Tuesday, June 30, 2009

VoIP and QoS

There was a question posted on the Brisneyland SMB IT Pro group list earlier which is an oft-heard question regarding VoIP, QoS and what can be done to get the best results. The following was my reply...

There’s actually *no* voice traffic going across port 5060 at all. Not a schmick. Nada. Port 5060 is the SIP port, correct, but SIP means Session Initiation Protocol, which is where one end says “Hey, good lookin’, whatchya got cookin’?” and the other replies with “Some goose here wants to call some idiot on your end. Are you up to it and can you be arsed taking the call?” to which the other end replies “Sure, why not – I’ve just had a relaxing weekend off. Tell ‘em to use g.711 alaw and send their voice data through port 13294 and I’ll see what they want.” Or words to that effect.

Basically, SIP traffic is a simple handshaking that goes on before and during an RTP session. That’s all, so it uses what’s technically referred to as “bugger all” bandwidth.

Now, the RTP traffic, which contains the meat part of this sandwich, uses other ports, generally between 10,000 and some higher number. These port numbers are defined by the VoIP system you’re using. It is these ports that need to have QoS applied to them as it is these ports that contain the critical data such as “Darl, when you come home tonight, you need to bring some milk.” And “OK, love, anything else you need, like a big manly hug?” “No. That’s not going to work tonight either.”

So, if your router and network can apply QoS, it needs to be applied to the right ports/traffic, however if they are sharing this Internet connection with their data, don’t expect miracles (unless they are next to the telephone exchange). Also you need to remember that 99% of the data that is QoSed inside your network loses that QoS when it hits the ISP’s network, so you can really only QoS a) outbound traffic until it gets past the gateway and b) inbound traffic *after* you’ve already received it.

Stay tuned for more exciting episodes of VoIP and QoS when either a) I can be arsed writing some or b) you ask for more.


The Outspoken Wookie

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Microsoft's Windows 7 Upgrade Option Program now available


With Windows® 7 just around the corner, how can you protect your sales of Windows Vista®?

To help you ensure your sales now, Microsoft has recently launched a Windows 7 Upgrade Option Program promotion.

Under this exciting promotion, your customers will have the option to redeem an upgrade to Windows 7 when it is launched – provided that they buy an eligible copy of Windows Vista between 26 June 2009 and 31 January 2010.

How can you get involved?

As part of this program, Microsoft will be issuing program - specifics SKUs. These SKUs will include Windows Vista + a Windows 7 Upgrade Option Offer Form. To get involved, you simply need to:

CONTACT your authorised Microsoft Distributor to order your qualifying Windows Vista Windows 7 Upgrade Option SKU.

PROMOTE this offer to your customers, and let them know how they can qualify for a complimentary upgrade when they buy a new PC with an eligible version of Windows Vista installed.

SUPPLY eligible customers with the correct Order Form when they make a new PC purchase.

How can you find out more?

Visit the OEM promotional website to find out more.


The Outspoken Wookie

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why We Don't Support Opera

With the recent stink that the Opera browser makers are causing in the European Commision with regard to Internet Explorer 8.0 being included in Windows 7, I thought it only fair to explain the reasons behind why we don't support Opera here at Quark IT.

1. There are no .adm templates available for it (that we've found), meaning that it cannot be controlled on a company-wide basis through Group Policy

Well, that's pretty much it. OK, so it is only one reason. Even Firefox has an .adm template file available which means that in business networks, defaults and preferences can be set to a company policy. Opera just doesn't seem to get this. Even Thunderbird has the ability to have *some* form of company-wide control, although it isn't as easily deployed as an .adm template.

Opera has been designed for the home user, not the business nor enterprise user. Or so it seems to me, since they have no way (that we've found) to effectively control the software on a company-wide basis.

Now, add to this that Windows "N" that was released to satisfy the European Commision masturbators has sold about, well, SFA copies - it is reported to be around 0.005% of all European sales of Windows XP in Europe by April 2006 (please note that these are rather old figures). So this should be AMPLE proof that the European Commision is not acting in the best interest of EU consumers.

As I've said before, were I involved in releasing Microsoft products in the EU, I'd mark all regular versions of Windows as "Not licensed for use in EU countries" and release appropriately crippled software to fully comply with the European Wanker Commision - no mail client (oh, there's none in Windows 7 any more anyway), no media player, no web browser, no video editor (and yes, that's gone from Windows 7 also), no nothing at all that the EU wanker commision can complain about. And then sell this at the same price that they sell the rest around the world. And then either make the individual components available for free download (just like Opera is) and/or via Optional Components in Windows Update.

I have never had an issue with calling a spade a spade - as Microsoft well knows by now - however when there's a witch hunt out against any company (and in this case it happens to be Microsoft) then something needs to be done about it. Apple can include Safari and iTunes in their OSX, so why can't Microsoft include IE8 and Media Player?

Fair's fair.


The Outspoken Wookie

Symantec and McAfee Fined Over Unauthorised Renewals

As reported yesterday in the Brisbane Times, both Symantec and McAfee have had to get their shit together and stop making unauthorised credit card transactions for customers who have not requested to renew their antivirus subscriptions. They were each fined US$375,000 and were required to allow customers an easy opt-out from renewal.

Do I need to say any more? :)


The Outspoken Wookie

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

H1N1 Influenza Strain 09 (Swine Flu)

In case anyone is interested, I'm regularly updating my original Swine Flu post with the current stats. I'll keep doing it for a while, at least.


The Outspoken Wookie

Core i7, Xeon 5500 and DDR3

I've seen and heard a number of fallacies surrounding the current hardware platform by Intel and in this blog post I want to set people straight.

Q1. Lets put it this way. HP themselves have bundles with 2 slots occupied as their "recommended" configurations.

A1. Yes, that's correct. However this doesn't fully utilize the RAM bandwidth available to a Xeon 5500 series processor as compared to Triple Channel DDR3. As with the move to Dual Channel RAM back in 2002, Triple Channel will result in a performance improvement over Dual Channel. Admittedly, it isn't as much of a performance improvement (due mainly to the newer cache architectures in modern CPUs), but it is still an improvement. So, if you want the fastest performance from a particular type of RAM, Triple Channel will be faster than Dual Channel will be faster than Single Channel.

Q2. I think the triple channel only works with twin CPU setups (ie. Not with one CPU) AFAIK

A2. No, that's not correct. In multiple-socket motherboards, half of the RAM slots (in a Triple Channel bank) are available with one CPU installed and the other half with the second CPU installed. Obviously for 4-way systems, 25% of the RAM slots will be available per CPU installed.

Q3. Won't DDR-1600 always be faster than DDR-1033?

A3. No. Not only does the memory speed matter, but the latency matters. The latency often matters more than the overall memory speed as it results in faster retrievals of small quantities of data, whereas a faster overall clockspeed will normally result in faster transfer of larger quantities of data. If you want to have a good look at the differences between RAM clock speeds and latencies, have a read of this Tom's Hardware article.

Q4. Aren't the Core i7 CPUs really just a Core 2 Quad that's been stuck into one package instead of a pair of Core 2 Duos glued together?

A4. No. The Core i7/Xeon 5500 series CPU core and cache architecture have been redesigned. There's significant differences between the way a Core 2 and a Core i7 CPU work, not just the doubling of the cores on the one die.

Q5. Is a Core i7 with DDR3 really faster than a Core 2 Quad with DDR2?

A5. Yes. A comparison of a Core i7 920 (the slowest one available - 2.66 GHz, 8 MB L2 Cache) with a Core 2 Quad Q9400 (2.66 GHz, 6 MB L2 Cache) or a Core 2 Quad Q9550 (2.83 GHz, 12 MB L2 Cache) will likely result in a 10% or more increase in speed. Of course that will depend on the applications you use, however if they are modern apps (multi-threaded) then you'll see around this or more. So, at the same clock speed, you'll see a performance improvement.

Q6. Is it true that Hyper-Threading makes a triumphant return in the Core i7/Xeon 5500?

A6. Yes and no. Xeon processors have always had Hyper-Threading (since it was introduced) however the Core i7 definitely heralds the Return of Hyper-Threading in the desktop processor space. :)

If there's anything that's still not clear (and I don't mean propellor head clear, just a quick answer to a quick question) leave a comment and I'll reply.


The Outspoken Wookie

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Google Wave

I'd heard about Google Wave before but hadn't had time to have a look at it. After being prompted to look into it by Ray Ozzie, I watched the developer preview at Google IO 2009 and must admit that even though there's not a lot of functionality right now aside from emailey, IMey, document collaboration style stuff, it looks like it has a lot of promise.

Unlike Ray Ozzie, I think that Google making this project available as Open Source is a great thing - not only for both Wave and for Open Source, but also (importantly) for the consumer. Now, we all know that Microsoft sees Open Source as the Great Evil, however those of us not tainted by the Microsoft rose-colored glasses that Microsoft staffers seem to have surgically implanted don't all agree with this view. I'd find it hard to find anyone outside Microsoft, actually, who believes that Open Source will bring the downfall of modern society, result in us all eating filth from open sewers and calling everyone who stands upright m'lord! :)

So, for those amongst us who are able to see the world out of both eyes, when Google Wave is available for public consumption, I'll more than likely blog about it. I'd encourage you to have a look at it and see if it can help some of your clients' and your own collaboration scenarios and help increase productivity.


The Outspoken Wookie

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Search Engine Updates

It seems that both Microsoft and Google have started to beta their new search engines. The new Microsoft Bing looks really pretty and somehow actually returns relevant results (unlike their current production-grade Live Search which has been replaced by Bing) whereas Google's new Google Squared isn't quite so functional/effective from what I've seen thus far. Maybe I need to use Bing a little more to test the relevance of its results and see if it *really* has improved or just looks prettier.

Google Squared seems to need to be massaged a lot to to get decent results, and that's not going to work for quick searches, but I (kinda) like what they are doing with the results.


The Outspoken Wookie

Announcing Digital Distribution of Microsoft Software Benefits

The partner community provided us with feedback to improve access and management of software benefits—we listened. We’re pleased to announce that you can now digitally access your software benefits from one, central location at any time.

The advantages of the Microsoft Partner Program digital distribution solution:
By directly downloading your internal-use software, you can gain access to software and updates the moment they’re made available—no need to wait for your Microsoft Action Pack Subscription or Microsoft Gold Certified or Certified Partner box shipment. Benefits include:
Faster and more flexible: Access software immediately—24x7 availability.
Greater visibility: View all of your software benefits summarized in a license statement.*
Improved software benefits management: Add or remove users and manage their access to downloads, keys, and a license statement.
Decreased environmental impact: Help reduce the amount of waste from manufacturing, shipping, and disposing of disk kits.
*Available August, 2009.

What you need to know about this beneficial, new change:
• At launch, you’ll be defaulted to receive Digital-Only software distribution or Digital-Plus-Physical software distribution, depending on your location.* View the frequently asked questions for details.
• If you’re defaulted to receive Digital-Only software distribution, you can always order physical media (software discs)—additional fees may apply. Visit your local Microsoft Partner Program portal for information on fees and expenses.
• If you’re defaulted to receive Digital-Plus-Physical software distribution, you must wait until re-enrollment to change to Digital-Only.
• Software benefits will always be available digitally, even when you’re receiving physical media.
• Access to software keys and license statement will only be available digitally, even when you’re receiving physical media.
• Marketing and sales resources are available online—in a few weeks, you’ll receive a communication to access these resources.
• Microsoft Gold Certified and Certified Partners will still be shipped Microsoft Partner Program plaques and certificates as appropriate.
*Certain locations will receive physical media (software discs) due to digital accessibility issues. (Hilton: This includes Australia. When you renew your MAPS, you currently have a "Digital only" or "Digital and DVD media" choice to make. The price is the same - ie, the disparity between the Australian MAPS and US MAPS pricing has not been rectified at the time of publishing this blog article.)

How to get digital access:
From this link, you can access your software benefits today. You can use a step-by-step instruction guide for assistance.

How to order physical media and when you can make changes:
If you aren’t automatically receiving physical media for your location, you can order it at any time—additional fees may apply. You’ll still have digital access to your software benefits.

For more information:
Check here for the latest details specific to your location and to review frequently asked questions. If you need support, please contact your local Regional Service Center.


The Outspoken Wookie

Windows 7 Available October 22, 2009

As confirmation for my long-standing claims that Windows 7 will most definitely be released in time for the 2009 xmas holiday season, Microsoft has announced that Windows 7 will be released on October 22, 2009.

The retail channel was *pissed* that Microsoft released Vista in January of 2007, totally missing the retail silly season. End users were *pissed* that Vista was released both so late (XP was released on October 25, 2001 - in time for the 2001 silly season) and so early (as far as stability and usability went). In hindsight, Microsoft did the retail channel a great favor - it saved them having massive return queues from about 26 December 2006 to mid January 2007 filled with people complaining about the difference between the promised performance of that new computer they were sold and its actual performance.

Windows 7 will definitely be a different story to ther launch of Windows Vista. Windows Vista R2 (aka Windows 7) is a usable, stable, fast operating system - on my Toshiba M200 tablet (Pentium-M 1.60 GHz, 2 GB RAM, 5400 rpm PATA HDD and a lowly GeForce FX 5200Go graphics processor) it runs about the same speed as XP Tablet Edition does - without timing software, I'm hard put telling a difference. Vista was slow. Really slow. For example, I open the lid and the system is available from Hibernation in well under 10 seconds now. That was a couple of minutes under Vista. Outlook 2007 is very usable whereas under Vista, it was just bearable.

Would I move clients who are running Vista now to Windows 7 the day it is released? Bet your life, mate! Would I install the current Windows 7 Release Candidate onto a new desktop PC I was selling now that comes with Windows Vista and Software Assurance (or the upgrade assurance that will be release RSN thanks to the announcement of the Windows 7 release date)? Bet your life, mate! (Obviously, I'd explain to the client that whether I installed Vista or Windows 7 RC now, once Windows 7 was released, I'd be insisting on a full reinstall of their PC anyway, so they may as well get used to Windows 7 now and not endure the pain and suffering of Windows Vista.)


The Outspoken Wookie

Monday, June 01, 2009

Weird Zealand

OK, most of us have by now heard of the Rotorua couple who asked Westpac for a $10,000 loan and when they went to look after it was approved, they noticed a slight clerical error - Westpac had instead deposited $10,000,000. So they skipped town and are believed to be currently enjoying a (probably) short holiday somewhere in Asia.

Sure, we can all understand that and many of us would probably do the same thing (or at least not mention it for a month or so and then insist that Westpac at least credited us with the interest even if they did withdraw the additional $9,990,000 from our account).

But that was the least weird thing that seemed to happen in New Zealand last week.

Have a read of this article for an update on our weird little neighbor. :)


The Outspoken Wookie