Another Long Winding Cisco Road

So, lately I’ve been investigating buying new routing and networking equipment for home, as the NBN (Australia’s FTTH roll-out) is coming closer and my old ADSL2+ modem/router (a Billion 7800NL, one of the first consumer routers capable of IPv6) was getting a bit long in the tooth; the configuration is not retained across reboots and the web interface crashes with HTTP 500 errors more often than not.

So, out with the old an in with the new. There were a few choices:

  • A new consumer-grade router, such as one of the newer models from Billion (which are quite good, but have low tinkerability).
  • A Mikrotik-based solution. This was a close call, as I’m a fan of Mikrotik and my friend Jamie is even more of one (he loves them). However, I want to get more experience with Cisco products as I want to be able to put that on my résumé. Hence, I wanted a Cisco solution.
  • I also considered the Cisco 2801, as they are not much more than an 1841, but have four HWIC slots instead of two, so I wouldn’t have to spend time deciding which HWICs to get, I could just have them all! However, the fans are apparently very loud (as professional rackmount gear tends to be) which would not suit the living room locale very well at all.
  • So in the end I settled on a Cisco 1841. Lower fan noise, still supports HWICs for swap-out fun and excitement, and has the full features of the IOS software available.
My new Cisco 1841
My new Cisco 1841

You may have noticed I didn’t go for a Cisco 1801 which has ADSL support built in. This is deliberate, as the NBN is closing in on my street and I don’t want to be left with a router that supports old technologies – all I will need for a fibre connection is an ethernet port, which the 1841 has two of out of the box. I can also add in 3G backup connections (which is more of a want than a need) as well as things like WIC-1AM or WIC-2T modules (i.e. utterly useless but kind of cool).

For wireless, I’m undecided as to what direction to go in. I definitely want something dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) as my laptop supports dual band and I want to invest in technology that will last at least a couple of years. This rules out most consumer gear quite quickly. A Mikrotik solution is another option and is probably the front-runner. The second option is a UniFi AP Pro, which supports a whole host of cool features like multiple VLANs and SSIDs etc; it’s a little cheaper than a Mikrotik solution but also a lot less flexible. Finally, the most expensive option is to buy a wireless card for the 1841. There are many problems with this approach: I’ll use up an HWIC slot, the modules are incredibly expensive, it’s not even 802.11n, likely to be a complete pain in the neck to configure, and not dual-band. The only benefit is that it keeps everything in one box.

I’ve only received the router in the last week or so, and the eBay auctions for WIC modules haven’t yet finished. There’s a long way to go yet. So wish me luck on my path to routing enlightenment!

On Abortion

There’s been a lot of debate recently on the subject of abortion, both within the general Tasmanian community and within my circle of twitter friends (Anna and Michael especially). The following are my almost incomprehensible thoughts on the subject. This post is in response to this and this, and also to the vastness of the entire Internet.

Before paying me too much attention, know this: I’ve never been involved in abortion first hand, so I really have no idea what I’m talking about. This is important.

I think that the only thing most sensible people can decide on in regards to the abortion debate is that the subject is enormously complex. Unfortunately, everybody seems to have a different reaction to this fact. Some people decide to simply say that a blanket decision can apply (such as the pro-life movement takes, where abortion is always wrong, no matter the context). I, on the other hand, believe that because this subject is so complex, there are so many ifs and buts, so many different combinations of life story, there will almost certainly be a situation where abortion is the correct choice. It’s unfortunate, but it is true. Sometimes abortion is just the right thing to do (at least, that is my opinion).

I think because of this fact, it makes no sense to have a legal framework in which abortion is illegal, because if a certain set of circumstances requires it, then nobody should have to go through the pain of abortion and the pain of breaking the law at the same time – women (and men, but it is the woman getting the abortion after all) should be given all the support they need.

It makes no sense to deny this based simply on the fact that abortion does not sit comfortably in some people’s world view (specifically, their religion). I’m not a fan of abortion, but it is one of those things that we just have to accept. Firstly, people will get abortions anyway. Fact of life. Secondly, there will be pain caused to people. Because they have to go through illegal trauma. Because of your world view. Not a fact (I have no proof), but it’s not hard to imagine. Now imagine: you either cause pain and suffering to other people (which is bad, according to your own religion) or you allow abortion and other people get on with their lives – and you are in the same position as everybody else, you simply accept abortion for what it is and get on with your life.

The other thing I would like to say at this time is that I think men can certainly have a valid opinion on abortion – this blog post stands as a testament to that. However, women do have a final say here… simply because it is their body. Another fact. I’d certainly hope that if I was ever in the situation where considerations were being made, that I would be consulted. However I would always be aware that the final decision does not rest with me. Comfortable or uncomfortable as I might be with that, I have to accept it.

And here ends the rambling incomprehensibility. We now return to regularly scheduled silence.

This Week In Links: 2013-04-07

  • 5 Things You Should Be Doing If You’re Unemployed – I’m not unemployed (far from it, this week has reminded me of that), but it is always important to keep in mind that even the things that seem most certain can still surprise you. With the possible exception of number 4, you should be doing these things even when you’re fully employed. So I am, and so I will be.
  • I’m sure everybody has seen this by now. If you haven’t, don’t click on the link before making sure you have nowhere to be in the next hour or so.
  • Paul Graham’s ‘How to Do What You Love‘ was certainly an interesting read. It made me think about what I enjoy doing in my spare time (playing around with servers and programming), and what I do at work (playing around with servers and programming). The two match up, so I must be doing OK, right?
  • R&D-I-Y certainly looks like an interesting concept. Like the open-source cola of many moons ago, this seems like another good attempt to use the FOSS methodology to create real physical products. And the idea they’re working on, to create farms that will fit in a small apartment so that individual people can grow food! I found out about this through a pretty cool TED talk.
  • Speaking of indoor farming, I thought these instructions to grow celery from its leftover base is pretty cool – and could probably be applied to a lot of vegetables, if we were creative.
  • And one of my favourite ways to waste time on the Internet: reading about time management.

Thoughts on the Philippines

I spent two and a half weeks in the Philippines in March 2013 for work (upgrading the network infrastructure in our office over there). As a country, there are a lot of things both similar to and different from Australia. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • It’s a coffee country, not a tea country. You can find coffee everywhere, but tea is hard to come by, and good tea is almost impossible. I’ve discovered the horror that is American-style creamer, and I don’t like the world quite as much any more.
  • Tasmanian drivers really are terrible. Drivers in the Philippines have a huge amount of skill, able to squeeze two cars past each other in ways that I figured should be impossible. It’s terrifying if you’re not used to it though. On arrival in Manila, I spent two hours in a taxi for a 8km trip from the airport to my hotel, and the traffic was abysmal (a later airport->hotel run took 10 minutes). People would drive down the wrong side of the road at full speed, with both drivers only moving out of the way at the last minute – making the most of the limited space on roads. In terms of condition, width, and congestion, roads in Manila are very similar to Sydney – or at least my experiences within the CBD areas of both cities.
  • In terms of how expensive (or rather, cheap) the country is to live in, there are two ways of thinking about it. The first is “oh wow, I can live like a king!” I found frequently that apart from electronic goods (which had the same price tag, once currency conversion was done, as in Australia) that I could afford pretty much anything I liked. An hour massage cost me less than $5, including a generous tip. I took ten people out to lunch at a fancy restaurant and ordered everything we liked, total was $100. It’s simply amazing – and the thought was constantly with me: what if I could earn at Australian rates and spend at Filipino rates? How awesome would that be!
    But there is a second way of looking at the country: “The contents of my backpack are worth more than everything these people own in their entire lives!” This way of looking at things becomes incredibly confronting when in the country areas, as I found (in my limited experience) that they were much poorer than metropolitan Manila, especially CBD Makati where I was 90% of the time). People had houses built out of coconuts leaves and corrugated iron sheeting. The “rich” houses were made out of unpainted concrete blocks. You start to feel guilty for even owning your own computer, let alone the three or four that I have. I’m also certain that there are a lot of locals (especially in metropolitan Manila) who are insanely rich – the dealerships for BMW and Mercedes will attest to this fact. It seems the country is owned by the very rich, who really control things (like in Australia) and then the poor are very poor. Maybe there is a parallel to be made with Victorian-era Britain here?
  • Cabling contractors are fabulously useless. Something that would take a contractor 4 hours in Australia takes 4 people 3 days each in Manila. I’m not sure whether it was the contractors we were using, but I wasn’t impressed. While I’m not a licensed cabler in Australia, I do know vaguely what I’m doing with network cabling, and I could have done the job myself in Manila had I not been doing a million other things – about twice as fast as it took 4 people to do it. We also went through three sets of cabling contractors within two weeks, as the first two contractors just stopped showing up. Surely I can’t be that hard to work for?
  • Some of the food is amazing, but generally Tasmanian food is much better. In particular, fresh seafood is fresher in the Philippines than it is here, and therefore tastes absolutely amazing. Mango shakes were another favourite of mine. Because mangoes are a tropical fruit, they grow easily there, and as such are very cheap (along with most other vegetables and fruit, I guess due to the labour prices). A mango shake (mango and ice in a blender, sometimes mango and icecream in a blender) costs between $0.50 and $2, and they are the perfect way to refresh yourself after being the intense heat. With that said, there is a lot of terrible food in the Philippines, especially Manila with it’s plethora of takeaway restaurants (which were welcome the first day or two, but quickly grew tiresome). Local food is good, and very cheap, but without a heap of variation – most Filipino food is curries and stews of various sorts.

All in all, it’s a country I’d really like to go back to – there’s a lot more of the country that I would like to see. I wouldn’t want to live there (the pollution is terrible) but the really friendly people make it a pleasure to visit.