Posts filed under ‘Uncategorized’

Palo Alto PA-220

About a month ago, Palo Alto announced their new 8.0 firmware, along with some new hardware.  The most exciting new product to me, personally, is their new PA-220.

The PA-200 is a unit I have a lot of experience with.  It’s got 4 Gig ports for traffic, supports 100 Mbps of firewall throughput, dropping to 50 Mbps with Threat prevention enabled.  It’s a good unit for a small office.

The PA-220 is better, sporting 8 Gig ports for traffic, 500 Mbps of firewall throughput, dropping to 150 Mbps with Threat enabled.  It is without fans, and since it uses EMMC for storage (32 GB), there shouldn’t be any moving parts to break down.

Basically, it’s got more power than a PA-500, the same number of ports, and it’s in an even smaller package than the PA-200.

Best of all, it’s at a much better price point than the PA-200.

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March 7, 2017 at 11:20 pm 1 comment

Sous Vide – Tuna

Tonight, I made dinner yet again.  This time, I only made one dish Sous Vide, Tuna following this recipe.  Differences this week:  I bought a Cambro 4.75 gallon container with a sliding lid to cook in and an Ikea pot organizer (which fits inside the Cambro, allowing me to keep the bags separated).

I’m not having much luck with proteins cooked Sous Vide.  Perhaps it was that the Tuna I cooked was a flash frozen Tuna from a local warehouse club.   It was Ahi Tuna, and the color didn’t look as red as I expected.  I think it was more of a brown, but perhaps that was from the freezing process?

I set my Anova to 115 degrees, as I wanted it to be a little firm, but not to the point that it’s dry.  I think my Tuna steaks were around 1 inch thick, giving me a cook time of 30-45 minutes.  I took the first piece out around the 45 minute mark and proceeded to sear it.  I probably took the last piece out between the 50 and 55 minute mark.

What I ended up with, though it was only cooked to 115 degrees, looked much closer in color to the 130 degree image from the Serious Eats article.

I thought that perhaps my issue was with the Anova itself.  Perhaps it was not accurately reading the temperature of the water, making it heat it up another 10-15 degrees above the expected temperature?  I tested that theory by firing up the Anova after dinner and placing a large mercury thermometer in the water bath.  It showed about 109, matching the Anova.  A few minutes later, when the Anova had reached 115, the mercury thermometer also showed about 115 degrees.

So, since the Anova is operating as expected, I can only conclude that I either overcooked the Tuna by going to 45-55 minutes and should have removed it at 30 minutes, or that it was a quality issue with my Tuna itself.  Another potential issue that I just thought of…  Perhaps my intake and outlets of the Anova are getting partially blocked, making the Anova overheat the water?

My choices of sides seemed to go well this evening, though they were not Sous Vide, so I am not going to go into them here, at this time.

Not sure what I’m going to make next Saturday.

September 24, 2016 at 10:24 pm Leave a comment

TDBank – The best daily-use credit card offer I’ve seen!

This is probably the best credit card offer I’ve seen for a daily use card.  This was another offer to me via mail, but they are offering a very similar offer to anyone (only $100 cash back instead of $200).

$200 Cash back after you spend $500 on the card in the first 3 months
5% cash back on purchases for restaurants, groceries, gas, cable, phone, and utility payments for 6 months
1% cash back everywhere elseNo annual fee

That’s quite an offer.  $500 in the first 3 months?  I’ll likely do that in the first 30 days.  Groceries and Gas alone should cover that.

But then there’s the 5% cash back.  Every month, I spend probably 100-150 eating out, more if the cafeteria at my job counts as a restaurant.  We spend about $300 on gas, and probably $400 at the grocery store (excluding CostCo food purchases).  Then there’s the cable bill, and the cell phone bill.

The electric company charges $4.95 to pay with a credit card, but with 5% cash back, I’ll make $15+ in cash back, so the extra fee is worth it.

A quick calculation shows that just on these 5% cash back categories, we should earn $65 back every month.  That’s almost $400 over the 6 months, plus the bonus $200.

This offer is public (except with $100 cash back instead of $200) at this link:

http://www.tdbank.com/personalcreditcard/cashrewardscard.html

October 11, 2014 at 12:33 pm Leave a comment

Chase Bank Checking Offer – $200

Recently, Chase Bank has been sending out offers to set up a checking account with them and earn $200.  You have to get it in the mail from them to qualify, but I got this offer at least twice now and decided that the chance of earning $200 was worth looking closer.

Lets get the “Catch” out of the way, right up front:

This is a checking account that has a $12 monthly service fee, unless one of the following is true:

You have at least a $500 direct deposit going into the account
You have a $1500 or more minimum daily balance
You have an average daily balance of $5000 or more in any combination of linked deposit/investment accounts
You’ve paid $25 or more in qualifying checking-related services or fees

To get the $200 bonus, you have to have a direct deposit made within 60 days from your paycheck, pension, or government benefits.  After that’s happened, they will deposit the $200 in your account within 10 business days.

The only other “Catch” is that you need to have the account open for 6 months.  If it is closed prior to that, they take the $200 back when you close the account.  I’ve already added a reminder to my calendar for next May, so that way I know when it’s safe to close the account if I decide to get rid of it.  In that case, I’ll change my direct deposit, wait for the first payday that they don’t deposit the money in the Chase account, then go close the account right after.

Anyhow, should you choose to take Chase’s $200, your #1 priority should be to set up a regular direct deposit for a minimum of $500 per month, unless you happen to have $1500 or more to leave sitting in the account all the time.

Depending on how long it takes your employer to make changes to the direct deposit, you may end up having to pay a $12 fee, but certainly most employers should have no trouble making that change within a couple of weeks or so.

Chase has pretty standard banking fees, they charge you for checks, etc.  They do have nice technology though.  You can do most everything you need to via their smartphone app, including making deposits.  They do have ATMs around my city, so I can get cash out if I need to without having to pay a third party for the use of their ATM.  They also offer real ATM cards, if you ask.  I did, because I don’t want a debit card, due to the fact that a thief could drain your account, and then it’s up to the bank to fix things.  Do note that if you take their ATM card instead of their debit card, you can’t use other network ATMs, according to what they told me, only Chase ATMs.

One thing I do like about the Chase account is that a single web login gets me access to my two Chase credit cards and my Chase checking account.  With my Discover checking account, there’s a different login for the checking than the credit card.

You may think that juggling various accounts is too much trouble just for a bonus here or there, but I’m using YNAB to manage my money.  With it, I am confident that I can keep track of everything, move money around to where it is needed, and get everything handled.  All of my accounts are managed through a single app, so everything about my daily finance is in one place.  If you haven’t heard of it, take a look:  youneedabudget.com

October 11, 2014 at 12:06 pm Leave a comment

Comcast, cramming charges

Today, I looked at my Comcast bill because it had recently gone up by around $5.

I found that I was suddenly being charged $3.95 for their service protection plan. This is the plan they try to scare you into taking, saying that if they dispatch a tech to your home to fix a service issue and the problem turns out to be your inside wiring or equipment, without this protection plan, you’d be charged a $30+ fee.  I did not ask for this plan, nor did I even know I had it.  As it turned out, I had it for a few months, but there was a -3.95 “Service Discount”, effectively making it free, but that disappeared with this month’s bill.

When asked about it, the Comcast billing representative said that it was a “promotion” they were running.

So, they add a feature to your account without your knowledge, giving it to you for free for a few months, then start charging you for it?  They call that a promotion?

The rest of the added charges were for $1.99, an additional outlet fee.  Checking my previous bills, I saw that the additional outlet charge started the previous month, but prior to that, it was listed as a 0.00 item.  I don’t have an additional outlet.  I own a HD Homerun box that take a cablecard.  According to this link, there is no charge for your first CableCard (at least, as of this date).  The Comcast rep tried to determine whether or not I had any other outlets, but when she couldn’t see any evidence of that, she agreed to remove the $1.99 charge for those two months.

Now get this…  Nearing the end of the call, she notifies me that I’ll be charged a $2.99 service change fee for getting these changes to my account.  Wait, what?  I call to get fees removed that I shouldn’t have been charged in the first place, and you’re going to charge me for the privilege?  When I posed the question that way, she quickly notified me that she would also give me a $2.99 credit to waive that fee.Cramming these extra fees on the cable bill is very low of Comcast.  Unfortunately, Comcast’s only local competition is Clear (wireless), and AT&T (U-Verse), and neither of them are really up to the challenge (Comcast is still the best price/performance).  So, I’ll be sticking with them a bit longer.  I just wish there was another, better, option out there.

September 22, 2014 at 5:58 pm 2 comments

Almond+ Wifi Router

I ordered the Almond+ router in March of 2013. About a month ago, it finally shipped.

Exterior

It’s a very nice looking box and is physically well designed.  It has a small touchscreen interface, perfect for getting basic settings on the router to get it up and running.

What?  A touch screen router?  Who needs this?

Yes, I can hear you thinking that.  Just a couple of weeks ago, my brother called to ask my advice about an issue his daughter had.  She just got cable Internet and picked up a wireless router.  Only, she doesn’t have anything to configure it with.  Her computer is a Macbook Air, which doesn’t have an Ethernet port.  Microsoft is promoting it’s new Surface tablets as replacements for laptops.  I can see a day coming where most people probably won’t have an Ethernet port on any machine they own.  For them, a touch screen router makes perfect sense.

Control Your Home

Home automation is one of the key features of the Almond+.  I don’t currently have any compatible hardware, so I can’t comment on how well this works yet.  From reading the forum, most people are having good luck with many products.  I expect that given a bit more time, this support will really mature.

Based on OpenWRT

To me, this is a major selling point.  Instead of trying to roll their own OS, they have chosen to use a great open-source platform, and just build their additions to it.  This made me very excited, thinking about all the expansion possibilities with the package system of OpenWRT.  However, the Almond hardware is based on a different processor and wireless chip than any other OpenWRT platform.  As such, you can’t just point to the OpenWRT REPOs and install new packages.  While the potential is there for this to really open up the possibilities for this little box, it’s currently held back because it’s not really supported yet.

As a Wifi Router…

This is where I have trouble.  Earlier versions of the firmware have had issues with some device types (like IOS devices) dropping off the network.  It’s too early to tell if the newly released R066 firmware fixes these issues completely, or not.

One feature that’s missing is supporting Enterprise Authentication of the Wifi network.  While I understand that business isn’t their target market, I run Enterprise Auth on my Wifi network at home.  Lots of other home Wifi hardware supports Enterprise Auth.

Another feature that seems to be missing is VLAN support.

Conclusion

At this time, I don’t recommend the Almond+ if you are an advanced user.  I expect that as it matures the wifi issues will be resolved, and especially related to OpenWRT, the feature set will broaden.

September 20, 2014 at 9:05 pm Leave a comment

Why I am moving to a Synology DS1512+

I’ve had a ReadyNAS NV+ and currently use a ReadyNAS Pro Pioneer.  The NV+ was a great NAS in its day.  The Pro still is a pretty great NAS.

Right after they came out, I bought a Drobo-FS for one reason.  The ability to mix and match commodity drives.  The big thing it had going for it was the fact that you didn’t need to have Enterprise (READ:EXPENSIVE) drives.  And, you could mix them, a big No-No in the RAID world.

Even my venerable ReadyNAS Pro needed all drives to be identical.  This made for very good performance, but made for costly upgrades.  In my case, I planned for upgrading…  I started with three 750 GB RE3 drives in my Pro, but soon needed more space.  I could have bought 3 more 750 GB space, adding about 2 TB to my array, giving me about 3.5 TB total RAID capacity.  The problem with this approach is when you are upgrading drives (the only way to upgrade once you have reached the maximum number of drives in the Pro), you have to upgrade ALL of the drives in the array.  Thinking ahead, I bought three 2 TB drives  (4 TB of RAID capacity).  The idea was that if I wanted more room, I could just add another drive.  But when that time came, I’m thinking about the same issues that I had when I went from 750 GB drives to 2 TB drives, wondering if I shouldn’t just buy 3 new 3 TB drives instead to preserve some upgrade room.

So, I didn’t keep the Drobo-FS for very long.  The performance was similar to my old NV+, but after using the Pro as my main NAS, waiting on the Drobo-FS seemed almost painful.

Anyhow, I have been mulling over a capacity upgrade for some time, when I recently read about the good performance numbers of the DS1512+.  Looking closer, I found that their SHR (Synology Hybrid Raid) supports mixed drive types, just like the Drobo-FS, but the DS1512+ performance is even faster than the Pro.  I was intrigued.

After using the demo website, I found that the GUI interface is light years ahead of the Netgear product line.  The packages system is what I would have liked to see happened with Netgears “Add-ons”.   Netgear recently put out a press release touting their line of products for video surveillance.  I think they may have gotten the idea from Synology, as they have a very well developed package just for that.

I honestly think that Netgear bought Infrant while they were “on top”, and then Netgear played it safe with the ReadyNAS product, keeping things practically identical from the software perspective, while working on adding to the hardware line-up.  While their product line has expanded, the software has not changed very much, on the surface at least.  Since the ReadyNAS uses software RAID just like the Synology, I would think it should be capable of the same tricks.  Perhaps some future version will, if Netgear has deemed it a valuable feature and invested the time to develop the software to handle those situations.

The Synology supports Link Aggregation and AD integration, two features that weren’t on my Pro Pioneer, which was around 50% more expensive than this Synology.  I believe there is now a “hack” available that lets you enable Link Aggregation on the ReadyNAS.

The DS-1512+ has one great feature the ReadyNAS doesn’t – expansion units…  Plug a cable from a DS-1512+ into up to two of their expansion units and suddenly you could have a 15 drive array.    Not that I think I’ll ever need that level of expansion, but if I do, it’s there.

According to what I’ve read online, these are very solid units (in terms of recovery).  With the mixed media ability (even mix between 2.5 inch and 3.5 inch drives!), this Synology unit should take care of my data for the next 4-5 years with no problem…

October 17, 2012 at 7:21 pm Leave a comment

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