Building with FreeBSD 7 and a rad headset

This week Gibbs adds another highly recommended book to the IT library and reviews a Bluetooth cell phone headset that is outstanding.

Last week I briefly reviewed a few interesting and useful books that I have on the shelves of the Gibbs Universal Industries secret underground bunker. Today I have one more that, should you be planning on building a server using FreeBSD, you ought to rush out and purchase. The book is predictably titled Building a Server with FreeBSD 7 by Bryan J. Hong.

The subtitle of this book is A Modular Approach, which is exactly what it delivers. There’s a consistent layout used throughout the book for each component discussed: A summary, details on required and optional resources, explanations of the preparation, installation and configuration, and additional notes.

The book is divided into two parts, The Base System and Third Party Applications, and takes you logically from installing FreeBSD with its included utilities, the FreeBSDPorts, through installing OpenSSL and OpenSSH, to adding a Web server (ApacheHTTP) along with PHP, MySQL, content management, e-mail clients, a wiki and blogging services. There are also sections on installing mail services (SMTP, POP and IMAP), network services (DNS, DHCP and VPN), as well as print and file services.

The book extensively cross-references itself, ensuring that dependencies and related topics and issues are obvious in the context of the service or tool you are installing.

There’s nothing jokey about this book. There are no witty asides, no cartoons, no industry in-jokes – it is a focused how-to manual that assumes you are smart enough to understand what the author is talking about and that you want to actually get something done. If you are a Linux or Unix god this book might not be useful, but for the rest of us it is a great benefit as well as a labor and sanity saver. Highly recommended.

Something else I can highly recommend is the Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth headset. I have used Bluetooth headsets on and off since they first came out and this product is, without doubt, the best I have ever found, by far.

There are two reasons for my enthusiasm. First, the Jawbone is easy to wear. Many other headsets are somewhat uncomfortable because they trap a small moist pocket of air in your ear canal. The problem is that you have no choice about this if you want to be able to hear the speaker clearly – a snug fit seems to be required by most products. This little humid zone has always made my ear itch furiously within 15 or 20 minutes but not so with the Jawbone. Somehow the Jawbone is engineered such that it maintains enough contact for the speaker to be audible without trapping moisture.

The second, and bigger reason, for my enthusiasm is the Jawbone uses amazingly effective signal-processing technology to remove external ambient noise. Part of this is achieved through a small nub on the inside of the headset that rests on your cheek. This is a sensor (I am told it is an accelerometer) that detects when you are speaking and uses that information to evaluate the noise environment and tell the signal processor when and what to filter.

The results are amazing! People I call say they can hear me far better than even if I was in an otherwise silent room and talking using only the cell phone. Even better, Jawbone enhances the incoming signal, making what you hear usually clearer than you would without it.

Check out the company’s video demo, which shows a Jawbone being used while the demonstrator is surrounded by guys using leaf blowers and weed whackers. At $99 this is by far the best headset I have ever used. As I said, highly recommended.

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