Category: Networking

Welcome 2015!

London Fireworks 2015M25 Carpark

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted much, mainly due to a contract which requires me to drive on the M20 and M25 (aka “the carpark” for those outside the UK) and as a result, I just don’t seem to of had the time and energy…

Javelin TrainOh, how I long for those lovely trains, and will never complain about a 30 or even 60 minute delay – the worst I’ve had in a car is a 1h trip taking 4h!!!

I look forward to getting on something where someone else is doing the driving so I can use my time effectively

Amazingly, it seems like only 7% (4.5 Million) people in the UK use public transport. Given that nearly 1/3 (22 Million) live in the South-East, where transport is generally pretty good, that seems pretty low. No surprise given the number of people on the motorways – I’ll be happy to take one more off them next contract.

So what’s up for 2015 for me and this blog?

For one, I plan to start getting back in to a bit more of a rhythm, both with my posts and the associated (play) work (generally outside “real work”), and I will continue to post based on my experiences – recent and past…

theme : ecologyWhat are the themes though? Here’s a list of where I’d like to go:

  • Lifestyle & Reviews
  • Process & People & ScramJet
  • Clojure
  • Architecture, including Enterprise & SOA aspects

in no particular order. I won’t get in to specifics as much of it is not yet planned, or I’m working on it but don’t want to reveal it until I have enough meat on the the bones so I can be sure it will fly.

teaserHere’s a few teasers though based on posts I know I’ll write or have in draft form:

  • Review of Bob Marshall’s “Thinking Different” happening last year
  • Review of the: BMW i3 electric car; Samsung Galaxy Alpha
  • Corporate Subversion – in a positive manner of course :-)

and that’s really just the “boring stuff” – there should be some very interesting posts coming as I hit my stride.

I hope you’ve all had a great XMas & New Year break and look forward to some great interactions in 2015!

Changearc – the thinking person’s RiczWest ;-)

Today I’m (@RiczWest) starting a new twitter account. It’s called ChangeArc. For those who follow me, you’ll recognise this as my “Blog Name” – so what’s the purpose?

Simple – when I started using Twitter, it was primarily as a bookmarking tool. To some extent I still use it as such, but also for so much more…

There’s one problem though – as I look at a lot of content, that means a lot of tweets, and not everyone likes that, including me! There are a number of great people I’d like to follow, but I can’t because they tweet too much.

To that end, I’m going to start a much lower volume (only a few tweets per day) account which is ChangeArc. So what can you expect apart from less tweets? Extremely high quality tweets that will include any posts I do.

I don’t know how this will evolve, but it will be interesting to see…

Western Digital My Cloud Review

Western Digital My CloudRating: 4/5

I rarely impulse buy anything. I always want to thoroughly research anything thoroughly before I buy it. In the case of the Western Digital My Cloud, I  didn’t thoroughly research it (I did do a quick review check in Maplin’s though which showed it got 4/5) it was an impulse buy. I’d remembered those ads from the trains though which had got me curious, so full marks to WD’s marketing people. 

Styling wise – need I say more? It’s a nice minimalistic design about the size of a hard cover book (remember those? ;). The setup is surprisingly easy* on iOS, Android, Mac and even Windows.

Usage however, is dependent on the OS so the experience on Windows (7) is not as good, with drives sometimes dropping off and difficulty uploading files. On iOS and Android you run a client which is pretty close to DropBox, except of course it’s connected to your cloud :-) On Mac and Windows you get a custom app, shortcuts to the Web Admin console (below) and the ability to map your cloud drives.

WD My Cloud

So what’s actually in the box? This is where it gets really interesting as it’s running Debian Linux! Yep, all you need to do is activate SSH and after accepting the fact that you may void you’re warranty by using the command line, you’re in! You should theoretically be able to install anything using apt, but you’d need to be careful not to clobber or mis-adjust any of the existing packages which the WD My Cloud software depends on.

Security

The physical security seems pretty good as the connections to your drives (if over the internet) are encrypted using SSL. My only gripe is that the default settings for “user folders” (which are automatically created for each user you add) are to “Public”, which is probably not what you want as there is already a Public Share shared folder on the device. It’s just a matter of remembering to unshare user folders when you create the user. The permissions (on the interface – you could probably tune them using the shell) are quite basic – No Access, Read or Full Control but it’s pretty easy to set up a few users with private areas and shares amongst a group. You need to do it manually though as there’s no such thing as groups.

Summary

WD My Cloud is a great little device and fairly consumer friendly. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone with no knowledge of computers, but anyone with a bit of experience and enthusiasm could easily set up and maintain this securely. As for value, I got mine for £170 (for a 4G unit) reduced from £250 at Maplin, so with the sale price it really is a bargain. At the full price I’d be investigating other alternatives.

Later, I’m planning on carefully enhancing this and will do another post outlining my adventures. In the mean time, if you don’t like command lines or are worried about voiding your warranty, you may want to check out the WD My Cloud EX2 which would set you back £260 at an equivalent sale price and has the ability to install some “apps” like WordPress, Joomla, PHP BB and a number of torrent programs. There’s only 8 in all, so you’ll probably want to do some custom installs anyway.


* One piece of information which I didn’t see anywhere is that the “user” you set up on installation has no real “home directory” so it’s ideal to have as an Admin user if you’re planning on having more than one user on the system. Later users will be allocated their own home directories which have public access by default.

 

 

Don’t Spy on Us!

2 Crypto KeysIt’s the end of the day here, and what a day it’s been with 3 causes, 2 manifestos and so many hashtags I lost count! ;-) Organised chaos springs to mind… But it’s been worth it. I’ve done my best to spread the word and went to my first CryptoParty (and Unconference :) at English PEN, which I just thought I’d briefly recap. The function was at their offices in London which were probably a bit small for the event even though there was a small lecture theatre space included.

EncryptionLuckily as the numbers were limited it wasn’t too crowded,  just very comfy. The mix was interesting – a few business people, some good hackers, information & freedom people, quite a few IT people (like me :) and just many who were interested and wanted to find out more. There was certainly a wide range of topics covered (in no particular order):

  • Secure SMS
  • Smart Phone Security
  • Secure Storage
  • Encrypting Mail
  • Safe Web Browsing
  • Why Bother? I have nothing to hide…
  • A Secure OS – Qubes OS
  • How Google and Facebook make money from you
  • PGP
  • Politics
  • TruCrypt (the software Snowden et al use)

nsa Utah Data Centre

In all, I’d say a Total Success! I was able to chat with many people and my wife was educated on many issues, some of which I’d talked about. The great thing was that it wasn’t just me blabbering on and there were some interesting freedom and rights perspectives that were also given.

Big Brother Is NOT Watching YouFor me, it was great to meet others of like mind, that simply want to be able to express themselves freely and without fear of any consequences now and in the future.

One of the key messages was that privacy should be the default (ah – remember the good ‘ol days ;) and that we should politically move towards this.

In the mean time however, we need to implement “stop gap measures” that increase peoples privacy by encrypted communication, storage and working. This has given me some focus for my contribution.

I’d planned on leaving Google this year anyway and blog about it. I can now see that I actually have a greater need to reclaim my privacy, and I’ll be blogging about that also. I can’t wait to see what happens on next years The Day We Fight Back, Necessary and Proportionate, to Stop The NSA, and Stop Spying on US! Or as I’d like to call it – Information Freedom Day :-)

Lightning Review – Wireless Video

AT LinkCastAV EU VersionRather than some of the longer reviews I’ve done such as The Unbearable Lightness of LightTable and  FTTC in the UK where I go in to quite a bit of detail, I’ve decided to start doing some “Lightning Reviews” where I don’t give all the reasoning, but simply what I’ve chosen and why.

Atlona AT-LinkCastAV-EU

Basically, I scanned Google and there was only one stand out unit for HDTV wireless streaming, the Atlona AT-LinkCastAV-EU. There are many other units out there, at this or lower revolution, but at the end of the day, this is the only one that won the CES 2012 Innovations Award

Pros

  • These guys are seriously professional – check out http://www.atlona.com/ and drool over their high-end gear (if you run a TV station or the like ;)
  • The device is ridiculously easy to set up in Windows 7 (& I’d assume Windows 8)

Cons

  • On another (older) laptop, also with Windows 7, there seemed to be occasional dropouts – luckily, this one would only be used occasionally

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that Atlona is “best of breed”, with the one issue that it may not work consistently on your computer. I’m assuming that this would be a rarity and may of been due to the HDMI version on the older laptop or something.

I’d therefore rate this as a Cautious Buy, i.e. make sure you can try it at a store (if it plays 10 minutes without a dropout then you should be right), or that it’s covered by “Distance Selling Regulations” / the ability to return it if it doesn’t work with your particular device.

Overall I’m extremely happy with this as it’s simple and works :-)

Reflections on 2012

Reflections 2012It’s that time of year where everyone is reflecting on the last year, so I thought I’d toss my hat in to the ring. Personally, it’s been a year of great change, having moved from a highly toxic street in Reading (where our dog unfortunately passed away just before we left) to a beautiful one in Ashford where we are much more settled and I’m at last able to relax, grow and learn in a supportive environment.

That’s enough about me though, what about the IT Industry and wider world from my perspective?

Industry

  • The year Apple Stumbled – It wasn’t just iMaps, it was the lack of innovation and wierd and frequent release schedules which all smacked of internal chaos – understandable given that Jobs passed away late the previous year, but they’ll need to get back on track if they want those stock options to be worth something
  • The year Microsft Stumbled – two words: Windows 8 or Windows RT or Microsoft Surface. I must admit that I’m less disappointed with W8 than I though I would be – only going by playing with it in a store though as I’d never install it on any of my computers. It’s not over though, so the real question is what’s going to happen with W8 and Surface (Pro)

Software

  • SEMAT – Software Engineering Method and Theory has been pretty much defined by Ivar Jacobson and his merry band of Industry Legends and Corporations. It was favourably received by the OMG in December
  • ArchiMate picks up steam – for me at least before this year, it was only occasionally being used, whereas now, many organisations are using it for Enterprise and Solution Designs and then linking these to UML Technical Designs and Realisations
  • Clojure – I’ve been getting in to this and went to the London Skills Matter Clojure eXchange. Rather than a bunch of enthusiasts though, I met a bunch of enthusiasts, 1/2 of whom were working in Clojure! It seems this is probably an increase of a few hundred percent over the previous year, so something is happening. This may be part of the wider movement to “different” and sometimes functional languages.
  • Light Table – at the moment this is only a Clojure IDE, which will be expanded to handle other languages, but I’m yet to be sold on it. The demo was really cool, but the releases won’t run my code (which obviously works in other environments) and the interface feels a bit too simple at the moment. They’ve got kickstarter funding, so here’s hoping that we start seeing more features and functionality from the original demo as it could be one of the best development environments ever!

Hardware

  • Raspberry Pi – how can this not be mentioned??? It’s a UK concept that is taking the world by storm and riding a wave that was started by Arduino, DreamPlug and the like. The great bit is that Raspberry Pi only opened the space, much as OLPC did for small cheap laptops. The side effects already are and I’m sure will be awesome
  • FreedomBox, first proposed by Eben Moglen is gradually getting there. Not there yet, but it will get there and hopefully redress much of the planned snooping that governments around the world have fallen in love with
  • The Maker Movement seemed to jump up a level with people even 3-D printing guns and starting to sue each other over who owns what and can sell it
  • Fibre rollout in UK seems to be really happening and I’m liking what I see. I signed up on the minimal (and slowest) plan but it’s easily enough for me at 75G : ~ 30Mbps down and ~10Mbps up (real rather than pretend bandwidth). The great bit is for an extra £10 or so I can double those rates! The best way to get decent FTTC seems to be by going through a BT Reseller such as Xilo / Uno

Process

  • Nonviolent Communication – highlighted by Bob Marshall and created by Marshall Rosenberg, this seems to be gaining ground, along with concepts like Soft Power. This (hopeful) trend towards a kinder, gentler and more humane approach may hopefully only be the start
  • Lot’s of Noise from the Quiet People ;-) There seems to be a pick up in dialogue about introversion and quietude – all good stuff
  • The continuing Industrialisation of Agile. Agile stopped being done widely (in smaller numbers, but more effectively) ages ago. What we seem to have now is a bunch of PM’s who have done “Scrum” or “Agile” training and are operating using the same patterns – “I want that velocity increased next sprint!”

The World

That’s pretty much it. We’re off this evening to watch the London fireworks on a cruisey boozy boat on the Thames, so I hope you all have / had a great NYE.

FTTC in the UK

With a house move, comes the invariable search for the “current best deal” so I thought I’d make a few notes, only valid for October, 2012 but hopefully for a while longer. My criteria is for a good quality service, good (personal and technically knowledgeable) customer service and no restrictions, so that eliminates the major players ;-) Why am I writing this? Partially to help me make a decision and in the process, if it proves useful to someone else, then even better!

As the title indicates, I’m after FTTC as BT have told me I can get about 60M/s at my location, which puts me in the upper tier – i.e. most services will give you either up to 40 or up to 80 M/s. After a bit of googling I’ve found the following key resources:

Broadband is an area which is rapidly moving, so you can’t go on the above resources alone – you have to to do more digging and googling, which generally lands you somewhere in the ThinkBroadband or ISPReview forums. So after much research, I’ve got a shortlist of the following:

  • Xilo/Uno – I had my ADSL with them – relatively little problems.
  • IDNet – when I was last considering FTTC a bit under a year ago, these guys came out on top
  • Zen – I was with them before Xilo and they were OK, so I’ll check them out again also
  • Andrews Arnold – I would never go with them as they’re a bit pricey (even for me) but they are just so Hard Core, they have to get an Honorable Mention. If I was setting up for a business, I’d probably use them

Now for the comparison – I’m looking at a 100G plan as we don’t have PayTV and are increasingly watching online programs so this should be sufficient. For future planning though, I’m interested to know what the next plan up is which varies depending on provider.

Xilo/Uno Fibre+ 80Mb/20Mb, UM Off-peak – Standard Priority (15Mb AR) – 125GB Peak £37.99 & 300GB Peak £46.99
Zen Fibre ActiveDownstream Speed* Up to 76Mbps, Minimum Downstream Speed† Standard (12Mbps) Upstream Speed* Up to 19Mbps, Monthly Download Usage 100GB £27.60 & 200GB £35.40
IDNet Download Speed Up-to-76Mbps*, Upload Speed Up-to-19Mbps*, Upload Allowance Unlimited, 100GB £35.40 & 200 £45.00
Optional Extras: Traffic Priority +£10/mth, Enhanced Care +£10/mth, SLA +£10/mth

You can see that Zen and Xilo/Uno only guarantee a 12Mbps and 15MBps download speed, but I checked with IDNet and they only guaranteed 8MBps and you have to pay £10 extra per month to get around so Zen or Xilo, so that eliminates IDNet.

As mentioned, I’ve been with Zen, but their guaranteed rate is 20% less than that of Xilo and there seems to of been quite a bit of contention on their network (based on comments from ispreview), which chimes with my experience when I transferred from Zen to Xilo in a similar area (Reading). Finally, the results from testmy.net for Xilo are a standout to Zen and IDNet. So, I’ve therefore decided to stick with Xilo in the knowledge that they’re still the best for me. Once I have the connection I’ll write a review after a while.

If you do go with Xilo it’s worth noting that you can switch plans, sometimes with an £11 charge which is just a pass-on from BT. You can never go below the original plan that you’ve ordered, which you can easily upgrade the day you start. With this in mind, I’ve started with their “Fibre 75GB” plan as with all FTTC products, you’re locked in to a minimum 12 month contract.

Your criteria may be different though, but if you are looking for good quality broadband with good customer service there is hopefully enough comment, analysis and references to help you make your decision quicker than I did ;-)