Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Home computer security recommendations

2023-10-06 Comments off

I recommend you keep your Windows OS patched and be sure to update all the software you use. I run Windows Defender for antivirus and malware in conjunction with securing my browser and using a DNS that filters malicious sites.

I don’t recommend third party security/network software. If you feel better running a third party product, stick with something like Bitdefender,

I also recommend running ‘beta’ releases for the major browsers (links below) and use a public DNS service that filters malware. I typically use Cloudflare, Quad9, and Hope this helps.

Beta links for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox
Google Chrome Beta
Microsoft Edge Beta
Mozilla Firefox Beta

Quad9 DNS

Speed up your online experience with Cloudflare public DNS resolver.


Free for: Personal or business use for Enhanced DNS; personal use only for other home and family services

DNS addresses: and 

“FamilyShield” DNS addresses: and

Categories: technology Tags:

Internet speed tests

2023-08-11 Comments off

With more people streaming and general Internet use increasing, I get questions about measuring home Internet performance.  I recommend using the three sites listed below.  I have them in the order I prefer and have comments regarding each site.

Cloudflare – more technical detail and appears very accurate, no ads.

Netflix – change settings to enable more technical detail and save your configuration, very accurate, and no ads.

Ookla – similar accuracy as Cloudflare and Netflix, but less technical detail and *littered* with ads.

Cloudflare Speed Test

Netflix Speed test

Ookla Speed test

Categories: technology Tags:

Windows endpoint security recommendations

2023-06-26 Comments off

Friends and family have asked about antivirus and security recommendations. This is a quick summary of my best practices to keep your desktop or laptop secure.

Keep your system updated. Set Windows Update to run automatically or manually run it weekly. Pay attention to Microsoft Patch Tuesday.

Antivirus – I recommend using Microsoft Defender. There are others, but the consumer version of Defender is solid, it is less likely to impact other programs, it doesn’t impact performance, and combined with other safe computing practices is a solid antivirus/malware solution.

Browsers – Edge, Chrome, Firefox, all are secure. I recommend installing the beta channels for all browsers. They have proven to be very stable, and you avoid ‘day zero’ exploits.

Browser add-ons – install an ad blocker. Don’t think twice. Install an ad blocker, and make sure it’s uBlock Origin, the one with this logo:


Categories: technology Tags:

Home network update – Meraki to Netgate

2022-11-27 Comments off

I avoid frequent changes to my home network. My stated goal is to design and install a reliable, secure network and keep it updated, but otherwise leave it alone. About five years ago, I took advantage of a Cisco program for free Meraki software for completing a professional certification class and exam. Now the program has expired, and I needed to replace the MX64 security appliance.

Moving from a commercial security device to a consumer product, I wanted to get something simple, but flexible. I’ve always been interested in open-source products, and considered ‘rolling my own’ firewall, but finding cost effective, silent (fanless) computer with multiple gig Ethernet ports in the current (Nov 2022) market was a challenge. Also, there’s still a huge supply chain issue that I expect through 2023 and I don’t want to buy from China. Not a nationalist issue, but I don’t trust security appliances from China (

Selection Process

Super simple – I looked at consumer products and found they weren’t flexible enough for my use, some products were discontinued, others are on back order. I wanted to spend under $300 and narrowed the search to Ubiquiti Networks and Netgate (pfSense). Ubiquiti availability was an issue, and Netgate was less expensive, so I went with the entry level Netgate 1100.

Although the GUI lagged during the installation, subsequent configuration changes and overall performance of the device has been good. I’ve updated the default configuration by disabling IPv6, not using VPN or packet inspection, using PiHole on a spare Raspberry Pi instead of using Netgate services.

I would call this a ‘prosumer’ product – you can’t install and use this product without reading the manual and understanding the basics of TCP/IP networking. However, it’s much more flexible than the average consumer product and using pfSense open-source software provides greater security and longer support life (IMHO).


Performance is equivalent to the Meraki MX64. We have >20 devices on our home network including three Roku devices streaming 1080p (not 4K). If you plan to implement low level security, ad blocking, and other features, consider the 2100 model.


  • Pros
    • Good security appliance for home networks with under 500 Mbps Internet service
    • Simple installation and silent operation
    • Better security and longevity than consumer products at this price point.
    • Performance is good
  • Cons
    • Install is not just “click next” – you need to read the manual!
    • Lots of online chatter about performance issues using third party packages

Home Network

Netgate running statistics

Internet speed
Comcast – 300 Mbps download, 12 Mbps upload

Categories: technology Tags:

PiHole update – certificate error

2022-06-28 Comments off

Attempting to update PiHole from the command line, I received the error below:

[i] Downloading and Installing FTL…curl: (77) error setting certificate verify locations: CAfile: /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt CApath: /etc/ssl/certs

[] Downloading and Installing FTL

Error: URL not found

[] FTL Engine not installed

Unable to complete update, please contact Pi-hole Support


I searched the /setc/ssl/certs folder and didn’t find anything out of the ordinary.

Updated CA Certificates:


sudo update-ca-certificates


After this, re-running pihole update worked correctly.



Categories: technology Tags:

Why do I hate DirecTV Now, let me count the ways

2017-02-07 Comments off

I got an e-mail from AT&T/DirecTV asking me to complete a survey on why I unsubscribed from DirecTV Now.  I spent quite a bit of time crafting a comprehensive answer, only to receive the notice below.  Part of my issue with DirecTV was the poor interface design. I now extend that criticism to the survey.  If you limit my response to 999 characters, why not tell me?  Then I won’t prepare a response that’s 302% larger than you will allow!

NOTE – there were two other text boxes, both limited the number of characters to other, smaller, and random quantities, both with no indication of what the limit would be. 


Here is my full response about why I unsubscribed from DirecTV Now:

DirecTV Now was a horrific
experience.  From the user
interface to buffering issues to the user interface (did I already say that,
yes, it’s that bad) to the content.  No type of DVR solution, ‘subscribing’ to channels was OK, but
non-intuitive to use.


No CBS channel.  At all.  Yes, I know you
have to negotiate with CBS, but it’s a gaping hole.  I added HBO and got two HBO channels added, which was underwhelming.  Even at $35/month rate it wasn’t worth
the money.  We watched ONE movie
(Deadpool) and the last 20 minutes of the film took almost an hour to watch due
to buffering issues.


Just so you don’t assume I have a poor Internet
connection, I have 200/10 Mbps (up/downlink speeds) and a commercial grade
firewall and wireless AP (Meraki).  Chemical engineer by degree, working in IT and connected to the Internet
since 1986 (not a typo), Cisco and other certifications.  Let’s just assume the problem is on your end and not my home


Streaming from a laptop to a Chromecast was
USELESS.  I stream other content
(YouTube, other) to Chromecast with no issues using the exact same configuration
(laptop, wireless channel, etc).  Streaming from my PHONE (!!!) worked better than the laptop, and I can’t
account for that.  Is the Android
app that much more efficient than streaming from a browser on a


No Roku support out of the gate.  Roku and beer are gifts from GOD, and you don’t support the Roku.  Seriously? 


I took advantage of the free Amazon Fire offer because,
as noted, you don’t support the Roku (aka, Gift From God).  Nice device, but DirecTV sucks at life, so we were ‘less than pleased’
with the experience. We attempted
to watch Deadpool (previous reference) using the Amazon Fire.  Other services worked fine, but not DirecTV Now.


And, the user interface sucks.  As an example, I saved ‘favorite’ channels in the guide and selected
Favorites to display. It’s all too
easy to suddenly have every channel displayed.  Next, I can’t seem to pause, continue,
and skip over content (like my DirecTV DVR). Yes, I realize there are device
constraints (but, shall I note, not on the Roku), but you’re not even
trying. Did you pull one of those
“Design this for free and I’ll give you great recommendations” with the
interface design team?  Because it
LOOKS like that’s what you did.


I’m doing this all from memory.  It’s like a nightmare where I can still see the screen doing something I
don’t want/like, oh, and the BUFFERING, Oh, the BUFFERING!!!


To summarize:

– User interface sucks

– No DVR capability

– No Roku support

– Buffering issues (with long shows?  You tell me)

– No CBS content

– Poor performance with Amazon Fire

– Poor performance with Chromecast

= DirecTV Now Sucks at life


That’s the short version of why I unsubscribed from
DirecTV Now.  I’m working furiously
to experiment with OTA TV, a local DVR, and cloud based services.  I’m willing to bet anything I put together will be a better, more
satisfying experience than DirecTV Now.



Paul & Barb

Google Maps GPS integration

A family friend came down to visit, and he got a bit lost.  One way to avoid this is to look up an address on Google Maps and save it to your GPS.  This also helps you get an idea of what routing options you have for your trip.



Select the address, then click More and select Send



On the Send dialog box, you have the option of sending the address to your GPS. 

NOTE – you need to have the GPS connected to your PC and turned on so Google Maps can communicate with the GPS.

Categories: Android, Google, hardware, technology Tags: ,

Installing a ROM on a Motorola Droid 1

I just updated the firmware on my Motorola Droid (version 1, two years told).   Project Elite 5 was the first ROM I loaded after I rooted my Verizon Droid Version 1 phone.  I updated to CynogenMod 7, but it appeared to be buggy, and I had performance issues, including the phone rebooting while using the GPS.  I’m currently running the Steel Droid 9.0 ROM.  

Upgrade Guide – the guide is very complete, but my notes are below

  1. Backup apps using Astro File Manager
  2. Backup SMS using SMS Backup & Restore
  3. I used RZ Recovery ROM, but I’m getting 404 on all the download links and I have ClockworkMod Recovery installed now.
  4. Follow the install guidelines and delete/format all data and cache on the device. 
  5. Install the optional ROM
  6. Re-install Astro and SMS Backup, and restore your apps and data.
  7. Enjoy your new ROM!

Reference Links

Project Elite – Droid 1 Only

CyanogenMod 7 for the Motorola Droid :: V7.1.0 (9 Oct 2011)

Steel Droid – V9.0 for Droid 1, downloads for Droid 2, Droid 3, and Droid X

MIUI – next one I’m trying

RZ Recovery ROM install

Categories: Android, mobile, technology Tags: , ,

Buffalo Technology AirStation N300 Wireless Router and AP Model WZR-HP-G300NH

2011-08-16 1 comment

My trusty Linksys WRT54G running Tomato firmware appeared to be dying.  My upload speed, as measured by, was in the range of Kbps instead of Mbps.  Download speeds were inconsistent, in the rage of 10 Mbps to 14 Mbps.

I researched a ton of routers, and my criteria was to have two radios, support 802.11N, and QoS.  I also wanted it to support bridging, AP, and act as a repeater.  Devices I considered, included Netgear, Cisco E4200, and the Buffalo N300.

I’m delighted with the Buffalo N300, which I picked up from Amazon for $65.  Setup was very easy.  I didn’t use the automated install software, I just connected to the router directly and configured the router since I was familiar with the DD-WRT software (v24SP2-MULTI (03/21/11) std). 

The router web interface was a bit sluggish initially, but after the initial configuration was completed, and it was running for 15 minutes it became much more responsive.

I haven’t used any of the client connection features, and connected manually.  All our wireless devices connected seamlessly, and one test call on our VoIP phone worked.  I won’t have time to test our Roku and Netflix streaming until the weekend, and will test VoIP calls, including international, later this week.

Initial results below:

Before – Linksys WRT54G


After – Buffalo N300


Categories: security, technology, Wifi Tags: ,

Why I hate Prometric for Microsoft Certification Exams

2010-12-18 4 comments

Why doesn’t Prometric recruit another location in New Jersey (specifically Mount Laurel) for IT professionals to take Microsoft and other certification exams?

Why doesn’t Prometric fix it’s web site?  It’s 2010, and a company that has a monopoly on Microsoft Certification Exams should have a web site that is more reliable than my personal web site.

Why do I rant about Prometric?  Let me count the ways.  Better yet, I’ll just recount the exam I took yesterday.

First, registering for the exam.  For several days (yes, days…), I tried to connect to the Prometric web site.  It timed out when I tried to find the nearest location to take an exam.  Not once, not twice, but I could not connect for several days.  I tried different browsers (IE, Chrome, Firefox), and different locations (client site with huge bandwidth, my home with Comcast BLAST! broadband).  No joy.

Next, I confirmed that there is only one test location near me.  One.  There used to be three in Mount Laurel, and one in Medford that were within fifteen minutes.  Now there is one.  They have two seats, and Microsoft Exams require you book for three hours, so they can only accommodate four tests per day.  In Mount Laurel we have a HUGE group of engineering, networking, software development, and infrastructure people and companies who employ them.  Northrup Grumman, Lockheed, Computer Associates, Cisco, NetApp, Continental Resources (where I work!), CSC, and others.

One testing location with two seats.  That’s what we have.  Next closest is Philadelphia.  Minimum time to travel is 45 minutes to Philly.  You can take the PATCO high speed line, or drive.  It’s close, but it takes a minimum of 45 minutes each way, and that’s assuming you can find a parking spot or take PATCO and walk.  Garage parking in center city Philadelphia can be $20.  The cheapest lot parking is $9, and it’s at 23rd and Arch Streets, which is 20 blocks from one of the two test centers in Philadelphia.

In my case, the closest available seats were at Delaware County Community College.  It’s a great testing center, but it’s 50 minutes from my house, and the only way to get there is I95 and the Blue Route (or the Delaware County Parking Lot as I like to call it). 

After driving for an hour, and finding the Testing Center, I waited for almost two hours.  Why?  Because the staff had problems logging into the testing computer.  Apparently the account(s) they used were locked out. 

TWO HOURS.  I left the house at 9:05 and arrived at the testing center around 10:10.  I sat down to take the exam just before noon.  The exam took 45 minutes, and I spent 15 minutes doing the Survey to bitch about deficiencies with Prometric.  I then went to my client site to perform billable work.  So, instead of taking an exam locally, with a total elapsed time of 60 minutes, no, let’s assume I stop for coffee, make that 90 minutes, It took me from 9AM until 1PM to take an exam.  FOUR HOURS.  Due to the location, I was still an hour away from my client’s site (Blue Route had a lane closure and Friday afternoon traffic).  My total elapsed time was five hours from my house to my client site. 

OK, Prometric, the ball is in your court.  I left my e-mail and cell phone contact information on your web site, Microsoft eval, and e-mail to your company.  I haven’t heard back yet, and I bet you don’t call.  I’ll call you on Monday to touch base and post a follow-up here.