Nik's Technology Blog

Travels through programming, networks, and computers

Using A Parallel/Serial Connection To Copy Files

Even in the days of wireless networks and Gigabit Ethernet it's still sometimes convenient to directly connect two computers together to copy files using parallel or serial ports. Not all computers have an Ethernet card or LAN connection built-in so it's sometimes the only option, or maybe you don't have a hub or cross-over RJ45 Ethernet cable lying around ready to use.

What Next?

Using a parallel or serial cable can be very useful for connecting two PC's together. You can reach up to 4Mbits/sec using a direct parallel connection. It's ideal for copying files to a new computer or laptop.

Windows XP Set-up

To set-up a direct parallel or serial connection in Windows XP on the Start menu select 'My Network Places', then under the 'Network Tasks' panel on the left-hand side select 'Create a new connection', this will launch the 'New Connection Wizard'. Select Next and then select 'Set up an advanced connection'. To set up a direct connection, whether you wish to create a parallel or serial connection you must specify whether the PC you are currently using is the host (contains the files you wish to access) or guest (The computer used to access the information on the host PC). On this screen you have to make this decision, choose either 'Accept incoming connections' or 'Connect directly to another computer', depending on your selection you will be asked whether to connect using your parallel or serial port or you will be either asked to enter the name of the computer you wish to connect to or select the users who you wish to give permission to access you machine. Once you've set up the connection on one machine you will have to do the same on the other machine before you can successfully connect, remembering if you've made the first machine the Guest to make the other machine the Host and visa versa.

If you are using a software firewall such as Zonealarm, you will need to make sure you add your computer's IP addresses if applicable to the 'trusted zone' to allow your connection to be established between your two machines.

BTX Motherboards Provide Better Thermal Layout And Acoustics

The new PC motherboard form factor BTX (Balanced Technology Extended) has been developed to accommodate the latest processors and the problems arising from their ever-increasing clock rates.

It sounds as though the BTX standard takes system design tips from Apple's G5 when it comes to thermal and acoustic performance.

The BTX form factor uses an inline airflow layout to cool the hottest computer components with fewer fans. It does this by simply positioning the processor, chipset and graphics processors in the same vicinty on the board to one another allowing easier cooling, less fans and less noise. That's the theory anyway.

When Apple's G5 was introduced PC owners chuckled to themselves when they heard it contained 9 fans, but because of the internal layout spliting the chassis into thermal zones it enabled these fans to work at very low revs, keeping noise to a minimum and the system cool.

Hopefully with these new boards which also embrace the new PCI Express and Serial ATA technologies we will once again be able to have powerful PC's that don't sound like they are about to take off.

BTX form factor details

Problems With Digital Archiving

What's wrong with digital archiving?

Archiving information in digital formats introduces a number of complications.

File Formats

Will current file formats last forever? History says otherwise. If history repeats itself current file formats will not be used in the next 10-15 years.

What problems does that introduce if we archive documents in todays formats? Will we be able to access them in the future? Will we have to convert them all down the line?

Proprietary formats

What's happens if an IT/Software company goes bust or discontinues a product. Will there be a system to upgrade or migrade databases and files?

Storage Media

If the issues with file formats have got you worried what about storage media?

The CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, DVD recordable drives, tape back-up drives etc. Will these media storage formats be around for years to come? With the pace of current development the chances are the answer is no.

Not only that but all digital media has a finite lifespan, meaning even if drives in 10-15 years are capable of reading these media formats with they still be in pristine condition?

Only time will tell if we can solve this increasingly serious problem, as more and more of our data is stored electronically this becomes a more and more pertinent problem.

I'll finish with a link to the BBC Domesday project 1986. A perfect example of the problems with digital archiving. The CAMiLEON project was commissioned recently to try to retrieve the contents of this archive from 1980's laserdisks and BBC Micro formatted files.

The CAMiLEON project

CCNA Recertification

The time has come when I should begin to consider my options for renewing or 'recertifying' my Cisco CCNA qualification.

Looking on the cisco.com it quotes...

"CCNA certifications are valid for three years. To recertify, either pass the current CCNA exam, or pass the ICND exam, or pass any 642 professional level or Cisco Qualified Specialist exam (excluding Sales Specialist exams), or pass a CCIE written exam on or after October 1, 2004."

The standard CCNA - CCNP - CCIE career path doesn't really appeal to me. I have the CCNA and I would like to renew it, but I would also like to gain an extra qualification if possible, rather than just re-taking the same exam again.

Since I passed my CCNA I've really got into WLANs and was surprised to discover that Cisco do a Wireless LAN Support Specialist exam. Being a Specialist exam according to the quote from cisco.com passing it will also recertify my CCNA. This seems like the best option for me, since I'll be learning new skills as well as having an extra certification for my CV.

Cisco Wireless LAN Support Specialist

Wireless LAN Security Vulnerabilities

Since I last wrote about WLAN Security shortly after buying a Netgear Wireless router, I thought I'd write about improving your wireless network over-and-above that of what WEP (Wireless Equivalent Privacy) offers.

In 2001 two universities in the US, Maryland and UC Berkeley published separate studies into the inherent flaws with WEP encryption.

This had, until recently put many corporations off the idea of WLANs. After all there are tools freely available that can decipher the WEP encryption keys used on a network.

So what technology can we use to improve WLAN security?

Ever since the flaws in WEP were discovered the IEEE and the Wi-Fi Alliance have been busy trying to ratify a new standard in WLAN encryption. Known as 802.11i or WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) it is meant to be a software upgrade that is designed to address all known WEP vulnerabilities.

WPA uses an IEEE standard called 802.1X with Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP). Basically TKIP uses a dynamic key rather than the static one used in WEP, with TKIP a new key is generated every 10000 packets. TKIP also checks packets to make sure they haven't been altered by an intermediary.

Even though the upgrade to WPA was supposed to be a software (Firmware) upgrade it's still down to the hardware manufacturer to continue supporting it's hardware. Looking on the Netgear site it looks like my hardware (Netgear DG824M) won't be getting new firmware to upgrade the security from WEP to WPA.

Securing a home wireless router

Convert 3GP video to and from AVI or MPEG

If like me you own a recent Nokia phone that's capable of recording and playing back video files then you might be interested to know how to convert videos to 3GP format (This is the format the Nokia uses to encode video) to play on your phone or convert video files you've recording on your phone to AVI.

After scouting the web in search of these tools I've found two applications that do the job. The first is the Nokia Multimedia Convertor 2.0, I've added a link to this below, it's free, but you'll have to register as a developer. The other-so-called application is quite a bit more amateurish, but nevertheless does the job. It consists of an application back-end and a VBScript/browser based front-end.

I've also noticed that Apple QuickTime 6.5 supports 3GPP and 3GPP2.

Apples guide to the 3GP format

Converting from 3GP to MPEG and AVI

The link below lists a couple of programs capable of converting your 3GP videos to MPEG and AVI files. It also explains how to use the 3gpToRawAvi converter that I've reviewed here.

http://www.gromkov.com/faq/faq2004-0067.html

Nokia Multimedia Convertor 2.0

Used to convert MPEGs to 3GP video format to play videos on your mobile. Free but requires registration.

Nokia Multimedia Convertor 2.0

Searching For WiFi Hotspots

When you're out and about and need to check your email with your WiFi enabled laptop, wouldn't it be great if you didn't have to turn your laptop on to see if you are within range of a wireless hotspot?

I've come across a couple of solutions to that problem recently.

The first solution is to buy a 23 GBP PCTel WiFi Seeker. It's a small keychain based device that can detect IEEE 802.11b or 802.11g wireless networks within 300ft.

The other solution is a service by totalhotspots.com. You simply text HOTSPOT to their text number and they tell you the nearest wireless hotspot. The service costs 1 GBP per successful search.

PCTel WiFi Seeker

Internet Content Ratings - Developers/Webmasters Guide

I've been looking into content ratings for websites recently, mainly because certain clients have mentioned that they can't get our sites on their internal network.

Whether that's the problem in this situation or not is another matter, but it's worth investigating anyhow.

After a quick look on IIS I noticed that you can edit the ratings of your site, but before I began to fiddle I thought I had better find out more about these ratings.

Clicking on 'more info' in IIS content ratings section I went to www.rsac.org where I found out that the RSAC no longer exists. It is now part of the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA).

They have a section especially for webmasters on the different ways of applying content ratings to your site. Included are instructions for Microsoft IIS web servers and Apache servers. I've linked to the webmasters section below.

http://www.icra.org/webmasters/

Novell Suse Linux 9.2 Pro Supports Bluetooth and WLAN

I saw an advert in PC Pro claiming that the new Novell Suse Linux, version 9.2 Professional has improved support for mobile devices.

If you've read my previous post concerning Linux and WLAN you'll probably have guessed my reaction to this news.

I checked out suse.com, which is in the process of being moved to the Novell site, and read the product description with baited breath.

It seems that YaST (Suse's installer of choice) has been updated to include better support for WLAN, Bluetooth and IrDA.

It reads...

Improved WLAN support and configuration with YaST (including Centrino).

New YaST configuration modules for IrDA and Bluetooth.

Bluetooth support with autodetection for synchronization with Bluetooth cell phones and handhelds.

It's all very exciting stuff and for around 56 GBP it's competitively priced considering it comes bundled with over 1000 open-source software products.

http://www.novell.com/products/linuxprofessional/

404 Error pages Returns code 200

Since a site redesign we've been using a custom 404 ASP page rather than our old HTML 404 page, this gives us the opportunity to add dynamic content to the 404.asp page.

However after setting up Microsoft IIS to serve our custom 404.asp page we discovered to our dismay, using a HTTP header viewer, that the 404 page was returning a code '200 OK' rather than a '404 Not Found'.

After some searching the ASP Response.Status object was found. Now with just one line of code at the top of our ASP 404 page we can set the status to 404 Not Found!

Here's the code.

<%

Response.Status = "404 Not Found"

%>

I've added a link to a handy HTTP viewer below.

http://www.rexswain.com/httpview.html