- The Home Blog
So I decided that a little wifi social experiment was in order, to see if open and free wifi really makes people forget all common sense, when it comes to the Internet and their personal information.
No doubt most of you are familar with the likes of aircrack-ng, and maybe even the infamous Pineapple.Heck, you may even dabble in Backtrack and Kali.All these tools allow you to "sniff" the airwaves for wifi signals, and, depending on your motives, do something with said information. Problem is, most are what I would call promiscuous (you go out looking for something). I wanted to let the people come to me! :-)

Anyway, I digress. What if we set up an access point, or many access points,based on the most common names (SSID's I mean) people used? And what if we assumed that those mobile devices, without asking the end user, connected to these most common SSID's? Because when you walk into Costa, or MacDonalds, you've already connected once, so heh, free is free,you've used it before-why would your phone ask you again?

Also, the problem with some of the tools above depend on the mobile device giving up the SSID's it's used before. That assumption is now on the down slope, due to the vendors (Apple especially) implementing much stricter use of the PNL (Preferred Network List). Basically, in past years,your device would send out a broadcast looking for wifi-in this it broadcast all the other wifi's you had connected too in the past.Now, most just send out a broadcast beacon, without giving up your past wifi locations.This was/is the secret sauce that all the tools above would use to set up an "Evil" wifi access point. Now, its a pain.

But, and here's the upside (see, it's not all bad news), and with the explosion of free wifi (I'm in the UK so the main ones are BT, The Cloud, O2 etc etc) you not only have 1000's of access points, but these access points are being consolidated.But the real crown jewels are the broadband operators and BT (formerly British Telecom) should take a bow-they enable, by default, a "guest" wifi signal on EVERY home installation.In fact, you cant turn it off! This is so no matter where you are, and if you are a BT customer customer, you can connect as a guest to any other BT residential user
  SKY is not far behind (they bought out the Cloud) but dont do the same guest offering for a residential. I'm sure they are not that far behind, mind you.

So you have millions of people, who connect regularly to the same wifi signal, day after day. All we need to do is mimic these wifi points. As a great man once said "If you build it, he will come". Substitute he for them!

So how do you do it, and what can you see?

Step 1
You need an access point that has the ability to a) run OpenWRT and b) be able to transmit multiple hotspots. You could use DD-WRT,but the logging capabilities are pants-and you could use an AP with just one SSID that can be transmitted, but it takes a lot of flexibility (and fun) out of the exercise. I am using an AP from TP-Link-the TL-WR2543ND

I got it for £12 from Ebay-it has both 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz, it has detachable antennas (so you can put on bigger ones!) and it has an Atheros chipset-which means you can put up to 8 (eight!) SSID's on one physical AP. Stay away from Broadcom based chipsets, they are limited in their logging ability, especially around a Linux package called hostap
Step 2
Deploy Openwrt onto your router-I'm not going into that here, Google it. Get a decent 9dB omni antenna. Put the antenna as high as possible, and the access point as close to that antenna as well.If you dont, at these frequencies, you lose signal.
The reason for this is to make your SSID's go as afar as possible, to get as many devices to connect to it as possible.
Configure the access points with the most common SSID's you can think of-see my wifi config below for the ones I use
Step 3
Set up extended logging on the DD-WRT box-this will allow you to capture "rotating" logs. A few good web pages are here and here. I put them into /etc/logs/ directory- dont put them into /var, as they will be overwritten every time you reboot the device
Step 4
Sit back and wait for the suckers, sorry public at large, to connect to your access point. Now, I need to make something clear here-I did not set this up as a man-in-the-middle-attack, I did not sniff actual user data and I didn't use any sort of proxy to redirect traffic to a malicious site. That's not the aim here, it was social experiment to see how dumb both the end user, and their mobile device is. The way you connect to your home wifi when you walk in the front door, the way you connect to your work wifi- this is all this is trying to mimic. I'm not trying to hack someone's personal data.
So over a period of a month, I collected daily logs of all people that connected to my 4 SSID's-both from a physical point of view (wifi authentication/de-authentication packets),and from a logical point of view (they aquired a IP address and surfed the web). See below-the first table is those devices/users who not only connected, but acquired an IP address from the router.The 2nd one is the physical connections (top 20 or so)


So I have hidden some of the personal details.But here's the highlights:

Just under 80 devices connected and surfed on my AP,some quite regularly,over the month. About 305 just connected physically, probably passing motorists (I live near a main road), which didn't have time to complete the DHCP process.
The added bonus is that when they connect, you also get the host name of the device-so Bobs iPhone or Julies-iPad -very revealing. Android is a bit more secure (!) but on the second list, I get the MAC address's (top 20 or so, the xls page is too big!)-the actual log files give you both, I just split it up into Excel and did a simple pivot.So now I know who it is, and what the device ID. It wouldn't take a genius, and big business is doing this right now, to put 3 or 4 AP's up, and track people.The individual wlan0-wlan0-7 columns are the individual AP SSID's I assigned-so you can see what the most popular SSID's are in use-it also serves as a confidence check that you have the right ones, or which ones to discard/replace.I know of no other method that gives you this check.
As I said before, I wanted to go a different route-not to use a wifi tool to work out who was out there,but make an assumption on what those devices had connected to before, and use that assumption to get information.One thing the logs gave me, which I didn't include here, was date time stamps, to the second, of when people connected.I wont show the graph but I did the same test in a local shopping mall, over a few hours, over different days.Not only did I see the "busy" patterns, I saw some of the same devices I saw on my AP! ;-) Device was a TP-Link 703, if your interested-fits in the palm of your hand and works off 5vdc-excellent little piece of kit!

Hopefully I've shown how stupid wifi is on modern devices, and how ridiculously easy it is to impersonate a legitimate wifi access point.Connect once, and your phone will connect to that wifi signal again and again, without your permission, regardless of who, or what is broadcasting that signal. It wouldn't be rocket science to make the AP sniff traffic, or re-direct to a bogus sign up page.

So the most recent OFCOM results  show the usual surge in speeds,Virgin Media came out top (again), due to their ever increasing high speeds-and set to go up again  No real mention of upload speeds though, which is strange (or not), but VM insist that this is not what customers want or need.And they have a point, but I suspect that BT and SKY will be lobbying hard, for more scrutiny on this side of the broadband fence, as their FTTC service trumps VM (as long as local line length isn't too prohibative) upstream every time.

But the focus of my ire are the rants from the likes of HyperOptic about how
>100Mb/secs isn't good enough
. I quote
Boris Ivanovic, Chairman of Hyperoptic, says: “The frustration with these types of speed reports is that it makes the mediocre sound positive. If the UK wants to compete with the fastest growing economies of the world, then it needs to be reporting double digit growth in its broadband speeds, not a couple of Mbps."
And there's more. "The UK isn’t even figuring on FTTH/B rankings. It’s time that Britons challenged the status quo, these small increases are no longer worthy of celebration"

Its comments like this that really wind me up-VM's base level of 30Mb/sec is more than enough for Joe Public, and will be for the next few years.All the operators are saying that's it's video streaming (YouTube,Netflix etc) that is driving growth. You only need to look at the US and the deal Comcast strong-armed onto Netflix to see where the world is going.Now, those streams are about 2-4Mb/secs, about 5-7Mb/secs for an HD stream, so in the case of Hyperoptic, what do you do with the other 995 Mb/secs spare you have each night? Gift it to a foodbank? Even a 4K stream will only consume 14Mb/sec

Hyperoptic are just trying to get more exposure for their product but it shows the absurdity of the current UK ISP's and their marketing-speed is the only product in town, they will tell you. But what is on offer is far and away miles faster than what punters need-even allowing for growth. I would suggest that conenction uptime, latency and jitter are more important going forward than the current "never mind the quality, feel the width" argument.
Use an app called SmokePing to monitor your Superhub and the DOCSIS network that powers it.

This guide is an excellent start, but I found it missing a few things, so here's my way:

Install Smokeping onto the Pi

sudo apt-get install smokeping

This is a big download, and also installs the Apache2 web server, so be aware of this.I changed the default port of 80 (I will cover this later on)
Once downloaded, and installed, you need to change the Targets and Probes-here's mine (you don't need to use it but they are more relevant to me)

So Targets are accessed by sudo nano /etc/smokeping/config.d/Targets. I would delete everything in this file and cut and paste the following

*** Targets ***

probe = FPing

menu = Top
title = Using a Raspberry Pi and SmokePing to Monitor DOCSIS Networks
remark = Latency to a few select sites and services in the Internet, via the VM DOCSIS network

+ Internet
menu = Internet
title = Outbound from the Pi to the Internet (using Ping)

++ Google
title = Google
menu = Google
host =

++ FB
title = Facebook
menu = Facebook
host =

++ BBC
title = BBC
menu = BBC
host =

++ ThinkBroadband
title = ThinkBroadband
menu = ThinkBroadband
host =

menu = Measuring DNS response times
title = Name Servers

++ gdns
title = Google public DNS
menu = Google public DNS
probe = EchoPingDNS
dns_request =
host =

++ VirginMedia_DNS
title = VirginMedia DNS
menu = VirginMedia DNS
probe = EchoPingDNS
dns_request =
host =

+ Cloud
menu = Cloud
title = Response of well known Cloud Services

++ dropbox
title = Dropbox
menu = Dropbox
probe = EchoPingHttp
host =
port = 80
url = /u/12770892/benchmark/raspberrypi.jpg

++ gusercontent
title = Google+ Photo
menu = Google
probe = EchoPingHttp
host =
port = 80
url = /UB5Y5yJKtj51bs2asd8kJGjOxwigev7JPQz3g9tw1C0=w614-h801-no

Note that the DNS host for the Virginmedia DNS check is the default IP address of the VM Superhub ( tried, but it 
wouldn't work.

now for the  Probes sudo nano /etc/smokeping/config.d/Probes

*** Probes ***

+ FPing
binary = /usr/bin/fping
step = 60
pings = 10

binary = /usr/bin/echoping
step = 300
pings = 5

binary = /usr/bin/echoping
step = 300
pings = 3

Again, I have changed the default polling for the ICMP checks from 300 seconds to 60 seconds.And the HTTP polling is down from 900 to 300.

What you want to do now is change the default port on the Apache web server, from port 80 to some other (I chose 6666).This is basically to add a bit of security if somebody port scans you. This web page is a good guide so:

sudo nano /etc/apache2/ports.conf


NameVirtualHost *:80
Listen 80


#NameVirtualHost *:80
#Listen 80
NameVirtualHost *:6666
Listen 6666

save and come out.Commenting out the 80 port means its not used.I left the 443 port in for SSL, but to be honest, this is not super secret stuff we are pulling back here!! Onwards...

go into

sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default

on the line 

<VirtualHost *:80>
        ServerAdmin webmaster@localhost

change it to

<VirtualHost *:6666>
        ServerAdmin webmaster@localhost

save and come out.

You should now have Smokeping installed, your Probes and Targets set up, pimped up the web page it will be displayed on, and changed the web server port.Now restart the Smoke ping service

sudo service smokeping restart

and restart Apache

sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart

There shouldn't be any errors-you may get one about the loopback interface ( but I found this can be ignored. To be on the safe side, you may want to reboot the Pi, but that's up to you.

Once you think it is all working type in the following to your favourite web browser:

http://x.x.x.x:6666/cgi-bin/smokeping.cgi? where x.x.x.x is the PUBLIC IP adress of your VirginMedia Superhub. However, before you do this, there is one final thing-you need to open up that port (port 6666, or whatever you choose, or if you have left it at the default of 80) on the Superhub diagnostic pages. I'm not going to go through it here, here is a link on how to do it If this doesn't work, just Google "open a port on virgin media superhub".

That should be it-if successful, you should get a web page up, and some links down the side-click on them.The page should update itself automatically every minute, so no need to refresh. Have a play, leave it for 30 mins or so, and you should see the graphs update themselves.
Here's an example of what you should see:
I hope this helps someone, as I have found the incumbent,ThinkBroadband, to be very mis-leading.Below is the Thinkbroadband graph, inbound to the Superhub.The next one is SmokePing, outbound from the Pi to Thinkbroadband
For those that don't know, ThinkBroadband pings the Superhub every second, and people then look at the yellow spikes as a measure of their performance.These yellow spikes are the highest PING time recorded in a 100 second period-so you could have 99 PING's at 20ms, and one at 140ms-it will be the 140ms one that is displayed!
It’s a while since I wrote a blog post, I put it down to laziness but something happened this weekend, which should be a warning to others. And it’s all to do with the cloud.

I, like others have an account with a few Cloud providers (Dropbox, Skydrive etc) but when I researched this, there were very few providers that had an application or service that encrypts your stuff before it goes to the cloud-which means that when it’s in the cloud, no employee of that cloud provider can see what your “stuff” is. This was important to me (Dropbox don’t do, or offer this service, which was highlighted by a security breach this year). So I went with a company called Accellion, and their consumer offering at .It is free (always a bonus), and offers a very generous 12GB of cloud storage. They also come with an impressive client list for their commercial offerings. It is available on the web, on iOS and Android, so fits the bill.

So that’s the background, here’s the story. I logged on at the weekend (3rd Nov 2012) and booted up my laptop from its hibernation state. As soon as it settled down, I noticed a flurry of desktop notifications from the Kitedrive icon on my taskbar-
it showed all my files being deleted, in rapid succession. About 1GB of data, roughly 700 files or so. I never panicked at that point, as I thought it’s some sort of upgrade. However, when I checked 10 minutes later, all the files were still missing from the relevant Windows directory. At this point, I started to panic! I logged onto the web interface, and phew!, the files were still there, but I couldn’t get them back-not in bulk anyway, only by one at a time. A few hours passed and despite a few system restores, looking in my NAS drives, they were nowhere to be seen. I changed my password as I thought “have I been hacked, have the kids been messing about, do I have ghosts”. I knew I would get them back eventually but still had a nagging doubt as to why it happened in the first place. I decided to leave the laptop on, and see if it would sync up with the cloud (is that not the point?). 

Nothing happened for the rest of the day, until I was out that night and I got the following email from Kitedrive (I had sent a support ticket to them)

“Dear member,

We are updating our servers to increase kitedrive functionality and speed. Please upgrade to the latest kitedrive desktop client here:

If you have not yet updated your client you may experience some odd sync behaviour and error messages. All files are safe and secure on and will by fully synced again after you update your desktop client.

If prompted to enter a Hostname for sync, enter then sign in as usual to authenticate and connect securely.

Thank you,

Kitedrive Support “

and then this one later that evening

“Hi Stewart,

Sorry about all the confusion. We are updating our servers which requires
users to download and install the new kitedrive sync clients for both PC
and MAC.

All data is safe and secure on, but you are
experiencing the error messages and odd behaviour of the old sync client.

We should have sent out an email earlier and given everyone a chance to
update their sync clients before we did the update, but we made a mistake
and I'm really sorry for all the confusion.

We will do better to communicate in the future.

--Mash “

So in the end, the reason for all my files being deleted, and me being in a total panic for a few hours, was that the provider had done their upgrade back to front, and with no comms to their customer base-which is unforgivable, really. So a fail on that point but the first thing I did when I got the files back was to back them up to my NAS. A back up of the back up! Also some of the stories coming out of the East coast of the US, after Superstorm Sandy, makes me wonder how backed up the cloud really is?

The lesson learned here for me is for those really critical files, by all means put them in the cloud, but have them backed up somewhere else, somewhere under your 110% control! Don’t put your ALL your eggs in someone’s else’s basket ;-)
With the recent announcement by BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK) that the first tranche of the £830 million promised for delivering super-fast broadband, things now start to get interesting. £50 million is up for grabs and the Government has basically said it’s up to local communities, through their local authorities, to come up with ideas and apply for the money. Whether using local authorities is the best vehicle, we’ll see (I though the idea was to give power to the people and cut through the local bureaucracy) but they had to start somewhere. Personally, I would have thought using the local community councils would have been better.

The irony is this-those big councils/authorities will already have access to superfast broadband (lets aim high here and say anything greater than 20Mb/secs is superfast) so it’s the outlying areas, the more rural sort of places we are talking about. Basically where the likes of BT and Virgin either never built or don’t see as immediately profitable. Which in turn will be more technically challenged. You only need to look at the 4 BDUK pilot sites to see that.

Which leads me to those technical challenges. You either go one of two ways-wired or wireless. Wired (cable, fibre optic, copper) is the more long term and feasible way to go because it’s a lot more future proof). Wireless (Wi-Fi) is cheap and relatively easy to install. Wireless also includes the mobile operators but you only need to look at the recent debacle in London with O2 and Iphone users, to see that those chaps are now looking at Wi-Fi to offload the data costs of upgrading their cell systems. The system can’t cope with the amount of bandwidth that hungry smartphones desire. However, wired has an awful lot of up front costs in laying the cable (even if BT go down the fibre to the home route).Wireless is limited (although the review of the 800Mhz spectrum could go a long way to improving things) as it’s an unregulated spectrum, it’s very crowded and has limited distance capabilities).

So what do these local communities do? It all depends on their aspirations. Local people need to decide what they want to do before embarking on this brave new world. The Government defines superfast broadband as > 2Mb/secs. Which is pitiful when you consider that none of the big players now market such a service. Indeed, Virgin dropped it some 2 years ago! If your looking for that sort of speed, I would suggest wireless is the way to go. Anything higher, the limitations of the physics of radio, shared amongst many, start to come in to play and you need to go wired. But wired means ducts, or digging up roads, street cabinets, commercial power, battery backup, local road laws, wayleave-the list goes on and on. Even if you manage to get access to BT ducts, it still will be a long slog. If it was that easy, we would have done it years ago. There is also a perverse irony in the wired/wireless argument-most people in the home use a wireless network but it is brought to them via a wired connection. If you are out of the main broadband areas, the differences in speed between a wireless connection from a street light, or in your home router, start to shrink. But I digress. Ofcom also worry, or should, that in the gold rush for superfast broadband, they end up with a UK that has lots of different technologies and solutions ton what is a common problem.

For me, it’s not the local solution that will be the roadblock-it’s the backhaul. That is, use whatever means to connect communities (I’m trying to get a small wireless network up and running in my area-more out of interest than anything else) but where does the fat pipe come from? Wired will involve the BT route above which, in 99.9% of cases, doesn’t bare thinking about and will be beyond the capabilities of most (though not all), so wireless seems appropriate. My town has about 7,000 people-with about 12 strategically placed mesh transmitters/receivers, with dynamic routing, and  I could blanket the town. 

I don’t think it would be hard to find 12 people who would let me put an aerial on the roof and access to a power socket in the loft. Indeed, with the local authority help, there are enough of their buildings where this could be the case. We have a lot of people in outlying areas (farmers and rich people J ) where wireless would be ideal, through P2P (point to point radios), and most probably increase their broadband speeds. Again, ironically, it’s probably those who need it the most. That backhaul would need to be a minimum 1Gb/sec, upgradeable, to satisfy the needs of local people. The counter argument is if all your aiming for is 2Mb/secs, then you don’t need this but it really is a pitiful speed-one stream of BBi Player and your maxed out. This is the part that needs an answer, not the local bit. So far, I’ve not seen this. People are concentrating on how to connect people-that is easy, with wireless.

Unfortunately, this is where you need a big player, with wired connections. Which usually means BT, and/or a service partner/provider. It also costs a fortune. Which means we are back to the beginning again. It will be interesting to see how this all pans out, and what/where/how the money can be spent on. I hope that BDUK will help in this part as the local part is the easy bit.

Been lazy (and busy) so not has a chance to post. Besides I’m not one of these bloggers who feels they have to put something up just for the sake of my viewing figures. As my wife says, quality over quantity ;-)

DLNA-or to give it its proper name Digital Living Network  Alliance. Big name, rubbish sounding but it’s all around us. PVR’s (Personal Video Recorder). It should actually say DVR (Digital Video Recorder) but the two names are interchangeable. Most people know the latter, few know the former. Thing is, you’ve got a DLNA TV or a DLNA client (PS3 is one) and you probably don’t even know it. And probably don’t even use it. So why is it a big deal?

Well, it’s all to do with the magical expression that media companies and Internet providers will stuff down our throats called the “digitally connected home”. There-I said it. Sky will say they do it, with their multi-room facility and Virgin Media would like to say it but they’re not quite there-yet. Freeview is even worse, as you need a separate box for each room and there is no way to watch one programme on one box, on another TV.The big problem with this is you need a separate box for each room-pain in the b*tt, extra power, need one for each of the kids and costs you a fortune. Plus it isn’t scalable. Be honest-how often do you watch Sky Movies? Thing is, the media barons will have you believe that you need them-you don’t. In the US, this is called cord cutting-that is, people are ditching their traditional Pay TV subscriptions and streaming straight from the content providers-NetFlix & LoveFilm are two examples. In a few years, the TV will again become the centrepiece of the family home but this time with the Internet content on it.

(I hear people complaining that this doesn’t cater for Premnium TV-true, but Freeview is by far the biggest provider of TV in the UK-and always will  be. You could always supplement your viewing experience with a Slingbox  ;-))

What you do like is the flexibility they give you, to tie in with your busy lives. I always look at my family and friends, rather than some media marketing nutjob, to make me stop and think what people want. My wife very rarely watches anything “primetime”-she’ll watch it delayed. Why? Because a) it fits round her life and b) she can fast forward through the adverts. So I’ve set the scene and hopefully you get the point.

So you have the big TV (s), you don’t have the time and you want the flexibility-how do you do it? With DLNA, stupid. I’ll go on to describe, with a little thought and some cash outlay, how you get all your programmes, wherever you want, when you want.

Home DNLA set-up
Step 1-fire up that old desktop PC you consigned to the loft. This will be you media centre-where you have all you videos, your music and wait for it, your TV recordings. You’ll need 3 things-a TV tuner card (about £50) and 2 bits of free software. The first part is called MediaPortal and the second part is PS3MediaServer. You install the software and the tuner-tip-try to get a connection to the tuner card (which is a USB stick-no need to pull apart the PC) from your external aerial. It will come with a small internal one but unless you’re close to your TV transmitter, you won’t pick up all the channels. Might be a bit of hassle but it will be worth it.

Step 2-get your TV or client connected up to the media server PC. Now, I’m assuming if you’re reading this, you have a broadband connection. If you’re really lucky, and not like me, you’ll have a Virgin Media broadband connection-which means you’ll have blazing speeds, as well as a router. This router supplies your wireless connection and wired-I specifically mention the wired (Ethernet) side of things as that part seems to have been forgotten in the mad rush for everything wireless (see my earlier posts). I blame that bald guy and his slightly ugly female partner on the Gadget show-or Dick and Fluff as I call them. A lot of the TV’s, which have DLNA, have the facility to connect to your router via a special wireless dongle-tip-don’t bother. They will also have an Ethernet port on the back-use this with a Powerline adaptor. It’s cheaper, and faster. You can do it wireless but wireless doesn’t really scale to high-def video, plus you’re in a very congested airwaves scenario-go for wired, you won’t regret it. As your TV will need to be near a power socket, you can use these all round the house-you can now get ones with in-line sockets so you don’t even need an extension. So idea is, wherever you have a TV, stick in a Powerline adaptor. These are all connected to the router (and hence your media server) by another Powerline adaptor. If you’re really adventurous, you could just run CAT5 cabling all round your house and dispense with the adaptors but I guess you really can’t be bothered drilling holes through your walls and putting your foot through ceilings.

Step 3-ahh, but what if you have an older TV or one that doesn’t have DLNA? Well, this is where this little beauty comes in-£60 and it fits in the palm of your hand. An extra bonus is that it can also do some Internet “stuff”, like YouTube and suchlike. No hardrive, it really is meant for streaming, but you can connect USB drives off the back of it (powered or pen drive).It would also fit very nicely strapped on the back of a wall mounted LCD/LED TV.

Step 4-addtional software to make your life easier. For remote control of the media centre (you don’t even need a monitor) get TeamViewer-stick the main app on your laptop and the client app on your media centre. No more running back and forward. The more canny of you will realise that with a PC as the hub, you can download other “stuff”. Maybe a few torrents with the likes of Utorrent?

So you now have the software, you have the hardware and they are all connected up-sorted. Hopefully the diagram will show you what I mean. Because your TV’s will all have Freeview built in, you still have all your channels as before, for the usual real-time experience. The programmes will be recorded to media centre PC-in my experience, a 30 minute show will take up about 400MB of space (about half a CD). Whereas a 90 minute film will be about 1-2GB of data (half of a DVD). But you can get a 1TB (terabyte) drive for about £50 now so you have oodles of space-as as with your PVR/DVR, you can simply delete the files to clear up space.

Additional Notes (techy bits)

DLNA server software-I prefer PS3MediaServer as you don’t have to continually update/refresh your library as the likes of TV Versity and Serviio require-I Iike the latter but the PS3MS lets you browse all your drives

Media Centre software-yes, you can use the inbuilt Windows supplied one (if your operating system came with it), or you could use the likes of GBPVR but I find Media Portal to be much more feature rich and user friendly, especially where the EPG (Electronic Program Guide) is concerned.

Freeview PVR’s-there are some PVR’s coming onto the market now that have networking capabilities but they are pricey (£300) and probably best to wait until they become mass market. Besides, its just another cost.

So this is a brief intro to getting that media content around the home-hope you've found it useful!

If you've been following the news websites recently, you'll know there has been a breaking story detailing a breach on the corporate website of ACS:LAW
ACS:Law are a company who chase people, on behalf of the movie and record industry, who download content that they shouldn't be-in laymans terms, movies and music. Usually from illegal sources and distributed by Torrent sites and other P2P programs (Limewire is an example). **Update**-I had to link to the wiki article as the ACS:Law website is down-I wonder why?
The main thrust of the story is that a hacker group managed to get inside the servers of said company and obtain files detailing not only IP address's (the "fingerprint" of your broadband connection) but the customer details of who owns that connection. This group, being the charitable souls that they are, then put these files up on the web for anybody to download and view-ironically on the same Torrent systems that were used by the people fingered in the ACS:LAW files. They are still there-go to any Torrent site (here's one I am reliably informed that will point you in the right direction-I wouldn't know being an honest chap). You'll need a Torrent client to download the files-again, so I'm told.I still think Netscape is groundbreaking technology in action :-)

Just to rub salt on the wounds the UK's Information Commissioner has said the company may face a fine of up to £500,000 for this breach of the Data Protection Act. The irony increase as this has happened in the same week that the ICO have issued guidelines for small and medium business's to protect this sort of data-ouch!

Now, I've not seen these files as I keep away from torrents and all that but I'm reliably informed (I'm well informed me) that there are customer details, postcodes etc for each infringement of copyright. So if you download the files, you can look at the various peeps and see if your neighbour is one of the "bad people". Again, if I was betting man and reading the various articles on the web, I bet the files being downloaded, especially the movie ones, are not the type you would show your mother-more likely there's a mother in them-all the above is alledged of course.

So what's this got to do with wireless you say? What's you point matey? My point is, if you know about the likes of ACS:Law and what they do, and you still want to get these files, would you be likely to do it on your own broadband connection? Nope. You'd use someone else's (an open/unsecured wireless one) or you'd hack into a weakly configured wireless network (again, using the likes of aircrack facilitates this-so I'm told). This is probably the most high profile news story to date I can think of that demonstrates why you need to have a very high level of wireless security on your home broadband network.

So if you don't want a letter demanding £££'s for a copy of Debbie Does Dagenham because your wireless broadband connection is open to the world and his porn hound, drop us a line or look at some of the tutorials.
Happy downloading ;-)
Powerline/Homeplug-take your pick. I have a few Samsungs TV's with the DNLA client functionality within them.Basically, your TV becomes a media extender.I use a program on my main PC called Serviio-check it out, its ace. It beats the likes of TV Versity into a pulp-beleive you me, I've tried them all and this one is not only free, it has a nice clean interface and it *works*.
Anyway I digress-I have more than one TV-the other main TV is in another room, away from the PC which has Serviio. I dont have direct Ethernet connectivity and the walls/floor prohibit me from running cables. I want to be able for my kids to watch films (or me) in this room. I have tried wireless but wireless, believe it or not, does not lend itself to media streaming, especially when you get onto the Blu-ray DVD's or HD. It just doesn't. When I say wireless, I mean taking a wireless router and popping on the likes of DD-WRT firmware-this extends the functionality with things like repeater functions. But what I found was that when you get to the 9-10Mb/secs rate (Fantastic Mr Fox is an example), you get stuttering/freezing etc-and then the cry from the kids comes up "Dad-the TV is preparing to play again"!
So I looked at Powerline-basically its a technology that has been about for years (I remember discussing it in 2000) which really should have beaten wireless hands down, in the home, but for some reason (regulation,standards bodies etc) it lagged and wireless filled the void. Wireless was going the same way but the vendors got sick of the regulators and just started launching products-consumers lapped it up and Wi-Fi was born.
Powerline uses the mains circuits in the home to tranfer Ethernet data-same idea as wireless (a conversion ) but not through the air.You need at least 2 adaptors-one connected usually to your home router (the assumption being your main PC is also connected to the router) and the other at the TV. Another reason Powerline has not flew are the prices-your still looking at £40-50 UK for just one circuit-this adds up for a big house and you dont get the conveince of wireless. And this only gets you the "basic" bandwidth model-I'll come onto that shortly. What also happens is that you take up a mains plug socket-so you really need a double socket next to the TV (one for your Powerline box and the other for your TV), or you get a passthru Powerline unit (more expense again). And guess what?-Powerline hates extension leads (I quote from the ZyXel website FAQ " It is not advised to use PowerLine HomePlug Adapters with an extension lead as this can lead to a degradation of throughput signal or in case stop the signal completely") Oh yes, they despise each other.So you can see the consumer barriers starting to come up here-price, functionality and ease of use. And for some reason, some companies think that electric blue is a nice colour to have sticking out of your sockets, rather than white-my wife particularly hates those ones! There are also security issues but unless your in a flat, you should be ok.
Perfromance wise-this does grate on me-you have 3 standards at the moment-by speed it is 14Mb/secs,85Mb/secs and 200Mb/secs. As with wireless, you will get nowhere near this speed.The 14M/secs I could manage 5Mb/secs throughput, the 85Mb/secs I could manage 25Mb/secs-I've not tried the 200Mb/secs because frankly, I'm not shelling out for a 3rd time to be dissapointed. And the above speeds were 2 laptops, on 2 Powerline adaptors, on the same wall socket-start going between rooms or different ring circuits and the speed drops dramatically.My house is only 10 years old so the electrics are fine. Its just not very good.
So I'll be using Powerline as a filler at the moment-dont be fooled by the claims. If you can run Ethernet cables, please do-it really is the only way.The other suggestion is you use a combination of wireless for low bandwidth/easy use/conveince with Powerline for point to point circuits. But dont depend on one of the two to fill all your needs as you'll be dissapointed. With the media home on its way, somebody better had come up with an alternative to wired Ethernet or plasterers will be in big demand shortly
First of all apoligies-I've not found the time to keep the blog up to date. It's a mixture of work and laziness :-)
I've been meaning to write about this for a while-BT FON. What's that then I hear you cry-and if your a BT customer, then that wouldn't surprise me! BT FON is a freebie that BT throw into your home broadband wi-fi connection. Essentially if you give a bit up of your wi-fi connection for public consumption, you can then use other BT FON users bandwidth when your out and about-sounds great. A massive source of untapped broadband supply, just waiting for you, the loyal BT user, to use. One problem-most users dont know they have signed up for this service.On all new users, the facilty is opt-in by default-that is, BT have it turned on on your router when it is shipped to you/ bought by you. Which is fine if you get your 8Mb/secs (lucky you) but not so if your getting a few Megs. I'm surprised more has not been made of this when you consider the Facebook row over privacy settings story.You would think a big company basically making decisons on what some people see as important as their gas, electricity and water-giving it away from free-would have eliicted some sort of response but no. I think a lot of just amplifies the general ambiliance and ignorance most broadband users have towards that home connection.Think of it this way-its like the Water company saying if you give up some water from your garden hose connection, you can use someone else's when your out. Thing is:
1) I doubt if you would sign up for it
2) you wont use it very often
3) the reason for 1 is 2
But they've stuck a big map up on the Web where all those free taps are-dont believe me? Try this and stick in your postcode-ok, here's one I did earlier
Random BT FON map
The large blue circles represent areas where the indivdual wi-fi hotspots are so many, BT need to show this as one big circle.Now I'm sorry, I know that the British are known for their generosity but I simple dont believe that all those people are 1) giving up their bandwidth and 2) are doing it of their own free will. Come on-the Brits are so paranoid  do you think they are going to let their neighbours onto their wi-fi? No chance. Not a Scooby Doo in hell's chance.

But I mentioned exploit in the header-now, the way BT FON works is it takes the "pie" that is your broadband connection and slices it up-with you keeping about 90% (based on a 8Mb/secs connection-lol) and the other 10% goes to Joe Bloggs looking for porn or some torrents under the radar, parked outside or next door. It is secure (WPA/WPA2), but secure comes with a caveat-WPA will be broken in the next few years, its only matter of time. As discussed in a previous post, there are now cloud services willing to do the job for you of finding that elusive password.Anyway I digress.Somebody will find a hole in this system and crack it wide open-if its not been been done already and the blackhats are just keeping Mum about it. And yes, you do need to sign in with your BT FON username and password-you know, that same one you ask your Mum and Dad for when you want to get your email......

The biggest shame about this is that in these day where we talk about the broadband poor, that BT havent worked out a way to build a super mesh network for the whole country-think about it-thousands,millions of wi-fi access points being combined together for the greater and common good.Now that's a good idea.
Looks like WPA as a step up from WEP for protecting your wireless home network will soon be dead in the water. Cloud computing is now being offered (for a small fee) by not one, but two, operators. This technology offers to take a WPA capture file (which can easily be obtained by the likes of Aircrack) and combined with your SSID (the advertisement that you see when you fire up your laptop). The clever thing is that it takes this SSID and tailors the "attack" on the password. Unlike WEP, the attack is still brute force in nature, in that it uses a dictionary attack. Granted, the dictionary is an eye-watering 540 million long list of words, so if your password is long enough and random enough, then your safe. Unfortunately, most people don't use long and random passwords-duh.
Its only a matter of time before others get in on this market and/or someone gives it away for free. WPA2 is an option but either people wont/dont know about this option or their hardware wont support it. Or cant be bothered to change it.

Time to look out that cabling tool.