HP Compaq 6910p upgrades

I spent some time exploring HP Compaq 6910p upgrades because used HP Compaq 6910p laptops are dirt cheap these days. I picked one up for $75 as an alternative to a Black Friday cheapie.

If you look for one yourself, either look for one with a valid Windows 7 or Windows 10 license on it, or get one at a deep enough discount to make it worth your while.

Here’s what I did to turn an outmoded laptop from 2008 into something better than what I could have bought on Black Friday.

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How to size your Internet connection

So I understand ISPs are upselling connection speeds saying it’ll make Netflix work better. That’s a nice theory. But if you’re already over 10 megabits, there’s a decent chance your connection speed won’t do much for Netflix at all. Here’s how to size your Internet connection. Read more

What to look for in a wireless access point

A good way to eliminate dead zones in your house where wifi doesn’t work is to add one or two wireless access points to your setup.

Access points, thankfully, are no longer stupid expensive–they used to cost twice as much as a router in spite of being nothing more than a cut-down router–but almost every access point I’ve looked at has one or more compromises built in. That said, if you want something you can plug in and configure by filling out three or four things, you might be willing to live with those compromises.

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A Comcastic-ally bad idea

If you haven’t heard about it, Comcast has plans to build a wifi network for its subscribers, on the back of its other subscribers’ routers. What’s worse is it’s an opt-out service. If you don’t hear about it and say something, you’re a hotspot for any other Comcast customer who happens to wander by.

I’m not a Comcast customer. I’m in Charter territory, and I’m not a Charter customer either. But I have so many problems with this it’s hard to know where to begin, so I sure hope other ISPs don’t copy this. Read more

More about Pfsense, the alternative to the crappy consumer router

I spent some time over the weekend playing with Pfsense, and I can’t say much about it other than it does what it says. I didn’t throw a ton of hardware at it–the best motherboard I have laying around is a late P4-era Celeron board, and the best network card I could find was, believe it or not, an ancient Netgear 10/100 card with the late, lamented DEC Tulip chipset on it. Great card for its time, but, yeah, nice 100-megabit throughput, hipster.

If you actually configure your routers rather than just plugging them in, you can do this. Plug in a couple of network cards, plug in a hard drive that you don’t mind getting overwritten, download Pfsense, write the image file to a USB stick, boot off the USB stick, and follow the prompts. Then, to add wireless, plug in a well-supported card like a TP-Link and follow the howto. Read more

Extending wi-fi with a $20 TP-Link router with DD-WRT

There’s an addition on the back of our house, probably added in the 1970s or 80s, where the wi-fi reception is exceptionally poor. Something about the walls makes it tricky, and I also suspect we get some interference from the neighbors behind us.

My project to fix that began with a TP-Link TL-WR841N router. It’s inexpensive–frequently available for around $20–has a good enough reputation for reliability, and if you dig deeply enough, you can find a DD-WRT build for it. There are fancier routers available, with more antennas and gigabit ports, but this one would take care of my immediate needs while I wait for 802.11ac. I don’t have any 802.11ac-enabled equipment yet, so I’ll wait for the price to come down before adopting it.

I covered the upgrade process yesterday.

To solve the problem I was having, I configured DD-WRT as a wireless access point. Read more

Google’s plan for fiber seems to be working

I saw this on Slashdot today: In Lawrence, Kan., about 40 miles west of Kansas City, Kan., a local ISP is building an affordable fiber network. Pricing is a little higher than Google, at $70/month for 100 megabit and $100/month for gigabit, but that’s still better than what you typically see from the local cable/phone duopoly.

The cable/phone duopoly won’t build this, so it’s going to have to be upstarts who do it.  Meet the new revolution: Same as the old revolution. Read more

How I once took down a network, including a radio station

I met up Monday night with some other security professionals for some emergency networking of the professional kind. One of the attendees, a penetration tester, had a little incident where he took down a production system when he conducted his penetration test. The system owners were a bit arrogant, and, well, they paid for it.

I’ve taken down a network too, but in my case it wasn’t something security-related. No, in my case, I was a 20-year-old desktop support technician working in a college computer lab, making an honest mistake.

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Cable connections are the last thing most people check…

Fed up with trying to host a network printer on a Windows 7 box on a mixed network, I broke down and bought a Jetdirect card for my aged HP Laserjet 4100. Don’t worry–used Jetdirect cards are cheap these days. I paid $7 for mine.

Of course I made installing it harder than I needed to. I’m a professional. Don’t try this at home. Read more

No, purchaser reviews on online web sites aren’t worthless

A magazine editor whose name I dare not mention pontificated this weekend that it’s never worth reading reviews on web sites like Amazon.

I expect more from someone with that job title–better writing and better thinking. There are times for words like always and never, but this certainly isn’t one of them. The reviews certainly have their uses. The trick is knowing how to read them.

Here’s how to wade through the muck, find good reviews, and use those reviews to find good products.

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