Smothered in the comforting embrace of our home wifi network


The screams from the furthest reaches of the house are muted at first, then build to a crescendo, and finally various household members’ heads pop around my study door – “Daaaaadd, the internet’s not working!”. Yup, you can tell the wifi is down in our house. Without wanting to create a shopping list for our neighbourhood burglars, at any given time there are upwards of twenty or more devices connected to our wifi networking including computers, phones, iPads, Apple TVs and televisions. There isn’t a single thing connected via ethernet wires anymore, just lots of gadgets floating on the Boyd-Eedle internet cloud. And boy does the world come to an end when that cloud evaporates in a puff of vapour.

Let’s take a quick inventory: me glued to my machine working; my loving partner plugging away on her book; our eldest simultaneously communing with her six best friends on social media whilst researching a homework task; our middle child wreaking havoc with his closest mate on Grand Theft Auto, every move planned while chatting over Facetime on his iPad; and finally the youngest trawling through an apparently endless chain of Hi-5 videos on YouTube – she’s a big fan of the Spanish-dubbed ones. Personally I find it hilarious watching Charlie and Nathan mouth ‘Hello’ on screen but say ‘Hola’.

Earlier this month we took to the road and stayed a week and a half in a holiday rental up in the high country, near one of the ski resorts. There was a complete absence of mobile phone reception inside the house, although if you wandered up the back garden, stood on one foot, and held your phone at a 22.45 degree angle to the event horizon one bar of coverage was possible, just enough to send a text, barely enough to pull down email headers, and definitely nowhere near sufficient to enable a wifi hotspot.

When we first arrived the kids gave me the impression we had just detoured into the depths of Mount Doom. I took pleasure from previous visitors’ entries in the guest book bemoaning the absence of internet access, my favourite was annotated with the scrawled riposte from the house’s owner “get over it”. My sentiments exactly, although my inability to read and deal with email led to reserving a day on our return to connected civilisation to chew through and handle the 150 emails that had accumulated in my inbox.

On the bright side, I read six books in ten days; played board games with my children; sat down to a home cooked meal every night with more people than just myself for company at the dinner table; and our son who brought a couple of teen friends, embarked on a backyard cricket competition worthy of Wide World of Sports coverage. Consequently  nobody had a chance to exceed their mobile data cap, a frequent and unwelcome occurrence in chez Boyd-Eedle – damn expensive too, the phone companies have finally given up taking us to the cleaners on wired internet data and focussed their rheumy eyes on the next price gouging frontier – mobile.

Between our ADSL and cable internet connections we have I think around 700Gb of data a month available, and despite Netflix being the television channel of choice, we never exceed the limit, even with my Orange is the New Black marathons. Now the telco parasites have latched onto wireless data like those annoying little ball of fur terriers incessantly humping your trouser leg, impossible to shake them loose. So an $80 a month mobile plan mystically morphs into $200 because Telstra charges $15 for a 1Gb data pack which, if they charged the same rate for our ADSL and cable internet, would lead to a bill of $10,500 a month by my calculations.

Arriving home from our holiday my children delivered their best impression of a dehydrated man crawling through sand towards a desert oasis, or maybe more suitably in my childrens’ lexicon, Kim Kardashian scrabbling towards the last TV camera in the world, as their various gadgets booted up and they were once again smothered in the comforting embrace of our home wifi network.

Oh and did I mention the kicker – no television signal either in our Faraday cage holiday hideaway. Just videos and DVDs. Note to self: I never ever want to see Disney’s Cinderella ever again.

No honey, I didn’t buy a TAG Heuer watch on eBay using PayPal

The phishers are getting better and better, and it’s fascinating how, by playing the law of averages, inevitably they strike it lucky. This is an email Fiona just received:

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 2.12.58 PM

It looks perfect, exactly like a PayPal/eBay purchase confirmation. And the kicker is, I already have a TAG Heuer watch, and we’re extensive users of PayPal, so Fiona came asked, ‘hey did you buy another TAG watch?’.

I showed her how, if you View Source on this email (or indeed, in Mac Mail hover your mouse over the links) the actual URLs are in Russia, with a .ru address.

Of course we did not try any of the links. But I’ll bet my last dollar that the pages will be excellent copies of the PayPal log in pages, and thus the scammers would have access to our PayPal account, and our linked bank accounts and credit cards.

Here’s PayPal’s page on spotting fake emails:

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 2.21.39 PM

The fake email Fiona received doesn’t ask for personal information. The only thing that triggers an alarm at first glance is the lack of a personal salutation – notice it just says ‘Hello,’, not ‘Hello Fiona’.

And not everyone knows how to check the URLs behind the links of an email, and to realise they are not pointing to the real PayPal web site.

Another blogger has also seen this email and pulled it apart some more to reveal the type of nasty Javascript exploit you could be exposed to by following the links.

Get the kids to bed! How to set access times to the internet for your children

I Tweeted the other day about having to restrict my kids' internet access to ensure they go to bed, by setting time restrictions on our wifi. I've just had another person ask, "so how do you do this?", so clearly there's a number of parents out there with the same problem. Here's how I prevent my children from accessing the internet after their bedtime.

Number one point – if you don't have an Apple WiFi network, stop reading!

We have an Apple AirPort Extreme WiFi box providing our WiFi network around the house. I'll presume you have one or more Macs – iMacs, MacBooks etc – accessing the internet via WiFi and the AirPort Extreme.

You will need to know the mac address of those computers. The mac address is nothing to do with Macintoshes, just a coincidence of naming. The mac address of a computer is a unique identifying number.

On the computer click the Apple menu (top left next to the Finder option), then click the System Preferences option. When the Preferences open click the Network icon. On the Network window you should see the AirPort connection on the left hand side. If it's not highlighted, then click it. Then click the Advanced button.


The window that opens should display the AirPort Id. Write this down.


Next open your AirPort Utility. It's in the Utilities folder in the Applications folder.


The AirPort Utility will open and your AirPort Extreme should be listed. If it's not highlighted (maybe you have more than one WiFi gadget), then click it, then click the Manual Setup button.


Your Extreme settings should load and display. Click the Access Control tab at the top right. The window will display your MAC Address Access Control page.

Set the Control to Timed Access. You should have a (default) entry called Unlimited. This means that if you don't set anything else up, everyone on your WiFi network can access the internet all the time.


Click the + button to add a new entry to the list. Enter the Mac address of the computer you want to restrict access for. Enter a description, then set the days and times as you wish. You can have more than one entry. For example, you might want to give the kids internet access until 9pm on school days, but 11pm on the weekends.


When you are finished click the Done button to close the Access window, then cick Update. The settings will be saved to the Extreme box, which will then restart, so you'll need to wait a minute or two for everything to start working again.

The only thing left is to test – which is easy. Just wait until the magic time you've designated the internet access to cease, and see how loudly your kids yell!

Neat digital signature product

I needed to renew a supply contract with a company today. They sent me a link to a document on a web site called EchoSign. It was a PDF form of our contract, with boxes for me to fill in my details, credit card number, then to click a button to digitally sign. It then processed the payment and emailed me a copy of the signed contract. What a neat way of handling this stuff.

Google Sued For Crimes Against Humanity

My favourite nutter story for the day. A bloke is suing Google for $5b for crimes against humanity – most specifically because his social security number turned upside down spells Google (well, apparently so, the actual number is blacked out in the court documents). I also like his assets/valuables listing – one snow board valued at $200.