Key features for a small business (dsl) router

Nowadays you can buy (DSL) Routers from Netgear, D-Link, Linksys and others at the supermarket. But what features do really count in a business environment? Here are my top list of features, which you can not read on the fancy cool looking packing at the supermarket.

Note: This list of features is nothing special for real business routers with a much higher pricetag. This is a list for consumer products that may be used in a small office.

1. VPN capability

Router can act as a VPN Endpoint for IPSec/L2TP/PPTP? Got a “Basic Interop” Cert (VPNC)? This information is somewhat easy to find. But better hidden and often crippled are the “VPN Pass Through” features. There are often limitations on which types of VPNs are supported and HOW MANY concurrent connections are possible. There are routers on the market that do not support more than one PPTP VPN connection! Others support up to 100 or 200 concurrent connections but only with one VPN endpoint or of the same VPN type (IPSec, PPTP or PPTP). (e.g. AVM Fritzbox, some Netgear Routers)
2. Logging features

Syslog and sometimes SNNP Support is available. But the format and usefullness of the logs vary a lot. What can be logged, what format is the output? (e.g. for easy database import) (Netgear, AVM, D-Link)
3. QoS and Traffic Shaping

these features are important for traffic like VoIP and VPN traffic. This traffic needs higher priorities to be usefull on a loaded system. there are IEEE Standards like 802.11p or 802.11q for this (also some vendor specific solutions).

4. Firewalling

often a basic firewall ist required. This belongs only to OUTGOING traffic, almost every router blocks all incoming connections by default. A typicall installation would allow a “block all” rule and a white list of specific services allowed (port based). This “block all & whitelist” is not possible on every router! (e.g. WPNT834)

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Internet / VPN access from China to european serversystems

You can read alot about Chinas “Great Firewall” and how it restricts access to evil sites like BBC or newsweek and that chinese bloggers might get arested for political opinons but you can not read very much about the rules of the game:

When i go to china,

  • what is allowed to do on the net and whats not?
  • how does the filtersystem work from a technical point of view?

I ve got no intention to circumvent these filtering / restrictions. I want to understand the DOs and DONTs in China when it comes to the Internet.

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Monad (now: Windows PowerShell) RC1 available

MS is developing a new shell for some time now. Microsoft changed the Name from MSH into Monad into the so incredible cool and unique buzzword “PowerShell”. Good work marketing guys! Especially the acronym “ps” is a really good idea…

Ok, despite that stupid name, the PoSh is now available as RC1 for download.

Its not just an addon like the Scripting Host, its a replacement for the gold old cmd.exe in Vista (server?)
Its based on .NET and its object oriented. The Pipling (output of so called cmdlets) is not (only) textbased as one might expect from a shell its and .NET object the every cmdlet (command-let) returns.

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Backup Firebird Databases

Firebird, the FREE relational SQL database previously known as Interbase, is a solid and robust but not very commonly known database. That means its a bit more difficult to get things working. There is no huge community with hunderts of HowTos, Wikis, etc you can reefer to.

I ve tried to get into Firebird Databases a year ago. I’ve tried to find information on howto setup a Firebird database in MS SQL Server as a “Linked Server” and didnt find any complete solution for this on the net. It took alot more time than i thought to set it up probably because of missing information from the community, but it gets better every day. The community is growing fast.
Today is my 2nd encounter with the Firebird-System. I need to setup a automated Backup. Google can clear things up for me:

There are to different backup Systems in Firebird:

nBackup included in Firebird 2.0 an up

and gBak included in Firebird since humm, good old Borland days back in 199x up to the (still in beta) Firebird 2.0.

When you dont want to struggle with the commandline switches of gbak, you can use the (very useful) GUI-Frontend for gbak developed and provided for free by Talat Dogan: FIBS Firebird-Interbase Backup Scheduler


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Managing digital photos

I was desperately looking for a way to manage my small photo collection. I ve got a few key requirements that the solution had to cover:

  • Sync the Collection between my PC and my Notebook
  • Tagging and Searching of the pictures on both systems (without any network connection)
  • Website, Album and Slideshow creator (generator)
  • Some basic editing features (red eyes, brithness, lossless rotation, etc)

None of the tools (i know of) on the market can do all this. So i have to find a solution that works as painless as possible for me. While looking around i was somewhat surprised that it gets even more complicated when you want to use different tools to manage your photo collection. There is no widley adopted standard for tagging and searching of your pictures. When you add a discription to a picture in tool A it is not visible in tool B. I ve tried Picasa, Zoombrowser and the WinXP own tools.
There are industry standards like IPTC that most tools want to be compatible with, but in fact they are not.

But thats another story. Before we go into tagging and searching i need to do a simple sync of the files and folders between my PC and Laptop. I ve started with the WinXP own sync tools but that doesnt work very well. MS seems to know that and provides a free download of “The Sync Toy”. Its a very easy to use Tool to sync any Folder you want. The sync between the two Systems is solved by the MS Sync Toy.
The tagging of the picture was a much more difficult problem, because almost every photo managing Tool (picasa, Zoombrowser, WinXP it self) stores the tags and other information (like descriptions) in its own proprietary format. And dispite of that it is almost impossible to sync this proprietary data. (Note that another requierment is that i dont want to spend lots of money for bigger solutions like cumulus.)
The tool that uses a (Adobe) standard format based on XML/RDF called XMP and also writes standard IPTC tags is PixVue . It writes IPTC & XMP which Picasa is able to read.

So, i do all the tagging with PixVue (its free), do the sorting / searching with picasa and the synching with MS Sync Toy.

A Slideshow and Webpage generator is included in Picasa and in PixVue. The Picasa Generator is very limited and does not support own templates BUT it can generate XML to do your complete own layout of the pages.
This combination works best for me…..

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