While we’re on an OpenWRT kick, let me mention that Amazon has the guaranteed flashable WRT-54GL for less than $50 again. I won’t even provide a non-referral link, so as not to raise eyebrows at wordpress.[non-]com[mercial]. I’m sure you could find it.

Possibly the best reason someone who’s not interested in getting to know their network or doing fun things with it is the possibility to use just one OpenWRT/DD-WRT/Tomato device (along with any standard wireless router) to extend internet connectivity to another part of the house without running wires or using shaky (and unencrypted) Power-Over-Ethernet.

On my list of future projects to waste my money on, though, is a set of cheap 802.11n devices, replacing the “G” bridges I’ve had for the last few years. Apparently, that day is near or already here. Of course “N” speeds only matter if you’re concerned with moving data between machines in the home. For a normal residence, any available residential networking technology is faster (in most cases orders of magnitude faster) than even the best of the universally crappy available residential internet connections, and so the bottleneck will always be at the WAN side (especially for upload.) Of course these days, most small businesses are actually paying more for even crappier Internet service. But I digress…

On a last OpenWRT note, if I had known about this contest in time, I definitely would have put together a team and devoted a few months. Maybe it really does pay to read Slashdot.

Over the last month or so, I’ve been doing assorted tasks for the Lehigh Valley’s premier business VoIP provider. One of the more tedious VoIP related tasks is getting out-of-the-box VoIP hardware from its factory default state to fully configured. Nearly all hardware accepts some sort of remote provisioning, but you have to somehow let the phone know the path to the provisioning server (as well as related settings.)

In some cases, you can use DHCP option 66 and specify a TFTP server as you might for other netbooting devices. But in a situation where your providing phones to clients for a Hosted PBX (and in most other situations) TFTP is less than ideal, and relying on control of the DHCP server is unrealistic.

There are (usually) two more ways of providing the configuration information: through the phone’s user interface, and through the web control panel. Just grab your (non-fully-keypadded) mobile and dash off a text message with a link to a Google Maps URI and you’ll get a sense of what the first option is like. The second is only slightly less tedious.

Fortunately it’s not so difficult to tease out the http requests the web interfaces for the various phones need. (Firebug, or at least “View Source,” is a tremendous help in this. Tamper Data, or similar tools, can help in making sure things really work the way you think they do.)

With this information we can build up command line scripts with which we can automate the process of giving phones their initial configuration. prov.rb is a Ruby-based application I’ve been working on which configures phones one phone, IP range, or subnet at a time, logs MAC addresses, and more. (I’ll be committing to GitHub as I get time over the next week. I’d love help working out the kinks, and especially for adding more hardware varieties.

In the course of working on prov.rb, I teased out the POST requests for configuring all of these basic settings on both Aastra and Grandstream phones. In addition to writing a client in Ruby, Python, Perl, or whatever, one can also make these requests quite well with cURL or, my preference, wget. So, in the next two posts I’ll provide sample commands for these two brands of phones:
(I’ll add the links once I write the posts.)

Of general interest is that each company (similar to nearly every other maker of VoIP and networking hardware) use largely identical web panels across their product range. This means the same script will work with basic ATAs as with high end phones and gateways. This is especially true if you are just setting a provisioning path for the phones to get their specific configuration.

The main difference between the Aastra and Grandstream panels is that Grandstream uses cookie based authentication, while Aastra uses basic http authentication. Neither of these would do anything to secure the phones in a hostile network environment, so I won’t even speculate on the reasons for the choice of one over another. The basic authentication is a little simpler to manage than cookies with wget, and you’re not stuck with an extra file to clean up.

If your provisioning lab/supply closet/garage is anything like ours, you probably have quite a few OpenWRT boxes laying around. OpenWRT does include wget as part of Busybox, but this is a crippled minimal version of wget, which is missing options for cookies, authentication, and even manual setting of headers. I believe there is an ipkg available for a full version of wget, which could be useful. I’m still looking forward to installing the Ruby ipkg for use with prov.rb.

Way too many choices, with some interesting things expected in the near future.

Via Gizmodo

Forty percent of respondents said features like iPod connectivity and GPS navigation were a factor in choosing a car and 16 percent said it was a “significant ” factor.

That can’t be right. Either of those things are simple and (relatively) inexpensive add-ons.

And 12 percent said high-tech features like Ford s Sync are more important than the price performance cargo room and fuel economy combined.

**Chough**Choke** What?

So what are the hot technologies people want to see? Photochromic glass that gets darker as the light gets brighter was by far the hottest tech.

So many old ladies vindicated. Until we start having a rash of parking lot pileups as the glass takes a minute or more to adjust.

Just 130 people responded to the online poll so it can hardly be called scientific.

Ah, now I get it. Forget science, 130 people in an online poll at a random car site can’t even be called anecdotal.

Ford’s sold twice as many cars with Sync as without…


And now for the scariest part:

Microsoft is the company they’d most like to see co-design a car…

Notice that’s co-design the car, not the gadgets. And you thought a BSOD when your desktop crashes was bad.

American Consumers Not As Enlightened As You Think

RIM handed snooping ultimatum by Indian government – The INQUIRER

India’s government is delaying the licencing of Blackberry services by the mobile wireless company Tata Teleservices until its demands are met. It has threatened other Blackberry service providers in India with licence [sic] cancellation unless they also give it access to emails transmitted over Blackberry services by March 31st.

Speculation: might tax evasion and other financial crimes be the real target here? And, I suppose, organized crime which is at the nexus of financial crime, terrorism, political corruption, and just about every other Bollywood plot.

Give One Get One

September 24, 2007

I’m glad to see that the OLPC project finally gave in on this. The press coverage has entirely missed the point, though, and it doesn’t look like Negroponte is doing anything to clear up the misunderstandings. So here is my official summary for all you press-release-regurgitating tech and business “reporters”:

  1. This is not something OLPC all of a sudden thought up as a solution to their demand problems. It’s something that an entire community has been clamoring for for several years. Whenever the OLPC project solicited feedback of any kind, this was, without fail, the most common and popular suggestion.
  2. The OLPC people never said that they would refuse to sell it in America or the rest of the developed world. Negroponte was always very specific about this point. The market they refused to sell to was that of individuals: whether in the developing or developed world. They insisted they would only distribute this product through government departments of education. Their goal was not to provide an affordable and commercially viable technology solution for underprivileged regions. Their goal was ONE LAPTOP PER CHILD.

The question, now I suppose is how exactly the donated machines are going to be distributed. Will countries sign up for an eligibility list, or will donated machines be tied to number of purchased machines?
I got to see one of the XO machines last winter, and I played with the LiveCD of the Sugar interface. It is pretty neat. I’m surprised so little of the mainstream press has had anything at all to say about the innovations in either software or hardware aside from the hand crank. But I guess that’s the way the press release gets regurgitated.
One Laptop Per Child — XO Giving

Bluetooth-enabled Mutawwa

September 17, 2007

The head of the Riyadh Branch of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice inaugurated the test launch of what it called the “Awareness Messaging System via Bluetooth” at one of the Riyadhs large shopping centers.

The service, aims to send a number of awareness messages to youths visiting the shopping center from both genders.

Since the introduction of Bluetooth enabled mobile phones in 2004, The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has made several attempts to curb what it considers “the negative and immoral utilization of Bluetooth technology in violation of the Islamic Shariaa.” However, these attempts have failed in preventing the technology from finding its way into the hands of Saudi Arabia youths.

Dr Abdullah al-Shithri, head of the Riyadh Branch of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, does not consider this step a consequence of his organizations failure to fight what he regards as “the drawbacks that have emerged as a result of using Bluetooth technology.”

Al-Shithri told Asharq Al-Awsat, “Embarking on this course does not mean that our other efforts to fight the bad manifestations of this technology have failed. However, we do want to make use of modern technology.” He stressed his decisive rejection of the rumors that are being circulated that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is opposed to this technology. He said, “We are not against Bluetooth technology. Rather, we are against the misuse of any kind of technology.”

Although still in its testing stage, the “Awareness Messaging System via Bluetooth” according to Al-Shithri will be utilized in all of Riyadhs shopping centers and family parks.

Al-Shithri would not elaborate on the exact number of Bluetooth crimes that have been detected by his commissions fieldworkers, but did say that that “these crimes are in the hundreds.”

A study conducted in the Al-Qasim region northeast of Riyadh reveals that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has intercepted 500 Bluetooth messages. The study adds that 90 percent of these messages were sexual in nature.

Asharq Alawsat Newspaper English

The interesting part is that this really shows how far behind the US is on the technology adoption curve. Our government is still intercepting landlines, and the Saudis are over intercepting Bluetooth and on to spamming it. I don’t even know anyone who uses Bluetooth peer-to-peer connections (as opposed to printer/headphone/etc. connections) for legitimate purposes here, let alone for moral iniquities.

What does it take to send broadcast Bluetooth messages? Is the technology such that someone on, say, Umra could broadcast random aya-translations from Kanz al-Iman and salawat and tawassul-infused du`as to everyone about to enter Masjid Nabawwi or Masjid al-Haram? Sweet sufi subversion.