Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Orville: You're Overthinking It

If you are a fan of Sci-Fi and don't much care for The Orville, you're probably overthinking it.

Before I get too far into the weeds, I have a system to decide what i want to watch. The scale goes from "can't miss" at the top end to "I'll catch it later" in the middle and "nope" at the bottom. As I have limited time, "can't miss" shows are limited to about 6-8.

The Orville has become a "can't miss" show for not just me but my wife and daughter as well. Every review I have seen of this show has been "I don't get it" or tries to put it in a box by making unfair comparisons to shows that are not doing what this is trying to do. 

Do I know what this show is trying to do? No, and I don't care. It's different. It's new. It is something my family enjoys. We are not trying to figure out what Seth MacFarlane is trying to do; we are not trying to classify it as something it isn't; and we certainly are not comparing it to other sci-fi.

But let's dabble with a few comparisons anyway.

Most reviewers are comparing it to Star Trek: The Next Generation. While it certainly has that feel in many ways, I liken the show itself to be more Firefly-esque. That much beloved show was very different than any other Sci-Fi TV show at the time. That show was trying to do something different as well and few at the time really understood what it was supposed to be - including this writer. FOX, in their own admitted shortsightedness, cancelled the show after 13 episodes.

The critics believe the same fate will befall The Orville.

I, for one, sure hope that we see 2 full seasons out of this before FOX makes any decision. As they have already learned, it takes people a while to warm up to something new in Sci-Fi. I think if people just go along for the ride rather than pick it apart for reasons to dislike it, you might actually enjoy it. 

I have learned my lessons from Firefly. The question is, has anyone else?


Friday, September 8, 2017

A New Direction

Gigastrand was recently bought out by Next Level Technologies. People ask if that is a good thing or a bad thing. Personally, it is a mixed bag.

On the one hand, I not only get to keep doing what I am doing, but I get the resources to make the the company into everything I imagined. Working with smart people who challenge me is such a wonderful experience as well. 

However, after 12 years of putting my heart and soul into the business, rising to every challenge, I did feel like it was giving up on a dream.

Regardless, good things are ahead of me and it is giving me some things to think about. Like, what should I do with the time I do not have to spend running a business?

Of course some of that time will be spent with my family. Though, I still want a project of some kind. Something I can put effort into personally that might be of use to someone else.

So, in the last few months, I have taken stock of what I have. I enjoy writing and I have this blog that I have been using for co-publishing articles from Gigastrand over the years. Before it was being used for that, it was a fun little blog I did. To me, that seemed like an obvious choice.

I will probably just keep it simple. I have ideas for many stories I could tell that could fill a year of blog posts. I can't promise what the content will look like, but hopefully you will enjoy it.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Anatomy of an unsuccessful NVR attack

One of our NVRs was attacked recently using a known attack that would have compromised or destroyed an off the shelf DVR. The operating system was corrupted by the attack, but it effectively stopped the attack in its tracks. The damage was repaired in less than 45 minutes and only the software was affected.

We have learned quite a bit from the analysis of this NVR system. The attack was designed for Busybox – a version of Linux that runs many different types of embedded devices including security cameras and cheap DVR systems. The point was apparently to gain access to the system in order to use it in a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS).

We have been implementing new security rules on our NVR systems – with this system next on the list. We developed new security procedures after we posted this story from Ars Technica on our Gigastrand Facebook page. Changing default passwords is an easy and effective way to protect your system.

Many cameras also come with a proxy or Dynamic DNS service that allows easy access directly to the camera through a firewall. Gigastrand has been disabling these services on the cameras it sells. We recommend this for everyone using similar equipment.

We will soon be implementing changes that will make it easier for the end users to change default passwords on both the OS and NVR.

Anatomy of an unsuccessful NVR attack

Thursday, October 27, 2016

We tried a web traffic service - guess what we found.

About a month ago, we tried one of the many web traffic services from fiverr and analyzed the traffic. This is what we found:

  1. The traffic being driven to the site looked like a denial of service attack (DDoS). It was all bots, all Windows desktop PCs, and all highly suspect. While it was not a denial of service attack in the sense that it crashed the website, the traffic looked very much like a DDoS attack if it were done once every few seconds or so.

  2. The visitors were from different IPs. So it looked like unique visitors and sessions, but it was all bots.

  3. The product did not significantly impact bounce rate. It remained pretty much the same. Some bots would hang around and browse a couple of links at random to keep the bounce rate low. It was pretty easy to see what were bots and what were actual people as the browsing habits were different. Time per page was different.

  4. The product was advertised as “qualified” traffic. Not in the least. Bots from compromised Windows PCs do not count.

  5. The product was advertised as “unlimited” for 30 days. We got 700 to 800 sessions per day.

  6. The product was advertised as “1000+” visitors per day. We got 700 to 800 “visitors” per day.

The product as advertised is more or less a scam. It didn’t deliver what was promised and what it did deliver was on the backs of people with compromised machines (spyware/malware/virus) and that just isn’t right. If you have a low bounce rate, it will most likely drive the bounce rate up despite some of the countermeasures.

The most annoying thing it did was make it very difficult to properly analyze the qualified visitors. When we write an article and post it, the stats spike when people look at our post. It was very difficult to tell how big of a spike we had when we posted.

So, we are only out $6 in total but well worth the lesson. We won’t ask for our money back because we feel we got what we really were after out of it.

We are unable to review it on fiverr for some unknown reason.

We tried a web traffic service - guess what we found.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Gigastrand's 12 year old computer

In 2004, about the time Gigastrand was called LinspireNetwork, we built a computer. It was a secondary computer designed to run Linspire – a Linux OS we sold at the time. When Gigastrand was formed, it became the primary PC for Gigastrand in 2006.


Since then, it has performed a number of tasks. In 2012, it was a development machine for Gigastrand OS and one of the first machines to be loaded with the new OS. It later became the Gigastrand internal server. I have written about it several times on the Mr. Gigabytes Blog and on LinspireNetwork (the predecessor of Gigastrand – long since defunct).

While this is the best documented PC, it is possibly not the oldest. From 2001 – 2004, Gigabytes Computer Store used a very specific type of computer case to build their PCs. We currently have one of those computers on our shelf.


When we found it, it was pretty much as you see it in the picture. Now it has been spray painted black and once served as a media center for my home. It has been recently restored as a media center in my home.


The story of longevity does not end there. From 1997 to 2006, I owned a Gateway 2000 PC that I kept running and functional. It served as the Gigabytes Computer Store’s point of sale and was eventually painted green and sold.

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My home DVR has run since 2009 on all original hardware (sans main hard drive) and my original Gigastrand laptop ran for nearly 9 years before giving up the ghost in 2013.


So, when it comes to choosing your next PC, are you going to choose one mass produced that might last a year or so? Or, will you choose one from a builder that knows how to make one that lasts?

Gigastrand's 12 year old computer

Friday, October 21, 2016

Gigastrand NVR Basic Functions

This video takes you through the basic functions of the Gigastrand NVR software including live view, playback, downloading, and adding cameras.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Everyone is Linux and Gigastrand OS Ready

You know, we came out with that updated Gigastrand OS / linux readiness quiz and it got me thinking.

10+ years ago, we had to find the right fit for our customers to use a particular flavor of Linux. So, we developed a web app to help automate the process. For us and our purposes, Gigastrand OS has really made that process obsolete.

The reality is that many people use Linux already. It often takes the form of Android on their phone or tablet or Chrome OS on their Chromebooks. Many people use Android set-top boxes or smart TVs and may businesses host websites on Linux-based servers.

So, yes, Gigastrand OS is powerful enough to replace your computer’s operating system and robust enough to run full time. However, even if you do cannot switch over, standalone solutions like the Gigastrand NVR and the Gigastrand Media Center are ways you can run Gigastrand OS without converting over completely.

So, in reality, everyone can run Gigastrand OS in one form or another. This also means that we have done what we set out to do back in 2012: making a Linux for Everyone.

This month, the current concept of Gigastrand OS will be 4 years old. January 4th, 2017 marks 3 years since we released Gigastrand OS 1.0. We thank everyone for their support along the way.


Everyone is Linux and Gigastrand OS Ready