David Russell | Articles http://davidrussell.net/ David Russell is a technologist in Birmingham, Alabama and serves as Web Designer for Church of the Highlands. 19 Aug 2008 13:00:23 +00:00 Tomato http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/status/index/~3/0Sfw-KkGnQg/09:00:23Z http://davidrussell.net/article/tomato/09:00:23Z 19 Aug 2008 13:00:23 +00:00 <p>Recently, I published an <a href="http://davidrussell.org/article/dd-wrt">article on DD-WRT</a>. I have recently scoured the interwebs for alternative firmware for my <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linksys_WRT54G_series">Linksys WRT54G</a>. While DD-WRT is a nice solution, I have found something superior: <a href="http://www.polarcloud.com/tomato">Tomato</a>.</p> <p>At first, I was a bit skeptical about Tomato. The <a href="http://www.polarcloud.com/tomato">official website</a> isn&#8217;t quite the norm as &#8220;official&#8221; websites go. But it does <a href="http://www.polarcloud.com/tomatofaq">answer</a> all of the questions I had while researching the firmware and it gets right to the point with great screenshots, download options (including old &#8220;rotten&#8221; builds) and changelogs. The author of the site even lists alternatives to Tomato! That&#8217;s quite a different approach than DD-WRT, a project that has been <a href="http://www.bitsum.com/about-ddwrt.htm">criticized</a> for turning away from its community. I don&#8217;t know much about the politics of the situation between DD-WRT and its detractors so I won&#8217;t even address that. What I do know is that I like when people recognize the fact that options exist and openly offer those options in addition to their own. Bonus points.</p> <p>One key feature of Tomato is the brilliant <a href="http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Tomato_Firmware#Tomato_Firmware_Interface">user interface</a>. I find the simplicity of it to be a breath of fresh air. If you&#8217;ve spent ten minutes using any router firmware, especially stock ones, you have probably experienced some pretty tacky interfaces. It&#8217;s really great to see Tomato focus on getting the features in a prominent space and getting the design out of the way. It&#8217;s tidy and attractive, but also very usable. One gripe I have is that it&#8217;s not easy to see the subnavigation of main sections, so you have to click into the main section before those options are visible. But this is a small complaint against an overall nicely done <abbr title="user interface">UI</abbr>.</p> <p>The features of Tomato are comparable to DD-WRT and many other alternative router firmware. Some of the key features include:</p> <ul> <li>Ajax-enhanced UI</li> <li>Real-time bandwidth monitors (SVG graphics)</li> <li>Network Tools, including wireless site survey</li> <li>Dynamic DNS, with sizeable options</li> <li>QoS</li> <li>Transmit Power Adjustment</li> <li>Lots of feedback, including nifty reports on traffic shaped by QoS</li> </ul> <p>So, quit using DD-WRT even though I recommended it a few days back. Get Tomato instead. :)</p> <p><a href="http://www.polarcloud.com/tomato">Tomato</a> | <a href="http://www.polarcloud.com/tomatofaq">FAQ</a> </p><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/status/index/~4/0Sfw-KkGnQg" height="1" width="1" alt=""/> http://davidrussell.net/article/tomato/09:00:23Z Antennas Direct http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/status/index/~3/QiCqXWkP9bU/09:00:09Z http://davidrussell.net/article/antennas-direct/09:00:09Z 14 Aug 2008 13:00:09 +00:00 <p>Last week, I ordered an antenna to improve reception from over-the-air <abbr title="television">TV</abbr> signals from local broadcast stations. We dropped our cable TV last month because it was too expensive and not flexible enough for our watching habits. The Apple TV has certainly been a welcome addition and makes it a breeze to get free <abbr title="Internet Protocol Television">IPTV</abbr> content, like podcasts, and a la carte content from the iTunes store. I love the idea of paying for TV to lose commercials. And I also love the idea of watching free television, even though I have to sit through 18 to 22 minutes of commercials per hour show. But I can no longer <em>stand</em> the idea of paying for television <em>and</em> being subjected to advertisements. So cable TV is bye-bye.</p> <p>Until now, I&#8217;ve used a very simple RCA-brand antenna for <abbr title="Over The Air">OTA</abbr> TV. (I have no idea where I picked it up from. It&#8217;s just been around in our &ldquo;stuff&rdquo; for awhile.) It worked okay since we live in the city, about two to three miles from the broadcast antennas. But it really wasn&#8217;t perfect and dropped out intermittently, especially when the sun was out.</p> <p><a href="http://thedigitalreformation.com">Dave</a> told me about a great company, <a href="http://antennasdirect.com/">Antennas Direct</a>, who sells high-end antennas. I did some research on their website. Because of our proximity to local stations, I realized I wouldn&#8217;t really need to spend a ton of money on a super-powerful antenna (though they do sell that if you are in the market for one.) So I called up to confirm what our needs would be. A very kind saleswoman named Susan took the call and confirmed that we&#8217;d be just right for the <a href="http://www.antennasdirect.com/C1-Clearstream-DTV-antenna.html">ClearStream1 (C1)</a> antenna. My concerns were two-fold: whether I could use an outdoor antenna inside our house and whether or not I&#8217;d need any sort of amplifier. Susan said she has had plenty of customers use the C1 indoors, including an employee of Antennas Direct, with few issues. She also felt like our proximity was really good and that an amplifier should be the least of my concerns. In fact, Susan said I might need an attenuator instead! Super. I love overhead.</p> <p>On Tuesday night, I finally got my hands on the C1 and installed it at home. My setup is really simple as I have a westerly facing window (toward broadcast towers) just a few feet from my TV. No mounts, no amplifiers, just coax straight from the antenna in the window to my TV. The result is superb! There is very, very little loss and the <abbr title="high-definition">HD</abbr> picture is astounding. Honestly, if you&#8217;ve never experienced the difference between highly compressed cable HD signal and the direct-to-TV OTA signal, you really should. I think it will surprise you.</p> <p>While I am very impressed with the out-of-the-box stick-it-in-the-window approach that I used, I do believe I&#8217;ll try a little tweaking to get it just right. We have a house right across the street from us that is likely blocking a solid direct signal, so I am hoping to either transfer the C1 to the upstairs window on the same side of the house and run coax down or look into roof-mounted options. It&#8217;s not something I feel I have to do as I am very pleased with the improvements just in the antenna itself. But every hour or so there is just a very quick bump or jitter of loss and I&#8217;d like to see that completely gone. It is a good possibility that I&#8217;m dealing with multi-path distortion and will need to lower the antenna&#8217;s strength with an attenuator.</p> <p>The antenna also shipped with an excellent illustration of <a href="http://news.antennasdirect.com/pdf/SIgnalIllustration.pdf">cable vs. satellite vs. over the air reception options</a>. <a href="http://news.antennasdirect.com/pdf/SIgnalIllustration.pdf">(Download PDF - 397kb)</a></p> <p>Next up, I may look to converting one of my PCs into an <abbr title="home theater PC">HTPC</abbr> to get DVR functionality rolling along with better on-screen TV guides.</p> <p>If you are hunting for a solid solution for absolutely <em>free</em> television, I would highly recommend Antennas Direct. Their gear is quality and their service is superb. What else in the world could you possibly ask for?</p> <p><a href="http://antennasdirect.com/">Antennas Direct</a><br /> <a href="http://www.antennasdirect.com/hdtv_antenna_selector.html">Antenna Selector</a><br /> <a href="http://www.antennasdirect.com/C1-Clearstream-DTV-antenna.html">ClearStream1</a></p> <p>There is also an excellent resource on improving television reception at <a href="http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/welcome.aspx">http://www.antennaweb.org/</a>. </p><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/status/index/~4/QiCqXWkP9bU" height="1" width="1" alt=""/> http://davidrussell.net/article/antennas-direct/09:00:09Z DD-WRT http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/status/index/~3/GEnZMrsZp-s/21:09:08Z http://davidrussell.net/article/dd-wrt/21:09:08Z 13 Aug 2008 01:09:08 +00:00 <p>A few days ago, I updated the firmware on my <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linksys_WRT54G_series">Linksys WRT54G (v3)</a> to <a href="http://www.dd-wrt.com/">DD-WRT</a>. The last time I played around with some alternative firmware options for my wireless router was a few years ago. At that time, it was certainly fun to modify the router in this way, but it didn&#8217;t really bring a ton of functionality (or form for that matter). Sure, there were a few nice upgrades, but it wasn&#8217;t exactly revolutionary.</p> <p>After I recently moved my rig down into the living room, taking the router with me, I decided to look in on some of the firmware projects I remembered from a some time ago. DD-WRT was at the top of the list to check out, so I started there. And I guess you could say, I finished there! Once I upgraded my router&#8217;s firmware from default to the latest firmware from Linksys for my specific router, I installed the &#8220;mini&#8221; version of DD-WRT (version 23, service pack 2) and then upgraded again to the standard version. This is the <a href="http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Linksys_WRT54G/GL/GS/GX#v3.0">process outlined for my router</a> in the documentation. Speaking of docs, it appears some of the <a href="http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Main_Page">information and install guides on the DD-WRT site</a> may need a little cleanup following the <a href="http://www.dd-wrt.com/dd-wrtv3/community/developmentnews/1-common/24-dd-wrtv24sp1.html">recent release of version 24</a> of the DD-WRT firmware.</p> <p>Regardless of the lack of timeliness in the docs, I am very much impressed with DD-WRT. In fact, it&#8217;s hard to believe <a href="http://www.dd-wrt.com/dd-wrtv3/dd-wrt/about.html">the strides</a> this project has made over the last couple of years. It&#8217;s proof positive that there is a great community and solid development team driving this software to be great.</p> <p>DD-WRT converts a $50 consumer-grade router into a very powerful and ultra-configurable device. Here are a few features of DD-WRT:</p> <ul> <li>Excellent encryption and authentication support</li> <li>Transmit power adjustment (boost wireless signal)</li> <li>Excellent <abbr title="Quality of Service">QoS</abbr> options</li> <li>Improved dynamic <abbr title="Domain Name System">DNS</abbr> support</li> <li><abbr title="Virtual Local Area Networks">VLANs</abbr></li> <li>Hotspot Portals</li> <li>Kaid (for gaming)</li> <li>OpenVPN (if you snag the <abbr title="Virtual Private Networks">VPN</abbr> version)</li> <li>RFlow</li> <li>Samba file system</li> <li><abbr title="Secure Shell">SSH</abbr> server and client</li> </ul> <p>And that&#8217;s just a start! Many of the features in DD-WRT even improve on the stock features in the Linksys firmware. Visit the <a href="http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/What_is_%22DD-WRT%22%3F#Features"> comprehensive list of features</a> for more information.</p> <p>One caveat for my installation was the need to disable <abbr title="Spanning Tree Protocol">STP</abbr>. Since my current <abbr title="Internet Service Provider">ISP</abbr> is Comcast, I modified the STP setting to reflect that. To be honest, I had no idea what this was all about. So I pulled <a href="http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/STP">an article</a> from their wiki to get a little explanation.</p> <p>If you have a wireless router that you are looking for more performance and reliability from, I&#8217;d highly recommend adding DD-WRT to your list of considerations.</p> <p><a href="http://www.dd-wrt.com">DD-WRT</a> </p><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/status/index/~4/GEnZMrsZp-s" height="1" width="1" alt=""/> http://davidrussell.net/article/dd-wrt/21:09:08Z Google Apps http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/status/index/~3/4_hD6DSdXOI/01:45:14Z http://davidrussell.net/article/google-apps/01:45:14Z 04 Aug 2008 05:45:14 +00:00 <p>For some time now, I've been on the hunt for a solid anti-spam solution for email. I dig my web host, <a href="http://www.1and1.com/?k_id=7643276">1&amp;1</a>, but their spam prevention sucks. I have thought about employing a third-party filtering service, like <a href="http://postini.com">Postini</a> or <a href="http://katharion.com">Katharion</a>, but both really feel geared toward corporate deployments. In fact, we use Postini for mail filtering at <a href="http://theaterchurch.com">National Community Church</a> and we love it. While it is possible to get set up on services like these with "personal" or single- to few-user accounts, I decided to take the easier (and less expensive) route that is <a href="https://www.google.com/a/">Google Apps</a>.</p> <p>After some quick research, including sifting through a few documented experiences others had with Google Apps, I started setting up my domain on their system. I won't take advantage of <em>all</em> of their features (most notably Docs), but I will certainly use it for email. Google Mail boasts a really simple and solid spam filter. Many people route their outside email accounts through Gmail just for the spam protection. As a Gmail user, I realize it's not perfect. But it will be far better than what I have in place now, which is really nothing beyond using <a href="http://mozilla.com/products/thunderbird">Mozilla Thunderbird's</a> <a href="http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/thunderbird/features.html#secure">Bayesian filtering system</a>.</p> <p>I will continue to use Thunderbird thanks to Google's support of <abbr title="Internet Message Access Protocol">IMAP</abbr>. But I did have to export the mail on my 1&amp;1 server to get it into Mail on Google Apps. In my initial research, this task looked a bit daunting&mdash;not difficult, just tedious. The I stumbled on a solution provided by Google. It's a <a href="http://mail.google.com/mail/help/email_uploader.html">simple utility</a> designed to take mail stored locally in common mail clients (like Thunderbird) and upload it to Google Mail. Because I leave my folders on the server and interact with them there, I needed to copy the folders locally. Mozilla makes this fairly simple in Thunderbird. Just drag the "Inbox" from the folder on the server down into the "Local Folders" account. I can't be certain, but it almost appears that Thunderbird merely mimics the sync, but allows those dragged-in folders to function like local folders. In the end, I had to make sure that every single folder and sub-folder had been synchronized first. <em>Then</em> I dragged the top-level folder (Inbox, in my case) to Local Folders. This created a local copy that the Google utility could work with. It really didn't feel like any data was actually copied to my computer from the mail server. (It would have been about 1 GB of data, if so.) Perhaps only the headers came, or perhaps Thunderbird simply created a local mirror, or symbolic link of sorts to the files on the server. I don't really have time to investigate the why or how, but I do know that Thunderbird made the process fairly simple for the Google utility. Of course, it would be simplest if the utility could grab the data straight from the direct-to-server folders and sub-folders. But I really can't complain.</p> <p>Now it will be interesting to see how Google Apps actually performs. I have heard very few complaints and many praises for the service. In fact, I probably would have waded in many months ago, but it's only been in recent weeks that I felt compelled enough to find a solution to my spam problem. Beyond of the top-notch security, I now get the sweet Google Mail web interface along with other fine Google services like <a href="http://www.google.com/calendar/">Calendar</a> and <a href="http://www.google.com/talk/">Chat</a>&mdash;all using my own domain!</p> <ul> <li><a href="https://www.google.com/a/">Google Apps</a></li> <li><a href="http://mail.google.com/mail/help/email_uploader.html">Google Email Uploader</a></li> <li><a href="http://mozilla.com/products/thunderbird">Mozilla Thunderbird</a></li> </ul><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/status/index/~4/4_hD6DSdXOI" height="1" width="1" alt=""/> http://davidrussell.net/article/google-apps/01:45:14Z Site Updates: Sections and Feeds http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/status/index/~3/C47zw773O6Q/11:35:02Z http://davidrussell.net/article/site-updates-sections-and-feeds/11:35:02Z 21 Jul 2008 15:35:02 +00:00 <p>Here is another update on some improvements I&#8217;ve made to this site.</p> <p>First, apologies for my <abbr title="Really Simple Syndication">RSS</abbr> feeds spewing old entries back into your readers. I&#8217;m not completely sure why it&#8217;s happening, but I think it has something to do with pushing some of these entries into new sections.</p> <h3>New Sections</h3><p> I&#8217;ve added a few sections: Posts, Photographs and Events. The original section I imported the WordPress entries into was called &#8216;Articles&#8217;. Since then, I&#8217;ve shuffled a few of those entries into these new sections where applicable. I&#8217;ve added feeds for each new unique section. The <a href="http://feed.davidrussell.org/site/index">Site Feed</a> will send you everything. And then each other feed will deliver only the content for which it is named.</p> <h3>Posts vs Articles</h3><p> Articles will still be the most important content and will trend toward the topics of technology and web. They won&#8217;t appear daily, but the content will be as solid as possible. </p> <p>Posts are going to come much faster and be less polished. Think of posts as a microblog. I wanted something in between my short updates on Twitter and more formal articles. Posts will probably be all over the place topically&mdash;about normal for me. :) I will probably figure out some way to highlight posts on the front-end, more than titles in the sidebar.</p> <h3>Photographs and Events</h3><p> Photographs are photographs. :)</p> <p>Events are not listed in any feeds yet. However, I did want to highlight events at which I&#8217;ll be speaking, so they are in the sidebar for your perusal. If you are attending any of these events, please let me know. It is fun to connect!</p> <h3>New Feeds</h3><p> Grab what you want. If you are already subscribed to a feed, chances are it is hooked up as a site feed.</p> <p><a href="http://feed.davidrussell.org/site/index">Site Feed</a><br /> <a href="http://feed.davidrussell.org/articles/index">Articles Feed</a><br /> <a href="http://feed.davidrussell.org/photographs/index">Photographs Feed</a><br /> <a href="http://feed.davidrussell.org/posts/index">Posts Feed</a></p><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/status/index/~4/C47zw773O6Q" height="1" width="1" alt=""/> http://davidrussell.net/article/site-updates-sections-and-feeds/11:35:02Z