Entries Tagged as 'Communications'

Remote Access

I’ve been using a combination of bitvise WinSSHD and Tunnelier for remote access to my home network.  It basically allows me to tunnel a RDP (or simple command shell) via SSH to a Virtual machine running on my server (actually each “user” has a virtual machine all to their own, so there’s no contention).

I really like the simplicity of the SSH tunnel, and find that running it on port 22 and port 443 provides me with a very good likelihood of being able to connect through all but the most draconian firewalls.

You will want to make sure that you implement good security policies on your SSH server, and that you either use pre-shared keys or certificates OR that you make sure you have a strong password.  There are a number of bots out there that try to break into an SSH server using a list of well know user names and dictionary attack for the password.

WinSSHD will lock out IP addresses after a number of failed attempts; but I created a test account called “test” with the password “password” just to see what the bot would try to do (the account was jailed without any write priviledge in a safe sub-directory with no files).  The bot got frustrated and went away, but I was trying to upload files, and I would guess execute them (probably propagating itself).

You can black list IP addresses, and if you’re like me you run the DynDNS client (I use DynDNS.org for my dynamic ip naming service; it’s free, and it works well) on your notebooks so that you “know” their IP address via a fixed host name (though in WinSSHD the IP black list superceeds a DNS name white list).

http://www.bitvise.com/

http://www.dyndns.org/ or http://www.dyndns.com/

The Anti-Green – Junk Mail

Why does the United States Postal Service encourage companies to send “Junk Mail” by substantially reducing the costs of distributing it?

It just doesn’t make sense.

Sure, I understand that it may actually cost the post office a little less to distribute junk mail than it does to distribute first class letters and such — but take a look at how little junk mail you even look at… and how much ends up in your recycle bin (and I’m not even going to bring up the large number of people who probably don’t recycle since they don’t have curb-side recycling programs).

America needs to take action to reduce it’s carbon footprint — and as I have pointed out for the last few days it would be extremely easy to make a fairly substantial improvement without sacrificing anything most consumers care about — and in fact, it would probably improve the quality of life for most Americans not having a mailbox full of junk mail they have to sort through so as not to miss something that might be important.

Sure, the post office would probably have to raise the cost of postage, and possibly reduce the service level (hey — I have no problem with mail not being delivered on Saturday — of maybe being delivered only on alternate days or only a few days per week).  The overall effect would be a decrease in the waste (of natural resources and energy).

Droid Does

I purchased a used Motorola Droid this weekend — I couldn’t resist, the price was reasonable and it included an extra charger, the multi-media dock, and a 16GB µSD card.

I’ve played with Android both on other people’s phone, and a hacked version loaded on my HTC Touch Pro 2 (but there were a number of things that didn’t work, and because the phone is both CDMA and GSM I expected that there would always be a number of issues with Android on it until there were a reasonable number of CDMA “Worldphones” running Android).

By far my preference in handsets are those made by HTC — I just think they do a much better job designing the handset, and understand the features that consumers really want on a smart phone… but the Droid is sort of the standard; and it met my absolute criteria for an Android based phone, it had a slide out keyboard.

I just have zero interest in all the new whizzy phone that don’t have keyboards — I send too many emails not to be able to see a reasonable amount of the screen and type at the same time (and don’t even think about things like remote desktop with a virtual keyboard).

Using Android is interesting… many aspects of it are well engineered and simple to use — but just as you think the ergonomics have driven the design of the interface, the geeky techno thorns in Android rear their ugly head.

By far the iPhone has made the slickest interface — but without a keyboard all you really have is an expensive iPod that can make phone calls.  Windows Mobile (at least with the extensions HTC loads on their smart phones) has made using the features very friendly, but every time you want to stray from what 90% of the people with Windows Mobile handsets want to do — or do something “advanced” that doesn’t involve an Exchange Server or Outlook… it stumbles and makes you have to be both technical and clever.

Given the tender young age of Android it’s certainly very respectable how far Google has come; but in trying to make the handset easy to use, Google has required the use of Google services with the phone — no you don’t have to, but you’ll fight every feature of the phone if you don’t setup Google Mail, Google Voice, etc.

There are those who still seem to think that Google does everything they do for the good of the general public — rubbish!  Google makes money off advertising, and to do that effectively they need to target advertising by demographics, and they do that by tracking trends by mining data.

Everything Google does Google does to support their revenue stream.

That isn’t necessarily bad; it’s just something that users of Google’s services need to understand… and you do need to pay close attention to Google’s privacy policies.

I’m not saying you’d be any “safer” with an iPhone (Apple is certainly trying to do the same thing — and I always find it humorous that it seems every “cloud” service Apple introduces is tied into iTunes (a very poorly thought out name for that type of service — obviously it was initially intended to only provide music).

Bottom line; I’d say your best value in a smart phone today is an Android based handset, and I’d recommend you consider trying it out with a used handset that has the features you’re interested in.

Yeah — I could add a line about reduce, reuse, recycle — but in actuality this has more to do with figuring out how you’ll use a smart phone before you commit to spending a great deal of money or locking yourself into a long term contract.  And remember, phones will only get better over time — and we’re very close to really having 4G service (at least Sprint, Verizon, MetroPCS, and Cricket seem committed to roll it out — AT&T doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to do anything except rape iPhone customers).

Your world delivered

It appears that iPhone sales are responsible for increasing AT&T network utilization by 5,000%

You’d think that such demand would make AT&T happy; but in fact, AT&T might be enjoying the sales numbers; but they pay Apple a rather substantial portion of the monthly fees they collect on iPhone users and the networks in New York City and San Francisco have become so unstable due to high volume that their have been frequent outages.

I guess there’s no reason to ask if you can hear me now if you can’t even make a call… but perhaps AT&T might want to reconsider changing their slogan to “your world delivered, subject to network availability”.

Verizon Wireless is the largest cellular carrier in the US; and has higher customer satisfaction rating than AT&T according to several independent surveys.

Smartly Made Smart Phones

I’ve owned a Windows based smart phone for around a decade; when I first saw and played with the iPhone I thought it was interesting, but it really brought little more to the table than HTC had already done with their UI on top of Windows mobile had… with one notable exception — the app store.

I’d probably have been willing to try the iPhone except for a number of characteristics I found totally unacceptable.

  1. The iPhone was only available on AT&T (I’ll choose my carrier, thank you very much);
  2. The iPhone didn’t have a keyboard (and I mean a real keyboard, not a virtual keyboard that takes two thirds of the screen);
  3. The iPhone was a closed platform totally under the control of Apple; and
  4. The iPhone was overpriced.

Any one of these would have likely prevented me from buying an iPhone, but in total it was a no-brainer.

Then, a little over two years ago (23 September 2008); Google released a handset manufactured for them by HTC running an open source version of Linux specifically designed for use on portable devices.

That was the T-Mobile G1 running Android (aka HTC Dream)…

Today there are a large number of Android based handsets on the market — and the number grows almost daily — and we’re not limited to just a single vendor or single carrier… almost every cell phone handset manufacturer has at least one Android based handset, and every US carrier supports Android handsets.

The official release of Android is version 2.2; and while some manufacturers have not provided that updates to older handsets, the open source community has put a great deal of effort into providing custom builds of Android that bring the newer features to older handsets (including many phones originally intended to run Windows mobile).

Android is a revolution in smart phones.

Not necessarily because Google has done everything right, but because Google has leveraged many parts of the development and manufacturing communities and allowed each to do what they do best.  These contributions push Android in multiple directions simultaneously; allowing Google to use the best and most promising along with their own ideas to pave a path for Android.

Now it’s worth noting that Google didn’t do this because they’re philanthropic and just want what’s best for everyone — they did it because having control of the smart phone market (and tablet market) or at least not being locked out of it; allows them to generate a revenue stream through advertising and collecting demographics to target that advertising.

But are they any different from cellular carriers and other companies offering smart phones — not really; but they are better at doing what they do (and I don’t mean developing technology, I mean making money with advertising).

As consumers we’re not really interested in the technology under the hood; we’re only interested in what it does for us, what it costs, and the eye candy it presents.

To me, though, what we should praise in Android is that it will not be a platform that limits, but rather accommodates.

Smart Phones

Early last month Sprint shipped a 4G Android based smart phone made by HTC — it sold out; they receive more from HTC — they sold out; they can’t keep them on the self.

Late last month Apple shipped the iPhone 4 (not a 4G phone), and AT&T sold out the first day in many metropolitan areas.

The day before Apple shipped the iPhone 4, Motorola shipped a new Android based smart phone — sales were brisk.

I’ve had a smart phone for many, many years — and frankly I’ve been amazed at how many people have been buying them in the last few years, so I did a little research.

I figured a good place to start would be to see what kind of applications people where downloading for the iPhone — well I was totally shocked.  On almost every list I could find the top applications were games (and people were paying for them).

I’m not even going to waste my time writing what I think this says about Americans (and we probably shouldn’t limit it to just Americans)… obviously the economy must be doing fine if people have several hundred dollars to throw away on a cellular handset to just enable them to play games — and have a fashion accessory (which must be meant to indicate that they have money to throw away).

I always considered my smart phone a tool; but I guess in the age of PSP and Wii it’s just another electronic toy to keep mindless people entranced so they don’t need to think or pay attention to their surroundings.

Almost enough to make me toss my smart phone in a trash can and get rid of my unlimited data plan.

iPhone on Verizon

Today Apple and Verizon announce the availability of the iPhone 4 for Verizon (CDMA upgradable to LTE)…

AT&T will attempt to point out to people that their network is faster than Verizon’s for data; though they are going to leave out that in major metropolitan areas there network is severely over-subscribed, and effectively much slower… and they will leave out that Verizon is actively deploying a 4G LTE network that is substantially faster than AT&T’s network.

Analysts are already indicating that AT&T profits are going to be down, and that Verizon is likely to make even more money.

I don’t get why anyone cares about the iPhone; but then again, I’m not sure I understand why people waste money on overpriced fashion accessories.

iPhone no longer #2

Well, in my opinion iPhones are definitely #2 (and I’m not talking second in sales)…

Market researchers are now indicating that Android based handsets have over taken the iPhone for second place in the smart phone race, Blackberry (RIM) are first in sales with about 35% of the market (though Blackberry owners indicate, by far and large, that they are not likely to purchase another Blackberry device).

It seems that Android in a very short time has been able to soar past Windows Mobile and iPhone handsets — hard to image what a “finished” phone operating system from Google might do.

Perhaps Apple made a fatal mistake not releasing the Verizon iPhone before Android over took them in sales — we’ll have to wait until early next year to see how the retail holiday sales go — but I’m betting this might mark the fall of the iPhone; but nothing will ever humble Steve Jobs.

evo

P2P

First let me open by saying I do not condon copyright infringement or theft.  Companies and individuals are entitled to fair and just compensation for their work; however, US Copyright laws entitle you to backups for personal use, and there are a number of indisputably legal uses for P2P file sharing.

I recommend you check out Shareaza (DO NOT USE shareaza.com — that’s a SCAM site — use the Source Forge link below).  Shareaza is a multi-protocol P2P file sharing client; it does Gnutella, Gnuetella2 (G2), EDonkey2000, and BitTorrent.  It also includes the ability to search for files.

If you’re just interest in exchanging files via BitTorrent then uTorrent is by far the best client.  BitTorrent has a search tool built in, and you can certainly use other sources for torrents as well.

Reguardless of the client you choose, you should consider running PeerGuardian 2 fro Phoenix Labs (you can read all about it on their site).

And I recommend you consider running your P2P client in a virtual machine.

AT&T, the company we love to hate.

On May 2nd AT&T will implement usage caps for all their DSL and U-Verse.

ADSL customer will be allowed 150GB per month, and VDSL (U-Verse) customer will be allowed 250GB per month. There’s vague language about exceeding the caps incurring a $10 fee for every additional 50GB used. And I say vague because it seems somewhat discretionary.

AT&T stated that only 2% of their customer would be effected by the changed in the terms of service imposing the new caps (that seems to be what AT&T always says, but if only 2% are effected it would seem that they are going to a great deal of trouble to address a non-issue).

AT&T will provide tools for monitoring usage, as well as pro-actively alert customers when there usage approaches the caps.

Using a notification structure similar to our new wireless data plans, we’ll proactively notify customers when they exceed 65%, 90% and 100% of the monthly usage allowance.

We are committed to providing a great experience for all of our Internet customers. We will communicate early and often with these customers so they are well aware of their options before they incur any additional usage charges. Importantly, we are not reducing the speeds, terminating service or limiting available data like some others in the industry.

And while AT&T insists that this change is only to deter the bandwidth hogs — one has to ask the question, what about people who just want to watch Netflix (or other streaming video) every night… are they “hogs” or just using their internet service in a manner that AT&T originally committed to them they would be able to.

To me this is yet another case of bait and switch where American big-business does as they want.

I certainly have no love or allegiance to AT&T — and I will be happy to jump ship the moment something better comes along; and something better always comes along.