Thursday, June 02, 2011

Internet Shoebox V1.0

Note: This post was intended to go out back in January right after MadHackerHaus and never got finished/published

The Internet Shoebox is a collection of equipment to provide reliable WiFi Internet in a place that may not have WiFi, or assist coverage of existing venue. The Internet Shoebox is sorta like a mifi type device, but hopefully better, with less limitations. The Verizon or Sprint Mifi type devices normally support around 5 devices. When at a tech event five is a very limiting number, we almost had 5 devices connected in the mini van for the trip down to MadHackerHaus at Sector67.  The number of devices supported will be based more off upstream connection rather than a fixed limit.  The Mifi devices also have limited WiFi range and crappy battery life.  Version 1.0 of the Internet Shoebox can work great, but I was somewhat disappointed with the overall performance.

The Internet Shoebox has three main components, a Linksys WRT54G, a broken Cradlepoint MBR1000 Router and a Linksys WAP54G. The Linksys WRT-54G is running DD-WRT and used to share wifi to be used by devices and provide QOS.  The Cradlepoint is providing the wan connections.  The WAP54G can be used to connect to an upstream wifi connection.

The Cradlepoint router can load balance over up to 4 connections, for most of my use, I was using a USB Sprint card and a USB US Cellular card. With the Cradlepoint, each connection is its own path to the Internet so the router does not bundle connections up into once fast connection.  This means that any connection is only as fast as the connection that the data is router over.  Now with more than one connection things will speed up but load balancing on the Cradlepoint seems to suck.  It seems to preference one of the connections over the other.  The router also doesn't do any quality of service, or speed tests on the connections.  At any point it might be picking the slower connection or one that hardly has service.  While mobile we had bad packet loss on the upstream USB connections at some points durning the drive.

I still need to do more testing to determine ways to improve the setup and see what I can to to improve, I would also like to make custom housing to hold all the devices and add a fan to aid in cooling all three devices that tend to get fairly warm while being used.  Also each device has its own power brick at the moment and all of them are 12volts so I plan to combine them all down to one power brick to make it easier to plug in.  I also want to setup a power cord for use in the car to make mobile use easier.

If you want to see a picture, you can visit Internet Shoebox project page on the DHMN wiki.

Update: The Internet Shoebox was used on the road trip to the Milwaukee Makerspace Open house in April, but didn't get as much testing, and only had one USB card that day because that was all I could borrow for the day.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab Review

I am posting to my blog with a Samsung Galaxy Tab on US Cellular. I am lucky to be the first to evaluate the tablet for work.

I have to say that before getting the Tab I thought that 7" tablets were to small, and that 10" tablets are much better. I have to say that I like the Tab more than I thought I would.
The down side of the Tab might be the screen size, for general web browsing, I think a 10" is still a better size. I have to say in the first day, I didn't browse the web very much, so I really can't take points away for that.

I didn't use the Tab for much browsing yet, so what did I use it for?  I used the google reader app for reading rss news feeds. I found the screen size was perfect for the app. I use the Google reader app on my Samsung Mesmerize but I never found it to be a very enjoyable experience.

I also used the Tab to watch videos with my son. We watched some youtube videos and some TV shows that I converted off of my Tivo.  The screen size was reasonable for watching the videos. I converted the videos to mpeg4 using Tivo desktop and used dropbox to transfer the videos to the Tab. I like the fact that I haven't needed to connect the Tab to my computer yet.

One of the reasons we are looking at the Tab is as a picture viewer for our sales team to show photos to customers. The Tab would an acceptable photo viewer, but I again feel screen size may win this battle. I think more important than screen size might be the photo viewer app that we would end up building.
Hardware wise, the Tab is just a bigger version my phone, without the ability to make phone calls. It's reasonably speedy

I think I will have to fork the Tab over for another person to try on Monday so I am trying to use it a lot this weekend to see how I really like using it so far.

I hope to do a follow up post after I use it a little longer.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

MadHackerHaus at Sector67

Yesterday 1/22/11 I went on a road trip with the Distributed Hacker Maker Space group from Appleton to the MadHackerHaus at the Sector67 Hackerspace in Madison.  The day started with DHMN picking me up in Fond du Lac.  The ride to Madison was the first real test of the internet shoebox, a collection of USB cellular cards and routers with the hope of providing reliable mobile internet.  The first half of the trip the upstream connection seemed to be unreliable, but as we got closer to Madison things improved.

 We got to Sector67 and had a fun filled day of learning and socializing with others of the MadHackerHaus.  I learned some more about android programming but I was most interested in Sector67 and how it was started.  I don't think anything was ground breaking information, but it made me confident that DHMN could do it and that I might be able to do something in Fond du Lac some day.

Stay tuned for a post on the internet shoebox, what I learned and what my plans are for making it better.

You can also check out Bob's post with some other details of the road trip.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Simple Invoice

My brother asked me to help him do some invoicing for him.  In the past I have used freshbooks and was very happy with how it worked, but in the end the free product wasn't enough.  I set out to find a simple free product to create invoices.  I tend to use a bunch of different computers so a LAMP based solution seemed like a good choice for me and desktop software like GnuCash seemed overly complicated for my needs.

I looked around a while and found a few different options, but Simple Invoices stuck out to me because it had a unique offering.  Simple Invoices is a LAMP based project, but somebody created a Windows version.  At first I thought this is a great way to test out Simple Invoices with out investing a lot of time into setup.  With the Windows version, you extract the zip file, and run exe, and you are off and running in minutes.  I was able to test and determine this would work fine for me.  This Windows version was enough to get me in the door and get me hooked on using it.

The exe starts prepackaged versions of apache and mysql and allows you to open your default browser or the included app (a very simple browser). I was going to setup my linux server to host the final install, but before I did the setup I wanted to make sure I setup ssl so I would feel a little better about the idea of doing billing over the internet. I had a brainstorm before I get a chance to setup ssl.  I use a wonderful service called dropbox to keep a folder synced between my computers, and the windows version of Simple Invoice runs out of a folder, why can't I put my Simple Invoice install in my dropbox?

I have been using Simple Invoice in my dropbox on three computers for a few weeks now, and so far no problems.  I will add this disclaimer, I have not had simple invoices running on two computers at the same time yet.  I would imagine two copies of mysql running at once against one database could lead to big problems so I have avoided that by being very careful to always shutdown when I am done.  Maybe some rainy day I will to more testing on my test install before messing with live data. Speaking of test install, I have two simple invoice folders in my dropbox, one that is my live data, another that is a dummy test folder. I keep the test one just in case I need to test how something works before I go live with something.

So check out or check out dropbox with my referral link

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

January 1st Vampire Make Session DHMN

Saturday night I went to a DHMN work session at @erinql house in Appleton. I didn't really have a project of my own to work on, but I had fun just the same.  DHMN is a new Distributed Hacker Maker Network based in the Fox Valley, and this was my first chance to attend an event, but I hope to attend more in the future.

This session featured a lot of talk about android programming and many other good discussions.

If you want more information on the work night, vis the page on the DHMN website.