Friday, January 11, 2013

Internet Down :(

Right now my internet is down.

Yes, I'm blogging and my internet is down. And the sad news is because it's a phone company problem it'll probably be down for days.

My DSL modem dropped off the internet at about 6PM EST. This also means my home phone is down because I have it set up as a Voice Over IP connection. That, as you can tell, didn't keep me off the internet. Not even for a heartbeat.  As I determined that the trouble was the DSL line. (the outside line, beyond the DSL modem in my basement) I grabbed my cell phone and looked up their number in the built-in web browser, and called my ISP. As I waited on hold I switched it to the Facebook app to tell my friends that our planned movie night was off as I had no Netflix if I had no internet. Truth is I already knew how I could set up Netflix, and I may at some point this weekend if we're really bored, but it would not have be very enjoyable at the time with the on-hold music playing over the phone.

Having sent the message to my friends I continued to wait on hold, with the cell phone plugged into a charger to keep it from dying before I got through to a live body. Once I did get through to Mark at Tech Savvy (Thanks for taking me seriously Mark, the first person I spoke to wasn't willing to help me until I turned the computer off and on again. Seriously, that was what she asked me to do, and refused to help me because I insisted that the computer was not the problem as I could clearly see that the modem's DSL interface did not have sync... I didn't catch her name, did you guys hire Jen from IT Crowd?) ...anyway, once I got through to Mark and explained the situation, stepped through some troubleshooting of connecting a phone to the dry loop only to hear a bunch of static. (sounds like water in the line, it is raining out. I'm guessing a squirrel chewed the drop) We then plugged the modem into the demarcation jack outside (in the rain at night, but it proves a point to the phone company that will come to fix it... that the trouble isn't in the 6 feet of indoor wiring between the outside wall and the modem.

Once the busy work of setting up a work order for a Bell tech to come out was done, I sat down and my wife was chatting online via the "experimental" browser in her Kindle. I proceeded to plug the Blackberry back into the USB port of my laptop to charge and launched the BB Desktop to connect to the internet. Anna asked if she could borrow my computer, I asked "Why? I'll just share my internet with you." A couple of clicks later, and we were both sitting comfortably on the couch with our laptops, surfing the internet as usual.

It's amazing the connected lives we live these days. I kind of anticipated this sort of development when I was in high-school suffering from BBS withdrawal on a week-long camping trip in Algonquin Provincial Park. I could see a day coming when I'd probably always be connected. Well, at some point that just happened.

[Edit: 2:25 PM 13/01/2013 :
Bell guy came and switched us to another pair, one of the wire in our pair on te drop was broken. Damned squirrels!]

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Ubuntu Phone

Years ago I imagined a time when I would have a PDA/Phone size devices I could carry in my pocket, but when i was at home I could dock it and it would be my desktop computer.
That device has finally arrived.

While Android and iPhone battle it out over which will claim the hordes of users fleeing the sinking ship of RIM BlackBerry, and Microsoft struggles to claim chunk of the market for themselves, a new player enters the game. It is Ubuntu Linux, and the phone is a full featured Linux machine. Connect it to a docking station at home and it is your Desktop, or your media centre, or whatever you want it to be. It is a truly portable computer.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Wake on LAN

Ever wished you could click a button and a computer in another room would boot itself up? Maybe you want to stream your iTunes media from a computer in the bedroom to the media center HTPC in the living room, but you didn't turn the bedroom computer on when you were last upstairs. Maybe you want computers to wake up in the middle of the night so they can get that 3am scheduled update... Maybe you manage a whole network of computers and there are a few that just don't get used often and you want to boot them up so you can check on them over the network. This is what Wake on LAN (WOL) is made to do. Any computer that is Advanced Configuration Power Interface (ACPI) compliant can be turned on remotely. You might have to go into the BIOS/UEFI firmware to set the WOL option to enabled, but it should be there. In the old days (around 1999) they used to sell PCI add-on network cards that had a Wake-on-LAN cable, a little twisted pair of wires that ran from the LAN card to the motherboard to send a wake-up signal. These days the wire is no longer needed (heck the card is no longer needed) WOL has become so common-place that it's just built-in.

Some home routers have WOL software built into them to wake the computers on your home network. Some corporate patch management software lets you WOL machines as needed.

Linux has a command line program called wakeonlan.
It is used  by typing:
wakeonlan [-i IP_address] [-p port] [hardware_address]

Windows has this too, called wolcmd (well, sort of, you have to download it from the 3rd party website
It is used by typing:
wolcmd [mac address] [ip address] [subnet mask] [port number]

Either of these can be put into a script to do more complex things like scheduling.

You can get WOL on your phone from Depicus too, and wake up your computers right from the palm of your hand. For iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch, Android and even Windows Phone! He also has a little GUI version, but because it doesn't remember details, it's less useful than the command line version, but it's not as scary to some users.

Personally, I wanted an easy way in windows to create groups of computers that wake up at a given scheduled time, so I've thrown together a little program over the holidays that I can use to wake PCs up on a schedule.
My program is called OgounWOL and you can download it here. (requires free registration to use)

OgounWOL comes in 2 parts. A little program that you can schedule to run once every 15 minutes, and a GUI manager (shown below) that you use to edit the program's database.

In OgounWOL you first create a list of all of your computers, then group the computers into groups that you want to wake up together, and then set up schedules to wake groups of computers up at a given time.
You don't need to keep this manager open, every 15 minutes the scheduled task will run a program silently in the background to look up if anyone needs waking and if so, send them the WOL Magic Packet to wake them up.

I have another version, that runs from a command line and takes a .csv file listing computers that you want to wake up. I call this one WOLCSV It is free and does not require registration. I wrote that one for use at work back in 2011.