Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wireless Encryption Methods

What's the difference between the various wireless security methods, and which one should i choose?

There are three possible answers to this question: None, WEP, and WPA. Which one do you choose? It depends.

None - you don't have to use encryption. If you don't have any encryption on your wireless network, people who want to connect don't have to provide a password or key to connect. This can be acceptible, if you don't mind people next door or driving by to gain access to your network and use your internet bandwidth. However, this method can be secured farily easily.
Think of your wireless network as a night club and your router as a bouncer. By not enforcing any encryption, your bouncer speaks english and will listen to anyone's petition to get in. You can tell your bouncer to only let certain people in. The bouncer then checks everyone's drivers license and only let's the permitted people in.
This is like having no encryption but restricting access to certain MAC addresses. Look on wikipedia to find out what a MAC address is. Think of it as a unique unforgeable identification number. (Well, it could be forged, but people who could do that will break in no matter what.) The data between the router and the user is not encrypted, which means that anyone listening can understand the data going between the user and the router. This could be a problem if you're logging onto your bank's website. Not a problem, though. Ever notice how sometimes the web address starts with https:// instead of http://? That means that your data is actually scrambled before it leaves your computer and unscrambled after it's received by the server. This is actually more secure than the encryption you could put on your wireless network. Of course, if you put security on your wireless network, you'll scramble the data again when it gets transmitted into the air.

WEP - WEP is simple encryption. Remember the bouncer? Well, this bouncer will let anyone in as long as they have one of the passwords. The passwords are HEX numbers. In other words, the password consists of only numbers and the letters A-G. The advantage of WEP is that it's very simple. The passwords are restricted to characters that the router can understand very easily, so he's not going to spend any time at all trying to figure out if the passwords match. Also, when data is sent between the router and the user's computer, the data is scrambled, so that only those who have the password can understand it.

WPA - WPA is more difficult to hack than WEP. The reason for this is the complexity of the passwords. It's much like WEP just that the passwords can be much more elaborate. Again the data between the router and user is encrypted. Since things are a little more complex, the bouncer may take a little longer to verify the password, normally not noticeable.

My recommendation? Unless you have problems with it, use WPA. It has the strongest security while allowing you to use plain old passwords.

If you can't use WPA because it's giving you problems, use WEP. If not that, then go without security but remember to filter by MAC.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cable vs. DSL

Recent events have prompted me to officially publicize my opinion about the different advantages of Cable and DSL "high-speed" internet access.

Both DSL and Cable will require a modem. The modem is a separate small piece of hardware that translates between you and the internet. Each requires its own special modem, they can't be interchanged. Usually your internet provider will try to sell you a modem when you sign up for the service. I've seen the best deals with DSL. DSL modems tend to come with a rebate for the whole price of the modem, so it ends up yours for free. Most cable providers will lease you a modem for a small fee every month, usually $5. This is fine as long as you don't plan to have it for more than a few months. Eventually, you'll have paid enough every month for it to have been cheaper to just buy one from Best Buy or Fry's.

The modem will have two main ports on it: one to connect to the cable or phone line. The other is an ethernet port that you will connect to something on your end. If you have only one computer, the other end will be your computer. If you will be using a wireless router, then the other end will be the Internet or WAN port on the router. The router splits the signal so that multiple computers can access the same modem.

So the main difference between DSL and cable is speed. Cable is normally faster than DSL. However, DSL has a guaranteed speed. Cable access speeds can vary depending on how many people in the neighborhood are using it at one time. Sometimes cable is faster than DSL, sometimes it is slower. If you're willing to put up with the variations, go with Cable because you'll get an average higher speed.

My vote has been with DSL because i like the guaranteed speed. Which one is better will depend on your needs.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chain Mail

So, occasionally I receive chain mail from people who have my email address. Unfortunately, they don't know how much it irritates me that they've attached my name to one of these things that will get circulated around the internet.

Don't know what I mean? Ever gotten one of those emails that claims something tremendous will happen if you forward it to 10 people in the next five minutes? Or one of my favorites is the one that claims that Microsoft or aol will give you 5 cents for every person you forward the money making email to? Those. Bane of society, I tell you.

"So, how does it all work? And why is it so bad? The forward button was the best thing invented since blogs!" (I know, history proves that the reply button came first, but that's beside the point)

-Unfortunately, no it isn't. Blue LEDs were, but I’m straying from the point. Chain letters work by purporting something outrageous then promising untold benefits to the actuator. Sound familiar? Yep, that's it: infomercials. How often do those things actually work? Have you ever seen something completely useful on an infomercial? I mean, imagine if you saw an infomercial for a microwave? You'd probably think to yourself, "I need to by a new microwave to replace the perfectly good one I already have. In fact, I need THAT microwave, because it has even more features that I’ll never learn how to use!"

NO! Wrong. You won't think that because since the microwave is completely useful and is a really good thing, you would have been exposed to it in other places, like Wal-mart. I mean, if I really wanted a good microwave, I might go to GE's website and see what they have, but I can probably find the same thing at

Have you ever actually bought anything on an infomercial? If so, I pity you. Although, I pity myself. I've done it, so I’m a little hypocritical.

So that's how they work. It should be pretty easy to recognize that most of the information in them is bogus. There are even websites that specialize in differentiating the true urban legends from the utterly false ones ( Some chain emails even refer to the article describing how the email is a hoax. <"Bold" he says as he slowly shakes his lowered head>

Why are they bad? How many times have you had to scroll through 45 pages of email addresses to get to the actual message of the chain letter? Those 45 pages are the reason they are so bad. They contain the email addresses (and full names often) of the people the email was sent to. The emails are there even if the person saw the chain letter and immediately discarded it (stirring up the wrath of fate, luck, and other mystical forces bound to the promises in the letter). Since the email has the potential to circle the globe several times, it also has the potential to end up in the hands of unknown malicious persons. Those people (who aren't bound even when there is a law prohibiting it) will sell all 45 pages of email addresses to any number of people who will sell it to others, who will eventually give it to those people who will send YOU emails on how to increase your manhood, or lose weight, or find a morally challenged partner tonight.

Do you like getting those emails? I don't. Even though I have a spam filter, I still get those emails sometimes. And I attribute it to the innumerable chain letters that are circulating through the internet with my email address on it.

I mean, seriously, you wouldn't put your name, home address, and phone number on a billboard in Times Square, would you? Yet, others have no qualms about doing it for you.
I can’t gripe without a possible solution. There is a better way. Actually, there are several better ways. Blog about it. If you’re that concerned that you will lose your hair because an email says so, multiply the methods of distribution by putting it up on a web page. That web page will be searchable by Google and Yahoo! Another option, if you can’t ignore the urge to follow whatever instructions show up in your inbox, is BCC or blind carbon copy. You might be familiar with CC or carbon copy. It allows you to send an email to your friend Julie, while also sending it to Jamie for her information. BCC works the same way and allows you to send a copy to someone without revealing that fact to the original addressee. This means that you can send an email to your friend Julie and also send a secret copy to Jamie. Easy right? Also, if you’re going to forward an email in any form, please delete the 45 pages of email addresses. If you can’t do all of them, at least delete my email address from it!

Of course, the other option is to get a real life and communicate with people instead of spouting back out the same garbage that gets spouted to you. Do research to find out if the email is true.

I know I’m harsh, but I’ve been thinking about it for years and needed to get it off my chest.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Trying to keep up a habit

This past weekend, we painted our living room. Christy bit the bullet on her color decisions last week and invited Dad & Betty to come down for the weekend to help. That was a fiasco since Betty fell and kinda broke her thumb in the Houston airport. They landed Friday afternoon and went to the hospital directly. When i got home, Christy and Dad had already started on the walls by moving things. Christy started cutting away and Dad started rolling. When i got there, i took over for dad and we worked the rest of the evening. We painted while dad & betty watched the debate. Don't even get me started on the debate. As soon as it was over, i took the tv off the wall and we painted around it. We finished everything but a section of wall that still needed another coat, behind the tv. The next morning dad & i went to get the cars cleaned and christy and betty went shopping. Christy and I went to a baptism that afternoon, which was very good. That night we all went to Texas roadhouse to enjoy us some cinnamon butter. Dad told the waitress that it was christy's 21st birthday and they brought over a saddle for her to sit on while they sang happy birthday to her. It was hilarious. Christy vowed vengeance. Dad and betty left early sunday morning. I dont' remember much of saturday afternoon because i slept for 5 hours! It was like i was catching up on months of missed sleep. It was great. I'll have to get christy to email me some pictures of the living room so i can post them here.
Heroes was interest monday night, i'm not sure if they're heading down the same road as Lost. I hope not.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lake Jackson Cleanup Weekend

So, the weekend started with a rush to get everything packed. Parrish, William, and myself got all our stuff in my car and we set off for Stephen F. Austin state park. We arrived shortly after the park closed and locked the gate. Luckily, one of the other campers drove up behind us and notified us of the combination to the lock on the gate. We got in, pitched my tent (thanks andy) and went straight to bed. I woke up at 5 and started breakfast. I guess i was noisy because another camper yelled at me from inside his own tent across the street. Parrish and William got up around 5:30 and we finished making breakfast and striking camp. We had sausage and pancakes without syrup. We left a little later than i would have wanted, so we were a little late getting to the rondezvous point.
We met up with 4 of the other guys from our ward and formed a squad. We had 2 chainsaws and my chain pruner. We went to our first site only to find out that the other two chainsaws didn't work. So, i used mine for the little jobs that were still undone. At the next house, there were two branches that were broken but had not come loose from the tree. I climbed up the tree using my spurs and climbing gear and cut the branches out while the rest of the group lowered the branches without letting them hit the power lines.
The next house was in a poorer part of town. There was a lot to do. We got two saws up and running (mine and a 16" one). We did the most work at this site. All of it was trees though, no house gutting like Katrina. We went to our third assignment only to be refused because the work had already been done. We went back to headquarters and got another assignment: a park. There was a park that we had passed several times going to our distinct locations and several crews were already working on it. We added our saws to the mix and took down a couple large trees.
We finished the day and headed back to Austin. All in all, it was a really good day of work. Wish we could have stayed another day and continued the work. I guess if they were giving us parks to work on, they must not have had much to do. Maybe next time we'll go closer to galveston. We made it home by 10:30.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

One Month and Counting

I realized today that i only have one month until christy's birthday. I have a couple of ideas for what she wants. We'll have to see.

I'm in NYC for a few days. Actually going home today. I'm ready to be home. I haven't slept well while here. Must be something about the time zone. I took sleeping pills both days, but i must not have given it time to wear off because i've been groggy both mornings. I want to get home to the nice weather there.

The next project we did on the house was our master shower. It was a glass and aluminium shower, but the grout/caulking had mildew underneath it. Wouldn't normally be a problem except that the caulk was clear so we could see it but not clean it. So we decided to take off the caulk, clean it, and replace the grout. Well, the more we took off, the more we found that we had to take off in order to clean properly. We eventually removed the entire thing. I lost confidence that i'd be able to put it back together. So, we put it out in the garage and i went curtian rod hunting. it wasn't that easy since i had to get a curtain rod that wasn't straight but had a 90 degree bend in it. I eventually found one at Home Depot, brought it home and installed it. So we now have a curtain up instead of the glass. I don't know which i would have preferred. There's a little water escaping and getting on the sheetrock wall. We might have to put a piece of glass on the entrance step to raise it up a bit. That way, it's harder for the water to get up and over the glass to get on the wall.

I need to take more pictures and post them. I post pictures and videos and links on my facebook blog. Also, this blog is automatically imported into my facebook. So, for the latest and greatest, go to facebook. Maybe one day, this blog will finally fail and i'll go only with facebook.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Garage Door Opener

Now that i have my own house, i'm automating it to the extreme. I've always wanted a garage door opener so i didn't have to go in and out of the front door. Parking the car in the garage is also a plus. My garage had been so full of stuff since we moved in that i couldn't really get the car in anyway, but the task weighed on my mind. The first thing i had to do was tighten the spring. This is harder than it seems and much more dangerous than you might think. The problem is that you have to tighten the spring with the door in the down position, which puts the spring in a stressed state. If you ever have to do this, let me know; i bought some steel rods that will help. Plus, it requires two people and probably two ladders to keep the cables from getting tangled up. Anyway, after i tightened the spring, the door would pretty much open itself, but it required effort to close it. That meant that i had tightened it too much and had to reverse the process a little. Not hard, just unweildy.

Gotta go, but i'll post a picture and the rest of the story later.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Temporary Pergola

Our new house didn't have any shade in the backyard, which was especially hot during the sunny months of the summer. We decided to build a pergola. A pergola is one of those pavillion type things that doesn't have an exactly solid roof. You can build it fairly simply and put vines and stuff on it.

So, we were going to build it during the summer. I say "we" really meaning "I". Due to the hot weather and the abundance of other projects that needed doing, we decided to opt for a temporary solution then build a wood pergola in the fall when the weather cooled off. So, this is a picture of the temporary solution. I'm not sure where we're going to get the money to build the pergola, but at least i can probably count on Caul's help.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Home Improvements

So, I'm going to try to chronicle the improvements we've done to our home since we moved in. It'll probably take a few blog entries because i still haven't figured out how to post more than one photo per blog entry. Maybe i should put my blog somewhere else. I continually find computer software lacking the basic features that seem to me that would make things so much easier. Blogs seem so popular, but i haven't found a sufficiently feature rich blog host. I mean, just look at Yahoo! I can't post more than one photo per blog entry, the url for my blog has a huge randomly generated key at the end, the blog actually resides one click down from the main page. Why doesn't facebook have a blog feature? If they do, why isn't it called a blog?

Christy and I went on a bike ride this evening. I hope i can build up my strengh and handle a ride like tonight better.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Texan Technology

After having dug to a depth of 1000 meters last year, Scottish scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 1000 years and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network more than 1000 years ago.

Not to be outdone by the Scots, in the weeks that followed, English scientists dug to a depth of 2000 meters and shortly after headlines in the UK newspapers read:

"English archaeologists have found traces of 2000 year copper wire and have concluded that their ancestors already had an advanced high-tech communications network a thousand years earlier than the Scots."

One week later, Texas newspapers reported the following:

"After digging as deep as 5000 meters in West Texas, scientists have found absolutely nothing. They have therefore concluded that 5000 years ago Texas inhabitants were already using wireless technology."