Author Archive

The EVOlving Home Network

Monday, October 25th, 2010

I have stated in previous posts that I firmly believe that the focus today is shifting from what can be done on individual computers, to developing new synergies that are possible with increasingly sophisticated home networks. The challenges are time consumming, and perhaps a bit daunting for the average user, but the rewards are definitely worth the time and investment.
My latest project has been to leverage the integration of my cell phone into the network. We have a rather large music library, a little over 180GB on 1627 albums containing 24,088 songs. Granted there are probably a few duplicates in there, but it’s still rather sizeable. The last few months, I’ve been focused on organizing the libaray and figuring out how to access it in the most convienient way. To that end, we have been experimenting with Subsonic, a Java based media player that’s available for free download. Donations are accepted but not required, unless like me you install the Android app on your cell phone. The phone apps will expire after a trial period unless you donate and recieve a license. The terms are more than reasonable and the license can be used on any number of servers you setup.
We are currently running two servers, our Windows Home Server is a DIY AMD quad core 65W CPU with 4GB ram and 4 2TB hard drives. The second server runs Windows Server 2008R2 on a 3Ghz Xeon quadcore with 8Gb ram and 4 hard drives of varying sizes for about 6TB of storage. We have a Subsonic server on each box that can be accessed from both inside and outside the network by using different port numbers in the URL.
The real bonus is that I can access either server and stream music to the phone wherever I get a cell signal. We frequently take long road trips as a family, and I’m sure everyone is familiar with the battle of trying to find something to listen to. Problem solved! We can now access our entire library and stream the music to the car audio system over bluetooth. Not to mention that the same can be done with internet radio. I’m currently playing with Grooveshark which works well, but I haven’t yet fully evaluated the interface or the terms of use. For now it works and is still free, but I’m not sure what happens once the trial period ends.
So, for now, we have centralized the storage and distribution of our media library onto our servers and have the means to access the content both at home and on the road. Subsonic does a great job as as music player, although it does have some weaknesses that need to be addressed. I’m still trying to decipher how to use the players that are generated for each user, and I have yet to figure out how to manage playlists. Even though there are still some quirks to work out, my teenage daughter like it wellenough that she’s given up her iTunes for the subsonic player. I’m pretty sure that’s a good sign. Perhaps not an objective evaluation, but nonetheless a significant one.
In addition, with some research and tweaking, the player can also stream video. The video setup can be a bit tricky, but if you have a basic understanding of transcoding it’s doable. We have even achieved some success streaming video over 3g to my EVO.
Now more than ever, the purchase of any new hardware has to take into consideration how it will fit into the overall scheme of your network. On a side note, the good old Linksys wireless router has seen better days and it’s time to go to router heaven. It just goes belly up too often now under any sustained media streaming. We have a Netflix enabled Blue Ray player that just drive the router into the ground after about 30 min. I’m pretty convinced that there isn’t really anything out there that can be called a rock solid dependable wireless router. I’ve killed half a dozen of them now. So not knowing any better, I just ordered a NETGEAR WNDR3700-100NAS 802.11a/b/g/n Rangemax 2.4/5GHz Simultaneous N600 Dual Band Wireless Gigabit Router/ USB port from Newegg. Hopefully this one will do the job, but I remain skeptical.
Sadly, I now just order everything from Newegg as I find they are consistently price competitive and their customer service is absolutely top shelf. I’ve got to get back in the habit of shopping around more. If you have any suggestions, please share.
Next up, we really need to get to work on the family room project. I want to wire cat 6 throughout the room and redo the electrical outlets. I also want to run the speaker wiring for 7.1 surround. The hope is to set up a 58″ Panasonic Plasma and tie everything together with an HTPC running a Ceton tuner card. that should be quite a challenge, but a real kickbutt project when done! In the meantime, I’ll be playing around with lightweight bluetooth headsets in an attempt to integrate voice command over the network. the ideaq is to find a lightweight good quality head set that allows me to interact with the network on many levels through voice commands. In theory, I should be able to tell my system to play the music I’d like to hear on the headset from anywhere around the house, while perhaps recieving email notifications and being able to select which ones I’d like read to me without having to go to the keyboard.
We are the Borg.

SharePoint 2010 – Configuring Loopback Security and AAM

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

SharePoint 2010 incorporates many of the security features found on the Server 2008 R2 platform. While this keeps security holes tight it raises the amount of user awareness needed to properly configure some of the default security issues that arise in SharePoint.

In particular, LSA Loopback security has been one of the number one reasons users cannot initiate the search server correctly throughout the farm. The Loopback check was introduced back in Windows Server 2003 SP1 as a means to prevent unauthorized access through unrecognized domains or DNS paths. To prevent hackers from using false DNS and CNAMEs to access sites LSA Loopback watches and blocks any unauthorized DNS access. Especially in a deployment environment and not a production environment, many new users have disabled the Loopback check all together which has restored their search services. To remedy the situation properly though and maintain security, it is advised to follow the followng procedure to add your domain to a trusted list to enable search and keep this security feature in place:

Navigate to REGEDIT and access the following path: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa\MSV1_0
Right click the key and add a new Multi String value. Set its name to BackConnectionHostNames and set the value to the DNS or CNAME you want to successfully authenticate.

LSA Loopback authentication in REGEDIT

Once you have added these values correctly LSA will properly authenticate your DNS name and search will begin functioning. But we aren’t in the clear yet. Alternate Access Mappings or AAM is a feature found in SharePoint and IIS that configures alternate routes for accessing your SharePoint server. By configuring AAM you can define what names are from the Internet, Extranet, Intranet, Trusted Zones etc. To do so, navigate to SharePoint 2010 Central Administration, select System Settings, and choose configure Alternate Acccess Mappings. Here you can select your collection and create zones for different addresses .

Alternate Access Mappings menu

Now you have properly configured accessing SharePoint from different addresses and you should stop recieving event viewer messages informing you of these issues.  Now if only Microsoft did a better job of documenting these things in the Health analyzer so many users wouldn’t be stranded, but one step at a time right?

The Best All in One Printer Solution: Brother MFC-9840CDW

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Released almost a year ago, the Brother MFC-9840CDW is still by far one of the best solutions for printing, scanning, an sending/receiving faxes. Targeted towards small business, the Brother printer integrates seamlessly into a existing network, having both ethernet and wireless capabilities. It is also equipped with two Automatic Document Feeder paper trays, USB port connectivity for automatically printing pictures off a camera, and a standard 128MB of RAM easily upgradable to 640MB. The stock printing toner gets about 3000 pages before replacement, and handles Duplex printing and high resolution printing and scanning with ease.Varying in price from 550-600 USD, the options outweight the price, and the printer will pay for itself in the long term. It is also fully certified with Windows 7, and has an easy to use interface that makes printing even easier.

Computer Limbo