Do you see things a little differently?

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Review of the Linksys (Belkin) EA9500.

Linksys EA9500


Calling this a review might be a little ambitious. Many people have already reviewed the product's performance and features. The goal of this blog is to point out a few concerns that I have with the system.

Environment

Router: Linksys EA9500 
Hardware Version: 1.1 
Firmware: 1.1.6.173418.

First Impressions

The router has a default IPv4 address of 192.168.100.1. I connected the router to my laptop, and went to https://192.168.100.1 and after a brief wait for the browser to timeout with 

 I dropped the attempt to use a secure connection by changing from HTTPS to HTTP and was presented with the login screen. The lack of security out of the box is sad, but not a deal breaker. As I went through the configuration, I found a checkbox to enable HTTPS for administration. There is also a checkbox for HTTP which is checked, but grayed out to prevent it from being deselected. It's good that they support secure connections, but not great that you can't disable HTTP.

Insecurity

When the basic network setup was complete, I shut down the router and replaced my old existing router with the new unit. This time I was able to use HTTPS... almost.


As most will have noticed, the newest browsers are beginning to provide feedback when a connection may not be secure. Clicking on the warning symbol in the URL box will bring up information about the connection and provide feedback on why the warning has appeared.

The browser is looking out for me. In order to get to the site, I need to click on Advanced, and then Proceed. Kind of a pain for every time administration needs to be performed. The reason for this becomes quickly apparent when we drill in using the warning icon.




From here, we can select the "View Certificate" button and get more information.
Well, there you go then... the certificate expired in 2010, almost exactly 6 years ago from today (10/03/2016). What would possess them to use a 6 year old certificate in a brand new product?

Okay, this goes beyond stupid. The certificate was issued by and to ut610n when Linksys was owned by CISCO! Can someone explain why Linksys, now owned by Belkin, is using a Cisco certificate? If you are not going to use an authoritative certificate issued by a trusted authority, is there some reason that you can't issue a new self signed certificate that is at least valid for the next 5 years? How lazy can you be?


Logging in

The login screen has two versions, There is a local login and a Smart Wi-Fi login.
The local login shown here, only requires a password. If you are setting up for the first time, it will be the default. If you have logged in at least once, you should have been prompted to change the password.
The Smart Wi-Fi login utilizes a cloud account and is what allows you to manage the router using a smart device app (iOS or Android). What isn't immediately clear, is that the Smart Wi-Fi account is different than your Linksys account.

It took messing with this, and a support call before I got this resolved (by creating the other account). I will not lay blame with Linksys for this, but I will suggest some obvious text letting us know that this is not the Linksys web account.

Another Security Concern

I do have a concern over their password policy. This account is accessible from the Internet, and yet their password policy is very limiting. Eight characters or more isn't bad, but I'm very disappointed that non-alphanumeric characters are not allowed. 

In Interface Speed Test

The administration interface has a link that pops up a speed test. This is a nice idea that saves a few clicks. Unfortunately, it runs into an issue with the secure connection. 
Because I am using the secure browser connection, the browser has a fit when the link attempts to pop up a window which only uses HTTP. The result is a Speed Test that looks like this...
The windows pops up, but it will not return the insecure page.


Smart Wi-Fi Application

The Smart Wi-Fi application actually seems to be well written. It looks like I can adjust any setting from my phone, no matter where I am. I could see this being useful if a parent wanted to update parental controls, allowing or preventing access by time and/or device. Nothing like messing with the kids without them knowing. I personally don't have any need for this (yet), and the best feature for me at this point, is an alert when my Internet connection drops. I'm assuming this works, but I haven't tested it yet. What it does suggest, is an active connection from the Linksys servers to my router, and I once again have to wonder just how secure this is? So far, I am not impressed with the security on the router itself. I will be digging into this as time permits and may ultimately look into disconnecting the router from the cloud engine.

Dynamic DNS

The EA9500 has a configuration screen for updating Dynamic DNS. I choose No-IP.org because they are free. I entered my NO-IP login, and after a moment the status updated to "Failed".  No idea what the issue is, and I don't have time to mess with it. My only other issue with this feature, is that the password field for NO-IP shows my account password. Anyone who can see my screen could read the password when I'm on that function. Not a good design.

Conclusion

Overall the EA9500 has been working well, and clearly has good hardware performance. I definitely like the 8 1Gb ports for connecting my small Data Center. My issues are with the software (firmware) and what are some very poor decisions by the developers. The unit is advertised as an advanced unit for home users, or for small business, yet I don't see a few key functions which would make this a business unit. My expectation would be to have a VPN server, allowing a remote worker or two access to the company. There should also be a VPN client, allowing the unit to tunnel to another location, while still providing Internet access and a local network. These functions are all available in WRT. I would love to see a version of WRT (DD-WRT or OpenWRT) made for this hardware. I have used DD-WRT extensively in the past and been very impressed by it's features , capability, and security. Until then, I will just need to live with what it has.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Electricity and You. A very simplistic look at Single Phase vs. Three Phase.

Let's start with Single phase. The power coming into your house is 240V. The utility company provides 3 wires to your house. For simplicity sake we can call them +120, 0 (Neutral which is bonded to Ground in residential wiring), and -120. Looking at the graph you can see that with the +120 and -120 you have 240V between them. The center wire is the 0 which provides 120V when paired with either of the other wires. If you look at your breaker box, you will notice that the 240V breakers actually span two slots. This is because you are connecting between the +120 and the -120.


 The reason for higher voltage has to do with current and Ohms law where Voltage = Current * Resistance. As the voltage goes up, the current can go down. The lower the current the smaller diameter wire you need, kind of like a garden hose pumping water. Here is a practical example...

Say that you have a large light for your yard. The light has a 4,000Watt bulb to really blind the neighbors. If you run the light at 120V, you will have 33.3 amps of current (Power = Voltage * Current). If instead you run the light at 240V, the current will be half or 16.6 amps. This can have a huge cost difference when you start looking at wire cost. To carry 17amps of current, you need a wire of 12 gauge or bigger. To do 34amps, you are jumping to 8 Gauge which is considerably heavier and with all that copper will cost a lot more. To add to the problem, smaller wires and lower voltages encounter more resistance in the transmitting wires, which means you are losing a lot of power to just get the current to where you want it.
Wire Gauge/Current Reference: http://www.cerrowire.com/ampacity-charts
 Now lets talk about 3-Phase. 3 Phase power is the same idea as single phase, but the voltage peaks are 120 degrees apart from each other. Looking at the 4 wires coming in they look very similar to a single phase example if you take one of the phases and pair it with the Neutral. You will see 120V and a single sine wave of voltage and current. If you pair two of the phase lines which are 120 degrees apart, the voltage ends up being 208V from phase to phase. This is very typical of Commercial wiring in the US. The higher voltage of 208V means lower current for loads, and the phase shift between the lines is very useful when running 3 phase electric motors. Think of those phase peaks firing at just the right time in a motor to keep pushing the motor around. The fact that this happens at a higher voltage than home wiring means the wire gauge can be smaller which saves weight, space, and ultimately cost.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The state of helpdesk and customer service...

I've been having some issues with my phone lately, a Galaxy S4 on Verizon. It started on the original phone and was mixed in with a host of other issues. Let me start from the beginning....
Things were going okay. The S4 was performing well, though I had a problem where it would lose all signal, but that wasn't often and came back after a reboot. There was some evidence to suggest it happened when the phone was too hot. I tried to keep it cool, and lived with it. Then I received an OTA update to the Samsung portion of the phone, and later that morning I had no connection to anything over the carrier network. WiFi was working great, but that isn't very helpful when you leave the house. I chatted with the Verizon helpdesk, and we finally determined that my SIM was toast. A trip to the Verizon Store and all seemed good.
This was when people stopped being able to hear me on the phone. Another session with the Verizon tech and we determined that the microphone on my phone had apparently failed. A headset and the speakerphone both worked without issue. I should have stopped there. To Verizon's credit, they offered me a warranty replacement, even though my phone was just out of warranty. Not having the default microphone is a problem, so I accepted the offer.
The replacement phone arrived, and it came with a new SIM. I followed the startup instructions, and everything seemed great. I should have left the house. It became evident the first time I left the house, that this phone was unable to remain connected to the mobile network. It would connect, and I made a few calls, but it would not STAY connected. Everything worked great over WiFi. Guess I should have made more phone calls to test it before sending the old phone back.
Verizon tech was again very helpful and sent a replacement phone for the replacement. This time I tested the heck out of it. Things seemed great, and I sent the 2nd phone back.
This is when I realized that I could make or receive a call, but there was NO SOUND on either end of the line. If I rebooted the phone, I could make or receive a call, sometimes 2 or 3 before the problem happened again. Verizon Tech had no idea and soon gave up. My online searching yielded a number of people with the same problem and I soon found one person who claimed that disabling Google Drive fixed the issue. I decided to try the same thing, and to my amazement the problem went away.... until today. That was about a month back, and now the problem has resurfaced without any apparent trigger.
This time I contacted Samsung support via their online chat feature. I feel bad for the level one tech that I'm certain was doing her best to address the problem. I have a feeling that like most techs, they are not really given the appropriate tools to do the job, and I'm certain are not encouraged to escalate problems so they can be analyzed and a root cause determined. She may be correct, it may be an application, but I doubt it. What follows is the text of the chat. Notice about half way through, she is convinced that Safe Mode has corrected the problem. This is not a safe assumption. The problem is sporadic, and does not re-occur immediately after a reboot. It's possible that the problem may have surfaced in safe mode if I stayed there long enough (which I may need to try). At this point I'm very much on the fence about getting another Samsung product. What happens with this device will be the deciding factor.



Chat InformationPlease wait for a Samsung Agent to respond.
Chat InformationYou are now chatting with 'Sashka'. There will be a brief survey at the end of our chat to share feedback on my performance today.
Chat InformationYour Issue ID for this chat is LTK1125602552346X
Sashka: Hi, thank you for contacting Samsung Technical Support. How may I help you today?

Andrew Houlne: I have run into a problem with my phone that Verizon can't answer.

Andrew Houlne: When I make a call, the call connects but there is no audio.

Andrew Houlne: It went away for a while when I disable Google Drive, but now the problem is back with no apparent trigger.

Sashka: I see that you are unable to hear when someone calls. Is that correct?

Andrew Houlne: If I reboot the phone, I can make or receive one call, then the next call is back to a connection with no audio.

Andrew Houlne: They can't hear me either. There is no ringing, no matter who makes the call, but the call does connect.
Andrew Houlne: I have verified this using my land line.

Sashka: May I ask you few questions to assist better?

Andrew Houlne: Yes

Sashka: May I know the model number of your device?
Sashka: You can find it in Apps >> Settings >> About device >> Model number or beneath the battery which generally starts with SM,SCH,SGH.

Andrew Houlne: SCH-I545

Sashka: Thank you.

Andrew Houlne: Android version 4.4.2, Baseband version: I545VRUFNK1, Kernel Version: 3.4.0, Build Number: KOT49H.I545VRUFNK1

Sashka: Did the issue with the phone start after installing any third party application on the phone?

Andrew Houlne: Not that I am aware of. The phone has been working fine for about a month since the last episode. Nothing changed today of which I am aware.

Sashka: Okay. Please try to play of yours in voice recorder and then check if you can hear it.

Andrew Houlne: Voice recorder works fine.

Sashka: I se that the speaker is fine.
Sashka: Please call someone by turning on the headset and check if someone can hear you.

Andrew Houlne: There is no sound. I can not hear anything from the remote caller, and they can not hear me, but the call does connect.

Sashka: Okay.
Sashka: Let us check for some call settings once.

Andrew Houlne: Okay.

Sashka: Please tap on phone app >> menu >> settings >> call>> personalize call sound >> clear sound.

Andrew Houlne: Okay, it was off. Now it is set to clear sound.

Sashka: Check by making a call and see if you can hear anything.

Andrew Houlne: No. There is still no sound.

Sashka: Okay. Let us perform few troubleshooting steps to isolate the issue. Shall we?

Andrew Houlne: Okay.

Sashka: Let us check for the issue in Safe mode.
Sashka: Turning on the device in safe mode will disable all the downloaded applications on the device and it will run with factory applications.
Sashka: 1. Power the device off.
Sashka: 2. Press and hold the Power key for one or two seconds to turn on the device.
Sashka: 3. When the Samsung logo displays, press and hold the Volume down key until the lock screen displays.
Sashka: Result: If successful, Safe Mode will appear on the device screen in the bottom left corner.
Sashka: Let me know once you are done with the steps.

Andrew Houlne: rebooting...

Sashka: Okay.

Andrew Houlne: Safe mode is active

Sashka: Okay. Call someone in safe mode and check if you can hear.

Andrew Houlne: Yes. It is currently working.

Sashka: Cool! I see that  as the issue is resolved in safe mode, please uninstall 3rd party applications once you are in the normal mode.

Andrew Houlne: Which applications?

Sashka: The issue will not persist if you uninstall third party applications when you are in the normal mode.

Sashka: Third party applications are the ones installed from the play store.
Andrew Houlne: Then why did it work until today. I have not added or changed any applications in a month.

Sashka: I would like to inform you that hanging of the phone and issues with the phone will start after 1-2 months after installing third party applications generally.

Andrew Houlne: Is there any way to determine which application is causing the problem. If I uninstall all applications, then the phone is worthless to me.

Sashka: I do understand that. However, disable apps which hang your phone much like viber, etc which are very much related to calling.

Andrew Houlne: The only "calling" applications I have are Google Voice, and Hangouts.

Sashka: Please disable those, as the issue might be because of them.

Andrew Houlne: one moment.

Sashka: Sure, take your time.
Sashka: Not to rush you, are we still connected on the chat?

Andrew Houlne: Yes.
Andrew Houlne: I have disabled those applications and for the moment the phone is able to make more than one call at a time without the problem. Are you certain this isn't a bug in Android 4.4.2?
Andrew Houlne: Some of the newsgroups suggest that 4.4.4 may solve the issue.

Sashka: Yes, as you are able to make the call now, the issue is with those applications.
Sashka: I would like to inform you that there is no wrong with the update and there is no issue with other apps.

Andrew Houlne: I was able to make calls before I disabled those applications. As you said, sometimes it takes a while.

Sashka: May be, but as it is working fine, let us be away from those applications for good.
Sashka: I appreciate your efforts!

Andrew Houlne: Hangouts SHIPS with the operating system. It is a google application. I NEED that application for my job. Telling me that an application provided with the phone is the problem does not solve the issue!

Sashka: I would like to inform you that it is  not a pre-installed application, you have to download it from the play store. So, that would be a problem, as you have an option to update them separately.

Andrew Houlne: If it was only a downloaded application then I could uninstall it. I can not. I can disable it, but it is permanently a part of the phone.

Andrew Houlne: It does get updates from play, but the base load remains.

Sashka: If it is a pre-installed one, then it is alright! It will be there in the phone and will not delete even if you try to.  May be the issue was because of Google voice.

Andrew Houlne: I will leave it as is for a while and see. Is there a way to continue this if the problem appears again?

Sashka: Sure. Please get back to us with chat id:LTK1125602552346X and we will be glad to assist you with the issue if it reappears, which I am positive that it wont.

Andrew Houlne: Okay, thank you for your time.

Sashka: Sure.
Sashka: You're welcome. Is there anything else I can assist you with?

Andrew Houlne: Not at this time.

Sashka: We strive for your satisfaction!
Sashka: Have a great day ahead!Take care.
Sashka: We thank you for your inquiry today and hope your experience with Samsung tech support has been a pleasant one. In an effort to continuously improve our service, we request you to take a minute and complete a quick survey.Please click blue 'X' button on the upper right corner and you will be provided with the survey to complete.
Chat InformationChat session has been terminated by the Samsung Agent.
You are not currently in a chat session.

Online Reference:

 http://forums.androidcentral.com/general-help-how/369393-why-cant-i-hear-people-i-call-my-galaxy-s4.html

http://androidforums.com/threads/no-sound-during-calls-anyone-else.857735/

https://www.ifixit.com/Answers/View/189655/No+sound+or+mic+during+calls+only.

https://forums.att.com/t5/Other-Phones-Devices/S4-calls-connect-but-no-audio-passes-either-way/td-p/4003174

https://forums.att.com/t5/Samsung-Discussion-Support/Galaxy-S4-no-sound-during-calls/td-p/4121082

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Providing value, and Why use RAID?

I've started a new job with a new employer, and it is a bit of a career change for me. I was an IT Manager for 8 years and I feel that I was fairly good in that role. I am now employed by a Distributor as a technical resource. The same skills and some of the same knowledge are applicable, but how I utilize them is completely different. I have never been very fond of the typical world of sales and that hasn't changed. What I like about this company is their goal to be a partner to the customer. I was explicitly hired to be a resource which ensures they are getting the best options for their environment. I can't speak to the pricing side and frankly I don't want to.
An example of where I can show value is a project for a new video security system. A customer of a customer (we sell to an integrator who is the actual vendor) is developing an RFP for the new system. The better systems today are based on IP cameras and the video is stored on what amounts to a server. The number of days that you keep data and the rate of recording will affect how much space you need on the server. Some of the first systems I have encountered were glorified desktop computers with large hard drives. Typically they do not have any kind of fault tolerance and when a hard drive fails, you lose everything. In some cases this may be fine. Everything is a gamble and if the video isn't that important and cost is the number one concern, then these are the systems for you. If you happen to be an integrator on the hook for a 3 year warranty or the end customer with industry regulations which require that the data be available, then a system with some fault tolerance is worth considering. You may have noticed that I said "when" not "if" a hard drive fails. Based on a recent study published by BACKBLAZE you can see my reasoning. They published failure rates on a very large number of drives and the very best brand and model of these would still have about a 1% fail rate per year. Lets assume the customer has 1,500 locations needing surveillance. Now assume that each system has 3 drives to provide the minimum amount of storage. That adds up to 4,500 hard drives of which we can expect 45 to fail in the first year and that is assuming the best model (the worst model was about 25% or 1,125 drives). This means that without fault tolerance, the integrator should expect to make 45 service calls in the first year as a best case possibility. Each service call may take a few hours if the system requires rebuild and in every case some data loss can be expected. If we instead configure the systems with a RAID configuration for all partitions, it may be possible for the integrator to courier a drive to the site and have someone on site replace the drive with no down time and no loss of data. The worth seems obvious to me, but if you are not in the industry it may not be that obvious.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Galaxy S4 as a USB Device

This is to attempt to assist someone who is having issues with their Samsung Galaxy S4 USB connection on Windows 7 64 bit.

Plug the phone, and the Operating System should see it and begin to install drivers.

 

Once complete, run Windows Explorer and you should see your device in the drive tree. Mine is named "Mobile Office".

 

From here you should be able to expand the drives out and copy files on and off of the phone just like any other USB drive.  If you are having issues, go into the options menu.

 
 You should see "Connected as a media device". Touch the menu for the USB options.


Make certain that Media device (MTP) is selected.