Entries Tagged as 'Hardware'


I’ve noticed that here lately my SSH server has had an increasing number of hackers trying to log in.  Mostly they’re from the APNIC (Asia-Pacific) region, but a fair number from other regions (include North America) as well.

Since I have no plans to travel abroad in the near future I went ahead and blocked out all IP addresses registered through any registrar except ARIN, and I also added several hosting companies that seem to to have customers that either don’t secure their servers well or they themselves launch cyber attacks.

It’s generally a good idea to make sure that any server that can be used to gain entry to your network is as secure and limited as possible.  Obviously you don’t want to go overboard and make it impossible for you to do what you need with relative ease; but that said, you don’t want to make it easy for others to do things to your computers.

Originally posted 2010-01-25 01:00:43.

Microsoft Streets and Trips 2008 with GPS and Connected Services

I picked up a copy of Microsoft Streets and Trips 2008 with GPS and Connected Services; basically the package includes the same Pharos (re-branded) GPS module that Microsoft has been using along with a Pharos (re-branded) FM side-band receiver (similar technology as to what you can get on a number of all-in-one GPS units that provide real time data).

I haven’t tried all the wizzy new features for real yet, but in service areas I should be able to get real time data on traffic, construction, gas prices, weather, etc… the real question is how well S&T uses that data to auto-magically re-route.

I have a Pharos all-in-one GPS-150 receivers that’s a nice little unit, but it’s difficult to enter address information (there is not a sync to the PC option), and it doesn’t get real time data feeds. The Pharos all-in-one uses their Ostia software rather than Streets and Trips; but you can hack Tom-Tom PDA software to run quite nicely on it (the problem is getting the maps).


A bit of trivia for those that don’t know the connection between the word “Pharos” and mapping / navigation. Pharos was the name of the light house at Alexandria, Egypt. And “Ostia” was the ancient port of Rome at the mouth of the Tiber river.

Originally posted 2008-07-08 00:15:45.

Vista Activation

Over the past couple weeks I’ve had to “reactivate” two copies of Vista; now I did update the video cards and the optical drive (which is likely what triggered it), but interestingly enough, these are the two oldest copies of Vista (the first two computers installed with it).

It’s not difficult…

You try the online activation, it fails.

You call the automated telephone activation system, it fails.

You request a transfer to a Microsoft activation specialist, you read them the codes, answer a couple simple questions, and they give you the activation code which you type in and then you’ve activated.

Hopefully my activation is good for another twenty months (or more)!

NOTE:  While I’m sure that changing the hardware triggered this, I suspect that Microsoft has implemented a more rigorous inspection of the computer fingerprint to defeat bulk copies of Vista by questionable computer manufactures.

Originally posted 2008-12-28 12:00:06.

A signature Mac Book

But not from Steve Jobs, but rather Steve Balmer.

Last week Steve Ballmer, CEO Microsoft Corporation, participated in a meet and greet after speaking at Nashville Technology Council (held at Trevecca Nazarene University) and was ask to sign an individual’s aluminum Mac Book — and he did, right across the Apple logo!

Originally posted 2010-01-28 01:00:23.

Affordable RAID5 NAS

What a difference a year makes in the storage market… 1TB drives cost under $150 each and Network Attached Storage devices are almost consumer grade.

For about $300 you can purchase a Promise Technology SmartStore NS4300N; put up to four SATA-II hard drives in it and have yourself a fault tolerate storage device that your Windows, Mac, and *nix computers can access via their native file sharing protocols, and manage it via your browser.

The device is derived from an Intel reference design, obviously using Intel technology.  It’s got relatively good performance, very easy to use, and provides anyone with any computer ability a simple fault tolerate storage device of up to 1.5TB (assuming you buy four 1TB drives, and configure it for RAID5).

The technology of this device is very similar to the 16-channel SATA-II RAID5/6 controllers I use in my servers, and the device is somewhat like the Infrant ReadyNAS 600s that I was quite fond of (Infrant was acquired by NetGear, and since then they have been slow to innovate, and maintained what I would say is an outdated pricing model).

There’s a host of reasons beyond just having a fault tolerant storage device that makes something like this a potential buy.  You don’t need to keep computer’s your using on to access data (that can be important if you have multiple computers), you don’t need to worry about backing up your data if you need to re-install your operating system, you don’t need to worry about how to share data between Windows and Mac.

The only downside I’ve found to the Promise verses the Infrant devices is that Promise botched the implementation of spin-down; so the devices keep the drives spinning all the time.  Yeah, it would say a little power to spin down the drives when they weren’t being access (at the cost of taking longer to access data once they’ve spun down), but with today’s drives we’re not talking about that much power — and you have options when purchasing drives of ones that have “green” / high-efficiency ratings.

For both small business, and personal use for those who depend on storage I highly recommend you consider a device like this.

 Promise SmartStore NS4300N

Originally posted 2008-05-15 22:11:53.


I purchased a MSI Wind U100 a couple weeks ago for an “on-the-go” computer.

At $299 plus $99 for a 2.5″ SATA2 500GB Seagate hard drive and $15 for an additional 1GB of DDR2 it’s a fairly economical solution to use to browse the web on the go, send/receive email, mapping, GPS, music and videos, contacts, date book, etc.

I looked at all the options, but I choose this one because I wanted 2GB of memory (most of them come with only 512MB built in so you can only have 1.5GB total and a couple only allow 1GB total).

The Atom N270 processor is by no means a top performer, but it does a fairly good job and mine is running Vista Home Premium with no issues at all (it ships with Windows XP Home).

The only thing I dislike about it is the fact that the keyboard is so small; but if you want a small notebook you’re going to have to live with a small keyboard!

No one computer is right for everyone, so you’ll have to decide what’s right for your particular needs, what your intended use is, and your budget.  There are actually models of netbooks you can purchase with an AT&T wireless modem installed for $99 (of course you have a two year contract your saddled with).

Bigger than a PDA, but far more flexible!

Originally posted 2008-12-27 12:00:21.

Disk Drive Temperature / Airflow

I upgraded both of my workstations (one Windows one Linux) to have a mirror pair as the secondary drive…  which added a third drive to each of the cases (the cases are setup so that you can have five 3.5″ internal drives and four 5.25″ external units)… the 400GB SATA-2 drive in the Windows machine keep producing SMART warnings that it was getting close to the recommended maximum temperature, and I decided it likely had to do with the fact that the power management of the motherboard slowed down the main case fan which reduced the airflow.

The case actually had two cutouts for fans in front of the disk drive array, so I wired up a couple fans for each one off a single power connector, put the fans in and now the drives are running cooler (the 3TB SATA-3 drives in the mirror in the Windows machine are much newer drives and run much cooler).

Keep in mind, that the cooler your drives run, the longer they’ll probably last and the fewer problems you’re going to have — plus when you run drives close to their maximum recommended temperature you’re going to see thermal re-calibrations which are going to make your computer look like it’s hanging or at least stuttering.

While I don’t think you should get crazy with fans, you should insure that any location in the case that has a heat producing component should have airflow — and many fans come with speed adjustments so you can run them at their lowest setting and provide enough airflow while minimizing the fan noise (which can be deafening if you have lots of fans).

One last thing — make sure when you buy fans you buy good quality ball-bearing fans — if you don’t, you’re just wasting money and asking for a fan failure (plus way too much noise).

Originally posted 2013-07-10 08:00:16.

Vantec Quality

Before I left San Francisco I purchased six Vantec cases.

Two 5.25″ external USB2.0 cases for Blu-Ray ROM devices; and four 2.5″ external USB2.0 cases to put 500GB hard drives in.

I already had the Blu-Ray ROM drives and set out to put those in the cases right when I got them home from Central Computer, but I quickly found out that neither of the cases had the holes tapped for the bolts that held the case closed (and interesting enough, Vantec doesn’t shipped the cases closed up like most vendors).

It was a nightmare trying to deal with Vantec; they sent me two sets of bolts — they just never really could grasp the fact that the cases weren’t tapped — the screws were probably the right ones.  And even worse I’d already exchanged them once (and the second two cases also weren’t tapped).

Anyway, I gave up on trying to get satisfaction and just used some nylon fasteners that I had that seemed to do the job reasonably well — but of course the large white nylon fasteners sticking out the back of a black case was far from attractive.

The 2.5″ cases I packed away and didn’t need those (I actually had some SATA/USB2.0 cases that I was using at that point — but wasn’t willing to pay the ridiculous price to get more of those).

Last week, though, I ordered a couple 500GB Seagate drives on sale.  They arrived yesterday and I went to put them in the cases… The first package had the screw packet and worked great.  The second package didn’t have any screws and had a defect on the finish on the enclosure.  The third and fourth packages had no screws either.  So out of four drives only one had screws — and the screws are a small metric thread (and fairly long with a small diameter head) that I have nothing like.

I contacted Vantec; already knowing what they’d say… so once I dig up my receipt and send it to them I’m sure the fun will start again; the good news is I know that these cases are tapped (since I have two screws I tested all the cases).

It seems to me that Vantec has some rather severe quality issues; and simple things like insuring screws in the package that fit would be resolved by closing the case before packing and shipping it… obviously they want to save a nickle or so — and cost their customers hundreds of dollars in wasted time.

So I’ll not be purchasing any products from Vantec mail order for sure; and if I want to chance it, I’ll open up and inspect the item BEFORE leaving the store.

Originally posted 2010-01-30 01:00:58.

The Super-Sized iPhone

The iPad is no longer a rumor — Apple’s put a stake in the tablet market.

The one thing Apple seems to be very good at is coming out with an extremely weak offering and making the world thing it’s technology they created and it’s technology you can’t do without…

The iPad isn’t available yet — it’ll be over a month before the WiFi only model ships and over two months before the WiFi + 3G model ships (unlocked, UMTS/HSDPA and GSM/EDGE — no cellular support).

When I read over the press announcements and the specifications on Apple’s site (and looked at the price) my reaction was — it’s slow, has no substantial storage, uses an Apple proprietary processor (derived from an ARM core), has no USB ports, and it’s way too big to fit in my pocket and doesn’t have a keyboard.

I’ll pass.

The press is saying how it’s an Amazon Kindle killer — well, if that’s the best thing that can be said about it maybe Apple has really missed the mark this time.


Apple iPad

Originally posted 2010-01-29 01:00:07.

Kingston Counterfeits

Around the end of last November I ordered a Kingston DataTraveler 150 32 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive (DT150/32GB Orange/Black).  When it came in it seemed to work, and I didn’t really think anything of it, but when I started to try and copy large files to it, or put a significant amount of information on it (which actually wasn’t until around the first of this year) I continually had issues with it.

I contacted Kingston the first week of March to try and get a handle on the problem or an RMA to return it for a replacement.  Kingston then requested that I send them some identifying markings from the metal USB plug — well my unit didn’t have any of those identifying markings, and since those marking would have been covered by the cap I couldn’t have told whether a new product I was interested in purchasing had them or not without opening the package in the store and taking off the cap (and of course mail order there’s no way to do it).

What was really alarming is I had a few other Kingston USB flash drives, and I took a look at them — they also didn’t have any markings on them.  So from that I would have to conclude either Kingston just implemented this and the units I have are from before that time, or all the units I have are counterfeit.  The truly alarming thing is I’m 99.9% positive that all of these units came from Fry’s Electronics, Microcenter, and Amazon.

This indicates to me that there’s a severe problem with the distribution channel of Kingston products, and that the Kingston name brand (and the Kingston warranty) is worthless.  Which means, the purchase of Kingston products should be avoided since they are frequently counterfeited and Kingston appears to be only interested in protecting themselves, not the consumers of their products (since consumers really have no way of knowing if a product is counterfeit).

As Nancy used to say “JUST SAY NO” to Kingston products.

Kingston DataTraveler 150 - 32 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive

Originally posted 2010-03-15 02:00:19.