Well, with all the hardware for the MythTV project on the way (mostly, anyway… NCIX didn’t have a couple items in stock. Like the TV capture card), it seemed like a good time to get the house in order for the new arrivals. Thus, as a logical first step, I decided it was about time I got my firewall rebuilt and moved all the various networking bits downstairs onto some kind of shelving. The result is this:
As you can see, I re-purposed an old Ikea shelving unit as a make-shift rack, and then moved all these things downstairs:
- Cable Modem
- 10Mbs hub (until I get a proper switch for the main house LAN)
- 10/100Mbs switch for the MythTV LAN
In case you’re wondering, this gear is all set up like so:
[[fig:Home Network Diagram]]
Why so complicated? Well, the primary complication is in my choice to shunt the MythTV stuff onto it’s own subnet. I had a couple reasons for this:
- The MythTV frontends will be configured via DHCP and bootp. Putting this on a separate network prevents conflicts with the main firewall DHCP (and any other network-booted devices I may deploy).
- I figured a dedicated, switched 100Mbs network for the Myth stuff wasn’t a bad thing.
Of course, if I had a proper switch which supported VLANs, I could have done this with a single switch, but I wasn’t prepared to pay the bucks for such a device.
As for the firewall, I ended up abandoning LEAF in favour of m0n0wall, a FreeBSD-based firewall that boots nicely off a mini-CD and writes it’s configuration to a dirt cheap USB flash drive I plugged into the back of the thing (IOW, no more unreliable floppies!). And as a bonus, it has a nice, easy to use web-based admin interface, so no longer do I have to hook a damn monitor up to the thing every time I want to reconfigure things.
Okay, this one’s a little different, though. I swear. It costs a lot more than my previous projects…
So what is it? Well, for many months now, I’ve talked on and off about building a DIY PVR setup. Usually this starts off with me complaining about the timeslots for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, and quickly turns into a discussion of how awesome a PVR would be for timeshifting my favorite shows, listening to all the music I’ve transferred onto my computer, and watching all the content I’ve downlo… err… ahem. Anyway, as a result, I’ve often thought about:
- Buying and modding an XBox,
- Building a MythTV-based system, or
- Buying a Shaw PVR.
But it wasn’t until I got my pay adjustment, and the attendant backpay (all the way back to last december!) that it became a practical possibility. The problem is, now flush with cash, I think I’ve gone a little overboard.
It all started with plans to build a simple MythTV-based PVR with a mini-itx board of some kind, mounted in a little case. It didn’t take long before this ballooned into a full frontend/backend networked multimedia infrastructure project, with all it’s associated costs. But you know what? I don’t care, damnit! :)
Anyway, I’ve started some new pages to cover my MythTV project. There you can read about my motivations, details about MythTV, and the hardware I’m using. As for the current status, the gear has all been ordered and should arrive in the next few weeks, at which point, the fun begins! Meanwhile, I’ll need to string some cat5e between my living room and where the backend will live, so that should keep me busy.
And just to give you a little taste, here is a shot of the case I’m going to use for the Living Room Frontend:
Well, it finally happened. It was only a matter of time, really. Yes, that’s right… my floppy died.
First off, for those less geeky types, I should probably explain what I was using my floppy for. You see, hooking a computer directly up to the Internet is not unlike having unprotected sex with every woman in a two block radius. Why? Because all the computers in a two block radius are likely directly connected to yours (assuming you’re using cable internet), and so you’re vulnerable to any viruses, spyware, zombie computers, etc, etc, that happen to be buzzing around your local node. And I haven’t even covered non-local attacks.
Thus, it’s generally a good idea to use some kind of protection. This protection usually comes in the form of a firewall, which is not unlike a digital condom, acting as a layer of protection between your soft, vulnerable computer, and the harsh outside world. Now, there are two major kinds of firewalls. The first is a software firewall, and resides on the computer to be protected. Another is a separate firewall appliance which is physically located in the network path between the computer to be protected and the outside world. This would be this style that I favour.
So what about that floppy? Well, you see, as a geek, I thought it would be fun to build my own firewall. So I coupled some old spare parts with the Linux-based LEAF firewall package, and voila! Home-built firewall. And to improve protection (while, as it turns out, reducing reliability), I placed the actual firewall software on a, yup, you guess it, (read-only) floppy disk. Which has since died. :(
Fortunately, my wireless router can perform double duty as a simple firewall, so for now, this is my solution… though, at some point, I’d like to go back to a standalone firewall solution. Though, this time, I think I’ll put it on a CD-ROM.
I’m writing this entry prematurely, mainly because I’d already written the one for today, and this story needs to be told. At least, IMHO.
Okay, so, first some background. Yesterday our DVD remote mysteriously stopped working (well, not mysteriously… it had been slowly failing for a while). I tried the obvious and replaced the batteries, but it made no difference. Conclusion: remote is fux0red. Then, today, for some reason, the cable box remote seems to no longer be working properly. WTF?? Lenore then points out that this seems to coincide with my network noodling (as earlier blogged), and so I start to get a little paranoid. Did I wire something wrong? Is there IR interference being generated?? Because, if so, that means heat source, and heat source equals bad.
So, I begin the investigation. First, I test the remote at various angles. Slowly, I discover that it will only work when I’m standing in a certain position. So I move my body, but maintain the remote position. Doesn’t work. Yup, definitely interference. To verify, I shift the position of the cable box, and then fire the remote straight at it. Works perfectly.
At this point, rather than doing the smart thing and further investigating, I decide to begin testing solutions. I disconnect my networking job. No help. I disconnect the telephone line. Still no help. I disconnect the laptop cable. I unplug my Palm recharger. Nothing. Now I start to get more paranoid. Is it the wiring in the walls?? In the hopes that it’s not, I start closing blinds on the main floor. Maybe external interference?? It seems unlikely, but you never know… but, still nothing.
Now things get desperate. I need to narrow down the interference (this after 20 or 30 minutes of frantic confusion)! So, I position my body further from the TV, and find the position where the remote starts working. Then I step further back, repeat. Then I duck down while pressing buttons on the remote. Stops working. Stand up. Starts working. Duck. Works. Stand doesn’t work. What the heck?!? I’m definitely blocking something! So I look behind me… what could it be?!? I check through the kitchen, but there’s nothing obvious there, either. I start pondering cutting holes in the walls.
And then, I glance at the dining room table, and I notice something seemingly innocuous: the busted DVD remote control is on the table. Facing the TV. With brand new batteries in it. So I decide to turn the remote around. And sure enough, the cable box remote works perfectly. At this point, I yanked the batteries out of the DVD remote in a rage and slammed them down on the table… and what’s Lenore doing? Giggling. Giggling! While I’m trying to save our house from burning down. Well, damnit, the next time you’re suffering from mysterious IR interference, you can just stuff it!