ComputerGuru

Is OpenNIC a reliable DNS service?

I was asked the question, "Is OpenNIC a reliable DNS service?" As a systems administrator on a private network, being able to create and customize a DNS server adds some management features that would not apply to the average home based web surfer.

This question was asked with the reason for using OpenNIC is to add an extra layer of privacy to your web browsing. The belief, or perhaps paranoia, is that DNS servers are able to log your requests, and by doing so they have a record of sites you have visited. The question is asked in the context that your DNS provided by your ISP is a source to track where you have been on the internet, and by using an alternative DNS service that eliminates that extra potential layer of tracking, thereby creating more privacy.

If you want to start playing around with alternative DNS solutions you need to understand the risks as well as the benefits.

First let's take a quick look at the definition of DNS (Domain Naming Service)

  • DNS is a distributed database of Domain Names and their corresponding IP Addresses.
  • DNS makes it possible to attach hard to remember IP addresses to easy to remember domain names
  • DNS translates between meaningful host names and IP addresses. It is a hierarchical naming system used to give each server on the Internet a unique name.
  • DNS keeps a complete listing of all FQDNs (Fully qualified domain names) and their associated IP address.

What is OpenNIC?

OpenNIC, an open source DNS provider, an organization of hobbyists who run an alternative DNS network.

Is OpenNIC a reliable DNS service?

A quick look at some data found in the links below tell me that OpenNIC, an open source DNS provider, does not appear to be as efficient as other DNS providers.

Comparing the performance of popular public DNS providers -|- Recommended Public DNS Servers

Based on the data in those two articles, and my personal experiences with open source, I would ask, why bother to use OpenNIC?

I have volunteered my time and have been an advocate of open source solutions for more than 20 years. I am happy to use and test open source solutions if I see a benefit in using them. If I felt the need to pursue an alternative DNS solution I would do more research, but based on what I see here, I just don't see a compelling reason to jump on the OpenNIC bandwagon.


The importance of DNS

As an IT professional I have often used the analogy that talking to business managers about maintaining a computer network is like talking about the plumbing. Many cost cutting managers see technology infrastructure as an expense to be reduced, rather than a resource to be managed. The need to replace the pipes is not something that gets discussed. That is, until the morning when there is no water coming from the pipes, and no one can flush the toilets, then it becomes mission critical.

Computer network services such as DNS are like the plumbing below the surface, as long as it is running and everything is working, no one gives it much thought. That is until you type in the name of a website into your browser, and you get the message: dns_unresolved_hostname The requested site could not be found in DNS.

This article puts DNS into perspective: Plan to transition Internet management sparks censorship fears

Quoting from that article:  *"The importance of DNS cannot be overstated. It is the Internet’s phonebook, connecting bizarre-looking IP addresses to the domain names with which all Internet users are familiar. When someone types **Google* (http://google.com)* into their browser, their request goes through a DNS server, which understands that the user is looking for one of Google‘s many servers, including 195.122.30.25. If that routing information were compromised or corrupted, whether intentionally or accidentally, it could severely disrupt the basic flow of traffic over the Web."*

Digging deeper with DNS

Sounds simple on the surface, but when you look at DNS as a tool to deceive and mis-direct people, it gets a little deeper.

Over the years I've written quite a bit about internet laws and proposed legislation. In 2011 the world was up in arms about PIPA (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act.) The well meaning and good intentions of the US Congress was to shut down rogue websites and reduce the sale of counterfeit goods.

One of the provisions of the proposed law PIPA was allowing the government to remove rogue websites from the Domain Name System (DNS). Of course the internet purists were screaming about too much government control of the internet. (Ironically these same groups are now screaming for more government control of the internet with net neutrality regulations.)

Digging through some old notes I found this article explaining PIPA:  DNS filtering: absolutely the wrong way to defend copyrights

I have digressed a bit from the context of the original question, but I wanted to try to explain why the question might matter to someone beyond the simple answer, and why changing your DNS server is not something to be taken lightly.
 

Tags: 

Is OpenNIC a reliable DNS service?

I was asked the question, "Is OpenNIC a reliable DNS service?" As a systems administrator on a private network, being able to create and customize a DNS server adds some management features that would not apply to the average home based web surfer.

This question was asked with the reason for using OpenNIC is to add an extra layer of privacy to your web browsing. The belief, or perhaps paranoia, is that DNS servers are able to log your requests, and by doing so they have a record of sites you have visited. The question is asked in the context that your DNS provided by your ISP is a source to track where you have been on the internet, and by using an alternative DNS service that eliminates that extra potential layer of tracking, thereby creating more privacy.

If you want to start playing around with alternative DNS solutions you need to understand the risks as well as the benefits.

First let's take a quick look at the definition of DNS (Domain Naming Service)

  • DNS is a distributed database of Domain Names and their corresponding IP Addresses.
  • DNS makes it possible to attach hard to remember IP addresses to easy to remember domain names
  • DNS translates between meaningful host names and IP addresses. It is a hierarchical naming system used to give each server on the Internet a unique name.
  • DNS keeps a complete listing of all FQDNs (Fully qualified domain names) and their associated IP address.

What is OpenNIC?

OpenNIC, an open source DNS provider, an organization of hobbyists who run an alternative DNS network.

Is OpenNIC a reliable DNS service?

A quick look at some data found in the links below tell me that OpenNIC, an open source DNS provider, does not appear to be as efficient as other DNS providers.

Comparing the performance of popular public DNS providers -|- Recommended Public DNS Servers

Based on the data in those two articles, and my personal experiences with open source, I would ask, why bother to use OpenNIC?

I have volunteered my time and have been an advocate of open source solutions for more than 20 years. I am happy to use and test open source solutions if I see a benefit in using them. If I felt the need to pursue an alternative DNS solution I would do more research, but based on what I see here, I just don't see a compelling reason to jump on the OpenNIC bandwagon.


The importance of DNS

As an IT professional I have often used the analogy that talking to business managers about maintaining a computer network is like talking about the plumbing. Many cost cutting managers see technology infrastructure as an expense to be reduced, rather than a resource to be managed. The need to replace the pipes is not something that gets discussed. That is, until the morning when there is no water coming from the pipes, and no one can flush the toilets, then it becomes mission critical.

Computer network services such as DNS are like the plumbing below the surface, as long as it is running and everything is working, no one gives it much thought. That is until you type in the name of a website into your browser, and you get the message: dns_unresolved_hostname The requested site could not be found in DNS.

This article puts DNS into perspective: Plan to transition Internet management sparks censorship fears

Quoting from that article:  *"The importance of DNS cannot be overstated. It is the Internet’s phonebook, connecting bizarre-looking IP addresses to the domain names with which all Internet users are familiar. When someone types **Google* (http://google.com)* into their browser, their request goes through a DNS server, which understands that the user is looking for one of Google‘s many servers, including 195.122.30.25. If that routing information were compromised or corrupted, whether intentionally or accidentally, it could severely disrupt the basic flow of traffic over the Web."*

Digging deeper with DNS

Sounds simple on the surface, but when you look at DNS as a tool to deceive and mis-direct people, it gets a little deeper.

Over the years I've written quite a bit about internet laws and proposed legislation. In 2011 the world was up in arms about PIPA (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act.) The well meaning and good intentions of the US Congress was to shut down rogue websites and reduce the sale of counterfeit goods.

One of the provisions of the proposed law PIPA was allowing the government to remove rogue websites from the Domain Name System (DNS). Of course the internet purists were screaming about too much government control of the internet. (Ironically these same groups are now screaming for more government control of the internet with net neutrality regulations.)

Digging through some old notes I found this article explaining PIPA:  DNS filtering: absolutely the wrong way to defend copyrights

I have digressed a bit from the context of the original question, but I wanted to try to explain why the question might matter to someone beyond the simple answer, and why changing your DNS server is not something to be taken lightly.
 

Tags: 

Home computer networks explained Wi-Fi and wireless access points

Setting up your home network can get confusing as street slang dominates many forums and internet discussions.  Just about any plastic box with wires coming out of it is often called a modem or a router, in reality it may be neither.

Here at the Guru42 Universe we will do out best to sort through all the geek speak.  It is important to have a basic understanding of all the buzzwords when you are setting up your home computer network.  Depending on your Internet Service Provider and the service you are buying, the device they supply will vary and what you need to connect is not a one size fits all answer.

Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) may provide you with a "residential gateway" that allows you to connect to the internet. You then purchase an internet appliance that is often called a "wireless router" to attach it.  People get confused because many small technology appliances made for home use are actually several devices in one.  One of my pet peeves on is when people use the term "wireless router" to describe a variety of devices. Typically what most people call a wireless router is a combination of a router, a wireless access point, and a network switch.

Do I need a modem to access the Internet?

A modem is a MOdulator-DEModulator, as in a modulator which creates an analog signal such as the type needed in POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service), and a demodulator which converts the modulated carrier back to something that can be used in a digital circuit. Most modern communications use digital lines so the need to convert (MOdulate-DEModulate) is no longer necessary.

Often the word modem is used as a generic word for any device that connects your home network to an internet service providers network. Typically in modern home computing when someone uses the term modem they are talking about a  "residential gateway" provided to them by their ISP.

What confuses matters even more is that the device supplied by the ISP could be a multi-function technology appliance that contains a router, an Ethernet switch, and a WAP (wireless access point), and possibly other functions related to a home networks such as a firewall.

What is a wireless access point?

A Wireless Access Point (WAP) is a networking hardware device which, as the name describes, gives you wireless access to your LAN (local area network).  You have a wired connection, an ethernet 8P8C (8 position 8 contact) modular connectors port in your wall, that is wired access. You want to convert that to a wireless access point.

A Wireless Access Point has nothing to do with routing or switching.In a very small home network the WAP could be part of one appliance that has multiple features.  What many people call a router in their home may actually be a router, and a switch, and a wireless access point.

The terms "wireless access point" and "Wi-Fi" are not synonyms.

In online forums people often use the terms  "wireless access point"  and "Wi-Fi" to mean a hotspot, as in any type of public internet access.

A Wireless Access Point (WAP) is a device that offers, as the name suggests, wireless access to a wireless local area network (WLAN).  While cell phone technology is often discussed as a form of wireless networking, it is not the same as the wireless local area network (WLAN) technology discussed here.   In computer networking you would use the term Wireless Access Point (WAP) to identify the device being used, and the term Wi-Fi to identify the specific technology. rather than Wi-Fi access point.

Specifically the term "Wi-Fi" is a trademark of a trade association known as the Wi-Fi Alliance. The marketing company Interbrand, known for creating brand names, was hired to create a brand name to market the new technology, and the name Wi-Fi was chosen. The term "Wi-Fi" with the dash, is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

From a technical perspective WLAN technology is defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). IEEE 802 refers to a family of IEEE standards dealing with networks carrying variable size packets, which makes it different from cell phone based networks,  802.11 is a subset of the family specific to WLAN technology. Victor "Vic" Hayes was the first chair of the IEEE 802.11 group which finalized the wireless standard in 1997.

How are wireless access points used?

In the business world Wireless Access Points (WAP) are fairly common. On a business network your desktop computers (workstations) are connected via wire, but you probably have several WAPs (Wireless Access Points) for your laptop users.

If you are a visitor to a business network you may notice WAPs set up for office staff as well as visitors. This is becoming very common. You see this in government locations, perhaps even where you get your car serviced you can take your notebook into a lounge where you can use a "guest network" to connect to the internet.

Let's say you have a large home, and it is wired for data, as in it has ethernet ports through out your home. You want to convert that to a wireless access point. It has nothing to do with routing or switching. In wireless communications the "media" is a type of radio wave that communicates from your wireless adapter to the Wireless Access Point.

If your home office is in the basement, and that is the location of your current connection device (router, switch, wireless access point) where everything plugs in.  On the second floor of your house you have an ethernet port in your bedroom, but you want to use a tablet to surf the web, or perhaps use some internet appliance with your bedroom television.  The signal from the wireless access point in your basement is too weak.  You don't need to purchase another device that is a router and switch and WAP, all you need is the WAP (wireless access point).  So you simply buy a device that is ONLY a WAP, and plug it into your ethernet connection.

What is a wireless adapter?

Comparing a wireless network to a wired one, in a wired network your computer workstation has a NIC (Network Interface Card) which in a typical Ethernet network has an 8P8C (Eight Position, Eight Contact) modular jack on it where the network cable plugs into your computer.  From your computer the other end of the network cable plugs into some other type of device such as a switch or router, where traffic on your network is managed and distributed. On a wireless network the wireless adapter takes the place of the NIC.

How do I use ad hoc on a wireless network?

Ad hoc networks refer to networks created for a particular purpose. They are often created on-the-fly and for one-time or temporary use. If you don’t have a crossover cable to connect two notebooks or netbooks you can use their wireless capabilities to exchange files between without the need for any other than the computer itself. Instead of configuring your wireless adapter to connect to a wireless access point or router, you configure your wireless adapter to connect to another computer.

In the wireless world an ad hoc network is the equivalent of a peer to peer network.  In very small home networks, you may have two or three computers where you share resources between them, and to do so you set up a "peer to peer" network. Much like peer to peer networks in the wired world, ad hoc networks have management and security issues beyond that of the typical infrastructure network.

If your computer never leaves your house, having it set up to share files with another computer in your home may not be an issue you have to worry about.  On the other hand, if you travel with your computer, having ad hoc set up on your portable computer could create issues. Wireless devices in ad hoc mode offer minimal security against unwanted incoming connections, and there is a large security risk in using an ad hoc connection to an unknown computer, as you are exposing your computer to file sharing with strangers.

In some cases computers in public are purposely set up to look for and connect to other computers in ad hoc mode in order to steal information from them.  When using your computer in public hotspots you typically will be looking for a Wireless Network Connection, and ignore an attempt to connect with a strange computer using an ad hoc connection.

Learn more

If you are not sure what is the best technology choice for you, and you need some ideas, or if you want to keep up to date on hot topics in technology, check out the Guru 42 small business and technology blog  where we share our views and comments on the technology news of the day.

 

Tags: 

Home computer networks explained Wi-Fi and wireless access points

Setting up your home network can get confusing as street slang dominates many forums and internet discussions.  Just about any plastic box with wires coming out of it is often called a modem or a router, in reality it may be neither.

Here at the Guru42 Universe we will do out best to sort through all the geek speak.  It is important to have a basic understanding of all the buzzwords when you are setting up your home computer network.  Depending on your Internet Service Provider and the service you are buying, the device they supply will vary and what you need to connect is not a one size fits all answer.

Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) may provide you with a "residential gateway" that allows you to connect to the internet. You then purchase an internet appliance that is often called a "wireless router" to attach it.  People get confused because many small technology appliances made for home use are actually several devices in one.  One of my pet peeves on is when people use the term "wireless router" to describe a variety of devices. Typically what most people call a wireless router is a combination of a router, a wireless access point, and a network switch.

Do I need a modem to access the Internet?

A modem is a MOdulator-DEModulator, as in a modulator which creates an analog signal such as the type needed in POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service), and a demodulator which converts the modulated carrier back to something that can be used in a digital circuit. Most modern communications use digital lines so the need to convert (MOdulate-DEModulate) is no longer necessary.

Often the word modem is used as a generic word for any device that connects your home network to an internet service providers network. Typically in modern home computing when someone uses the term modem they are talking about a  "residential gateway" provided to them by their ISP.

What confuses matters even more is that the device supplied by the ISP could be a multi-function technology appliance that contains a router, an Ethernet switch, and a WAP (wireless access point), and possibly other functions related to a home networks such as a firewall.

What is a wireless access point?

A Wireless Access Point (WAP) is a networking hardware device which, as the name describes, gives you wireless access to your LAN (local area network).  You have a wired connection, an ethernet 8P8C (8 position 8 contact) modular connectors port in your wall, that is wired access. You want to convert that to a wireless access point.

A Wireless Access Point has nothing to do with routing or switching.In a very small home network the WAP could be part of one appliance that has multiple features.  What many people call a router in their home may actually be a router, and a switch, and a wireless access point.

The terms "wireless access point" and "Wi-Fi" are not synonyms.

In online forums people often use the terms  "wireless access point"  and "Wi-Fi" to mean a hotspot, as in any type of public internet access.

A Wireless Access Point (WAP) is a device that offers, as the name suggests, wireless access to a wireless local area network (WLAN).  While cell phone technology is often discussed as a form of wireless networking, it is not the same as the wireless local area network (WLAN) technology discussed here.   In computer networking you would use the term Wireless Access Point (WAP) to identify the device being used, and the term Wi-Fi to identify the specific technology. rather than Wi-Fi access point.

Specifically the term "Wi-Fi" is a trademark of a trade association known as the Wi-Fi Alliance. The marketing company Interbrand, known for creating brand names, was hired to create a brand name to market the new technology, and the name Wi-Fi was chosen. The term "Wi-Fi" with the dash, is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

From a technical perspective WLAN technology is defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). IEEE 802 refers to a family of IEEE standards dealing with networks carrying variable size packets, which makes it different from cell phone based networks,  802.11 is a subset of the family specific to WLAN technology. Victor "Vic" Hayes was the first chair of the IEEE 802.11 group which finalized the wireless standard in 1997.

How are wireless access points used?

In the business world Wireless Access Points (WAP) are fairly common. On a business network your desktop computers (workstations) are connected via wire, but you probably have several WAPs (Wireless Access Points) for your laptop users.

If you are a visitor to a business network you may notice WAPs set up for office staff as well as visitors. This is becoming very common. You see this in government locations, perhaps even where you get your car serviced you can take your notebook into a lounge where you can use a "guest network" to connect to the internet.

Let's say you have a large home, and it is wired for data, as in it has ethernet ports through out your home. You want to convert that to a wireless access point. It has nothing to do with routing or switching. In wireless communications the "media" is a type of radio wave that communicates from your wireless adapter to the Wireless Access Point.

If your home office is in the basement, and that is the location of your current connection device (router, switch, wireless access point) where everything plugs in.  On the second floor of your house you have an ethernet port in your bedroom, but you want to use a tablet to surf the web, or perhaps use some internet appliance with your bedroom television.  The signal from the wireless access point in your basement is too weak.  You don't need to purchase another device that is a router and switch and WAP, all you need is the WAP (wireless access point).  So you simply buy a device that is ONLY a WAP, and plug it into your ethernet connection.

What is a wireless adapter?

Comparing a wireless network to a wired one, in a wired network your computer workstation has a NIC (Network Interface Card) which in a typical Ethernet network has an 8P8C (Eight Position, Eight Contact) modular jack on it where the network cable plugs into your computer.  From your computer the other end of the network cable plugs into some other type of device such as a switch or router, where traffic on your network is managed and distributed. On a wireless network the wireless adapter takes the place of the NIC.

How do I use ad hoc on a wireless network?

Ad hoc networks refer to networks created for a particular purpose. They are often created on-the-fly and for one-time or temporary use. If you don’t have a crossover cable to connect two notebooks or netbooks you can use their wireless capabilities to exchange files between without the need for any other than the computer itself. Instead of configuring your wireless adapter to connect to a wireless access point or router, you configure your wireless adapter to connect to another computer.

In the wireless world an ad hoc network is the equivalent of a peer to peer network.  In very small home networks, you may have two or three computers where you share resources between them, and to do so you set up a "peer to peer" network. Much like peer to peer networks in the wired world, ad hoc networks have management and security issues beyond that of the typical infrastructure network.

If your computer never leaves your house, having it set up to share files with another computer in your home may not be an issue you have to worry about.  On the other hand, if you travel with your computer, having ad hoc set up on your portable computer could create issues. Wireless devices in ad hoc mode offer minimal security against unwanted incoming connections, and there is a large security risk in using an ad hoc connection to an unknown computer, as you are exposing your computer to file sharing with strangers.

In some cases computers in public are purposely set up to look for and connect to other computers in ad hoc mode in order to steal information from them.  When using your computer in public hotspots you typically will be looking for a Wireless Network Connection, and ignore an attempt to connect with a strange computer using an ad hoc connection.

Learn more

If you are not sure what is the best technology choice for you, and you need some ideas, or if you want to keep up to date on hot topics in technology, check out the Guru 42 small business and technology blog  where we share our views and comments on the technology news of the day.

 

Tags: 

The evolution of the Internet and the birth of TCP/IP

The creation of the protocol suite TCP/IP as the basic set of rules for computers to communicate was one of the last major phases in the development of this global network we now call the Internet.

The internet was not something born of a single idea, but rather a gradual evolution, and the work of many people over many years.

The idea started with a vision to create a decentralized computer network, whereby every computer was connected to each other, but if one member of the systems was hit, the others would remain unaffected.

From the initial idea of a decentralized computer network came the concept of packet switching. During the 1960s Paul Baran developed the concept of packet switching networks while conducting research at the historic RAND organization.


What is a Protocol?

Once the concept of packet switching was developed the next stage in the evolution was to create a language that would be understood by all computer systems.

The network concept of protocols would establish a standard set of rules that would enable different types of computers, with different hardware and software platforms, to communicate in spite of their differences. Protocols describe both the format that a message must take as well as the way in which messages are exchanged between computers.

During the 1970s Bob Kahn and Vinton Cerf would collaborate as key members of a team to create TCP/IP, Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP), the building blocks of the modern internet.

In 1972, Robert E. Kahn joined the DARPA Information Processing Technology Office, where he worked on both satellite packet networks and ground-based radio packet networks, and recognized the value of being able to communicate across both. In the spring of 1973, Vinton Cerf, the developer of the existing ARPANET Network Control Program (NCP) protocol, joined Kahn to work on open-architecture interconnection models with the goal of designing the next protocol generation for the ARPANET.

What is an RFC?

The concept of Request for Comments (RFC) documents was started by Steve Crocker in 1969 to help record unofficial notes on the development of ARPANET. RFCs have since become official documents of Internet specifications.

In computer network engineering, a Request for Comments (RFC) is a formal document published by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), and the global community of computer network researchers, to establish Internet standards.

TCP/IP RFC History

The creation of TCP/IP as the basic set of rules for computers to communicate was one of the last major phases in the development of this global network we now call the Internet. Many additional members of the TCP/IP family of protocols continue to be developed, expanding of the basic principals established by Bob Kahn and Vinton Cerf back in the 1970s.

In 1981 the TCP/IP standards were published as RFCs 791, 792 and 793 and adopted for use. On January 1, 1983, TCP/IP protocols became the only approved protocol on the ARPANET, the predecessor to today's internet.

Links to learn more:

Check out our site Geek History where we discuss the evolution of the ARPANET and TCP/IP

Why was the internet created: 1957 Sputnik launches ARPA
http://geekhistory.com/content/why-was-internet-created-1957-sputnik-launches-arpa

When was internet invented: J.C.R. Licklider guides 1960s ARPA Vision
http://geekhistory.com/content/when-was-internet-invented-jcr-licklider-guides-1960s-arpa-vision

In the 1960s Paul Baran developed packet switching
http://geekhistory.com/content/1960s-paul-baran-developed-packet-switching

The 1980s internet protocols become universal language of computers
http://geekhistory.com/content/1980s-internet-protocols-become-universal-language-computers
 


 

Tags: 

The evolution of the Internet and the birth of TCP/IP

The creation of the protocol suite TCP/IP as the basic set of rules for computers to communicate was one of the last major phases in the development of this global network we now call the Internet.

The internet was not something born of a single idea, but rather a gradual evolution, and the work of many people over many years.

The idea started with a vision to create a decentralized computer network, whereby every computer was connected to each other, but if one member of the systems was hit, the others would remain unaffected.

From the initial idea of a decentralized computer network came the concept of packet switching. During the 1960s Paul Baran developed the concept of packet switching networks while conducting research at the historic RAND organization.


What is a Protocol?

Once the concept of packet switching was developed the next stage in the evolution was to create a language that would be understood by all computer systems.

The network concept of protocols would establish a standard set of rules that would enable different types of computers, with different hardware and software platforms, to communicate in spite of their differences. Protocols describe both the format that a message must take as well as the way in which messages are exchanged between computers.

During the 1970s Bob Kahn and Vinton Cerf would collaborate as key members of a team to create TCP/IP, Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP), the building blocks of the modern internet.

In 1972, Robert E. Kahn joined the DARPA Information Processing Technology Office, where he worked on both satellite packet networks and ground-based radio packet networks, and recognized the value of being able to communicate across both. In the spring of 1973, Vinton Cerf, the developer of the existing ARPANET Network Control Program (NCP) protocol, joined Kahn to work on open-architecture interconnection models with the goal of designing the next protocol generation for the ARPANET.

What is an RFC?

The concept of Request for Comments (RFC) documents was started by Steve Crocker in 1969 to help record unofficial notes on the development of ARPANET. RFCs have since become official documents of Internet specifications.

In computer network engineering, a Request for Comments (RFC) is a formal document published by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), and the global community of computer network researchers, to establish Internet standards.

TCP/IP RFC History

The creation of TCP/IP as the basic set of rules for computers to communicate was one of the last major phases in the development of this global network we now call the Internet. Many additional members of the TCP/IP family of protocols continue to be developed, expanding of the basic principals established by Bob Kahn and Vinton Cerf back in the 1970s.

In 1981 the TCP/IP standards were published as RFCs 791, 792 and 793 and adopted for use. On January 1, 1983, TCP/IP protocols became the only approved protocol on the ARPANET, the predecessor to today's internet.

Links to learn more:

Check out our site Geek History where we discuss the evolution of the ARPANET and TCP/IP

Why was the internet created: 1957 Sputnik launches ARPA
http://geekhistory.com/content/why-was-internet-created-1957-sputnik-launches-arpa

When was internet invented: J.C.R. Licklider guides 1960s ARPA Vision
http://geekhistory.com/content/when-was-internet-invented-jcr-licklider-guides-1960s-arpa-vision

In the 1960s Paul Baran developed packet switching
http://geekhistory.com/content/1960s-paul-baran-developed-packet-switching

The 1980s internet protocols become universal language of computers
http://geekhistory.com/content/1980s-internet-protocols-become-universal-language-computers
 


 

Tags: 

Computer networking packet switching explained in simple terms

Throughout the standard for Internet Protocol you will see the description of packet switching, "fragment and reassemble internet datagrams when necessary for transmission through small packet networks." A message is divided into smaller parts know as packets before they are sent. Each packet is transmitted individually and can even follow different routes to its destination. Once all the packets forming a message arrive at the destination, they are recompiled into the original message.

Internet data, whether in the form of a Web page, a downloaded file or an e-mail message, travels over a system known as a packet-switching network. Each of these packages gets a wrapper that includes information on the sender's address, the receiver's address, the package's place in the entire message, and how the receiving computer can be sure that the package arrived intact.

There are two huge advantages to the packet switching. The network can balance the load across various pieces of equipment on a millisecond-by-millisecond basis. If there is a problem with one piece of equipment in the network while a message is being transferred, packets can be routed around the problem, ensuring the delivery of the entire message.

Packet switching explained in simple terms

In teaching the concept of packet switching in the classroom, I would take a piece of paper with a message written on it, and from the front of the classroom, ask the person in the front seat simply to turn around and pass the paper to the person behind him, and in turn continue the process until the paper made it to the person in the back row.

In the next phase of the illustration, I would take the same piece of paper that had the message written on it, and tear it into four pieces. On each individual piece of paper I would address it as if sending a letter through the postal service, by writing my name as the sender, and also the name of the person in the back of the room as the recipient. I would also label each individual piece of paper as one of four, two of four, three of four, and four of four.

This time I would take the four individual pieces of paper and walk across the front row, and as I handed one piece of paper to four different students, I would explain to them who was to receive the paper, and asked them to pass it to the person marked as the recipient by using the people behind them. When all four pieces of paper arrived at the destination, I would ask the recipient to read the label I had put on each piece of paper, and confirm they had received the entire message.

My original passing of the paper represented Circuit switching, the telecommunications technology which used circuits to create the virtual path, a dedicated channel between two points, and then delivered the entire message.

My second passing of the "packets" or scraps of paper illustrated packet switching, and each individual in the room acted as a router. The key difference between the two methods was the additional routes that the pieces of the message took. A very primitive, but effective demonstration of packet switching and the way in which a message would be transmitted across the internet.

Once the concept of packet switching was developed the next stage in the evolution was to create a language that would be understood by all computer systems. This new standard set of rules would enable different types of computers, with different hardware and software platforms, to communicate in spite of their differences.

Geek History: In the 1960s Paul Baran developed packet switching
 

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Computer networking packet switching explained in simple terms

Throughout the standard for Internet Protocol you will see the description of packet switching, "fragment and reassemble internet datagrams when necessary for transmission through small packet networks." A message is divided into smaller parts know as packets before they are sent. Each packet is transmitted individually and can even follow different routes to its destination. Once all the packets forming a message arrive at the destination, they are recompiled into the original message.

Internet data, whether in the form of a Web page, a downloaded file or an e-mail message, travels over a system known as a packet-switching network. Each of these packages gets a wrapper that includes information on the sender's address, the receiver's address, the package's place in the entire message, and how the receiving computer can be sure that the package arrived intact.

There are two huge advantages to the packet switching. The network can balance the load across various pieces of equipment on a millisecond-by-millisecond basis. If there is a problem with one piece of equipment in the network while a message is being transferred, packets can be routed around the problem, ensuring the delivery of the entire message.

Packet switching explained in simple terms

In teaching the concept of packet switching in the classroom, I would take a piece of paper with a message written on it, and from the front of the classroom, ask the person in the front seat simply to turn around and pass the paper to the person behind him, and in turn continue the process until the paper made it to the person in the back row.

In the next phase of the illustration, I would take the same piece of paper that had the message written on it, and tear it into four pieces. On each individual piece of paper I would address it as if sending a letter through the postal service, by writing my name as the sender, and also the name of the person in the back of the room as the recipient. I would also label each individual piece of paper as one of four, two of four, three of four, and four of four.

This time I would take the four individual pieces of paper and walk across the front row, and as I handed one piece of paper to four different students, I would explain to them who was to receive the paper, and asked them to pass it to the person marked as the recipient by using the people behind them. When all four pieces of paper arrived at the destination, I would ask the recipient to read the label I had put on each piece of paper, and confirm they had received the entire message.

My original passing of the paper represented Circuit switching, the telecommunications technology which used circuits to create the virtual path, a dedicated channel between two points, and then delivered the entire message.

My second passing of the "packets" or scraps of paper illustrated packet switching, and each individual in the room acted as a router. The key difference between the two methods was the additional routes that the pieces of the message took. A very primitive, but effective demonstration of packet switching and the way in which a message would be transmitted across the internet.

Once the concept of packet switching was developed the next stage in the evolution was to create a language that would be understood by all computer systems. This new standard set of rules would enable different types of computers, with different hardware and software platforms, to communicate in spite of their differences.

Geek History: In the 1960s Paul Baran developed packet switching
 

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Wireless Networks in Simple Terms WLAN and Wi-Fi defined

The term Wi-Fi is often used as a synonym for wireless local area network (WLAN). Specifically the term "Wi-Fi" is a trademark of a trade association known as the Wi-Fi Alliance. From a technical perspective WLAN technology is defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

In computer networking everything starts with the physical layer, which for many years was a copper wire. The physical layer was expanded to include anything that represent the wire, such as fiber optic cable, infrared or radio spectrum technology.

Wireless network refers to any type of computer network that is not connected by cables of any kind. While cell phone technology is often discussed as a form of wireless networking, it is not the same as the wireless local area network (WLAN) technology discussed here.

What is Wi-Fi?

The term Wi-Fi has often been used as a technical term to describe wireless networking. Wi-Fi is actually a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance, a global non-profit trade association formed in 1999 to promotes WLAN technology. Manufacturers may use the Wi-Fi trademark to brand products if they are certified by The Wi-Fi Alliance to conform to certain standards.

A common misconception is that Wi-Fi is an acronym of Wireless fidelity, it is not. The Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance wanted a cooler name for the new technology as the IEEE 802.11b Alliance was not all that catchy. The marketing company Interbrand, known for creating brand names, was hired to create a brand name to market the new technology, and the name Wi-Fi was chosen. The term 'Wi-Fi' with the dash, is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

IEEE 802.11 defines WLAN technology

The actual technical standards for wireless local area network (WLAN) computer communication are know as IEEE 802.11. IEEE refers to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers a non-profit professional association formed in 1963 by the merger of the Institute of Radio Engineers and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.

IEEE 802 refers to a family of IEEE standards dealing with networks carrying variable size packets, which makes it different from cell phone based networks, 802.11 is a subset of the family specific to WLAN technology. Victor "Vic" Hayes was the first chair of the IEEE 802.11 group which finalized the wireless standard in 1997.

This link takes you to the 802.11 specification that contains all the geek speak on how it works. --> IEEE-SA -IEEE Get 802 Program
https://standards.ieee.org/about/get/802/802.11.html

How fast is Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi speed is rated according to maximum theoretical network bandwidth defined in the IEEE 802.11 standards.

For example:

IEEE 802.11b - up to 11 Mbps

IEEE 802.11a - up to 54 Mbps

IEEE 802.11n - up to 300 Mbps

IEEE 802.11ac - up to 1 Gbps

IEEE 802.11ad - up to 7 Gbps

If you look at the IEEE 802.11 Wireless LANs standards you will see the ongoing evolution with several standards under development at this time to increase speeds even more.

Keep in mind that WiFi speed is how fast your internal network is, as in wireless LANs (Local Area Network)

Fast WiFi does not mean fast internet connection, it has nothing to do with the speed or bandwidth of you internet access.

How does Wi-Fi work?

A Wi-Fi enabled device such as a personal computer or video game console can connect to the Internet when within range of a device such as a wireless router connected to the Internet. wireless local area network (WLAN) technology allows your device to connect to the router, which in turn connects you to the internet.  In order to connect to the internet, you need a unique IP (internet protocol) address. On your home network, when your router is connected to the internet, it has a public address, that is the one that faces the internet, and is unique in relationship of other routers on the internet.

Your router also has a local IP Address of something like 192.168.1.2 and this is a private IP address space. Addresses beginning with 192.168 cannot be transmitted onto the public Internet and are typically used for home local area networks (LANs). If you have four home computers, your router creates a home network and the four home computers have a unique number in relationship to each other. Your local computers connect to the router, either by a wire plugged into the router, or through a wireless signal.

Routers are used to create logical borders between networks, and in this allow a gateway, such as an access point to the internet to be shared. In geek speak terms subnetting can be very complex, but what is happening here is the process know as subnetting.

Tags: 

Wireless Networks in Simple Terms WLAN and Wi-Fi defined

The term Wi-Fi is often used as a synonym for wireless local area network (WLAN). Specifically the term "Wi-Fi" is a trademark of a trade association known as the Wi-Fi Alliance. From a technical perspective WLAN technology is defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

In computer networking everything starts with the physical layer, which for many years was a copper wire. The physical layer was expanded to include anything that represent the wire, such as fiber optic cable, infrared or radio spectrum technology.

Wireless network refers to any type of computer network that is not connected by cables of any kind. While cell phone technology is often discussed as a form of wireless networking, it is not the same as the wireless local area network (WLAN) technology discussed here.

What is Wi-Fi?

The term Wi-Fi has often been used as a technical term to describe wireless networking. Wi-Fi is actually a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance, a global non-profit trade association formed in 1999 to promotes WLAN technology. Manufacturers may use the Wi-Fi trademark to brand products if they are certified by The Wi-Fi Alliance to conform to certain standards.

A common misconception is that Wi-Fi is an acronym of Wireless fidelity, it is not. The Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance wanted a cooler name for the new technology as the IEEE 802.11b Alliance was not all that catchy. The marketing company Interbrand, known for creating brand names, was hired to create a brand name to market the new technology, and the name Wi-Fi was chosen. The term 'Wi-Fi' with the dash, is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

IEEE 802.11 defines WLAN technology

The actual technical standards for wireless local area network (WLAN) computer communication are know as IEEE 802.11. IEEE refers to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers a non-profit professional association formed in 1963 by the merger of the Institute of Radio Engineers and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.

IEEE 802 refers to a family of IEEE standards dealing with networks carrying variable size packets, which makes it different from cell phone based networks, 802.11 is a subset of the family specific to WLAN technology. Victor "Vic" Hayes was the first chair of the IEEE 802.11 group which finalized the wireless standard in 1997.

This link takes you to the 802.11 specification that contains all the geek speak on how it works. --> IEEE-SA -IEEE Get 802 Program
https://standards.ieee.org/about/get/802/802.11.html

How fast is Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi speed is rated according to maximum theoretical network bandwidth defined in the IEEE 802.11 standards.

For example:

IEEE 802.11b - up to 11 Mbps

IEEE 802.11a - up to 54 Mbps

IEEE 802.11n - up to 300 Mbps

IEEE 802.11ac - up to 1 Gbps

IEEE 802.11ad - up to 7 Gbps

If you look at the IEEE 802.11 Wireless LANs standards you will see the ongoing evolution with several standards under development at this time to increase speeds even more.

Keep in mind that WiFi speed is how fast your internal network is, as in wireless LANs (Local Area Network)

Fast WiFi does not mean fast internet connection, it has nothing to do with the speed or bandwidth of you internet access.

How does Wi-Fi work?

A Wi-Fi enabled device such as a personal computer or video game console can connect to the Internet when within range of a device such as a wireless router connected to the Internet. wireless local area network (WLAN) technology allows your device to connect to the router, which in turn connects you to the internet.  In order to connect to the internet, you need a unique IP (internet protocol) address. On your home network, when your router is connected to the internet, it has a public address, that is the one that faces the internet, and is unique in relationship of other routers on the internet.

Your router also has a local IP Address of something like 192.168.1.2 and this is a private IP address space. Addresses beginning with 192.168 cannot be transmitted onto the public Internet and are typically used for home local area networks (LANs). If you have four home computers, your router creates a home network and the four home computers have a unique number in relationship to each other. Your local computers connect to the router, either by a wire plugged into the router, or through a wireless signal.

Routers are used to create logical borders between networks, and in this allow a gateway, such as an access point to the internet to be shared. In geek speak terms subnetting can be very complex, but what is happening here is the process know as subnetting.

Tags: 

The ugly truth about computer printers

The printer is the source of pain and problems for every computer user.  The ugly truth about computer printers is that everyone has one and they all stink.

A printer is very mechanical, there are a lot of moving parts.  Every printer from the very simplest, to the most complex, has numerous gears, springs, and rollers that all need to move in perfect harmony in order for your printer to work.  

In understanding why computer printers are a source of frustration, let me explain some of the other components of a typical computer system. On your home desktop computer you have a large box that everything plugs into. I hear people call this box a CPU, some call it a hard drive.  Technically the CPU is one small part on the main circuit board that sits inside that box.  The main circuit board, as well as the CPU and memory modules that plug into are solid state, that means they are all electronic. Unless you get hit with a power surge or some external electrical issue, it is rare that the electronics of a computer wears out over time. Even hard drives that once were very mechanical are now becoming solid state, which means no moving parts and much more reliable.

Same thing with your display, what we used to call a monitor.  Back in the days of CRT Monitors, the CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) wore out over time, it degraded because it heated up. In my experiences over the years I've seen some monitor failures. Not so much with modern displays, like the computer itself, they are now all electronic and less likely to degrade over time.

Things like keyboards and mice still have a few mechanical parts to them, but they don't wear out often.  When they do wear out, they are simple to replace, and people don't get too excited when they need replaced.

But alas, the printer, the pain of every computer user.  You just typed that report and you need it now.  You are leaving for the movies and you want to print the tickets, and the printer won't work.  There is never a convenient time for the printer to break.  

Even the simplest of printers has a handful of gears, springs, and rollers, that wear out over time.  The paper tray gets banged around every time you fill it up.  Every time someone takes out a paper tray, they bend something, they twist something, a part gets knocked off.  With the need to lower the cost of the printers, many of these mechanical parts are made from very low quality metal and plastic.

And here is one element of printers that many people over look, the paper.  When the air gets dry, when the heat is on in the winter, the paper gets full of static electricity, so it jams more often.  Instead of taking the paper out of the tray, fanning it a bit, flipping it over, you bang the paper tray a few times.  Maybe you yank the paper out when it jams, bending and stretching the metal arms and guides on the paper tray.

When the weather is damp and humid, that will also cause the paper to jam. Do you close the wrapper on your paper when it is just laying around?  Or is it just thrown on a shelf outside the wrapper?  I have seen many print quality issues caused by paper. Having spent a long career in office automation and computer networking I could write a book on the subject of printer problems because of paper.  The hardest part in answering this was keeping it brief.

Types of printing technology

Another issue you have with printers is consumable supplies like ink and toner. Every freaking printer model has its own unique ink or toner cartridge.  When you try to save money by refilling cartridges it is a crap shoot.  More often than not I have seen refilled cartridges cause many problems.

In the early days of desktop computers the dot matrix printer was the standard.  They could be pretty noisy as the small needles in the print head fired through the ribbon creating dots of information on your paper. Ribbons faded over time, and copy quality was not great, but printer ribbons were fairly inexpensive compared to modern ink cartridges. The boxes of paper with the tractor feed holes seems a little primitive compared to the plain paper printers of today, but in many ways the tractor feed paper was a more problem free solution than many of the modern printers with paper trays.

Inkjet printers began replacing dot matrix printers offering higher quality. A less noisy printer with higher quality could be a blessing, instead the inkjet technology was more of a curse. The color inkjet printer uses multiple color ink cartridge that includes a print head as a part of a replaceable ink cartridge that adds to the expense of the cartridge. The cartridges themselves have very narrow inkjet nozzles that are prone to clogging, and they dry out over time. New technology intelligent ink cartridges that communicate with the printer add another level of complexity, and another potential point of failure

Laser printers have been around since the very early days of desktop computers. They are high quality printers, but were for many years, very high cost.  In the early days it was rare to have a laser printer on your home computer, but over the years the quality has increased, and the price has dropped dramatically.  You can get a low cost black print laser printer for less than a hundred dollars. That is what I have in my home office, I have given up on low cost ink jet printers. Most of the times I use my home office laser printer to print a document such as a receipt, or maybe my tickets for a movie or sporting event, I don't need color for that.

The price of a laser printer toner cartridge sounds expensive, the last one I replaced was over $50, but they last ten times longer than an ink jet cartridge. If you look at it on a cost per copy basis, a laser printer is significantly cheaper to own than an ink jet. If I really need a high quality color copy, I can take a document on a USB drive to a local shop and get one there.

Prices have been dropping in recent years, and color laser printers cost a fraction of what they once cost.  If you need a color printer and print more than a few copies a month, do some calculations on the cost per copy of a color laser printer.  You might be surprised to see that over the long haul a color laser printer is not as expensive to own as an ink jet.

It's not your fault for buying a crappy printer

Between having a home computer system as well as working in the field of office automation and business machines since the early 1980s, I have worked with numerous brands of printers and printing equipment. It is hard to recommended a specific brand or specific model of printer at any time because they are constantly changing. In a marketplace that is always shopping for low cost, often a manufacturer will cut corners to lower costs, and a usually reliable brand will have some really horrible models.  

We are discussing the computer printer here as a hardware device, but software issues such as finding the proper drivers for your current computer operating and getting Wi-Fi to work on your network can also create problems. Shop wisely, read over consumer reviews of the currently popular printers to see the potential problems for a model you are considering buying.

The primary reason for a printer being the most likely part of your computer system to cause you pain comes down to the printer having the most moving parts, but there are also many other issues dealing with the supplies such as paper, ink, and toner. Maybe you won't feel any better about all the printing problems you are having after reading this article, but at least you will know, it's not your fault for buying a crappy printer, they all stink.

Tags: 

The ugly truth about computer printers

The printer is the source of pain and problems for every computer user.  The ugly truth about computer printers is that everyone has one and they all stink.

A printer is very mechanical, there are a lot of moving parts.  Every printer from the very simplest, to the most complex, has numerous gears, springs, and rollers that all need to move in perfect harmony in order for your printer to work.  

In understanding why computer printers are a source of frustration, let me explain some of the other components of a typical computer system. On your home desktop computer you have a large box that everything plugs into. I hear people call this box a CPU, some call it a hard drive.  Technically the CPU is one small part on the main circuit board that sits inside that box.  The main circuit board, as well as the CPU and memory modules that plug into are solid state, that means they are all electronic. Unless you get hit with a power surge or some external electrical issue, it is rare that the electronics of a computer wears out over time. Even hard drives that once were very mechanical are now becoming solid state, which means no moving parts and much more reliable.

Same thing with your display, what we used to call a monitor.  Back in the days of CRT Monitors, the CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) wore out over time, it degraded because it heated up. In my experiences over the years I've seen some monitor failures. Not so much with modern displays, like the computer itself, they are now all electronic and less likely to degrade over time.

Things like keyboards and mice still have a few mechanical parts to them, but they don't wear out often.  When they do wear out, they are simple to replace, and people don't get too excited when they need replaced.

But alas, the printer, the pain of every computer user.  You just typed that report and you need it now.  You are leaving for the movies and you want to print the tickets, and the printer won't work.  There is never a convenient time for the printer to break.  

Even the simplest of printers has a handful of gears, springs, and rollers, that wear out over time.  The paper tray gets banged around every time you fill it up.  Every time someone takes out a paper tray, they bend something, they twist something, a part gets knocked off.  With the need to lower the cost of the printers, many of these mechanical parts are made from very low quality metal and plastic.

And here is one element of printers that many people over look, the paper.  When the air gets dry, when the heat is on in the winter, the paper gets full of static electricity, so it jams more often.  Instead of taking the paper out of the tray, fanning it a bit, flipping it over, you bang the paper tray a few times.  Maybe you yank the paper out when it jams, bending and stretching the metal arms and guides on the paper tray.

When the weather is damp and humid, that will also cause the paper to jam. Do you close the wrapper on your paper when it is just laying around?  Or is it just thrown on a shelf outside the wrapper?  I have seen many print quality issues caused by paper. Having spent a long career in office automation and computer networking I could write a book on the subject of printer problems because of paper.  The hardest part in answering this was keeping it brief.

Types of printing technology

Another issue you have with printers is consumable supplies like ink and toner. Every freaking printer model has its own unique ink or toner cartridge.  When you try to save money by refilling cartridges it is a crap shoot.  More often than not I have seen refilled cartridges cause many problems.

In the early days of desktop computers the dot matrix printer was the standard.  They could be pretty noisy as the small needles in the print head fired through the ribbon creating dots of information on your paper. Ribbons faded over time, and copy quality was not great, but printer ribbons were fairly inexpensive compared to modern ink cartridges. The boxes of paper with the tractor feed holes seems a little primitive compared to the plain paper printers of today, but in many ways the tractor feed paper was a more problem free solution than many of the modern printers with paper trays.

Inkjet printers began replacing dot matrix printers offering higher quality. A less noisy printer with higher quality could be a blessing, instead the inkjet technology was more of a curse. The color inkjet printer uses multiple color ink cartridge that includes a print head as a part of a replaceable ink cartridge that adds to the expense of the cartridge. The cartridges themselves have very narrow inkjet nozzles that are prone to clogging, and they dry out over time. New technology intelligent ink cartridges that communicate with the printer add another level of complexity, and another potential point of failure

Laser printers have been around since the very early days of desktop computers. They are high quality printers, but were for many years, very high cost.  In the early days it was rare to have a laser printer on your home computer, but over the years the quality has increased, and the price has dropped dramatically.  You can get a low cost black print laser printer for less than a hundred dollars. That is what I have in my home office, I have given up on low cost ink jet printers. Most of the times I use my home office laser printer to print a document such as a receipt, or maybe my tickets for a movie or sporting event, I don't need color for that.

The price of a laser printer toner cartridge sounds expensive, the last one I replaced was over $50, but they last ten times longer than an ink jet cartridge. If you look at it on a cost per copy basis, a laser printer is significantly cheaper to own than an ink jet. If I really need a high quality color copy, I can take a document on a USB drive to a local shop and get one there.

Prices have been dropping in recent years, and color laser printers cost a fraction of what they once cost.  If you need a color printer and print more than a few copies a month, do some calculations on the cost per copy of a color laser printer.  You might be surprised to see that over the long haul a color laser printer is not as expensive to own as an ink jet.

It's not your fault for buying a crappy printer

Between having a home computer system as well as working in the field of office automation and business machines since the early 1980s, I have worked with numerous brands of printers and printing equipment. It is hard to recommended a specific brand or specific model of printer at any time because they are constantly changing. In a marketplace that is always shopping for low cost, often a manufacturer will cut corners to lower costs, and a usually reliable brand will have some really horrible models.  

We are discussing the computer printer here as a hardware device, but software issues such as finding the proper drivers for your current computer operating and getting Wi-Fi to work on your network can also create problems. Shop wisely, read over consumer reviews of the currently popular printers to see the potential problems for a model you are considering buying.

The primary reason for a printer being the most likely part of your computer system to cause you pain comes down to the printer having the most moving parts, but there are also many other issues dealing with the supplies such as paper, ink, and toner. Maybe you won't feel any better about all the printing problems you are having after reading this article, but at least you will know, it's not your fault for buying a crappy printer, they all stink.

Tags: 

Computer network modular connectors and telephone registered jacks

The plastic plugs on the ends of telephone wiring and computer cables are defined by various technical standards. Because these standards are full of technical definitions and acronyms, it is easy to see how street slang becomes the accepted definition for many of the plastic plugs.

It is important to understand that connecting devices together is more than just matching up connector ends on a piece of wire. Just because you can find an adapter to make your cable fit into a connection is no guarantee that the device will communicate on your network. Some connectors that look exactly alike could have different wiring configuration.

In the world of technology street slang, or common buzzwords, often become the accepted the description of something rather than the specific technology standard. For example describing Ethernet patch cables as using RJ45 connectors illustrates one of the most mis-used terms in the world of technology.

We will do our best to break down some of the buzzwords and jargon to help you understand the differences in the terms.

Modular connectors

A modular connector is an electrical connector that was originally designed for use in telephone wiring, but has since been used for many other purposes. Many applications that originally used a bulkier, more expensive connector have converted to modular connectors. Probably the most well known applications of modular connectors are for telephone jacks and for Ethernet jacks, both of which are nearly always modular connectors.

Modular connectors are designated with two numbers that represent the quantity of positions and contacts, for example the 8P8C modular plug represents a plug with having eight positions and eight contacts.

Do not assume that connectors that look the same are wired the same. Contact assignments, or pin outs, vary by application. Telephone network connections are standardized by registered jack numbers, and Ethernet over twisted pair is specified by the TIA/EIA-568 standard.

Telephone industry Registered Jack

A Registered Jack (RJ) is a wiring standard for connecting voice and data equipment to a service provided by a telephone company. In some wiring definitions you will see references to the Local Exchange Carrier (LEC), which is a regulatory term in telecommunications for the local telephone company.

Registration interfaces were created by the Bell System under a 1976 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order for the standard interconnection between telephone company equipment and customer premises equipment. They were defined in Part 68 of the FCC rules (47 C.F.R. Part 68) governing the direct connection of Terminal Equipment (TE) to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).

Connectors using the distinction Registered Jack (RJ) describe a standardized telecommunication network interface. The RJ designations only pertain to the wiring of the jack, it is common, but not strictly correct, to refer to an unwired plug by any of these names.

For example, RJ11 is a standardized jack using a 6P2C (6 position 2 contact) modular connectors, commonly used for single line telephone systems. You will often see telephone cables with four wires used for common analog telephone referred to as RJ11 cables. Technically speaking RJ14 is a configuration for two lines using a six-position four-conductor (6P4C) modular jack

RJ45 is a standard jack once specified for modem or data interfaces using a mechanically-keyed variation of the 8P8C (8 position 8 contact) body. Although commonly referred to as an RJ45 in the context of Ethernet and category 5 cables, it is incorrect to refer to a generic 8P8C connector as an RJ45.

Why is a Ethernet eight-pin modular connector (8P8C) not an RJ45?

Both twisted pair cabling used for Ethernet and the telecommunications RJ45 use the 8P8C (Eight Position, Eight Contact) connector, and there lies the confusion and the misuse of the terms. The 8P8C modular connector is often called RJ45 after a telephone industry standard. Although commonly referred to as an RJ45 in the context of Ethernet and Category 5 cables, it is incorrect to refer to a generic 8P8C connector as an RJ45

The 8P8C modular connector is often called RJ45 after a telephone industry standard defined in FCC Part 68. The Ethernet standard is different from the telephone standard, TIA-568 is a set of telecommunications standards from the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). Standards T568A and T568B are the pin - pair assignments for eight-conductor 100-ohm balanced twisted pair cabling to 8P8C (8 position 8 contact) modular connectors.

How does a RJ45 to RJ11 converter work?

There is no such thing as a RJ45 to RJ11 converter. They are two different types of connectors for two totally different standards of communication. Cables with various pin configurations and wire pairs are created for specific purposes. Be careful when looking to "convert" on type of wire into another. An adapter that allows you to connect an RJ11 plug into an RJ45 plug is not converting anything.

Technically speaking neither RJ11 or RJ45 is a computer networking standard. Many times when people are looking to convert between RJ11 and RJ45 they are dealing with a device made for a two wire phone line and trying to connect it to an Ethernet eight-pin (8P8C) unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) modular connectors.

I see many questions on internet forums asking about various adapters and converters. Just because you can convert a plug from one type to another does not mean that the signal traveling along the wire will work as you expect. I can not stress enough the importance of not using any type of adapters and converters without knowing the exact wiring configuration of the devices you are trying to connect.

Tags: 

Computer network modular connectors and telephone registered jacks

The plastic plugs on the ends of telephone wiring and computer cables are defined by various technical standards. Because these standards are full of technical definitions and acronyms, it is easy to see how street slang becomes the accepted definition for many of the plastic plugs.

It is important to understand that connecting devices together is more than just matching up connector ends on a piece of wire. Just because you can find an adapter to make your cable fit into a connection is no guarantee that the device will communicate on your network. Some connectors that look exactly alike could have different wiring configuration.

In the world of technology street slang, or common buzzwords, often become the accepted the description of something rather than the specific technology standard. For example describing Ethernet patch cables as using RJ45 connectors illustrates one of the most mis-used terms in the world of technology.

We will do our best to break down some of the buzzwords and jargon to help you understand the differences in the terms.

Modular connectors

A modular connector is an electrical connector that was originally designed for use in telephone wiring, but has since been used for many other purposes. Many applications that originally used a bulkier, more expensive connector have converted to modular connectors. Probably the most well known applications of modular connectors are for telephone jacks and for Ethernet jacks, both of which are nearly always modular connectors.

Modular connectors are designated with two numbers that represent the quantity of positions and contacts, for example the 8P8C modular plug represents a plug with having eight positions and eight contacts.

Do not assume that connectors that look the same are wired the same. Contact assignments, or pin outs, vary by application. Telephone network connections are standardized by registered jack numbers, and Ethernet over twisted pair is specified by the TIA/EIA-568 standard.

Telephone industry Registered Jack

A Registered Jack (RJ) is a wiring standard for connecting voice and data equipment to a service provided by a telephone company. In some wiring definitions you will see references to the Local Exchange Carrier (LEC), which is a regulatory term in telecommunications for the local telephone company.

Registration interfaces were created by the Bell System under a 1976 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order for the standard interconnection between telephone company equipment and customer premises equipment. They were defined in Part 68 of the FCC rules (47 C.F.R. Part 68) governing the direct connection of Terminal Equipment (TE) to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).

Connectors using the distinction Registered Jack (RJ) describe a standardized telecommunication network interface. The RJ designations only pertain to the wiring of the jack, it is common, but not strictly correct, to refer to an unwired plug by any of these names.

For example, RJ11 is a standardized jack using a 6P2C (6 position 2 contact) modular connectors, commonly used for single line telephone systems. You will often see telephone cables with four wires used for common analog telephone referred to as RJ11 cables. Technically speaking RJ14 is a configuration for two lines using a six-position four-conductor (6P4C) modular jack

RJ45 is a standard jack once specified for modem or data interfaces using a mechanically-keyed variation of the 8P8C (8 position 8 contact) body. Although commonly referred to as an RJ45 in the context of Ethernet and category 5 cables, it is incorrect to refer to a generic 8P8C connector as an RJ45.

Why is a Ethernet eight-pin modular connector (8P8C) not an RJ45?

Both twisted pair cabling used for Ethernet and the telecommunications RJ45 use the 8P8C (Eight Position, Eight Contact) connector, and there lies the confusion and the misuse of the terms. The 8P8C modular connector is often called RJ45 after a telephone industry standard. Although commonly referred to as an RJ45 in the context of Ethernet and Category 5 cables, it is incorrect to refer to a generic 8P8C connector as an RJ45

The 8P8C modular connector is often called RJ45 after a telephone industry standard defined in FCC Part 68. The Ethernet standard is different from the telephone standard, TIA-568 is a set of telecommunications standards from the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). Standards T568A and T568B are the pin - pair assignments for eight-conductor 100-ohm balanced twisted pair cabling to 8P8C (8 position 8 contact) modular connectors.

How does a RJ45 to RJ11 converter work?

There is no such thing as a RJ45 to RJ11 converter. They are two different types of connectors for two totally different standards of communication. Cables with various pin configurations and wire pairs are created for specific purposes. Be careful when looking to "convert" on type of wire into another. An adapter that allows you to connect an RJ11 plug into an RJ45 plug is not converting anything.

Technically speaking neither RJ11 or RJ45 is a computer networking standard. Many times when people are looking to convert between RJ11 and RJ45 they are dealing with a device made for a two wire phone line and trying to connect it to an Ethernet eight-pin (8P8C) unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) modular connectors.

I see many questions on internet forums asking about various adapters and converters. Just because you can convert a plug from one type to another does not mean that the signal traveling along the wire will work as you expect. I can not stress enough the importance of not using any type of adapters and converters without knowing the exact wiring configuration of the devices you are trying to connect.

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Ethernet computer network cable frequently asked questions answered

You will often hear a common computer network patch cable called an "Ethernet cable." While most modern local area networks (LAN) use the same type of cable, the term Ethernet is a family of computer networking technologies that defines how the information flows through the wire, but does not define the physical network cable.

The standards defining the physical layer of wired Ethernet are known as IEEE 802.3, which is part of a larger set of standards by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association.

Cable types, connector types and cabling topologies are defined by TIA/EIA-568, a set of telecommunications standards from the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). The standards address commercial building cabling for telecommunications products and services.

Computer network cabling

Twisted Pair Cabling is a common form of wiring in which two conductors are wound around each other for the purposes of canceling out electromagnetic interference which can cause crosstalk. The number of twists per meter make up part of the specification for a given type of cable.

The two major types of twisted-pair cabling are unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) and shielded twisted-pair (STP). In shielded twisted-pair (STP) the inner wires are encased in a sheath of foil or braided wire mesh. Unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cable is the most common cable used in modern computer networking.

What does Cat5 Cable mean?

A Category 5 cable (Cat5 cable) is made up of four twisted-pair wires, certified to transmit data up to 100 Mbps. Category 5 cable is used extensively in Ethernet connections in local networks, as well as telephony and other data transmissions.

Cat5 Cable has been the standard for homes and small offices for many years. As technology for twisted pair copper cabling has progressed, successive categories have given buyers more choices. Category 5e and Category 6 cable offer more potential for bandwidth and better potential handling of signal noise or loss. Newer cable types also help to deal with the issue of cross talk or signal bleeding, which can be problems with unshielded twisted pair cabling.

The category 5e specification improves upon the category 5 specification by revising and introducing new specifications to further mitigate the amount of crosstalk.The bandwidth (100 MHz) and physical construction are the same between the two.

The category 6 specification improves upon the category 5e specification by improving frequency response and further reducing crosstalk. The improved performance of Cat 6 provides 250 MHz bandwidth and supports 10GBASE-T (10-Gigabit Ethernet). The Cat 6 cable is fully backward compatible with previous versions, such as the Category 5/5e

Older versions of voice and data cable

Category 1 Traditional UTP telephone cable can transmit voice signals but not data. Most telephone cable installed prior to 1983 is Category 1. Category 2 UTP cable is made up of four twisted-pair wires, certified for transmitting data up to 4 Mbps. Official TIA/EIA-568 standards have only been established for cables of Category 3 ratings or above.

Category 3 was widely used in computer networking in the early 1990s for 10BASE-T. In many common names for Ethernet standards the leading number (10 in 10BASE-T) refers to the transmission speed in Mbit/s. BASE denotes that baseband transmission is used. The T designates twisted pair cable.

Category 4 cable consists of four unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) copper wires used in telephone networks which can transmit voice and data up to 16 Mbit/s. Category 4 cable is not recognized by the current version of the TIA/EIA-568 data cabling standards.

What does Patch Cable mean?

A patch cord, also called a patch cable, is a length of cable with connectors on each end that is used to connect one electronic device to another. In computer networking what people often call an “Ethernet Cable” is Unshielded Twisted-Pair (UTP) patch cable.

What does Straight-Through Cable mean?

A straight-through cable is a standard patch cable used in local area networks. Straight-through cables have the wired pins on one end match on the other end. In other words, pin 1 on one end is connected to pin 1 on the other end, and the order follows the straight through route from pin 1 through pin 8.

What is a Crossover Cable?

A crossover cable is used for the interconnection of two similar devices. It is enabled by reversing the transmission and receiving pins at both ends, so that output from one computer becomes input to the other, and vice versa. The reversing or swapping of cables varies, depending on the different network environments and devices in use.

This type of cable is also sometimes called a and is an alternative to wireless connections where one or more computers access a router through a wireless signal. Use a straight-through cable when connecting a router to a hub, a computer to a switch, or connecting a LAN port to a switch, hub, or computer.

Why do you need a crossover cable?

A traditional port found in a computer NIC (network interface card) is called a media-dependent interface (MDI). A a traditional port found on an Ethernet switch is called a media-dependent interface crossover (MDIX), which reverses the transmit and receive pairs. However, if you want to interconnect two switches, where both switch ports used for the interconnection were MDIX ports, the cable would need to be a crossover cable.

Introduced in 1998, Auto MDI-X made the distinction between uplink and normal ports and manual selector switches on older hubs and switches obsolete. Auto MDI-X automatically detects the required cable connection type and configures the connection appropriately, removing the need for crossover cables.

Gigabit and faster Ethernet links over twisted pair cable use all four cable pairs for simultaneous transmission in both directions. For this reason, there are no dedicated transmit and receive pairs, and consequently, crossover cables are never required.

Tags: 

Ethernet computer network cable frequently asked questions answered

You will often hear a common computer network patch cable called an "Ethernet cable." While most modern local area networks (LAN) use the same type of cable, the term Ethernet is a family of computer networking technologies that defines how the information flows through the wire, but does not define the physical network cable.

The standards defining the physical layer of wired Ethernet are known as IEEE 802.3, which is part of a larger set of standards by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association.

Cable types, connector types and cabling topologies are defined by TIA/EIA-568, a set of telecommunications standards from the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). The standards address commercial building cabling for telecommunications products and services.

Computer network cabling

Twisted Pair Cabling is a common form of wiring in which two conductors are wound around each other for the purposes of canceling out electromagnetic interference which can cause crosstalk. The number of twists per meter make up part of the specification for a given type of cable.

The two major types of twisted-pair cabling are unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) and shielded twisted-pair (STP). In shielded twisted-pair (STP) the inner wires are encased in a sheath of foil or braided wire mesh. Unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cable is the most common cable used in modern computer networking.

What does Cat5 Cable mean?

A Category 5 cable (Cat5 cable) is made up of four twisted-pair wires, certified to transmit data up to 100 Mbps. Category 5 cable is used extensively in Ethernet connections in local networks, as well as telephony and other data transmissions.

Cat5 Cable has been the standard for homes and small offices for many years. As technology for twisted pair copper cabling has progressed, successive categories have given buyers more choices. Category 5e and Category 6 cable offer more potential for bandwidth and better potential handling of signal noise or loss. Newer cable types also help to deal with the issue of cross talk or signal bleeding, which can be problems with unshielded twisted pair cabling.

The category 5e specification improves upon the category 5 specification by revising and introducing new specifications to further mitigate the amount of crosstalk.The bandwidth (100 MHz) and physical construction are the same between the two.

The category 6 specification improves upon the category 5e specification by improving frequency response and further reducing crosstalk. The improved performance of Cat 6 provides 250 MHz bandwidth and supports 10GBASE-T (10-Gigabit Ethernet). The Cat 6 cable is fully backward compatible with previous versions, such as the Category 5/5e

Older versions of voice and data cable

Category 1 Traditional UTP telephone cable can transmit voice signals but not data. Most telephone cable installed prior to 1983 is Category 1. Category 2 UTP cable is made up of four twisted-pair wires, certified for transmitting data up to 4 Mbps. Official TIA/EIA-568 standards have only been established for cables of Category 3 ratings or above.

Category 3 was widely used in computer networking in the early 1990s for 10BASE-T. In many common names for Ethernet standards the leading number (10 in 10BASE-T) refers to the transmission speed in Mbit/s. BASE denotes that baseband transmission is used. The T designates twisted pair cable.

Category 4 cable consists of four unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) copper wires used in telephone networks which can transmit voice and data up to 16 Mbit/s. Category 4 cable is not recognized by the current version of the TIA/EIA-568 data cabling standards.

What does Patch Cable mean?

A patch cord, also called a patch cable, is a length of cable with connectors on each end that is used to connect one electronic device to another. In computer networking what people often call an “Ethernet Cable” is Unshielded Twisted-Pair (UTP) patch cable.

What does Straight-Through Cable mean?

A straight-through cable is a standard patch cable used in local area networks. Straight-through cables have the wired pins on one end match on the other end. In other words, pin 1 on one end is connected to pin 1 on the other end, and the order follows the straight through route from pin 1 through pin 8.

What is a Crossover Cable?

A crossover cable is used for the interconnection of two similar devices. It is enabled by reversing the transmission and receiving pins at both ends, so that output from one computer becomes input to the other, and vice versa. The reversing or swapping of cables varies, depending on the different network environments and devices in use.

This type of cable is also sometimes called a and is an alternative to wireless connections where one or more computers access a router through a wireless signal. Use a straight-through cable when connecting a router to a hub, a computer to a switch, or connecting a LAN port to a switch, hub, or computer.

Why do you need a crossover cable?

A traditional port found in a computer NIC (network interface card) is called a media-dependent interface (MDI). A a traditional port found on an Ethernet switch is called a media-dependent interface crossover (MDIX), which reverses the transmit and receive pairs. However, if you want to interconnect two switches, where both switch ports used for the interconnection were MDIX ports, the cable would need to be a crossover cable.

Introduced in 1998, Auto MDI-X made the distinction between uplink and normal ports and manual selector switches on older hubs and switches obsolete. Auto MDI-X automatically detects the required cable connection type and configures the connection appropriately, removing the need for crossover cables.

Gigabit and faster Ethernet links over twisted pair cable use all four cable pairs for simultaneous transmission in both directions. For this reason, there are no dedicated transmit and receive pairs, and consequently, crossover cables are never required.

Tags: 

Installing Linux defining distros which version should you choose

In April 1991, Linus Torvalds, at the time a 21 year old computer science student at the University of Helsinki, Finland, started working on some simple ideas for an operating system. Although the desktop computer market exploded throughout the 1990s, the Linux Operating System remained pretty much the domain of geeks who like to build their own computers. I really believed that more than 20 years later we would have Linux computers in our home as common as Windows or Apple varieties.

The only dent in the domination of Windows or Apple desktop computers in recent years has been the introduction of the Chromebook as a personal computer in 2011. The Chrome operating system is a strange mix of the Linux kernel and using the Google Chrome web browser as a user interface.

The Linux operating system has come a long way since the mid 1990s. From painful experiences with using floppy disks and hunting down hardware drivers, my experiences with installing many distributions of Linux in recent years has been pretty painless.

The Linux kernel

Just as I did with answering the question, "what is the best desktop computer operating system," I am going to generalize a bit here so we don't get too deep into the geek speak. Hopefully the tech purists won't beat me up too much for generalizing. Let's begin with quickly going over the basic definitions.

Think of the Linux kernel as an automobile engine and drive train that was designed by a community. Once the engine and drive train have been developed there are groups that split off and design their own version of an automobile. Each of these automotive design groups have their own community with goals for how they want to use their finished product, some may focus on style and looks, another group may want to focus on being practical and functional. Once the group has a general purpose in mind, they will form an online community where they can share ideas in creating a finished product.

The Linux Distro

Each customized version of Linux that adds additional modules and applications is supported by an online community offering internet downloads as well as support. You will see the question phrased as which Linux distro should you use. Distro is a shortened version of the term distribution. There are many distros of the Linux family all based on the same Linux kernel, the core of the computer operating system. There are geeks who swear by which is the best Linux distro, but in the end it is a matter of what works best for you.

When it comes to comparing the various distributions, I find "the big three" to be very similar, because in reality they are variations of the same family. As of the time of this update, March 2017, based on various statistics the most popular version of Linux is Mint, with Debian coming in second, followed by Ubuntu. Mint is a fork from Ubuntu, which is itself a fork from Debian. Mint is very similar indeed to Ubuntu. Mint was forked off Ubuntu with the goal of providing a familiar desktop graphical user interface.

First answer the question, why are you looking at Linux? Do you have an old computer with an outdated operating system that you are looking to upgrade? Or perhaps you just want to see what all the fuss is about with the "free" alternative to Windows or Apple?

If you simply want to play with Linux and just want to see what all the fuss is about, Mint is a very easy place to start. I have installed Mint on a few old computers with no issues. One of the biggest issues I have experienced with many versions of Linux is the lack of drivers for certain pieces of hardware in some laptop models. There's a few old Dell laptops I moved on from installing Linux because finding drivers for the Wi-Fi was not worth the effort.

Here's a look at various distributions of Linux.

In our previous question on "what is the best desktop computer operating system" we addressed the topic of the "free" alternative to Windows or Apple as we explained Open Source software. Richard Stallman, the father of the Open Source software movement, explains that Open Source refers to the preservation of the freedoms to use, study, distribute and modify that software, not zero-cost. In illustrating the concept of Gratis versus Libre, Stallman is famous for using the sentence, "free as in free speech not as in free beer." Even though Linux is open source there are versions that are commercially distributed and supported.

Fedora - Red Hat

Red Hat Commercial Linux, introduced in 1995, was one of the first commercially supported versions of Linux, and entered into the enterprise network environment because of its support. Red Hat Linux has evolved quite a bit over the years as Red Hat Linux merged with the community based Fedora Project in 2003.

Fedora is now the free community supported home version of Red Hat Linux. Fedora ranks slightly behind the other distros we mention here in popularity, Fedora is often at the top of list when it comes to integrating new package versions and technologies into the distribution. Many users in the enterprise environment rave about the stability of Fedora.

SUSE - openSUSE

openSUSE claims to be "the makers' choice for sysadmins, developers and desktop users." You may not find a lot of neighborhood geeks telling you to try openSUSE but it ranks near the top of many charts as far as popularity. SUSE was marketing Linux to the enterprise market in 1992, before Red Hat. Many American geeks are not as familiar with SUSE because it was developed in Germany. I have not had any issues with installing it. You can always download a "live CD" which allows you to run the operating system off of the CD without having to install it

openSUSE is the open source version. SUSE is often used in commercial environments because professional help is available under a support contract through SUSE Linux. Having worked as a Novell Netware systems administrator I was involved with SUSE Linux as the Novell Netware network operating system was coming to the end of its life when Novell bought the SUSE brands and trademarks in 2003. When Novell was purchsed by The Attachmate Group in 2011, SUSE was spun off as an independent business unit. SUSE is geared for the business environment with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop. Each focuses on packages that fit its specific purpose.

Debian - Ubuntu - Mint

Ubuntu and Mint are Debian-based: their package manager is APT (The Advanced Package Tool) a free software user interface that works with core libraries to handle the installation and removal of software on the Debian Linux distributions. Their packages follow the DEB (Debian) package format.

Ubuntu is often used in commercial environments because professional help is available under a support contract through Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu.

Mint is basically the same OS as Debian or Ubuntu with a different default configuration with a lot of pre-installed applications and a nice looking desktop. Mint was forked off from the Ubuntu community with the goal of providing a familiar desktop Operating System.  If you are looking for something to use as a server Debian or Ubuntu may be a better choice.


What about all the rest?

There are more that 200 different versions of Linux. Once you go beyond the versions mentioned here you are getting into support issues. With each of the three families of Linux we mention here, there is a commercially supported version and a community supported version. Keep in mind, if you are not buying support through one of the commercial versions mentioned here, each of these families have a well established online community for support of the open source version.

Is it time to switch to Linux?

Back in the late 1990s I was taking a community college course on Novell networking and systems administration using Novell Netware. As part of the curriculum we had to write a term paper on a unrelated technology topic, I chose Linux on the desktop. I concluded that I was impressed with Linux as an operating system, but it would not become mainstream desktop operating system until there were hardware companies embracing it and selling home computers with Linux installed. Twenty years later, that really has not happened.

You could make the case that the Google Chromebook is a version of Linux installed and configured along with a computer, but the Google Chromebook has not become a mainstream home computer. If all you want to do is surf the net, interact on social media, and read your email, a Google Chromebook works fine. But beyond that there are many issues.

Hardware drivers and website plugins can be a problem when using any version of Linux. Many manufacturers don't develop Linux device drivers for their hardware, you need to search them out yourself through your LInux community. Using many websites that need Digital Rights Management, like Amazon Video, Netflix, or Sling, getting your streaming to work on Linux can be difficult. Some websites don't understand Linux as an operating system and automatic installs of plugins fail.

I know I said at the beginning of this discussion that in recent years my experinece in installing Linux has been pretty painless, but I have access to name brand hardware on pretty basic computers.  The problem with hardware drivers and browser plug ins keeps improving, but beware it can be an issue at times.  It is still a concern that can turn your Linux experince sour. The biggest problem I have experienced in experimenting with Linux is network card and WiFi drivers in laptop models.

In our last article we discussed why is Microsoft Windows so popular. Whether you love them or hate them, many applications only have a Windows version. There are many websites that offer "open source equivalents” to your favorite applications. Some equivalents work well, others are very buggy. The key to using any open source application is looking at how active is the community that supports them. Be cautious of applications that look cool and work well, but are basically created and supported by a single individual. They can often become unsupported as developer creates an application and moves on without supporting it over time.

Take Linux for a test drive

Look for a live distribution of Linux that allows you to run a full instance of the operating system from either CD, DVD, or USB, without making changes to your current system. Many install downloads will offer you a live test drive of the distro that does not install anything to your hard drive. If everything works well from a live test drive, you can feel a bit more comfortable about doing the "real" install.

Tags: 

Installing Linux defining distros which version should you choose

In April 1991, Linus Torvalds, at the time a 21 year old computer science student at the University of Helsinki, Finland, started working on some simple ideas for an operating system. Although the desktop computer market exploded throughout the 1990s, the Linux Operating System remained pretty much the domain of geeks who like to build their own computers. I really believed that more than 20 years later we would have Linux computers in our home as common as Windows or Apple varieties.

The only dent in the domination of Windows or Apple desktop computers in recent years has been the introduction of the Chromebook as a personal computer in 2011. The Chrome operating system is a strange mix of the Linux kernel and using the Google Chrome web browser as a user interface.

The Linux operating system has come a long way since the mid 1990s. From painful experiences with using floppy disks and hunting down hardware drivers, my experiences with installing many distributions of Linux in recent years has been pretty painless.

The Linux kernel

Just as I did with answering the question, "what is the best desktop computer operating system," I am going to generalize a bit here so we don't get too deep into the geek speak. Hopefully the tech purists won't beat me up too much for generalizing. Let's begin with quickly going over the basic definitions.

Think of the Linux kernel as an automobile engine and drive train that was designed by a community. Once the engine and drive train have been developed there are groups that split off and design their own version of an automobile. Each of these automotive design groups have their own community with goals for how they want to use their finished product, some may focus on style and looks, another group may want to focus on being practical and functional. Once the group has a general purpose in mind, they will form an online community where they can share ideas in creating a finished product.

The Linux Distro

Each customized version of Linux that adds additional modules and applications is supported by an online community offering internet downloads as well as support. You will see the question phrased as which Linux distro should you use. Distro is a shortened version of the term distribution. There are many distros of the Linux family all based on the same Linux kernel, the core of the computer operating system. There are geeks who swear by which is the best Linux distro, but in the end it is a matter of what works best for you.

When it comes to comparing the various distributions, I find "the big three" to be very similar, because in reality they are variations of the same family. As of the time of this update, March 2017, based on various statistics the most popular version of Linux is Mint, with Debian coming in second, followed by Ubuntu. Mint is a fork from Ubuntu, which is itself a fork from Debian. Mint is very similar indeed to Ubuntu. Mint was forked off Ubuntu with the goal of providing a familiar desktop graphical user interface.

First answer the question, why are you looking at Linux? Do you have an old computer with an outdated operating system that you are looking to upgrade? Or perhaps you just want to see what all the fuss is about with the "free" alternative to Windows or Apple?

If you simply want to play with Linux and just want to see what all the fuss is about, Mint is a very easy place to start. I have installed Mint on a few old computers with no issues. One of the biggest issues I have experienced with many versions of Linux is the lack of drivers for certain pieces of hardware in some laptop models. There's a few old Dell laptops I moved on from installing Linux because finding drivers for the Wi-Fi was not worth the effort.

Here's a look at various distributions of Linux.

In our previous question on "what is the best desktop computer operating system" we addressed the topic of the "free" alternative to Windows or Apple as we explained Open Source software. Richard Stallman, the father of the Open Source software movement, explains that Open Source refers to the preservation of the freedoms to use, study, distribute and modify that software, not zero-cost. In illustrating the concept of Gratis versus Libre, Stallman is famous for using the sentence, "free as in free speech not as in free beer." Even though Linux is open source there are versions that are commercially distributed and supported.

Fedora - Red Hat

Red Hat Commercial Linux, introduced in 1995, was one of the first commercially supported versions of Linux, and entered into the enterprise network environment because of its support. Red Hat Linux has evolved quite a bit over the years as Red Hat Linux merged with the community based Fedora Project in 2003.

Fedora is now the free community supported home version of Red Hat Linux. Fedora ranks slightly behind the other distros we mention here in popularity, Fedora is often at the top of list when it comes to integrating new package versions and technologies into the distribution. Many users in the enterprise environment rave about the stability of Fedora.

SUSE - openSUSE

openSUSE claims to be "the makers' choice for sysadmins, developers and desktop users." You may not find a lot of neighborhood geeks telling you to try openSUSE but it ranks near the top of many charts as far as popularity. SUSE was marketing Linux to the enterprise market in 1992, before Red Hat. Many American geeks are not as familiar with SUSE because it was developed in Germany. I have not had any issues with installing it. You can always download a "live CD" which allows you to run the operating system off of the CD without having to install it

openSUSE is the open source version. SUSE is often used in commercial environments because professional help is available under a support contract through SUSE Linux. Having worked as a Novell Netware systems administrator I was involved with SUSE Linux as the Novell Netware network operating system was coming to the end of its life when Novell bought the SUSE brands and trademarks in 2003. When Novell was purchsed by The Attachmate Group in 2011, SUSE was spun off as an independent business unit. SUSE is geared for the business environment with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop. Each focuses on packages that fit its specific purpose.

Debian - Ubuntu - Mint

Ubuntu and Mint are Debian-based: their package manager is APT (The Advanced Package Tool) a free software user interface that works with core libraries to handle the installation and removal of software on the Debian Linux distributions. Their packages follow the DEB (Debian) package format.

Ubuntu is often used in commercial environments because professional help is available under a support contract through Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu.

Mint is basically the same OS as Debian or Ubuntu with a different default configuration with a lot of pre-installed applications and a nice looking desktop. Mint was forked off from the Ubuntu community with the goal of providing a familiar desktop Operating System.  If you are looking for something to use as a server Debian or Ubuntu may be a better choice.


What about all the rest?

There are more that 200 different versions of Linux. Once you go beyond the versions mentioned here you are getting into support issues. With each of the three families of Linux we mention here, there is a commercially supported version and a community supported version. Keep in mind, if you are not buying support through one of the commercial versions mentioned here, each of these families have a well established online community for support of the open source version.

Is it time to switch to Linux?

Back in the late 1990s I was taking a community college course on Novell networking and systems administration using Novell Netware. As part of the curriculum we had to write a term paper on a unrelated technology topic, I chose Linux on the desktop. I concluded that I was impressed with Linux as an operating system, but it would not become mainstream desktop operating system until there were hardware companies embracing it and selling home computers with Linux installed. Twenty years later, that really has not happened.

You could make the case that the Google Chromebook is a version of Linux installed and configured along with a computer, but the Google Chromebook has not become a mainstream home computer. If all you want to do is surf the net, interact on social media, and read your email, a Google Chromebook works fine. But beyond that there are many issues.

Hardware drivers and website plugins can be a problem when using any version of Linux. Many manufacturers don't develop Linux device drivers for their hardware, you need to search them out yourself through your LInux community. Using many websites that need Digital Rights Management, like Amazon Video, Netflix, or Sling, getting your streaming to work on Linux can be difficult. Some websites don't understand Linux as an operating system and automatic installs of plugins fail.

I know I said at the beginning of this discussion that in recent years my experinece in installing Linux has been pretty painless, but I have access to name brand hardware on pretty basic computers.  The problem with hardware drivers and browser plug ins keeps improving, but beware it can be an issue at times.  It is still a concern that can turn your Linux experince sour. The biggest problem I have experienced in experimenting with Linux is network card and WiFi drivers in laptop models.

In our last article we discussed why is Microsoft Windows so popular. Whether you love them or hate them, many applications only have a Windows version. There are many websites that offer "open source equivalents” to your favorite applications. Some equivalents work well, others are very buggy. The key to using any open source application is looking at how active is the community that supports them. Be cautious of applications that look cool and work well, but are basically created and supported by a single individual. They can often become unsupported as developer creates an application and moves on without supporting it over time.

Take Linux for a test drive

Look for a live distribution of Linux that allows you to run a full instance of the operating system from either CD, DVD, or USB, without making changes to your current system. Many install downloads will offer you a live test drive of the distro that does not install anything to your hard drive. If everything works well from a live test drive, you can feel a bit more comfortable about doing the "real" install.

Tags: 

Desktop personal computer system basic parts defined

If you are studying personal computers as the beginning of your career in technology, or perhaps you are just trying to understand how things work on your home computer to better deal with problems and upgrades, you can't get away with not knowing some very basic definitions of the components of a desktop personal computer system.

There have been so many types of hardware and software over the years, keeping up to date on what is current is a full time job for many computer support technicians. This section is meant to be a brief introduction to common personal computer terms, we are only introducing you briefly to the basics.

If you are interested to learn more, many of the topics described here are covered in more detail throughout the websites of the Guru42 Universe. Over at our sister site GeekHistory.com we explore the history of technology and the evolution of personal computers.

Basic parts defined

Computer hardware is the collection of physical elements that make up a computer system such as a hard disk drive (HDD), monitor, mouse, keyboard, CD-ROM drive, network card, system board, power supply, case, and video card.

The main system board is sometimes called the motherboard. It is the central printed circuit board (PCB) in and holds many of the crucial components of the system, providing connectors for other peripherals.

The central processing unit (CPU), the brain of a computer system is the main component on the main system board. The CPU carries out the instructions of computer programs, performs the basic arithmetical, logical, and input/output operations of the system.

System boards will have expansion slots, a CPU socket or slot, location for memory cache and RAM, and a keyboard connector. Other components may also be present. A slot is a narrow notch, groove, or opening. A socket is a hollow piece or part into which something fits. Systemboards contain both sockets and slots, which are the points at which devices can be plugged in. A CPU slot is long and narrow while a CPU socket is square.

RAM (Random Access Memory), is the computer's primary storage which holds programming code and data that is being processed by the CPU.

ROM is read-only memory. ROM chips, located on circuit boards, are used to hold programming code that is permanently stored on the chip.

Flash ROM can be reprogrammed whereas regular ROM cannot be. In order to change the programming code of regular ROM, the chip must be replaced. Upgrades to Flash ROM can be downloaded from the Internet.

BIOS stands for basic input-output system. It is used to manage the startup of the computer and ongoing input and output operations of basic components, such as a floppy disk or hard drive.

Software

Computer software is a collection of computer programs and related data that provide the instructions for telling a computer what to do.

System software provides the basic functions for computer usage and helps run the computer hardware. An operating system is a type of software that controls a computers output and input operations, such as saving files and managing memory. Common operating systems are typically Windows based, but personal computers can also use an Apple or Linux based operating system as well.

Software applications represent a variety of computer programs. Some applications such as computer games are for the entertainment of the computer user. Other applications such as word processors are used for creating documents or spreadsheet programs that are computerized simulations of paper accounting worksheets.

Data storage

The term data is used to describe the files created by the applications. On the typical home computer you have various data files such as the documents created by your word processors, as well as music and movies that you have downloaded in the form of various types of audio and video files.

There are many types of data storage devices. A hard disk drive (HDD) is called secondary storage while memory is called primary storage because programs cannot be executed from secondary storage but must first be moved to primary storage. Basically, the CPU cannot "reach" the program still in secondary storage for execution.

As the personal computer has evolved over the years, so has the many forms of storage devices used to remove the data from your computer for storage. Early home computers had floppy disk drives which used various forms of diskettes based on magnetic storage.

The next generation of data storage devices were optical disc technologies, first with the Compact disc (CD) and later with the digital versatile disc (DVD).

USB flash drives are now commonly used for storage, data back-up and transfer of computer files. The USB flash drive has been replacing all other forms of data storage devices in recent years.

Peripherals

A home computer system is a combination of hardware and software components. Computer hardware describes the physical parts or components of a home computer system.

Computer peripherals are various devices used to put information into and get information out of your computer. Keyboards, mouse, scanners, digital cameras and joysticks are examples of input devices. Displays, printers, projectors, and speakers are examples of output devices.

What is the difference between a PC (personal computer) and a workstation

In a business environment you may have a computer on your desk that is very similar to the computer you have at home, but there is one major difference, the work computer is managed as part of a LAN (local area network) that contains many other computers. In the next section we define networking terms and go into a bit more detail on the concept of a LAN.

Some definitions will state that a workstation computer is faster and more powerful than a personal computer. Not necessarily. Terms like "faster and more powerful" are pretty ambiguous. The difference is a bit more clear-cut, it is a point of reference in how they are used.

In your home you have a personal computer, it is the center of your personal technology universe. When you open up an application, it is on that computer. When you create a data file, like a Word document, you save it to that computer.

When you open up an application, it may be installed on your local computer, or it may be installed on an application server somewhere on your LAN. When you create a data file on your workstation, like a Word document, you save it to your personal directory on a file server that is on your LAN.

Many years ago when computer systems were expensive, all the work was done on a mainframe, a huge computer surrounded by geeks in a special room. The end users had dumb terminals, meaning there was a keyboard and a monitor at your desk, but the box they attached to on your desk was called a dumb terminal because it did not do any work, it was dumb!

The concept of the workstation is that some of the "work" is done locally at your desktop, but some of the work could also be done on a computer somewhere else, in the case of the LAN, that somewhere else would be a server.

 

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Desktop personal computer system basic parts defined

If you are studying personal computers as the beginning of your career in technology, or perhaps you are just trying to understand how things work on your home computer to better deal with problems and upgrades, you can't get away with not knowing some very basic definitions of the components of a desktop personal computer system.

There have been so many types of hardware and software over the years, keeping up to date on what is current is a full time job for many computer support technicians. This section is meant to be a brief introduction to common personal computer terms, we are only introducing you briefly to the basics.

If you are interested to learn more, many of the topics described here are covered in more detail throughout the websites of the Guru42 Universe. Over at our sister site GeekHistory.com we explore the history of technology and the evolution of personal computers.

Basic parts defined

Computer hardware is the collection of physical elements that make up a computer system such as a hard disk drive (HDD), monitor, mouse, keyboard, CD-ROM drive, network card, system board, power supply, case, and video card.

The main system board is sometimes called the motherboard. It is the central printed circuit board (PCB) in and holds many of the crucial components of the system, providing connectors for other peripherals.

The central processing unit (CPU), the brain of a computer system is the main component on the main system board. The CPU carries out the instructions of computer programs, performs the basic arithmetical, logical, and input/output operations of the system.

System boards will have expansion slots, a CPU socket or slot, location for memory cache and RAM, and a keyboard connector. Other components may also be present. A slot is a narrow notch, groove, or opening. A socket is a hollow piece or part into which something fits. Systemboards contain both sockets and slots, which are the points at which devices can be plugged in. A CPU slot is long and narrow while a CPU socket is square.

RAM (Random Access Memory), is the computer's primary storage which holds programming code and data that is being processed by the CPU.

ROM is read-only memory. ROM chips, located on circuit boards, are used to hold programming code that is permanently stored on the chip.

Flash ROM can be reprogrammed whereas regular ROM cannot be. In order to change the programming code of regular ROM, the chip must be replaced. Upgrades to Flash ROM can be downloaded from the Internet.

BIOS stands for basic input-output system. It is used to manage the startup of the computer and ongoing input and output operations of basic components, such as a floppy disk or hard drive.

Software

Computer software is a collection of computer programs and related data that provide the instructions for telling a computer what to do.

System software provides the basic functions for computer usage and helps run the computer hardware. An operating system is a type of software that controls a computers output and input operations, such as saving files and managing memory. Common operating systems are typically Windows based, but personal computers can also use an Apple or Linux based operating system as well.

Software applications represent a variety of computer programs. Some applications such as computer games are for the entertainment of the computer user. Other applications such as word processors are used for creating documents or spreadsheet programs that are computerized simulations of paper accounting worksheets.

Data storage

The term data is used to describe the files created by the applications. On the typical home computer you have various data files such as the documents created by your word processors, as well as music and movies that you have downloaded in the form of various types of audio and video files.

There are many types of data storage devices. A hard disk drive (HDD) is called secondary storage while memory is called primary storage because programs cannot be executed from secondary storage but must first be moved to primary storage. Basically, the CPU cannot "reach" the program still in secondary storage for execution.

As the personal computer has evolved over the years, so has the many forms of storage devices used to remove the data from your computer for storage. Early home computers had floppy disk drives which used various forms of diskettes based on magnetic storage.

The next generation of data storage devices were optical disc technologies, first with the Compact disc (CD) and later with the digital versatile disc (DVD).

USB flash drives are now commonly used for storage, data back-up and transfer of computer files. The USB flash drive has been replacing all other forms of data storage devices in recent years.

Peripherals

A home computer system is a combination of hardware and software components. Computer hardware describes the physical parts or components of a home computer system.

Computer peripherals are various devices used to put information into and get information out of your computer. Keyboards, mouse, scanners, digital cameras and joysticks are examples of input devices. Displays, printers, projectors, and speakers are examples of output devices.

What is the difference between a PC (personal computer) and a workstation

In a business environment you may have a computer on your desk that is very similar to the computer you have at home, but there is one major difference, the work computer is managed as part of a LAN (local area network) that contains many other computers. In the next section we define networking terms and go into a bit more detail on the concept of a LAN.

Some definitions will state that a workstation computer is faster and more powerful than a personal computer. Not necessarily. Terms like "faster and more powerful" are pretty ambiguous. The difference is a bit more clear-cut, it is a point of reference in how they are used.

In your home you have a personal computer, it is the center of your personal technology universe. When you open up an application, it is on that computer. When you create a data file, like a Word document, you save it to that computer.

When you open up an application, it may be installed on your local computer, or it may be installed on an application server somewhere on your LAN. When you create a data file on your workstation, like a Word document, you save it to your personal directory on a file server that is on your LAN.

Many years ago when computer systems were expensive, all the work was done on a mainframe, a huge computer surrounded by geeks in a special room. The end users had dumb terminals, meaning there was a keyboard and a monitor at your desk, but the box they attached to on your desk was called a dumb terminal because it did not do any work, it was dumb!

The concept of the workstation is that some of the "work" is done locally at your desktop, but some of the work could also be done on a computer somewhere else, in the case of the LAN, that somewhere else would be a server.

 

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