Use your imagination

Friday, November 13, 2009

Clear 4G USB with Cradlepoint CBA-250 - wireless internet for the home

I recently decided to give WiMax (4G) internet service a try. The goal is to replace my existing cable internet service if I can squeeze high enough speeds out of the WiMax service. I'd also like to be able to wire it up to my whole house so I can share the connection with all of my systems in the house. Lastly I want to be able to take my connection on the road should I ever feel the urge.

I live in Las Vegas where we recently got access to Clear internet service. I've heard of people getting speeds up to 10Mbps which would suffice to support all of my internet needs that consist of gaming (a bit of WoW every now and then), Netflix streaming, Hulu and other video streaming, and casual web surfing. I decided to go with an unlimited mobile plan and got one of the Motorola USB 100W adapters. I got the USB adapter instead of the home modem so I could easily take the adapter on the go with a laptop when I want to work outside of the home.

I have ethernet cabling throughout my home, so to provide access to all of my systems in the home I decided to get a Cradlepoint cellular broadband adapter that works with the Clear 4G USB modem. Clear does offer a Cradlepoint router which is branded as the Clearspot, but I didn't want to go WiMax->WiFi, I wanted to go WiMax->Wired->Switch. I found the CBA-250 for the job. This router has a USB and express card slot on one end and an ethernet port on the other. The USB port will accept the Clear adapter with a firmware upgrade. With a bit of googling I found the CBA-250 for $125 online, shipped free.

All of my equipment came within a week and I took a night to set it up and give it a try. The CBA-250 was a bit of a job to figure out. First, it came shipped with really old firmware and the cradlepoint site had firmware which it stated needs to be loaded in order to work with the Clear USB adapter. It took a while to figure out that I first had to update the regular firmware of the CBA-250 first, then after that you get an added option on the firmware update screen to update the Modem Driver portion of the CBA-250 firmware which is the Clear USB adapter specific piece. I loaded both firmware updates and finally was no longer getting a red led for the USB adapter, but it still wasn't connecting.

I looked around the CBA-250 admin/config pages trying different things till I finally stumbled upon a setting under the "Modem" tab that had a drop-down to select the USB port(m100) and then a service provider drop-down appeared at the bottom where I was able to select Clear. After a save and reboot the adapter finally found a connection.

Now for some speed tests. With my initial testing I have the adapter in my home in a room on the second floor, but I live on the outskirts of Vegas and there are quite a few other homes between me and where I think my accessible cell towers are located. Therefore I was not able to get a full 4 bars on the CBA-250. However, using a homemade radio signal reflector that I poked the USB adapter into, I was able to get up to 3 bars. This reads as 60% signal on the CBA-250 admin status page. I ran speed tests at www.speedtest.net, www.speedtest.org, and www.dslreports.com. My maximum speed was about 4Mbps down and 512Kbps up. Not to bad, but not nearly as good as my current cable connection which is bursting up to 2MB/s at times.

That's all the time I have for tonight. In my next tests I'll see if I can locate a better spot inside or outside the home where I can get maximum reception and do some more speed tests to see if I can hit the 10 Mbps mark. I'll also hook the CBA-250 up to my home switch, a D-Link DIR-655, to give access to my entire home. Then I'll do some gaming tests to make sure I don't run into any network latency issues, which I heard can be problematic with wireless connections like this. I'll also do some video streaming tests to make sure I'm getting the same quality I get when watching movies or TV over my current cable internet connection.


Friday, September 22, 2006

How to extract the subdomain from a URL in C# using regular expressions

I recently read a post with some C# code for extracting a subdomain from a URL at Mads Kristensen's blog. Since I am currently working on something where I needed to do the same I decided to share the method I came up with using a regular expression. Here it is for my own and others reference.

private static string GetSubDomain(Uri uri)


  string host = uri.Host;

  string subdomain = null;


  if (uri.HostNameType == UriHostNameType.Dns)


    subdomain = Regex.Replace(host, "((.*)(\\..*){2})|(.*)", "$2");



  return subdomain;


An item to note with this is if your are looking for better performance I'd suggest creating a static Regex member variable instead of using the static Replace method as I am here.

kick it on DotNetKicks.com

Thursday, September 07, 2006

New Netscape flare shows vote and comment counts

Along the same lines as my Digg feedflare, I created a FeedBurner FeedFlare for Netscape which will show an item's vote and comment counts if it has been submitted to Netscape. Clicking the link will take you to the item on Netscape. If it has not been submitted, then clicking the link will take you to the post submission page.

Any current subscribers to my service for the Digg counts feedflare can also use this service under the same subscription. Get further details at my page to support my feedflare services. If you have any issues with the service you can let me know in the comments of this post.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Check out my widget at SpokenQuotes.com!

I've been neglecting this blog lately to work on some other projects I've got going on. One of which I recently unleashed on the public. It's a Yahoo widget that speaks stock quotes and news. I created it to allow myself to be able to work on other software projects while doing some stock trading at the same time. I just enter the stock symbols that I am currently in or want to track and the widget runs in the background letting me hear when the price changes and by how much. It also tracks news for each symbol and speaks new headlines when they come in. I also added a charting function that pulls charts from Yahoo Finance on a timed interval so if I want I can watch the stock movement on a chart. I use it by wearing a set of wireless headphones, then when I need or want to get up and away from my desk I can still hear the market action;)

I made a website to support the widget which I also hope to build a community around by adding features to the site and widget like being able to share portfolios and talk to others who are tracking the same stocks. I built the site on top of Drupal. It is my first site based on this CMS/Framework and I am very happy with how easy it was to throw together and modify for my use. If you want to give the widget a try you can download it from the site at SpokenQuotes.com. I'd love your feedback!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

How to cut your land-line phone bill to as little as $38(US) per year

I had been a happy Vonage user for almost 2 years when recently my router/phone adapter stopped working with a constant flashing power led. I tried everything I could to attempt to revive the thing...holding the reset button for 15, 30, 45, 120 seconds...holding the reset button while powering on...constantly pinging the router while it was booting to see if there was a response which would mean I could possibly TFTP into it and reflash the firmware. But, none of this worked. After a flurry of e-mails back and forth to Vonage with them telling me to try everything I already tried, they finally tell me after the tenth e-mail that my router isn't under warranty and I'll have to buy a new one:(

To me, this was my invitation to look around and see if any cheaper voip services now existed. My family and I don't use the phone too often at home, so we were paying for the cheapest Vonage rate of $14.99 a month, which after taxes and fees comes out to more like $17.99 a month.

At first I looked at some providers that offer bring your own device (BYOD) plans like http://www.broadvoice.com who currently offers a plan for $8.70/month after fees and taxes. I like the idea of being able to use a router that isn't tied to a particular service, like Vonage routers, and just using a SIP based router which can be used with any open SIP based provider.

Next I checked out Skype, which uses a proprietary peer to peer protocol for their infrastructure (along with a little SIP for SkypeOut/In calls I think). No one could come close to the price for their service at $38 for a SkypeIn number (a number reachable by any regular phone) and free SkypeOut calls within the US until the end of 2006. I'm not sure how much it will be after this, but my guess is it will still be cheaper than the regular voip and telco prices per call if you use under 500 minutes a month, as my family does. At this low of price nothing was keeping me from creating an account and buying a SkypeIn number to give it a try. If I don't like it I'm only out $38.

My next task to be able to test this as our whole-home phone service was to find a PC to PSTN adapter so we could plug our 3 handset cordless phone into it. I went on eBay and found a SkypeKey for US $29.99 total, shipped from China. It took about 15 days for it to make it through customs and all, but it did arrive and was exactly as described on the auction. Setup was a breeze. Just plugged it into a USB port, installed the driver/software CD it came with and was making calls from our cordless phone all in about 10 minutes.

The call quality of Skype isn't quite at the level of Vonage yet, as there is a small delay between the time we talk and the voice is received on the other end, but at only US$58 ($158 dollars cheaper than Vonage per year) for service and adapter for an entire YEAR, who can complain? My only two small issues with the SkypeKey adapter is it doesn't seem to send caller id to the phone (even though the software contains a dll, F3CID.dll, that appears to handle this). Also the adapter requires a PC to be constantly running with Skype and the SkypeKey software, which isn't a huge issue in our home since we always have our media PC running.

Some other side benefits of the Skype(In) service are:

  • Can make multi-calls: you can call up to 9 people while putting the rest on hold. (for free)

  • Can make conference calls (for free)

  • Can make multiple calls: using multiple skype clients on different, or the same, PCs two or more calls can be made at the same time. I called my parents from my PDA while my wife was talking to her parents through another PC hooked up through the SkypeKey. It's like having multiple phone lines in the house.

  • Voicemail with SkypeIn (for free)

  • Call forwarding: to other skype accounts or PSTN/SkypeOut numbers (for free)

  • Can make calls from your PDA (for free): anywhere you have broadband access.

Another point to consider with Skype is that they don't have emergency service connections like 911 dialing. This is not a major issue for us because we can dial emergency services through our cell phones should we need to.

We'll see how well it goes over the next couple of months. My big test is to see if my wife can use the phone without any other knowledge of how her calls are being completed. At unlimited calling for free I think we'll be calling our families more often;)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Now creating VMWare development tools image (Subversion, Mediawiki, Wordpress, Bugzilla)

After my last post about using VMWare images for development I started using rPath linux to build my development infrastructure. I am also releasing it for public use on the rPath web site. So, if you're looking for a quick and easy Subversion server image for VMWare, then you need not look further. As I said in my previous post I am also using this as a development collaboration server, so I've added a wiki(Mediawiki), blog(Wordpress), and am still in the process of adding Bugzilla or another bug/issue tracker. I am also planning on creating another flavor that will use Trac as its infrastructure.

I setup a blog to track the progress of my development on it all at http://devinfranix.blogspot.com. Let me know if you find it useful or if you'd like to join development efforts on it.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Speeding up time to development with virtual servers

I recently started development on a personal .net project and wanted to get my development supporting infrastructure in place as quickly as possible. On my last corporate project where I was the tech team lead I planned for and used VMWare virtual servers for all of our development environment. This lead to a fairly large cost savings due to not having to purchase 4 brand new servers that the project required. Thinking of my success there I decided to download the VMWare Player, which is freely available from the VMWare site, and first use it to create a code repository. I went with VMWare because I know it is easy to use and performs rather well, however there are other Virtual Server options freely available such as Xen or Microsoft's VM solution.

I decided to use Subversion as my repository. This will be my first use of Subversion as I've mostly used CVS in the past. Subversion requires a *nix OS to run the server upon, so I searched on VMWare's image gallery to find one or more Linux flavors to try. I ended up first trying, mostly out of curiosity, a fairly new distro which comes from rPath. They keep a VMWare image of their distro with all LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySql, PHP-Perl) applications pre-installed. I knew this would help speed up my time to development. I also noticed the LAMP image included an older version (1.2.3) of Subversion in it.

Their package management system, named Conary, is supposed to help resolve conflicts and difficulties in updating, but I did run into a problem when trying to update the subversion "trove" to the newest they have available (1.3.0-1-1). First when trying to update with the command conary update subversion=conary.rpath.com@rpl:devel I got some "Could not resolve dependencies" messages. I stumbled around and finally found the two troves, "openldap" and "db", that contained the dependencies I needed. After updating these two troves I again tried to update the subversion trove and had a conflict with the mod_dav_svn trove, so I added the command line switch to force replacement of the files in that trove. After all of this was done I installed TortoiseSVN on my development system and tried connecting to SVN. I forgot to mention that I had to change the VMWare Player Ethernet setting to Bridge mode in order to pickup an IP from my LAN router and connect to the instance from outside the VM.

I was able to connect and import a new repository in only about 30 minutes time. A lot faster than installing a Linux flavor from scratch along with all of the needed components. I will also now be able to move and use this repository server image on any of my machines and back it up quite easily with environment and all intact. Some other plans for this server are to use it to create a development blog and wiki since all of the base components to support this are already installed.

I also tried a different VMWare image containing Fedora Core 5, but I'm not sure I like it as much since it is a full blown Linux install, even though having a GUI sometimes is nice;) It was also just as easy to get up and running on this by first downloading the image I found in the VMWare gallery and after running through some first time use setup I opened a terminal and issued the yum install subversion command.

I think using Virtual Server instances for development infrastructure is not only a huge time saver, but it also has many other advantages like portability, ease of environment replication, and well defined server job boundaries.