It's Just this Little Chromium Switch Here

Weblogging and commentary by Chip Rosenthal

Bar Camp Weekend

BarCampTexasI'm planning to go to the BarCampTexas in Bryan this weekend.

I have no idea what I'm getting into here. I don't expect to know much of anybody there. I only recognize a handful of names on the list.

I may offer to do a presentation on Drupal if people want. I did a "Zero to Drupal in Thirty Minutes" demo some months back that people seemed to enjoy. It showed how the standard Drupal components made it easy to setup a community content site very quickly.

Other than that, I hope I get a chance to meet some folks from around the state, see some cool projects, and learn some new things.

Hard to be Promiscuous

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In a previous blog entry, I discussed strategies for snooping out wi-fi hogs. Unfortunately, when I went out to cast my net, the only fish pulled in was myself. It turns out the approach I described doesn't work on my laptop, an Inspiron 600m with Intel 2200BG wireless network controller (ipw2200 driver).

In a shared network technology such as wireless Ethernet, the network controller typically picks out just the packets addressed to it, ignoring everybody else's traffic. Some controllers can be placed into promiscuous mode. In this mode the controller accepts all packets, so a program can monitor all the traffic on the network.

The ipw2200 driver doesn't provide a simple promiscuous mode, so the solutions I described don't work.

I've found two workarounds.

First, I can switch the wireless Ethernet controller from "Managed" to "Monitor" mode with a command such as:

iwconfig eth1 mode Monitor

Then, I can launch a program such as Wireshark to monitor the traffic.

Why I Love Recruiters (Part CXXIV)

The following email just came across the Austin Rails User Group jobs mailing list:

Hello Austin,

My name is Kayla Pennington and I am a Technical Recruiter at Brooksource, an IT services company. I just left you a voicemail because I came across your resume online and I wanted to touch base with you regarding a permanent Ruby on Rails Programmer position I thought you would match up well with in the Nashville area.

I am not sure what your current work situation is but wanted to see if you would be interested in entertaining a position such as this. Here is a brief description.

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Recruiters like this are the reason why I stopped publishing my phone number in my online resume.

Wired

The bad news is that my lungs felt like they were ripped out and replaced with sandpaper. The good news is that I've now got gigabit Ethernet wiring in the house.

The installation kicked up so much insulation dust that I ended up getting sick. Even still, I think it will be worth it.

The house used to be wireless. I wanted to go wired for several reasons.

Wired is more reliable. That's important because I want to move critical functions onto my file server, such as backups. And, of course, the digital music collection.

Wired is also more secure. I now literally have an air gap between my trusted and untrusted resources.

Finally, wired is higher performance. That's important for backups and streaming media, two functions I want to support.

I'm in the process of consolidating all the media files onto the server and setup the satellite systems to run off of that.

Response from First Book

When First Book was selected as the designated organization for the Holidailies Charity Project, I dropped them a note to let them know.

Today, I got a nice response back that I want to share.

Dear Mr. Rosenthal,

Thank you to you and your members for choosing First Book as the recipient of the Holidailies 2007 Project's charitable giving. We appreciate your generosity, publicity and support as we work each day to bring beautiful, new books to the most economically disadvantaged children nationwide. Together we are making a difference – as Madison, a third-grader who received books from First Book, tells us:

"Thank you for the awesome books. We lost all of ours in Hurricane Katrina. I love reading books. Books take me places where I haven't been before."

We look forward to carrying on our mission in 2008 to bring more books to children like Madison. Please continue to follow our efforts at blog.firstbook.org, and once again, thank you for your support!

Sincerely,

Erin

Kill Your Television (in 2009)

DTV conversion box coupon program logoA year from now, your television is going to break.

Over-the-air broadcast television is changing from the current NTSC analog broadcast standard to a new digital transmission mechanism. There are several significant reasons why this is a good idea. Broadcast television will become HD quality, with improved video and audio. Television stations will be able to transmit additional information, even multiple channels, in their allotted space. Also, this will release a large piece of valuable radio frequency spectrum, which will be used to raise money for the Federal government and open up the airwaves to exciting new services.

So Long, and Thanks for All the Holidailies

Holidailies 2007 badgeAnother year of Holidailies now draws to a close.

At the start of the month I said:

I crashed and burned on Holidailies last year. We put a lot of work into the promotion and development. Sold a lot of ads. Had more participants than ever before. It was the most successful—and most difficult—Holidailies iteration ever.

Even worse, with all the growth and success, it seems like Jette's original purpose may have been lost.

With those words in mind, I'm going to declare Holidailies 2007 a big fat success—at least for me. I had fun with it this year.

What I Learned from Holidailies

Holidailies 2007 badgeThis is my penultimate entry for Holidailies 2007. The goal was a month of daily blogging and I'm on track to achieve that (for the first time in my many years of Holidailies participation).

I've learned a couple things from this exercise.

The first thing I learned is that I'm not as interesting as I thought I was. But, then again, who is?

Although I've had a handful of posts over the past month where I think I've had something pretty valuable to say (such as the Socialized Football and Time Warner Rate Increase posts), the blather ratio was higher than I'd have hoped.

Part of the problem is that I'd intended to write on things that came out of interesting December projects, but I didn't have many of those. I didn't take much time off from work, and I spent that little free time on family stuff not projects.

Music Industry Sues Man for Ripping His Own CDs

You've probably heard about all the lawsuits the recording industry has been using against music sharing and downloading. Sometimes it seems like the recording industry is on the warpath against their own best potential customers.

Now, imagine the dumbest thing the recording industry could possibly do—that you know even they wouldn't be stupid enough to try. Something, say, like suing somebody for buying music and ripping their own CDs to their computer. They couldn't possibly be that dumb and greedy to try that, right?

Ha, silly you! The Washington Post wrote last week:

In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings.

Identifying Wi-Fi Hogs

I'm having increasing problems with poor network performance at public wi-fi hotspots.

I'm particularly susceptible to bandwidth problems, because I do a lot of interactive work on the net. Most people use the net in batch mode: fetch a web page, download an email, and the like. I'm often logged into a remote server, transmitting small packets of information a keystroke at a time.

I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of times I observe network performance problems, that's because somebody is being a bandwidth hog. They may be doing something like connecting to a streaming music server, which uses a continual and significant part of the network bandwidth.

I have no hard data to support or disprove my theory. So, this afternoon, I did a little research. What I want is a network analysis tool that puts my wireless interface into promiscuous mode (that's a mode where an application can see what everybody is doing on the network), and then accumulates network usage by the various devices on the net.