The OS Quest Trail Log #5

It was a big weekend here at the OS Quest Data Center so I figured I’d wait for the long weekend (made even longer with a vacation day on Friday) to end.

With my switch to Comcast I have a little time with both DSL and Comcast since the DSL will run for another couple of weeks. A co-worker suggested I keep the DSL as a backup or to increase my bandwidth. Being a router guy he happened to have a Xincom XC-DPG502 router that he sent me. Since it didn’t cost me anything (except time) I figured I’d check it out. Once I packed the Xincom back up I pulled out my new Apple Airport Extreme Base Station and set that up.

Xincom DPG502 Router

While not the typical home router the Xincom is a relatively low cost router ($180) that has two WAN ports that can be set up to load balance or to operate as a fail-over backup. Even ignoring costs I decided keeping DSL and using the Xincom wasn’t for me. Many secure connections (such as https websites or my Mozy backups) can’t bounce between ports so they stay on the WAN port they first get. I found many times my connections were using the slower DSL connection and it was processing 50% of the traffic even though the load balancing said it should use only 10%. I also had a problem accessing some websites through the Xincom although they were accessible through a different router. It took awhile to get there but I eventually narrowed it down to the Xincom even though it didn’t make much sense.

The fail over feature seemed to work well although the connection has to be down hard. You can also set the router up to connect to a server on the Internet and consider the link down if it’s not accessible. The router can also be set up to connect to a server on the Internet and mark the wan port as down when it’s not accessible.

Apple Airport Extreme Base Station

Once I had enough fun playing with the Xincom I packed it up to send back and pulled out my new Apple Airport Extreme base station. I wanted to set up a 802.11n network for my Apple TV, my Macbook and once I get a USB 802.11n USB adapter my Mac Mini. In addition to the extra speed I’m hoping to avoid the interference I always run into since I live in an apartment complex. It also give me gigabit ethernet and the ability to attach a USB drive.

The installation is a bit different in that I had to install the Airport Utility (which required a reboot) on my iMac and then update it through software update before I could install the Airport Base Station. Then I had to update the firmware on the base station once the Airport Utility connected to it. I’m used to accessing the routers through a web browser but in this case it’s done through the Airport Utility.

It took longer than I expected but ended up being problem free.

Linksys Won’t Bridge – 2Wire Will

In order to keep only 802.11n devices on my Airport to avoid degrading the speed I needed to set up a second wireless access point for my 802.11 devices (Tivo, old Windows laptop, occasional work laptop). I figured I could just use my Linksys but that was no go. There’s no Bridge mode and when I found a third party firmware that could do it I ended up not being able to flash the firmware. I then found I could bridge my 2Wire gateway so I was able to set that up.

So now my network consists of the Airport Extreme connected to the cable modem and providing the 802.11n network. It also provides the ethernet cable connection to my iMac and the DHCP addresses for everything on the network. The Airport is connected via ethernet to my 2Wire 2701-HG gateway. The 2701 just provides the 802.11g wireless network and it’s in bridged mode. It’s own wan connection is unused and DHCP to its wireless devices is provided by the Airport.

Comcast

I’m liking the speed of Comcast. But all is not perfect. I’ve had some problems where the connection just drops and I have to power cycle the cable modem. It usually happens overnight so I don’t notice until morning. Since I’ve been in vampire mode this weekend I’ve been on the computer when the connection goes away and power cycling the cable modem always fixes it. Jumping to another PC also fails to connect to the internet so it’s not an iMac problem. Even though cycling the modem seems to fix it, it does show activity.

New Business

With my move to cable for internet I’m looking into dropping my phone land line completely. Anyone who I want to talk to already has my cell phone number. The only ones who call my land line phone are telemarketers. I want another phone number that I can give to people who I can’t trust with my cell phone (potential telemarketers) so I’m looking into Skype and some other options. I also just came across an offering from AOL which seems like it might fit the bill.

I finally got motivated to head out and take some pictures. My latest camera, Panasonic DSC-LZ8. It’s a SLR-looking point and shoot with a 12X zoom that also shoots RAW. The downside is that OS X doesn’t have a RAW converter for it so iPhoto and Aperture won’t read them. Adobe Lightroom will read them so I installed the 30-day evaluation. When shooting RAW the LZ8 also saves a JPG so I did a quick comparison. I imported a couple of RAW photos and exported without any processing. The corresponding JPG was slightly better (so it was processed by the camera) and of good quality in my opinion. What I didn’t expect was how much I’d like Lightroom. It just seemed more intuitive than Aperture for importing, organization and quick processing.

Links & News

NeoOffice 2.2.1 is now available. NeoOffice is an OS X port of OpenOffice.org. At one time NeoOffice required the installation of X11 but that’s no longer the case. While it’s been awhile, and several versions, since I used it my previous experience was that it was to big, slow and cumbersome for my limited needs (same complaint about OpenOffice.org at the time).

Lifehacker brought a link to a series of cheat sheets for every character key on a Mac.

BuiltWith is a website that tells you what tools are used on a website.

DPReview.com Goes To Amazon.com

http://www.dpreview.com
My favorite Digital Photography equipment review site has sold itself to Amazon.com. I’ve enjoyed reading their reviews even when I wasn’t shopping for a camera. At first I was concerned there would be changes but that doesn’t seem to be the case, at least in the staff and content. But Phil Askey, who started DPReview will be sticking around.

I was a little surprised (well, not too surprised) about the number of commenters in the DPReview forums who considered it a sell out. While I’m as willing as the next guy to see big business as evil I don’t think that’s a foregone conclusion that Amazon will gut the place. I doubt Amazon bought the place to shut it down and fold it into their website.

Instead, I would hope that the resources of Amazon would help the site grow. There’s often a delay between when a Camera is released and when the review appears. It would also be nice to see more camera reviews along with reviews of lenses and accessories. If it’s going to be owned by a company Amazon may be one of the better ones to be the owner.

They sell most cameras that will be reviewed and aren’t reliant on camera related advertising. Like most retailers there may be manufacturer promotions or incentives but that’s fairly easy to keep from affecting the reviews. Sure, they could also bias the reviews if they wanted to, a there are people who will think they are no matter what, if you trusted the reviews in the past, there’s no reason not to trust them now. If Phil quits in a month or two then it might be a different story. While DPReview has posted comparitive prices it’s never been a shopping service. The post the prices as a way for people to buy the cameras and support DPReview since the would get a cut (I assume) for the click.

Of course, I may be biased. Last week I researched a new point-and-shoot digital at DPReview and ordered it from Amazon.com over the weekend.

No doubt the site will change, hopefully (and probably) it will be even better.

SanDisk Ultra II SD Card with USB

I’d heard about this gadget on the GizWiz podcast. It seemed like a great idea. A SD card that had a built in USB adapter which eliminates the need for a separate USB card reader. Seemed like a great idea to me and I can always use an SD card.

Now that I have the card I’m even more impressed. When it’s flat it’s a regular SD card. I used it in my Nikon D50 without a problem since it works like a regular SD card.

To plug it into a USB port you bend it in half, as shown in the picture. Then it plugs into the USB port and works like any USB thumb drive or external drive. Pictures can easily be copied from the card. It worked fine on my Mac and Windows XP SP2 machine.

Since the card has to fit in a SD slot there’s only so much heft that can be provided. This leads to my concern that the hinges are a bit fragile. Care needs to be taknd when bending the card in half. It takes a bit of force to unlock it. The force should be applied in the middle or on both sides. The hinge should be OK with normal use. If you plug the card into a laptop you should also be careful not to bang it into something since it’s small enough to forget.

The card comes with a hard case, sized for the card, with an attached keyring. The case snaps closed so the card fits securely inside. The drive also comes with the typical hard plastic case that all SD, compact flash and similar cards come it.

I wouldn’t recommend the card for use as a thumb drive replacement since they generally take some abuse (at least mine do) and you don’t need the card if your laptop/pc/printer has a SD card slot. But this is a great solution to avoid having to use a card reader. You can also use it to take pictures and be sure you can read them on any modern PC since most PCs have USB ports while not too many have SD card readers.

This is a link to view the 2GB version.