I recently bought an Asus RT-N66R wireless router to replace the increasingly buggy Western Digital myNET N900 router which has been randomly disconnecting everyone from the Internet at least twice daily, requiring a hard reset. And there isn’t going to be a fix as WD has discontinued support, e.g. no firmware updates. But after 48 hours, I’m happy to report the RT-N66R has not disconnected me once.
Starting from the outside, the RT-N66R is a very good looking router with it’s textured crosshatch patterned top and blue LED activity lights to it’s three removable antennas to the silver embossed ASUS logo. Plus it comes with a detachable stand which allows for it to be mounted vertically. Around the back there are four gigabit LAN ports, a single gigabit WAN port, two USB inputs for printers and/or external hard disks, WPS button, reset switch, power input and finally a power switch.
Setup was easy, after connecting the WAN Ethernet cable, LAN Ethernet cables and power cord I just opened a browser and immediately got redirected to the RT-N66R’s configuration page. First it asked me for a username and password for the router admin, then it tries to connect to the Internet, which in my case, I had to power cycle my modem to get the router to detect the Internet connection, finally it asks for you to set a SSID and password for 2.4 an 5GHz wireless bands to secure your network and that’s it!
Feature wise, this router has nearly everything anyone could need, from the ability to create dedicated guest Internet access isolated from the network to the ability to monitor traffic in real time, last 24 hours and daily. Parental controls which can limit access to time frames for specific mac addresses, to stop your kids from using their connected devices after bedtime is one example of parental control usage.
The USB ports can be put to good use with five different onboard applications. AIDisk which allows a USB drive to be shared over the Internet, Media Services and Servers which allows you to set up iTunes, FTP or DLNA servers and SAMBA (network drive) shares. Network Printer Server acts as a print server, you connect your USB printer to one of the USB ports and it becomes a network printer. 3G/4G allows for the connection of a 3G/4G wireless dongle or connect your smartphone for backup Internet access. Finally, there is Download Master, which allows downloads directly to an attached hard disk without a PC.
There’s more, under the AiCloud 2.0 tab, there are more external access options, Cloud Disk shares and streams data from a USB hard disk or USB stick, Smart Access enables access to SAMBA computer shares on your local network through Asus’ AiCloud Apple and Android apps or personalized web link. Smart Sync allows for syncing of data on a USB connected hard disk to the cloud, such as Asus’ Webstorage.
The RT-N66R has the usual LAN, WAN and wireless configuration options, which are pretty standard fair, nothing of note here. But what is of interest is the ability of setup a VPN server, which allows connection directly to your home network when away from home. All you need is an Internet connection to access all your home network resources like you are at home. Additionally, when you are at home, the router allows for the setup of VPN’s directly on the device itself protecting the whole network from government spying.
The firewall section is one of the most advanced I have seen on a consumer grade router, as well as the usual NAT firewall, it has URL filtering, keyword filtering, network service filtering and an IPv6 Firewall. I’d advise most buyers to leave this well enough alone, the standard settings are more than adequate.
The Asus RT-N66R is even compatible with DD-WRT should you want even more control over your router, but the standard Asus firmware is more than up to the job unless you are the ultimate power user.
Overall, I can not recommend this router enough, it has decent range, speeds of 300Mbps are easily obtainable with standard wireless hardware. I did look at the AC1900 version of this router, the RT-AC68R, but I didn’t see the point of spending the extra $70, a total throughput of 900Mbps is more than enough for my needs. The feature set is amazing given the price point of $130 high street retail, some online retailers have it for as little as $100. I just hope that it remains reliable, if it doesn’t, I will update this review/blog accordingly and give Asus a verbal bashing! But for now, I absolutely love the Asus RT-N66R.
I really wanted to buy a Surface 2 (non Pro version), but when I had the opportunity to actually buy one, I find out the device has been discontinued and I don’t want to go down the refurbished route to get one.
So I went down to Best Buy and had a 10 minute play with the Pro 3, I tested the core i5 128GB version and it seemed pretty snappy and worked well in desktop and modern UI interfaces. So I took the decision to stump up the $1000 for it but skipped the optional $130 Surface 3 Type Cover. I was offered a Best Buy credit card at checkout, so I put the cost of the Surface on the card with 12 months interest free credit.
Let’s start with the positives, the Surface Pro 3 is relatively light and a good size to hold comfortably. The 12in 1440p display is very bright and crisp although a little reflective, viewing angles are excellent. The touchscreen is very responsive and the included N-trig stylus pen works well, although in my testing missed the odd “click” here and there. The Intel Core i5 CPU, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD combination is fast, using the tablet feels zippy and I’ve not noticed any slowdown plus it’s completely silent most of the time. Battery life is good, I managed about 6.5 hours of mixed use, streaming, web browsing, Photoshop, Word etc. The Surface Pro 3 includes a full version of Windows 8.1 Pro, although it doesn’t come with a copy of Office, just a link to buy/download Office unlike it’s now discontinued stablemate, the Surface 2.
After getting the Surface 3 Pro home, I powered it on and the first thing I did after setup was check for updates, it’s a Windows machine after all and yes, there was nearly 70 updates plus a firmware update. After the updates were done, I installed Microsoft Office 2007, I really can’t be bothered with subscription based products like Office 365. Plus Photoshop CS 6, AVG Free, Chrome, Firefox and OpenVPN software.
The Surface is a good product in general, every bit as powerful as the equivalent Core i5 based ultrabook, but there are a number of issues for me that make the Surface 3 not a replacement for my i5 laptop. The first thing is a stupidly high resolution 1440p screen (2160 x 1440), there really is no need for such a high resolution display on a 12in tablet. elements are too small for touch use, even with scaling enabled.
However there is a solution if you like to delve under the hood of Windows, which I do, I definitely like to tinker. In simple terms you need to download the full driver set for the Intel graphic chip, create a custom resolution (height x 1.5) to get 3:2 ratio. See the following link for info on how to change resolution. You can use the existing presets to change resolution, but none of them are 3:2 aspect ratio and you will end up with black bars either top/bottom or left/right and in some cases both, something I can’t live with.
Second, when using the desktop, with the exception of Google Chrome, the onscreen keyboard is not automatically invoked when touching inside input elements such as URL boxes and form input boxes. I have to touch on the keyboard icon in the system tray each time I want to input something. Apparently this is by design according to some, to force us to use the new touch optimized modern UI, but even in the modern UI, there are problems, for example, when trying to search YouTube in Internet Explorer’s modern UI, the on screen keyboard disappears after 1/2 a second, not allowing time for any input.
If this is by design, it truly baffles me, why would anyone pay $1000 for a tablet when functionality is limited on the desktop side, although it would explain why Microsoft elected to discontinue the $450 Surface 2 which has zero desktop usage being limited to modern UI applications through the store.
The third thing is not so much a problem, but it’s kinda annoying, in some graphics application the Surface 3 pen does not work fully, no pressure sensitivity in many cases. But there is a fix, the pen manufacturer N-trig have created a WinTab driver for Windows 8.1 which restores that functionality. Download the driver and install it on your Surface like any other application, reboot and you’re done.
So overall, I like the Surface Pro 3, but I think it’s a little expensive, if we are shelling out $800 to almost $2000 for this device, I think the keyboard should be included as Microsoft like to claim this as a laptop replacement, which it is not, I have tried to use it like my laptop and I don’t feel as productive as I do using my laptop. Unless you specifically want the surface keyboard, I would recommend buying a small wireless keyboard and using that instead using the Surface’s USB3 port. Alternatively you can buy a small Bluetooth keyboard, such as the HP K4000 for $30 from Best Buy, which frees up the single USB3 port.
But, if you just want a tablet that allows you to play games, use social media, streaming media, Email and browsing, save your money and buy a cheaper Windows RT tablet, for example the Asus Transformer Book T100TA, which is less than half the cost and comes with a detachable keyboard. I opted for the Surface Pro 3 so I can take all my work applications with me without taking a 17.3in laptop, for most this is overkill, don’t waste your money unless you need the extra horsepower and desktop application access.
You may not have noticed due to all the legal wranglings involving Guido van der Garde and the Sauber F1 team, but there was a race that happened this weekend in Melbourne. And rather predictably Mercedes dominated the weekend with Lewis Hamilton edging out Nico Rosberg by 1.3 seconds.
I think the bigger story is the amount of retirees with five drivers not making it to the grid, the two Manor Marussia drivers never got out on track all weekend, Williams’ Valteri Bottas suffered a back injury in qualifying, McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen suffered an engine blowup and Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat stopped with gearbox issues on the way around to the grid, which left us with just 15 cars taking the start.
We lost another driver before turn 2, Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado ended up in the wall after being nudged by Felipe Nasr, who was nudged by Kimi Raikkonen, which was caused by Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz shunting Raikkonen from behind. It gets worse, Romain Grosjean pulled into the garage at the end of lap 1 to retire the second Lotus with a loss of power, which left 13 cars remaining at the end of lap 1.
Inevitably, the Maldonado crash brought out the safety car, which in itself caused drama. Force India’s Sergio Perez overtook Marcus Ericsson under safety car conditions, but because Ericsson pitted for tyres, Perez had to lose two places to drop to 13th and last position behind not only Ericsson but Button as well.
But the bright side of this is that it created a battle between Button and Perez for what was 12th place. Button robustly defended his position and in my opinion chopped across Perez causing a collision, but escaped any punishment, probably because they were squabbling over 12th position and Perez ending up in front a few laps later. It was a silly incident in my opinion as the Honda engine was being run at 10 – 15% less than maximum power due to huge issues with the brand new for 2015 Japanese power unit.
Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen’s race ended on lap 34 after reporting smoke in the car over the radio as the Dutchman pulled to the side of the track with a clear engine failure. The four power unit limit for the whole season is looking rather dodgy at this point with three drivers losing an engine already.
Another issue was the amount of issues in pit stops; mainly relating to attachment of wheels, several drivers had extended stops which caused them to lose positions. While Ferrari sent out Kimi Raikkonen with his left rear wheel not securely attached which ultimately resulted in his retirement, which brought the number of runners down to eleven but Ferrari escaped punishment for an unsafe release.
I would say that the 2015 Australian Grand Prix was far from a classic, highlight of the race was actor Arnold Schwarzenegger performing the post race podium interviews. In my opinion, the race was incredibly dull, very few actual overtakes, the change of position between Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Williams’ Felipe Massa was done through strategy and not on track. The only driver to not score a point was Jenson Button, who had no chance of winning any points on merit with Honda’s engine woes.
I would say that the young rookie drivers did very well, although it’s easier to score points with only 11 cars running. that’s not taking anything away from the likes of Verstappen, Sainz and Nasr. Clearly the battle for the title is between the Mercedes drivers, but first blood goes to Hamilton, and I suspect that this season there will be far less mechanical issues for Hamilton, so I believe it’s Hamilton’s title to lose.
2015 Australian Grand Prix Results
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:31:54.067
2. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) +1.300
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +34.500
4. Felipe Massa (Williams) +38.100
5. Felipe Nasr (Sauber) +95.100
6. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +1 LAP
7. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) +1 LAP
8. Marcus Ericcson (Sauber) +1 LAP
9. Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosoo) +1 LAP
10. Sergio Perez (Force India) +1 LAP
As some of my regular readers will know, I have recently got my first “real” credit card from my bank, I already had two store cards, but the big step was moving to a full credit card. The card that came from my bank has a $2,500 limit, which is what I requested. And after receiving several letters from Discover saying I was pre-approved, I finally caved in and applied for the card and much to my surprise after about 45 seconds, it came back saying I had been approved, but at that point I did not know how much for.
About two days later I received an Email from Discover saying that my credit limit was $6,400. I was astonished, I was expecting maybe $2 – $2,500, not as much as $6,400. Suffice to say that I am happy about it, 2 years ago, I could not establish credit for anything, no-one would even look twice at me. I then got a credit card with Kay Jewelers for $650, which I bought my wife a replacement wedding ring!
Then in April 2014, the wife and I got approved for a $20,000 car loan and shortly after that got approved for a $2,300 store card with Cherry Orchard furniture. Our credit scores have been slowly but surely rising and then all the loan companies who denied us started sending us refinancing offers, which all got filed under T for trash! Although we did switch our car loan to our bank because of the lower interest rate.
Now, I’ll get to the thing that inspired me to write this blog. Other credit card companies would do well to follow Discover’s example. The cards arrived in a small brown box, inside there was a nicely textured PVC wallet with the cards nicely presented inside with a welcome letter and information. The cards themselves are the best looking credit cards I have seen. It just has Discover It branding on the front with all the card information on the back. It’s a very polished product overall, the first impression is second to none.
Customer service seems to be great as well, I called to activate the cards and to my amazement, a human actually answered the call within 30 seconds. He asked for my first and last name while inquiring about how I was doing, then he asked me if I’d like to activate both cards and that was it, nothing else needed. The representative was well spoken and courteous throughout, great job Discover, don’t go changing!
As I have alluded to in previous blog entries, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about 7 weeks ago. Now I have to take two different types of medication, a total of five pills every day and I sometimes forget to take them which skews my blood glucose values. This morning my blood glucose level was 144 after fasting for more than eight hours because I fell asleep without taking my two Metformin pills. I guess that I will have to set alarms on my smartphone at certain times of the day to make sure I take the pills.
The other issue is the cost of the medication, right now I take Metformin, which is less than $5, but the secondary medication Invokana costs over $400 as my medical insurance, Coventry Healthcare of Kansas refuses point blank to cover it. Right now, because it’s a new drug, I can get it free of charge for 12 months, after that time I hope to have better insurance that actually covers the drugs I require.
Another related thing about healthcare insurance carriers is that apparently they can decide what drugs I need, ignoring what my doctor has recommended. It’s basically another bullshit loophole that allows medical insurance companies to take your money and not pay out from what I can see.
The big news of the day in political circles is that the FCC voted to reclassify Internet providers as Title II, which protects Net Neutrality. Inevitably the Republicans are up in arms about the vote using such phrases as “Obamacare for the Internet” and “Net Neutrality will fundamentally change the Internet”.
Let’s address the second statement; what this vote in favor of Net Neutrality does is actually maintain the status quo, the Internet was always meant to be open and free without tiered access. What reclassification to Title II does is stop ISP’s, cable companies such as Comcast, Verizon etc from throttling websites of their choosing, services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video and Youtube. Back in February 2014, Netflix paid Comcast to allow traffic from it’s service to run at unrestricted speed through it’s network after Comcast severely throttled data coming from the streaming service. Cable providers are taking money from it’s customers for 25, 50, 100Mbps connections to the Internet, then slowing down services like Netflix, which let’s face it, we don’t need 100Mbit Internet to check our Email and view web pages.
This is so much misinformation being circulated by the right wing media and politicians who’s interests do not match the Net Neutrality agenda. Reading comments on the Internet today proves to me how little people know about Net Neutrality, many commenting down party lines. And dare I say it, these are the same people that watch Fox News believing every piece of right wing propaganda the Rupert Murdock owned network spouts. Stop believing Fox News and do your own research, you may change your view.
Allegedly President Barack Obama colluded with FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and the other democrats on the FCC board to pass the bill in some sort of plot for him to take over the Internet. I swear that if Obama gave a speech supported breathing, all the republicans would die because they refused to breath!
No doubt that there will be legal challenges to this ruling which will stop the new rules coming into force, possibly indefinitely, allowing the big cable companies to run rough-shot over it’s customers during the legal wranglings. The people of the Internet have won this battle, but the war is far from over.
If the FCC vote is overturned, cable companies will be able to create “fast lanes”, which Internet streaming services will have to stump up millions to give their customers the optimum experience. The services that refuse to pay the high-speed access fee will be put in the “slow lane” and this is despite the customer paying $$$ for fast Internet connectivity. And inevitably, streaming service prices will rise to compensate for the additional cost of getting their content to the end user, ultimately the customer is being screwed.
The biggest takeaway should the FCC decision be reversed is that “free speech” will be dead as cable companies will be able to slow down and/or block content they don’t want you to see. China gets a lot of flack from the western World for it’s policies on censorship, yet the USA is heading in the same direction.
I’ll leave you with this video from John Oliver, the truth about Net Neutrality with a comic slant!
Addendum [Feb, 28 2015, 15:55]: Over the last two days I have been hearing how this decision to support Net Neutrality is stifling the free market and that “resorting to government means stifling competition and promoting favoritism”. For those who believe that line, how can we have a free market when big cable companies want to slow down third party streaming traffic while allowing their own streaming services to run at full speed, surely that in itself is stifling competition? If cable companies played fair and adhered to the spirit of the Internet, there would be no need for the FCC to step in to ensure neutrality, Comcast, Time Warner & Verizon don’t own the Internet, they just own the wires.
To address the people that say “if you don’t like your service, change it”; for many, to change service providers like for like, e.g. 100Mbit to 100Mbit, we would have to move to another state as big cable are very careful to divide up territories so they don’t compete with each other. So much so that in some cases, one side of the street is Comcast while the other side of the street is Time Warner. Not only that, big cable are attempting to buy favor with state politicians to block municipal fiber networks like Google Fiber.
Furthermore, our politicians should not be taking money from the interests they are supposed to be regulating, that’s a massive conflict of interest, the level of corruption in Washington is truly astonishing.
For seven years before discovering the wonders of WordPress, I used a piece of blogging software called Cutenews. CN was a flat text file news system, which ultimately fell by the wayside after CutePHP started charging for the formerly free software. I can only assume that people, like myself refused to pay so we ended up with an insecure outdated news system, so, like many I made the jump to WordPress.
Migrating the seven years of blogs on Cutenews to WordPress was another matter, for a few years I ran a non-editable version of Cutenews in a subdirectory to display the archives, but eventually it stopped working completely throwing a 500 error after moving webhost. I looked around for an import plugin/script, but nothing worked 100%, some worked partially, some just broke the WordPress install.
I won’t take credit for someone else’s work so I will simply link to Greg Freeman’s article about migrating from Cutenews To WordPress. But I had to create an install of WordPress on my local machine as the production server does not have support for phpTidy which the import script relies on. I personally used WAMP server, you will need to enable phpTidy, simply left click on the WAMP system tray icon, navigate to PHP » PHP extensions » and put a checkmark next to php_tidy. Create a database/user in phpmyAdmin and download WordPress, extracting the files to a new folder in WAMP’s www directory.
Copy your Cutenews files to a subdirectory of your local WordPress directory, create a new php file and copy the code from Greg Freeman’s article into that file, changing the paths to WordPress and Cutenews directories, save the file to the root of you local WordPress installation, making sure to select “All Files (*.*)” in the Save-as type box and ending the filename with .php. Open a browser and point it to the php file you just created, it’ll be localhost/wpinstall/importscript.php and all being well you should have imported your Cutenews posts. However it did throw an error for me, but the import still worked brilliantly and I now have my seven years of archives back as part of my current WordPress installation!
Now you can export the posts from your local test installation of WordPress and import into your live install, just as a precaution, I’d recommend making a database backup, just in case the worst happens!
I prepared my Cutenews install by changing the news.arch files to news.txt running the following DOS command “ren *.arch *.txt”. I then merged the renamed arch.txt files into a single .txt by running the following from the DOS prompt “copy *.txt news.txt”. You will need to CD (change directory) into the directory where your archives live on your hard disk. This action created a large single import .txt file.
I make the assumption that if you are attempting this sort of migration, you have a good working knowledge of computers, how to set up web/database servers and basic php knowledge, good luck!
I was looking at my previous blog design and thought “time for an update” for a couple of reasons. First, since the last redesign back in February 2011; mobile computing has exploded and the prior design really didn’t work well on phones and tablets. Second, four years without a design refresh is unheard of, normally I refresh the design every 18 months to two years. The new design is not one of those fluid/responsive designs, but it works well enough on my Galaxy S4 and 7in Android 4.4.2 tablet.
Another reason I updated the design is because the text was rather small, almost unreadable on cellphone sized 1080p screens. The previous design was created on my old 17.3in 1440×900 laptop, so the text looked larger at that screen resolution. Now I have upgraded to a monster, albeit 2 year old PC with dual 24in 1920×1080 screens, the font is looking small and rough with the latest browser technology. I have redesigned for 1280px wide screens, I refuse to design for people running 1024×768 anymore, but the site still works, 1024×768 users will just have to horizontally scroll to see the sidebar.
I have built in more functionality, particularly in regards to search and archive use, basically making these features more user friendly. Instead of showing an entire year or month of full articles, it shows a paginated list of article titles, which should allow users to find what they want to read quicker. I have also integrated Jetpack comments, social networking and forms, so you can log in using your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or WordPress accounts to comment or if you prefer you can still enter your Name/Email like before! I have even added an about me page, so you can read my life story if you’re really bored.
If you feel so inclined, leave a comment, tell me what you think?
As someone who works in real estate marketing, I had been sorely missing an ultra wide angle lens, relying on my 18mm – 55m kit lens until recently because of the cost of an ultra wide angle lens for Canon crop sensor Digital SLR’s such as the EOS Rebel T3i which I use for my photographic work.
At the beginning of 2015 I bought myself an EF-S 10mm-18mm STM lens and what a difference it makes to internal real estate photography, even the smallest of rooms look decent sized, much to the chagrin of the agents showing the units, potential residents being disappointed by the actual unit size.
The above photograph was taken using; 10mm, 1/30 shutter, f8, ISO 200, 3 shot HDR, +/- 2 stops.
In general I tend to shoot at 10mm, f8 at 200 ISO for real estate purposes, which gives good sharpness with acceptable levels of barrel distortion and light falloff is minimal at 10mm/f8. If there is a problem with the EF-S 10mm – 18mm lens it’s that it tends to ghost light sources quite badly at times, I have photos that have a perfect ghost of an incandescent light source just below the actual light source.
If you have Photoshop CS5 or above, then it’s fairly easy to remove using content aware fill, but older versions of the software don’t have this functionality, just something to consider when purchasing this lens. I guess we need to remember this is a budget lens so I can’t be too critical of the ghosting.
At $300 for the EF-S 10mm – 18mm lens, it’s a must have for real estate photographers, it produces good quality sharp photographs and is a perfect companion for Canon’s EF-S 18mm – 55mm kit lens and EF-S 55mm – 250mm lens, with the added bonus of being almost silent with it’s STM focus mechanism and unlike the 18mm – 55mm you can use a petal hood as the front does not rotate.
Final Thought: before making the purchase of this lens, I read and watched a lot of reviews and I have to say that some photographers are real snobs marking this lens down because of it’s plastic camera mount and plastic filter/hood mount. Get over yourselves, it’s a well built lens, it doesn’t feel cheap and the mounts are more than adequate for their intended purpose and won’t be easily broken.
Before you conservative Republican types get all excited, this is not a write-up criticizing the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare as it’s popularly know. My issue is the price of brand name medications and the general lack of regulation on pricing of these sometimes essential drugs.
My wife suffers from fibromyalgia, which causes her an immense amount of pain, mental and physical and the drug that really helps manage her pain throughout the day, Lyrica costs over $425 per month for 90 pills, that coupled with the $540 (minus $220 ACA subsidy) in insurance premiums, makes it very unaffordable even for a family earning with a combined income close to $65,000 a year.
Recently I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and my doctor prescribed me a injectable medication called Victoza, which I have been taking for two weeks now using the free samples the doctor gave me. I am starting to run low, 15 days supply left so I looked up the cost of the drug using my insurance company’s medication cost calculator and for 30 days supply it will cost $825. This is obviously not affordable, a months supply of medication should not cost more than I pay in rent each month.
So to summarize; two drugs plus healthcare premium will cost us $1570, that’s about 35% of our net income going to insurance and drug companies. It’s no wonder that so many people either under-dose or go without medication in the USA. In my personal view, it is unacceptable for a rich western country to allow people to go without essential medication because of the lack of drug pricing regulation.