We were driving around in Kamloops today, and Jenn saw the AAA logo on a strip-mall store that said BCAA on the sign. She says “That’s weird, you must get a discount on liquor if you are an AAA member.” I think her brain saw BCAA, and instead of associating it with Alberta’s AMA, or Alberta Motor Association, she associated it with ALCB, or Alberta Liquor Control Board. Seeing a triple-A symbol on a liquor store would indeed be a bit mentally jarring. She and I were laughing and the kids were wondering what was so funny. Jenn was swatting me for lauging so much. I said “Don’t worry Jenn, I’m not laughing at YOU, I’m laughint AT you.” Then the kids started laughing too and we all had a great moment.
We left for vacation yesterday after the Devon swim meet. We stopped for the night in Canmore in the Green Gables Inn. They have some cool rooms for families, with bunk beds for the kids. We decided not to get up early, so we didn’t set an alarm. Of course, a previous occupant of our room did it for us, and we woke up quite unexpectedly to blasting music at 5:30 AM. After bashing the clock a few times to stop the alarm, we all went back to sleep.
Mack was first up as usual, and he asked if he could watch TV quietly. Emily joined him half an hour later. Then, at 10:00, Mack jumped on us and told us that it was time to get up. We felt rested and got all ready to check out. Then Jenn said “Scott, what time does your watch show?” I looked, and it said 9:30. Somehow, we had managed to get the room’s clock put forward an hour. It probably happend during the battle to get the alarm to quit.
Anyways, we managed to get away and on the road an hour earlier than expected this morning. Coupled with the time change going into BC, we gained two hours today!
I haven’t done a lot of swimming entries lately, and the kids have been doing a lot of swimming. Last weekend was both the A (winter club) Summer Provincials, and the St. Albert Sailfish meet. Mack swam awesomely in the Sailfish meet, winning two events and the 8 & U aggregate, and Emily swam in both meets, also winning two events and the 10 & U aggregate in the Sailfish meet, and having some great races and making two finals in the A provincials. She was one of only three or four nine-year-old girls in the meet. We’re very proud of her. Her best race was the 200 free in the Sailfish meet, which was a 12 & U event, in which she placed 4th (!). Mack’s best swim was his 25 free, and he also had a great 100 IM.
This weekend is the Devon “Freeze or Fry”, so named because we usually do one or the other depending in the weather. This year looks like it might break with tradition and just be mild. (knock on wood).
I use Gallery to share photos with my family members, and I manage photos on my desktop with F-Spot, so today when I discovered a way to use them together, I was pretty pleased. If you’re not familiar wth F-Spot, it is basically an open-source photo management application for Linux and UNIX desktops. It has some similarities with Google’s Picasa for Windows and Linux. F-Spot makes extensive use of “Tags” to organize your photos. You can create tags like “Kids”, “Vacation”, “Beer”, or whatever, and tag your photos with those tags. Then, you can search based on the tags, sort and group the photos on the fly by the tags, or whatever.
Anyways, we took a bunch of photos when we went with some of our friends camping at Diamond Willow campground at Slave Lake two weekends ago, and I just got around to posting the photos on my Gallery. I was importing them from the memory card, and then I was going to export them to a folder for upload to my Gallery, which used to be a fairly manual process. I noticed that F-Spot has an Export to Web Gallery selection on it’s export menu, so I picked that, and managed to get it to connect directly with my Gallery.
This is a much nicer and friendlier way to upload photos to Gallery than the old way of using scp on the command line to send the photos to the server and then using Gallery’s web interface to import them. This should let me get my photos uploaded a lot faster.
According to Ed, my boss, the problems I noted Friday with Polycom PVX video conferencing software and the GNUGK H.323 gatekeeper may not be due to Polycom not supporting proxy in their software. Even though the proxy works properly between a Polycom VSX 7000 hardware videoconferencing unit and Netmeeting, and not with the Polycom PVX software, I may still not have the GNUGK software configured properly and the PVX software might be able to be made to work.
I’m going to try it between two Polycom VSX 7000 units across the firewall tomorrow and see if I can get that to work. If it does, I don’t see why the Polycom software wouldn’t work.
We have started using a lot of video conferencing, using big room Polycom VSX 7000 systems on our boardrooms. Initialy we had three systems, and we had insufficient bandwidth on our internal WAN/VPN, so we got dedicated internet connections for the video conferencing sysetms and hung them right out on the internet. This worked fine for a few systems, and we could use simple cheapo firewall routers to provide a bit of security. Now we have five systems, and more on the way. We’ve also moved most (but not all) of our offices to a new private WAN infrastructure, and the Polycom systems have moved inside the firewalls into the internal WAN. The rest of the offices still will have dedicated internet connections for their Polycom systems. We also want to be able to connect desktop video conferencing software and third party organizations into our video conferencing network too.
Anyone familiar with VOIP and video conferencing can immediately see the problem: Video conferencing using the H.323 protocol is inherently not firewall friendly. It uses bi-directional call setup, wth some port connections initiated from both ends of the call, and numerous dynamically negotiated port numbers to stream the media content. Its a bear to get stuff like that working through a firewall, and since we use a private address space I would have to configure static NAT for each internal Polycom, using up several of my precious real external IP addresses.
There is a GNU project called GNU Gatekeeper (GNUGK) that can help wth this kind of a setup. Basically, a gatekeeper in H.323 parlance, is a service that VOIP endpoints can register with, so that calls can use the gatekeeper to get transferred onto different types of communications networks. Gatekeepers can allow VOIP calls to use ISDN lines, bridge VOIP to traditional PBX sysetms, or transfer VOIP onto PSTN lines, among other things. They can also maintain a list of short user-defined aliases for VOIP endpoints, so that you can make a call to a simple name, like Edmonton Boardroom instead of to an IP address. The GNUGK can do all of these things, plus it can act as an H.323 proxy with NAT. An H.323 proxy with NAT routes all VOIP calls in your network, and if it is connected at the border between a private IP address space and the public internet, it can translate the internal private address scheme to an external address that is accessible to VOIP enpoints outside. This is exactly what I needed. Polycom makes a hardware gadget that can do that, but it costs about $43,000 US or over $50,000 CDN, so I figured it was worth at least a bit of time put into testing the GNUGK to see if it would work for us.
I built a VMware virtual machine with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and installed GNUGK on it. I had a little bit of dependency struggles with it, but got it working. I stuck it on the border of our network, and had all my internal Polycom VSX 7000 units register with it. That worked great. Then, I enabled NAT on it, and allowed external video conferencing systems to connect to the gatekeeper from outside. I was using a trial version of Polycom PVX, which is a software videophone. It registered with the gatekeeper as soon as I enabled it to use the gatekeeper. However, it couldn’t complete a call, always complaining that the call had been routed through an intermediate network that didn’t service the far endpoint. I figured it must be a firewalling issue.
I fiddled with SuSEFirewall2 settings for a while without success, until I got frustrated and decided to switch to a simpler NAT and Firewll combination that I understood better. I dumped my SUSE Linux gatekeeper VM and installed FreeBSD 6.1 on it. Then I installed GNUGK from ports (/usr/ports/net/gatekeeper). I copied in my gnugk.ini file from the SUSE machine, started the gatekeeper, and voila!, I had the same problem as before: “bla bla intermediate network bla bla not service the far endpoint.”
I scratched my head a bit, and just for fun, I fired up Netmeeting instead of Polycom PVX. I registered it to the gatekeeper, dialed the Burnaby office, and BLAM!, I was staring at the darkened empty boardroom in Burnaby. What the hell! I went back into Polycom PVX and messed with the settings until I couldn’t think of anything else to try, and I couldn’t figure out how to get it to talk to the big Polycom VSX 7000 through the gatekeeper. I guess we’ll be using Netmeeting, which is included in XP anyways, rather than buying Polycom PVX for around $80 per seat.
My next trick will be getting two big Polycom VSX 7000 systems talking across the firewall using the GNUGK.
The Space Shuttle Discovery was successfully launched today. I just finished watching the launch live on Nasa TV. As I always tell people, the astronauts are true heroes and I wish the world had more of that kind of spirit. Congratulations NASA and best of luck returning home safely.