Saturday, April 29, 2006 

WiFi Setup Can Be Tricky

Before you can unplug and play with a WiFi network, you have to set up your wireless gear. And, despite recent improvements, it's not quite a simple and safe path yet on the PC, as we found while testing new WiFi access points from D-Link, Linksys, Netgear and Microsoft.

All four devices sell for less than $140; two are under $100. They include firewalls to stop online break-in attempts and double as Ethernet routers, which means that any PCs in the same room as an access point can share an ultra-fast wired connection while the access point broadcasts a WiFi signal to elsewhere in the house.

Their biggest improvement, however, consists of replacing cumbersome network-setup screens with only slightly confusing installation wizards that configure an access point in minutes. (Apple's pricier AirPort, by contrast, has offered a simple setup for years.)

But although these four WiFi devices all did fine with the core job of distributing an Internet connection throughout a house, they left plenty of ways for things to go awry.

D-Link's Enhanced 2.4-GHz Router DI-614+, $99, doesn't even need an installation CD-ROM. Plug the boxy device into your PC's Ethernet point, open a Web browser and type in the access point's Internet protocol address to run its embedded installer routine, which copies the necessary network settings over for you. The access point can be managed with Macs and Linux machines as well as those running Windows.

The only confusing installation moment came when the manual indicated we'd have to enter some configuration information that the access point had already found on its own.

If all of the PCs in your house use the right model of D-Link hardware, the access point supports the company's faster "AirPlus" modification of WiFi. We saw transfer speeds maybe a third faster than normal WiFi using this proprietary technology, which alone may make D-Link an appealing choice among techies -- if, that is, their machines don't already include WiFi receivers from other vendors.

Microsoft's Wireless Base Station MN-500 ($139, Win 98 or newer) was almost as simple to set up. Its CD installation software detected our setup quickly and correctly. But it needs a live broadband connection to do this. Otherwise, you have to puzzle through things "by hand" in Microsoft's Base Station Management Tool software. Microsoft provides a full, printed manual rather than an electronic copy, plus the option of saving your new wireless network's settings to a floppy disk to save time later on -- but only floppy, not USB key chain, e-mail, CD-R or any other medium. So if your laptop lacks a floppy drive this will be of limited use.

The Linksys EtherFast Wireless AP + Cable/DSL Router (Win 95 or newer, $130) can be set up in two ways. If your broadband connection is up, a CD-based install wizard will sniff out its settings for you. Otherwise, the setup guide shows where you need to click in Windows 95 through Millennium Edition, 2000 and XP. It's not pretty, but it's well explained and it won't leave you hanging.

Netgear's Cable/DSL Wireless Router MR814, $70, allows the same no-software setup as D-Link, but an install assistant supplements it, and a helpful printed guide to Internet service providers comes in the box. Netgear's setup tools are comprehensive but busy, trying to explain too many things at once. But the overall friendliness of this setup makes it the best pick for a beginner.

Once you have a WiFi network up, you should also guard it against snooping. But many WiFi kits neglect to turn on WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) encryption, which, although flawed and sometimes a drain on performance, is better than nothing. Of the four we tried, only Microsoft starts with WEP enabled.

Microsoft is right and the other vendors are wrong; there's no excuse for companies to ship their WiFi equipment with WEP inactive. D-Link gets some credit for offering a stronger, 256-bit level of WEP encryption -- but you have to turn it on yourself, a step that most people (to judge from the immense number of open access points we routinely see around town) won't do on their own.

Setting up an access point at the center of a wireless network is, unfortunately, only half the point. You still need to get other machines on the network and then get them sharing files and access to your printer. And that's where WiFi gear for Windows lets the user down.

The problem isn't adding a WiFi receiver to each PC -- you just stick a PC Card into a laptop or plug an adapter into a desktop's USB port. Nor is sharing Internet access difficult; most WiFi receivers will log on without a problem.

But file and printer sharing under Windows remains a maze of mysterious settings buried in different parts of the system, all of which must be set just so. Microsoft hasn't made a network as simple to set up as, say, a printer, and none of the manuals, Microsoft's included, contain a first-rate guide to configuring your first network. That's a shame, because for most home users, a WiFi system will be their first network.

Friday, April 28, 2006 

'Cheap' microjets take to the skies

HAYWARD AIRPORT, Calif.--Eclipse Aviation has what must be a pleasant problem: Too many people want to buy its new and inexpensive jet.

When it comes to high-performance aircraft, of course, inexpensive is a relative term. The Eclipse 500 very light jet, sometimes called a microjet, costs about $1.5 million but boasts the same performance as rivals that can cost two or three times as much to purchase and operate.

Translated, this means a remarkable backlog of orders. At a recent aviation expo here, a representative said the Albuquerque, N.M.-based company already has orders for 2,400 of the Eclipse 500 jets that won't be filled until August 2008 for deposits placed today.

"We've really identified five primary market segments," said Matt Brown, an Eclipse sales manager. Those include corporations that may not want or be able to afford a more expensive jet, pilot training and air taxi services.

The last category is the most interesting--and the most controversial. The Federal Aviation Administration has predicted that the use of private business jets will triple because of microjets' lower costs. In theory, at least, that could mean more crowded skies and increased delays at larger airports where microjets would share space with commercial carriers.

Even without microjets, delays are on the rise. "In the first quarter of 2005, arrival delays were up 17 percent over the first quarter of 2004, and affected more than 25 percent of all flights," Kenneth Mead, the Transportation Department's inspector general, told a U.S. Senate panel.

Mead warned that microjets such as the Eclipse 500 have the "potential to further crowd dense airspace" and predicted that 4,500 of them will be in use by 2016.

One large user could be DayJet, which said last year that it had already ordered 239 Eclipse 500s with an option to buy 70 more. "This is a transportation system that adapts to your needs," Ed Iacobucci, founder of software maker Citrix Systems and the man behind DayJet, said at the time. "It is not about serving New York to Atlanta. It is more about serving the secondary and tertiary markets with a point-to-point network."

Microjet proponents dismiss concerns about congestion as unfounded, arguing that advances in technology will permit planes to depart airports in quicker succession and saying that small jets can land at general aviation airports that larger planes simply can't.

The Eclipse 500, for instance, is believed to be the first jet to fly into San Carlos Airport located just south of San Francisco, during a test flight in December. San Carlos' runway is 2,600 feet long and the Eclipse requires just 2,155 feet for takeoff and landing in normal sea level conditions--a fraction of what a 757 requires. (The Eclipse 500 is awaiting certification from the Federal Aviation Administration, which the company expects by the end of the second quarter of this year. Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn is a Microsoft alum and Bill Gates is a large investor.)

Eclipse is not alone in trying to find ways to tap the $1.5 million to $3 million market for very light jets, which generally means six to eight seat planes that can fly for about 1,400 miles without refueling, at speeds of 400 to 500 mph.

A production version of Adam Aircraft's A700 microjet made its first flight in February and is expected to cost $2.25 million. Embraer's forthcoming Phenom 100 jet will cost $2.85 million and have a range of 1,160 nautical miles.

Cessna, meanwhile, is testing a six-seat microjet called the Citation Mustang. Delivery is expected by the end of 2006 with a cost of about $2.4 million, and specifications include a cruise speed of 391 mph and a takeoff distance of 3,120 feet.


Survey Finds 97 Percent of Web Users a Click Away From Infection

Spyware continues to grow on the Web because the Net is becoming an increasing source of entertainment for netizens, according to Ron O'Brien, a senior security analyst with Sophos. "The proliferation of applications on the Internet that resemble entertainment serve as an incentive for people to download them onto their PC without realizing there's this spyware element to them," he said.

Some 97 percent of Web surfers are just a click away from infecting their computers with adware and spyware, according to anti-malware software operating system maker McAfee , of Santa Clara, Calif.

McAfee came to that conclusion after analyzing 14,464 responses to a spyware quiz taken by consumers at its SiteAdvisor Web site.

"Of the 14,000 people who took the spyware quiz, three percent got perfect scores, 97 percent got at least one wrong," McAfee SiteAdvisor Market Strategist Shane Keats told TechNewsWorld.

"So I think it's fair to say," he continued, "that the vast majority in a typical month of clicking will end up on a Web site that potentially exposes them to spyware."

Wandering Into Dark Alley

The quiz at the site, which has been available since March, presents users with pairs of Web pages from locations on the Net and asks them to choose which is a safe site and which is not. A second part of the test asks users to make similar distinctions among several file-sharing sites.

Keats admitted that he was a bit disconcerted by the study's findings.

"Given the amount of coverage the media has given spyware, we were surprised by the number of people who got multiple answers wrong," he said.

"Folks are overestimating their ability to spot spyware," he maintained. "The bad guys have gotten good at making their sites look very professional, very slick, and it's becoming even harder to know when you're wandering into a dark alley."

Black Chips Exploit Blue Chips

One way malefactors disguise their intentions is by exploiting the brands of companies with blue-chip reputations.

Researchers observed that quiz takers did particularly poor on the comparison of two lyrics sites. "One possible reason," they deduced, "the unsafe site had advertising from well-known brands like Circuit City (NYSE: CC) Latest News about Circuit City and that may have served to legitimize it."

Keats contended that "almost certainly" these companies don't know how their brands are being abused. He explained that a company will hire an ad agency that acts with its interactive division that hires an online media buyer that works with an affiliate network that works with another ad network and so on.

"They're so many steps removed from the actual placement decision that, realistically, headquarters at any Fortune 500 company probably doesn't know where their brand is appearing," he said.

Massive Project

"A lot of companies don't know you can get spyware by going on a lyrics site," he added. "They think you're only searching for text.

"Because of the way SiteAdvisor does its Web crawl, we can find that stuff out so we can tell people here's a site that you didn't think had spyware, but it really does," he noted.

SiteAdvisor is a massive project mounted by McAfee to analyze and test the behavior of all Web sites on the Internet on an ongoing basis.

The results of that testing can be accessed by consumers by installing a browser plug-in from the SiteAdvisor site.

The plug-in appears as a button on a browser's status line. When a user enters a Web site, the button will change color -- green for a safe site, yellow for proceed with caution and red for a malware site.

A detailed analysis of the site can be viewed by clicking a menu arrow beside the button.

System Level Infection

If detecting a spyware site is hard without the aid of a tool like SiteAdvisor, identifying spyware once it reaches a computer can be even harder, according to Patrick Hinojosa, chief technology officer for Panda Software, a security technologies, products and services company in Glendale, Calif.

He cited instances of spyware masquerading as legitimate system-level files, such as the registering itself as a Layered Systems Provider (LSP) in Windows, to avoid detection.

"Even most power users are not going to know how to inspect the LSP layer and know what should or should not be there," he told TechNewsWorld. "And even if they found something they weren't sure about and they yanked it, it could totally kill their Internet connection indefinitely until they rebuild that stack."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 

Firefox zealots offer users money to switch from IE

A group of Firefox advocates from Massachusetts is offering website publishers and bloggers $1 for each Internet Explorer visitor to their sites they can convince to switch to the Mozilla Firefox browser.

Google has recently announced that it will pay websites $1 for each referred download of Firefox it receives via the Google Toolbar. The four anti-Microsoft activists from Massachusetts have developed a series of free scripts that website owners can add to their sites that will detect whether visitors are running Internet Eplorer. Depending on the script, the website will either show a splash page telling them to switch to Firefox or it will put a big switch banner at the top of the page.

The group, which explains its actions in an open letter on their website at, says: "Firefox is one of the most important software applications in the world because it can play a big part in determining the future of the web. It is crucial that an open-source, standards-based web browser becomes the most popular browser, and Firefox has a shot at being that. Google has just set the stage for Firefox to literally "take back the web" and go from 11% of browsers to over 50%. If people can now spread Firefox, stick it to Microsoft, and make money for each user switched, an aggressive strategy just got more appealing."

The activitists have designed three levels of scripts that website owners can use depending on their commitment level to converting Internet Explorer users: one is a banner at the top of the page, another is a splash page with a link to the Mozilla download page and the most extreme is a page that informs visitors that they need to switch to Firefox to view the site.

According to the group, getting users to switch to Firefox has never been more urgent: "There's a big chance right now to switch people to Firefox and it might not last very long-- Microsoft has a new version of Internet Exlporer on the way and lord knows what they'll be doing in Vista to force people to use it. Firefox has to get a big foothold right now."

What the group did not make clear, however, is what its attitude is to other alternative browsers, such as Opera.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006 

Scientists Conclude That Black Holes Are Energy Efficient

"The black holes are actually preventing galactic sprawl from taking over the neighborhood," said NASA astrophysicist Kim Weaver. She said there's no harm in too many stars, just a mystery as to why these several billion old galaxies aren't loaded with even more stars.

Scientists Conclude That Black Holes Are Energy EfficientWith gasoline hitting US$3 per gallon, scientists have just found the most energy-efficient engines in the universe: black holes, those whirling super-dense centers of galaxies that suck in nearly everything.

The jets of energy spurting out of older, ultra-efficient black holes also seem to be playing a crucial role as zoning cops in large galaxies, preventing too many stars from sprouting. That explains why there aren't as many burgeoning galaxies chock full of stars as previously expected, said scientists citing results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Mass of Gas

For the first time, scientists measured both the mass of hot gas that is being sucked into nine older black holes and the unseen super-speedy jets of high energy particles spit out, which essentially form a cosmic engine. Then they determined a rate of how efficient these older black hole engines are and were awestruck.

These black holes are 25 times more efficient than anything man has built, with nuclear power being the most efficient of man-made efforts, said study lead author Steve Allen of Stanford University and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

"If you could make a car engine that was as efficient as one of these black hole engines, you could get about a billion miles per gallon of gas," Allen said. "In anyone's book, that would be pretty green."

The galaxies in which these black holes live are bigger than ours, the Milky Way, and 50 million to 400 million light-years away. One light-year is nearly 5.9 trillion miles. The black hole at the center of our galaxy wasn't studied because it wasn't gas-rich and big enough, so scientists couldn't measure what was going in and coming out, Allen said.

The results were surprising because the types of black holes studied were older, less powerful and generally considered "boring," scientists said. However, they ended up being more efficient than originally thought -- possibly as efficient as their younger, brighter and more potent black hole siblings called quasars.

Blinding Light

Quasars spit out blinding light, so scientists can't measure individual energy efficiency for them, said study co-author Christopher Reynolds of the University of Maryland. If they could, they'd probably be even more efficient, based on indirect calculations, he said.

One of the ways scientists measured the efficiency of black holes was by looking at the jets of high energy spewed out. Those jets produce bubbles of heat nearby, which tend to keep hot gas from cooling and forming stars in large galaxies.

"The black holes are actually preventing galactic sprawl from taking over the neighborhood," said NASA astrophysicist Kim Weaver. She said there's no harm in too many stars, just a mystery of why these several billion old galaxies aren't loaded with even more stars.

Allen and Weaver said in interviews the unseen hot jets appears to answer the question about what's stopping galaxies from growing too big, he said.

"What this does is give us a step toward understanding why the galaxies in the universe look the way they do," Allen said.

Courtesy of


Apple's 17-Inch MacBook Pro Comes to Market

The suggested retail price for the 17-inch screen MacBook Pro is US$2,799, a price that "very few" charge for notebook computers these days, according to Bob O'Donnell, vice president of clients and displays at IDC. High-quality components are one reason Apple's products tend to cost more. Another is brand cachet.

At the time of its debut, there was considerable speculation as to why a 17-inch version of the notebook was not released along with the 15-inch product.

A supplier glitch may have caused the delay.

"Apple is very particular about its component parts," Bob O'Donnell, vice president of clients and displays at IDC, told MacNewsWorld.

"It wants to make sure it delivers a high quality product -- and to do that, it puts the screws on its suppliers," he added.

Price Points

The high-quality components are one reason Apple's products tend to cost more. The other, O'Donnell noted, is the brand's cachet among users.

Still, O'Donnell is surprised at the suggested retail price for the 17-inch screen MacBook Pro -- US$2,799.

"There are very few people charging that much for notebooks these days. However, the people who buy Apple don't tend to worry too much about price," he acknowledged. "That is another reason why Apple is able to charge what it does."

Indeed, the MacBook Pro is fully loaded, featuring the much vaunted Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) Latest News about Intel Core Duo processor and a new system architecture that is five times as fast as the PowerBook G4.

Weighing only 6.8 pounds, it includes a built-in iSight video camera for mobile conferencing, a remote media application and MagSafe Power Adapter, which is geared specifically for mobile users.

MarketShare 'Okay'

Despite its high prices, and despite Windows' widespread presence in business and consumer installations, Apple is "doing okay" with its marketshare, O'Donnell maintained. "Worldwide, it is under 3 percent, and in the United States, it is 3.5 percent on the way to 4 percent."

Growth of Apple systems slowed to single digits in the first quarter following a surge in growth during Q1 2005, O'Donnell noted in the IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, released last Wednesday.

The company has been growing at a rapid pace over the past year, benefiting from customer interest in its music business as well as new products, but the transition to Intel processors may have caused supply issues for Q1 2006, according to the report.

Some Apple fans may be waiting for a consumer-oriented, Intel-based notebook to come to the market at a lower price point.

Courtesy of

Friday, April 21, 2006 

Cell Phones May Soon Add Scanning Technology

Once a phone is outfitted with a camera, the transition to scanner is fairly straightforward. The key is adding optical character recognition features to the phone, which allow small amounts of text to be captured and digitized.

Handset vendors have been frantically trying to innovate in an effort to keep their products from becoming commodity items. Consequently, they have incorporated a number of new features into their products, such as cameras, and are offering slim, sleek designs available in a variety of colors. Now, their ongoing quest is leading them into a new area: scanning.

Just as printers and digital cameras eventually added scanning functions, cell phones appear to be the next candidates to include that capability. "There are some rudimentary scanning functions now available in cell phones and those features should improve over time," said Kenneth Hyers, principal analyst of mobile wireless

Easy Transition

Once a phone is outfitted with a camera, the transition to scanner is fairly straightforward. The key is adding optical character recognition (OCR) features to the phone, which allow small amounts of text to be captured and digitized. As a page is scanned, OCR software takes dozens of still images and effectively merges them together using the outline of the page as a reference.

The software also detects the curve of a page and corrects any distortion, so even areas near the binding of a page can be scanned clearly. Typically, camera phone images contain background data, stemming from imprecise focuses, shadows, and poor alignment. OCR software corrects these deficiencies to create professional looking documents. The systems often convert scanned images into PDF files.

A Matter of Seconds

NEC (Nasdaq: NIPNY) Realeyes3D and scanR have been piloting products that let users transform their camera phones into scanners, copiers, or fax machines. These products can scan information at least 20 centimeters away, and an average 8 1/2-by-11 inch page takes from three to five seconds to input.

While the idea seems novel in the U.S., it has already taken root in other areas. "In Asia, it is becoming common for professionals to scan business cards into their camera phones and build electronic rather than paper Rolodexes," ABI Research's told TechNewsWorld.

Other applications are possible. Technology vendor Mobot, for example, with its offering lets consumers photograph magazine advertisements, products and logos, scans images using its own visual recognition technology and then directs them to related information. Longer term, a customer could also walk through the store, aim a camera phone at a sales tag on an advertisement, and be directed by the camera phone browser to a Web page containing information and possibly video clips about the product.

Grocery-Shopping Ease

Online grocery store has been tinkering with using scanning to help customers enter their orders: every time consumers take something from the refrigerator or kitchen cabinet, they snap pictures of the barcodes with their camera phones. That info gets sent to their home computers, and the items are automatically uploaded into their shopping lists.

Another example? In the supermarket, a customer could retrieve a list of a food's ingredients to ensure it is an allergy-safe product.

While there are some potentially interesting applications, the technology remains immature for now. One problem is there are several proprietary approaches for reading scanned data. Some approaches scan bar codes, others scan digital watermarks, and still others do visual recognition of existing logos and products. In Japan, Denso Wave developed Quick Response (QR) codes, which hide information in printed pictures that is invisible to the human eye but extractable by camera phones.

Eventually, a standard is expected to emerge. "I think adding Common Short Codes to print advertising is the best option," stated Ira Brodsky. "A user just has to send a text message to get an SMS message with embedded link back to a Web site."

While this approach may seem simplest, it still requires that advertisers embrace Common Short Codes, which means getting over a learning curve and other adoption hurdles such as cost, however.

Not Enough Power

Another problem is the power of the existing camera phones. Observers agree that the scanning technology requires camera phones with at least 1 megapixel resolution. "Currently most camera phones support VGA (Video Graphics Array) and that only works with one third of a megapixel," noted Neil Strother, an industry analyst with market research firm The NPD Group.

The scanning technology also raises some copyrighting issues. Publishing companies fear a "Napsterizing" of their printed pages and copyright headaches. In Japan commuters have already angered bookstore owners and newsagents by using existing cell phones to take snapshots of newspaper and magazine articles that they don't pay for but read while on the train to work.

If suppliers are able to address the technical and logistical issues, the question of how much interest there will be in the technology will still remain. "I think the scanning functions open up some interesting possibilities to content suppliers as well as hardware manufacturers and therefore will be promoted," stated ABI Research's Hyers.

Others are a bit more skeptical. "I have not seen many individuals using their digital cameras for scanning, so I don't expect much interest in camera phone scanning," the NPD Group's Strother told TechNewsWorld.

The end result is that a mainstream market for cell phone scanning technology is still some years away. "Vendors need to put a few more building blocks into place, so it won't be until 2007 or 2008 when we will see a lot of scanning functions built into camera phones here in the U.S.," concluded ABI Research's Hyers.


Cisco Router Configuration Tutorial

1. What this document covers

There are several methods available for configuring Cisco routers. It can be done over the network from a TFTP server. It can be done through the menu interface provided at bootup, and it can be done from the menu interface provided by using the command setup. This tutorial does not cover these methods. It covers configuration from the IOS command-line interface only.

Note that this tutorial does not cover physically connecting the router to the networks it will be routing for. It covers operating system configuration only.

1.1 Reasons for using the command-line

The main reason for using the command-line interface instead of a menu driven interface is speed. Once you have invested the time to learn the command-line commands, you can perform many operations much more quickly than by using a menu. This is basically true of all command-line vs. menu interfaces. What makes it especially efficient to learn the command-line interface of the Cisco IOS is that it is standard across all Cisco routers.

2. Getting started with Cisco

Initially you will probably configure your router from a terminal. If the router is already configured and at least one port is configured with an IP address, and it has a physical connection to the network, you might be able to telnet to the router and configure it across the network. If it is not already configured, then you will have to directly connect to it with a terminal and a serial cable. With any Windows box you can use Hyperterminal to easily connect to the router. Plug a serial cable into a serial (COM) port on the PC and the other end into the console port on the Cisco router. Start Hyperterminal, tell it which COM port to use and click OK. Set the speed of the connection to 9600 baud and click OK. If the router is not on, turn it on.

If you wish to configure the router from a Linux box, either Seyon or Minicom should work. At least one of them, and maybe both, will come with your Linux distribution.

Often you will need to hit the Enter key to see the prompt from the router. If it is unconfigured it will look like this:


If it has been previously configured with a hostname, it will look like this:

hostname of router>

If you have just turned on the router, after it boots it will ask you if you wish to begin initial configuration. Say no. If you say yes, it will put you in the menu interface. Say no.

2.1 Modes

The Cisco IOS command-line interface is organized around the idea of modes. You move in and out of several different modes while configuring a router, and which mode you are in determines what commands you can use. Each mode has a set of commands available in that mode, and some of these commands are only available in that mode. In any mode, typing a question mark will display a list of the commands available in that mode.


2.2 Unprivileged and privileged modes

When you first connect to the router and provide the password (if necessary), you enter EXEC mode, the first mode in which you can issue commands from the command-line. From here you can use such unprivileged commands as ping, telnet, and rlogin. You can also use some of the show commands to obtain information about the system. In unprivileged mode you use commands like, show version to display the version of the IOS the router is running. Typing show ? will diplay all the show commands available in the mode you are presently in.

Router>show ?

You must enter privileged mode to configure the router. You do this by using the command enable. Privileged mode will usually be password protected unless the router is unconfigured. You have the option of not password protecting privileged mode, but it is HIGHLY recommended that you do. When you issue the command enable and provide the password, you will enter privileged mode.

To help the user keep track of what mode they are in, the command-line prompt changes each time you enter a different mode. When you switch from unprivileged mode to privileged mode, the prompt changes from:




This would probably not be a big deal if there were just two modes. There are, in fact, numerous modes, and this feature is probably indispensable. Pay close attention to the prompt at all times.

Within privileged mode there are many sub-modes. In this document I do not closely follow Cisco terminology for this hierarchy of modes. I think that my explanation is clearer, frankly. Cisco describes two modes, unprivileged and privileged, and then a hierarchy of commands used in privileged mode. I reason that it is much clearer to understand if you just consider there to be many sub-modes of privileged mode, which I will also call parent mode. Once you enter privileged mode (parent mode) the prompt ends with a pound sign (#). There are numerous modes you can enter only after entering privileged mode. Each of these modes has a prompt of the form:


They still all end with the pound sign. They are subsumed within privileged mode. Many of these modes have sub-modes of their own. Once you enter priliged mode, you have access to all the configuration information and options the IOS provides, either directly from the parent mode, or from one of its submodes.

3. Configuring your Cisco Router

If you have just turned on the router, it will be completely unconfigured. If it is already configured, you may want to view its current configuration. Even if it has not been previously configured, you should familiarize yourself with the show commands before beginning to configure the router. Enter privileged mode by issuing the command enable, then issue several show commands to see what they display. Remember, the command show ? will display all the showcommands aavailable in the current mode. Definately try out the following commands:

Router#show interfaces
Router#show ip protocols
Router#show ip route
Router#show ip arp

When you enter privileged mode by using the command enable, you are in the top-level mode of privileged mode, also known in this document as "parent mode." It is in this top-level or parent mode that you can display most of the information about the router. As you now know, you do this with the show commands. Here you can learn the configuration of interfaces and whether they are up or down. You can display what IP protocols are in use, such as dynamic routing protocols. You can view the route and ARP tables, and these are just a few of the more important options.

As you configure the router, you will enter various sub-modes to set options, then return to the parent mode to display the results of your commands. You also return to the parent mode to enter other sub-modes. To return to the parent mode, you hit ctrl-z. This puts any commands you have just issued into affect, and returns you to parent mode.

3.1 Global configuration (config)

To configure any feature of the router, you must enter configuration mode. This is the first sub-mode of the parent mode. In the parent mode, you issue the command config.


As demonstrated above, the prompt changes to indicate the mode that you are now in.

In connfiguration mode you can set options that apply system-wide, also refered to as "global configurations." For instance, it is a good idea to name your router so that you can easily identify it. You do this in configuration mode with the hostname command.

Router(config)#hostname ExampleName

As demonstrated above, when you set the name of the host with the hostname command, the prompt immediately changes by replacing Router with ExampleName. (Note: It is a good idea to name your routers with an organized naming scheme.)

Another useful command issued from config mode is the command to designate the DNS server to be used by the router:

ExampleName(config)#ip name-server

This is also where you set the password for privileged mode.

ExampleName(config)#enable secret examplepassword

Until you hit ctrl-Z (or type exit until you reach parent mode) your command has not been put into affect. You can enter config mode, issue several different commands, then hit ctrl-Z to activate them all. Each time you hit ctrl-Z you return to parent mode and the prompt:


Here you use show commands to verify the results of the commands you issued in config mode. To verify the results of the ip name-server command, issue the command show host.

3.2 Configuring Cisco router interfaces

Cisco interface naming is straightforward. Individual interfaces are referred to by this convention:

media type slot#/port#

"Media type" refers to the type of media that the port is an interface for, such as Ethernet, Token Ring, FDDI, serial, etc. Slot numbers are only applicable for routers that provide slots into which you can install modules. These modules contain several ports for a given media. The 7200 series is an example. These modules are even hot-swapable. You can remove a module from a slot and replace it with a different module, without interrupting service provided by the other modules installed in the router. These slots are numbered on the router.

Port number refers to the port in reference to the other ports in that module. Numbering is left-to-right, and all numbering starts at 0, not at one.

For example, a Cisco 7206 is a 7200 series router with six slots. To refer to an interface that is the third port of an Ethernet module installed in the sixth slot, it would be interface ethernet 6/2. Therefor, to display the configuration of that interface you use the command:

ExampleName#show interface ethernet 6/2

If your router does not have slots, like a 1600, then the interface name consists only of:

media type port#

For example:

ExampleName#show interface serial 0

Here is an example of configuring a serial port with an IP address:

ExampleName(config)#interface serial 1/1
ExampleName(config-if)#ip address
ExampleName(config-if)#no shutdown

Then to verify configuration:

ExampleName#show interface serial 1/1

Note the no shutdown command. An interface may be correctly configured and physically connected, yet be "administratively down." In this state it will not function. The command for causing an interface to be administratively down is shutdown.

ExampleName(config)#interface serial 1/1
ExampleName#show interface serial 1/1

In the Cisco IOS, the way to reverse or delete the results of any command is to simply put no infront of it. For instance, if we wanted to unassign the IP address we had assigned to interface serial 1/1:

ExampleName(config)#interface serail 1/1
ExampleName(config-if)#no ip address
ExampleName#show interface serial 1/1

Configuring most interfaces for LAN connections might consist only of assigning a network layer address and making sure the interface is not administratively shutdown. It is usually not necessary to stipulate data-link layer encapsulation. Note that it is often necessary to stipulate the appropriate data-link layer encapsulation for WAN connections, such as frame-relay and ATM. Serial interfaces default to using HDLC. A discussion of data-link protocols is outside the scope of this document. You will need to look up the IOS command encapsulation for more details.

3.3 Configuring Cisco Routing

IP routing is automatically enabled on Cisco routers. If it has been previously disabled on your router, you turn it back on in config mode with the command ip routing.

ExampleName(config)#ip routing

There are two main ways a router knows where to send packets. The administrator can assign static routes, or the router can learn routes by employing a dynamic routing protocol.

These days static routes are generally used in very simple networks or in particular cases that necessitate their use. To create a static route, the administrator tells the router operating system that any network traffic destined for a specified network layer address should be forwarded to a similiarly specified network layer address. In the Cisco IOS this is done with the ip route command.

ExampleName(config)#ip route
ExampleName#show ip route

Two things to be said about this example. First, the packet destination address must include the subnet mask for that destination network. Second, the address it is to be forwarded to is the specified addres of the next router along the path to the destination. This is the most common way of setting up a static route, and the only one this document covers. Be aware, however, that there are other methods.

Dynamic routing protocols, running on connected routers, enable those routers to share routing information. This enables routers to learn the routes available to them. The advantage of this method is that routers are able to adjust to changes in network topologies. If a route is physically removed, or a neighbor router goes down, the routing protocol searches for a new route. Routing protocols can even dynamically choose between possible routes based on variables such as network congestion or network reliability.

There are many different routing protocols, and they all use different variables, known as "metrics," to decide upon appropriate routes. Unfortunately, a router needs to be running the same routing protocols as its neighbors. Many routers can, however, run mutliple protocols. Also, many protocols are designed to be able to pass routing information to other routing protocols. This is called "redistribution." The author has no experience with trying to make redistribution work. There is an IOS redistribute command you can research if you think this is something you need. This document's compagnion case study describes an alternative method to deal with different routing protocols in some circumstances.

Routing protocols are a complex topic and this document contains only this superficial description of them. There is much to learn about them, and there are many sources of information about them available. An excelent source of information on this topic is Cisco's website,

This document describes how to configure the Routing Information Protocol (RIP) on Cisco routers. From the command-line, we must explicitly tell the router which protocol to use, and what networks the protocol will route for.

ExampleName(config)#router rip
ExampleName#show ip protocols

Now when you issue the show ip protocols command, you should see an entry describing RIP configuration.

3.4 Saving your Cisco Router configuration

Once you have configured routing on the router, and you have configured individual interfaces, your router should be capable of routing traffic. Give it a few moments to talk to its neighbors, then issue the commands show ip route and show ip arp. There should now be entries in these tables learned from the routing protocol.

If you turned the router off right now, and turned it on again, you would have to start configuration over again. Your running configuration is not saved to any perminent storage media. You can see this configuration with the command show running-config.

ExampleName#show running-config

You do want to save your successful running configuration. Issue the command copy running-config startup-config.

ExampleName#copy running-config startup-config

Your configuration is now saved to non-volatile RAM (NVRAM). Issue the command show startup-config.

ExampleName#show startup-config

Now any time you need to return your router to that configuration, issue the command copy startup-config running-config.

ExampleName#copy startup-config running-config

3.5 Example Cisco Router configuration

  1. Router>enable
  2. Router#config
  3. Router(config)#hostname N115-7206
  4. N115-7206(config)#interface serial 1/1
  5. N115-7206(config-if)ip address
  6. N115-7206(config-if)no shutdown
  7. N115-7206(config-if)ctrl-z
  8. N115-7206#show interface serial 1/1
  9. N115-7206#config
  10. N115-7206(config)#interface ethernet 2/3
  11. N115-7206(config-if)#ip address
  12. N115-7206(config-if)#no shutdown
  13. N115-7206(config-if)#ctrl-z
  14. N115-7206#show interface ethernet 2/3
  15. N115-7206#config
  16. N115-7206(config)#router rip
  17. N115-7206(config-router)#network
  18. N115-7206(config-router)#network
  19. N115-7206(config-router)#ctrl-z
  20. N115-7206#show ip protocols
  21. N115-7206#ping
  22. N115-7206#config
  23. N115-7206(config)#ip name-server
  24. N115-7206(config)#ctrl-z
  25. N115-7206#ping
  26. N115-7206#config
  27. N115-7206(config)#enable secret password
  28. N115-7206(config)#ctrl-z
  29. N115-7206#copy running-config startup-config
  30. N115-7206#exit

4. Troubleshooting your Cisco router

Inevitably, there will be problems. Usually, it will come in the form of a user notifying you that they can not reach a certain destination, or any destinattion at all. You will need to be able to check how the router is attempting to route traffic, and you must be able to track down the point of failure.

You are already familiar with the show commands, both specific commands and how to learn what other show commands are available. Some of the most basic, most useful commands you will use for troubleshooting are:

ExampleName#show interfaces
ExampleName#show ip protocols
ExampleName#show ip route
ExampleName#show ip arp

4.1 Testing connectivity

It is very possible that the point of failure is not in your router configuration, or at your router at all. If you examine your router's configuration and operation and everything looks good, the problem might be be farther up the line. In fact, it may be the line itself, or it could be another router, which may or may not be under your administration.

One extremely useful and simple diagnostic tool is the ping command. Ping is an implementation of the IP Message Control Protocol (ICMP). Ping sends an ICMP echo request to a destination IP address. If the destination machine receives the request, it responds with an ICMP echo response. This is a very simple exchange that consists of:

Hello, are you alive?

Yes, I am.

ExampleName#ping xx.xx.xx.xx

If the ping test is successful, you know that the destination you are having difficulty reaching is alive and physically reachable.

If there are routers between your router and the destination you are having difficulty reaching, the problem might be at one of the other routers. Even if you ping a router and it responds, it might have other interfaces that are down, its routing table may be corrupted, or any number of other problems may exist.

To see where packets that leave your router for a particular destination go, and how far, use the trace command.

ExampleName#trace xx.xx.xx.xx

It may take a few minutes for this utility to finish, so give it some time. It will display a list of all the hops it makes on the way to the destination.

4.2 debug commands

There are several debug commands provided by the IOS. These commands are not covered here. Refer to the Cisco website for more information.

4.3 Hardware and physical connections

Do not overlook the possibility that the point of failure is a hardware or physical connection failure. Any number of things can go wrong, from board failures to cut cables to power failures. This document will not describew troubleshooting these problems, except for these simple things.

Check to see that the router is turned on. Also make sure that no cables are loose or damaged. Finally, make sure cables are plugged into the correct ports. Beyond this simple advice you will need to check other sources.

4.4 Out of your control

If the point of failure is farther up the line, the prolem might lie with equipment not under your administration. Your only option might be to contact the equipment's administrator, notify them of your problem, and ask them for help. It is in your interest to be courtious and respectful. The other administrator has their own problems, their own workload and their own priorities. Their agenda might even directly conflict with yours, such as their intention to change dynamic routing protocols, etc. You must work with them, even if the situation is frustrating. Alienating someone with the power to block important routes to your network is not a good idea.

Thursday, April 20, 2006 

Linux vendors rally behind desktop standard

More than a dozen technology companies, including IBM, Red Hat, and Novell are planning to support a new integrated server and desktop Linux standard unveiled at next week's Linux Desktop Summit by the Free Standards Group (FSG).

The FSG is a nonprofit organization that has worked for years on a number of open standards including a server specification called the Linux Standard Base. In October the group announced plans to work on a desktop standard, called the Linux Standard Base Desktop Project.

Those two Linux standards have now been integrated into a new version 3.1 of the Linux Standard Base, which is set to be released next week.

"This ... will make it easier for application developers to target the complete Linux platform; thereby solving a major hindrance

for Linux desktop adoption," the FSG said Wednesday in a statement.

A number of Linux providers, including Red Hat, Novell, the Ubuntu Linux project, and Linspire are expected to certify their products as compliant to the new LSB standard, according to the FSG.

IBM, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell also support the initiative, the FSG said.

While Linux has been a successful server operating system, it has not been widely adopted on the desktop, in part because software developers have been reluctant to create Linux versions of their desktop software.

Matters are not helped by the fact that Linux supports two competing desktop environments, called Gnome and KDE, making it hard for developers to create one piece of software that will run on all versions of Linux.

"The problem with standards on Linux is that there are currently too many of them," said Gregory Raiz, president of Raizlabs, a software company in Brookline, Massachusetts. "Developers want to be able to write to a standard and know that their application is going to work on all desktops."

The Free Software Group hopes that its combined LSB standard will eventually achieve that goal, but it will be hard work to create a standard that is compatible with both KDE and Gnome, said Bruce Perens, vice president of professional services with open-source vendor Sourcelabs.

"How they're going to pull it off will be interesting," he said. "If we actually unified the desktops would we do it by creating a third interface? And are we sure that that's helping?"

In the end, the Linux providers may be forced to simply choose one desktop, he said.

Either way, the FSG project is addressing an important need by attempting to unify Gnome and KDE, Perens said. "I would love for there to be software like this and I would like it to be as easy to program as either of these desktops."

The Linux Desktop Summit is being held in San Diego on Monday and Tuesday of next week.

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