Buying Wireless Access Point – Again

April 26, 2008

I’ve had enough of crappy wireless access points. I won’t name any of the vendors (isolated cases, possible user configuration error, etc.), but after the latest problem I have to blog about this.

Here’s a short list of crap I’ve had to deal with the four WLAN APs I’ve owned in the past two years:

AP1: no support for authentication and no support for anything else (invisible SID, MAC address control, etc.). It was OK for a while (you could see an occasional neighbor sharing your bandwidth), but then P2P folks got on board. Had to go get rid of it.

AP2: generally flaky, after eight months started suffering from frequent random reboots. Yes, maybe those were attack-induced crashes. In any case, the vendor didn’t have any firmware updates and neither factory defaults nor different attempted “tunings” helped. The vendor’s service center helped by restoring the firmware (?!). Of course I had tried that myself already. Had to get rid of it.

AP3: bought a new piece of crap – with “draft N” support (although I don’t have any draft-N WLAN cards, I wanted to go high-end and be future-proof). Woo-hoo! Yes, but woo-hoo only until I realized that several applications on my LAN and Wireless LAN had major difficulties establishing connections through this AP (e.g. it’d take Outlook many minutes to connect to Exchange). Again, tons of wasted time with no ROI. Additionally the thing didn’t support bridging so I couldn’t add additional access points to my home. Oh, and clients struggle for minutes to obtain a DHCP lease. And finally, its antennas were hard-wired to the body (can’t replace them with a high gain antenna without breaking the damn thing apart). Fine, let’s get another one.

AP4: bought a stable (piece of crap, as it turned later). I set it up alongside the AP3 (AP4’s WAN port is connected to AP3’s LAN port and I connect to AP4 via WLAN). Good, now DHCP leases are always obtained and they’re obtained quickly. Bad: now I have two APs to troubleshoot. Take two: reverse the roles – make AP4 Primary and AP3 its LAN client. Badness – firewall and DMZ settings on AP4 are all-or-nuthin’. Great. Now I have to make AP3 the DMZ server, disable firewall on AP4 and manage firewall settings on AP3 (I already know that my WLAN clients have difficulties dealing with AP3). With great certainty I predict more wasted time and frustration in the very near future.

At this point I’m ready to shell out a pretty penny for a good AP.

By good I mean:

  1. Stable
  2. Can maintain 500 sessions/connections
  3. Reasonably rich firewall and NAT functionality (not enterprise-, but power user-level)
  4. Supports bridge mode
  5. Supports DMZ (perhaps more than one host only and perhaps in a granular (by port) way)
  6. The vendor should have good history of firmware maintenance for their WLAN products
  7. Supports external high gain antenna
  8. Everything else that’s reasonable to expect in a mid- to high-end wireless access point for home/SOHO use.

By the way, I do not want to ‘roll my own’. I looked at open source firmware for APs, but I already spend too much time on maintenance of home IT stuff. I just want something high-end that works properly. Suggestions?

No Hibernate / Suspend with Hyper-V

April 25, 2008

After reading few good experiences with Windows Server 2008 I decided to use it on my new workstation. I also enabled Hyper-V, but then I discovered that my power saving settings are gone. You can shutdown and that’s pretty much it as far as power saving goes.

Now I found out (here) that when Hyper-V is enabled, power saving actions such as hibernate and suspend are not available. Oh, well..  If it’s worth it, I’ll stick with it. If not, I might consider some other virtualization solution.

Shrink Your Tiny Screen with Google Mobile Ads

April 24, 2008

Google mobile ads are here – just in time for the free mobile OS.

Let’s see:

  • real estate cost [(% of the phone screen covered by Google ads) * (cost of the phone)]
  • bandwidth charges for ad content
  • time wasted waiting for ads to download
  • decreased productivity due to increased scrolling

Choosing (Workstation) Host OS for x64 Test VMs

April 21, 2008

I’ve got a new x64 workstation and I am wondering which OS to use.

The ability to run x64 VMs on the box is a “must-have” feature. Another “must have” is a decent workstation environment which for me (for you that might be something else) means either the ability to run a responsive Windows VM or to work directly on the (Windows) host OS. My VMs will be little (low-performance) testbeds for trying out new (mostly server-side) applications.

I read that virtualized Windows OS is usable as the primary OS, but that the responsiveness and looks are slightly degraded (yes, it’s probably much better when the host is a two-way server with plenty of RAM, but I’ve got only 2GB or RAM and this is a single-HDD workstation), so I’m leaning towards running a Windows host OS, which pretty much leaves me with these choices (and associated pro’s and con’s):

o Windows Server 2008 (x64) + Hyper-V: supposedly better performance, but a bit more to manage and probably less stable (the Hyper-V part).

o Windows Vista (x64) + VMware Workstation: perhaps slower performance, but easier to manage.

I hope not to make a wrong choice (having to completely re-install everything would be very depressing), so I’ll keep thinking about this for few more days. I’ll might another look at Linux as the host OS because of the included iSCSI server, but I’m not too eager to use it for host OS in this case (I’ve nothing against it, it’s just that I feel it’s not a good match for my needs in this particular case).

Anyone out there currently considering above two scenarios?

Windows Search 4.0 Preview – More Like It

April 20, 2008

I just installed Windows Search 4.0 Preview and although it’s still building its search index, I can already tell this version is more like it.

Searching is faster (true, could be due to the fact that the index has less than 2,000 docs at the moment) and the syntax seems powerful and easy to learn (myStuff size:>50 <70 kind:email date:>02/10/08).

I haven’t used previous versions much as they were too slow, but this one could be a winner.

Get the proggie here.

Outlook Keeps Running

April 14, 2008

I know I’m not breaking any news here, but I happened to have some time yesterday and I decided to take a look at the issue of Outlook now quitting when it’s supposed to quit. Basically you exit the program (either properly or by going to File > Exit), but it remains running and you can see OUTLOOK.EXE in Task Manager. End Process does the job but preferably the thing should just exit on its own.

If you scroogle the Web for this you’ll see that there are several reasons and solutions (or workarounds). What worked for me was disabling the offending plug-in/add-on (Tools > Options > Other > Advanced Options > Add-In Manager|COM Add-Ins). I don’t know which one it was but I disabled few non-essential ones and now the thing disappears from Task Manager within five seconds.

Fusion-io ioDrive GA

April 13, 2008

They say the drive has been available since April 7, 2008.

I look forward to initial use scenarios and field reports. As a hardware junkie, I’d like to get the smallest model, but I don’t know what I’d do with it (and no, I do not think using ioDrive for Firefox or MSIE cache can justify the investment.)

Related to press coverage of the product – storage investors remember where you first heard the prediction: “A new flash storage card from Fusion io could make huge storage area networks go the way of the dinosaur and DoDo bird.” (Source: It’s that simple.

P.S. Off-topic: I wonder how many companies actually postpone announcements to skip April 1st? I’m saying this because the other day I saw that one storage vendor announced restated Q3/Q4 2007 results on April 2nd.