Monthly Archives: May 2007

The basis for all of this nonsensical conclusion is apparently some unsubstantiated leap between mobile phone technology and equipment and a theorized similarity to WiFi equipment. Say what?

Someone at Panorama is WiFi phobic. My long standing opinion of the BBC as being grounded in meticulous research and analysis has crashed and there are no survivors.

 

 

If you travel with a laptop and connect wirelessly, you need to take extra precautions. Most public wireless providers and hot spots use no security at all. Everything you send and receive is sent in the clear with no encryption. If you are using a VPN connection to your office, you will have the protection of an encrypted tunnel. There are several methods of implementing VPN. For more information, see Charlie Russel’s column Connect to Your Corporate Network from Home with Windows XP. You can also use the information in Charlie’s column to connect while you’re on the road. If you can’t use a VPN tunnel to your office, consider using a Remote Desktop connection to a computer you’ve left running at home. You can use Vista Ultimate or Business (32 or 64 bit), Windows XP Professional, Media Center Edition or Tablet PC Edition as a Remote Desktop host machine but not Vista Home Premium or Basic and Windows XP Home. Vista Home Premium, Vista Basic, and Windows XP Home, however, can be used as the remote client. If you are going to do this, you really want to use a router/gateway (and honestly, you don’t ever want to connect a computer directly to a broadband modem). You’ll need to forward port 3389 to this computer (see the router docs). To make this easy to do, get yourself a free domain on www.dyndns.com and get a router that has easy transparent support for DYNDNS. I recommend the D-Link DIR655 (Circuit City is stocking these as of 5/1/07) or the older D-Link DGL4300. For details on using dyndns, see:

http://www.dyndns.com/services/dns/dyndns/howto.html

and

http://www.dyndns.com/services/dns/dyndns/

Take additional security precautions when using public networks outside your home. Follow these additional steps to make your wireless connection more secure. When connecting to a new public network (hotels, municipal, etc.) be sure to specify Public when prompted.

Configure the Vista or Windows XP SP2 Firewall to be on with no exceptions.

To do this in Vista:

a. Right click the wireless icon in the notification area

b. Select Network and Sharing Center

c. Click Firewall on the lower left

d. Select Change Settings

e. Acknowledge the UAC prompt

f. Select Block all incoming connections

To do this in XP:

a. Right click the wireless icon in the notification area

b. Select Change Windows Firewall Settings

c. Click Don’t allow exceptions and then click OK

Vista users should also turn off all file and print sharing in the Network and Sharing Center window. If you are using Windows XP Home edition, turn off file and print sharing on your laptop when you travel. If you are using any other version of Windows XP, turn off Simple File Sharing.

Don’t visit any website or use any program that lets you send passwords, account numbers or other sensitive information in the clear. Use SSL connections for email. If you don’t know how to configure Outlook Express or other email client for SSL or if your ISP does not support this, it is probably your ISP has a secure SSL based webmail application that you can use. If in doubt and there is a choice for secure or encrypted versus normal or non secure, always select the secure version. SSL sites normally have URL’s that begin with https://

Use online banking with care. Most banks offer SSL online access. Read the fine print carefully.

Only use online merchants who provide a secure SSL site. Internet Explorer and most other browsers will display a padlock icon on the bottom status bar when accessing a SSL secured site.

Microsoft recently posted a column on Ad Hoc WiFi Networking on the Vista Community site and advocated using WEP if WPA was not available. This article further gave instructions on entering a 5 or 13 character WEP key without even bothering to explain the weaknesses of WEP. WEP supplies a false sense of security. In my neck of the woods, the kiddies often forego wide open networks because it’s “fun and easy” to crack WEP. This is one of those backward compatibility features that I wish Microsoft had not included. Or at least given users an explanation that this is “use at great risk”.  The author sees the backwards compat angle but omits the red alert on security and safety side. It wasn’t so long ago that MS told us all that security was job #1.


WEP is unsafe at any speed. Use WEP in a hotel and share via ICS and turn on File and Print Sharing to save money is an invitation to disaster. Just say no. Buy yourself a cheap travel router if you MUST share your connection among close personal friends (D-Link’s DWL-G730AP works quite well). But do not follow the advice here unless you’re interested in having your files stolen and possibly your identity as well.


I don’t normally raise a red flag on Microsoft content without first having made every effort to contact them first, explaining my case, and suggesting replacement content. Be assured I’ve done that.


I’m a Microsoft Networking MVP, and if you know anything about me, you know that WiFi is where I live and breathe.

Some of you may remember that back in December 2006, Microsoft and AMD shipped me a Velocity Micro Cinemagix Pro Cinema Entertainment System.

This AMD Athlon X2 system with an ATI x1950 dual DVI card, 2 gigs RAM and huge hard drive was a wonder. Microsoft installed Windows Vista x64 Ultimate and Office 2007 and I was in, well, computer heaven. It was exactly the box I’d spec out myself. Perfect in every way. And certainly the fastest computer I’d ever had in my home.

It was perfect then, but today it is more than perfect. It returned last week after visiting the Velocity Micro factory where it received a BIOS upgrade and a tune up. Why send it back for a BIOS upgrade? The only thing missing was Digital Cable Tuner compatibility (to use CableCARD technology to view and record high definition TV). That feature was not available at the time I received this computer, but IT IS NOW.

To use CableCARD technology with Windows Media Center in Windows Vista, you need five pieces:

1. A machine with a certified (by CableLABS) DCT BIOS
2. A video card with HDCP compliance
3. A monitor or TV that is HDCP compliant
4. A Digital Cable Tuner (formerly called OCUR device)/DCT (or two if you want to watch and record at the same time)
5. A CableCARD from your local cable company.

Velocity Micro is offering this amazing machine with either an internal or external DCT. (You can add a second tuner as well).

I’ve got two external DCT’s attached to this machine and I’m in, well, high definition TV heaven.

If you’ve been waiting for the ability to watch and record high def TV on a kick-ass machine, run, don’t walk to Velocity Micro and customize one of these. Even if you aren’t into high def, this is one great computer.

 

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Yes, this is a detour from technology oriented content. I’m about to give up brick and mortar stores permanently, as the aggravation factor has gotten permanently out of control. I’m stuck getting groceries at physical stores, but I’m definitely going to buy everything else anyplace but locally.

I’m really getting aggravated at the number of ways merchants have of intruding on your privacy and trying to squeeze extra hard earned cash out of unsuspecting consumers.

Once upon a time, it was drilled into me that spending cash is far better than using credit cards. These days, many stores seem to be at the point of refusing legal tender in the hopes of getting you to go into debt and pay dept. store interest.

Macy’s Sucks

Macy’s is one of the worst. Their uninformed, underpaid, constantly churning sales clerks have a spiel where they are required (apparently upon penalty of losing their jobs) to ask “Will this be on your Macy’s card?” and if you say no, “Do you have a Macy’s card?”. If you just hold out cash, some of the clerks literally don’t know what to do. Apparently they can’t ring up the sale without obtaining an answer. And you can’t get most sale prices without using their credit card.

Since their merger with Filenes, the brand offering has gone steadily downhill. The emphasis and features brands are now cheap store brands. The selection has decreased and the quality has plummeted. Oh how I wish Nordstroms would open here. They are such a class act.

Rewards Cards/Loyalty Cards/Frequent Shopper Cards

Even LIDS has a Loyalty Card. They almost wouldn’t let me buy a baseball cap without one. The clerk refused to sell me what I wanted until I listened to his pitch for a loyalty card. Stop & Shop will give you discounts if you tell them to use the “customer card” but some clerks will argue about it.

I won’t be tracked. End of discussion. Take you loyalty card and shove it.


Service Plans

Circuit City tells me “this ____ qualifies for our service plan”. I doubt there is anything in the store that doesn’t. Best Buy is worse. Not only does the clerk spend more time trying to sell you a service plan for _____ than answering questions about the features of _____, but if you actually get to the register, you almost can’t make a purchase without listening to a pitch to buy/get a rewards card.

Even Brookstone, already outrageously over priced has stopped offering a “life time guarantee” and have replaced that policy with, yup, you guessed it – a service plan offering.

Rebates

Don’t get me started on this one. I have yet to receive a rebate from anything I’ve ever purchased at Best Buy or CompUSA. It’s a waste of postage. It’s worthy of a class action suit, but I doubt it will every happen. The stores throw up their hands and say it has nothing to do with them.