Thursday, 19 March 2015

My Essential Chrome Extensions

Google Chrome has worked it's way into my daily routine of work and home. I was a big big fan of Firefox and couldn't see myself ditching the browser but now I work almost exclusively on Chrome. Here are some of the extensions that I have to have installed for my work-flow.

Adblock Plus - I don't click on ads anyway so it helps keep my browser window tidy but the main reason I use it is to block potentially malicious ads that could contain nasty little malware.

Clearly - Another add-on to keep my browser window clean and tidy. This extension from Evernote makes it easy to read text by removing the images and putting it on an easy-on-the-eye background of your choosing. You can also use it to print and clip to Evernote.

Evernote Web Clipper - Speaking of Evernote, the web clipper enables you to save parts of a web page to your notebooks (rather than printing the whole screen with Clearly).

Ghostery - Excellent extension for blocking trackers.

Save To Pocket - Essential bookmarking service that is cross-platform and can download items for reading when offline.

Feedly Mini - Feedly replaced Google Reader as my main go to for news and other RSS feeds. This extensions helps you quickly add and share content.

Pushbullet - Phone notifications on your computer that you can also respond to. For example, reply to a text message when you are busy working on your desktop. Also able to push content to your phone.

HTTPS Everywhere - Force websites to use HTTPS where possible.

Web of Trust - Make sure that link you are clicking or web site you are visiting is genuine and trustworthy.


Then below there are a few applications that I don't sync to home that are for work only:

Chrome Remote Desktop - Used to access my office desktop from android app.

PDF Mergy - I work a lot with building plans and this enables me to merge them together to send as one attachment rather than dozens.

PDF Split - Again for building plans, when I just want a single floor, for example, and the contractors have sent the whole lot as one I can split the pages.

Notable PDF - Annotate PDF's.

Lucidchart - Mainly I used it for accessing and editing Visio documents.

Autocad 360 - For building drawings again. This time working with DWG files.

Google Keep - Simple note taking to sync with phone. Include text, audio and pictures. Take a very quick note when I am out and about using the android widget and then do what I need to with it when I'm back in the office.

Trello - Great application for helping manage projects. Has been very useful on a number of projects we have had. Also I have the extension Cardcounter for Trello added to keep track of how many cards are in each table, or to-do list.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Giving your Cat5e superpowers - NBaseT

With wave 2 of ac wireless access points about to hit the market this year network managers have been wondering how best to solve the potential bottleneck problem of having access points capable of over 1Gbps but existing cabling limited to 1Gbps.

Some have suggested running two cables to each access point, others have suggested ripping out all your Cat5/5e ethernet and replacing it with 6a.

There is now another solution. Cisco presented a discussion about a new technology called NBase-T at Cisco Live (Milan), the video for which is here: Vimeo. This technology, not limited to Cisco, aims to achieve speeds of 2.5Gbps and 5Gbps over existing cabling. This can offer significant advantages over replacing your cabling, not least the cost. NBase-T also supports all current versions of Power-over-Ethernet.

Concentrating on Cisco, as that is the switching technology we use here, hence the one I'm interested in, the Catalyst 4500, Catalyst 3850 and C3560-CX support this technology.

We'll see over the next few years whether this technology is something we can take advantage off in our older buildings (new ones will have Cat6a) where 'Multigigabit' connections may be needed.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Grrr (Apple user gripe)

Dear Apple users, please stop doing this!


You set up your own Wifi networks (at work!) with 80MHz wide channels and force our teaching spaces wireless off the first four available channels. So if any students or staff bring Nexus devices along then they won't be able to connect.

You also add to the interference on 2.4Ghz too, that is already congested and short of channel space.



I don't care how great you think your iTunes library is, this is a place of work and you are interfering with the network.

:(

Friday, 10 October 2014

New Hangouts Chrome app available

Just downloaded the new Hangouts for Chrome (available at this link). I'm impressed, although people say it's like Facebook Messenger (I don't know, I don't have a Facebook account).

We use Hangouts for department communications (and a few off the record comments) mainly when we can't get a phone signal, such as at the student village. We use Google Apps for Education so we all have an account automatically.

The new look is shown in the video below:

What a week - No internet, no phones

It's Friday, thankfully.

What a week it's been. The 'fun' started on Tuesday when, not just us, but all higher education establishments in Yorkshire and Humberside, lost network connectivity to the outside world. So all those services that were moved to be hosted off site for resilience (email, documents, calendar, VLE, library catalogue) were inaccessible.

There was speculation that the problem may have been due to a digger going through some fibre cables in Leeds (see picture).

Source: Twitter

Today we have come in to find our phone connectivity is down as our suppliers have suffered a 'major power outage'. All internal and external calls, as well as faxes, are currently not possible.

Again we are completely in the hands of a suppliers to restore services.

So from a comms point of view, we have had a fairly quiet week, resorting to Facebook and Twitter for updates via 3G. It certainly shows how much we use and rely these links.

In other news: We passed our record of 15k concurrent users on wireless (set during exams last year) this week. We will need to start using NAT as we only have 16-17,000 IP addresses we can allocate to wireless.



Monday, 6 October 2014

Windows 95 on Samsung Gear

I am going to try to get back into blogging what we are up to with work and networking and wireless and so forth, but it has been incredibly busy.

For now enjoy this video of Windows 95 running on a smartwatch:



Check out this guys full android wear playlist here. So far, in addition to Windows 95, he has tried Minecraft and Doom

Monday, 22 September 2014

Arrivals weekend

This weekend we had our annual intake of new students. As usual we spent the weekend providing support to the new newbies to enable them to get on the network, use wireless and sort out their passwords. We also spent the weekend catching up with those last minute jobs that need doing before term starts.

A wet first day


The first day was a wet one, in more ways than one. The rain was making an appearance as the first group of new students started to arrive and then we had a flood in one of our student accommodation buildings.

Wet cables

The water had made it's way into the plant room and all our kit had to be shut off in this area. Also, rather annoyingly, whoever installed the CCTV kit moved one of our IEC leads into a power strip at the bottom of the cab that they had installed (ours are halfway up to avoid such incidents) and this was submerged in water before it was all pumped away. As a lot of the ethernet cables come from the bottom of the cab, rather than the top, most of these will need to be replaced too.

As well as the student faults I had a post-installation wireless survey of the new Journalism and Economics building to carry out, that I managed early Saturday before many students had arrived. Also there were approximately 28 access points to set up in languages and another 77 to configure in Computer Science, Research and Information Studies.

I didn't get that many set up however as I was still looking at faulty wireless access points at around 5-6pm on Sunday.

One wouldn't download the image and another didn't want to boot until it had a console cable plugged in (?)

We also had to do a bodge job (yuck! - on orders from above) as a resident was asking for compensation due to a job to install properly being held up with Estates.

Couldn't connect to wireless from their room with antenna in or on the cab, no sockets or cables to use and couldn't do any drilling so a temporary fix...tape, lots and lots of tape

Needless to say it was a busy old weekend (which the tax man will appreciate).

Just want to make it through registration this week with enough time to sort out the teaching spaces and then pack all the registration kit away on Saturday for another year.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Intro To Spectrum Analysers

I've not had time to get to grips with or go through the training on how to use it but, after taking the Spectrum XT home the other day, I certainly found it useful and our team boss asked me to write a little about it.


At home my WiFi kept dropping out. It worked fine on 5GHz but unfortunately Playstations, Chromecasts and my tablet are all only capable of using the 2.4GHz frequency. I had the Wifi Anayzer app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.farproc.wifi.analyzer&hl=en_GB) on my phone and according to that I had a few neighbours on channel 11 and a handful on 6 (with a few in between), so channel 1 for my network seemed perfect. My signal strength seemed strong but first my tablet and then after a while my TV kept disconnecting and struggling to maintain a connection.



We recently purchased the Spectrum XT (http://www.flukenetworks.com/enterprise-network/wireless-network/airmagnet-spectrum-xt) to help with such mysteries and I borrowed it see what it could find.



I found 2 access points on channel 11 and half a dozen on 6 that the adapter could see. It also straight away solved my channel 1 problem.




As you can see in the first picture the duty cycle on channel 1 (as well as 2 and 3) is 100% and is due to a wireless security camera someone nearby has installed that is transmitting all the time. A waste of time using any of these channels then as my access point will stop beaconing and my devices attempting to associate with a duty cycle that high.

Just as I was about to put the laptop away (and move my wireless to channel 6, the least congested) my neighbour must have turned their microwave on, as you can see from the spectrogram in the second picture it caused a fair bit of noise around channel 7 and the ones around it. No wonder all my neighbours are using channel 11.The duty cycle is not high though because the microwave is not close (if it was mine it could be around 50-60%) and they do not continually transmit. If I turned mine on and tried to use the same channel it would probably halve my throughput but would/should still work.


So they mystery of the dropping out connection is solved and, in this case, the best thing is to have multiple access points on the same channel.

Roll on the time when we have 5GHz in every device!