This is more of a vent than anything else, but there’s a bit of a lesson learned, at least for me, here.

I just spent the last three hours fighting my home network. I got a little snippy with Jenn, who didn’t deserve it, due to the ridiculously high frustration levels. Darn close to broke a lot of stuff at random just because I was so pissed.

The problem: Xbox Live was not connecting and, on testing, was telling me that my NAT settings were set to “moderate.”

Let me give you a little background.

Xbox Live requires certain ports to be freely available to it. I don’t recall which ones and I’m too irritated right now to go Google them for you so I’ll trust you can do that on your own. The ports are not the point. The point is, if you don’t have these ports available, Xbox Live will sometimes decide to throw little network curve balls your way, like you’ll be able to connect to half of your gaming group but not the other half. Or you’ll be able to do video chat but you’ll get no audio. Crap like that.

In order to determine if you’ve figured out the magic combo, you do a “network test” from the Xbox dashboard and it basically gives you either a green light or an unhelpful message telling you about a problem. The message will say something about your “NAT settings are Moderate” or your “NAT settings are Strict.”

You don’t want Moderate or Strict, you want Open. Open means Xbox Live can get to all the stuff it needs to get to and will choose not to hose you in the middle of your Call of Duty session with your dad and uncle.

Usually I have no problems. My NAT has always been Open. Every once in a while, though, and it’s ever since we got Verizon FiOS, my NAT will suddenly change from Open to Moderate. I’ve never hit Strict, but it doesn’t matter, because it may as well be black and white - Moderate is bad news.

The trouble is that I can’t predict when it’s going to decide to change. Sometimes it just “changes” and rebooting the Xbox will fix it. Sometimes rebooting the router fixes it. Sometimes waiting an hour fixes it. Sometimes checking an arbitrary setting on the router and then unchecking it again - just change something and change it back - fixes it. It’s entirely unpredictable. I think I figured out what causes it, though.

Tonight I got the Moderate NAT problem. Again. So I was trolling through my settings and found that there were a bunch of weird port forwarding rules that I don’t remember setting up. Innocuous stuff for valid applications like MS Messenger, but I didn’t set them up - they got set up by UPnP. I also noticed that the admin interface was slightly different from the last time I was in there.

Verizon auto-updates stuff.

I knew they auto-updated the firmware on the set-top boxes, but I didn’t think about the damn routers. They’ve been updating crap and I’d bet dollars to donuts the NAT problems I see crop up sporadically coincide with these helpful updates.

I couldn’t figure out how to fix it this time. I had the Xbox as a DHCP client, so I switched it to a static IP and added some port forwarding rules. No luck. I messed around with all sorts of crazy settings, no luck. NAT = Moderate.

In the end, I went catastrophic. Full reset to factory defaults. Put the WEP key back in, put the SSID back in, reconfigure everything. And you know what?

THAT FIXED IT. Suddenly the NAT was back to Open.

What a load of crap.

media comments edit

This is, admittedly, a bit of a niche thing, but it’s helpful for me so I figured someone might be interested.

I use DVDFab HD Decrypter to rip movies for my DVD Library and it works really well except when you tell it to rip movies to a particular folder, it generates this little folder structure that makes it difficult to just copy over the movie to my Windows Home Server. Say I tell it to rip to the “C:\Movies\Really Cool Movie” folder - I’ll come out with a structure like this:

C:\Movies\Really Cool Movie

The problem is, I want the AUDIO_TS and VIDEO_TS folders up in the “C:\Movies\Really Cool Movie” folder, not two levels down in some generated hierarchy:

C:\Movies\Really Cool Movie

It requires manual file moves to get things rearranged. Not a big deal, but do it 100 times and it’s a pain in the ass. This script fixes that up:

    @echo off
    if .%1. == .. goto :help
    pushd %1
    pushd FullDisc
    for /d %%s in (*) do pushd %%s
    for /d %%s in (*) do move %%s ..\..
    for %%s in (*) do move %%s ..\..
    rmdir /s /q FullDisc
    goto :eof

    echo This script fixes up DVDFab rip folder structures.
    echo fixmovie [moviefolder]
    goto :eof

Copy that into a batch file called “fixmovie.bat” and save it in your movies folder. Then you can just run it and pass the folder name of the movie you need to fix the directory structure for. In the case of my example, I’d run fixmovie.bat "Really Cool Movie" from the “C:\Movies” folder and it’d clean up the directory structure for me.

Standard disclaimers apply. YMMV, not responsible for destruction of your universe, etc.

The Big Bang Theory - Season
1Some friends of mine at work told me I needed to watch The Big Bang Theory because I resembled one of the characters. After a couple of mentions of this, I gave in and got the first season from Netflix.

Before we started watching, I sat my wife down and told her we needed to figure out which character I resemble. Up to the task, we started the disc.

About 10 minutes into the first episode, we had a conversation like this:

Jenn: You’re Sheldon. Travis: What? Are you sure? I could be Leonard. Jenn: You’re Sheldon. Travis: I dunno… HOLY CRAP I’M SHELDON.

After watching the first six episodes, I have to say that while I have some Leonard in me, I’m Sheldon. Like this video where Penny sits in Sheldon’s seat… I think I’ve actually had this conversation, or something eerily like it. (Though mine was more around my parking spot at work than my seat at home.)

Anyway, it’s a great show, so if you haven’t seen it, check it out. I’ll be watching the rest as they come in from Netflix.

I don’t do a lot of traveling for business, but when I do I’m sort of caught without proper luggage. It turns into an interesting dance of duffel bags and briefcases trying to figure out the best way to get the clothes and the computer properly ready to carry on the airplane. For MIX09 this year, I decided enough was enough.

I did some research and informal Twitter polls, looking at what people liked and balancing that with cost. In the end, here’s what I came up with:

Brookstone XpressCheck 21" Computer
TravelerBrookstone XpressCheck 21” Ballistic Computer Traveler

This carry-on sized bag has a reasonable amount of space for clothes, but the cool bit is the front. There’s a zip-open pocket with a mini-briefcase that’s padded and perfectly holds your laptop and charger

  • when you get to your destination, zip it out and carry it with you, no separate computer bag needed. There are pockets on the top for easy access to stuff like your boarding pass and your quart-bag of liquids, and it has all the regular stuff you’d expect in a carry-on bag (extendible handle, wheels, handles on two sides, etc.)

I looked at a bunch of carry-on bags (Da Kine, Victorinox, etc.) and this seemed to be the best all-around carry-on with a specific focus on the computer. Granted, you’ll get a little less clothing space here, but the zip-out computer bag and such really is cool.

fūl Backpack 5093
BPfūl Backpack 5093 BP

While walking around at MIX, I wanted to have my laptop with me, but I was going to need more space than the little zip-out thing that came with the XpressCheck bag - gotta have somewhere to put your swag bag so you’re not carting that around, right?

To that end, I got some recommendations for various backpacks (lots of folks like the Spire series) but I didn’t want to spend another $200 on a backpack. This $30 model I found at Costco has all the same stuff - a padded area for your computer, looooots of pockets, fully adjustable straps… it was perfect. I wore that thing for three days with no problems at all. If you’re looking for a computer backpack, definitely check it out.