Monday, September 11, 2006

Open Source Router

As part of a project to move my noisy Power Mac G4 to the basement (see my blog entery Silence is Golden), I recently bought a LinkSys WRT45GL. This is a 4-port ethernet and WiFi (802.11g) router which is hooked up to my DSL line and provides a firewall and port forwarding for the G4. I know that Kevin Heifner got this same router and immediately installed Thibor's HyperWRT version of the firmware. I don't use Vonage, and Skype has been working fine for me, so I didn't go so far as to replace the stock firmware (yet).

This router has the distinction of being built on top of a Linux kernel (interestingly, it was only after someone figured out that the firmware was based upon Linux that the firmware and technical details were released: the wikipedia for the WRT45GL).

I don't know if I'll ever replace the stock firmware with one of the open source versions, but it's nice to have the option. I doubt I'll try to do anything about it unless I run into a problem caused by the current firmware that isn't addressed by a stock updated from Cisco and is solved by some open source version with very high stability. I don't mind spending time setting these sorts of things up, but I do not want to maintain them on a regular basis.

By the way, I was amazed at the level of detail about the WRT45GL available from wikipedia. There's another blog topic for some other time.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Silence is Golden

I recently got a new 20" iMac (yes, recently enough to be saddened that they just came out with a 24" model). Since I got the new machine, I've been working to make a place in the basement where I could move the six year old Power Mac G4). The G4 is the mail server for the family domain and will eventually host a family web site.

I finally got that project completed today. It involved running ethernet cables to the attic and basement (solid masonry homes substantially decrease the range of WiFi), putting a shield along the stringers for the basement stairs (to prevent dust, crud, and dropped objects from falling onto the computer), and getting power to the location.

The actual move of the computer was anti-climactic, which is a good thing. Shut it down, disconnect the wires, move the UPS, move the computer, monitor and keyboard, and hook everything back up. A small hiccup with the outlet having a loose wire was quickly solved and everything 'just worked'. Of course, this was after about two months of on-and-off work to get networking cables run and tested, get the dirt shield created, etc. I ran into a problem with attenuation of the Ethernet signal that required me to install a 5-port ethernet switch in the basement. Just goes to show you that 'cat-5' wiring isn't always really 'cat-5' (whether it was not up to spec to begin with, or whether I crimped something and created a problem will probably never be known).

With the G4's (notorioiusly loud) cooling fans no longer generating dBs, the study where the iMac is located is now soothingly quiet. Tonight, while I was fighting with the PC the kids use to play computer games, it was noisy again (the PCs fans are even louder than the G4s). But after I shut that off, I sat in front of the iMac and enjoyed the quiet. In fact, it was so quiet I could hear the sound of a cricket outside the study window trying to foster a next generation before the end of summer.

As for the girl's PC, configuring it to use a WiFi card and to use the printer attached to the iMac was a blunt reminder of just how crappy PC hardware and software really is. But that's a story for another day.

Now, I have to figure out how to convince my wife to let me buy a 24" iMac and give the 20" iMac to the girls. Then we'd be PC-free once again.