Turning Local Dynamic IP Address Into A Local Static IP Address By Reserving It (Video)

A little diagram of an IP address (IPv4)

A little diagram of an IP address (IPv4) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is local static IP address?  When someone talks about setting up a computer with a local static IP address, this person probably means to have a computer to use a local IP address that will not change.  Static means never change.

What is a local dynamic IP address?  It means a router will monitor the expiration dates of the leases of the local dynamic IP addresses which the router gave out to various computers within a network.  So when a computer uses a local dynamic IP address, sometime in the future a dynamic IP address will have its lease expired.  When this happens, a router will assign a new local dynamic IP address to this particular computer.  This means a dynamic IP address will have to change from time to time.

The benefits of having a local static IP address is that whenever a machine within a network is acting as a server of some sort, its local IP address remains the same as always.  This means if you had done a port forwarding for this particular machine, the port forwarding settings will not have to be changed.  This won’t be the case if you have a machine with a local dynamic IP address, because the local dynamic IP address will change and then the port forwarding settings too have to be reset so the router will know which local machine or server of some sort of which local IP address will be able to accept the port forwarding’s data.  So, it’s clear that using local IP addresses is best when you have machines that act as servers and so on.  Perhaps, a Time Machine server for doing backups for a Mac?

So, what is good about using local dynamic IP addresses?  The good thing about using local dynamic IP addresses is that once you set your computer to accept dynamic IP addresses in the network settings, you can move around the whole city or just about anywhere that hands out free Internet connection and not have to mess around with the network settings again.  What happens is that any public place that lets you tap into their network will probably assign your computer a local dynamic IP address.  Since your computer is set to accept a local dynamic IP address, you’re good to go.  You know, surfing the web and so on and not having to mess around with network settings.  If you’re already have your computer sets to use a local static IP address, it will be messy for you when you tap into a public Internet connection.  You will have to go into your network settings and then switch from static network settings to DHCP one.  After that, when you get back to your local network, you will have to re-enter all your local static IP settings into your network settings again so your computer will be able to use a local static IP address.

What if you want to have the benefit of not messing around with the network settings at all and allow the router of whatever network to do all the hard work by assigning you a local dynamic IP address whenever, and then you still keep the local static IP address settings when you get back into your local network?  How are you going to do just this?  Well, the answer is to reserve a local dynamic IP address.  When you reserve a local dynamic IP address, this particular local reserved dynamic IP address will always be assigned to the same machine.  So, in a sense, the router is always going to automatically assign a local static IP address for a particular machine.  So, in this sense, using local reserved dynamic IP address retains the same benefit of using a local dynamic IP address (i.e., the router will automatically do all the dirty work and you don’t have to mess with the network settings).  So, imagine this scenario.  You get to a Starbucks, get a latte, turn on your computer and then it will automatically accept a local dynamic IP address from the Starbucks’ router.  When you get back home, your local network will automatically assign your computer with the reserved local dynamic IP address.   This scenario allows you not to have to ever mess around with network settings once you have reserved a local dynamic IP address with your router.  Yet, a particular machine which you have reserved a local dynamic IP address for will have a local static IP address as this particular reserved local dynamic IP address will never change.

Just remember, when a router automatically assigns a local IP address, it’s doing its dynamic IP thing, and when you have to open up the network settings of your machine to add a static IP address manually, you’re doing static IP address thing.  Having reserved a local dynamic IP address, the router will do both dynamic and static IP things for you, letting you have more free time to do whatever.  Router will automatically assign a local dynamic IP address to your machine but this particular dynamic IP address will never change.  Anyhow, I hope you get it.

Within the video above, you get to see me showing you how to add a local reserved dynamic IP address so you can use it as a local static IP address for your machine.  Enjoy!!!

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Using VPN To Access All Local Services Without The Need To Open Up Unnecessary Inbound Ports

Before knowing much about VPN, I usually opened up many inbound ports for my computer firewall and the firewall that resided within the router so remote services such as APF (Apple Time Machine) would function correctly.  Obviously, these remote services (e.g., APF, FTP, CIFS, etc…) are also accessible within local area network, therefore one does not need to have to be outside a local area network to use these remote services.  For an example, one can just sit next to the APF server (i.e., APF which hosts on a network attached storage) and locally backup one’s Mac to the Time Machine service.  When using such services locally, one has to use local IP addresses, because one  is within a local area network (e.g., home network, office network, etc…).

The idea is to open up less ports to protect everything within a local area network better.  So, when one travels abroad, one cannot use local IP addresses to access one’s remote services (e.g., APF, FTP, CIFS, etc…), and one has to open up ports for these remote services so remote access would be possible.  Since one has to open up inbound ports for remote connections, one’s local area network might become more vulnerable.  The more open ports there are, the more exploits that hackers can use to test or attack against the services that rely on the open ports.

Luckily, we have VPN.  VPN stands for Virtual Private Network.  Big companies love to deploy VPN for their employees.  If you have ever met one of those employees from one of those big companies, you might see this person logins into a VPN network through a laptop when this person is away from the company.  Since big companies are using VPN, VPN must be for the elites only right?  Wrong!  Just about anyone can use VPN to protect oneself, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do so.  If you watch other videos of mine within my YouTube channel, you will see how easy it’s to set up VPN server/service on Windows 8.  Anyhow, the whole idea is to open up less ports for a network so everything within a network can be somewhat more secure.

Using VPN, one can access local area network as if one never leaves local area network all along.  For an example, one can sit at a Starbucks and yet connect to remote services(e.g., APF, CIFS, FTP, SSH, etc…) with local IP addresses.  How is this possible?  Like I said, using VPN, one never leaves local area network!  This is why VPN is definitely a better option than just opening up whatever inbound ports there are for different remote services.  With VPN, all one has to do is to open up one port which VPN relies on.  Through the connection of VPN, one then can just access all services within a local area network as if one has never leave a local area network all along.  In case you don’t know, VPN encrypts data automatically.  This is just another reason why I think VPN is definitely a better solution for remote access.

Today, Google And Major Internet Companies Are Turning On Their IPv6 Tap

An illustration of an example IPv6 address

Google and other major Internet companies are going to turn on their IPv6 capability on June 6th of 2012.  They all agree and think that IPv4 will be running out of IP addresses very soon.  When IPv4 runs out of IP addresses, the Internet will be limited to only 4 billions, roughly around this number, Internet connected devices.  Nonetheless, we should know that IPv4 can only run out of IP addresses for real if only if all IPv4 IP addresses are online at the same time.  Still, the human population is already 7 billion plus, therefore when enough people out there want to have their own mobile devices — and at home they all want smart home devices that may carry IP addresses — the Internet will definitely choke when IPv4 has no IP address left to distribute.  Instead of limiting to only 4 billion plus IP addresses, IPv6 is capable of distributing 340 trillion trillion trillion IP addresses.  This is some gigantic number that I don’t think I will ever get my head to wrap around it, but the computers won’t mind!!!  Anyhow, IPv6 ensures that the Internet will be able to handle just about any device that wants to connect to the Internet, because it has so much IP addresses to give out at any one time.  Even if everyone of us on the planet earth will have at least one Internet connected device, IPv6 is still going to chuck along as if it is eating a Sundae Ice Cream.  Nonetheless, we are prophetically sure that the future, each and everyone of us will have not only one but many more Internet connected devices.  Check out the video right after the break to see one of the Internet founding fathers, Vint Cerf, talks about why we are desperately needed to use IPv6.

Source:  http://www.google.com/intl/en/ipv6/

Using FreeNAS’s CIFS Service To Allow Local Computers (e.g., Mac, Windows, Linux) To Share Data Within A Local Network

As I’m getting to know FreeNAS better, I begin to like it more than ever before.  FreeNAS has allowed me to set up CIFS share (Common Internet File System share) so I don’t have to rely on Pogoplug software to share data between my local computers.  Why is FreeNAS’s CIFS share is better than Pogoplug solution?  Well, I like how my data don’t have to travel through Pogoplug’s servers that host outside of my local network in order for me to be able to share data between my local computers.  With this piece of information, we can acknowledge that data travel locally are always faster (i.e., not making a trip to the Internet first and so save time and bandwidth) and more secure if the local network is being secured correctly.  Of course, I’m still going to use Pogoplug when I travel abroad, because Pogoplug is great in allowing you to connect to local computers without opening up any port within your router (this means you don’t have to sacrifice your network security when sharing files between local network and the Internet).  Still, you must trust Pogoplug’s network security in order for you to access your local computer through Pogoplug software, because ultimately your data will travel through Pogoplug’s network before they reach the devices that you use outside of your local network.

Steps to create CIFS Share in FreeNAS (the instructions at the bottom are tailored for FreeNAS 8).

  1. The first thing you want to set up a CIFS within FreeNAS is to go ahead and make sure you have created a ZFS Dataset.  What on earth is ZFS Dataset?  Within FreeNAS, you can create separate ZFS Datasets within a ZFS volume so each ZFS Dataset acts like a partition within a partition.  You can view each ZFS Dataset as a partition within a ZFS volume, but we know a ZFS volume can also be viewed as a partition itself.  Anyhow, why on earth one wants to create a partition within a partition?  Simple!  FreeNAS allows the creation of ZFS Datasets for one reason, and this reason is to enhance data security.  Each ZFS Dataset can be configured with specific permissions that not necessary to be the same as the global permissions of a particular ZFS volume.  This means if you have the access to a specific ZFS volume, you might not have access to a ZFS Dataset (i.e., partition) within — only the user who has correct permission can actually access to a specific ZFS Dataset.  In my case, I named my ZFS Dataset for CIFS Share as windows_share.  (Creating a ZFS Dataset by go to Storage > Create ZFS Dataset.)
  2. Now you need to go to Services and click on the wrench icon next to the on/off switch of CIFS label.  A CIFS settings window would pop up.  In this CIFS settings window, you might want to,
    •  enable Authentication Model for Local User (better security this way)
    • name NetBIOS Name to simply freenas
    • leave Workgroup as WORKGROUP
    • set log level to minimum (so your FreeNAS server/box won’t be overload with extremely large log files)
    • check the box which labels as Local Master
    • check the box which labels as Time Server for Domain
    • leave Guest account drop down box as nobody
    • do not check the box that labels as Allow guest access (for security purpose)
    • check the box that labels as Large RW support
    • check the box that labels as Send files with sendfile(2) (make Samba faster if Samba software/protocol has to be used to access this CIFS share)
    • check the box that labels as EA Support (to enable extended attributes support)
    • check the box that labels as Support DOS File Attributes
    • check the box that labels as Zeroconf share discovery (to allow Mac OS X clients to access CIFS share)
    • click OK button to save all the settings of CIFS settings
  3. Now, under Services again, switch the CIFS’s OFF button to ON.
  4. Click on Sharing > Windows > Add Windows Share.
    • Inside the Name’s text box, enter windows_share
    • For the path, try to either enter the path of the ZFS Dataset we had created earlier or just browse to it using the Browse button
    • Check the box that labels as Browsable to Network Clients
    • Enter the local IP addresses of local computers that you want to allow access to ZFS Dataset (i.e., CIFS share) into the text box which labels as Hosts Allow
    • Enter ALL into the text box which labels as Hosts Deny (to deny all other computers that don’t have the IP addresses that list inside the Hosts Allow text box)
    • Click OK button to save everything and exit this Windows Share window

Now you should be able to connect to this particular FreeNAS’s ZFS Dataset.  From a normal user’s standpoint who uses Mac or Linux or Windows to connect to this ZFS Dataset, all the user sees would be just another local network folder (or you can say local network destination).  Basically, any local computer which has permission to connect to this specific ZFS Dataset will see it as a Windows Share folder, therefore the data within this ZFS Dataset suddenly makes available to other Windows, Mac, and Linux machines.  How come Mac and Linux can see the data within CIFS Share folder (i.e., ZFS Dataset of CIFS Share)?  I think it’s that Mac and Linux are supporting the reading and writing to Windows file system.

Using a Windows computer to connect to FreeNAS Windows Share is easy!  All you have to do is to go to Computer > Network.  Once the Network locates FreeNAS Windows Share volume (i.e., ZFS Dataset of CIFS Share), you can browse to it and use it as if it’s just another network folder — allowing local computers to share the same data (i.e., read and write to the same data).

You can also use Mac machine to connect to FreeNAS Windows Share!  How?  Open up finder and go to Go > Connect to Server.  Inside Connect to Server box, enter cifs://192.168.0.101/ (please replace the local IP address to the one that runs your FreeNAS server).  Click Connect button to connect to FreeNAS windows share.  If it asks for user credential (i.e., username and password), please enter the username and the password that you allow to have access to this particular FreeNAS Windows Share (i.e., ZFS Dataset of CIFS share).  Once you can browse the FreeNAS Windows Share, you can read and write data to this ZFS Dataset, consequently allowing Windows computers to share data with Mac machines within a local network.

I’ve not used Linux to access FreeNAS Windows Share, therefore I don’t know the exact process of how doing it just yet.  You know?  Please share your knowledge on this in your comment.  Thank you!

Using FreeNAS With VirtualBox To Create A True Personal Storage Cloud?

FreeNAS

FreeNAS (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Besides using third party online cloud services such as Dropbox or Pogoplug, you can always set up your own personal cloud at home.  In my opinion, a personal cloud should not route your data to any third party service, and so even Pogoplug touts as a personal cloud solution — your data still route through their network first.

OK, before we go even further into this post, I should make clear that a cloud can mean many things.  To some people, a cloud should be able to sync things.  To others, a cloud should automate things such as push and pull data — similar to iCloud.  Then there are folks who think cloud as expandable/scalable storage (either automatically or manually).  To me, a personal cloud can be all of the above and more.  Unfortunately, to have a personal cloud to do all of the above and more, one might have to go through a third party cloud service which touts as personal cloud — this to me isn’t truly a personal cloud!

In this blog post, I prefer to create a personal cloud that I host on my own machines.  Although the solution I’m going to talk about isn’t as elegant as iCloud or Dropbox, but at least this solution is somewhat capable of allowing you to interact with your personal cloud as if it’s an unlimited/scalable storage cloud (but manually scalable).  Our solution has to be manually scalable since when we want more storage capacity we have to add more storage means.  When I say more storage means, I mean we have to add either more hardware or to configure our personal storage cloud software to handle larger storage capacity.

So, what is our personal storage cloud solution?  Virtualizing FreeNAS!  Yes, FreeNAS is just a software which specializes in allowing people to create a free network-attached storage server.  When one uses FreeNAS natively (i.e., not virtualizing it), then it’s just a free network-attached storage server solution.  Now, imagining one can install FreeNAS onto VirtualBox, suddenly everything changes as one can begin utilizing FreeNAS as a personal storage cloud solution!

How is the virtualization of FreeNAS can provide us a personal storage cloud solution?  We can always add more virtual hard disks with the largest virtual hard disk size.  At this point in time VirtualBox allows largest virtual hard disk to be around 2 Terabytes.  You might be curious, what if you don’t have enough real disk space to support the humongous capacity (i.e., stringing together many large virtual hard disks under one virtual machine) of virtual hard disks right?  Well, the marvelous thing about virtualization is that you don’t actually have to have exactly the amount of real hard disk space until the virtual hard disks are actually growing that large.  In the worst case scenario, you can always move the virtualization of your FreeNAS onto a system with large enough storage capacity (i.e., move the VirtualBox virtual machine which runs FreeNAS and all of the attached virtual hard disks to a physical system which has larger storage capacity).

Meanwhile, working with FreeNAS in VirtualBox will not harm your real system in anyway, because it’s virtualization!  You can play with FreeNAS in VirtualBox without fear, and this leads to allowing you to understand FreeNAS better (i.e., practice makes perfect).  To tell the truth, I just get to know FreeNAS, therefore I will have to play with FreeNAS a lot more through VirtualBox’s virtualization before I can confidently post an excellent FreeNAS tutorial in thorough detail.

What I know so far about installing FreeNAS with VirtualBox is that it’s easy!  Just make sure that you specify FreeNAS as a BSD operating system type and FreeBSD as the operating system which FreeNAS is based on.  This means FreeNAS is a unix type of operating system, but it’s designed for creating network-attached storage server.  During the setup of a new VirtualBox virtual machine for FreeNAS, don’t forget to configure the settings to add however many additional virtual disks — this allows you with the ability to create storage volumes with specific virtual disks within FreeNAS’s control panel (i.e., FreeNAS graphical user interface control panel which can be accessed through a web browser through a local IP address or an external IP address).

When done installing FreeNAS through VirtualBox, you will see a black screen with scrolling letters and you will see options that you can choose so FreeNAS can be configured — you should pick the option which allows you to set up how FreeNAS should advertise its IP address (i.e., Configure Network Interfaces).  In unique situation when you cannot use DHCP to automatically lease/borrow a dynamic IP address from a router for your FreeNAS virtual machine, you can always fall back to the option which allows you to enter a shell.  Inside a shell, you can set up a temporary static IP so you can access FreeNAS’s graphical user interface control panel through a browser.  Here is how you set up a temporary static IP for FreeNAS — enter this command [ifconfig eth0 192.168.1.55 netmask 255.255.255.0], but do not use the square brackets and make sure you replace the static and netmask IP addresses with the ones that work with your router’s configuration.

Once done set up a temporary static IP for FreeNAS, you can access FreeNAS’s graphical user interface control panel through a browser.  Within FreeNAS’s graphical user interface control panel, you can access Network > Interfaces to add a permanent static IP address for your FreeNAS virtual machine (i.e., VirtualBox virtual machine).  This way, whenever you reboot your FreeNAS virtual machine, it will boot up with the same static IP address, consequently allowing you to access FreeNAS with the same static IP address.

By the way, I forgot to tell you that you should choose Bridge Adapter when you set up the network adapter for your FreeNAS virtual machine through VirtualBox Manager, because NAT adapter will advertise FreeNAS services on VirtualBox’s virtual IP address which might start as something like 10.x.x.x.  NAT type of IP addresses might prevent you from accessing FreeNAS’s graphical user interface control panel through a browser.

I’ll post more on FreeNAS once I get to be expertly using it, OK?  For now, at least we know that FreeNAS can be virtualized into an unlimited personal storage cloud in virtualization sense.  In reality, we still have to add more hardware to cope with growing disk space of virtual disks.  Even with FreeNAS, it’s illogical to think we can have unlimited personal storage cloud in absolute sense unless you have unlimited amount of money to buy unlimited amount of hardware (i.e., disk drives) to support the unlimited growing disk space of virtual hard disks.

For your information, FreeNAS is free to download and install and use, therefore there is no harm in trying it out — virtualizing FreeNAS for personal storage cloud or natively using it.  What’s even more wonderful is that virtualizing FreeNAS with VirtualBox is also free, therefore you can virtualize FreeNAS to your heart’s content without paying a dime.  What isn’t free is buying more hard disks to handle the growing virtual disks for your system!

TunnelBear Is The Simplest VPN Ever?

Virtual Private Network site to site and from ...

Image via Wikipedia

TunnelBear is probably the simplest VPN I’ve ever used!  I might be wrong but I think TunnelBear is partly using OpenVPN technology.  I noticed TunnelBear had asked me once to allow a component of OpenVPN to access the Internet so TunnelBear could start correctly.  Anyhow, using OpenVPN technology or not, TunnelBear is doing a very good job in simplifying the VPN experience.  Users do not need to have any knowledge of how to use VPN or setting up one, and yet they can simply install TunnelBear to experience VPN right away.

TunnelBear requires users to download its software at its official website.  TunnelBear supports Mac and Windows.  After the download of TunnelBear software is finished, users can install it onto their appropriate system.  After the installation of TunnelBear, users simply just have to start TunnelBear software, create an account as the software would instruct at first start, and then log in to TunnelBear through the software itself.  After logging into TunnelBear, users can begin using VPN by switching the Off button on TunnelBear software to On.

Windows users might experience unpleasant installation of TunnelBear software if they have customized their default text size (DPI).  With custom text size (DPI) in effect, Windows users might not be able to create a new TunnelBear account or log into TunnelBear through TunnelBear software, because the TunnelBear software will glitch and hide part of the software.  Fixing this complication is easy enough, Windows users just have to go to Control Panel > Appearance and Personalization > Display and pick the Smaller – 100% (Default) text size; click Apply button and then restart the computer to have default text size (DPI) to take effect.  Windows users now can start TunnelBear software again and follow the now working onscreen features to begin using their TunnelBear software for the first time.  As TunnelBear software is working, Windows users can now enjoy VPN effortlessly.

Mac users who install TunnelBear software might have to accept the option which requires Mac to install Java.  Other than that, I think the installation of TunnelBear on Mac is pretty straight forward.

Users don’t have to pay monthly fee or yearly fee for using TunnelBear, but using TunnelBear for free does have limitation.  One standout limitation of using TunnelBear for free is bandwidth cap.  The last time I checked TunnelBear, free users could only use TunnelBear up to 500 MB of VPN bandwidth a month.  TunnelBear has two other plans that will lift the bandwidth limitation away, but users have to pay either a monthly or a yearly fee.  By the way, TunnelBear does not annoy users with advertising banners (free users or not).

I notice that TunnelBear for iPhone and iPad is still in beta.  This means there might be some instabilities still for iPhone and iPad users who use TunnelBear.  Surprisingly, I’ve found using TunnelBear for my iPhone is rather stable, therefore I definitely recommend iPhone and iPad users to try out TunnelBear.  To use TunnelBear on iPhone and iPad, users can follow the instruction here to set up TunnelBear on their devices.

In conclusion, TunnelBear has made it super easy for people who have no VPN knowledge to start using VPN on their laptops and desktops right away.  With TunnelBear, people can now have more privacy and be even more secure as their data will be encrypted.  The privacy part is all too apparent, because TunnelBear users can just activate TunnelBear, go to Google and type in the search box “What’s my IP” — this allows users to click on appropriate top links within Google’s search result to show the VPN IP address.  So, by using TunnelBear, not only the connection is encrypted, the real IP address is also masked by the VPN IP address, thus users’ privacy can be protected better.  The best of all, TunnelBear is so simple and easy to use as users do not need to configure their firewall or router at all — TunnelBear just works!

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