Free WiFi

I’ve been experimenting with free WiFi today!

It seems as a BT business broadband customer, I’m entitled to 6,000 Openzone minutes over 2 years, and I don’t even have to enable Openzone on my business hub.

So I went wardriving with my netbook and connected to both Openzone and Fon hotspots from the car at 512kbps!

I just connected to the wireless router using NetworkManager and entered my Openzone (not Total/FON) login details at

Login options

However, business customers can’t connect to Fon hotspots outside the UK, so I’d have to get a Fonera SIMPL to plug into the Freebox in France, then I’d have UK and European coverage.

No wonder everyone has iPhones and Android smartphones if you can get free internet access in the street, I can’t believe how behind on this I am, its so much better than shitty 3G cards that have no range/speed.

Network wiring

I received my new Acer Aspire Revo R3610-M nettop which comes preloaded with Windows7. Plugged it in a wireless is pretty crap on it (could also be the BT Business Hub as I’m getting a stronger signal from nextdoor’s BE-box!) its good enough for surfing but not stable enough even for SD movies.

I Installed Fedora14 and it didn’t even pick up the RT3090 wireless-N card, which is supposed to work with the RT2x00 drivers (awful drivers I’ve used before). It seems the Win7 Revo comes with a different wifi card than the Linux version, which has an ath9k.

So I’m getting some CAT6 dropped down the cavity where the satellite cables go from my bedroom, across the loft and down into the lounge. As I seem to have left most of my network equipment in France, I’ve had to buy stuff like:

  • a PP3 battery for my ethernet cable tester
  • a 5 port gigabit switch from TP-Link
  • 4x 1m of CAT6 patch cable
  • 2x 30m of CAT6 UTP cable
  • 2x double keystone faceplates and back boxes
  • Krone IDC punch tool – better than the basic one that came with my crimper

In fact the other day I even had to buy an IEC power cable (kettle lead)!

That means I can move the router back downstairs so don’t have to run a phone extension cable across my bedroom.

I’m still waiting for my Asus Netbooks to be exchanged/refunded; although WDC were quite quick to exchange my 1.5Tb hard disk.

The 16Gb Bytestor USB flash drives have arrived, they look nice and solid, I got up to 45mbps writes.

I’ve also upgraded WordPress to 3.0.4

Mum, PP and AP have gone back to France this morning, its been nice having the company this week, seems quiet today.

New Home Theatre setup

I’ve just bought a 37″ LCD TV, 1080i FullHD all the bells and whistles. Its lovely. I’m awaiting a HDMI->DVI cable for my Mac Mini, and then that will be hooked up to replace my Xbox as my media centre box (running Plex).

Someone is seriously inflating the cost of computer accessories in France though – a 1.5 metre HDMI->DVI cable was 30e in the supermarket where the LCD came from, or four quid including postage from ebay UK for 2m!

I’ve moved the CRT telly into the snooker room, along with the Xbox. I tried overclocking my OpenWRT wireless routers to get the signal through the two 3 foot walls, and it just managed it at 15dbm (up from 7dbm!) but there’s more noise and heat and less signal now, so streaming video doesn’t work, even though http/ping/ssh are usable. So I’m going to have to run some CAT5e up from my bedroom through the lofts and down I think – which I already did when we renovated the snooker room, although its on the opposite wall to where I need the TV, and we’ve sealed up where the a cable could run behind the skirting boards!

I’ve got to do the same down to the Mac, as I tested and even 720p video’s can’t stream over 54g wireless (regular DivX does of course) and VNC is a bit slow too, gigabit will be much nicer. So I should be able to run a cable from a switch in my computer room, through the ceiling where the gas pipes go, and along the beam in the lounge to the Mac. I’ve got to look into the effects of running UTP cable alongside copper pipes, and then either beg some cable from PP, or see if the couple of 25m lengths I’ve got are enough – should be for the Mac, dunno about the snooker room though.

If I cable those two up, I can completely disable wireless in my house, it is an awful piece of technology really – too many “standards” with differing implementations, way overstated speeds and far too vulnerable to interference from microwaves, phones etc. Fine for some casual web surfing from a laptop, although I don’t have a laptop anymore – another piece of technology I don’t really have a use for.

I’ve also got to get a friend to help me run some more satellite cable (which I’ve got to measure and buy too) for the snooker room, I’ve got a spare Sky box, card and LNB socket, so might as well plug it into the telly.

It’s sweltering hot the last couple of days, I’ve been over to the folks and used their jacuzzi, but it doesn’t cool you much when its over 31c outside. My lounge is about the coolest place at the moment, being all thick stone walls and tile floors, as long as I keep the door shut.

Update: I just moved my 24″ LCD onto my main desktop machine, seems like a waste on the laptop docking station (it used to share with the Mac Mini) and wow, 1900×1200 is a lot of desktop space! You can play 1280×1024 games in a window, or have what used to be a fullscreen VirtualBox session in a window and still have about a third of the desktop free. Websites can look a bit odd though. An 80-column text editor only fills about a third of the screen too, so it should be useful for programming. The sound is a bit tinny compared to the 19″ though – as that was a TV as well, so had good speakers. Of course its handy for watching movies with the widescreen aspect ratio.

Update 2: I found that even the wireless speed of the Mac Mini was unacceptable – scp’ing a 700Mb DivX took ages, so I’m currently hanging a 15m piece of CAT6 out of the window and in through the back door! Getting around 35MBytes/sec over GigE now, so copying a 4.4Gb Matroska file took under 3mins!

I’ve also figured out how to sleep the Mac Mini remotely, as if you use shutdown it won’t wake using WOL. So you just make the following AppleScript:


tell application "System Events" to sleep

chmod a+x it and run it over SSH.

Wakey Wakey

I got Wake On LAN (WOL) working on my server today, its nice to be able to turn it on from any machine on my network (including my rourter!) without having to wander to my computer room. I use ether-wake as that send magic packets, the wol package uses UDP which doesn’t seem to work.

I’ve just bought from eBay, a Linksys WPS54G wireless print server, so that I can print to my laser without having the fileserver powered on, and I can move it to a better location across the room. I’m keeping the inkjet on the fileserver as the print server doesn’t support the scanning function.

Also from eBay, I’m also getting a new WiFi card for the laptop I’ve given Mum as RT2500 support seems to be useless in Fedora9, Ubuntu 8.04 and CentOS 5.2, this one is an NEC WL54G which does 802.11B, A and G+ up to 108Mbps, which will be interesting to try with my Buffalo router which can do 125Mbps G+, I bet it doesn’t work due to the implementations differing. Well 54Mbps will be fine anyway with the Freebox. Hopefully this will work better as it can use the kernel-based ath5k or third-party MadWifi Atheros AR5002X drivers.

We’ve 99% finished the shell, we moved the snooker table and sofa in now its carpeted. Dad’s mounted the scoreboard and cue rack etc. I’ve even put my mini fridge in there to keep the beers cold! The landing and lounge in the main house look so much more spacious now too.

Update: just watched The Babysitters, about a bunch of teen babysitters who offer “extras” to the clients. It was OK, gets a bit serious after a while with them devolving into druggie-thug-pimps.

Update – NOT

Its been way too long since my last post, and now I’m back in France I have plenty to write about in the Personal category and a few for the Movies category, so much that I’m going to leave it for another day or just skip it altogether!

So I thought I’d bung in some quick techie snippets instead:

I’ve been playing with Oracle 11gR1 on Linux and 10gR2 on Solaris today, coding up some auditing scripts, which has gotten me back into Bourne Shell programming, ooh its been nice. I’ve also been using Git a lot more too, although mainly from the CLI rather than the QGit GUI – which is nice, but not my thing really, GUI’s just seem to slow me down.

Yesterday I finally got my RT2500 wireless card working in the laptop I’m giving Mum. I ditched Fedora9 and CentOS 5.2 as RedHat seem to be doing their best to destroy wifi – indeed a recent kernel patch stopped any wifi but Atheros chipsets from working at all. Anyway, I hate to say it, but I installed Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Desktop and wireless worked out-of-the-box.

I’ve been playing with OSXBMC on the Mac Mini – although now they’ve renamed it “Plex” and are merging with some skin-project called CenterStage. I played my first HD movie on my new 24″ widescreen monitor and its great!

I’ve converted my middle bedroom into a computer room, so now have half a dozen computers and God knows how much network equipment all buzzing away with their flashing LED’s in just one room – and not where I’m trying to sleep! I’ve been looking on eBay for a print server, but they’re either too expensive to ship from the UK or the French are dicking around, so I think I’ll give up.

When the shell’s finished (pretty soon) I’ll probably move one of the PC’s in there, with an old CRT or something – I’ve already wired up the CAT6 and a gigabit switch!