Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Don't buy promises -
Major mistake some folks make is to be swayed by product announcements for products that don't exist yet. Don't buy promises, many do warn. All too often products never exist, or exist in altered format, or come in to being way later than originally planned for. One should always make technology decisions based upon what is on the shelf today, not what ==> may <== appear Real Soon Now. Two cases in point about newly promised products that may or may not appear as expected when expected. A new DirecTv DVR, possibly to replace TiVo. A new faster CPU for computers and gaming systems, like Sony's Playstation 3, said to use the IBM "Cell" chip.

Monday, November 29, 2004

WARNING - Do not upgrade MS Windows NT 4 Server to Windows 2000 or 2003 Server !
Many folks are in a hurry to do an upgrade. Support for NT4 server is supposed to end with the close of this year. However an upgrade can have disastrous consequences. The safer method is to do a clean install of MS Windows Server 2000 (or preferably 2003 which requires fewer patches and has many insecure features turned off by default). Sure it will take far longer to reinstall all the other software, and move over the data, but it will be far more stable with a clean install than with an inplace upgrade. Others have weighed in on this subject. The title of this blog clearly states my belief. Remember, I warned you.
EVEN FASTER 802.11 Wireless Networking is here: I just upgraded from 802.11b to 802.11g painlessly, but there's an even faster standard on the horizon: 802.11N, and Belkin isn't waiting until 2007 when its offically formalized. You can now buy Belkin 802.11 pre-N equipment and it already got a good review for having higher speed and better range. Being prestandard, it might not be compatible with the 2007 products of other manufacturers.
Turn yourself in: Microsoft has a new "offer" for you only if you live in Great Britain. Turn yourself in if you have a pirated copy of Windows XP. Fine Print includes submitting only "preinstalled" copies of Windows XP, and executing a witness statement document. They also include the caveat: "If you are unclear about anything in the witness statement, please obtain independent legal advice". Further: "If your copy of the Windows XP Home or Professional Operating System is not genuine we will retain it along with the documentation you submitted. If we retain your submission, we will replace your software with a genuine copy of Microsoft Windows XP Home or Professional Edition (as appropriate)". and " The project will allow Microsoft Ltf to collate intelligence quickly and work with the authorities to act decisively against illegal traders."

Saturday, November 27, 2004

A Safer Browser: It seems not a day goes by with out warnings from inside and outside Microsoft about security concerns with their Internet Explorer Browser . Some folks may feel they need to use it as once in a while a web site might not work correctly in Netscape Browser. I've said a proper website should work equally well in any browser, and I always recommend web authors visit here.

Now we have a new Browser freely available - its FREE - no cost. Firefox it's available for Windows, Linux, and Macintosh, it's a quick download and it's received nothing but glowing reviews. One typical one is here. Or Google can find you many reviews.

I suggest everyone start using Firefox and only Firefox as their Browser.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Gotta love a Mac. I took the next step for my wireless networking. I bought the Belkin 802.11g PC Card ($24.88 after rebate) from J and R Music, and got a demonstration of why Macs are so great. Earlier in the day I had removed the 802.11b Airport card from my Pismo laptop. After UPS delivered the Belkin card, I opened the box, took the card out, slid it in the PC Card slot of the laptop, and within 10 seconds the laptop was again connected to the Internet. No questions about drivers, where the files are, or whether its safe because its not approved by Microsoft like Windows XP would give you. It just worked !
I did take a minor reception strength hit as the built in antenna in the PC card is apparently not as good as Apple's antenna wrapping around the screen that had plugged into the airport card. No big deal.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Higher speed Wireless Networking: After 4 + years, my PC's wireless networking reception with a PCI Orinoco 802.11b card in the PC, was getting less and less, even though my Pismo (2000 Firewire Powerbook) reported strong signal from my original model Apple Airport Base Station (M7601). It should be noted that the Orinoco Silver card is 100% functionally identical to an Airport Card, and also made by Lucent (now Agere). So I switched out my Airport Base Station, and the PCI 802.11b card; with D-Link hardware. Last week with rebates at Best Buy, the 802.11g Base Station with Router (model DI-524) was $29.99, and the 802.11g PCI card (model DSL-G510) for my PC was $29.99 (plus $5 of sales tax that won't be refunded on the rebate amounts). It may be cheaper elsewhere (check cnet.com) but I prefer to buy locally, to enable quick refunds if something goes wrong. Only slight problem I had was to change the IP # of the Base Station since it defaulted to same IP ( as my Netgear Firewall/Router. I also changed the default broadcast channel, and told it to default to a 54 mbps broadcast rate rather than "Automatic". This was done with a nice platform independent web based configuration program (not fully compatible with Netscape 7.2 on the Mac) by directly wiring a computer to the new basestation. One can configure the basestation to Broadcast its name or not, and have WEP or WPA security or none. It all took about much less than an hour, including mounting the base station 6 feet up on a wall.

Now my PC has 5 bars of signal, instead of 1, and its 54 mbps, rather than 11 (or more commonly 5 or 3 or 1 or 0); and my Pismo with its 802.11b Airport card still works anywhere in the house. That's the Pismo that gave me a scare with a discharged PRAM battery. (See Sept. 27 Macintouch.com report). I was able to cut back the basestation's signal to 25% strength, and its still better than the original Airport.

I have my dsl modem, router and wireless base station on a separate circuit with wall mounted switch, so I can turn it all on easily if I need to get the Dell PC to the Internet and all is powered down.

(Aside - 2 years ago I had tried Netgear 802.11a and it's range was pitiful)

MORAL: You don't have to get an Apple Airport Extreme to upgrade your wireless Network to 802.11g. If its WiFi certified, it should (as mine did) also be fully backward compatible with any 802.11b equipment. There are perfectly good, much lower priced alternatives than Apple.

NEXT STEP? - Get a Belkin 802.11g PC Card (their part #F5D7010) (Street price under $50) for the Pismo. Apple doesn't make such a piece of Hardware, and most brands (including D-Link) don't have Macintosh compatibility
or drivers. A July 7 note to Macintouch.com by James Cotton points to a compatibility list for 802.11g equipment. If it has a Broadcom chipset, apparently OS X 10.3 just treats it like Apple Airport Extreme hardware. Belkin, like Apple has Broadcom inside, D-Link doesn't.

Whither SOLARIS:

So Sun (www.sun.com) now has Solaris 10 in both a Sparc and x86 version available for a free download. 5 CD images, took a while with over taxed servers on its first day of availability. A nice touch Sun provided COlor CD labels, sized in a PDF to fit Neato label sheets.

One problem: The Installer is not ready for prime time. Compare and contrast to Mandrake Linux 10.1 which also has CD images available for download. Those Cds work and flawlessly lead one through setup. Not so for Solaris which repeatedly hangs and gets myriad error messages with OEM hardware that Mandrake Linux has zero problems with.