Today is Reset the Net Day

Let’s be honest, the NSA, and by extension the United States government, is out of control. Today is Reset the Net day, an attempt to raise awareness about the insidious problem of government mass surveillance on innocent citizens – and to fight back.

Bottom line, if the NSA targets you for surveillance, you’re screwed. This fact has been agreed on by experts in the industry. However, if you’re just the average citizen who expects some basic privacy, you can fight back. How? Start encrypting everything, that’s how.

You can read more about this effort at the Reset the Net site, which contains helpful hints about what you can do. Soon you will also be able to encrypt your phone calls. You can already browse the net securely. Let’s force the NSA to do targeted surveillance, rather than a dragnet.

I have already started. The server this site runs on is running a Tor relay that pumps 150GB of encrypted and anonymous traffic through it, and you can find out more about how to do that yourself, or simply just use Tor for 100% anonymous browsing.

This site is also now runs SSL everywhere with Forward Secrecy and HTTP Strict Transport Security – graded A+ by SSL Labs. Sure, these things are probably not going to stop the NSA targeting you or me, but you can browse this site completely securely and it’s another encrypted connection to cut down on the surveillance dragnet.

How to create your own streaming TV service

I’m not really someone who watches most of the stuff on TV – I watch specific TV shows that interest me, the occasional movie, and I would watch news, documentary and some sports channels if they were available at a reasonable price without all the other crap.

I’ve therefore put my old computer to good use and created my own streaming TV service that shows me the TV shows and movies  want to watch, when I want to watch them, and you can too. Think of it like a PVR over the internet. Basically your own private version of this rumoured streaming service from Rogers with the stuff you want. Also gives me an excuse to go the bar and watch certain sports 🙂

Hardware and software needed

Here is all the stuff you need:

  1. A computer (or certain NAS devices) to store and stream from. You need a sizeable harddrive to store media on. I used two 1TB Western Digital Reds in mirrored RAID configuration (I’m tired of losing data).
  2. A fast wireless router (best to get a 5.8GHz model these days to reduce interference).
  3. Linux server – free. I used a Ubuntu Server 13.1 VM running on a Proxmox VE host, but you could use any Linux distro.
  4. Serviio streaming media server – free or $25 if you need it. I wanted the MediaBrowser web interface so I can play content on my MacBook Air.
  5. Flexget content automation tool – free.
  6. Transmission bittorrent client – free.
  7. Samba  file and print server – free. This is not required, but mounting the files on your laptop is also kind of useful.
  8. An account on – free. Use to select what TV shows you want, but it’s also a very useful site.
  9. Some time and some knowledge of Linux (or a friend who does) – opportunity cost.

You can also add something like a DLNA-compatible TV to this mix, or an PS3 or Xbox (I found the Serviio Media Browser far preferable for browsing content due to the crap interface/functionality available on the Xbox). (more…)

Beanfield FTTH – 2 month review and technical details

Around a month ago I posted a 1 month review of Beanfield’s 50/50 FTTH Internet service, along with some technical details and some of my internal network configuration.

Since then, there are a number of updates to post regarding my original review.

Beanfield Clarifications

Beanfield have been in touch and have kindly provided some feedback on my first review. I have to commend Beanfield for reaching out and actually providing some feedback – well done Beanfield. Next time, feel free to post comments so everyone can see your responses!

Firstly, the network hardware is actually a zNID 2600 Series Indoor Gigabit Active Ethernet ONT (my bad), and from port identification appears to be a model 2628A. This is different from the GPON version, as explained below:

The Zhone we use is not using GPON. GPON uses passive optical splitters to connect up to 32 fibres to a single fibre, which is essentially sharing a single fibre between 32 users. GPON is very common with fibre-to-the-home service delivery (for example, Bell uses it). We actually deploy Active Ethernet, the opposite of GPON. Active Ethernet runs like an everyday, ordinary Ethernet network in that every customer is provided with their own fibre strand, which runs to the Cisco switch we have in the building.

Next, some feedback on how my existing router was rendered pretty much useless by the default setup. Beanfield made the point that the majority of their customers are not as technically savvy as myself, and so they choose to manage everything via their own Zhone hardware.

This I have to take issue with to be quite honest, as I explained to them. Sure, this may work for the majority of customers. But there is an entire “prosumer” market, and it would make sense that most of this market would jump at the chance to get FTTH if they knew about it’s availability. This market will, quite simply, be left disappointed by the default setup and it’s limitations as they currently stand. (more…)

How Toronto Parking Enforcement wastes taxpayer money – and how to get your ticket cancelled

Toronto Parking Ticket

Ever got a parking ticket within 10 minutes of your ticket expiring? Did you know there is a 10 minute grace period that they never tell you about?

Great, but want to know something else? Toronto Parking Enforcement is wasting your tax dollars, as they themselves have a 5 minute grace period even thought the city itself has a 10 minute grace period.

  • The Toronto Police Service Parking Enforcement Unit observes a 5-minute operational grace period before issuing a parking ticket for a time-limited offence, e.g. overstaying at a parking meter or a pay-and-display parking zone. The grace period is intended to ensure fairness and integrity in parking enforcement operations, and serves both as a courtesy to drivers, and avoids the issue of timing discrepancies between a driver’s watch, a hand-held ticket-writing device, and a meter or pay-and-display machine.
  • The City of Toronto also has an administrative time allowance for time-limited offences including expired parking meters or expired pay-and-display receipts. This is a separate practice from the Toronto Parking Enforcement Unit, and may allow a parking ticket issued within 10 minutes of the expiry of the time-limited period to be cancelled, rather than requiring that drivers request a trial and appear in court in these circumstances.

Honestly, how difficult is it for Parking Enforcement (which is a unit of Toronto Police, whose budget is paid for by the City of Toronto) to have the same grace period of 10 minutes? Apparently too difficult for our local councillors to figure out.

And if you aren’t within the 10 minute grace period, then fight your parking ticket anyway with the TicketCombat’s handy guide. It’s good practice for more serious tickets.

Beanfield 50/50 FTTH – 1 month review and details

NOTE: I have since posted an update to this blog post that corrects some of the technical aspects of the post, provides some further feedback from Beanfield, and points out some serious limitations of their service. You can read these updates in my 2 month review of Beanfield.

It’s been roughly 1 month since Beanfield came and installed my Fibre (FTTH) into my condo, and seeing as I couldn’t really find any online reviews (and zero specific details) of their service before signing up, I thought I’d write my own.

Installation involved running a fibre strand into the cabinet in my unit, which is not done by default unless a previous tenant or owner has had the service. The Beanfield tech arrived on time, and quickly got to work. It was overall a pretty painless process, and took around 2 hours to complete. Total setup time was around 2.5hours, and they charged me $150 for installation (you can also opt for $75 install and $10/month fee).

What you get

Beanfield appears to install a Zhone zNID GPON ONT, model 2628A Beanfield installs a  zNID 2600 Gigabit Active Ethernet ONT (8 Gigabit Ethernet and 2 POTS ports) – see 2 month review. Perhaps I am incorrect on the exact model number or GE vs. GE POE ports, but it’s definitely a 26xx model. Everything was neatly wired up to the fibre.

Below you can see 3 ethernet cables running to my built in Cat6 wall sockets (not used) and one cable running to my wireless router (that I moved into the coat closet), which is then connected directly to my headless server (also living in the closet).

Zhone Switch
Zhone 26xx GPON ONT

What’s interesting to note here is that this is essentially a router with 8 GigE ports and the fibre is terminated in the unit. There is no public network socket. This is very different from a normal Rogers or Bell setup, where you can install either a router or an ADSL/router combo (for DSL) and get the public IP on your own router. What this means is that your existing router is pretty much useless, and everything is controlled via the Zhone 26xx. (more…)