From none to a lot

Another thing I did while at home was secure my family’s wireless router, a D-Link DI-514. Before Sunday, it was wide open and anyone could use it. While I checked the (limited) logs on the router to see if anyone outside the house was using it and didn’t find anyone, I was still getting paranoid about it (especially with the amount of online shopping on Amazon and eBay that my parents do on their laptop).

So I changed that. Upgraded to the latest router firmware.I changed the default router password, enabled MAC filtering (interestingly, unlike other wireless routers it enables this for wired LAN connections as well, found out the hard way), and enabled 128-bit WEP encryption (with a WEP key generated by this cool site). With the massive improvements in wireless networking with Windows XP SP2, I was able to get the network up and fully functional again very quickly and painlessly.

After the firmware upgrade, I even noticed a slight boost in the range and stability of the wireless router. I hated this DI-514 router when my parents first bought it, but it is working pretty well now.

While I know both WEP encryption and MAC filtering are not that great when it comes to security, used together they eliminate 99.9% of any protential problems as few people actually bother to try and hack into a wireless network in a 2,500 person town. I can also sleep at night not worrying about my wireless network (using WPA encryption on a Linksys router) or their’s.

My grandparent’s house is probably next on the list to get it’s wireless security improved.

A family of Firefox users

Over the Christmas weekend, I accomplished something I had been wanting to do for awhile: switching my entire family over to Mozilla Firefox or at least the latest version of it.

My parents had been using the Mozilla suite the past few months after very ravaged by spyware and adware using Internet Explorer. I didn’t dare switch them to Firefox at the time because it wasn’t as polished as I would have liked (it was fine for me and my brothers, but not parents).

Over this past Christmas weekend, I finally upgraded them from Mozilla 1.7.3 to Firefox 1.0. The main push for this, outside of me wanting to get them on the latest and greatest was my Dad saying “Chris, is there a way this computer can remember what you type in like the computer upstairs?” This was my Dad’s way of saying that he loved the Firefox feature where it would remember (most of the time) what you would type into forms and suggest it in the future (say when a form asks for an e-mail address, you start typing one in and it’ll suggest one you used previously).

So I upgraded them to Firefox. No problems so far and my Mom even said that she used Firefox at work on her computer instead of Mozilla because Mozilla had been acting up, so she went to mozilla.org and saw Firefox. Talk about taking some initative, although my Mom is very computer literate (she got me into this stuff to begin with).

While I was at it, I upgraded the den computer (the upstairs one as my Dad says) to Firefox 1.0 (it had been running 0.9.3). I also made sure all the computers had the latest security updates and plugins (for the most part they did, my brother Danny did a good job keeping stuff up to date).

Next, I am thinking about moving my grandparents from Netscape 7.2 (yuck!) to a combination of Firefox/Thunderbird. Not sure if I am going to do it right away, as my grandparents hate change (they notice things like icon differences really quick) and are a loyal Netscape user (if there even can be one of those anymore). At least they use a Gecko-based browser. That’s a project for another day.

CCNA on the way?

Lots of things going on in the next few weeks. I am really starting to get going on this Cisco studying, trying to see if I can move closer to choosing a possible test date for my CCNA exam. I am doing a combination of re-reading my CCNA books and a watching Flash-based instruction site that my work signed me up for.

The studying is going well I think, but I really am going to work hard the next month or so and try to nail this stuff down. The hardest part I have found is trying to figure out how to apply this book knowledge I have been sucking up into my head to the real world, as I have touched few pieces of Cisco equipment on my job (yet).

Either way, this is actually fun in a weird way.

Like minds

I guess when they say that like minds think alike, they aren’t kidding.

Katie and I both had gifts for each other that were “can’t miss gifts” in our own view. We both couldn’t wait for the other to open the gift.

Of course the gift turned out to be the exact same thing, a digital camera. So we went from zero digital cameras in the condo to two in the span of 2 minutes. It was quite funny to say the least. I will never forget the expression on her face when she opened her gift first and realized what happened. She then threw my gift at me, saying I better open it now. It was so funny.

That said, both cameras are extremely nice. I got a Samsung Digimax 4010 4.0 Megapixel camera. Takes very good pictures and she bought two 64 MB Secure Digital cards for it. I am not complaining one bit about it, I have waited too long for a camera 🙂

She got a Kodak 4.0 Megapixel camera with a 256 MB Secure Digital card. Her camera is slightly better then mine (she has a better zoom for one), but overall we both have very nice cameras.

Katie also got me a very nice sweater, a light blue color that will be nice to wear at work. As this is our first Christmas in our own place, we didn’t give many gifts to each other, but she really liked the teacher desk calender and stuff I got her.

Overall, a very successful Christmas 🙂 Next up is her Dad’s for Christmas Eve, then tomorrow her step-sister’s and then my family’s.

Only complaint: where is the snow?

Yes I'm crazy

Today I went out doing last minute shopping for Katie. I already bought her main present weeks ago during Black Friday. However, I needed to get some small presents. Why I do this last minute shopping thing every single year I never can figure out, except that I always seem to perform well under pressure and accomplishing a goal at a deadline. Well, not many situations can give as much pressure as making sure you doing screw up on a gift at the last minute.

I think she will like everything. I put a lot of thought into it, so I really have nothing to lose. That is what matters right?

Day off

Today is my first work day (or school day) off since probably around Christmas of last year. Meaning, I haven’t had a day off when everyone is working in a long time.

A few things I have learned:

  1. TV sucks. There is nothing good on in the morning and Sportscenter gets old fast.
  2. Katie decides that since I am home, I can do laundry and errands for her.
  3. Oh yeah, I have to finish Christmas shopping.

It is going to be a busy but productive day.

Short week

This is going to be a really strange week to say the least. It is Tuesday, done my usual day long shift at a client, and tomorrow is going to be my last day of the work week.

How is that possible?

I got Thursday and Friday off from work, although a little vacation time had to be used for Thursday (Friday work is closed). A few weeks ago during Thanksgiving I really enjoyed the four day weekend. Long enough to recharge (it technically was my first vacation since last Christmas, which wasn’t much of a vacation at all) but short enough that I could easily jump right back into work when Monday came around.

To top it off, a big event is happening tomorrow night. My parents are going down to pick up my brother from his college for Christmas break. While doing that, they are going to pick up my very good Italian friend Pierpaolo (who’s family hosted me back during my Italy Tour ’99 soccer trip) from Logan and have him spend the next day with my family. So we are all going to go out to eat in Manchester tomorrow night before he goes to my parent’s house for the night. This guy is truly awsome and considering what he has been through the past year, he really needs this vacation. Thankfully he is still around.

Which reminds me, I received a call from him the other day. My cell phone was ringing with a strange long phone number (like 15 digits!). Picked it up and there was my old friend. Good to hear from him.

Friday morning Katie and I are going to hold our first Christmas together in our own place. Quite amazing what has occurred in the past four years and even more amazing that this is just six months since we have had a place together. It should be fun, and then of course we have three family events to attend during Friday and Saturday, which makes it all the better.

I honestly say the past six months starting just before graduation, with everything that has happened at work and with my personal life that it has to be one of the greatest years in my life. Enjoying life is awsome 🙂