Roaming Router SSID

Since I switched from AT&T Uverse to a local cable company for Internet, and had already made other wiring changes in the house, I needed a new location for our cable drop (the wire running from the utility box to the house).  As installing it next to the incoming phone wires made the most sense, I went that route, and set up a “network shelf” in the basement to hold my various networking equipment.  This had the effect of clearing off equipment, and several irritating flashing LED lights, from my main computer desk.

Without getting into an expensive wireless access point (WAP), I wanted to make do with the routers I had on hand.  By now, I have accumulated four Linksys routers.  One was a somewhat erroneous purchase, but it now plays a central part in my reconfigured network which utilizes three routers, and the fourth is available either as an emergency backup, or I can enable it under a new subnet to offer guest access, as well as provide access to older devices which use 802.11B/G and/or WEP encryption.  That way, I can turn it on when needed, then disable it when not.

For good wireless throughout the house, I needed to have two routers active, one on either side.  With my new networking shelf located in the basement, the signal would have been poor.

My erroneous purchase was a used Linksys E2000.  It seemed to be a nice gigabit router, until I hooked it up and realized it only had one radio.  I could only run the wireless at 2.4GHz or 5.0GHz, not both simultaneously like in my WRT400N (which has two radios).  I bit the bullet and found a Linksys E3000, which offers the gigabit routing, dual radios, and the bonus of a USB port which I can connect to a printer.

Thinking it through, I need gigabit access between my main desktop computer and my Synology NAS, along with a Seagate Central I use as a network backup drive.  What I did was set up the E2000 as my primary router, which connects to the Surfboard cable modem.  The radio is disabled in the E2000.  As it has only four Ethernet ports, two of those needed to be reserved for my auxiliary routers, which now act more as a simple switch/wireless access point.  The other two accommodate my Synology and Seagate network boxes.

The E3000 is in the room with me at my main computer desk.  The WRT400N serves duty on the other side of the house, albeit only at 10/100 network speeds.

But, one thing that annoyed me with my previous setup was that I had so many different SSIDs floating around that it was a pain to connect to!  I had two routers with two radios each (2.4 and 5.0).  Why should anyone have to enter so many passwords to connect to one network in the house?

My solution was to set up the SSIDs similar to how cellular network towers operate:  the wireless device has one login, but will connect to the strongest signal it finds.  To do this, I create the same SSIDs on each router (2.4 and 5.0 have different SSIDs).  The key here is to use different channels for the radios.  I keep one router on the low channels, and the other on higher channels.  As I pair the channels to get 300N speeds, this was a bit tricky given our “noisy” neighborhood, but it is working perfectly here!

The only drawback is that I never know which router I am connected to.  Most of the time, I know I am connected to the strongest signal.  Yet if I come in from the car and walk in the side door, the phone’s tendency is to pick up the first, strongest signal it finds, which is the router on the other end of the house from my desk.  I can tell if I use an app on the phone which shows the MAC address of the router I am connected to, but in most cases this is not important.  I eventually end up on the stronger network anyway! And it is nice not having to constantly give out our network password to everyone in the house.

One final note.  How are these routers all connected together by Ethernet?  Since these routers have autosensing ports, I simply connect the incoming Ethernet from the primary E2000 router to port #4 on the back of a remote router.  Why not use the WAN ports?  The routers have a feature where, if you connect using one of the LAN ports, any address on that router will be part of the same subnet that is set up on the primary router.  And because of this, I have each router set up with its own IP address, and can access and configure any of them from any computer in the house.  10.0.1.1 will get to the primary router, and 10.0.1.3 accesses the E3000 in my work area.  10.0.1.2 finds the WRT400N on the other side of the house.  Since DHCP is enabled only on the primary router (the E2000), all routers, and devices attached to them, can share across the network.

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WordPress Network domain issue

I have been attempting to deploy a couple of WordPress “networks” and have run across an issue that fortunately was rather easy to fix.  It just took a bit of thinking.

When WP is set up as a network, you have to choose whether you want subdirectories, or subdomains.  Since I want separate domains, though, that is not always satistfactory.  Fortunately, you can edit your site URL in the dashboard and use any domain you’d wish.

Sort of.

At one host I use, I “park” a domain on top of another.  If I had domain-one.com as being my main WP network site, I would then park anotherdomain.com on top of it, and point it to the same root WP installation.  That works, up to a point.

The problem I was having is that WP’s htaccess coding tends to treat anotherdomain.com and www.anotherdomain.com as different entities.  I always use “www” just due to the fact that it is more “correct” in terms of referencing a server.  Fortunately, I was able to add the following to my htaccess to fix it:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^anotherdomain.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.anotherdomain.com/$1 [L,R=301]

Not ideal, but I did not want to muck about with WP’s own provided htaccess code for now.  I found I also needed to do this with the root domain of the site as well.

Just wanted to post this as a heads-up if you find your WP network and additional domains don’t behave as you’d think.

 

 

 

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WordPress cookie login problem solved

I had yet another incident with the dreaded WordPress cookie login problem.  This is a case where you attempt to login to one of your WP “network” sites, and despite having a valid username and password, WP alerts you with a message saying that cookies must be enabled.

I have a few “network” (aka “multisite”) installations of WordPress, and have successfully used one with both custom subdomains and full domains.  On that network, logins have worked fine.  On another site however, I was getting the dreaded cookie error message while logging into the individual sites.  The main network site, however, worked fine.

I realized I had to insert this into my wp-config.php file:

define('ADMIN_COOKIE_PATH', '/');
define('COOKIE_DOMAIN', '');
define('COOKIEPATH', '');
define('SITECOOKIEPATH', '');

 

Once I added those lines, I was immediately able to log in.

Crisis averted.

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New Google Camera: epic fail

The new update to the Google Camera app came out this week, and it has taken the Android camera a significant step backward.  The basic premise is that a handful of useful features were stripped for one gimmicky feature that looks terrible.

2014-04-24 18.45.08What’s gone?

White balance.  No longer can you set it yourself.   Not only does a smartphone camera often not set the correct white balance itself, it changes wildly even as you pan around a scene.

HDR.  Why can’t I turn it on or off?  It never worked the best, but at least I could turn it off if I needed faster camera action.

Exposure compensation.  Oh wait…it’s hidden under “Manual Exposure,” which itself is a failure due to being named incorrectly.  Or at least I think so.  With the original Android camera for Kit Kat, I could easily see the exposure change; with this one, it’s vague at best, and the setting doesn’t vary the brightness as much.

Maybe I just don’t appreciate the “camera for dummies” approach.

I can’t say the picture quality is any better with the new camera, since it’s not.  Photos I take now are murky and look somewhat diffuse and washed out.

Regardless, you can revert back to the far superior KitKat camera app by going to Apps, finding the camera, and uninstalling the updates.  But prepare to do it often.  It’ll download the new version each time and overwrite it.

This camera seriously needs to go back to the drawing board.  Not that smartphone cameras are very good to begin with (just one look at social media proves that point), but as I say, having any camera is better than no camera.  I’d just prefer that I be allowed to use my phone’s hardware to its fullest capabilities, not dumbed down and stripped of features.

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Seven annoying Web trends

The Web has always been an exercise in frustration with all of the varied markup and layout changes we have seen over the years.  Yet for the most part, many sites still remain readable and easy to use.  Despite this, there are stil some alarming trends in Web design that I cannot let go unmentioned.  Let us see if they are as annoying for my readers as they are for me.  Some are advertising related.  Others are just plain old bad design ideas.  In no uncertain order, here are my pet peeves in Web design.

1.  Mid-article advertising.  You may be reading a few paragraphs in an article, only to come across an often unrelated single line, which is a hyperlink to other content they want us to read.   For me, that is just one more intrusion on my reading process, and one more thing I have to learn how to tune out.  Note to designers: stop distracting me.  I won’t click anyway.

2.  Pop-ups delivered as JavaScript overlays.  For years we have seen browsers incorporate their own pop-up elimination settings.  But now that all sites create pop-ups differently, we have no consistent way to block them, and they are back…with a passion.  Note to designers: you’ve given me one additional reason to avoid your site in the future.  Tell your bean counters.

2A.  Pop-ups are bad; animated pop-ups, especially those that chase me around a page (you know, those annoying little JQuery boxes that stick to your page even as you try to scroll away from them), are a whole new level of annoying.  No, I don’t want to take advantage of your special offer.  No, I don’t want to chat online with customer service.  Note to designers: you really know how to piss someone off, don’t you?

3.  The auto-loading neverending page.  Some sites now insist on loading more into the page, the further you scroll down.  Sorry, I still like to come to the end of a page, especially if there are helpful links at the bottom.  Especially if your site is graphic-heavy, you will be slowing down your users’ computers, no matter how fast they are.  Whoever decided we needed to auto-load addtional content, rather than paginate, obviously did not take into account the simple concept of usability.  Note to designers: Stop. Please.

4. Stop linking every single page, every single element, to social media.  I don’t care if anyone “liked” it on Fecesbook.  I don’t want to retweet it.  I understand others might, but must it now be so prominent that it seems like your Web site is nothing more than a front-end for your social media presence?  It should be the other way around.  Note to designers: tone it down.  Several notches.

5. Slideshows.  No, not an image gallery where images appear one by one.  I’m talking about those article that enumerate their titles (like I’ve done here), and make each point in the article a separate “slide”.  More often than not, it takes several seconds to load each slide.  It is cumbersome and time-wasting to read.  I only have so much patience, and if it takes me 15 minutes to scan your miserable slideshow page by page vs. an article I could have read in three minutes, you can bet I’ll be clicking away early.  And we know your true intent:  your ten “slides” are nine more opportunities to shove your advertising at me.  Note to designers:  slide shows are annoying.  Even so, use JQuery, AJAX, etc. to create slides that load instantly within the same page container.  Making us reload pages constantly is, like, 1999.

6. Your Web site is not Pinterest.  One of the most disturbing trends in page layout is the Pinterest style of layout, where items are haphazardly tossed across three or more columns with no consistency.  Maybe it’s OK for random images, but if you are presenting serious content, it makes your page busy and unreadable.  The human eye is used to reading vertically, in an orderly fashion.  Spewing content across the page is not an improvement.  Note to designers: seriously??

7. Download an app.  Um, no thanks.  Instead, take some initiative and make your Web site responsive, so that it displays properly on all devices.  Smartphone users do not need more clutter in the way of “apps” (which in many cases, are just dumbed-down web browsers showing limited content) littering their phones.  For commerce sites, visitors also knows what this means: it’s a small block of advertising these companies are depositing on their phones, with their consent.  Note to designers: get with this decade and make your sites responsive.  Forcing us to download apps, or zoom in/out/around to view your “full” site, is sloppy. And lazy.

Have you seen some sites that fall short on one or all of these? Let us know–expose them in the comments!

 

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