Browse Category: Jeromy’s News

Repurposing a Barracuda Web Filter 210

So on a recent trip to a remote office I ended up bringing back some old equipment that needs to be recycled. Sometimes this means we send it to a recycling center but often we end up reusing it ourselves. This time I brought back a Barracuda Web Filter 210 that we used for content filtering in that office. We’ve since moved to a virtualized version of Barracuda so we no longer needed this installed.

Barracuda 210

I have been wanting to play with linux router distributions like pfsense, untangle and endian but didn’t really want to waste a quad core computer for such a simple task. The Barracuda was a perfect match as the specs are an exact match for what I need.

If you can find one of these Barracuda devices on ebay and are wanting a small and very quite server, these are the perfect match. I’ve unplugged the case fan for now but even with it on the entire machine is barely audible from across the room.

Inside of case

Motherboard: ASUS AT3GC-I - Newegg
CPU: Intel Atom 330 64-bit dual core @ 1.6ghz w/ Hyperthreading
RAM: 1GB DDR2
HD: 80GB SATA
PCI: Custom Realtek 8139 10/100 dual port NIC, ports mounted on front of case

With the server back home and the software downloaded, I began the process of trying to get it to boot from USB. Barracuda has locked the BIOS down with a password locking out the undetermined. For those that are interested the BIOS password is BCNDK1. Once in the BIOS you’ll want to change the boot order to promote either the IDE drive for booting from CDROM or the most likely, the USB ports.

For pfSense the best method of installing via USB is from their own website. Follow these instructions and it’s pretty easy to get installed.

If you are looking for the best all free way to route and filter your traffic than pfSense is the way to go. The “best” way may not be the easiest so I’m currently looking and playing with other distributions such as Edian, Zentyal and Untangle. I’ll try to put together a comparison of my experiences with them all and post that here.

New toy, the iPad2

So a few weeks ago I entered one of site surveys we all see and most of us just skim past. Take our survey to help improve our site and enter for a chance to win an iPad2! Yea right I thought but the website was one I really enjoy and I thought if nothing else my input might help them actually make the website better.

So a few weeks latter I’m at work talking to my office mate when I see an email from the admin of the site. I thought great, they picked the winner and were announcing it through email, skip. I decided to read the first of the email and noticed it was actually sent only to me, informing me that I had won their iPad2 from the survey drawing!

Anyways, I’ve had a Viewsonic G-Tablet for a few months and even have honeycomb on it. I really loved my HC tablet, the entire HC experience was a huge improvement for tablet users over Android 2.x.

I was actually planning on just loading my work apps on the iPad and not using it much. Well, two weeks later and I can’t put it down. I think the biggest plus over my G-Tablet is the screen size difference. The 9.7″ is a better format than the 10.1″. I didn’t think it would be but it’s easier to hold the iPad than the G-Tablet.

Another plus is the speed. I know I can’t compare a hacked HC to the iPad but the responsiveness overall is just so much better with the iPad.

My one problem where Android does get it right is app scaling. Android 2.x apps scale very well on HC. On the flip side the way Apple offers their 2X button for iPhone apps is a pain in the rear.

Always, just thought I’d share my thoughts after using both platforms for awhile.

Sent from my iPad :)

New HTPC!

So for Christmas I really only wanted one of two things. Either a used Nook or a new HTPC so I could finally move my desktop back to where it belongs, my desk. I missed the Nook refurbs on Ebay so I took my search to craigslist.org. While I’ve had great luck in the past using craigslist for finding stuff this time was less then stellar. The few people that were selling were wanting too much in my opinion. So after talking to my wife about it, we decided it was time for me to build a proper HTPC.

I’ve had a wish list going on newegg.com since may of this year. I’d update it with newer parts or a better case to suit my needs but never had the money to fit it into our budget at the time. After talking with my wife I got motivated to finish it and buy it. (An hour after I purchased everything, B&N put their refurbed nooks on sale again, oh well.)

Parts List

APEX DM-318 Black Steel Micro ATX Media Center / Slim HTPC Computer Case w/ ATX12V Flex 275W Power Supply

ASUS M4A88T-M LE AM3 AMD 880G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard

AMD Athlon II X2 255 Regor 3.1GHz Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor ADX255OCGMBOX

A-DATA 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model AD3U1333B2G9-DRH

Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD5000BEVT 500GB 5400 RPM 2.5″ SATA 3.0Gb/s Internal Notebook Hard Drive -Bare Drive

So I ended up going with a Athlon II X2 because when monitoring performance on my triple core desktop, CPU usage was never very high, even while watching 720p mkv files. I went with the 500gb 2.5″ drive for heat and noise reasons and couldn’t be happier with the performance for the price. I’m not too thrilled with my case selection only because the stock case fan is too noisy. I’m planning on replacing that and the cpu fan with much quieter models before moving it all to the entertainment center in my living room. The case had decent build quality and I didn’t have too many space issues except where the ATX power plug is on the motherboard is directly below the back of the DVD drive.

My total build time was around 4 hours from unpacking to being able to watch live tv in MCE. I’d much rather have a 64gb SSD for OS to speed up the boot and switching between MCE/Boxee/Hulu Desktop/XBMC but I can live with the few seconds during transitions.

I’ve spent time since cleaning up MCE with Media Center Studio by applying a beautiful theme, cleaning up the menus a bit removing stuff we don’t use. Automatic logon for Windows 7 is much needed for any HTPC that uses a password (I use one because I map shares from my WHS).

Overall I’m very happy with my purchase and build. In the next few months I’m hoping to upgrade the DVD drive to a blu-ray drive and replace the case fan and heatsink/fan for the CPU with much quieter alternatives. I did ask my wife how she liked it and she said she didn’t even know I had swapped it out. So I guess I did my job well enough.

OTA Tuner Finally Installed

So one thing we’ve been missing since cutting the cable is news. I’m ok with using Justin.tv via Boxee to watch CNN but local news was lacking. I thought about writing a plugin to grab the videos from local news sites but it wasn’t live, and they don’t offer a live feed of weather.

So we decided to purchase tv tuners for the HTPC. Now I’m using a AMD Phenom II triple core with 8gb of ram in an Antec Sonata III so resources or space were not a concern for me. My biggest concern was cost as it is with most people. I was really set on grabbing a refurbed HDHomeRun but Newegg was out of stock for so long that I decided to skip it.

I had ordered two 2.5″ USB drive enclosures from a new to me website called meritline.com (great deal on them btw!). I decided to check their site for HD OTA tuners and found a nice small USB tuner for 24.99 or two for 44.99. Decided to pick up two of these since I figured we wouldn’t be using them more then that. Side note, thanks for putting these on sale an hour after I purchased them.

So a week later I was finishing up putting christmas lights on the house and the postman stopped by with my early present. Since the wife and kid were gone doing whatever they do when I’m not around, I decided to drop what I was doing and get these installed before they came back.

The installation went pretty quick once I decided to not read the description and just use the included CD for my Windows 7 x64 HTPC. Plugged them both in, ran the installer, scanned for new tuners in MCE and scanned for channels. Found every channel I should have been able to receive but of course as reviewers noted, the included antennas are junk. So off to Amazon to buy a new antenna Picked up a nice refurbed internal/external Phillips MANT940 for $23. Mounted it in the closet above the HTPC and fixed the quality issues I was having with ABC and PBS.

So with this setup we’ve finally rounded out our HTPC and our quest to forget about cable tv. We’re so happy with the extra $80 a month we’re saving. Even happier now that both Netflix and Hulu have dropped the price on their monthly fees.

Boxee & ESPN3: Heaven on earth?

Well I’ve been waiting for this day for quite some time. The chance to legally get live sports on our HTPC. Windows Media Center can give me scores, i’m sorry but this is like sitting outside the stadium and someone running out giving you updates. PlayOn does offer ESPN3 in it’s list of compatible streams but I really don’t want to dish out more money when my reason for cutting cable is to lower my costs.

Enter Boxee. We’ve been waiting for months for a Boxee developer who promised he was working on an ESPN3.com App and while their is a Justin.tv that does an ok job of delivering live sports, the quality does remind me of using rabbit ears to watch Dukes of Hazard when I kid in Enid. I did do something that most people don’t do. I did contact ESPN and ask them to create their own app for Boxee and was told my request was sent to the appropriate department, thanks guys.

Last week a forum member by the name of phikai posted screenshots of his ESPN3 app that he had developed. Sure it was rough around the edges but finally live sports on Boxee? Sign me up. So after installing his repository, I added his app to My Apps and created the long awaited shortcut to my home screen. So far I’ve watched around 8-10 hours of live events and could not be happier. Only once did the quality get stuck in “crappy” mode but all the other times the quality has been awesome. I really wish they would maybe simulcast more games from their other networks on their ESPN3.com brand but I can’t begin to imagine the contracts that would need to be tweaked for that to happen. Oh well, at least I still have justin.tv. :)

Resources:

ESPN3.com – Formerly known as ESPN360. Not available for all users, your ISP must pay for this access.

Boxee.tv – If you don’t know by know then move on.

Getting Started with Usenet

I meant to repost this great article on getting started with Usenet when it appeared on Lifehacker but my OCD kicked in and I think I instead went to browse for new movies or something. Sickbeard+ SABnzbd will win over most torrent users with it’s easy to use interfaces, and if you want to use this combo on a WHS or just want it to run in the background, check out Any Service Installer.

Lifehacker: Getting Started with Usenet

And yes, total coincidence that I repost this the same day as Apple’s $0.99/show announcement. :)

Google Voice Transition to Gapps Account

This service is one of my most used and favorite apps on the web. Basically it’s one phone number that routes to all your phones. Be it a Gizmo5 line, Skype (with some hacks), cell phone, home phone, etc. This week they rolled out a new feature allowing you to call directly from Gmail. It’s truly a great app if you are using an Android smartphone. The Google Voice integration is top notch including eliminating the need for a txt message plan with my carrier (T-Mobile).

This was all well and good until I began the transition to a full Google account with my Google Apps service. In the past my Voice account was tied to my gmail.com address along with Reader, Analytics and Picasa. When I was accepted into the beta this became a problem because I could no longer login to my gmail account with my secondary account (lukenbaugh.com). One by one Google started to transition the apps over for use with my lukenbaugh.com account. Voice seemed to be the only holdout so against their warning saying it wouldn’t work, I signed up to have my Voice account moved from my gmail account to my lukenbaugh.com. It took a few days but everything moved over nicely including past voicemails and recorded names/greetings.

Here is the spreadsheet from Google to get your Google Voice account moved.

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