Eric Lindsay's Blog 2006 March

Wednesday 1 March 2006

Internet Whitsunday

Tim Lamberton's Internet Whitsunday was probably the very first ISP in the area. Seven years ago, our internet connection was via phone call to one of about a half dozen modems sitting on Tim's office desk in an upstairs office at the other end of the main street. Tim had a computing background, although I think more in database administration than ISP, but he certainly knew what he was doing. Over the years the business expanded. A bunch of Sun systems appeared. Mark became a permanent technical presence in the office. Linux appeared and the Sun systems were less used.

To my mind, the best features of Internet Whitsunday was they were locally owned, and they were responsive. You could drop in and talk to the people running the system. It wasn't some remote owner. Tim or Mark installed many of the connections for people joining them, especially in the early days. They turned up at your home, and did whatever was needed to give you your internet connection. As this got easier and less involved (and the competition mostly did not do home installation) the need for that level of hand holding tended to decline.

In recent years, pretty much all ISPs have become resellers of internet connections. Instead of a bunch of modems in a local office, your internet connection was handled by a box in a Telstra phone exchange. The ISP paid Telstra for the internet connection service, but did all the other internet work (email, web pages) themselves. So ISPs became a virtual service, rather than someone with a bunch of modems and computers in a building.

A neighbour told me that Voice2Net had taken over Internet Whitsunday. Voice2Net seem to be a complete communications company rather than mainly an ISP. That means local and long distance phones, and mobile phones, in addition to the more computer oriented internet connections. Like Internet Whitsunday, they are local to the Whitsundays, although obviously they rely upon bundling and onselling services from the major telecommunications distributors.

Alas, the reason my neighbour commented about the change was that their internet connection had become unreliable. In particular, only very short email messages could be sent, but messages with attachments could not. This is a known problem. A formerly working TCP/IP, the internet connection, can send very small amounts of data (less than 1500 bytes) but larger data times out. The problem is often unidirectional. That is, large transfer work in one direction, but not in the other. This tends to occur when TCP/IP packets pass through different types of networks, which is of course what happens on the internet, or if some of the links are configured incorrectly. So your internal Ethernet network continues to work just fine.

The site uses Macintosh computers connected via Ethernet to a D-Link 302G ADSL modem as their internet access. As with pretty much all Ethernet connections, the Macintosh uses an MTU or Maximum Transmission Unit size of 1500 bytes. Ethernet uses packages of bytes, and although the size can be varied, 1500 is the default size of the package. You can see the Macintosh defaults in Terminal, by typing ifconfig which will list the MTU value as 1500 for en0 (Ethernet) and en1 (WiFi) interfaces. I don't know any easy way to change the default MTU, however MacOSHints in 2003 listed a hard way to change MTU values. That note said MacOS was missing MSS Clamping, however many feel MSS Clamping is a horrible kluge that should not need to be used. The only Apple article on changing MTU during startup I found seems to relate to OS X 10.2

The technical support hotline for the ISP said to change the MTU to 1462, which is a bit confusing for most of us computer users. Even more confusing when it appears from the D-Link 302G manual in PDF that you can't actually change the MTU value for that DSL modem.

Luckily I didn't have to understand all that, as I got some advice from Andrew McNamara, who worked for an ISP for a considerable time, and knows heaps more than me. Mind you, I didn't understand the advice.

A PPPoE MTU is less than 1500 (on my router it's 1492) because you're encapsulating packets within packets, so you have extra overhead, but the PPP interface MTU should be set to an appropriate value automatically.

PPP uses 8 extra bytes when it encapsulates a packet, hence the 1492 (1500-8) Andrew mentions. My only reference on networking is sufficiently old that PPPoA (as the ISP requires) is not mentioned. Page 53 of the Dynalink manual, on PPPoA, mentions a default MTU of 1492, under Configure Internet Connections - WAN IP Settings however I seem to recall the web based configuration showing this defaults to 1500 instead of 1492. This is the setting for the external connection to the ISP, and 1492 should be correct. Continuing through the Dynalink manual, page 54 Configure LAN side Settings, after secondary IP address, allows you to set the MTU. This time it is the MTU for the local Ethernet. The default is 1500, which is the standard MTU used by Apple for Ethernet.

The problem is that the hosts downstream of the router will be assuming that packets of 1500 bytes will pass unmollested. There are two ways to handle this - Path MTU Discovery, and/or TCP MSS clamping.

In the PMTU Discovery case, the sending host tags packets with the do not fragment flag and any router along the way that can't pass the datagram in one piece will return an ICMP Fragmentation Required message back to the sender. The sender then makes a temporary note reduce the size of packets sent to that host. Unfortunately, clueless firewall administrators often block ICMP unconditionally, unaware that it has important roles, and the result is an almost complete failure of TCP with hosts behind the offending device.

So my assumption here is that whatever route previously went from this site to the SMTP mail handler of the ISP handled ICMP messages correctly, and that this is no longer the case. Hence the failure with the original D-Link 302G router.

MSS (or maximum segment size) Clamping only works for TCP, but is gentler as it doesn't require anything special in downstream devices. In this case, your ADSL router (re)writes the MSS into the initial TCP handshake. MSS Clamping is a common feature for an ADSL router to support - I wouldn't buy an ADSL router that didn't support it.

The problem with this is that in the four ADSL modems I have checked, I could not find any information about whether they handled MSS clamping or not. Plus I found a number of notes complaining that such MSS Clamping changes break other network utilities. The MSS (maximum segment size) is the amount of space in a packet for your data. The MTU (maximum transmission unit) is the size of the entire packet. TCP/IP packets contain the IP header and the TCP header, each of 20 bytes, so with a standard Ethernet packet of 1500 bytes, 1460 could be your data. If sent over PPP, this adds an extra 8 bytes for its header, leaving 1452 as the MSS.

If your router is not fixing the MSS, or PMTU is not working, you will often be able to exchange small amounts of data (small web requests, small e-mails), but anything larger than 1500 bytes will fail.

To sumarise TCP/IP packet numbers.

1500 is the largest IP packet likely to work on the internet without being fragmented.

1492 is the largest MTU for internet PPPoE (it allows 8 bytes for PPP header).

1472 is the largest ping data before fragmentation errors occur on non-PPPoE or non VPN connections. 1464 when connected via PPPoE (8 bytes for PPP header).

1460 is the data content or maximum segment size (MSS) when MTU is 1500 and PPPoE is not used (allows 20 bytes each for TCP and for IP headers). 1452 is the MSS when the MTU is 1492 and using PPPoE.

48 is the total of TCP, IP and PPPoE headers. 40 is the total of TCP and IP headers. 28 is the total of IP and ICMP headers (say using ping). Windows dialup systems used to use an MTU of 576, and an MSS of 536. I keep wondering whether this is a reason some ISPs have problems with a Macintosh?

Thursday 2 March 2006

Internet Whitsunday

There is a bunch of information your ISP needs to provide before you can setup your ADSL modem.

Username used to log on to your ISP. Usually in the form ?

Password that is used to log on to your ISP.

Connection Protocol method that your ISP uses to send and receive data between the Internet and your computer. Some values that may be offered include PPPoE LLC, PPPoE VC-Mux, PPPoA LLC, and PPPoA VC-Mux, Bridged Ethernet and IPoA.

Security Protocol your ISP will use to verify your Username and Password when you log on to the remote network. PAP and CHAP protocols are often offered.

Virtual Path Identifier (VPI). It is used in conjunction with the Virtual Channel Identifier (VCI) below, to identify the data path between your ISP and your computer. Default is often 8.

Virtual Channel Identifier (VCI). It is used in conjunction with the VPI above to identify the data path between your ISP and your computer. Default is often 35.

In addition to information from the ISP, you need the ADSL modem manual for access to the configuration pages within the modem. In your web browser, browse to for a Dlink 302G modem. For most more recent modems, browse instead. If there is also a USB interface, try or

The default Modem Username and the Modem Password are often admin and admin. These are used to configure and control the modem. They must not be confused with those used to log on to your ISP.

The default subnet mask for a D-Link 302G is This allows you to access any directly connected device with a number from to It seems a mite generous to me.

DHCP Client status An ADSL modem is usually configured, by default, to be a DHCP server. It can assign an IP address, subnet mask, and a default gateway address to computers on your Ethernet. The D-Link 302G assigns to by default.

The new owner of the ISP brought over a Dynalink RTA1320 ADSL modem, which was the only one he could find on the shelf at the Computer Doctor. We are sufficiently remote that there usually isn't a large range of ADSL modems around town. Unfortunately, with the ADSL enabled phone line separate from the most convenient computer, and the default D-Link assigned network running from, there was no easy way to isolate one Macintosh so that it could access the Dynalink on The manual was on CD, and only worked under Windows. It wasn't until I found somewhat buried set of numbered PDFs on the CD that I was able to read the manual. I eventually took the Dynalink home, where I could work on it in peace, and configure it. The ISP owner brought over another DSL modem, again, only what he could find on the shelf elsewhere. He is really trying to help, which is a great sign, given technical support will always be a problem in country areas.

Friday 3 March 2006

Body Corporate meeting

After the Whitsunday Terraces body corporate annual general meeting was the Whitsunday Terraces committee meeting. Luckily the long term committee people had everything organised pretty well. Plus the new Whitsunday Terraces resort mangers are on the ball about stuff, which really helps. We got through deciding on the work that related to safety issues, and regular maintenance by around 7 p.m. Went to the committee dinner at Mangrove Jacks afterwards.

Internet Whitsunday

In the morning I installed the newly configured Dynalink RTA1320 modem with the MTU set for 1462. After a reboot, internet access was back. Some emails went out from each Macintosh. Unfortunately, this did not include a 2MB email. In addition, DHCP dynamically assigned new addresses to everything in the office. However it appeared some printers didn't get the message. Whenever you tried to print anything, whatever application was attempting to print crashed. I assume the DHCP lease from the D-Link was long enough that there was a conflict. Bringing up the Macintoshes attached to the printers first should solve that. Plus once the old DHCP leases expire, the problem should go away.

After about an hour, the internet connection disappeared again. A remote restart of the Dynalink modem seemed to get it all working again. I was hoping the problem was just the ISP noticing a changed DSL modem, and deciding not to work until it got logged in again.

That evening, just before going to dinner, I dropped in on my neighbour. The internet connection was down again. I set his laptop up to send urgent email wirelessly via my network, so at least the mail went out (eventually).

The trouble is, I don't have any real idea of why this problem started, nor why two ADSL modems in a row can't handle the connection. The only thing I can think to do now is to try to identify the external cause using ping. You can set the packet size of ping using ping -s 1464 url and you can set the do not allow fragmentation bit with with the -D option (for Windows the ping options may be -l and -f).

Saturday 4 March 2006

Jean Returns

Jean phoned up in the morning, just after I had returned from an unsuccessful visit to the Airlie Beach markets (nothing much was available). Her flight from the USA had arrived on time, and she had reached the Virgin Blue room in the domestic terminal, awaiting her (much later) flight to the Whitsunday Coat airport at Proserpine. I wasted part of the day removing books and stuff from temporary storage on the floor of her work room.

I collected Jean from the airport just before five.

Sunday 5 March 2006

Internet Whitsunday

Leo from Voice2Net phoned to say he had a NetComm ADSL modem on the way. Good service, given the cost of weekend freight to this area.

Monday 6 March 2006

Internet Whitsunday

Pinging the mail servers ( and ( produced different results when connected via the Dynalink RTA1320 modem. Aussieadsl accepted ping packets to 1441, Whitsunday accepted them to 1444. Response time for normal pings was 60~70mS. With the modem local network MTU set to 1440, ping -D -s 1472 url was the highest figure that didn't produce a message too long error. That seems consistent with an IP header of 20 bytes and a PPP header of 8 bytes subtracted from an MTU of 1500. Looked like the Dynalink modem was not really co-operating. Large emails would start, and stall at about 5%, and eventually time out.

Monday afternoon late, the Netcomm modem arrived. By then I had determined that there were no devices with fixed IPs in the whole Mac network, so I dumped the old based DHCP, and went with (since all recent modems seem to use that). The default modem password had been changed, but once I got that, checking the set up was easy. The ISP had been changed from to (Leo wanted it changed back to whitsunday - either worked).

With the Netcomm ADSL modem, everything worked fine, including the 2MB emails. No changes made to the Macs (except automatically finding a different DHCP range). Interestingly, I could then do pings larger than 1500 to the ISP. Maybe that is a clue. I would still like to know the reason several modems failed to give the desired results.

Tuesday 7 March 2006

No Film, No CDs

The local Kodak dealer in town closed the doors of his shop a while ago. Not only have Kodak given up on their film business, this year Nikon and Konica-Minolta have also given up on film cameras. The old business of these companies has been swept away by the digital camera, far faster than most people expected.

Music is bigger than ever, however the biggest selling CD is a blank one. With the giant music CD distributors intent on providing copy protected content that audiences do not want, the traditional music distribution industry is shrinking while downloads and live music is expanding.

I think CD will continue to do fine as a gently declining distribution medium for the next few years. However most of us will end up leaving all our music on our computers. Who needs a whole bunch of CDs cluttering up the place?

Wednesday 8 March 2006


Home Hardware catalogue (actually they call it a dogalogue) have an extend and climb telescopic ladder. It is like something from a Batman movie. It extends from 95cm to 3.9m. Costs A$369, which is pricey, but I am very impressed by the idea. Great for anyone with limited storage space. Plus it just looks so cool. Not that I can find any reasonable excuse to get one.

Wattyl ceiling magic paint. Looks pink when you apply it, so you can see whether you have missed patches. Dries to a matt white. Great idea (although I have no idea whether it actually works).

Thursday 9 March 2006

Apple iPod HiFi (1)

This one piece loudspeaker for an iPod was the other gadget Apple released on 28 February. Most of the reviews and comments have been fairly negative, partly because of the (high) price, partly because there are already many other competent iPod speaker sets, and partly because Apple's web page says it is hi-fi and audiophile quality.

Hi-fi is a 1950's term, and pretty much any reasonable quality sound output device is more accurate than anything from that era, so calling it hi-fi is unexceptional. Disgruntled audiophiles seem not to think anything is audiophile quality unless the price tag exceeds that of a large car. They will never agree that compressed sound formats are worth listening to, not even from CD. For most of the rest of us, I guess we must have cloth ears instead of golden ears. I can not see much point in arguing terminology in advertising, especially when audiophile simply means lover of sound. No specifications, nothing about cost.

The iPod comes with earphones. It is a personal listening device. The iPod Hi-Fi is intended to provide loud, across the room sound. It produces up to 108dB (102dB on battery) without distortion. This is seriously loud. Unlike many iPod speakers, it is a full room sound device, not a desktop one. You have to define what you need in the way of sound output. Given my iMac has a 12 watt amplifier and reasonable built in speakers, I don't believe I need an additional desktop sound system. However a room system is another thing. At present I use a pair of cheap Dick Smith tower speakers driven by a Dick Smith stereo amplifier. Like many sound systems, it occupies a lot of space, and involves a bunch of wires.

For comparison purposes I mention a full orchestra tend to peak at 110dB, and the quietest passages are around 30dB, an 80dB range. A vinyl record can manage at best a 70dB range, a CD at best 96dB. As I've complained elsewhere, some popular music now has a range between average and peak of less than 3dB. Even the sound engineers complain.

There seems particular criticism of the iPod Hi-Fi 53Hz to 16kHz (+-3dB) frequency range. Most sound systems don't get down much further, and very few musical instruments manage it, whatever the claims they may make. The lowest organ note is 16.4Hz, and piano is 24.5Hz. At the high end, most men my age can't hear past about 14kHz, although there is considerable evidence that cutting higher frequencies does affect the quality of sound. I think Apple would have been smarter to have added tweeters to the iPod Hi-Fi, in an attempt to get the top end response up to 20kHz, even if only for bragging purposes. After all, everyone else claims they do so (although it is unlikely all get within the 3dB variation at their top end).

The main features are very reasonable quality sound combined with convenience and ease of use. I think that is probably enough for an audience that generally cares little for audiophile sound.

Friday 10 March 2006

Apple iPod Hi-Fi (2)

Interestingly, loudspeaker brands not providing specifications (on the Apple site) included Altec Lansing inMotion iM7, Altec Lansing inMotion iM11, Altec Lansing FX6021, Altec Lansing MX5021, Bose Companion 3 Speakers, Bose Sound Dock, JBL, Klipsch Ultra 2.0, Logitech mm50, M-Audio StudioPro 4s, Sonic Impact i-Fusion.

Meaningless specifications were available. Harman Kardon SoundSticks II say 44Hz-20kHz.JBL Encounter 2.1 say 40Hz-20kHz. JBL On Tour say 100Hz-20kHz. JBL On Stage II say 80Hz-20kHz. JBL Creature II say 50Hz-20kHz, but do list their crossover frequency as 180Hz, and power as 24 watts at 10% THD. Logitech Z-5500 say 33Hz-20kHz.

Only two speakers other than Apple iPod Hi-Fi gave a meaningful specification, both with a plus and minus figure much higher than Apple's standard +-3dB. Altec Lansing MX50221 had a flyer saying 30Hz-22kHz +-10dB, and 80dB signal to noise at 1kHz. Klipsch ProMedia Ultra 2.0 say 50Hz-20kHz +-5dB, with 100dB SPL. Sigh.

Somewhat later I discovered Audio Engine 5, a two speaker box set at the same US$349 price as the iPod HiFi. Made of 1 inch MDF (this is good) with a 20mm tweeter and 5 inch woofer in each cabinet. It contains a dual class A-B amplifier claimed to provide 45 watts RMS AES per channel. The left box (with amplifier) weighs 6.4 kg, the right unpowered speaker 4 kg. It has 2 x 1/8 inch connectors for iPod, and a spare power outlet for an Airport Express. Size of each speaker is 10 x 7 x 7.75 inches. Claimed performance is 95dB signal to noise, less than 0.05% THD, less than 50dB crosstalk, and and excellent 60Hz to 22kHz +- 1.5dB. The specifications and construction methods all seem very good. I suspect the Audioengine is the correct competitor for the Apple iPod HiFi.

Saturday 11 March 2006

Mediocrity TV

The cover story in the Sunday Mail TV Guide last week was a competition to pick the stupidest show on TV. No good blaming reality TV when the dumbing down is happening in every show. Plus the blatant product placements within shows is getting worse and worse. It is bad enough that advertising now appears to occupy 20 minutes every hour.

I have a better idea. Why not just dump your TV entirely? Throw out the idiot box.

Sunday 12 March 2006

Why Media Monocultures Are In Big Trouble

Music Lessons: Is Your Industry at Risk by Josh Bernoff and others. The executive summary of this 18 page Forrester report. In the past five years, the music industry experienced a historic $2 billion decline, driven mostly by technology-enabled piracy. Like a terminal patient, the industry resisted the inevitable, passing through the classic stages of death and dying as described by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, finally, acceptance. What's the lesson for the media business? Monoculture thinking deriving all revenues from a single source leads to inflexible behavior and leaves industries vulnerable. Movie studios, which are now used to embracing multiple revenue streams, are well positioned in this new world. Newspapers, facing threats to classifieds revenue as well as their news audience from online competitors, are the most vulnerable.

It is not the music industry that is in trouble. Music is, if anything, more popular than ever. Live concerts attract enormous audiences. It is the music recording, publishing and distribution industry that has a problem, with their 2% revenue decline last year to US$33 billion, despite digital downloads rising to US$1.1 billion, from 18 million downloads in 2003 to 420 million in 2005. Music is a massive industry, so it will survive a long time on inertia.

The Australia industry peaked at A$628.6 million in 2001, and declined to A$540 in 2004. Given they also decreased the number of products, the 16% decline doesn't surprise me.

Virtually all music industry money comes from CD sales in stores. Records are almost dead. Higher price CD enhancements are not popular. Downloads are the only new money tree for the industry, and it is a distribution method they did not provide and do not control. For recent consumers, music alone is the end product, not a record, not a CD, not even a download.

Film makers are doing a lot better. Their distribution was originally only via cinemas. Now they add to that TV rights, plus VCR and DVD rental and sales. Downloads are just starting. They have a much more diverse range of distribution and income sources.

Monday 13 March 2006

Why Everyone Hates The Music Industry

Fredric Paul, writing in TechWeb on Why Everyone Hates the Music Industry back in October 2005, summarises the Forrester report I mentioned yesterday. He concludes if your industry exists in a monopoly monoculture, heavily depends on a single channel and revenue stream, and steadfastly refuses to change along with advancing technology and cultural shifts, it's clearly time to start worrying. According to Forrester, that means TV networks, radio networks, and especially newspapers.

Tuesday 14 March 2006

Media reform in Australia (1)

Communications Minister Helen Coonan's proposed media reforms discussion paper would sweep away the restrictive Labor cross media rules of the 1990s, after ten years of non-action on cross-media restrictions (mostly due to a hostile senate). In particular, they would allow foreign ownership of media beyond 15% (TV) or 25% (newspaper). They also allow a media company to own multiple media in any area, one TV station, two radio stations, one newspaper being suggested, rather than prohibiting ownership of TV by newspaper owners and vice versa as under present Labor derived laws where Paul Keating not so neatly divided media into Princes of Print, Queens of the Screen and Rajahs of Radio.

This is the sort of decision that in Yes Minister would be met with That is a very courageous decision, Minister. These changes are hardly new. Most media ownership changes were foreshadowed in Coonan's speech to the National Press Club in August 2005. Prime Minister John Howard a month or so later (after Kerry and Rupert talked to him perhaps) indicated he is not going to stick his head out on media reform, so if Princes and Queens object violently, nothing may happen anyhow.

Naturally Labor's Stephen Conroy objects to changes in media ownership rules, and correctly sees no need to link changes from analogue to digital TV contingent on changes to media ownership. He claims Encouraging digital take-up is of national importance but reform in this area does not require any change to the cross-media rules.

Other overtly political moves involve more liberal anti-siphoning rules protecting existing free to air broadcasters from competition for selected sports events by cable companies.

Wednesday 15 March 2006

Media reform in Australia (2)

Technology is moving ahead of the ability of politicians to react, especially when their natural impulse is to be conservative, and to avoid upsetting powerful incumbent media interests. The government is trying to regulate both digital TV and new digital services. I think this will be as much of an error as the past history of media regulation in Australia has been.

The analogue TV service will be shut down between 2010 and 2012, instead of the original date of 2008. There will be two new datacasting licences in 2007 for subscription TV or mobile TV, and these will not be available to free to air networks. Free to air networks will be able to broadcast new content on their second HD digital channel, rather than duplicating their main service as at present. There will be no new commercial network until at least 2012.

The conversion to digital TV has been very slow in Australia. Only 15% of homes have a digital TV or set top box, unlike Britain with 63%. Without multi-channels, I can not see any point whatsoever in converting from analogue TV to digital TV. The vast majority of plasma TVs sold in Australia are limited to 480 line definition, which is NTSC type, and pointless for high definition. Most set top boxes are standard definition. The difference from analogue can be seen, but it is more like the difference between VCR and DVD, rather than great home cinema.

Nor will the internet be a vast new media distribution method. Although broadband is talked about, it does not actually exist in Australia as yet. The paltry low speed ADSL that is all Telstra permit is way too slow for media downloads. The restrictions on download sizes make any idea of video on demand totally ludicrous. For most people a few movies would blow their entire monthly download allocation.

I can not see most people finding compressed crap like video iPods and TV on a mobile phone a satisfactory alternative to a home cinema. If compressed video is a satisfactory alternative to TV, then equally, we do not need to use digital TV at all, since any increase in quality would be irrelevant.

The silliest suggestion is to make ISPs apply for a broadcast licence for web based IPTV broadcasts. Australia must surely be the only country in the world to think that is reasonable. That will totally stuff up any chance of regional IPTV providers doing community based broadcasts on an ad hoc basis.

Thursday 16 March 2006

Media reform in Australia (3)

Rupert Murdoch gave a wide ranging speech, The New Age of Discovery, to the Worshipful Company of Stationers in London. He pointed out that newspapers would have to adopt a multimedia strategy that embraces mobile phones, iPods and so on. Power was shifting from the old elite of the industry to a new media audience.

Murdoch did mention that radio did not destroy newspapers, television did not destroy radio, and neither eliminated books. He appears to have ignored the loss of the telegram, Telex, and possibly the fax. Or the loss of the wax cylinder, the record, the 8 track tape, and the cassette. Or the silent movie and the black and white movie. Or glass photographic plates, and more recently the spectacular decline of the film camera.

In many of these losses, a revised technology replaced an older one, and typically more expensive one. The loss of the telegram did not reduce the number of messages sent. The loss of photographic plates did not reduce the number of photographs taken. However if you were a telegraph delivery boy, or Kodak, your business disappeared with the change. Kodak are trying to move from the film industry into the wider photographic industry. Self defining yourself into a rust belt industry is a good way to downsize a business.

Friday 17 March 2006

Network Storage

I am still looking for a network storage device that runs gigabit Ethernet, and allows you to have the hard drives formatted with something that is more usual rather than proprietary. The number of devices has increased, the prices have dropped, but I still have not found the item I seek.

A D S NAS-806-EF connects via Ethernet 10/100

Buffalo LinkStation 120GB to 250GB connects via 10/100 Ethernet. Has two USB ports and printer serving. Browser based configuration. Buffalo do make a Gigabit version (the Terastore or Multimedia Home Server) at a higher price.

Buffalo have a Kuro Box that deliberately allows Linux users to configure it to suit themselves. Otherwise it is similar to the Linkstation.

Hawking Net-Stor uses 10/100 Ethernet and accepts an internal drive. Requires a fixed IP address, rather than accepting one via DHCP like other NAS devices. Performance is slow.

IOGear The BOSS network storage, combined with a router so it can sit on the gateway to your network. Can provide FTP access from outside your network. Configure via browser.

Iomega StorCenter Network Storage Drive with gigabit Ethernet, internal drive, two USB ports, support for Windows, OS X and Linux. Drives can be FAT32 (NTFS for read only). Perhaps the fastest NAS tested by Toms Networking.

INOi HD363N is a hard drive enclosure that turns a 3.5 inch hard drive into a standalone SAMBA or FTP server. Plug in an Ethernet connection, and share a hard drive.

Linksys EFG120 network-attached storage has Gigabit Ethernet and an FTP server. Includes printer support, but only via a parallel port, not USB. Reputed to be noisy and costly, but may be the only Gigabit version I can find. The EtherFast was called pricey and slow by one user.

Linksys NSLU2 Network Storage Link accepts two USB drives, connects via 10/100 Ethernet. Tiny Linux based appliance runs SMB over TCP/IP, drives are Linux EXT3 format.

Linksys WRTSL54GS Media Storage Link Router seems to be a new wireless storage device. Drives may use FAT32 format, which would be handy, but limit file sizes to 2GB.

Maxtor Shared Storage Plus Drive connects via 10/100 Ethernet. Has printer support, or two FAT32 format USB expansion drives. May be derived from the same reference design as the SimpleTech

Netgear SC101 Storage Central is a 10/100 Ethernet connected hard drive enclosure. Disadvantages are the drives take a custom format, and the software works only with Windows. I can't understand why they didn't provide a more standard interface to the storage.

Netgear WGT634U wireless storage WAN router, plus 4 port hub, and USB 1 connection to external drive. Works with Windows and OS X but may use WEP rather than WPA.

Promise NS2100 is an Ethernet NAS case with two serial ATA drive bays.

SimpleTech SimpleShare STI-NAS/250 web based management. Two USB ports for additional drives. Performance is slow. Possible the only NAS not running Linux internally.

Synology DS-101 Disk Station with 10/100 Ethernet, space for an internal drive, and three USB ports. Full Windows and OS X support. They also have a gigabit Ethernet model.

Trendware TS-U200 (TSU200) Network Storage Server has 10/100 Ethernet connection and two USB ports, plus card reader. Very slow performance reported. Possibly Windows only.

TRITTON Simple NAS is a cost effective network attached storage connecting via Ethernet. Takes only one drive by default.

Western Digital Essential Netcenter Network Hard Drive connects via 10/100 Ethernet. Can use an additional drive.

Another way is to turn an old XBox into a NAS, if you happen to like torture.

Saturday 18 March 2006

Whitsunday Library Catalog Online

Whitsunday Shire Council library facilities now include access to the library catalogue which uses Aurora Information Technology's Windows based library catalogue access system. Luckily you can get a more direct access if you bypass the frames on the site. Now, I wonder whether I can do ISBN searches of the site. Alas, I could not see any obvious method of doing so. Being able to do an ISBN search would potentially allow finding a book on Amazon or elsewhere, and then automating a search based on ISBN (which should be unique and reliable).

Google Mars

I really liked the idea (and implementation) of Google Mars, launched (as it were) recently in commemoration of Percival Lowell's birthday. However having that last file named mars-attracts went a bit far.

Tropical Cyclone Larry (1)

The low pressure area near the Solomon Islands continued to head west, and gradually developed into tropical cyclone Larry. The warning area extends from Cape Tribulation to Mackay. Not many weather stations in the mid Pacific, so the centre of the storm gets less and less well defined. Cyclone Larry gradually increased from Category 1 to Category 3 throughout the day. Seems headed towards Cairns.

Sunday 19 March 2006

Carolyn Weber

We were saddened to learn that Jean's mother died this morning in Panorama City. She had not fully recovered from breaking her hip, and had suffered pneumonia and a heart problem, and we had been warned to expect the bad news. [The date of the service was Friday 24 March. Burial at Arlington national cemetery on 29 March.]

Tropical Cyclone Larry (2)

By 10 a.m. the warning was up to Category 4, and Cyclone Larry was predicted to head towards Innisfail, between Cairns and Townsville. There were predictions it would get to Category 5 before coming onshore, but by 4 p.m. that was revised down to Category 4. Still the most powerful to cross the Queensland coast in a considerable time. Looks like lots of places are going to get flooding, extending as far as the Gulf.

At Airlie Beach we had about 10mm of rain until 5 p.m. Gusting winds, but not all that heavy as the cyclone is at least 400 km away. I hope none of the boats drag anchor, but at least there has been a lot of warning. Late in the evening rain got heavier south of the cyclone centre. The overnight rainfall figure will be interesting.

Monday 20 March 2006

Tropical Cyclone Larry (3)

Cyclone Larry turned into a Category 5, the worst to ever cross the Queensland coast. Winds over 200 km per hour at Innisfail (pop 11,000) which is in the eye at the moment (Cyclone Tracey Darwin was 220 km). Several houses and buildings already had roof removed there. Windows blown in, and the winds are increasing. Power is out, but mobile phone still working. Local TV has lost contact with their stringers in Innisfail. Cairns is likely to be badly damaged also. Schools and most businesses are closed from Cairns to Townsville.

Airlie Beach is OK, as we are several hundred km from the cyclone. Winds are light gale, not enough to cause damage, and we are out of the storm path now. Rainfall may help the local dam level (down to 16%). A P&O cruise ship is offshore sheltering in Pioneer Bay. I can see it through the rain from my balcony at the Whitsunday Terraces. Unfortunately sat photos seem to show another low forming to the east.

Most of the rain will come when it turns into a rain depression, and we may too far south and east to get much rain.

The overnight rainfall here was a paltry 50mm, although the wind gusts tended to wake us up from time to time. As predicted, Innisfail was hit by category 5 Cyclone Larry in the early morning. Initial reports were of widespread power loss, one in five houses with roofs destroyed, and massive damage to banana and sugar cane. The banana crop losses will hit tourism hard, as backpackers have traditionally replenished their spending money provided labour for banana growers.

House and Home

Australia is incredibly urbanised compared with most countries. The Reserve Bank has pointed out this weakness is driving home prices to unaffordable levels in major cities. In capital cities owner occupiers have 62.3% of their total assets in their homes. Even in other areas the house asset level exceeds 50%. Sydney and Melbourne alone hold 36% of our population, and half our population live in our four major cities, whereas the giant Los Angeles and New York hold a mere 10% of the US population. This urban sprawl in Australia drives home prices up to the most overvalued in the world, as people pay to avoid the time cost of travel. Rent is very cheap by comparison, as home prices are 50% higher than rents can justify, according to OECD.

While construction labour costs are high and labour in short supply, innovation has kept building costs down below the inflation for more than three decades. However land prices have increased at eight times the inflation rate, according to the Housing Industry Institute.

Large homes simply make things worse. At 250 sq metres, our average new home size exceeds even the 224 sq metres of the USA. This seems particularly anomolous when housing lot sizes have halved since 1960, and the number of people per household has dropped from 3.7 to 2.6. To make a house large, the designers and builders have to decrease the cost of each square metre. The results are often more akin to a warehouse than a home. The only function of some rooms is to store unused furniture you would not have bought had you not felt you needed to fill an empty space.

There is a growing movement towards better built, carefully considered, less wasteful homes, more suited to both the site and those who will live in them. See Sarah Susanka's The Not So Big House.

Tuesday 21 March 2006

Muslim Life

according to the BBC

An Afghan man is being tried in a court in the capital, Kabul, for converting from Islam to Christianity.

Abdul Rahman is charged with rejecting Islam and could face the death sentence under Sharia law unless he recants.

Trial judge Ansarullah Mawlazezadah told the BBC that Mr Rahman, 41, would be asked to reconsider his conversion, which he made while working for a Christian aid group in Pakistan.

We will invite him again because the religion of Islam is one of tolerance. We will ask him if he has changed his mind. If so we will forgive him, the judge told the BBC on Monday.

A municipal cultural center here on France's border with Switzerland organized a reading of a 265-year-old play by Voltaire, whose writings helped lay the foundations of modern Europe's commitment to secularism. The play, Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet, uses the founder of Islam to lampoon all forms of religious frenzy and intolerance. various sources

Wednesday 22 March 2006

Designing a Home Network

An extensive 17 part diary of networking a new home by Tim Higgins made me think about what I could manage in retrofitting my apartment network.

Be clear about what you want the network to do. That was the best starting advice. We are looking at distributed communications and entertainment, plus some home control facilities.

I live at the Whitsunday Terraces, a tropical seaside resort in rural Australia. The range of network suppliers is very limited compared to say in a large city in the USA, where the above article originated. So conditions can be very different. For example, it is only in the past three years that ADSL became available (the whole town used to connect via a handful of modems that lived on the desk of the local ISP). Speeds sufficient for video are not available at all (political problems with the incumbent phone company). The local TV translator is difficult to receive. Satellite TV distributed to resort rooms fails whenever tropic rainstorms occur. There is no cable Internet.

Tim suggests starting with a floorplan, a list of activities, and a list of locations. Tim lists primary (must have) and secondary (nice to have) activities, and suggests cable drops of some UTP (unshielded twisted pair) wiring and some high quality coax such as RG6 (rather than RG59) can do pretty much anything installers would manage with structured wiring. I pretty much agree, although if pulling wire myself, would rather add extra runs and a spare pull line. Also, with Category 6 UTP wiring now fairly readily available at reasonable prices, I would use Cat 6 instead of 5e (and would no longer consider using Category 5). All my recent computers have included gigabit Ethernet, so my wiring may as well be capable of supporting that.

Our apartment is more compact than a house, with fewer rooms. However anything installed would be a retrofit. With concrete floors and an apartment below, nothing could go below the floor.

In looking at Tim's activity list, phones were very prominent by our standards. We do not use phones for business (everything is done via Internet) so we had no need for additional phones. Our location solution. A long handset cord on the phone in each of our two offices. We make insufficient use of phones to even bother with a cordless handset.

TV to multiple rooms was also prominent on Tim's activity list. Except for sports fans, TV is increasingly pointless here in Australia due to political restrictions on competition, and poor monopoly Austar cable service in country areas. We get cable TV for free (due to ancient wiring errors), and even at that price it isn't worth having. We plan to dump the only TV set we still have. We can connect a computer display to a VCR (or any device with an analogue tuner) as a TV, and take advantage of Picture in Picture if we wish. Analogue TV signals are likely to continue in country areas until at least 2012. Neither digital TV (same show, clearer picture - but only during good weather) nor HDTV (recent offerings - The Sound of Music, and The Great Escape) make a convincing case for TV.

Dump the Television

The crap level on TV finally exceeded even my tolerance for junk. Today I got rid of my TV set. Gave it away. Besides, the internet will provide even more opportunities to select worthwhile content, especially once the download speed gets reasonable.

Thursday 23 March 2006

Replacing skirting boards

U.P.T Power Track (probably out of business) or Orbit Surround Power by Clipsal (unreadable Flash based web site) - see Orbit Surround Power more easily) offer skirting boards containing power rails so you can fit a power receptacle anywhere along the wall. Great idea, but trying to get the stuff without custom installers is close to impossible.

I tried Home Hardware, the closest hardware store, for any sort of ducting. Didn't expect them to have the ducting (although you never know with them), but they always give good advice. They said try Reece and LEW. Reece are plumbing suppliers. They had 100x50mm white rectangular duct, but that was it. I went to Blue Bay Industrial estate and checked Leichhardt Electrical Wholesalers (yes, their other store is at Leichhardt, a Sydney suburb). Perfect. LEW had 4 metre white PVC ducts with clip on covers. Available sizes are 16x10, 16x16, 25x16, 25x25, 40x25, and 40x25x2 (twin duct). Prices ranged from $4 to $11 a metre.

Now I just need to figure what sizes I need to do the job of making my computer and sound system wiring tidy.

Friday 24 March 2006

Smarthouse (1)

I have a bunch of Smarthouse Magazines here, dating from their earliest appearance in Australia. Not alas, including the very first issue from October 2002. So before I got rid of them, I decided to go through them seeking evidence that any of the smart household gagets they touted ever actually became a commercial success.

I expected that the majority of the advertisers would be HiFi and Home Theatre. Given the rapid change in these, anything you buy tends o quickly become obsolete and overpriced. So it is essentialy the other things that I want to note.

Saturday 25 March 2006

Smarthouse (2)

Issue two of Smarthouse in November 2002 complains appliances are too complicated, so facilities are not used. That seems a valid complaint.

The first mention I noticed of the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner from iRobot Corporation, starting as low as US$199. This has now been supplemented by the Scooba, which washes scrubs and dries hard floors, for US$399. The web site still exists, and pointed me at their international distributors. They listed Australian stockists Harvey Norman, Domayne, and Clive Peeters. No link to Harvey Norman (whose web site is pretty much useless anyway). Both the others had a web site that started out with a Flash presentation. So much for checking out this product!

At least Google found me someone on eBay selling Roomba, at around A$600. So I checked Jaycar, despite their annoying web site, who have a Chinese Roomba imitation they call Norbert (GH1395) for A$159. This is the Applica Zoombot RV500 / RV501 robot vacuum cleaner, sold in the USA under the Black & Decker brand name at US$99. It gets lousy reviews.

A long article about Ingvar Kamprad's Ikea store chain, a handy source of neat and simple furniture and other household goods. Alas, their online catalogue is yet another proprietary flash product. I have no idea why so many stores make it so difficult to shop online.

A review of an Apple iMac 2, the white hemisphere model with the display on a chrome arm. It used only an 800Mhz G4, with a 15 inch 1024X768 LCD, 256MB ram, 60GB hard drive, DVD burner, Ethernet, 2 Firewire, 4 USB 1 and modem, and cost an astonishing A$3695. Ouch.

Sunday 26 March 2006

Smarthouse (3)

Issue three (v2n1) of Smarthouse was delayed until February 2003, by which time I had a subscription. I was amused to note almost all the interiors that featured a computer had photos of an Apple Macintosh or Apple monitor, regardless of whether computers or Apple were mentioned. Another triumph of style over whatever else. For example, an article on creating a home office, illustrated with an iBook, an Airport wireless access point (no wires - just like speaker systems on other pages), a hemisphere iMac in the background, and a PowerMac and an Apple display on other pages. The article suggested (among other ideas) checking second hand furniture.

An article on choosing the right system. Lots of possible systems. Networking computers. Lighting control. Home control all integrated. Security systems. Home theatre with a big screen and surround sound. Music distribution system. Climate control. Lots to consider.

Lots of material about TVs, especially plasma displays. They did mention most at that time didn't actually include a tuner, which means they are not really a TV. They did not mention that many were designed for NTSC, and only had 480 lines resolution, which is not a good match to PAL video. The lack of specifications distresses me.

Monday 27 March 2006

Centro Shopping Opens

The new Centro shopping centre opened today near the outlying industrial area of Cannonvale, so we (and many others) could not resist seeing what was there. Given the very low population of this area there was an impressive crowd, although nothing like in a city suburb. The entry from the Paluma Road is still not complete, with the Main Roads crew still working on it. The sun shades were not over the parking lot. Given we didn't know until a few days ago whether we would have another cyclone, not trying to get shade cloth up seems sensible.

Many of the shops were not open, with signs indicating what would eventually be there. Obviously some local shops are taking advantage to move to new, larger premises.

We didn't try Woolworths as our food stocks were fine. We were driven out of Big W by the spruikers for the opening. Some of the statements over the public address (this was bush last year, and there were kangaroos hopping around here) were a little over the top. The block already had Burnups Furniture and the Mitre 10 Hardware store, and it was wallabies hopping around. Before we gave up because of the noise, Jean found a book she wanted. I found another marginal science fiction DVD under $5. Plus from our shopping list, a hand vacuum cleaner at $18. That worked fairly well. Mostly when shopping in this area we find far less than half what is on our lists. It is certainly a step up from the range at the Target Country store at the closer shopping centre.

I suggested we visit Burnups Furniture before we left the area. The Jason recliner chair they have appeals to me, but the seat feels a little too soft. Pity, as it is on special. Jean checked the beds. She has been muttering about getting rid of the 30 year old water bed for the last year or so. Found a bed and mattress that seemed reasonable, in the mostly deserted store, so we bought it. If the water bed is now what is causing us back problems as we age, that should help solve it.

Alas, I hadn't thought about the implications of removing a waterbed. It took from midday until nearly five just to syphon out the water. Luckily we had a 15 metre length of hose, bought long ago for just that purpose. Luckily I also had an electric screwdriver, so taking the sides apart was not as horrible as I had expected. We had forgotten about how much work assembling a waterbed is, since it had been seven years since we moved in.

Tuesday 28 March 2006


The bed we bought from Burnups arrived mid afternoon. That at least gave us time to complete the disassembly of the bed base. We put the chipboard out on the Whitsunday Terraces balcony, for lack of a better idea. The bed had sustained some more marks on the base by the time it reached us, but they were cosmetic only.

Smarthouse (4)

Issue four (v2n2) of Smarthouse for March 2003 had an editorial about Bose, and why people love or hate their products.

An audio system needs to sound good, and to sound realistic. It seems to me Bose concentrate on sounding good, but not on sounding realistic. They have peaks at 200Hz and 4kHz, where the ear is sensitive. Little wonder Bose do not like being evaluated on precision of sound reproduction. Some people like them. Having had a Bose, which was lousy, I loath Bose.

As usual, most of the issue shows wiring that can really only be managed in new homes, thus leaving the majority out in the cold. Likewise, all appliances lack cords, making me wonder how they could possibly work. Music through the house was a popular topic. Prewired, of course, with zones, infrared remote controls, audio video switchers, audio hard drives. For any existing house, it is cheaper to duplicate sound sources than do the wiring. Almost any CD, DVD and especially amplifier is far superior to almost any speaker, so the expensive item limiting quality will always be the speakers.

Home theatre mentions your choice of standard analogue TV, wide screen TV, HDTV, rear-projection, projectors, plasma and LCD TV, plus various video displays. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Analogue is due to disappear in a few years. Plasma is mostly restricted to 480 lines vertical, for NTSC, not the 525 required for PAL used universally here. Projectors use expensive short life lamps, and can not compete with daylight. Wide screen or rear projection is too large if you live in a small apartment. HD is little use when TV stations basically do not transmit it (1020 hours a year). Most LCD TVs can not handle full resolution HDTV, although they are almost always better than plasma. The most elegant solution seemed to me to be to throw out the TV, and replace it with an LCD computer display capable of much higher resolution. As long as it can do picture in picture, you can put a TV show in a corner while you work on other things.

Home cinema in a box mostly seems to mean overpriced and underperforming surround sound. Or as an alternative, very cheap and not real good sound. I am not sure TV sound is ever all that great, so you are really considering how DVD surround sound is presented. Easiest initial solution. Use your stereo instead. Good quality stereo speakers can nearly match a sub woofer for bass anyhow. Decent speakers have the disadvantage that they are large. Laws of physics. There are only a limited number of tricks to get around that, and most do not work well.

In 2002, Sony headed a poll as the best lifestyle company in the world. If such a poll were held now, after the proprietary formats, copy protection and rootkit scams, I wonder whether Sony would rate worst in the world?

A lengthy article on personal CD players. This was before the iPod killed off most personal CD players, except at the $30 end of the market. I now see Tandy offer CD players at 2 for $40. I think that is now just about a dead product category, except for cut to the last cent commodity sales.

Wednesday 29 March 2006

Smarthouse (5)

Issue 5 (v2n3) of Smarthouse for April 2003 had a two page Apple Powerbook advertisement, and the editorial, backed by a long article, predicted LCD TV displays would displace plasma TV. The furniture was all skinny, something our local stores seem not to have discovered (or been unable to sell). Lots on new home control and zoned climate control for new homes. A room make over for home theatre sound, plus a celebrity home without much detail of how it was done. Wine fridges and custom cellars. Not compatible with my apartment space constraints, but if I could ever figure a spot to put a small wine fridge, I would do so. Reviews of floor standing speakers and of tablet computers.

Thursday 30 March 2006

Smarthouse (6)

Issue 6 (v2n4) of Smarthouse for May 2003. DVD recorders at over $1000 to $2500. It is a wonder they didn't suggest waiting. DVD players, at prices from $1000 to $4000. Ouch! Seems the best approach is to wait until they all hit $50. At least the home upgrade was an an 80 year old place. Seven CCTV cameras, and so on, very upmarket. Smart light systems, smart security systems. Never many details, just mention of the stuff. HiFi reviews, never including actual specifications. It was probably around now I started regretting my subscription.

Friday 31 March 2006

Centro Shopping Officially Opens

This was the official opening, as distinct from when you could go shopping. Proserpine School brass band (too much amplification, but they are otherwise a pretty good school band). Mayor DeMartini was scheduled to give a speech. The shopping centre people gave a speech.

Jean didn't go. I did a little food shopping in Woolworths, more to see what their range was like. Got an entry into their opening competition giveaway of a home theatre outfit. Checked the BigW more carefully. They had a complete garden section I hadn't noticed. Not a bad range of manchester and bedding fabrics. I didn't notice where the men's clothing was, but women and children's clothing was obvious.

The range of digital cameras in the photographic department at BigW will hit the local Betta Electrical and RetraVision sales, as will the TV and DVD player sections. I bought about a half dozen sci-fi DVDs. I could not help but notice that for many series DVDs, like the original three StarWars and for some TV series, prices at local music stores were anything from 60% to 100% higher. I didn't check music prices, but I suspect the local music stores will be hit very badly by BigW. Got to put another entry in their home theatre competition.

Smarthouse (7)

Issue 7 (v2n5) of Smarthouse for June 2003 concentrated on kitchen appliances and lots of stainless steel in kitchens. I'd rather eat fast food. I'd rather read something else.