Category Archives: Uncategorized

Stop the spam calls with “Should I Answer?”

Should I Answer?
Incredulous Octopus is incredulous


Lately I’ve been overrun with spam calls.  This free app saved the day.  Community members upload ratings after they receive calls from friends, family, and telemarketers.  Phone numbers get ranked positive, negative, and neutral.  You can automatically block negative rated calls and unlisted numbers.  I was receiving up to 25 unsolicited calls a day.  I’m down to fewer than 5 a day getting through.  This app is a major improvement.  Be sure to do your part and upload ratings too.  If we all work together, we can eliminate nuisance calls.  The project is supported by donations.  Here’s a link to the main page: https://www.shouldianswer.com/ 
Apple Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/should-i-answer/id1199812713
Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.mistergroup.shouldianswerpersonal&referrer=utm_source%3Dhomepage%26utm_medium%3Dbanner%26utm_campaign%3Dmainpagepeople

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.