Andrew Pollack's Blog

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Geekfest -- what does your home office look like?

By Andrew Pollack on 03/23/2005 at 11:43 PM EDT

I originally posted this in response to Bill's question here

Lots of people have a home office. Lots are geeks. Are you up to the challenge? What does your geekworld look like?

My office is a few hunderd square feet of space off the kitchen area, with French doors opening on a porch with a view of the woodland behind the house.

From the office a door connects a 16 foot by 16 foot closet which is my server room, complete with Gorilla shelving. A 4" PVC pipe painted blue drops from the ceiling in the server room, and bends at a right angle to be parallel with the ground. Its in the back corner. Extending from this are bundles of Cat5e cable which run a foot or so to a 56 port patch panel. The other end of the wires terminates in each room in the house (twice in some cases) at a wall mounted network interface with 4 network ports and two phone ports. At the patch panel, short patch cables tie in with either the phone line patch panel (12 wired ports) or the 56 ports of switched 100mb ethernet. A SONICWALL TZ170 provides high end firewalling, port filtering, and redirection from the 2 megabit fiber interface to a backbone provider.

The server room is cooled with a radon abatement fan mouted at ceiling level, and connected to 4" dryer exhaust ducting which connects to a board mounted in the window (yes, the server room has a window). A thermostat controls the fan, which kicks on and draws the heated air from the top of the room outside.

In the closet upstairs, A linksys WRT-54G with omnidirectional antennas mounted in the cockloft, runs a special open source firmware which lets me switch the transmit level on the broadcom chipset from the linksys setting of 21mw to the maximum 82mw. My neighbors across the street and next door have directional array antenaes connected to wifi bridges, and thus share bandwidth. I am their provider for network access and POP3 mail. The wifi also suits my needs from the laptop -- which is equiped with its own 7dbi gain antenna mounted to the case.

At my desk, I work on a 2gb 3ghz P4 with a 19" NEC LCD panel that is just stunning, but I can look past it to the 26" HDTV against the back wall of the office. If I feel like relaxing, a big comfy leather chair faces the TV in front of my desk. The primary web server is a P4 3ghz with 2gb of ram running win2k3, however several other machines are running as well.

One of the servers is connected to a scanner. The scanner is tuned to our fire department radio (I'm a firefighter as well) and streams the audio out to the internet so I (and others) can listen when out of range. A program I wrote also listens to that signal, and when it detects the specific Motorola tone sequence which activates our emergency pages, it spots it and sends a text message to my cell phone -- as well as any of a few dozen other people. Though not in range of radio, many of our firefighters can get the fire tone notification and hit the internet site to see what the call is. Next steps there include a system tray icon you can run which is connected to the server so when it sees a firetone, your computer automatically launces windows media and tunes into the fire department radio. In progress, is a REMARK API program tied to Lotus Notes, and using VONAGE virtual telephone lines to CALL OUT to firefighters and PLAY the first 30 seconds of the call to them so they can respond even if out of radio range.

Geek enough for you guys?

Oh yea, I built all this hardware, wrote the software, and wired the network.

There are  - loading -  comments....

Laptop antenna - what kind?By Trey on 04/22/2005 at 11:18 AM EDT
What is the brand/model of your 7dbi case-mounted antenna?

We live on a sailboat and subscribe to the next door marina's wireless ISP. But
our cabin is in the shadow of a 8 foot tall concrete bulkhead.

Replaced a LinkSys PCMCIA wireless NIC with a Proxim Orinoco to get the
external antenna connector that it has. Ordered a 5.2dbi mast mount antenna
that we're going to experiment with - maybe mount it on our mast or on a pole
at the marina....

But while we're waiting ona special connector to connect the NIC to the
external antenna the Proxim seems to work great compared to both the LinkSys
and an external Belkin USB antenna.

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