When I worked at a computer lab in college, the main security focus was preventing lab visitors from screwing around too much with the computers. We just ran Windows NT and locked it down as hard as possible. The worst network-based threat I remember facing was WinNuke, and that was just as likely to be another lab tech. Some of the early email viruses started circulating while I was there, but since it was a public lab, we didn’t provide any email programs; people would telnet into the mail server and use Pine. (This was pre-Hotmail, too.)

In my wired-for-ethernet campus housing, however, all bets were off. I watched people remotely controlling each others’ computers as pranks, or discovering hackers had gotten onto their systems from halfway across the planet, and figured it was safer to use Linux most of the time. This actually got me in trouble with the network admin at one point, who decided I must be running a server and shut off my port. It did at least teach me to disable services that were turned on by default, though I saw no indication that anything on there was actually being abused.*


Then there were firewalled environments. Still back in college, we rigged up my parents’ house for a home network. My brother put together a Linux box to dial into the Internet and act as a gateway, and effectively everything inside the network was safe from direct attacks. No point in internal firewalls, and since everyone was savvy enough to avoid the really nasty stuff (which was easier at the time), virus scanners were only a precaution, rather than a necessity.

For the past few years I’ve mainly worked with Continue reading

Contemplating signing up with a hot spot provider for the laptop. We have cell phone service through T-Mobile and we’ve been pretty happy with it, and I know I’ve seen T-Mobile hot spots all over the place. A quick check of their hot spot FAQ yields the following gems of information:

Do I need to download or install any special software to connect to the T-Mobile network?
The only software you will need is the software driver for your Wi-Fi 802.11b wireless network card and an Internet-ready web browser. The T-Mobile HotSpot service requires no additional software.

So far, so good.

What operating systems are currently compatible with the service?
T-Mobile HotSpot is not OS-specific, and will work with any operating systems as long as there is a compatible, Internet-ready browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator.

Excellent! Since I’d never had a reason to research hot spot services before, compatibility in a Windows-centric world was definitely a concern.

Can I connect using a Macintosh computer?
Yes, T-Mobile supports Macintosh users. Macs with AirPort cards installed usually require little or no configuration.

Nice. Very nice!

At some point I’ll have to look into rate plans, see if we can get an existing-customer discount, and do some comparison shopping with other services.

I should’ve written this up when we bought it, but there are two main reasons I went with the Netgear WGT624 router over another brand with similar features.

First: familiarity. Since I hadn’t researched specific models, I wanted a brand I knew or had used before. This meant Netgear, Linksys, or Belkin.

Belkin was out of the question. In fact, I was muttering about how I’d never buy a Belkin router, when I was approached by a Belkin representative who proceeded to explain about how much better their product was than any of the others. The problem is that Belkin lost my trust last year when they set their routers to redirect web requests to their own advertisement page. (Basically one every eight hours until you bought the filtering service or clicked on an opt-out link on that web page). Aside from the annoyance factor, there’s a lot of web traffic that isn’t actually trying to load a web page. It could be your antivirus program trying to download new definitions, or your news reader updating an RSS or Atom feed. It could be Windows Update. Sure, they eventually disabled the “feature”, but come on!

So at that point it basically a toss-up between Netgear and Linksys. The Netgear packaging was more focused on the networking capabilities, and the Linksys packaging was more focused on the parental controls, so I went with the Netgear.

I am posting this from out on our patio. We ended up getting a Netgear wireless router that has its own built-in 4-port 10/100 switch and will hook directly into our DSL connection. What does this mean?

  • It adds wireless capability.
  • It can replace our hub.
  • It can replace our router.
  • We don’t need to find any more outlets or power strips. In fact, the end result is we’ve freed up an outlet.
  • We don’t need to buy wireless cards for the computers we already have.

The AirPort Express looked nice, mainly for AirTunes, but we would have had to put it in the other room with the stereo anyway. And besides, none of Apple’s Airport stations have more than one LAN port – the assumption is you’re either going all-wireless or you’ve already got equipment for your wired systems.

A few weeks ago I noticed that our network hub was getting disturbingly hot, so I started turning off the power strip when we weren’t home. After returning from San Diego, the first time we turned the computers back on, the hub started buzzing. However, it stopped after a few seconds.

So I should have thought of the hub immediately when the network started acting up today.

I had been on and off the computer and the net all morning with no noticeable problems, and Katie had been on for just a few minutes when it stopped loading websites. Continue reading