Friday, January 25, 2008

Whim Discovery: My Experience with Asterisk

It all started at Barnes and Noble in Downtown Denver. It was our anniversary weekend and one of the things we like to do downtown is hit the bookstore and enjoy quiet reading time. I was looking for a book on SELinux which I just couldn’t find in the Linux section. I came across another O’Reilly book called Asterisk: The Future of Telephony. I enjoyed a sunny afternoon reading through the book next to my wife. I only made it a few chapters in but I was hooked. I had just completed a MythTV project and was saving dough on TV already, why not the phone too! After we were done, I put the book back but the fire had already been started.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

CAT5e vs CAT5E vs CAT6 vs CAT6a

After much research, it appears that CAT 5E (big E) is a marketing ploy and doesn’t comply to any standards. It’s rumored to support 350MHz of bandwidth but I couldn’t find any real facts. Here are the actual standards:

  • Cat 5: Currently unrecognized by TIA/EIA. Provided performance of up to 100 MHz, and was frequently used on 100 Mbit/s ethernet networks. May be unsuitable for 1000BASE-T gigabit ethernet.

  • Cat 5e: Currently defined in a
    TIA/EIA-568-B. Provides performance of up to 100 MHz, and is frequently used for both 100 Mbit/s and gigabit ethernet networks.

  • Cat 6: Currently defined in TIA/EIA-568-B. It provides performance of up to 250 MHz, more than double category 5 and 5e.

  • Cat 6a: Future specification for 10 Gbit/s applications.

  • Cat 7: An informal name applied to ISO/IEC 11801 Class F cabling. This standard specifies four individually-shielded pairs (STP) inside an overall shield. Designed for transmission at frequencies up to 600 MHz.

This leads us to a question of price.

1000’ Cable (Plenum rated)$326.00$183.00
RJ-45 (Stranded)$0.73$0.25
Wall jack$6.39$3.20

Generally you can expect about 2x the price but will support 10x the speed (10GB). These prices are from a few sites on the internet and aren't by any means representative of all pricing. The general feeling from newsgroups and forums was that the expensive part was the labor so installing Cat6 was still the better choice if you have a new installation.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My MythTV Setup

I have made a few large changes to my home services in the last year that I wish I had taken the time to document. It's hard to have something working and remember all of the tricks you had to do in order to get things working right. I won't say that setting MythTV up was easy but the result is fantastic.

I have been a die hard TiVo fan from the start. I won my first TiVo in an essay contest with an essay on why every pregnant woman needs a TiVo. The TiVo was great to begin with, it was provider agnostic, Linux based, configurable, upgradable and with a few additional codes you could enable some of the anti-commercial features like 30-seconds skip. When I switched over to DirectTV and purchased a DirectTivo, I noticed that each version of the software that came out provided less and less end-user features and more provider features. It is the sad fate of most companies that they must first service their stock holders and then their retail customers. I wanted to get into a series 2 TiVo but then DirectTV decided they could do it better and abandoned the TiVo platform altogether. I was also looking in to HD and I realized I could either use money or brains to solve the problem. It was time to take control of my PVR and try to provide TV recording, on-demand viewing of my DVD collection and some integrated web services like weather and browsing.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Review: Viewsonic DF88W 8" Digital Picture Frame

My lovely wife got me a Viewsonic DF88W-523 picture frame for my birthday this year and I got it all setup at work today. It all starts with opening the box, I have noticed a trend in high-quality products recently that pays more attention to the unboxing process experience. I was pleased to slide the white inner-box out of it's "store-display" sleeve. The inside box opens like a book with two flaps covering the goodies. On the right side is the frame itself while the left side hold the AC adapter, USB cables and stand. I really do love the new presentation instead of digging through folds and tape to get everything you need out.

What's the deal with the Sound Blaster XFi PCI-E

I have recently been getting clicks and pops out of my Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS. It served me for almost 6 years faithfully but I think it's time to replace/upgrade. I took a look at and it seems that Creative has finally resolved the issues with a PCI-E interface and are producing the X-Fi with a PCI-E. So why is it only $50?

Getting posts from bBlog to WordPress

I was able to reconnect my bBlog mySQL database to the new server and was trying to figure out how to copy the data over. My intention was to get the posts either through phpmyadmin, copy the content to a new post and then modify the post date. While searching for information I ran into a great little SQL script that moved everything over for me. I had to tweak it a bit it worked great! I am still doing cleanup fixing the old markup code but it's good to see the old posts. I am still having trouble with the code tag working properly and exploring plug-ins to give me a scrolling code quoting box. I had to modify the script a little for the additional fields in this version of wordpress. Here is the original post.

[code lang='vb']
INSERT INTO wordpress.wp_posts (ID, post_author, post_date, post_date_gmt,
  post_content, post_title, post_category, post_modified,
  post_modified_gmt, post_excerpt, to_ping, pinged, post_content_filtered)
  SELECT postid, 1 as author, FROM_UNIXTIME(posttime),
  title, 0 as category, NOW(), DATE_ADD(NOW(), INTERVAL -7 HOUR), '', '', '', ''
  FROM bb_posts;

Monday, January 7, 2008

Beware Laplink PCMover

One of my clients received a copy of Laplink PCMover with her new laptop. Not only did it not successully transfer Quickbooks as it claims to, it transferred Microsoft ActiveSync (not Vista compatible), Windows Installer, Windows System Restore and more that corrupted the Vista install beyond repair. To Laplinks shame credit, they did put a warning window in the wizard suggesting that you need to know what you are moving before the process begins. The average users just clicks the checkbox and moves on in anticipation of all of their applications being transferred to their shiney new PC. Laplink support suggested I could undo the errant program migration but it was an all or nothing deal, I couldn't select just the programs that were migrated that caused problems. Laplink PCMover ended up costing 4-days of problems when we could have moved data and reinstalled programs in about 6-hours.

Remote Assistance with GoToAssist

I work with a lot of clients and remote assistance is a huge time saver. For the last few years I was piggy backing on our GoToMeeting account to do remote support. Unfortunately I am unable to click or type (or even take mouse control) on anything that triggers Vista's User Access Control. Later that day on a conference call with my cusotmer and Dell, I asked them how they were able to get around the restriction. They are using GoToAssist. I checked out their web site and they have a beta program for consultants like me who really can't afford to maintain an account full time but are happy to debug and provide feedback. Check out for more information about the program. Not only does it allow you to support users on Vista, it also allows file transfer, reconnect on reboot and dozens of other features that make remote support a breeze.

Hello again!

I took down my old server a while ago and it took bblog with it. I archived my blog entries and will get them copied over here soon. I also have a few entries to write and will get the categories more organized as I go.

For new comers who haven't read my stuff before, welcome. I am a technology and gadget addict with a 20+ year background in computers and networking. I have been developing in VB.NET officially for about 5 years and dabbled in automation languages (Perl, PHP, vbscript, etc.) previous to that. I have served several tours of duty on various help desks and even a telephone support role for a PC Manufacturer. I am now the network manager for a local school district and enjoying the change of pace from technical to managerial. I have several articles published with Novel Cool Solutions and love to write technical reviews and walkthroughs. I am an avid Linux user for solutions like MythTV, Asterisk and other appliance type solutions. I am also experienced in Windows since 3.11 and have 3 Windows 2003 Servers as well. I run hosted Exchange 2003 for a few clients as well as web sites. For the last several years I have been the director of product development for an unstructured text analytics start-up. After losing funding in that venture I was filling the days doing private consulting on a variety of support and implementation roles as well as some custom data portal development in the telecom damage recovery area for data collection. I also did several SharePoint implementations and continue to support the efforts of the start-up.