24 Nov 2007

The Tivo-Airport-WEP saga

A few months ago, my dad upgraded the house wireless router to an Airport Express, and in the process set it to use WPA2 encryption. (The previous router was capable of some encryption, but we never used it.) Unfortunately, this prevented two laptops and the Tivo from using it. The laptops were a bit annoying, but the Tivo was not getting any program information, making it only marginally better than a VCR. My mom and sister just lived with it, but I talked my dad into backing the encryption off to WEP (which all the relevant devices could handle). This should have solved all our problems, but it did not. My laptop (an old Titanium powerbook running 10.3) now worked fine; his laptop and the Tivo seemed to think that the router was still demanding WPA.

I sort of spun my wheels on that for a little while, until Dad pointed out that what he had actually set it to was "WEP (Transitional Security Network)". That meant that my laptop, which didn't even know about anything more than WEP, worked fine, but the other devices, which knew about the existence of WPA, were having problems. Unfortunately, plain-old WEP was not an option; we thought it might be if we could change the router from "802.11n (b/g compatible)" to just plain old 802.11g (or b), but that wasn't an option. A tiny bit of googling turned up a page about exactly this problem that told us about the super-secret options: if you option-click that pull-down menu, other options (including 802.11b/g compatible) appear. And when you select that, the encryption option includes WEP 128 bit, i.e. "plain-old WEP". Hurray!

Except, that brought the other laptop online but not the Tivo. Despite the fact that that webpage was explicitly about Tivos and Airports Express. Hmm. The error message had at least changed; where it used to say "Wpa not supported"*, now the Tivo was letting us type in a password, and the problem was now that it was unable to find a DHCP server. Mysterious.

Some more googling turned up another page, also purportedly solving the problem of making Tivo work with an Airport Express, which says that deep in the bowels of the Tivo online documentation, they say that to work with an Apple router you have to enter the password in hex. It also gives the way to find out the hex version of your password, except that this post is three years old and its instructions do not apply to my dad's version of the Airport Admin utility.

Now, why would we need a password in hex? What does that even mean? Well, hex is just a convenient way to represent a raw number—two hex digits make up one eight-bit byte—and of course the actual encryption algorithm uses raw numbers. In particular, the 128-bit WEP algorithm uses a 104-bit key (64-bit uses a 40-bit key), which is 26 hex digits (or 10 for the shorter one). That'd be hard for people to remember, so most manufacturers let you type an arbitrary alphanumeric password in and then convert that to a 26-digit hex number. As long as the conversion is always done the same way, the right password will translate into the right hex passkey. The problem is, different manufacturers used different algorithms, and since the modem and router are talking to each other in hex, the "right password" that you set up on (say) your Airport might not be the same "right password" you'd need on your Linksys modem!

Which is why you'll sometimes see advice about picking a password that's exactly 13 characters. The obvious way to convert a password into hex is to just take the ASCII value of each character—8 bits—and write this down in hex—two digits—and so a 13-character password would give you a 26-digit hex key. Anyone that uses this obvious method for the 13-character passwords would be able to talk to each other. If there are less than 13 characters, there might be disagreement on how to pad it; if more, disagreement on how to truncate or hash it. But we had a 13-character password, and it still wasn't working.

Because something's funny about how Tivo's doing the password-key translation, I guess. Which means I need to find out how exactly Apple is converting its passwords into hex keys. Fortunately, googling for this information turned up a page at Apple that claims that all manufacturers use this "obvious" method if the password is exactly 13 characters. This is, evidently, false; but since it's Apple making the claim, I can assume that it is at least true of Apple. So I converted the damn password to hex by hand (using an ASCII table). Then I went to type it into the Tivo, was momentarily flummoxed when there didn't seem to be any way to actually enter the key in hex; it turns out there's a message in fine print at the bottom of the TV screen that says "Press INFO for hexadecimal". Do so, and it gives you a much smaller key entry table, though the digits from 0-9 you can just type into the remote's keypad directly. The software appeared to be set up to accept hex keys up to something like forty digits, which is odd, but I typed in the 26 I had, and from there on in everything worked perfectly.


But because the info about this was so hard to track down, I figured I'd write it up. I know there's still a lot of series-2 Tivos out there, and as people upgrade their wireless routers this is bound to happen to someone else. (The disclaimer here is that by bumping the router down to WEP, your security isn't going to be as good as for WPA or WPA2, if that's a concern. Bumping it down to b/g compatible is also a slight concern, as you won't be getting the full 802.11n performance BUT if your network has any devices on it that run at 802.11g or 802.11b, having them on the network will downgrade the entire network to that slower standard, so making it actually "802.11b/g" instead of "802.11n (b/g compatible)" will not in practice make much of a difference if you've got older devices hanging around.)

*On this device. The Tivo itself can handle WPA, apparently, but the particular USB wireless modem that Tivo sold me couldn't.

"Phelps... believes in a god of hellfire, but he doesn't actually build the hellfire himself—he's got enough faith to leave it to his god to do that. ...There's plenty of actual awfulness in the world; guys like Phelps are just poseurs, like trendy college Satanists, and responding to them as an actual threat just seems like it would do nothing but feed the delusion." --Jonathan Prykop

Posted by blahedo at 5:36pm | Comments (1)

5 Nov 2007


My nifty got in! Woo!

You are
what you love
and not what loves you back --Jenny Lewis

Posted by blahedo at 11:58pm | Comments (2)

3 Nov 2007

Cloud nine

I'm having a hard time even knowing where to start in thinking about Cloud nine, the play currently on the mainstage at Knox. It seems particularly difficult to come up with something that isn't just parroting what someone else has told me about what the play's about, which is strange; I don't usually have that problem.

The first act comes across at first as Victorian farce done badly, with the actors not quite playing it straight (the only way to really pull off a sex farce) and overdoing it, with an admixture of high melodrama in the form of occasional stylistic gestures and sound effects. Of course it isn't a Victorian farce, it just plays one on TV—as an intentionally-that-way piece it strikes more of an absurdist pose; the distinction is driven home quite thoroughly when adventurer Harry Bagley lets out his line "Shall we go in a barn and fuck?", the first of many, many thoroughly explicit sexual propositions and advances and descriptions spread throughout this act. Of course, it's all very clandestine, this being (nominally) 19th century British Africa, and the number one observation that I'm apparently supposed to make about act I is that it's all about how repressive the society is. That, at least, is what the director and all the blurbs and flyers tell me. But honestly, the biggest thing that the first act did was to lay out a set of character cutouts (with occasional, fleeting glimpses of a deeper person behind) and, more importantly, of relationship lines drawn between the characters, without losing the audience's interest; it's all just setup for act II.

Insight is often drawn from contrast, whether between here and there, then and now, expectation and outcome, or anything else. In this case, at the start of the second act we get to see the characters and the relationships redistributed among the actors, so that for instance the actor playing Maud, the mother-in-law in the first act, plays her own granddaughter Victoria in the second act (who had been played by a dummy in the first), who in the second act is in the role of daughter, which had been served in the first act by a third character, Betty, who is in both acts and played by a different person in each case. Some of the characters are retained in the second act, while others have analogous, but new, characters inserted in their stead. It meant that for any given situation in the second act, you were casting a line back to the first act, asking what this actor was doing in this situation then, which this character was doing then, and what this relationship role was doing then, an unbelievably rich web of interactions that makes this play one of the ones that just keeps on giving.

It was in the second act that the real acting happened, too. Ariel Lauryn's monologues as Betty, first when she's chattering on nervously because she's leaving her husband, then later as she reflects on her experiences with masturbation, were some truly great character moments that manage to recall the anxieties of all three of Betty, Edward (Ariel's character in the first act), and Maud (the mother-in-law of the first act). I also loved Eli King's "monologue" conversation at his wife; for all that I might have missed this if I hadn't been primed for it, he manages to come across as likeable and sincere in his desire to liberate Victoria—without ever letting her get a word in edgewise.

I definitely didn't think this at the time, but as I reflect on the show, I'm thinking that some of the most interesting work was done by Shane Donegan, who I'd not even seen before on the Knox stage. In act I he plays Joshua, the black African servant, who upon further thought actually seems to be one of the most developed characters in that act. I mean, theme of repression, sure, but this guy has some serious demons floating around back there, and it shows. (I'd also like to know what happened right after the last scene ended—did he shoot and miss, or what? Clive evidently survives, but....) Then in the second act, he plays Gerry, the gay lover, the loose analogue of the first act's adventurer Harry, and manages to be thoroughly unlikable. Except not: as the act goes on and after ongoing thought, it's really not that he's a bad person, not at all actually, but rather that he has an entirely different value set. It is Gerry that has the talk with Betty that lets her come round and officially accept herself and her (extended) family as they are, and that can't really be an accident. In some way I can't quite pin down right now, these characters are framing the narrative in both acts....

Man, that's just the start, really, but I simply must go to bed now if I'm to get up and drive to Springfield in the morning. Hopefully, I'll be inspired to come back to this later, though. I do wish I had a chance to see it again....

"The great need to distinguish Christianity from Buddhism or Science from Not-Science seems born of the desire to separate that which is given Authority from that which is not. The thing is, if you're giving science Authority, you're already beyond the practice of science. (Same for Buddhism and Christianity, strangely enough.)" --Jonathan Prykop

Posted by blahedo at 1:05am | Comments (0)