Gee, it’s nice to have internet.

Finally, here in the mountains we have real internet.

When I first moved here, we could only have dialup. That was actually OK because most business was being done on phones that were hardwired, and most documents were Faxed. 

Verizon

Then DSL came to town but the phone company wasn’t investing in maintenance or expansion. DSL worked pretty well for a number of years and really only presented problems when software manufacturers switched to download delivery. 

It could take 12 hours to download operating system updates. 

As the DSL connection degraded, the download times got longer. Eventually the DSL speeds we were seeing from Verizon were on par with the old dialup speeds. Sadly it wasn’t uncommon for my 4G connection via my cellphone to be faster.

Finally the DSL became unusable and Verizon’s “Tech People” told us the problem was our router, refusing to acknowledge the problem was in the phone lines.

Hughes net gen4 satellite internet

In desperation we switched to HughesNet Satellite. We didn’t change our router, and it worked fine at first.

Overall it is a very expensive solution and it’s fraught with issues. Forget using WiFi calling, we never were able to use Skype, or FaceTime, over the Satellite Link. We could however use those services occasionally on the 4G cell phones as long as we didn’t move very much.  

Satellite degraded over time too. Eventually we couldn’t stream music, or video, and we had to deal with datacaps on how much we could download in a month.

In the course of time I switched to a new router. While that expanded my WiFi range and sped up my internal network connections, it did nothing to correct the issue with satellite. 

To be fair, In general the service worked… just not as advertised, those snazzy commercials with grandparents watching their grandchildren’s recital? Oh Hell no!

5

Grandma & Grandpa would be eating cheap dry cat food to pay that bill as they ran through their datacap, and clicked on “Add Data”.

In the end HughesNet became unusable for anything other than email and some web browsing, if you were willing to wait for the pages to load.

I didn’t bother trying to download software updates, preferring to wait until I got to a place with cable modem connectivity.

The same became true of the other half, all software updates were done away from home in the workplace.

160111075230 attt direct tv 540x304

Add the cost of Satellite TV which was ever increasing, and well at some point the price vs. benefit of the service(s) becomes untenable.

We’d been hearing rumors about a Fiber Service coming to town. They have in fact come to most of the town but after a year of waiting for them to get to our area they still haven’t gotten here.

Then we heard that Spectrum Cable was up here with HD TV and internet. Turns out that the price was 1/3 what we were paying for DirecTV and HughsNet.

So boom! We now have a nice little cable modem running in place of the HughesNet device.  We still have DVR, and TV and the quality is good.  For the first time ever, the AppleTV can be used to it’s full potential. WiFi Calling works, so hopefully there won’t be any more repeats of the old Verizon commercials “Can you Hear me now?” While running around the house to find “The Spot” where the cell signal is strong enough to be usable.

Charter twc bh

100Mbs isn’t the fastest but it’s a big improvement over the last stats from HughesNet of 1-5 Mbs. 

An additional advantage is that the wiring closet is now devoid of two devices for the Satellite TV both of which generated a lot of heat in a fairly confined space.

This means that the router, switch, and hard drives will be happier.

Another odd thing I’ve noticed is that my network traffic is lower. My router isn’t having it’s IP address reconfigured every minute and in general the load on the whole system is lower.

We actually streamed a movie last night; Flawlessly.

Who knows? My little house in the mountains might be a place for me to work from home again.

Only time and the job market will tell.

 

Update 3/15/2017

Ah ha! 

We had to badger HughesNet to get someone out here to take their dish down. Turns out, they want you, the customer to climb up on your roof to retrieve this expensive transceiver.

Neither of us was climbing 30 feet in the air onto our roof to get this piece of tech. Of course had the installer actually done what we’d asked the dish would have been where we could access it in Winter to brush the snow off and we could have had satellite internet connection  all the time instead of only when the snow melted off the dish.

IMG 0740

But the much more interesting thing is the bubbled fused dirt and debris you can see on the business end of the transceiver.  All of that crusty stuff serves to deflect and degrade the satellite signals, both coming and going from the transceiver itself.

Of course since we couldn’t reach the dish, we couldn’t clean it. So now I know why the signal degraded over time. Even if we’d kept HughesNet we’d have been calling them for service or replacement of this unit.

I hate to even think what kind of fiasco it would have been to get them off their collective asses to fix this. Given that their tech support is tiered and we’d have no doubt been forced to work our way up the chain of command over weeks before we got to someone that knew enough to think about progressive signal degradation as a function of obstructions between the satellite and the dish much less as a function of granite dust or reflected heat fusing dust and debris on the focal point of the signal.

I hadn’t thought about it either until I saw this unit and scratched my finger across the lens.

Well, you learn something new every day…

Probably Unwise…

Apple was running a Black Friday sale.

On the plus side of the page, my Christmas shopping is done. On the negative side of the page my Christmas shopping is done.

My iPad and the other half’s iPad were both getting long in the tooth. For example some of the applications that I use on my iPad were no longer updatable.

The other half was in even worse shape. That iPad wasn’t holding it’s charge very well and was prone to arbitrary resets and hangs.

Enter Apple’s Black Friday… $100 gift cards with the purchase of new iPads. Uh Oh.

Well the $100 does offset the cost of Applecare.

The short story is that there are now two new iPad Pros in the household. The other half’s is the 12.9” unit and mine is the 9.7” The other half is already using the thing as a Gig book and to some extent a replacement for the Macbook Pro.

Both have keyboards, pencils, max memory, and cellular connections.

Sigh… Now the trick is to pay them off.

I must say that these machines are pretty amazing. I could easily see having only the iPad if all you needed to do was web surfing, email, and a bit of writing. Office 365 runs very well on them and that gives you direct access to documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

The latest versions of applications let you access the cloud storage of your choice, (icloud, onedrive, dropbox, and I think even google docs) so you could do most if not all the routine business tasks with just the iPad.

I think I’ll stick to developing using my Macbook Air.

Why you might ask didn’t I just update to the latest and greatest Macbook Pro? Well, the cost vs the power differential just didn’t add up. My Macbook Air is still fast and efficient. When you’re talking GHz processing speeds .5 GHz isn’t really all that significant unless you’re talking about audio / video processing. The new touch bar would be nice but having it or not isn’t a deal breaker for me.

So, rather than updating my Air, I chose to update my 4 year old ipad.

Perhaps, you can even expect to see more blog posts, since having an iPad out at work isn’t nearly as “Odd” as having my personal computer running on my desk.

The first thing I used my new iPad for was polishing my resume a bit. Yes, I’m looking for a new job and I’m hoping to find something in the next couple of months.

If all goes well, I may actually be able to return to my field and the pay that comes with it.

In any case, I hope that you’re enjoying the holiday season and avoiding the stress that so often comes with shopping. I’m looking forward to the annual shopping trip with a friend even If I don’t buy anything.

 

Took a little technology break

Guess I should turn my phone on soon…

I spend each and every day wrangling technology. Either I’m working through some broken or malfunctioning bit of client technology or I battling with what has to be one of the most kludged systems I’ve ever seen, in an attempt to find, document, or send a replacement to fix a customer’s problem.

I just couldn’t take it anymore and shut everything off. I’ve been working through a problem with my automated backup routine and had finally narrowed it down to the antivirus software I’ve been running for years. Turns out the company updated their software and appears to have a bug in excluding files or folders from on-access scanning. The practical upshot of this is, every single byte of a backup is scanned. Meaning that an incremental backup of a couple of megabytes that should take 5 minutes now takes five hours.

Well, at least I know what’s causing the problem. On the down side, that’s many hours of my life spent troubleshooting that I’ll never get back.

Which probably explains why I decided to take a break from technology for a day.

To ease back into turning technology on;

I watched the Apple event on the Apple website, this morning. I wasn’t interested in watching it live because streaming the event is often a problem because a billion other people are trying to stream the same event. It’s a lot more convenient for me to wait until its up on the Apple website then I can watch it un-interrupted without the image freezing.

This is the annual iPhone event. On that note…

iPhone 7… Meh. I like the Jet Black color, I like the water resistance, I like that the home button is solid state,  and I like that the machine has a brighter display. But these things aren’t enough to make me salivate for the new model.

I’ve got an iPhone 6s and from what I could tell my current phone will run IOS10 just fine.

I did think that their use of power management inside the CPU was clever. After all, why fire up the whole CPU for simple tasks that could be served by a less power hungry subsystem? 

I’ll be looking at the iPhone 7s next year of course, but unless there is some compelling reason to replace my phone, I could potentially see myself holding off until the 8s.

I’m like ApplePay, in those places that I’ve been able to use it but it’s not ubiquitous just yet. The iPhone 7 doesn’t do anything to advance that over what my iPhone 6s does now.

I don’t play games on my phone, and so generally battery life isn’t an issue for me during the day. Which that brings me back to keeping my current model since the display, and processing speed aren’t something I generally have issues with. I suspect that a lot of folks are thinking along similar lines.

The Apple watch series 2 could be in my future. One of my concerns about the 1st generation was the water resistance issue. I tend to forget about water being a problem for a watch, primarily since I’ve worn diving class watches for years. I have the very bad habit of expecting my watch to go wherever I do and most of the time completely forget I’m wearing one. Not a problem for a dive watch, BIG problem for a little bit of high technology.

Where I live and work isn’t exactly the best place to be wearing a Rolex, Tissot, Ball, TAG or even a higher end Fossil. So for the past several months I haven’t been wearing a watch.

I like having a time piece on my wrist though.  Having someone mug me for a $400 Apple watch is a lot more palatable than a several thousand dollar swiss work of art.

The new Apple watch has a GPS built in and that plus some of it’s fitness features could be useful. Given the building I’m working in it might also be nice to find the sweetspot at my desk where my phone can actually “hear” the cell tower and then allow the watch to notify me of text messages phone calls. (Working in a “DeadZone” is a whole other story) I also can see the usefulness of having the ability to initiate a 911 call and send emergency text messages to selected individuals, directly from the watch. 

Particularly, since there are people in my life now that are more prone to having medical events that would require 911 interventions. 

I liked the AirPods. a little on the pricy side but neat. If Apple wanted to make a splash they could have asked Nichelle Nichols, or Zoe Saldana to introduce them. As the Apple event unfolded, showing off the new AirPods I couldn’t help but see Lt Uhura. Perhaps it was just me. 

New smoke detectors in our future

This morning over a nice quiet cup of coffee. The remaining two smoke detectors in the house failed.

Busted POSs

Oh but they didn’t fail in a nice way, they failed and told me about it by going off full blast and not shutting up. (Why don’t these things ever fail gracefully. How about a beep pattern that says the unit had failed? Humm?)

I really do hate these things! In general I hate depressingly stupid machines, Protect me? Sure I’m up for that, but why not do it in an intelligent way with some fault tolerance and helpful warnings?

Let me give you the full scenario. I’d gotten out of bed and the house had been open all night. A nice cool breeze was  blowing occasionally through the house There’s no smoke, even though there are fires burning more or less local to the house. There is no smell of smoke and there was nothing cooking, no toast in the toaster, the oven wasn’t on, in fact no heat sources at all, except the life forms in the house.

It was a nice quiet morning, birds twittering in the trees, and I was enjoying watching the hummingbirds engaging in their morning aerial battles over the feeders. In short it was peaceful, and beautiful.

Then the ear shattering BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP at –120db began.

There is no way I can jump 15 feet in the air to yank these offending pieces of shit off the ceiling and they’re connected in a way that if one goes off, they all go off. So in short order every one of them is screaming and causing me intense pain. (My ears are still ringing)

A quick check around the house to determine if there might really be a fire confirms what my nose was telling me, NO FIRE!

Grab the keys, tromp down to the basement get the ladder and then…

I yanked the fucking machines off the ceiling!

I was not gentle. I was not kind. (BTW The ADT monitored smoke detector was, and is still mounted on the ceiling quietly saying nothing is wrong.)

Even after I yanked the fool machines off the ceiling disconnecting them from their external power source, they still screamed. I yanked the batteries out of them, and one had the audacity to scream even then.

It shut up with a satisfying BEEEoooow sound when it went crashing to the floor.

I am victorious! I killed the offending beast! GRRRRRR, I eyed the ADT unit daring it to make a sound. It was wise and remained absolutely silent.

Scared the poor dogs so bad they wet themselves.

After cleaning up the mess. I returned to my coffee.

New Hotness

So installation of NEST Protect units is on the agenda for today.

I’m hoping that they are built as smart as the advertisements say they are. In other words, I hope they can be shut up if they’re falsely alarming. It would be a pity for them to meet the same fate as their predecessors.


Well, that was more or less easy.

The NEST setup is interesting. You set the units up on your kitchen counter. In our case there is one for each bedroom and one in the hallway.

I set the hallway up first because it is the only one low enough for me to access the center button. (The Hall unit had failed many months ago and I’d already killed it. Which is why I only ripped two off the ceiling this morning.) 

The Hallway unit then linked the other two units, Named MasterBedroom and Bedroom to each other and presumably to the NEST Thermostat. 

About 1/2 hour of setting the units up, and 1/2 hour of unfucking the “Professional” electrician’s work and bingo, bango, bongo, I’m pressing the button on the hallway unit to tell it I want a full test.

“This is a test, please stand away from the Nest Protect, the siren is loud. Testing in 10, 9, 8,7,6…”

About  minute later, smoke and CO sensors each with their own sirens sounded, followed by a nice happy “All Clear” signal.

The thing says, “Finishing up… Everything is fine.”

That’s the way to do things!

Intelligent, efficient and polite.

I think I may actually like these machines.

OK this is too funny not to share

And I’m even tweeting it because it’s indicative of the weird PC world that we live in today.

I’m searching for apartments in the San Diego area.

I was on a web site, that asked me to “Check availability” by sending contact information and sending a short note to the complex.

My note read:

I’m looking for a 1 bedroom, with assigned or covered parking. I’m moving to the area for work.
Do you have anything available and if so, when?
Thank you for your assistance.
Regards

What actually showed up and was quoted back to me in a reply from the apartment complex was:

I’m looking for a 1 bedroom, with a**igned or covered parking. I’m moving to the area for work.

Do you have anything available and if so, when?
Thank you for your a**istance.
Regards
Do you see it?
 
There is some kind of filter that scanned the text and triggered on the ASS portion of the words. In order to protect the sensitive eyes of someone who might be offended by the first three letters of a word it changed the “SS” to “**”
 
This is an example of a couple of things in our society today.
 
HYPERSENSITIVITY and poor Quality Assurance.
 
There is no reason that the filter software couldn’t have examined the whole character group and compared it against a list of allowed words.
 
It’s called a Whitelist. (No Racist intent there.)
 
The white list would include:
 
Assistance
Assurance
Assigned
Assuage
.
.
.
 
and any other legitimate words from multiple language dictionaries that began with ass-
 
OR, and this might be the easier solution.
 
Use a Blacklist (Again no racist intent)
As an aside isn’t it amazing how common terms must now be explained lest someone be offended that you’re using a term that might be misinterpreted by a relatively small yet vocal group of people.
The Blacklist would simply have all the bad words you wanted to edit from the message. Typically, the blacklist is much shorter and therefore a much faster search and compare.
 
Ass
Asshole
Asshat
Dumbass
Asinine
Assfuck
Assfucker
Asswipe
Asslick
Asslicker
Assbite
Assgrab
Assgrabber
Asskiss
Asskisser
Asskick
Assmunch
 
The programming process is straightforward.  If the first 3 characters is ass, branch to compare with words in the blacklist. If there’s a match, then edit the naughty bits. If there’s no match then leave the text alone and pass the message untouched.
 
The really funny thing is that if you see A**HOLE you know it means asshole. If you see the “N” word, you know what that really means so honestly what’s the point?
 
If your company had to impose filters to protect your staff from offensive language, maybe you need to have a look at why people are sending your staff offensive messages in the first place.
 
Ahh PC what would we do if we weren’t bound by your brownshirt insanity?  
 
Oh yeah, we could have a sense of humor.
 

The Precious!

Apple march event invitation 800home thumb800

Apple is making new product announcements today!

Bright shiny more powerful machines. Whoo hooo!

I’ll be taking time off from the incessant job search to see what new covetable things Apple will release on the world.

Comey fbi


I was thinking, in one of my more insane moments, that Apple could offer two versions of IOS and let the public decide the outcome of Apple’s fight with the FBI. One version would be secured as the OS is today, and the GovIOS version would be one where the government held the encryption keys

If the majority of the people installed GovIOS then Apple could focus their security research on GovIOS and move on. Somehow, I think that people who installed GovIOS would be in the infinitesimal minority. 

I’d also love to see James Comey’s face when the press asked if he’d installed GovIOS on his personal iPhone.


IPhone lineup

Apple is supposed to be releasing a new iPhone and a new tablet today.

The new phone is rumored to be about the same size as the iPhone5s. But it’s supposed to have features of the iPhone 6s. I’m hoping that Apple manages to just put the iPhone 6s into the iPhone 5s size. 

Some of the rumors have suggested that Apple is going to cheapen the smaller phone by limiting options. I of course, ask why? I genuinely like the size of my iPhone5s. it fits in my hand and my pocket comfortably.  If I could have the memory, NFC (for Apple Pay), improved cellular radio, WiFi and camera of the iPhone 6s in the 5s size, I’d pay for it. I’m not sure I’d pay the $849 Apple is charging for the iPhone 6s (Because of the screen size differences) but I could see myself really weighing the options. Maybe $749 for 128GB in a phone the size of the iPhone5s?

Nonetheless, I’m curious about the new iPhone and depending on the price / features and the outcome of the pending legislation in California regarding encrypted phones and the outcome of the FBI v. Apple case, I may wait for the iPhone 7s or buy an iPhone SE or have to go with a 6s.

If the Idiots in Sacramento have their way, no encrypted cellphone will be sold in California after Jan 1, 2017.  I swear, if lawmakers keep on fooling around, Apple will relocate to Ireland.  At the same time, the idiots will manage to kill the retail cellular market in the state.

I’m sure that Nevada and Arizona will appreciate the boon to tourism and business. I can see weekend planning sounding like, “Oh, lets take a quick run up to Las Vegas for the weekend while we’re there we can buy new phones!


IPad lineup

I’m interested in the new iPad as well. I’ve got an iPad Mini that I really like. But it’s getting tired, I’ve been intrigued by the iPad Air for its size and weight. So I’m curious about the update to the iPad line. I could get very excited about an iPad Mini that included features from the iPad Pro. The pencil for example? But depending on size and weight, the new iPad might tempt me long before Apple rolls a Mini with “Pro” features.


I don’t have the cash for any of this. But planning to update my machines is an expression of hope / faith that I will find a new job and I’ll have the cash in the future.

Misty Forest

The alternative is to hike into a forest with my tent, and go off-grid in a seriously old school way. I’m a very out of practice hunter, an OK angler, and tend to do ok without people.

Oddly enough, that has some appeal.