How to Design a Reliable Office Network


A basic network has two major components that provide service, an ISP (modem) and a router.  If either fails, the entire network goes down.  These are called SPOFs (single points of failure).

My predecessor used 2 basic networks in his original configuration.  The intent was to be more reliable, but the effect was opposite.  If one network failed, all users migrated to the other, causing it to crash invariably.  Statistically, we had one system with 4 SPOFs.  This design should never be used.

*TWC modems contain integrated routers (not shown), we will not calculate separate probability for these.  Instead, each ISP will be assumed 50% rate of failure for probability calculations.  Limiting possible failure combinations to 16 instead of 64.


Out of 16 possible failure combinations, 15 result in complete loss of service:

1/16 Success Rate (old network)

After many failures, a new design was needed.  Some research led me to Dell SonicWall.  In Dell’s HA design, if one router fails, its “software license” and service are transferred to the duplicate hardware.  The duplicate hardware has a reduced price because of the shared license.

In addition, I removed one of Time Warners modems (saving $400/mo).  Recently, Google Fiber was installed as well.  This allows us to use Time Warner as a failover in the event Fiber fails.  Google Fiber is a new service, and fiber breaks are notoriously hard to repair.  For this reason having a failover ISP is good practice.


Using all of this the new network has 0 SPOFs!  The statistical advantages are incredible!!!
Again, we will assume that each ISP and router has a 50% rate of failure (hugely exaggerated).
Out of 16 possible failure combinations, the new network fails only 7 of them!

9/16 Success Rate (new network)*
*Although Google uses a separate Modem and Router, probability was not calculated for these individual components because TWC’s modem contains an integrated Router as well.  If we were to calculate all of this separately, there would be 64 possible failure combinations.  To keep things simple Google and TWC are given equal 50% failure rates as ISPs.

The Riverbeds of Oman:

All good design borrows concepts from nature.  Water always chooses the path of least resistance.  By allowing more than one path, our connectivity behaves the same way.
I hope you enjoyed this presentation.  The results took a long time to achieve.

Make Windows 8.1 look like Windows 7

Countless people have asked me “why is Windows 8.1 so different from 7?!”  The “metro” screen loads many confusing and irrelevant “tiles” upon startup.  The “Start” menu is nowhere to be found.  For many, this renders the computer almost unusable.  Again, we wonder, why so different?

The short answer is, it was designed for touch screens (not a mouse and keyboard).  In a world dominated by social media and touch screen devices, Microsoft just wanted a piece of the action.  Their attempt to join in was not received well by the community at large (or myself, I still use 7 at home).  So, what can we do to improve the Windows 8 experience?

A new, free, piece of software called “Classic Shell” (click here to visit their site) can help you revert the visual aspects of 8.1 to something more akin to 7.  If you’re willing to spend twenty minutes learning how to configure it yourself, you’ll have things back to normal in no time!  Here’s a short video on how to install and configure Classic Shell.

Cynaps Version 2 and Breakthrough Hearing Aid Announced!


I’ve been in touch with Mike Freeman of Max Virtual LLC since I met him in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. He just sent me a small stock of production models for sale, so holler at me if you want one!

In addition Max Virtual has announced they will produce a hearing aid to increase spacial awareness for the hearing impaired. Using two microphones and two bone conduction pads, the hat can take the place of expensive implanted aids. Click here for the full story.

NixTech’s Next Innovation

Deep in a heavily guarded underground bunker is NixTech lab. Mad scientist Russel Lemburg is soldering away on his next creation. Yet to be named, this LED strip for helmets uses the same independently addressable RGB LEDs as the popular Nix Googles. Russell sent me a sneak preview about a week ago and I just had to spill the beans. Click to see a close up video of the strip without the helmet.
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First Look: Cynaps Headset


At the CES show earlier this month I met Mike Freeman, the designer of the Cynaps Bluetooth headset.  This revolutionary device uses bone conduction to send sound waves directly to the inner ear, eliminating the need to block the user’s hearing with a pesky earbud.  When he offered to send me a sample I couldn’t resist.

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A Guru and a Gizmo: Two new services open for Austin cyclists around the clock


Photo by Irene Martinez

Meet Fernando Martinez.  When he isn’t working on the Safe Routes to School for BikeTexas he is fixing bikes or teaching some eager student how to do the same.  He helped me work on all three of my bikes during my internship for BikeTexas nearly a year ago.  When he told me about his new bike repair service and an automated 24-hour bike store I just had to share it with every bike-riding nerd I know.

Take a minute to visit his page at and schedule a time to meet with him.  For a small fee he will even come to you.  He specializes in teaching bicycle repair, safe riding and maintenance skills to students of ALL ages.

Next he told me about Gearbox.  Located in front of Thom’s Market at 1418 Barton Springs Road, this convenient vending machine full of bike parts is open for business 24/7.  With any luck there will be a few more locations in Austin this year.  You can visit their page at to find out more.