Fiber Optics Considerations

Fiber optic technology uses tiny strands of glass or plastic fibers to trap light allowing data to be carried extremely fast over long distances. Don’t look for any hype here, fiber delivers what it promises – speed, which enables high-speed internet, television services, and telephone communications. The technology is all around our lives and has been for quite some time. Recent advancements of fiber optics versus copper, reduction in deployment costs, and customer demand has brought fiber optic technology into the attention of everyone from consumers and technicians to engineers and managers alike.

Passive fiber optic technology is a key advancement allowing for fiber to be deployed in the last mile, which connects communication offices to consumers directly. For example, Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) uses passive amplifiers and splitters serving housing developments off of a single strand of fiber. In a copper-based scenario, each house would be connected with a pair of copper wires or networked together using coaxial cable. In either case, the distance and speeds are limited, which further restricts the carrier’s service offerings and competitiveness. Copper is also prone to interference from other cable pairs, radio services, and power lines causing high maintenance costs and degraded services.

Lasers, LED’s, amplifiers, fiber optic cable, light receivers and all of the components that allow fiber optic equipment to operate have become very inexpensive allowing for new products and technologies to be developed and offered to carriers, business, and consumers at low or similar costs. In new housing developments and office parks, establishing fiber optic technology will be the most advantageous deployment. As the copper local loop and backhaul networks age, fiber will also be present allowing for current and future service offerings to meet market demand and carrier requirements.

The need for speed has always been a driver in the communication markets. Besides the luxury of just speed, fiber optics in the minds of consumers bring about visions of fast internet, high-definition and interactive television, and mobile multimedia features. To the carriers, fiber optics offers a world converged to one technology, multiple service offerings, increased capacity at cellular sites, and minimized maintenance expenses. Inside business networks, fiber optics will be the connections that are made between routers and switches allowing for business to handle more clients, devices, and bandwidth intensive services like Voice-over-IP (VoIP) and video conferencing.

The limitation of fiber optic technology exists only with each of us and those who will work on fiber systems. Fiber is just not installed and all of our visions come to a reality and all of our existing issues disappear. Proper design, installation, maintenance practices, and provisioning will be essential in the success of fiber optic deployments. For example, learning the proper way to clean a fiber optic connector is one skill that will mitigate several issues at communication offices, cell sites, office buildings, and residences. Engineers and managers will have to know which fiber solutions to consider and determining loss budgets, while having an understanding of terminology and fiber optic technology concepts to make proper decisions. Technicians will be responsible for installation, maintenance, and provisioning as the technology spreads quickly through their networks and sites. Critical skills that require training and practice are splicing fiber optic cables, cleaning connectors, putting on new connectors, cable section replacement, and installation of cable between devices.

Fiber optic technology introduces new infrastructure, maintenance, and testing equipment to be installed and used properly. In the Local Area Network (LAN), routers and switches will have fiber optic connections to connect fiber optic cables, store cable slack, and panduit to run cable through the premises. In restoration or installation practices, fusion splicers will be required to connect and repair fiber optic cables. Once the network is establish, testing devices such as light and power meters, light generators, Optical Time Domain Reflectometers (OTDR), fiber optic scopes, and visual fault locators will be used to determine proper levels and faults.

The NotHans Podcast

I have started a podcast called “The NotHans Podcast”. Check it out on iTunes or visit my podcast page. On my podcast I am reviewing movies, books, and music as well as original comedy sketches, characters of mine, and some stand-up comedy. Let me know what you think.

She’s Gotta have IT

I venture from the lair to meet up with the opposite sex from time to time. I had a date recently that turned from a romantic encounter to awkward tech support. Our evening started at an exotic and unique restaurant that just opened in my home town called Applebees. I had the riblets and Jenny had a couple of veggie wraps. I was killed by chocolate and she had a Weight Watchers dessert that only cost 4 points on her daily allowance. I have known her for a while and was attempting to make this transition into dating. I was going strong. We shared our dreams and passions. She wanted to be a lifeguard. I wanted to level up my RPG character. She has a cat. I have my mom. It was a bona-fide match as she uncomfortably laughed at some of my puns. The awkwardness reached a crescendo when we talked about our favorite books. I like William Gibson. She likes road signs. After dinner we had drinks at a local establishment where we discussed philosophy, economics, and the “flight” of humankind as she put it.

To my surprise, she asked me back to her place for a drink. I am sure I had something on my schedule, but I went anyway.

She opened a bottle of wine, put on the new Mariah Carey, and she sat beside me on her couch. We got closer as our conversation got deeper and the alcohol took its desired affect.

“I want to ask you something,” Jenny said.

I said, “(nothing).”

“My wireless router is dropping my connection from time to time…would you take a look?”

If this situation was in a movie, the song “Touch My Body” would have come to a screeching stop.

I fixed her router – I fixed it all night long. Well, I did fix her router even though this is where I didn’t want the night to end, but I made her WEP key easy to guess. It wouldn’t take Tommy Tutone to be able to figure out Jenny’s password. There probably won’t be a next time, but if she needs help with something she is going to have to submit a trouble ticket like everyone else.

Guitar Zero to Hero

I don’t usually have time for video games, but I do have time to pretend to play video games and then write about pretending to play video games. Does three hours a day of online poker, chess, and bridge count as video games?

One day I had the idea to poke fun at Guitar Hero and Rock Band by claiming to play these games constantly, although I have one friend who got completely obsessed with the game. He’s so into the virtual rockstar mindset that he has no more bathroom sinks on the wall and every time he asks you a question, he yells, “I can’t hear you.”

Guitar Hero

I started this flight of fantasy trying out my newly written jokes about my Guitar Hero mastery and obsession with my friends and then on my newsletter.

The responses poured in. People love to the play rockstar games and were glad that I joined in. Everyone missed my sarcasm and believed my lies about playing the game. I had a problem as everyone I saw thought to ask me about the modes and songs – everything I had no idea about.

My friends pulled me into a basement and set up the Rock Band equipment: a 5-button guitar, a 5-button bass guitar, a 5-button drum kit, and a microphone. We were complete – the band was all here with an orgy of adoring virtual fans.

In one night, I went from Guitar Zero to Guitar Hero. On “Easy Mode” the game is pretty easy. Insightful as that may be, the more advanced modes are impossible to me and I have an appreciation for those that can orchestrate the 5-buttons to create virtual portions of a rock song.

“I can’t hear you, London!”

Network Printer Issues with Windows Vista

So you bought that new laptop with Windows Vista, set it up, got on the Internet, downloaded some updates, checked YouTube for the latest video of someone miming a boy band song, and bumped your ex-girlfriend from your Top 8. Now you want to print something across your home network through a shared printer. That printer happens to be shared on a Windows XP machine. You never had a problem before, but this new laptop keeps sending you an error message: Windows cannot connect to the printer. Access is denied.

If you are like me, you begin troubleshooting to figure out what is going on and start by downing a caffeinated beverage. You check UAC, permissions, reinstall the printer, and finally REBOOT. None of your tactics worked.

After research and struggling with the same problem, here is what I have come up with. Give thanks to Melonhead on TechNet for inspiring my streamlined solution to this printer problem that will become an issue for many users. I recreated the scenario and 60% of the time the following solution works every time.

  • Install the Windows Vista printer driver on the new Windows Vista computer
  • Open Control Panel and double-click on Printers
  • Remove all of your previous attempts at adding the printer
  • Click on Add a printer and Choose to Add a local printer
  • Select Create a new port and Type of port: Local Port
  • Enter a port name (the port name is in the format of
    “{computer name}{printer name}”)

  • Verify installation by viewing the port settings in the printer properties window

UberNote for an Ubermensch

“Web 2.0” is a bona fide buzzword. What happened to versions 1.1 through 1.9? What does 2.0 mean exactly? To me, Web 2.0 defines the separation of static web pages to truly dynamic and useful web applications. There will be other versions, but this is the first clear step in my mind.

Examples of Web 2.0 applications are Google Mail, Basecamp Project Manager, and UberNote – Note Management.

I recently became aware of UberNote by reading through articles at The Tech Brief. The UberNote application (almost wanted to call it software because you forget that this is a web application since it so useful and easy to use) allows for quick note taking, advanced editing, and intuitive tagging.

I am note taker. I always have a notebook in my pocket, so I never miss a fleeting idea – maybe one about how toothbrushes with a blue strip fade prematurely while using whitening toothpaste – wouldn’t want to lose that gem. There are times that I email thoughts to myself, leave voice mails on my Skype (which are the only voicemails I get), write on the back of a placemat at a diner – you get the idea. After getting invited to use the UberNote site, I have been putting my thoughts online and have found this a way to keep track of my little thought nuggets that will return literally tens of dollars someday in the future.

I recommend trying UberNote, joining their forums, and helping them shape their initial product offering. Check it out soon, so you don’t miss Web 2.0 and before the Web moves to 3.0 and maybe even Web 3.0 beta.

I Fixed the Furnance

I have been off of the road this week and have noticed that the leaves are turning here in Western Pennsylvania. The temperature has been dropping and got pretty cold overnight, so I tried out the furnace. As I switched the thermostat from cool to heat, I heard a click, some gas released, the normal procedure that I remember from last winter, but this time the sequence ended with a loud rattling sound and no heat.

The neighbor came over and we got daring and took off the front panel of the furnace. There was a definite source of the rattling and humming, but I have never looked at a furnace without the cover. I felt led to loosen some screws and found a status light that was blinking. On the back of the cover plate, there was a chart of the status light indications. Of course solid green was good, but this light was blinking twice and repeating after a pause. The chart indicated that a valve was stuck open. I grabbed some more tools and removed more screws from a pipe getting closer to the source of the humming sound, and found a blower fan stuck. We cleared some debris, put some tubing back, all of the remaining screws, and the furnace kicked on. The house was getting warmer and more importantly there were no explosions, not that I was worried, but I did leave my neighbor and stood behind a wall when I flipped the power switch.

I have fixed all kinds of computer problems and do some pretty advanced troubleshooting on electronic devices, but I got the biggest sense of satisfaction fixing my furnace and feeling the heat coming out of the vents. There’s just something about fixing mechanical things, using tools, and having a pile of leftover parts at the end. I walked around all week hoping that something else would break.

New Computer

I finally ordered a new computer. In the PC clone line of computers, my first computer was a 286 with MS-DOS. It was not a productivity machine, but I did play a stock market game and Duke Nukem quite a bit. I have upgraded a few times since then and my desktop now is a P4/1GB/Vista/Ubuntu modded several times starting in 2002. It served me well as I made a living off the system by writing software and technical books. And yes, Doom was played heavily to mom’s chagrin. Vista was not a good upgrade for this aging system. Even in its most optimized state, the lag in video playback, game response, and DHTML processing made it a pain to use for day to day entertainment purposes. AGP video cards and Vista don’t mix, so it’s time to look at SATA, more RAM, and PCI Express/SLI video.

On a tip from Darth Kevin, Shadowlord’s nemesis in the real-world, I purchased a custom SLI machine from CyberPower. I was able to build a system that will fit my needs (gaming, AJAX development, updating online dating profiles, using Google, watching the Matrix, etc.) and fall into my budget of $2000.

The first system I configured was absurd – 2TB of storage, 4GB of RAM, dual SLI video cards, Quad processor, and floppy drive. I have trimmed off some excess and now looking at a solid configuration. When I settle into the machine, I will let you know how it stacks up.

Case and Power Supply

Apevia X-Juniper Jr. (S Type Metallic Gray)
Apevia ATX-LCD650W Quartz

Motherboard and Processor

Asus P5N-E nForce 650i SLI
Intel Quad Core 2.4GHz/64bit/8MB

Internal Drive

500GB SATA-II

Sound and Video

3D Wave On-board Sound Card
GeForce 8800GTS (XFX Extreme Edition) 320MB/16X PCI Express Video Card

External Drives

LITE-ON LH-20A1H – 20X, Double Layer, DVD burner and player
12in1 Flash Media R/W
Floppy Drive

OS

Vista Ultimate

Connectivity

10/100/1000 On-board LAN Card

Peripheral

Logitech G15 Keyboard
Logitech MX Revolution Mouse
Dual Samsung SyncMaster 204B 20" Monitors

Reiner Knizia at Gen Con 2007

If you play RPG’s, computer games, or board games, then Gen Con is the gaming convention for you to attend. A group of my friends, who call ourselves “The StruebSquad”, a group of game players and designers, go out each year. The competition is tough, but the time spent is a great departure from the grind of the real world.

Gen Con 2007 turned out to be one of the best. The last day of the four day convention, the squad got to meet a hero of ours — Reiner Knizia. Reiner is a german game designer that has created some of my favorite board games and continues to put out challenging, fun, and creative games several times a year. Two of my favorites are Lost Cities and Ingenious.

Reiner Knizia at Gen Con