Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Settop Boxes, Phones, Internet Modems & Firewalls

WARNING : Geeky story with a happy ending and a product recommendation

The past couple of weeks we seem to have changed all of the communication boxes in this house due to one reason or another and finally today (fingers crossed) everything is running as it should.

When we moved to this house back in 2005 we moved all of our communications (Phone, Internet & Television) over to Cablecom, the big cable provider in Switzerland. So we became classic "Triple Play" users. The idea being that we would only need to deal with one provider. Little did we know at that time that it would still be like dealing with three providers with separate helplines for each of the Phone, Internet and TV even when the Internet & Phone are handled by one box (still called a modem even though it doesn't modulate or demodulate anything).

Anyway a few a few weeks ago almost simultaneously the Phone and Digital TV started playing up, The phone sounding like we were being switched on and off rapidly as we were talking and the DTV being switched on and of a little more sedately, but just as annoying.

The Phone

First we (Carol actually) attacked the Telephone helpdesk and after long queues and listening to music that seemed to have been recorded through our telephone and of course accentuated by being played back through our faulty line we convinced them to send us something. A power supply! This seemed to fix the problem for a whole day.

The TV

That was DTV escalation day, no more on and off problems, now it was just OFF complete with slightly charred security card. So we (Carol actually) tackled the TV Helpdesk, analog and digital on one line!! And after after long queues and listening to music that seemed to have been recorded through our telephone and but this time NOT accentuated by being played back through our faulty line we convinced them to send us something. A new DTV box.

The Internet

Meanwhile our phone line had gone back to its flickering state and the Internet seemed to have slowed down to the point the VPN I use for work couldn't manage to hold itself up (not good). A quick measurement (using speedtest.net) confirmed the suspicion of around 2Mb/s on a line I pay for 25Mb/s on (although I wasn't getting ever getting it --- but more of that later)

So Carol took the Telephone helpdesk and I took on the Internet helpdesk simultaneously . This dual pronged attack seemed to have the desired effect they even made the almost unheard of Telephone Internet Helpdesk link-up and decided to send us a new (non modulating) Modem in which to plug both Telephone and Internet connection into.

The Happy Ending (almost)

So within a couple of days with all the new boxes plugged in:
The DTV looked clear and uninterrupted
The Telephone stopped jittering
The Internet speed was up to 5Mp/s

The Product Recommendation

So all was well..... except where is my 25mps
At this time my memory drifted (as it does) back to a conversation with an old friend, even more geeky than I am, that mentioned my Firewall (the trusty old Zyxel Zywall 10) was limited to the WAN Ethernet Performance of 10mps which I just realised that meant a full duplex rate of 5mps. AHA, not Cablecom's performance this time but my aging hardware.

So off to find a good, but low cost, Firewall product.
Starting with the devil I know I looked at the Zyxel Zywall 2 plus with a throughput of 25mps max at CHF269 but I wanted something with some spare capacity and that took me up to at least double the price. So what to do?

As before my memory drifted (as it does) back to a conversation with with the same old geeky friend who mentioned some small computers that you could stick in a 150mm square box (Alix) and run freeware software (m0n0wall, yes they are zeroes) on them to get 100mps throughput.

So last Friday with itchy fingers I ordered an Alix 2D3 System Board, Box (mine is a very nice Red not the Pink shown here, but also available in Black) & PSU (also available for UK) for the total cost of CHF160 (you can do it cheaper with a cheaper board).

They arrived today so I downloaded the m0n0wall image loaded it on to an old CF Card as instructed (it needs just 16MB, mega not giga), plugged it in the system board and stuck the system board in the box. Luckily the default local network was the same as mine so I replaced my old firewall "dragon" with the new "redwall" plugged in the power and et voila.

If it keeps running like this I'll be well chuffed.

The REAL Happy Ending
Maximum Download speed : 25.49Mb/s (2am to Dusseldorf)

Friday, 27 March 2009

The Lights were Off

Sharing darkness with Friends, Mexican/Spanish Food, "Dark" Music and thinking on the World's situation.

The Music:
Mercury Rev - The Dark is Rising
Handel - Messiah, For behold, the darkness shall cover the Earth
Bruce Springsteen - Dancing in the Dark
A-Ha - Dark is the Night
The Pogues - Dark Streets of London
EchoBelly - Dark Therapy
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Darker with the day
Peter Gabriel - Darkness
Over the Rhine - I will not eat the Darkness
Rare Bird - Her Darkest Hour
Nits - Home before Dark
Jesse Cook - Into the Dark
Meat Loaf - Left in the Dark
Blind Willie Johnson - Keep your lamp trimmed and burning
Blind Willie Johnson - Let your light shine on me
------ Time to turn on the lights
Genesis - Turn it on again
Del Fuegos - Headlights
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - Shine on you Crazy Diamond

Alternative for Pete Gabriel: Bjork - Scatterheart (if your wife doesn't loath Bjork)
Kind of Ironic really I always have to listen to Bjork in the dark.

Earth Hour - Turn off the Lights

Thursday, 5 March 2009

MRI News, No Change or may be not

Finally got the results of the MRI from 16th February.
Only seen the report so far so no pictures yet. So how does it look?

Zum Vergleich liegt die letzte Kernspintomographie des Sch├Ądels vom 14.11.08 vor.

Looks the same as it did on the last MRI of the skull from November 2008.

Don't you love the German word for Magnetic Resonance Imaging - Kernspintomographie, much more "Nuclear Age" rather than the "Magnets" of MRI don't you think.

In the detail of the report we can see a little more:
No signs of Atrophy or Vascular (vessel) disease around the Biopsie scars. Good start.

At the end of the biopsy canals (from where they stole a bit of brain from me) there are two licorice intensity defects of 8x5mm and 3x7mm (ie. my sharp looking tumour has become a couple of fuzzy blobs). On the larger of these there is an un-sharply bordered, anomalous, discrete enhancement that might indicate a very light tumour growth.

That is not something I wanted to see, but at least they recommend another 3 month before the next check up so that must be good, or may be they want me to have a little bit more fun before the onslaught.

P.S. Anybody interested in looking at a full MRI report (in German), just put in a vote and I will put one up with all the names and stuff to protect the innocent.