Home Office Realities: Comcast Internet is fast but…

On Thursday morning I discovered that my nightly online data backup (I use JungleDisk — excellent software) to Amazon’s S3 servers had been interupted at 3am because the Comcast internet connection went down. I called Comcast to check and was told that there was an outage in my area.

I implemented my internet connection recovery plan: I disconnected the cable "modem" from the router and plugged the Bellsouth (AT&T) DSL cable into the router. Then I restored the DSL settings from a file to the router. Within 2 minutes I had an internet connection again.

We switched to Comcast Internet because DSL was not fast enough anymore. Our DSL speed is about 256 bps up and 1,500 bps down, whereas Comcast internet speed is about 2000 bps up and 5000 bps down (http://speedtest.net). Big difference!

At 1:13pm I chatted with Comcast about the outage.

Alinani(Thu Nov 1 13:14:32 EDT 2007)>How may I help you?

me_(Thu Nov 1 13:14:43 EDT 2007)>My internet went down about 3am. When will it be back up?

Alinani(Thu Nov 1 13:15:49 EDT 2007)>There’s no ETA, but we are aware of this issues and are currently working on it to have it resolved as soon as possible

me_(Thu Nov 1 13:15:40 EDT 2007)>thanks

Second support chat at 8:38pm in the evening:

Gerardo(Thu Nov 1 20:38:20 EDT 2007)>What is the problem?

me_(Thu Nov 1 20:38:16 EDT 2007)>Is the outage in Woodstock GA fixed?

Gerardo(Thu Nov 1 20:40:32 EDT 2007)>We only have an outage at Jersey City at the moment.

me_(Thu Nov 1 20:40:26 EDT 2007)>OK, thanks.

Gerardo(Thu Nov 1 20:40:54 EDT 2007)>Is there anything else I can help you with?

me_(Thu Nov 1 20:41:19 EDT 2007)>How do I find out when my outage is fixed?

Gerardo(Thu Nov 1 20:42:51 EDT 2007)>Is this cable or telephone outage?

me_(Thu Nov 1 20:42:49 EDT 2007)>Internet

Gerardo(Thu Nov 1 20:45:59 EDT 2007)>We do not have that information at this time, do you have problems with your internet?

me_(Thu Nov 1 20:46:18 EDT 2007)>It went down at about 3am this morning. It was still down in the afternoon.

me_(Thu Nov 1 20:46:23 EDT 2007)>I had to reconnect to AT&T DSL today to get my work done.

Gerardo(Thu Nov 1 20:48:23 EDT 2007)>Ok I think I will have to create a trouble ticket for you. I will check for your signal.

me_(Thu Nov 1 20:48:31 EDT 2007)>If its working now, there’s no need to create a ticket.

Gerardo(Thu Nov 1 20:49:29 EDT 2007)>Ok

Gerardo(Thu Nov 1 20:50:37 EDT 2007)>Is there anything else I can help you with?

me_(Thu Nov 1 20:50:19 EDT 2007)>But it’s fixed now?

Gerardo(Thu Nov 1 20:50:55 EDT 2007)>I assume.

Gerardo(Thu Nov 1 20:51:27 EDT 2007)>We did not have that advice earlier, maybe it is just temporary.

Gerardo(Thu Nov 1 20:51:32 EDT 2007)>Is there anything else I can help you with?

me_(Thu Nov 1 20:51:19 EDT 2007)>No, thanks

Gerardo(Thu Nov 1 20:50:08 EDT 2007)>I think there interruptions but not an actual outage.

Comcast was up and I re-connected. I am not pleased that I have to pay for two internet services, but it is essential for our two home office businesses to have a reliable internet connection. My consolation is sharing this informaton with others who may benefit.

100 Interesting Websites

When you need more information to consume…. From TED.org.

Link: TED | TEDBlog: 100 Websites You Should Know and Use

Julius Wiedemann, editor in charge at Taschen GmbH, offers an ultra-fast-moving ride through sites in many different areas, from art, design and illustration, to daily news, blogs and curiosity. … here’s his list of 100 websites you should know and use.


headbangers.tv *





Reducing Junk Mail and Spam Email

From the blog of Tim Ferriss (author of the 4-Hour Work-week), some advice about getting removed from mailing lists.

Link: » How to Do The Impossible: Create a Paperless Life, Never Check Voicemail Again, Never Return Another Phone Call….

…get removed from junk mail lists and common commercial mailing lists. There are a few ways to do this: 1) Get remove from the most common junkmail lists (this costs a few dollars in some cases) and check alternative strategies at www.stopjunkmail.org, 2) Use LifeLock, or another identity protection service, which automatically removes you from large mailing lists, one of the most common vehicles for identity theft. Last, we’ll have your mail forwarded to special processing centers, where it is all scanned and emailed to you. One popular service is called Remote Control Mail, and there are two big benefits to the time-focused and mobile-minded: relevant postal mail is funneled into e-mail, so you can check both email and postal mail at once (“batching” both at the same time); you can travel freely whenever and wherever without ever missing a letter.

iPod Dreams

I rarely fall asleep quickly when its bedtime. It generally takes me 15 to 30 minutes to get to sleep. About a year ago I decided to listen to some relaxing music before sleeping. I woke up two hours later with the music still playing in my earbuds.

Several months later I started downloading audio books and podcasts to my iPod. Like most time-crunched people, I didn’t find time to listen to all the audio on the iPod. I’m a reader and have tried to reserve 15 – 30 minutes for reading before sleep. One night my eyes were tired so I listened to a book rather than reading. I woke up two hours later, listening to the book.

Lately I put the earbuds in and start a good audio before I turn out the lights. I’ve discovered that I drop off to sleep more quickly when I’m listening and, when I don’t drop off to sleep more quickly, I’m learning or being entertained as I wait for sleep to infiltrate my senses. It’s a win-win situation.

Here’s what I’ve learned about easing into sleep hooked to my iPod.

  • Listen to relaxing audio, whether music or spoken word. I don’t listen to music that is fast or hot (Hendrix) — I listen to music that is smooth and soothing (Pat Metheny). For the spoken word, I don’t listen to dramatic, high energy audio (Mad Money by Jim Cramer), but instead I listen to voices that are conveying meaningful information without being loud and emotional (Eckhart Tolle is a good example).
  • Set the volume low.
  • Lock your iPod (disable the controls) so that the volume and/or selections won’t change if you roll over on the iPod while sleeping.
  • Make a selection that is 15 – 60 minutes long. I’ve awaked at 3am with U2’s Vertigo blasting in my earbuds, because the music I had selected had ended but I hadn’t limited my selection.
  • When I wake up with the earbuds in, I pull them out and stuff the iPod and the earbuds under my pillow. This the quickest way to get everything out of the way and not disturb others (spouses, pets, etc.).
  • If you sleep with cats (I do), you have to make sure your earbuds are under the pillow. (Look at this link to see why: Punctured Earbud).

Often I often don’t remember much about the spoken word audio that I was listening to, but I like to think that I absorb some of it while I’m asleep.

Please leave a comment if you listen to audio on a portable device while falling asleep — share your experiences.

The Right to Internet Access

I’ve always been in favor of the right to arm bears, and I agree with Martin that Internet access is key to political freedom.

Source: Telepocalypse by Martin Geddes: Shoot the messenger

The ability to access Internet content and services is the new Right to Bear Arms.

Wow. I’ve said it. So what does it mean? The founders of the United States of America in their wisdom saw the seizure of excessive power by government as a central risk. To counteract this, they ensured the general populace would always be sufficiently armed. This gives any putative dictator or tyrant pause for thought before exercising the machinery of government violence for undemocratic ends. The price is a certain undercurrent of everyday violence, but the experiment has by and large succeeded. The USA is one of the longest-standing constitutional democracies, and has withstood extraordinary change in demographics and fortune during that period.

We’re moving from a society where physical force was the prime means of coercion to one where ideas have ascendancy. Physical force doesn’t scale well as a means of subjugation. It’s one thing to take a man’s posessions; quite another to persuade him to make your dinner every night for nothing. The hardest part of the civil rights movement wasn’t undoing the yoke of the white man, but persuading the everyday black man that it was his inalienable right to have that yoke removed. Once that was achieved, the outcome was largely a foregone conclusion.

Building tyranny is harder when the populace is armed with good information. It’s not impossible; indeed, a tyranny of the majority is still a major risk. But when I can have a cheap encrypted Skype conversation with Iranians, Syrians, and Mexicans, something qualitative has changed. For example, when I visited Syria a few years ago, we went to Hama. This town was largely razed in 1982 (with the loss of tens of thousands of lives) when its own army shelled the city to put down an Islamic uprising against the Baathist government. I pass no comment on the politics of it, but merely note that this is a little-known episode of history. You certainly don’t see it mentioned on the official tourist website. Can you imagine keeping such news under wraps in the era of video cameraphones, satellite Internet and Skype?

Consider a populace that wants to rise up against its political masters. We’re already at the point where the government response isn’t to take away the populace’s arms, but to take away its means of communication. Militias don’t congregate in the woods and more, they start their own Yahoo! group and MoveOn and Meetup from there.

There’s no point in demanding universal access if you don’t have the economic means to deliver. Much of the debate is about means, not ends. But those ends deserve greater exposure and reflection. If we are serious about transformation of society through information technology it means sweeping away many of the special protections the telecom industry has managed to accrue, enforcement of competition law, and greater collective effort to deploy connectivity and open up wireless and fixed rights of way.

There’s more at stake here than cheap phone calls and unlimited TV channels. Cheap airlines have done more for European cohesion and understanding than decades of political exhortation. Cheap, ubiquitous and unfiltered communications are becoming a prerequisite of a pluralist participative democracy. Societies that fail to encourage the free flow of information will suffer because ingrained interest groups will ensure the rules are set up to perpetuate their privileges. When you can’t make a Skype call, you’re losing something more than money.

You might believe that your political system is a stable one delivering endless contended freedom and openness. But your average American feels a lot more secure in that knowledge with a rifle in the basement. I’d want the same feeling of security, just with symmetric gigabit fibre so I can host my own subversive content if necessary.

Next time someone is vigorously defending the existence of filters on the Net, dig deeper. Don’t ask them for the logic of their argument. Rather, try to find out why it excites them so much. Perhaps they aren’t aware of what animates their own passions.

Yahoo! Mindset: Intent-driven Search

Here’s a way to use Yahoo and eliminate the Buy It Here listings. Move the slider to researching (away from shopping) and you eliminate sellers. Very cool.

Link: Yahoo! Mindset

Mindset: Intent-driven Search
  • Find the results you like.
  • Sort the way you need.

A Yahoo! Research demo that applies a new twist on search that uses machine learning technology to give you a choice: View Yahoo! Search results sorted according to whether they are more commercial or more informational (i.e., from academic, non-commercial, or research-oriented sources).

via John Battelle’s Searchblog

Is Technology Failing Us?

Some excerpts from a magazine article by Chris Turner on a new direction for technology:

The degradation of the environment is the biggest problem of our age, but the high-tech industry’s primary focus remains on creating gee-whiz gizmos and applications – not green technologies. If as much time, energy and resources were devoted to green tech as they were to wireless devices and boo.com’s we could rescue a dying planet. And then we could truly call this a revolution

…Here’s what’s being missed: a cluster of problems that I’ll place under the rough heading “environmental degradation.” I’d hate to imply that any one aspect of the process by which we are making our planet unfit for human life is more troubling than any other, but the one in particular — the one that should really be keeping our engineers and genius inventors up at night, working on solutions — is global warming.

…Can I take it for granted that I don’t need to tell you why the degradation of the environment is the biggest problem of our age? That it is the threat to our livelihood — the World War, the Great Depression, the would-be Nuclear Winter — against which we need to mobilize the full power of our resources? I would like to think I can take this for granted.

…I’d like simply to assume that you know that it — this degradation, this destruction, this systemic poisoning — supersedes the current or near-future state of any national economy. That it is an unfolding calamity far greater than a wave of new tensions in Sino-American relations or another round of violence in the Middle East. That it is not an “issue” the way, say, the balance of powers between federal and provincial governments is an “issue.” That it is a cluster of events — events resulting from human activity on this planet — that are demonstrably, measurably happening. That it is not, therefore, an ideological construct. That while it might be possible to assemble an argument or voice an opinion about clean air and water, and fertile soil, and a habitable climate, that these opinions are not right or wrong so much as utterly irrelevant. That, for example, the sun’s ultraviolet light, when it reaches the earth without being filtered through a layer of ozone, is capable of producing malignant melanoma in the skin tissue of any person, totally regardless of that person’s opinion about the relative importance of “environmental issues.” Can I take all of this for granted?

…There is a high-profile but somewhat superficial reason to posit the idea that green tech (for desperate want of a better catch-all term) could become the elusive Next Big Thing in the high-tech world. That reason is this: Both Bill Gates and Paul Allen have invested heavily in renewable-energy companies. Also, like the various communications technologies before them, green technologies have the potential to create an enormous re-ordering of the business world. “I believe fuel cell vehicles will finally end the 100-year reign of the internal combustion engine” — that’s how one starry-eyed evangelist phrased it.

…And because, most of all, these are the things we actually can’t live without. Peer-to-peer technology, the wireless web, Super Bowl commercials starring sock puppets-the relative merits of all of these are open to discussion. Here’s something that isn’t: the absolute, bottom-line necessity of clean air, potable water, fertile soil, climactic conditions favourable to human survival. It’s not debatable, not something to be put off till we all have more time, not a luxury or a lifestyle choice. Surely you understand that. This is the revolution we need.


via Will Pate

Why Is Telecommunications in Chaos?

If you are an investor in or user of telephony, you might be interested in this web page describing how the Internet is undermining the established providers of telecommunication services. An excerpt is included below (warning — it requires some knowledge of technology).

The Paradox of the Best Network comes about because as a network gets stupider, connectivity becomes a commodity. Those who own and operate the network have less to charge for. After all, they’re just moving bits. The high-value services, the ones that command premium prices, reside at the edge of the best network. Because the best network is simple, it is low-cost to operate. In a competitive market, this means it is low priced. Low price also lowers barriers to innovation at the edges of the best network.

The telephone companies are impaled on the horns of this dilemma. Historically, their high-margin services have been built into the middle of their network, which has been optimized for a single application — voice. Their business is based on this special-purpose network. They know that implementing the new commodity network threatens the very basis of their business.

In contrast, the Internet is not optimized for any specific application. Its strength is its generality. It’s designed simply to move bits across all kinds of wired and wireless infrastructures. As a result of this simplicity, the Internet has proven to be the most scalable, most robust communications infrastructure humans have ever built. It has proven itself effective at encouraging innovation: of all the winning networked applications of the last decade — email, web browsing, instant messaging, chat, music sharing, streaming audio, ecommerce, etc. — every one appeared on the Internet. Not one was invented by a telephone company. And not one needed any special mechanism within the network itself

This fact frightens the telephone companies. It should. The Internet’s bits-are-bits simplicity even threatens to turn their cash cow — voice telephony — into something anyone can do just by installing simple software onto an everyday PC. Hook a PC to a high-bandwidth, always-on connection and anyone can make high-quality Internet phone calls without telephone company involvement. Further, innovations like document sharing, collaborative whiteboarding, and add-on video conferencing, which are difficult on the old telephone network, are relatively easy additions to an Internet telephony program. Because the Internet is a commodity network, Internet telephony is cheaper. Because it’s a stupid network, innovation is easier. Further, the value is added at the edge of the network, outside of telephone company purview.

But, the real threat to the incumbent telephone companies isn’t the Internet. It’s the Paradox of the Best Network. The paradox means that companies that run the old, closed, special-purpose telephone network have an unfit business model for running the new network. No amount of technological upgrading will fix this. To survive, the incumbents must become different businesses. But there’s no guarantee that they’ll be the best companies to run the best network.

Link The Paradox of the Best Network

China Watches and Censors Internet Users

The Chinese government is threatened by free speech. It doesn’t tolerate criticism and freedom of expression (just like business partner Wal-Mart). Michael Moore would be a skinny prison inmate if he lived in China.

A Chinese court recently announced that a democracy advocate who had used the Internet and was charged with subversion would receive a suspended sentence instead of a long prison term.

The case had drawn criticism from human rights groups and served as a rallying cry for this country’s rapidly growing number of online commentators. Both in China and abroad, some commentators quickly applauded what seemed like an official show of leniency toward the accused man, Du Daobin, a prolific author of online essays on issues of democracy and free speech.

But many among China’s Internet commentators are warning that what appears to be government magnanimity in this high-profile case conceals a quiet but concerted push to tighten controls of the Internet and surveillance of its users. China’s restrictions on the medium are already among the broadest and most invasive anywhere.

Link China’s Web Police Send Mixed Message

Virginia plans to build telecom system to boost rural economy

I hope my hometown can start recovering from the collapse of the textile industry.

DANVILLE, Va. — Virginia will build a $12 million fiber-optic network throughout its struggling manufacturing belt along the North Carolina state line to spark an economy decimated by factory layoffs.

Gov. Mark R. Warner said Friday the project will connect five cities, 20 counties and 56 industrial parks with a new communications network that will be the largest publicly funded system in the state.

“Being left off the information superhighway is just not something rural communities can afford to overcome,” Warner said.

State officials hope the project, known as Regional Backbone Initiative, will eventually create 1,500 jobs and lure $143 million in private investment to the region. It is funded with $6 million of Virginia’s share of tobacco settlement money and a $6 million federal grant.

When the network is completed in two years, a private nonprofit management agency called Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative is expected to offer Internet service to businesses at a 20 percent discount.

Service providers also will be allowed to connect with the network at a reduced price in hopes that they will pass the savings along to customers, said Mid-Atlantic’s interim general manager, Tad Deriso.

Virginia’s “Southside” manufacturing region has been ravaged by thousands of factory layoffs during the past decade.

The labor market area that includes Henry and Patrick counties and the city of Martinsville had an average unemployment rate of 14 percent in 2002 and 2003, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. It jumped as high as 16 percent in July.

Community leaders see telecommunications capability as the key to jump-starting the region’s lagging economy. They believe a massive Internet network would do as much to lure companies to the region as a major interstate or airport.

Link Virginia plans to build telecom system to boost rural economy