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Tag: recommendation

BBQ Sides and Appetizers

I seem to have my technique down for cooking ribs, chicken, and pork shoulder on my smoker, but that only gives me the entree. A meal, especially one planned for more than a few people, is much more than an entree. Lately, I’ve decided to start working on my sides and appetizers, so that I can do my first big cook right.

Appetizers

ABTs

ABTs, or Atomic Buffalo Turds, are the BBQ version of jalapeno poppers. While there are many variations, I got my recipe here. They are very simple to make and take only 90 minutes to cook, so your guests will have something to munch on while they wait for the meat to finish.

Of course, standard party fair, such as chips with salsa and guacamole, are completely acceptable here, as well.

Side Dishes

Your classic BBQ side dishes are cole slaw, mac ‘n’ cheese, beans, and potatoes. Depending on your particular BBQ inclinations or geography, their style may vary, but they’re all accepted.

As I am already doing a good bit of cooking, I don’t tend to feel like shredding cabbage myself (it’s also surprisingly expensive here in Hawaii), so I but the bagged mix and make the dressing myself. For full disclosure, Lizz usually makes the dressing, so I’m not 100% that this is the recipe she used, but I know it was a Bobby Flay one. When she made it from scratch, it was great, but we didn’t like the onion.

I plan on playing with Meathead’s recipe for “Crack ‘n’ Cheese” and finding the perfect cheese and add-ins. I’ll post again when I do.

The wife and I disagree about the perfect baked bean, so we might compromise on a classic Boston recipe, but I’d also really like to try the Bourbon Baked Beans. Results ot my tasty testing to be posted soon.

As far as potato dishes go, there are fries and salads for BBQ. Any kind of fries you like (including sweet potato) will work just fine and your salad preference will be just fine, as well. My wife particularly enjoys the Salt Lick’s version (a take on German) and I’m always trying to find a good copy cat.

Home Server Updates and New Theme Pending

While reading We Got Served, I found an article discussing the upgrade of HP MediaSmart home servers from their factory software to version 3.0. This upgrade adds a bunch of new features including:

  • a new video converter,
  • HP Media Streamer, which allows you to stream your media to any Internet connected computer
  • better Mac support for server administration and backup
  • ability to stream to you iPhone or iPod Touch via HP MediaSmart Server iStream app.
  • a new UI for the Server Console

“Sign me up,” I thought. So, I called up HP only to find out that the discs are no longer available. So, being a determined WHS administrator, I looked for ISO images on the Internet. The problem is that these discs are specific to the model of MediaSmart server you have: there’s a separate set for the EX470s, EX480s, etc. It’s pretty easy to find ISOs for the EX480s, but I have an EX470, of course.

After a bit of searching, I determined that a poorly named torrent actually contained the ISO I was looking for.

Named as the PC Restore Disk, not Server Recovery Disk
Named as the PC Restore Disc, not Server Recovery Disc

Here are the actual discs, so you can see how they’re named by HP.

IMG_18443

After getting it downloaded, I installed it per the directions in the initial article and it went off without a hitch. Of course, I had to setup everything again, including the DHCP and WINS services that the server was providing, but it doesn’t take too long.

I’ve already noticed improved performance in responsiveness and LAN media streaming and look forward to further tweaking and getting everything perfect.

On another note, I am working on my own custom theme for this blog. Hopefully, it will be ready soon. Look for it in the next month.

Team Chief’s Toolkit, Part II: Hacking Your Equipment

Okay, “hacking” may be a bit overboard for what I’m talking about here, but between the recent policies from General Dynamics and the ineptitude of the team you may be replacing, I might not be that far off.

In Part II of the Team Chief’s Toolkit, I’ll give a few recommendations for modifying your equipment and provide a few useful tips for dealing with TPE equipment.

Modify Your Switches

Any remote switch you may have (that is, a switch not mounted inside your stacks) should be locked down and hardened.

  • Enable service password-encryption. This will prevent your VTY and console passwords from being displayed in clear text inside your config.
  • Enable SSH version 2 and disable telnet. Cisco has a nice article on how this is done.
  • Enable port security. For each non-trunk port, there should only be two MAC addresses: the IP phone and the computer attached to it. Port security is not needed on trunk ports, but ensure that nonnegotiate is set to prevent VLAN hijacking and only allow the voice, data, and management VLANs across.
  • Avoid using SNMP version 2c or earlier. Use 3 if your NETOPS will allow it.

Open Letter to SPAWAR

To Whom It May Concern,

As a service-member who has been in the Southwest Asia theater of operations for 24 of the last 48 months, I have been well exposed to the services offered by your organization. While it is nice to have free (albiet low-speed) Internet access and low-cost calling options, the reliability and quality of your network is questionable.

My first issue is regarding the lack of Quality of Service (QoS) policies on your routers. At least at the distribution/access level, QoS policies do not exist. While I have not seen your routers’ configurations, this is obvious for a number of reasons:

  • When the MWR is empty, the Internet speeds are manageable and could even be considered good for a satellite-based link.
  • During the afternoons, when the majority of traffic appears to be data (web pages, instant messaging, etc.), access speeds are still usable, even when all of the computers are in use.
  • In the evenings, at least fifty percent of users are using voice and video applications, such as Skype, with little to no degradation of video quality. Attempting to use data services, however, is nearly impossible, as pages (even quickly loading ones such as Google’s home page) will time-out before being displayed.

Quality of Service policies prevent any one type of service from dominating the available bandwidth and preventing others from working. While the telephone services you provide are Voice-over-IP (VoIP) and QoS policies may be in place segregating VoIP from other traffic, no restrictions are being placed on computer-generated VoIP and video services (i.e. Skype, Yahoo! Video Messenging, etc.).

These policies could be easily created and implemented, as they are in use throughout the IT world (including the Army’s WIN-T architecture). At bare minimum, ensure that each station is allotted a dedicated portion of the cafe’s overall bandwidth, so that it is usable.

Second, the images placed on the cafes’ computers are bloated, outdated, and just plain awful. While I applaud the wide-array of Instant Messaging clients (on this machine, there is Google Talk, Skype, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, and MySpace IM), no one uses MySpace IM. Also, the version of Google Talk installed doesn’t support Google Voice, which would be the only reason to use that over Yahoo!, AIM, or Windows Live.

The Start Menu is littered with items like Creative Product Registration, two versions of OpenOffice.org, two icons for Internet Explorer, and a number of other applications that your cafes’ users should not be using or seeing. If the cafes’ techs are installing software onto your baseline, then my statement regarding your image should be withdrawn and my comments be redirected at your techs. Windows XP (the OS used in your cafes) is too easy to keep tidy, especially when users only have access to one account.

Lastly, your network is owned by the Department of Defense. As such, access should be limited to ID Card-holders only. Third country nationals should not be permitted access to such systems. I do understand that the network is not directly tied into NIPR net (the Department of Defense’s Unclassified network), but the use of MWR facilities outside of SWA is limited to ID Card-holders. It should be no different here.

The people working the front desk (TCNs) give priority to their “friends” with regards to time limits on the phones and computers. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines should not have to wait in line behind TCN contractors that should not even be allowed MWR access.

Please do not take my criticism as an attack. I am grateful for the free Internet and appreciate its availability. My hope is to bring a few glaring issues to your attention, so that future deployers can experience even better services with little effort on your part.

Respectfully,

Sean Callaway
United States Army


SPAWAR, or the Department of the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, provides Internet and voice services in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can visit the SPAWAR homepage here.

The Signal Team Chief’s Toolkit, Part I

Backstory

I took over as my CPN’s Team Chief toward the end of our deployment, as our original Team Chief took leave late and it didn’t make sense to push him back out to our site with only a couple months remaining. Unfortunately, I fell in on a mess. Our Theater Property and Organizational Equipment was spread out to our customers and, aside from a hand receipts, I had little idea what was where.

So, with 20/20 hindsight, I am writing a series of best practices called The Signal Team Chief’s Toolkit. Hopefully, this will be of use to my fellow Army Signal soldiers who are either new to the Team Chief position or are looking for a better way to do things.

Dealing With Equipment

First, it goes without saying that everything not in your shop should be either hand receipted if in use or locked securely in your ISU-90/quad-con. This should be done without exception. Even if you trust the person using your equipment implicitly, a hand receipt will not only cover your ass in the event that something goes wrong, but will aid in the accountability of your equipment during inventories. Remember, do a hand receipt every time.

Get the DA 2062 form in PureEdge or PDF format.

Second, create a tracker of all your equipment, where it is, and to whom it is hand-receipted. You should actually do this before your team validates in country. Once your team begins installing remote switches and loaning (and hand-receipting!) equipment to your customers, the tracker should be modified to identify the location of the equipment and who signed for it. It should look something like this:

DEVICE SERIAL # LOCATION HAND RECEIPTED TO
Cisco IP Phone 7941 FCH1338AWKM Task Force LT Black
Cisco IP Phone 7941 FHK1330A06C Task Force LT Black
Cisco IP Phone 7941 FCH1338AVQC Post Office SSG Blue
Cisco IP Phone 7965 FCH141187RD KAF SSG White
Dell Laptop 6400 1CXS0L1 Task Force LT Black

Keeping this up-to-date will save major headaches during cyclic inventories and especially during your RIP.

I’ve gone ahead and created a Excel worksheet that includes the proper headings and filters to get you started.

Next, as each device (phone, computer, or printer) is added to the network, you should create a document identifying the device and its pertinent information, like IP address configuration, location, and whether or not it was added to active directory. These should go into a binder where they can be easily referenced. When a device is removed from the network for one reason or another, write ‘REMOVED’ in marker across the page, but keep it around for reference purposes, possibly in a different section of your binder.

My device information sheets are available in Word and PDF formats.

Finally, create and maintain a tracker for your statically-assigned IP addresses. Printed copies of this tracker is very useful to the IMOs who are actually assigning the IPs to the end-users’ computers.

My tracker is available in Excel format.

If you have any suggestions or tips of your own, please leave a comment or email me at seancallaway@gmail.com.


EDIT: Links fixed. – 13 NOV 11

My Chrome Extensions

One of the best part about modern (read: no IE) browsers is the ability to add functionality with extensions. My primary browser has been Google Chrome since my wife turned me onto it and it has an amazing collection of extensions.

Here are the three extensions that I run all the time and I can’t live without.

AdBlock Plus for Google Chrome (Beta) – The old Firefox extension reworked for Google Chrome. This extension blocks advertisements from the most popular advertising hosts on the web. This extension works so well that I forgot there were adult ads on ThePirateBay.org. It was pretty embarrassing to open it up on my parents’ computer.

Google Mail Checker – A simple little extension that adds a button to the right of the address bar which displays the current number of unread email in your Gmail inbox. Clicking the button opens up Gmail in a new tab. This is great for my Mac where the Gmail Notifier is sub-par.

Easy Youtube Video Downloader – Adds a little button below YouTube videos that lets you download the video in MP4, FLV, or MP3 formats. It supports HD video downloading and is awesome. The drawback is that it’s not an official Chrome extension (violates the TOS, I think) so it doesn’t update itself. Definitely worth downloading.

After The Crash: Installing Software

The worst part of dealing with a new (or newly restored) computer is installing all of the software that we need to actually get stuff done. If you have an Internet-connection and some anti-virus software, I recommend heading over to Ninite: a website that will create an all-in-one unattended installer to get all of that software you need.

Just check the boxes of the software you want, click get installer, then run the downloaded file. Ninite takes care of the rest. No clicking “Next” or anything like that.

I recommend:

Web Browsers

  • Google Chrome

Messaging

  • Skype
  • either Pidgin (if you use multiple chat services) or the single IM service you use

Media

  • iTunes
  • VLC
  • K-Lite Codecs

Runtimes

  • Flash
  • Java
  • .NET

Documents

  • Foxit Reader [beats the pants off of Adobe Reader]

Security

  • Essentials [if you haven’t already downloaded it, which should have been your first step…]

File Sharing

  • uTorrent

Other

  • Dropbox [a must if you have more that one computer]
  • Steam [if you’re a gamer, anyway]

Click “Get Installer,” which will download a single program that you can, when connected to the Internet, run and walk away from. All your selected software will be installed and when its finished, you’re new computer will be good to go.

Keeping the Backyard Bug-Free

Mosquito

Its a great time to head out into the backyard for grilling, playing catch with the kiddos, or just enjoying the summer sun. However, others will also be enjoying the outdoors: bugs. Here are a few ways to keep bugs from ruining your summer fun.

Anti-Mosquito Plants

Gomestic lists a number of plants that you can have in your garden that help repel mosquitos. Catnip, citronella grass, rosemary, and marigolds all made the list. Citronella grass is a tropical plant that  can grow up to six feet tall, so maintenance will be required for most suburban backyards.

Make Citronella Candles

Citronella candles are just regular old candles scented with citronella oil, which is available at health food and specialty hardware stores. Design*Sponge shows how to make them simply and inexpensively.

Convert and Burn Obscure Disc Images with ISOBuddy

If you download software long enough, sooner or later you will run across a strange disc image (like MDF or PDI) and will have no idea how to deal with it.

Just point ISOBuddy at the file and tell it where (and in what format) to put the output file. You can also have it burn it to a disc. It can even deal with Mac-specific DMG images.

MSE Ranks as Best Free Anti-Virus

Microsoft Security Essentials, a product I’ve recommended before, has ranked in the top for malware removal before, but now AV-Comparatives.org has also ranked it as the best performing.

The full article can be found here.