Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Its been a while since I posted any updates. Currently I've been playing with Astlinux. My previous post talked about trixbox, a linux distribution designed to be the easiest way to get a Asterisk box up and going. While true, the web-based config seems to be somewhat of a pain.

I was talking with a friend and he really like Astlinux, so I went to work on trying it out. Astlinux is a striped down linux disto designed to boot from a compact flash card. In my test setup, my machine is booting from a 64mb CF card, and has a USB thumb drive to store voice mail and other data.

I have to say it was more effort to get the Astlinux machine going and achieve the same things I was doing with Trixbox, but in the long run I learned more and much prefer dealing directly with the config files over the web interface of the Trixbox.

My test setup now has the Astlinux box and a phone at my home, and the Trixbox and a phone at work. I am now able to call between home and work via Free World Dialup. I am also experimenting with a Skype to SIP program, It would seem like I can get my SkypeIn number to ring in on my Asterisk box.

I don't know exactly what I'm going to do next with the setup, I may be getting a land line in my home so, at that point I might push that number into my system, and I also might be connecting to anyother VoIP provider to handle long distance calls.

In the future I would like to be able to connect an Asterisk box to the work Shoreline system, allowing me to extend my work phone, to where I'm working and break me away from the desk, but I'm not sure I really want to be that reachable to the point that I will spend money on the hardware required.

Friday, September 22, 2006


This week I had some time to play with Trixbox, for those unfamiliar with Trixbox, it is a linux distro based on centos designed to easily setup an Asterisk VoIP server. I was able to get the machine setup with a couple Polycom 501 phones, but I haven't had much time to setup much else yet. I'd like to experiment more and what advanced features I can use to benefit me. I have a few projects in my future that might benefit from me doing some further testing.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wanted, pair of computers

I guy I work with came up with an interesting idea, and I'd love to play with it just a little bit to see if it would really work. The idea is this, have a pair of machines both the same, one that backs up the other machine. Nothing really interesting about that until we start talking about the details of the proposed way of achieving redundancy.

Newer Linux 2.6 kernels support AOE (ATA over Ethernet) protocol designed for high volume data thoughput over Ethernet interfaces without TCP/IP overhead. Unlike most network storage AOE volumes appear to the OS as block devices in /dev. Now because the OS sees the drive as a block device, you should be able to add a remote drive to a software mirror.

The long and short of it is you have two systems connected via a crossover cable, one system boots up normal, the other boots up in slave mode. In normal operation Server A is mirroring all data to server B via software raid. In the event of problem with server A, server B could be promoted or rebooted to be the master. Server A could be repaired or replaced and resume operations as a slave to B.

I have to say it may seem kind of crazy, but I have to agree I like the idea of using raid to mirror volumes over any other way I can think of. I was also worried about network overhead, but I think gigabit Ethernet can outtransfer most hard drives, and AOE keeps network overhead down. Exact details about switching a machine from slave to master are still in the works, but it just might work.

I'm trying to find a pair of machines just to some basic testing.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Today's app of interest is Qemu. Last night at the Fond du lac Linux Users Group (FDLLUG) meeting, Rene Horn did a presentation on Qemu. Qemu is software to emulate a virtual machine within your existing operating system. Before last night I had never used Qemu, however I do have to say it seems interesting. Today I got a chance to play with it a little bit and it seems to work fine, I haven't had a chance to do much yet. I do have to say that it seems to have some interesting options that VMware doesn't have. I'll have to do further testing before I can talk on the full usefulnes of Qemu.

Google - Its all coming together

Like many, I like to watch what new service Google is releasing now. Google has a full array of services beyond the basic search, these include blogs, email, word processing, photo handling, mapping, and more. I am a Google fan, and I like that they are continually adding services that I like to use. One emerging problem with these services is lacking integration to each other to make getting from point a to point b faster and more user friendly. Just last night I noticed that the navigation bar in the upper left while in gmail has some new additions. These new additions are links to photos, spreadsheets, and "all my services".

One of the new services, Picasa Web, I've been playing with for the past month or so, and I have to say the integration with Picasa is a nice start, however it still has a long way to go. To start with a 250MB limit? What the heck is that? Google the same people that started with a 2GB email box that is growing every day, impose a 250mb limit on photos? Last I checked I have 1.7GB of pictures, I would like more than anything to have a place to store those that is relatively immune to data loss. The other thing that I think would be another useful step with Picasa Web, would be the ability to connect the Windows application back to the web albums. That way if you got a new computer and didn't have the local copies you could browse the online albums as if they were local.

From the web standpoint Picasa Web is fairly nice clean and simple, and easy to use. I was about to complain about lack of RSS support but that must have just been added in the past couple days too. I'm happy to see improvements, I hope they can push to further blur the line between your OS and web apps.

I personally look forward to a day where I might be able to take most of my life with me anywhere I can get on the Internet. I have to say Google has already released one app that has been helping me with that, Google Browser Sync, a firefox app that automatically syncs your bookmarks, and open pages. I love that when I bookmark a page on one of the three computers I normally use, it will be synced up to the rest of them next time I connect. I no longer need to worry that I bookmarked that on my laptop, or at home, its all the same list.

I guess we just have to stay tuned to see what Google does next to help push web services to the desktop.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Another Wonderful Morning

Well its Friday morning. No big plans for the weekend yet but I'm sure I have more than enough to do. I'm still working on tweaking my RSS collector page to improve the overall usefulness, its coming along slowly. I'm mostly trying to improve the sidebar to help relay what the page is for, and setup the links to more of my content of sites I like.

I will be out of the office for a few hours today to help with a wireless tower installation. I don't expect to have time to play with any personal projects. Maybe of the weekend I will be able to get some stuff done.

In the mean time feel free to check out my RSS page progress.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

RSS of Me

Today I've been working on an interesting project. Many Web2.0ish sites can provide RSS feeds of what your doing on their site. In came my problem, how to bring me together in one place? In comes planet. Planet is a python script that runs and collects RSS feeds into a single page arranged by date.

While still a work in progress, feel free to check out my page.

Looking for the RSS of me

I had an idea today for creating a new website for me. I'm sure this isn't a new idea, but I just don't know how or where I'm going to set this up yet. I have a handful of websites that will creat RSS feeds with my activity. These websites are spread all over the place, I'm going to see if I can create or find a website that pulls all my RSS content from other sites into one common place for others to view.

Anybody know of anything like this that already exists?


While growing up living in a dialup only area and having more than one computer in the house has forced me to use a few different dialup gateway options. My first experience with internet on two computers in my house was with Windows 98se Internet connection sharing. This got the job done but didn't do much else. I later upgraded to Windows 2000 and this was an improvement allowing port forwards and all that happy stuff but still left room for improvement.

Time passed and I was able to get a Cisco 805 router that was able to connect external modem, this was highly configurable, however lacked a friendly web interface, and caching options. I was able to use clarkconnect behind the Cisco to help cache pages to ease bandwidth problems. Clarkconnect is a all in one Linux gateway offering web proxy, dhcp, dns, file sharing, mail and more. While this setup worked ok, until the Cisco started acting up and I needed to look at replacement option. One of the biggest downfalls of the clarkconnect box was it didn't support dialup directly.

Here comes Smoothwall 2.0 to save the day. Smoothwall supports almost all WAN connection types including dialup, ISDN, DSL, PPPoE, and Cable. I have had smoothwall installed at my parents house for years now, it has been working fairly nicely. I have been running it on a old P150 laptop with an external 56K modem.

Since then I have moved out of my parents house to an area where I can get cable internet. I have been trying to get setup to do more computer repair out of my house. One of the things I want to try to do is setup a caching proxy that will hopefully cache windows updates and other files I use often like Adaware and Spybot. I would rather have my proxy cache them from a remote rather than put them on a USB thumb drive, or CD because that way I will make sure I have the latest copy. I also hope that it will cache windows updates. I personally don't feel that my Internet connection is that slow, its just nice to have LAN transfer speeds on file downloads. I figured I would give Smoothwall a chance for the job to see how it works. I went over to the website and see that Smoothwall Express 3.0 is in Alpha so I thought I would give it a try. I took a spare computer added a second network card and installed away. Setup was rather simple and from the limited testing I've done so far it seems to work nicely. I think I will give this a try for the short term and see how it works.

For the long term I have a bigger project in mind that might require me more configuration options to allow for web based user tracking and wireless security. Hopefully stay tuned for more details about Smoothwall and future gateway options.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I tried a new program yesterday called CCleaner, it seems like it would be a very useful program to free up drive space but cleaning up leftovers on your system. I think I'll be looking at using this to help round off my programs I use to when I do virus and spyware cleanups. On my laptop I was able to clean up almost 1Gb of crap, including log files, and tempory files.

Ubuntu 6.06

Today I installed Ubuntu 6.06 on a Athlon 1.4Ghz machine. I played with a older version a few months ago, and it wasn't bad. I have to say 6.06 is really easy to use. I booted the live CD a to the gnome desktop. From the desktop all I had to do was click the install icon on the desktop, and answer a few questions, and in about 20 minutes it was ready to go. The install came with all the major basic componants, including Firefox and OpenOffice so you could get down to work right away.

When the system was booted it checked for updates and I installed them. The update system was very easy to use, and much prefered the windows update. I like the fact that the update program handles updates to all of the programs that come on the install CD.

I could go on to write more, but I'll close with this for now. If your looking to leave the norm, and try something a little different without being forced to learn a lot try Ubuntu.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

More Cranky Geeks

I'm still trying to catch up on my podcasts, currently I'm over 14 hours behind. I've listened to a few Cranky Geeks shows now, and the show isn't bad, but they really do a crappy job cutting in the commercials, they really need to work on that. This brings up an interesting point, this is the first podcast I am listening to with commercials. Personally I don't mind the commercials as much as I mind the audio level differences between the show and commerials. If I had it my way, I'd say no commerials, however I do understand that most podcasts are done out of personal interest, and can get costly.

I've fired up the monitoring server again, and started to get to work on it. I haven't made any progress yet, but I'm hoping to get it done sometime next week.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Slow day

Today has been a slow day here at work. I haven't really tackled any interesting projects this week. I've played with Google Calendar, it seems rather slick, hopefully I'll continue to use it.

I'm still behind on my podcasts from before vacation, I was starting to catch up but then I added Cranky Geeks to my queue. I still have 2 1/2 hours of podcasts before I get to those anyway. Currently my podcast queue is 12.7 hours.

The last few weeks of the security now podcast have been interesting, they have covered crypto. I really didn't understand very well how that all worked, but now its all starting to make sense. If you are kinda lacking in your understanding of crypto, I highly recommend listening to the podcasts.

Crossed off my list of things to do was upgrade the Propel Highspeed dialup server. The server stopped working, and forced a version upgrade. I had to install the new software on the Redhat 7.3 server. I have tried to get the software to run on other versions of linux, I could get everything but logging functioning. I'm still waiting to hear back from Propel to see if they will ever be supporting something just a touch newer.

In the to-do department, next week I'm planning to do further work on the new server that will be running nagios to monitor our network. When the server is completed, it will also hopefully be running a few other services, including IMAP for the corporate email/webmail and a wiki internal office documentation. Documentation here is a mess, I think a wiki will help exchange and enhance company processes.

I also have to install a new router at one of our locations, however I plan on waiting to do this until I get the WIC-1DSU-T1 cards for my router. My other choice is using an external CSU/DSU, and I'd like to avoid that.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


I thought since I am a Google fan, I would try out Blogger. I'm fairly interested to how it all works, in particular, the integration with Picasa. So that's about all from me for now.