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Technological Advances

November 17th, 2007

It’s been a pretty good start to the weekend. We’ve managed to get rid of 5-6 bags of old clothes and a couple more computers. Jenn has been putting some of the more hobbyist related computer equipment on ebay and actually getting a fair bit of cash for some of our old toys. We still have a handful of things to list, but it’s encouraging to know we may get a little cash for things I was expecting to have to haul off for recycling.

Last night, I finally found the reason I was having so much trouble getting WDS to work between the cradlepoint 350 abnd the linksys running openwrt. Apparently, WDS support was completely broken on the cradlepoint prior to firmware 1.7. So if WDS is beating you, check your firmware version on the cradlepoint. Once the firmware was updated, WDS was pretty easy to get setup.

Why do we need WDS? Well, a few years back, I bought a ReadyNAS. It’s an extremely nice little NAS with enough features to be useful in a mid-sized datacenter. It supports wifi, but not very well. I finally got a wifi card that would work, but only with WEP and it still had trouble actually talking to the network.

To sum up my opinions:

Cradlepoint is a nice EVDO/wifi router at a very reasonable price. It has support for all the basics you would want in a personal firewall. It isn’t going to support site to site VPN mapping, but it will handle traffic shaping, ACL’s, NAT and special case protocols that require a bit more than standard NAT such as SIP, RTSP and VPN clients. It also has a few features that are neat, but are just unneeded for our application such as scheduled ACL’s and registering with dynamic DNS services.

The U727 EVDO dongle and Sprint service is still working great. We’ve recently hit speeds as high as 1.2mb. External antenna connectors are still very hard to come by, but once we get one, I expect to have even fewer problems.

The Linksys WRTSL54GS is just plain overpowered with 8MB of flash, 32MB of RAM, a 264mhz processor and a USB port for expansion. It’s more powerful than my first UNIX box by an order of magnitude.

OpenWRT is still not quite ready for prime time. There are a ton of things you can do with this firmware on the Linksys router platform, but the GUI needs a lot of work before it will be useful for the average person. Currently, it’s an excellent solution for the hobbyist or small businesses that have someone geeky enough to support it. We’ve been using OpenWRT for about 2 years now without any real complaints other than the initial setup requiring a fair bit of research to do anything slightly complicated.

The ReadyNAS platform is very robust. After nearly two years, the only real complaint I have is that the wifi support is almost non-existant. With advances in open source NAS software, I might build my own NAS next time, but I caught the ReadyNAS on sale at Newegg a couple years back and the cost was only about $150 more than the hard drives alone. For 700GB of RAID5 storage, it’s a pretty good solution. I plan to upgrade it to about 3TB of raided storage once the 1TB drives come down a bit more. So far, it has worked quite well for both windows file sharing and NFS. I’ve also done a bit of web based file sharing and been pleased with the added accessibility of my data.

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