Small Business Routers

OK, if you are frustrated by the speed and more importantly reliability of that $20/month router you got from Xfinity, then there are really two ways to upgrade:

  1. Move to a serious consumer router. I have found that many routers will crash when they have lots of traffic. This happens in a small office with 8 people or a modern home with lots of teenagers and work-at-home parents (that’s us!). I’ve been using Apple Airport Extremes when this happens and they do seem more reliable. They do not lock up as many other routers do.
  2. Move to an enterprise lite router. Cisco sells routers that costs $10K which are clearly overkill, but there is a small set of vendors selling mid range routers.

What do you get for your trouble:

  1. Well for one thing performance. The Ubiquiti Edgerouter Lite for instance does 1M packets per second so you can run a wire speeds if you have say gigabit fiber (drool, drool).
  2. More importantly, you can configure them with multiple WAN ports, so you can have say 50Mbps Comcast *and* say a 200Mbps fiber provider at work. You can have schemes like weighted round-robin, so the backup Comcast link improves performance most of the time.
  3. VPN support directly in the router. Since these enterprise grade systems are running bigger embedded processors, you can run SSH or other VPN tunnels to make it easy to connect from home directly into your company. Or if you are away from home and want to access your home servers.

There are a few choices here and the reviews are far between, but a search for “multiple WAN router” gets you to small businessbuilder.com and they do some performance and other reviews. Most of these cost $100-$200, so not a terrible investment for more speed:

  • Ubiquity Edgerouter ER-8. This actually uses a fork (called EdgeMAX) of an open source Linux-based routing OS called Vyetta. So you get maximum power, but you have to love Linux command lines and really  understand what you are doing. Still, they claim 2M PPS (packets per second) so it will really scale well if you need to get there. The ports on this router are all independent, so you program the routing tables to put traffic between them which is pretty cool. You still need a real hardware switch of course and modem, but a good long term choice. $280 at Newegg or Amazon. The Pro version by the way has two ports that are SFP (so they support fiber inputs directly), probably overkill for most small businesses and homes. Rather than living behind GUIs, you end up writing configuration files, like this one which round robins between multiple WAN ports.
  • Ubiquity Edgerouter Lite (and Smallnetbuilder). This is a three port skinny version of the system above. It is “only” rated at 1M PPS, but costs $95. A good choice for a home where your needs are less. Same steep learning curve of course, but you can connect two providers (say Comcast plus say a cheap wireless Century Link plan.
  • Roll your own. You can buy a flushable router and run Tomato or DD-WRT. Or if you want more performance run Vyetta on a bigger box. You just need an old PC and two ethernet ports or there are small ARM boxes that are designed for routing with gigabit ethernet ports built in. If you want to be really cool, run Vyetta inside docker :-). I didn’t end up doing this because, well, even for me, supporting my own routing didn’t seem easy.

Then if you want something more plug and play then you can go to the “usual” suspects for their embedded devices. Smallnetbuilder.com basically found they all offer about the same speed and dual WAN ports plus VPN support. The main trepedation is how reliable these will be, but they are quite a bit cheaper.

  • Cisco RV320. $185 from Amazon. It supports multiple WAN as well. It is probably the best choice given Amazon reliability ratings and out of the box
  • Linksys LR224 wireless router. $50 Routers that have Wifi are much higher volume, So, if you want just a good router, using it and disabling wifi isn’t a bad choice. Smallnetbuilder has a guide for dual wan routing for this device Although it only has equal load balancing so the two wans should have identical speeds
  • Zytel 110. This is an off brand router. But it does support weighted round robin. 

So you really never backed your web site??!

OK, I admit it, after all the harping on backing things up, there is one that I didn’t do. We had a website that was built with a github private repo. Then, we got rid of the site, so I blew away the virtual machine running ghost on Digital Ocean. Then we ran out of private repos, so I deleted the repo (and didn’t stick it into the boneyard).

So now we want the content back. Totally hosed right? Well, no, if you got it indexed, then the chances are Wayback Machine archived it and then you can use a ruby tool to recover all the pages! And you have the entire site back!

It is pretty cool to see how tongfamily.com has evolved over the years. The first capture was done 8 Dec 1998 or nearly 20 years ago!

Updates on Digital Photo Workflow

OK, so here are the version bumps for the products I’m using now:

  1. DxO OpticsPro Version 11. This bucks the trend where everyone uses Lightroom, but maybe I’m just  a contrarian and like to support small French developers. This is the first step for me and it does automatic distortion and vignette correction. The new features in Version 11 are smart brightness using face detection. I’ve usually found that Lightroom makes the image too hot. This basically gets me from Canon CR2 raw files to 8-bit JPEGs and 16-bit TIFFs.
  2. Hugin 2016. This is an open source package that takes a bunch of photos and makes them a panorama. A little tricky to use, but the results are terrific. Just start with Basic mode, and then flip to Expert to adjust the control points and get maximum sizes. It takes TIFF and produces TIFF.
  3. Lightroom to adjust dates and add location. I just to use a freeware tool called Mac GeoTag and iPhoto to adjust dates, but both are now obsolete. The new Mac Photos doesn’t change the date in the underlying file so it’s pretty useless. However. In Library mode, you get Metadata/Edit Date and Time and they have a Map tab. I do this after I use DxO to delete the bad shots.
  4. Photoshop CS 2015 for JPEG-2000. This is what I use to create JPEG-2000 images for archiving and for critical viewing. It is smaller than TIFF (about half the size) and their lossy compression is the only way to get 16-bit JPEG images. I also tried ImageMagick. This is an open source image package and the main use is to take the TIFFs that are produced by DxO but sadly, I get a strange error message when doing a large conversion.. Why you say. Well because JPEG-2000 is a 16-bit format so the colors work much better. It is the archival format used by the Library of Congress. So normally I have 8-bit JPEG and 16-bit JPEG-2000 around. I’m experimenting to see how many tools like JPEG-2000 as this is the best match against the 12-14-bit sensors that are now out. ImageMagick is CLI only, so you need to know the right incantation which is convert -compress lossless -quality 100 but this only does 8-bit conversion. Note that GIMP also is 8-bit only so you can’t use it for that.
  5. Storage. I do not use a file manager but just a simple storage in the file system using /Year/Year-Month/Year-Month-Date as the main hierarchy. I’ve tried some side indexing systems to index by faces and locations and maybe Lightroom is the answer, I need to see how it does against the 100,000 images I have. I need to try this catalog with my NAS and see if that works over gigabit Ethernet at all.

Android File Transfer for Mac

Android to Mac is pretty mysterious, it doesn’t show up in Mac Photos (of course) nor does it show up as a USB device so you need to:

  1. Download Android File Transfer
  2. When you plug your Marshmallow phone in, it should pop up the USB transfer select dialog and you pick File Transfer to get a file view

The problems I found are:

  1. You can get stuck in “locked” mode. That is even though the phone is unlocked, the “locked” icon still shows up. I had to reboot the phone to fix.
  2. If you plug it in the first time you won’t get the dialog. With Marshmallow, they seem to have move the dialog. It is no longer in Settings/USB & Storage on the upper right. You have to touch the tiny status bar at the top and then USB Transfer appears as a notification item.

Mosquito Repellant

Well with zika running rampant, Consumer Reports published their list of the best repellants.

The best appears to be:

  • 20% picaridin used in Sawyer Picaridin
  • good ol’30% Deet in the Ben’s 30%. (I still have some 100% deet in a bag somewhere, imagine how powerful that is) a close second.
  • Finally there is Repel Lemon Eucalyptus which is not quite as effective but perhaps a bit more natural.

They didn’t test it but I imagine:

  • the 100% Deet is even more effective, but dangerous. Both the Picaridin and the Deet are bad for clothing, so cover up and only apply on exposed skin.
  • 3M Ultrathon has a product which is 33% Deet and uses a time release formula for the military

Stepping off the Raspberry Pi into Pine64…

Well, working with the RPi has been great. The community has been terrific and Raspbian has worked well. Now we are off to try some different platforms mainly to get a more standard graphics core, so looking at the Pine64. This has just shipped and uses the Mali GPU from ARM.

Man is this a new world!

This was a Kickstarter project that actually seems to have worked. We got four Pine 64+ boards with 2GB of memory and gigabit Ethernet, but the software is shall we say fresh.

First up is getting a working operating system. wiki.pine64.org (this last ones seems to be support by the company at pine64.com) points to Pine64.pro and various forum members seems to be the spot for this and trying to stay on the mainline, it looks like Debian running Mate with a 3.x kernel is the most popular. It’s going to be interesting to see if we can get Docker working on such an old kernel. Wish me luck!

The two folks doing this are mane who is supporting ubuntu and lenny.raposo who seems affiliated with pine64 who is doing Debian all based on Allwinner (the maker of the SOC hardware’s) BSP (Base Support) that longsleep has taken and turned into the 3.10 kernel

Converting a PDF into a Google Slide

We use Google Slides for casual slide creation and it is pretty good. But what if you want you get a sealed PDF that used to be PowerPoint and and you want to edit it. What’s a person to do. Well it isn’t easy to find, but basically the steps are:

  1. Install Google Chrome. This is because the application you need actually runs client-side
  2. Install Cometdocs which is a general document convertor
  3. Upload your PDF to Google Drive
  4. Go back to Chrome with Cometdocs loaded and right click, you will now see Cometdocs PDF Converter
  5. Click on that and select PowerPoint.
  6. Now you will see the PPTX document and above it click on Open With and cools Google Slides and you are finally there!