging down to secure the box.
  • Run the cable. Take the roll of cable you purchased and use a fish tape/glow stick to fish one end of the cable through the hole, and up into the wall. Again, if the wall plate is not close to others, you may need to drill a hole to get the cable up out of the wall. Otherwise, you should be able to run it through the existing hole. Once the cable is in the attic, continue to pull, and trail the cable over to where the other hole is located. Remember to run in wide swoops – don’t make abrupt turns and/or create kinks in the cable, as this will result in decreased performance. Once you reach the location of the other hole, run the cable down the (hopefully) pre-drilled hole and into the wall. Fish it out, and….your cable is run!
  • Wire the jacks. In a standard ethernet cable, there are usually eight wires, as described below:
    • White/Orange
    • Orange
    • White/Green
    • Blue
    • White/Blue
    • Green
    • White/Brown
    • Brown

    For RJ-45, there are two major wiring schemes that specify where the wires should be placed in the jack : (T568)A and (T568)B. If you’re wiring from computer to computer, use A. If you’re going from computer to hub, use B. The B scheme is demonstrated above in the list above, but most jacks have a label on the side with both schemes listed. The jack should have come with a punch down tool to use when seating the wires inside the appropriate slots. Once you’ve decided on a scheme, simply sit the wire on top of the corresponding slot, push down with the tool, and repeat for each wire.

  • Finish it up. Pop the jack inside the faceplate’s hole, and then screw the faceplate into the low-voltage box. Finally, go get some patch cables and connect your components!

While this is still a very rudimentary guide, I think I’ve covered most of the basics. Of course, every application is different, but if you’re looking to boost the speed and security of your home network – hardwiring can be just what you were looking for!

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Windows Vista Network Tip

The user known as “alpha” emailed me the following excerpt from Tim Anderson’s ITWriting:

The Microsoft Windows Vista OS enables the TCP Window Scaling option by default (previous Windows OSes had this option disabled). The TCP Window Scaling option is described in RFC 1323 (TCP Extensions for High Performance), and allows for the device to advertise a receive window larger than 65 K than TCP originally specified. This is useful in the higher speed networks of today, where more data can be outstanding on the wire before it is acknowledged. This slow performance, or dropped TCP connections is caused by some versions of Cisco IOS® Firewall software not supporting the TCP Window Scaling option. This causes it to have a much smaller TCP window than the endpoints actually have. This causes the Cisco IOS router that runs the IOS Firewall feature set to drop packets that it believes are outside the TCP window, but which really are not.

So, through many firewalls, many protocals fall apart. And here is a solution, that worked perfectly for me, and several of my clients clients. Drop to a command prompt and run:

netsh interface tcp set global autotuninglevel=disabled

If the command returns this response, “Set global command failed on IPv4 The requested operation requires elevation”, then you need to do this: Click start (windows symbol), Accessories, right click on “Command Prompt”, then choose “Run as Administrator”, then try the netsh command (above) again.

And appended the following:

Which could be why a number of people have experienced poor net connections since moving to vista. While this isn’t directly vistas problem (tho the enabling of non-standard things by default is a boneheaded manuvour) it does show how the tech world has steadfastly refused to take note of the changes that came with the new flavour of MS’s operating system, as well as highlighting the failure to implement any kind of feature check within the OS itself too… wouldn’t it be cool if windows reported these problems to you “windows has detected a problem with your networking, click here to load standard protocal settings, click here to do nothing and not bother you again with this message”. And that last part “click here to no bother you with this message” is something I am dieing to have because I’m fed up of having my computing interrupted by crap that I already know about because I just clicked on the button to do it!!

Oh how I wish the “pro” versions of their software was actually designed with the pro in mind!

Apple Airport Extreme Base Station Review


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http://live.pirillo.com/ – Since my Linksys router fried itself last week (with no clear explanation as to why), I decided to take this opportunity to see what all the fuss over Apple’s Airport Extreme Base Station was all about.

I took my $100 iPhone Rebate down to the Apple Store and purchased a unit – stopping short of also getting an Airport Express, since it currently doesn’t support the broadcast or extension of wireless N networks.

Setup was, indeed, exceedingly simple – although different from what I was expecting. I plugged one of my MacBook Pros into an open Ethernet port and jogged through Apple’s Airport Utility (after downloading the latest version). It told me that there was already new firmware available for the Airport base station – then proceeded to download and install it after prompting. That’s the way it should be with every router, IMHO – whether its config tool is browser-based or a binary.

I walked through the options and found just about everything I was looking for – including a nice (live) wireless signal meter for all connected clients. If I had attached an external drive via USB, it would have been quickly and easily discovered. Given the sour performance some people have reported with that configuration, I’m likely to stick with either NAS or networked drives on any one of my computers.

I like how you can assign a permanent DHCP address to any given client, too. Across the house, wireless N performance seems rather good.

What I couldn’t find, however, was a way to spoof the base station’s MAC address – which may be a requirement for me if Comcast Business forces me to go through a single MAC address. That’s a tremendous deal killer for some of us.

I was also a little baffled as to why there’s no easy way to download the latest version of the Airport Utility for Windows from the Web (instead, Windows users must install the tool directly from the CD first – which is rather asinine). Then again, since when has Apple been known to give a rip for Windows users (and vice versa).

No doubt about it: this is (by far) the most user friendly home networking router I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. If Comcast does what I expect it to do, I’ll likely have to relegate it to a bridge or a wireless extension device. If Verizon serviced my area with FIOS, life would be so much better…

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