Home Network Thoughts

Tuesday 02 June 2015 kl. 08:52

Intro

It’s summer and you have teenagers at home not working and not in school. Or it’s during the school year and you are worried about the allure of easy media access distracting from studies. In this day and age, everyone has an internet connection with a wireless router. Most likely you have a smart phone and your kids have a smart phone or a tablet device which can access the internet via wireless router. There are dangers which you are probably well aware of. Access to explicit content on the internet is a click away. And even without that worry, the lure of media is like a strong intoxicating and highly addictive drug. Kids as well as adults are easily ensnared into this time consuming addiction.

Solutions

What can you do? Here are a few things I am doing. Feel free to ask questions or make suggestions in the comments section.

Content Filtering

For filtering of web content, I use OpenDNS. This service works by providing all of your devices with DNS name servers. These DNS servers are what translate URL addresses into numeric addresses that computers can understand. OpenDNS provides very flexible filtering of web sites. You can configure this filtering by using the OpenDNS categories or even creating your own filters.

The basic filtering service of OpenDNS is free and fairly easy to use. All you have to do is put the OpenDNS addresses into your wireless router. Since all devices in your home get their DNS addresses from this router, all devices are subject to the filters you set up.

Drawbacks of OpenDNS

OpenDNS works with Google so that all of your traffic is being analyzed and used by Google to understand your web browsing habits and use this data to more effectively market to you.

Another drawback is if you are using ATT uVerse. The uVerse router has DNS hard coded into it and the addresses cannot be changed. You can get around this by purchasing an inexpensive wireless router. You must then connect this router to the ATT uVerse router and configure it to DMZ mode. Then turn off wireless access to the uVerse router so that only your other router is available to use. It sounds a bit complicated but is not impossible.

Internet Access

After you have set up effective content filtering you are still left with the problem
of constant media access and it’s resulting overload leading to a form of addiction. Just think, when we were young, all the family had was one or two TVs. Now everyone in the house has a portable media device with access to the web, netflix, youtube and many other things to entertain them.

Device Access Scheduling

When you purchase a wireless router, check to see if the software of the router offers scheduling and device filtering. I am using a router which is compatible with the Tomato open source router software. Tomato offers the ability to set up internet access schedules. So I can define access times for any single or any group of devices which access our home wireless network. For example, during the summer I am turning off access to all devices during the day until 2 PM. Access goes down at 11 PM. During the school year this is changed so that internet access is open during the week for a short period of time later in the evening and then shut down again before bed time.

Surveillance

Your kids are most likely texting with their friends and classmates. This can be a very beneficial thing. I have seen instances where one of my kids forgot a book that the class was reading. One of her friends was able to take photos of the pages and send them to her to read. Texting allows for collaboration and communication which is an aid to learning. Of course there are dangers as well. But remember that all data going to the internet is passing through your router. This data can be intercepted and viewed. Is this fair? Well I think that it is my house and my equipment that is being used. I therefore have a responsibility to make sure this house and it’s technology are not being abused. I am looking into setting up surveillance of our network. In a future post I might discuss how this is accomplished.

Smart Phone

We started using a phone service called Ting. This service does not use contracts and the billing is determined by data usage. Ting also allows for putting limits on data usage. So a particular device can be limited to how much data is allowed for a particular pay period. This can be helpful in preventing abuse of a cell phone. If a phone is being misused it can be turned off or removed from the account.

Updates

Routers: If you would like to try using the Tomato software I mentioned there is good pricing on the ASUS RT-N12 right now at Amazon. For this router use the older Tomato USB firmware.

Pre-Loaded Tomato: The cost is slightly more but you get the benefits of Tomato. This web site offers routers pre-loaded with Tomato firmware. This makes it easy to get the benefits of scheduling that I have discussed above.

Surveillance: Viewing text messages from your router does not appear to be possible due to encryption. You can intercept them easily but they are not clear text.

 

Recorder Debut

Saturday 04 April 2015 kl. 19:10

When I was in music school, I think it was my junior year, at times I would hit the doldrums for practicing my instrument which was classical guitar. This particular year I took up the recorder as a way to bust out of it. It worked and I fell love with the recorder. There are similarities actually. Both guitar and recorder require lots of finger dexterity with odd hand/finger positions. They are both easy to play at first but take work to really master and play well. My teacher who was an early music specialist (played both baroque and renaissance lute) decided to start an early music ensemble at our school and I played some recorder in that group.

Thanks to my wonderful wife, I received my first wooden recorder as a Christmas gift this year. It is a Huber (made in Switzerland). It’s style is a cross between baroque and modern. It blows hard and has a loud but sweet sound. Perfect for solo and ensemble performance.

This video is of the performance for the prelude to our Good Friday service at our church. The continuo is played by our music director. It really worked out well having organ as accompaniment. I was a bit shaky and I had some noticeable bloopers but overall I am satisfied. I really love the sound of this instrument and playing it is pure joy. I hope we have some more opportunities in the future.

 

Modern Progressive Rock

Wednesday 04 February 2015 kl. 08:58

Just finished listening to this episode of the Tom Woods show which gives an overview of recent recordings by new "Progressive Rock" groups. Woods is a fan of Yes and so I always expect that what they mean by Progressive Rock is related to Yes in some way or a descendant of Yes in it's style. However, I think the phrase refers to FM music of the 70's and so not all the music is interesting to me. But I am intrigued enough to take a listen.

In this podcast I am particularly interested in Big Big Train and so I will try to listen to some of their music and perhaps provide some of my own reactions to it in the future.

 
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