My network connection has stabilised
#17 Henry, Wednesday, 09 December 2009 1:51 PM (Category: Hardware)
(Tags: network cox)

For the last six months, I have had a horrible intermittent problem with my Cox cable network connection. Every day, between 5 and 30 times, the connection will freeze for about 1 to 2 minutes.

When this happens, I can get to all my boxes in my home network, I can get to the firewall/router, I can get to the cable modem, but I can't get past the cable modem. The internal web server on the cable modem says that the connection is "Not Operational".

I have phoned Cox Business repeatedly about this, and they tweak something, and it seems to go away for a while, or they look for a while and run their tests but can't see anything. I have replaced all my network cables. I have replaced the switches. I have replaced the firewall/router. I have even replaced the cable modem. None of this had any effect.

I set up a ping to my work site, and it would ping once every two minutes and log the result. This allowed me to work out how often it happened, and if there were any patterns. It happened a lot, and there were no patterns.

Last Sunday, it really went bad and we had several hours where the connection was up and down repeatedly. I phoned Cox Business and they decided there was a problem and they organised a tech to come and check it out. I wrote a complete record of the problems, showing what it was and what I had already done to try and eliminate it (replace my whole network effectively), and left it with Anne to give to the tech.

He arrived early Monday, Anne showed him my document and he read it and went out and checked the green box in the backyard, and the connections to the house. They all checked out good. He came inside and helped Anne move furniture until he could see the cable connectors in the wall. He tested them and he had an "Aha" moment. Those connectors were the original ones in the house, and they were at least 20 years old, and they had deteriorated. He said they were the problem and he replaced them all, tested it again and declared success.

I left my ping test up, and now after a week and a half without a single outage, freeze, dropout, or any problem at all, I agree with him and declare success.

My cable freezing days are over, we have a stable network connection again, and the mail and web server are permanently up again. I am happy again.

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Solution to the MyBook virtual cdrom
#16 Henry, Wednesday, 09 December 2009 1:37 PM (Category: Hardware)
(Tags: hdd westerndigital)

I'm not the only one unhappy about the virtual cdrom that pops up when you add a Western Digital MyBook Essential. A lot of people are looking for a way to get rid of it.

There is a question/answer about it.

And that points to the Western Digital page for Mac and Western Digital page for Windows on how to remove it.

This involves changing the firmware in the device. I will attempt this.

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Slackware reaction
#15 Henry, Wednesday, 02 December 2009 5:21 PM (Category: Linux)
(Tags: slackware)

I was surprised when I mentioned I was thinking of leaving Slackware and found that a very large number of people use Slackware and prefer it. Far more than I thought was possible. I am not alone.

What I am is ignorant of a lot of the modern support available for Slackware, services that might solve all my problems with it. I have had a lot of offers of help to get me up to speed with the new Slackware features.

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Leaving Slackware
#14 Henry, Wednesday, 02 December 2009 4:04 PM (Category: Linux)
(Tags: slackware linux)

After my recent run-ins trying to get Audacity running on Slackware, I've been thinking about abandoning Slackware for my home and work desktops and moving to something newer and fresher. I will continue to use Slackware for my servers, as it is superb in that role.

I have two real choices - make the final switch to Mac for my desktop, or change to a different Linux distribution.

I occasionally do think about abandoning Linux on the desktop and going over to Mac. I use my Macs for the fancy stuff that Linux does not do well. Video. Handling my iPod Touch. FM radio. Digitising LPs. I love my Macs for a lot of things, but I don't know if I could ever make them my sole desktop. The Macs are very much a visual experience and I use them and love them for it. But my day to day computer use is not at the GUI, it's at the command line. And I have customised my command line environment to be very effective and efficient. I don't know if I could achieve the same level of customisation on the Mac. The Mac has a limited version of the X-Windows pager, but I use a 4x3 pager arrangement, giving me 12 screens, and scripts that fire up standard stuff in standard pages, and the Mac just doesn't go that far. I'm not prepared to lose functionality for prettiness. So I think that I will stick a Linux of some variety for my grunt work.

I asked the local Unix Users Group about what distributions I should experiment with. My needs are simple. I don't care about graphical vs text installation, I don't care about speed of installation. Installation takes half an hour to a few hours and then it's done for a year or more. I spend my time using my computer not installing it, so installation details are pretty irrelevant. As long as it installs, it's good.

The rest of my needs are peculiar to me. I do not use a computer like most people use a computer. I program a lot. I work on the command line most of the time. I write a lot of scripts to automate a lot of work. I want to be able to use Vim and the original Dickey xterm. I have to interact with a lot of older Unixes and tunnel around the Internet to them, and I want an xterm that handles the special keystrokes, and works correctly with them. I've also configured a lot of xterm and shell shortcuts and I don't want to lose them. I want a lot of shells available, a lot of languages available and a lot of fairly standard software already installed and ready to go. I prefer to use fvwm as my window manager and I want to keep it that way.

So I got a lot of feedback and I have started installing distributions on one of my laptops and working with it to see how things go. So far I have tried Kubuntu and Ubuntu. I discovered that I very much dislike KDE and Gnome. It's just a personal thing, I just don't like them. I find both distributions to be opaque. They feel like they have been designed to keep things from me, to guide me in the one holy path.

I'm not trying to start wars over this. I just don't like them, probably because my needs are different to most people. After Slackware finishes installing and I am greeted with a black screen and a command line login, I am exhilarated, it's like "Here we go!!!!!" and the adventure starts. When the others finish installing and I am faced with a blue looking screen that reminds me uncomfortably of Windows, I struggle to understand the weird metaphors in use. Obviously, in the modern world, this makes me a freak. So be it.

I will continue to experiment with distributions. Gentoo, Debian and Mandriva are next. Maybe even Fedora.

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TomTom GPS ONE 140
#13 Henry, Wednesday, 02 December 2009 3:42 PM (Category: Gadgets)
(Tags: tomtom gps)

The TomTom GPS ONE 140 that I bought for Anne has arrived. It's really, really nice. I haven't looked at all the features yet, but I like it a lot.

If you travel the same route a few times, it remembers and tracks it and bases new routes on the data it collected. If you change map details or POIs, it can share these changes with server central and you can share other people's changes too. And I think there are free map upgrades. I like the screen, I like the menu options, I like almost everything about it.

The small size is okay. The suction thing that holds it on the windscreen is a bit dubious. I'll have to see it in action before I trust it. But overall, it's a really nice device. The $60 Black Friday price was also really nice.

Now I wish I had bought one for myself at that price too.

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