DD-WRT, VPN and Apple Airport Routers

Apple’s Airport Extreme and Express are brilliant at what they do. They are secure, yet easy to setup and maintain. Well, you do not need to maintain them – they tend to just keep working. It makes it super easy for an Apple product eco-system to co-exist without much hassle and fuss.

Airport Wireless

After many Linksys and D-Link Wi-Fi Routers, I started with the first generation Airpot Express and upgraded to the first Airport Time Capsule when it was released in 2008. The time capsule (Airport Extreme with Time Machine enabled Drive). The Time Capsule lasted for 5 years and the Airport Express, a little over 6 years. Our current Home Network Setup is powered by an Airport Extreme and few Airport Expresses.

However, the apple routers are limited in their functionality. I wanted a VPN sitting in between the Internet and my home network without disturbing my original setup. I also wanted to have the option to turn the VPN OFF/ON quickly as and when I needed. I researched for a bit and settled on a cheap flashable wi-fi router – Asus RT-N18U. I flashed the Asus router with DD-WRT.

There are other Open Source Router firmwares which are equally good. I chose DD-WRT, as I find it easier, and have used it earlier. Some other alternatives you might want to try are – Tomato, OpenWRT, Gargoyle, etc.

I’m not very technical but I can understand technology, and knows a thing or two about how things work. So, I chose simpler setups and things that just works. My current setup works for now.

DD-WRT

DD-WRT is a Linux based alternative OpenSource firmware suitable for a great variety of WLAN routers and embedded systems. The main emphasis lies on providing the easiest possible handling while at the same time supporting a great number of functionalities within the framework of the respective hardware platform used.

Flashing a router and installation of DD-WRT is pretty straight forward. The most important part is to choose the right firmware for the router, making sure that the router is supported by DD-WRT. Following the instructions on the installation should be good enough.

Once all installed and running, here are few basic setting recommendations suggested by industry experts.

  • Change the default network from something like 192.168.1.1 to 192.168.xx.xx of your choice.
  • Broadcast the SSID but secure it with WPA2 with AES. If you’re not worried about backward compatibility, you can disable TKIP.
  • Of course, change your Admin password from the default to something better.
  • Always have a backup of your settings. It tends to be useful.

Services – VPN, NAS, the bells and whistles

The features and functionalities of DD-WRT are humongous. Pick the ones you want to use and you can ignore the others to their default/disabled state. If you have signed up for a VPN, which are much needed these days than ever, read-up on their OpenVPN (better than the other protocols so far) documentation for DD-WRT and set it up.

I really liked the simplicity of ExpressVPN, and it just worked for me. If you are shopping for one, most of the VPN Providers have a trial period – from 2 days to a week, or even sometimes a month. A 2-day trial should be enough for you to make a choice. I once got a good deal on CactusVPN and I subscribe to their VPN + SmartDNS.

Try out other good VPN providers – VyprRVPN, NordVPN, IPVanish, Buffered, Anonymizer, Private Internet Access, Tor Guard, Slick VPN, MullVad, Black VPN, Smart VPN, Private VPN, etc. You can also filter through an exhaustive list of VPN Providers or swing by That One Privacy Site to do a thorough research that fits your requirements.

DD-WRT Router + Apple Airport

Finally, I combined the two worlds – the DD-WRT Router facing the Internet and the Apple Airport Extreme managing the Home Network.

Internet

Setup the DD-WRT Router to face the internet – set up your PPPoE, tethering or the IP that your Internet Service Provide gave you. Enable DHCP so that the DD-WRT router can act as the DHCP Server. You can set up additional options such as the firewall, ad-blocker, access restrictions etc. Make sure the Internet and everything else is working here perfectly. Leave the Wi-Fi enabled and working to get back to it, just in case, your primary Apple Router fails or just to debug/edit settings to the DD-WRT router. This also decouples the harsh Internet from your home network.

Apple Airport Router

This is your primary network where all your devices are connected. As the Internet is now taken care by the DD-WRT router, we have to just plug in the Airport Router’s LAN to the LAN network of the DD-WRT Router.

Play around with the Airport Router settings of your choices. However, here are few key important setups that the Apple Airport Router needs to make it working in this setup;

  1. In the Internet tab, connect using DHCP so it gets its unique IP from the DD-WRT Router. You can change the DNS server either here or in the DD-WRT router. I kept it at the DD-WRT Router.
  2. Now, Create a wireless network with the settings of your choice.
  3. For the most important part, turn the Router Mode Off (Bridge Mode). We’re not routing anything with the Apple Airport but merely managing the Wireless Internet Network.

Of course, with Apple rumored to be abandoning the router business, in future, you can just plug off the Apple Router part and move to your DD-WRT router as the primary network manager.

Oinam Home Network

That’s it. You can now have the flexibility, security of a DD-WRT Router and Wireless Network managed by an Apple Router to easily and consistently connect all your devices. All your devices, from phones to laptops to the connected TV, can connect to the Internet encapsulated via a VPN. I’m still experimenting and will continue to play with my setup. The current setup has been running for a year or so, without any issues.

Respect for Android & Android App Development

Over the years & for various reasons, Android is not treated at par with Apple applications by prominent application developers. Apple was the preferred destination to showcase new applications. And, there definitely were available all reasons & justifications about why Apple was the front-runner for App Development.

However, there is a clear change in recent days as developers and commercial establishments have recognized the importance of sharing a launch pad equally with iOS and Android. With the change in the game plan, it is likely that more number of premium Android applications will be made available for growing android fans.

Why Android is Scoring?

  • The plus point for Android developers is that Android is an open source platform which gives the advantage of the involvement of a large number of developers.
  • Developers will have the opportunity to squeeze the latest advancements in technology front.
  • No license expense is involved in the development of an Android application. Hence, developers have the opportunity to make large earnings with little investments.
  • Android has a unique advantage in integration of various applications. Developers are exploring the opportunities available with Android to invent unique applications.
  • It is advantageous & possible to develop Android mobile applications using different languages such as Java, Python, Perl, etc.
  • Further Android software development kit (SDK) works like Droid emulator. Developers are not required to download and upload the software to test on mobile phones. All the process and functional aspects can be checked through the emulator.

Businesses can hire Android developers to develop an innovative applications. However, enough research should be done in figuring out the kind of application they want to launch & the purpose.

As technology is growing on a continuous basis, it is very much important to hire knowledgeable developers to accomplish your high end tasks. With over 300 million Android phones available in the market, it is a great opportunity for developers to take advantage of the growing demand for Android devices.

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Apple’s New iPad – Steve Jobs’ Legacy Continues

Apple's New iPad

Realize it or not, a bit of an Apple a day, keeps the techie in you happy!

The partly bitten Apple is definitely biting big into the profits of its competitors. In the past, it was the iPod & the iPhone. Now, Apple with its stunning upgrades to the New iPad is sending a plethora of chills across the spines of its competitor tablets.

As much as I have studied Apple & the arrogance in its inventions, the 4th generation iPad might not be more than 24 months from it’s release date. However, as of now, most of the populace would be just going gaga about the new feature rich – Apple’s New iPad, which was launched few days back.

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Apple to Greenpeace regarding their New Eco-Chic Data Center Plans, “this should shut you hippies up”

In response to on-going environmental group pressure Apple has decided to go Green. Making it a Green Apple. After years of persecution from groups like Greenpeace (an irony in itself given that many of Greenpeace’s dread-lock-sporting, bored-surbubanite-desperately-looking-for-a-cause Macbook owners) Apple is finally bending to group will and greening one of its largest facilities.

Apple’s data center in Maiden, NC is getting an eco-chic makeover with the largest set of end user-owned, on-site solar arrays in the country. This is in addition to its previous white cool-roof and LEED Platinum certificate from the U.S. Green Building Council, a level unparalleled by any other comparably-sized data center in the U.S notes Apple. Uh — and what was Greenpeace upset about again? The solar-reflective roof deflects much of the facilities cooling needs, a factor reduced again by their chilled-water storage system that allows for the offset of 10,400 kWh of electricity consumption to be transferred from peak to off-peak hours.

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Google, Apple & Microsoft agree on Universal Privacy Policy for Smartphone Apps

Apparently the U.S. Government hasn’t heard that privacy is dead.

Instead the California’s attorney general held a gathering of the world’s major smartphone companies: Apple, Google, HP, Microsoft, Amazon.com and Research in Motion, to decide on the future of smartphone-driven internet privacy. The goal for the attorney general was to cajole the leading smartphone manufacturers into reaching a universal agreement on privacy protection for the app-using mobile public.

This new universal agreement would force all app developers to conspicuously post their privacy policies to their downloading public, including details on what personal information they retrieve from their users and exactly how they will use it.

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Kill a background app in iOS

Manually terminate a task in iOS

Perhaps, I’m one of the last few to discover that I can manually terminate an app running in the background in iOS. This is helpful when an app is acting up or not responsive or just want to kill it while testing your app.

How?

  1. Double Click/Tab the Home Button.
  2. When Multitask bar rolls up at the bottom with all your apps you ever opened, tap and hold one of the app till it start to ‘jiggle’.
  3. Now, tap the (-) for the app you want to kill instantly.

Note: This just kills that app not its associated services like notifications, etc.

10 principles of “Good Design”

Good design:

  1. Is innovative – The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.
  2. Makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.
  3. Is aesthetic – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
  4. Makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
  5. Is unobtrusive – Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.
  6. Is honest – It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
  7. Is long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
  8. Is thorough down to the last detail – Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
  9. Is environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
  10. Is as little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

Source: Dieter Rams’ ten principles of “good design” – Wikipedia.

iOS Battery Life Quick Fix: As usual Apple users, not Apple, fix the problem

With the rash of Blackberry blunders the iPhone really has an opportunity to steal the smartphone limelight — and what does it do? — screws it up. In the face of the global Blackberry service shortage, Apple released the iPhone 4S, and iOS 5. iOS 5 however has been coming under attack due to it draining the battery on iPhones and iPods, drastically undoing the leverage Apple could have gained over Canadian-based RIM, makers of the currently unsuccessful Blackberry.

Thanks to the iPhone 4S’s power-mongering features, the phone seems to be dying inordinately quickly. Apple, in its usual speechless-style hasn’t responded to the claims but will likely respond once they have a quick fix — or IF they find a fix at all.

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