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Sunbelt W2Knews™ Electronic Newsletter
The secret of those "who always seem to know" - Over 500,000 Readers!
Mon, Jan 14, 2002 (Vol. 7, #4 - Issue #335)
Windows Based Home Automation
  This issue of W2Knews™ contains:
  1. EDITORS CORNER
    • Strong Security vs. Productivity
  2. TECH BRIEFING
    • Windows Based Home Automation
  3. NT/2000 RELATED NEWS
    • Microsoft Designs New Certification Logos & Usage Rules
    • MS: "17 Million XP Licenses Sold"
  4. NT/2000 THIRD PARTY NEWS
    • Admin Experience With ScriptLogic: No More Login Script Hassle!
    • Can't login? Lost your NT/W2K/WinXP Administrator password?!
  5. W2Knews 'FAVE' LINKS
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  6. PRODUCT OF THE WEEK
    • Home Automation And Wiring
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  EDITORS CORNER

Strong Security vs. Productivity

Hi All,

Talking more about security, there is another viewpoint on this particular rule: "Weak passwords trump strong security." The other (often not confronted) side of this coin is the following: "Strong security trumps productivity and/or usefulness." A good example is the following real world scenario:

A company has an intranet that enables staff to get certain data about their flexible reimbursement account. To get access to that, they have to go to the web site, fill out the request, then wait for a PIN to come in the email. And it doesn't come to the person directly, it comes to a PIN administrator in their department. That person is responsible for making sure people are who they say they are. That level of security is something one can live with.

But now, the way they implemented it causes loss of time. When staff enter their username and the pin, then they have to choose a password. The password is forced to be strong. It has to be mixed case, with mixed letters and numbers (and a non-alpha character too). The password is hard to remember, and use of the site goes down. And if you forget your password? You have to go through the PIN request routine again. Aaugh !

Needless to say, after the third time of forgetting a password, staff are discouraged at least. The cost of this is often not calculated as a productivity loss, unless they can reset their own passwords. Can they?

Tell me how your organization handles this kind of problem. Are you using single sign-on software, force strong passwords, or planning biometric mice with a built-in thumbprint scanner? Let me know.

Warm regards,

Stu Sjouwerman (email me with feedback: [email protected])

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  TECH BRIEFING

Windows Based Home Automation

Summary: To be ready for a wired future, and to create an excellent resale value of your house, retrofit or install structured wiring to every room. This allows you to include 'internet-ready' in the ad for your house. In other words, structured wiring is a great investment, and a lot of fun from the moment you have it installed.

You are a professional computer user, and many of you have a home LAN, so you may be thinking about some form of home automation, or you have already started to a degree. I have been in the IT business for 22 years, and I'm now building a house in Belleair, Florida so let me tell you how I came to choose and install the wiring in our new house. There are literally whole books written about this subject so here are some hints and tips from the trenches.

The very first thing you really need to do is to visualize your own 'ideal scene'. Then look at where you are now, and plan the project to methodically get to your ideal scene. Do you want to start a home automation project for energy savings, security reasons, as a hobby or perhaps all three and even more?

You need to do a lot of thinking UP FRONT, because both the type of wiring, and how to wire (where the drops are going to be) depend entirely what you want to automate. The home automation industry is still in an early stage, meaning it is relatively fragmented in the sense of standards. Think cars in the early 1900's. The good thing is that there is at least one existing home automation standard we can work with, which is X10. It's s-l-o-w compared to a 100Mb ethernet network, but it can do the job if you plan it well, up front!

When I was confronted with how to wire the house, experience in the IT world taught me that the only constant is change. So in ten years this area is going to look completely different from now. New industry standards will have come and gone. So the best thing you can do is wire as much as possible, and even overdo it a bit, for example just in case things like video-on-demand finally make it and you need high definition, high bandwidth to most of the rooms in your house.

So, my ideal scene was that I wanted to be able to voice control most of the functions of the house. I wanted to be able to remotely (via the web) control the house and make sure it would look 'lived-in' even when we were not there. I wanted to be able to receive email and get paged when certain events happen that were not expected (for example, the garage door opens when both my wife and I are not at home). And I wanted to be able to remotely see via cameras what was happening.

The final goal, over time, would be to have the house become an intelligent agent, that would be able to anticipate certain things and for instance go out on the Net and search for the best price of chlorine when it monitors that the pool levels get low, and propose to me to put an order in. The only thing left for me would be to click "yes" and voila! a pool company comes by and replenishes it.

Granted, setting all that up does not happen immediately. It takes a few years when you are a busy individual. However, the first thing you need to create is the infrastructure that will allow you to achieve this over time. So the process I went through, was to make sure that the wiring I needed was in place for all that and put it in now, when the drywall is not up yet.

Essentially you need to wear the hat of an "electronic architect" for a while which is a fun and very creative frame of mind. Some one in our office has a piece of paper stuck to the wall of his cubicle. "The best way to predict the future is to create it!" So you now need to sit down and ask yourself a whole bunch of home automation questions.

Next, is draw a diagram of what functions need to be where. The process I went trough was somewhat as follows. "I need to be able to have fast Net access in every room. I also want TV, audio, and a telephone possible, both inside and on the patio at the pool. I'll have one wireless access point if I want to work on a laptop in the garden. All this needs to be accessible via a remote, by voice or by screen (local or internet).

I want the whole thing to be intelligent, so there has to be a computer hooked up as the central hub of all this. That means I need a server closet where all wires will be centrally mounted and distributed. The server closet needs its own AC duct, because it's going to get mighty warm in there. And I want all that in the study, (not the garage) so that I can tinker with it whatever the temperature is.

Having all those points in my mind, and scouring the Net for weeks, it was clear what I needed to do. A "star"-topology where everything would wind up in the server closet and centrally hooked up. After calling some friends and experts in the home automation, that was indeed how the wiring was done. Structured wiring has 2 coax, 2 cat5 and 2 fiber strands nicely tucked together in a jacket.

That means for every room you can plug a personal computer into a 100Mb Ethernet LAN, you can intelligently distribute both video and audio, and optical in a later stage. I decided to keep the cost down and not trim out the fiber yet, but the Cat5 and coax will be hot from the start. Structured Wiring costs just over a dollar per foot at on a 500 foot spool at smarthome, which is the home automation site I like best:
http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020114TB-SmartHome

The good thing of double Cat5 is that you can use the second 8 strands in there for phone, audio or other devices instead of a LAN. I also had the house fully wired for security, with all the wiring coming to the server closet too. The software I chose to drive the whole setup is the HomeSeer product. You can find them here:
http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020114TB-HomeSeer

Reason? By far the most features, fully X10 enabled with advanced scripting and a tremendous bang for your buck. The other thing is that it interfaces with the Napco Gemini 3200 security system, has a web interface and speech recognition (both in- and output).

When you are building a new house, keep in mind that you should plan the power wiring according to your home automation plans. If you want to drive the outside floodlights with X10, better make sure there are power cables pulled before the drywall goes up. And while you are at it, make sure you have deep j-boxes where X10 receptacles and switches are planned. Last but not least, get all your heavy duty devices on one phase, and all the other (incandescent) ones on the other phase. It will prevent a lot of noise on your wires. And if you want to see how my new home is progressing, here is the photo gallery with the status up to now. The big spool with fat blue wire is the structured wiring that has been put in.
http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020114TB-Stuhome

I was given this book by one of my co-workers. It's very useful to read and gives you the perspective of the "electronic architect" that you need to have before you even start automating and wiring your home. This book gives the conceptual overview so you can ask yourself the questions you need to answer before you start with the project. Recommended reading!
http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020114BW-HomeAutomation

  NT/2000 RELATED NEWS

Microsoft Designs New Certification Logos & Usage Rules

And here's the new rules on their usage:

"Starting in April 2002, these identifying titles will appear on certificates and transcripts so that candidates will be able to indicate the specific area of expertise represented by their certification. The logos will not contain the identifying titles and may not be modified to include them. For example, an MCSE on Windows 2000 and an MCSE on Windows NT 4.0 would both use the same MCSE logo. You may indicate the full title of your credential in text elsewhere on your business card, resume, and stationery. See the MCP logo guidelines page for more information." Here they all are:
http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020114RN-NewCertLogos

MS: "17 Million XP Licenses Sold"

MS claims they shipped a record 17 million licensed copies of WinXP in the 2 1/2 months since launching it. That still includes stuff that sits in the channel and has not found its way to a consumer or business yet. A whopping 90 percent of sales goes to the OEM's.

"Today, just 2 1/2 months after the launch of Windows XP, more than 17 million people are enjoying the new experiences, stability and security that Windows XP offers," said BillG during the keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. "This is our best-selling release of Windows ever, and one that is creating great opportunities for PC manufacturers and our other partners in the industry."

If we look at what the large analysts like IDC are predicting, these initial figures are on track. "Seventy-five million WinXP licenses will ship in 2002, but XP won't have the clout that Windows 95 did in driving hardware sales or generating first-time users," IDC predicted earlier this month.

  THIRD PARTY NEWS

Admin Experience With ScriptLogic: No More Login Script Hassle!

If you are sick and tired of messing with login scripts, read what real users said below. This is a little snippet out of Sunbelt's free list server. The comments are unedited, and there were no negative ones! Here goes:

To: NT System Admin Issues Subject: Scriptlogic

Hello all. Does anyone out there use scriptlogic? I downloaded the trial version, but when I was installing it I noticed that it suggested that I should install it on my DC. I just get kinda squeamish when I put a program on a Domain controller that I have not tested elsewhere. For those of you who use it can I get some feedback on what you think of it. Also, will it work as intended if I do not put it on a DC? Thanks.

Answers:

  • "We use the product internally as well as sell it. You have to install it on the domain controller in order for the replication process to work. Even if its a single machine domain you would still have to because it needs to copy files into the netlogon directory everytime you make policy changes."
  • Script logic on my domain. No complaints! :-)
  • "Hi, we use it and I swear by it. It's easily one of the most time saving products I've ever bought. I recommend highly! It has to go on a DC, that's where log on scripts live".
  • "I second that... I've moved to 3 companies now... and everytime I introduce Scriptlogic into the environment. Wonderful software and incredible timesaver. MAKE SURE TO GET AUTOSHARE... it RAWKS."
Get an eval here:
http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020114TP-ScriptLogic

Can't login? Lost your NT/W2K/WinXP Administrator password?!

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http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020114TP-NTACCESS

  FAVE LINKS

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

  • This site shows you how to tweak your DSL for more reliability and speed:
    http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020114FA-DSLTweaks
  • Novell has a site up called "Why They Lie". It's a MS-Bash-fest. Controversial:
    http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020114FA-WhyTheyLie
  • A W2Knews subscriber wrote a useful little electronic reader app. It's here!
    http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020114FA-Hammerware
  •   PRODUCT OF THE WEEK

    Home Automation And Wiring

    Since I am now building a house and plan to automate it up to the gills, I was given this book by one of my co-workers. It's very useful to read and gives you the perspective of the "electronic architect" that you need to have before you even start automating and wiring your home. This book gives the conceptual overview so you can ask yourself the questions you need to answer before you start wiring. Recommended reading!
    http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020114BW-HomeAutomation