WRT54G and Airport Express bridge

Our home office is being remodeled this week, so we moved our office temporarily to a location without network access. Rather than run a long ethernet cable across the house, I figured I could use our “Airport Express”:http://apple.com/airportexpress to make a “bridge” to the wireless access point (a Linksys WRT54G) to network all our WiFi-incapable office computers. It turns out I can, but it took me a few hours to get it working. “This blog”:http://weblogs.java.net/blog/inder/archive/2004/10/using_airport_e_1.html was very helpful, but it left out one important point: you have to tell the WRT54G the MAC address of the Airport Express so that the Airport Express can connect to it. Not knowing anything about WDS, I fiddled enough with it to get it working.

To do it, you go to the Wireless > WDS page (OK the always-present unnecessary warning about WDS and AP mode), set the dropdown to “LAN” and enter the Airport Express’ MAC address in the boxes (it’s printed on the underside of the Airport Express). Do that, and the light should turn green and you’re connected wirelessly.

Then I just plugged an ethernet cable into the Airport Express’ ethernet port and my WiFi-less desktop is networked again. The Airport Express is very handy. And to think that this isn’t one of the Airport Express’ selling points.

And, as a plus, it forced me to finally install the Sveasoft open source firmware on the WRT54G, which gives me lots of cool toys on the WRT54G. The WRT54G is an amazing device. Its stock self alone is wonderful: a WiFi access point, router and 4-port switch for $70 is great. But with “Sveasoft’s firmware”:http://www.linksysinfo.org/modules.php?name=Downloads&d_op=viewdownload&cid=8 for it, I can now SSH to it and treat it like a regular linux box, syslog its log to one of our linux servers, telnet to it, update its time against an NTP server, throttle its bandwidth to provide better quality of service for specific services, administer it remotely over HTTPS, run crond, run a tftp server and more. But best of all, I can make it a VPN server. All this for $70! A commercial product would cost hundreds or thousands. This is the power of commodity hardware and a commodity OS. 🙂

Google is dangerous to the web

“Online publishers warn about Google”:http://www.journalism.co.uk/news/story1120.shtml. And they’re right. Google is fast becoming a monopoly on search so it controls what people find on the web. And Google’s PageRank algorithm tends toward stagnation of the rankings, making it more difficult for new sites to break in. One critic points out that “The web should be more about small players having an equal hand.” and Google’s rep responds with “I don’t think [big publishers] will be losing sleep about threats from small publishers”. Exactly. But the promise of the web was that they should be. Google, by their own admission, is anti-web.

Fear is so easy to prey on

Yesterday, someone posted a message in every “forum”:http://recipezaar.com/bb/ on Recipezaar and the complaints we got exploded in minutes. The title of the post was “Communication” and the text of the message was in Arabic. So, of course, everyone _assumed_ it was a terrorist communication.

As with all hoaxes, there’s some questions you can ask to convince yourself it’s a hoax. For instance:

1. Why would the title be “Communication” in English if the terrorist was trying to hide it from authorities and not arouse suspicions? Wouldn’t they have written the title in Arabic too, or something innocuous? Wouldn’t the entire thing be made to look harmless?
2. Why would a terrorist post the text on a cooking site when it’s clear that terrorists have little trouble at all communicating today? Email is easily encrypted, email is an effective way for terrorists to communicate with each other. And they do know that. In fact, investigators discovered that the 9/11 hijackers used plain old Hotmail to communicate, i.e., no encryption whatsoever.
3. Why would a terrorist need to use a 3rd party web site? We can’t stop spam or gambling sites that make millions of dollars because they’re located in the Caribbean, we can’t stop kids from pirating music on college campuses, and we can’t catch the terrorist themselves, but we’ve totally shut down all the terrorist web sites?
4. Is the terrorist scared to put up a web site but uses an easily-traceable internet account of their own to post to other sites?
5. If they did have trouble communicating and needed to use other sites, how would they tell their buddies what site to find their message? They’d use email or a cell phone, and if they can do that, why not just communicate that way?
6. Is Arabic really a safe way to send clandestine messages? Can anti-terrorism authorities read Arabic? Of course they can — it’s not a secret language only evil people can learn. The message would better be written in English with the secret meanings, like “the fox is in the pen” the way they do on those old spy movies. As I mentioned, email is easily encrypted, Arabic is lousy encryption.

Given all of this, if it were written by a terrorist, it’s the dumbest terrorist ever, so that would be good because they’d be caught in no time. Even if you fear terrorism, dumb terrorists are not to be feared because in spite of what some would have you believe, you have to be smart to pull off a terrorist attack. Besides, as an American, you are thousands of times more likely to be murdered by an American than you are by a terrorist. 🙂

FWIW, the text was simply a copy & paste from an Arabic-speaking news site.

iPod Photo

I love my iPod. I love my Mac. I love Apple. I love my digital camera. I love technology. And Steve Jobs is 100% right that video on the iPod is a dumb idea. But I’ve been trying to figure out why I would want the “iPod Photo”:http://apple.com/ipodphoto. I can’t download my photos from my camera straight to the iPod Photo, so it’s not a replacement for a laptop on vacation (even if I didn’t want my laptop on vacation). Never in my life have I ever (or even wanted to) go to a friend’s house to show them my photos on their TV — I believe the only person who wants to see the majority of my photos is me. I already have TiVo that does the slideshows on my own TV, even if I were inclined to move the dock from my desktop to my TV or go find the cable to plug into the TV. And I really don’t understand why someone would want to carry 25,000 photos around.

But I’m sure the iPod Photo will sell like crazy. What are people going to really do with it?