Monday, 21 July 2014

07:54 – We had a crew out Friday to rip out the sidewalk from the street to our house. They’re supposed to pour concrete today, but they may not be able to. It looks like rain.

Barbara and I binge-watched all ten episodes of Hell on Wheels series three over the weekend. I thought it was a lot better than series two. I particularly liked one of the new characters, an atheist lesbian newspaper reporter. The actress who portrays her, Jennifer Ferrin, is a hometown girl. Well, she was actually born in Lawrenceville, Georgia, but she graduated from North Carolina School of the Arts, so I count her as a hometown girl.

Kit sales are very slow. 2014Q1 revenues were about 175% of 2013Q1 and 2014Q2 about 145% of 2013Q2. As of today, our MTD revenues just matched those for July 2011. If this pace holds up for the last ten days of this month, we’ll do only half the revenue for July 2014 that we did last July. Oh, well. Things are always up and down, and we could easily end up getting a bulk order or two that take us well above last July’s numbers.

10:33 – I think I forgot to mention that while our walk was being ripped out Friday I noticed an AT&T survey crew checking phone poles. I walked out to talk to them to verify what I suspected, which turns out to be true. They’re surveying for installing fiber-to-the-home, which means that before long we’ll have gigabit broadband available. If gigabit isn’t outrageously priced, we’ll sign up for it, but I suspect we’ll end up with something closer to 50 or 100 megabit. Still, that’ll be a nice improvement on the 15 megabit we currently get from TWC, particularly if the AT&T service is symmetrical or at least something close. Currently, we get nominally 15 megabit down, but only 1 megabit up.

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28 Responses to Monday, 21 July 2014

  1. OFD says:

    Damn. Now I can’t remember if I’ve seen only the first season of “Hell On Wheels” or the first two seasons.

    Sorta related; I just finished the 700-page “Cloudsplitter,” the historical novel concerning the John Brown capers just prior to the War of Northern Aggression, and also just discovered that after that war, 4,000 Confederate soldiers bailed and set up a colony in Brazil so they wouldn’t have to live under the Yankee gummint, so I looked it up:

    I bet there’s plenty of material in there for another novel and/or a movie.

  2. Jim B says:

    “…which means that before long we’ll have gigabit broadband available.”

    Ooooh. I can only dream. I have experinnced 30Mb or so on my phone, but the only hope for our house will be point to point wireless. Currently, that is about 0.5Mb, but there is hope the mom-pop provider might upgrade his backhaul to fiber. Then, he would have to provide faster radio links to deliver it. Not holding my breath.

    Digging or balancing wires on poles is so 20th century!

  3. Chad says:

    supposed to pour concrete today, but they may not be able to. It looks like rain.

    You’d be surprised. They pour concrete out here no matter the weather. If it’s raining they’ll cover it in canvas. If it’s super hot out they’ll cover it in canvas and set up a sprinkler over it. They’ll even pour when it’s below freezing (to a point).

    Currently, we get nominally 15 megabit down, but only 1 megabit up.

    I have a buddy whose got a friend that works for Cox. His friend has him set to unlimited up/down. It’s not so much a limitation of the coax as it is a software-imposed bottleneck. Now, unlimited up/down isn’t truly unlimited, but it removes the throttling and so your only limit is the hardware/cabling. They limit people’s up to prevent people from running servers and streaming to others and whatnot. Most also block serving TCP port 21 and 80/443 and connecting to TCP port 25 on anything but a Cox-owned SMTP server. I have another buddy that does my hosting that set up my SMTP server to also use port 2525, so I can get around Cox’s blocks. Cox’s limit on customer’s upstream is their way to force them to sign up for Cox Business solutions instead of Cox Residential. I’m sure TWC is the same.

  4. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I’m sure they are, but even TWC’s so-called Business Class is throttled.

    The nice thing about AT&T bringing in fiber-to-the-home is that it’ll force TWC to compete. DOCSIS 3.1 anyone?

  5. Ray Thompson says:

    we’ll have gigabit broadband available. If gigabit isn’t outrageously priced

    I may just find a house for sale in your neighborhood and relocate.

  6. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    It doesn’t hurt a bit that Wake Forest University, which is right down the road from us, is a Level 2 member of the Internet II consortium.

  7. OFD says:

    Ah yes, Wake Forest, where the late Professor Maya Anglelou allegedly taught, haha; just try to find her back then; her on-campus phone number came back to a janitor’s closet.

    We can pretty much forget anything 21st-C around here in terms of internet; it’s tied up in politics and geography for the foreseeable few-cha. And many areas are still using dial-up or have nothing at all, plus rotary phones and party lines. Very large percentage of roads still unpaved; gigabit ain’t happenin’ round here anytime soon.

  8. MrAtoz says:

    Cox says it is rolling out fiber gigabyte service in Vegas. Sometime. I have their coax ‘net service which has been pretty flawless. They haven’t started capping as of yet, but I get regular notices that I’ve exceeded my 300gig/mo plan. Netflix, Prime, torrenting etc eat up your data fast. CenturyLink has fiber, but in my neighborhood that can’t match coax yet. I could get all the TV I want from CL, but they still can’t match Cox speed and I don’t even have the top plan.

  9. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    As I said, I know nothing about Angelou. It’s not uncommon, of course, for large universities to provide sinecures for people they believe brings prestige or whatever to the university. And, for all I know, Angelou may have actually taught classes, which is pretty unusual for someone with a sinecure, or for full professors for that matter. Of course, I suspect that any course she taught would have been in a subject not worthy of being taught, but that’s another story.

  10. OFD says:

    Oh yeah, shocking: (Drudge headlines today)


    And what’s more, they don’t effin care!

    “University mulls ‘diversity-based grading’…”

    Who cares? What possible difference could it make? Their grading means nothing anymore anyway and hasn’t for decades! Neither do Olympic records or professional sporting events or national elections! They mean nothing!

    “REPORT: FBI pushed Muslims to plot terrorist attacks…”

    Of course. When there aren’t already enough hadji terrorists to attack us for real, let’s manufacture some! You can’t make this chit up! Like they used to set up mob guys and dope dealers!

    “Rick Perry Prepares to Deploy 1,000 National Guard… ”

    This could be interesting; let’s ice up some Moxie, open a fresh bag of pretzels and sit back for the fun!

  11. MrAtoz says:

    What possible difference could it make?

    Hillary on the brain, sir? And, RAAACIST!!!

    I wonder if Gov Perry will issue axe handles to the troops to assist the other state agencies with the crimmigrants. I don’t think he is going lock and load yet.

  12. The likely next step for AT&T: deciding, on the basis of that survey, that fiber to every home is too expensive, and instead running fiber just to central nodes which then feed the existing copper wiring. (Not such a bad option; twisted pair can handle some pretty high data rates, especially over short distances.) Oh, and then doing the bandwidth allocation the usual way: 100 megabits dedicated to TV distribution, and 10 to 30 megabits for Internet service, of which 80-90% is reserved for downstream and only 10-20% for upstream.

    These people aren’t Google. Oh, and they’ll likely bombard the neighborhood with junk mail and phone calls trying to get you to switch. If they send someone around to the door (like they did twice, for me), it’s always a barrel of laughs to ask whether the service will work when the power goes out, like the phone network always did. For further amusement, ask how long the batteries in the UPS they provide will provide power (maybe a day or two), how long they will last before needing replacement (maybe three years), and who gets to pay to replace them (you). Invidious comparisons to the old central office batteries — those huge glass tanks with massive lead plates, which could last fifty years with proper maintenance and served the whole community — are to be avoided, though, since the salesdroid won’t know what you are talking about.

  13. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    No, it’s definitely FTTP rather than FTTN. No copper at all involved. The service is also gigabit rather than 100 megabit.

  14. OFD says:

    I’ve heard nothing but bad things about AT&T and ComCast for many years now. I’d be taking anything the former sez with a big bag of salt.

    “Hillary on the brain, sir?”

    Her comments of late have been a treasure trove of Marie Antoinette-style amusement, although the latter never really said ‘let them eat cake.’ She gets a bad rap and she went through her abuse and judicial murder with great heart and courage, as did her husband.

    “I don’t think he is going lock and load yet.”

    I can picture the phone calls back and forth from Austin to Mordor:

    Gov. Perry: “Mr. President you guys are killin’ us down here. If I don’t do sumthin’ real soon, they’ll string me up!”

    President: “OK, Perry, just make a big noise about sending Guard troops but don’t actually do anything and we’ll cut you some slack somewhere else; how’s that? I’ll owe ya, buddy!”

    I’m well-stocked now with Moxie and pretzels so I can keep tabs on this chit and also watch some violent movies and tee-vee shows later while Mrs. OFD takes the three college kids back to Montreal. Just got the mutt back from the vet; he’s on antihistamines, anti-flea stuff, and the heartworm thing; back in two weeks for the rabies shot. Cats also all on anti-flea stuff again.

    Wife just informed me she only has to be in Philly for two days instead of three, thanks to screwups by Philly end of things and will be back late Thursday night instead of late Friday night, and then she’s gonna be up in NB for a week, Albany for a week, and then Mordor for a week. And then at least a week or two taking care of DIL during her third pregnancy down in MA. So she’ll basically be gone until September now.

    No shortage of house and yard stuff for me to do, plus ongoing job hunt, plus FFL paperwork saga, plus whatever else comes up. Oh, and ongoing VA med appointments throughout. Hope to at least get foot issues fixed so I can wear regular decent shoes again, and hope to get the truck back up and running well, so I can get LOTS more grunt work and hauling done.

  15. ech says:

    I have Comcast cable and internet service and have found them to be reliable and fast for the last few years. They have significantly improved customer service and system reliability.

  16. OFD says:

    Good to know; for at least fourteen years now I’ve heard nothing but complaints from the Linux user group guys in NH, where Comcast has a monopoly. (Some of the Linux guys really beat on bandwidth, though, and/or run businesses on it.) Over here we have Verizon for the cell phones and Fairpoint for landline and internet and we don’t get cable tee-vee. We rarely have complaints about our service, so far.

  17. Okay, doing a quick search, I see: your area (Winston-Salem) is one of three municipalities where AT&T has announced its “Gigapower” initiative (in addition to Austin, where it’s already available). This isn’t their usual fare; they really are trying to grab publicity from Google, and you might be one of the lucky few to benefit.

  18. SteveF says:

    I just caught a few minutes of commentary by a Rich Nadler (or name something like that) from Vermont Public Radio. To summarize, states which are rated as friendly to business (low taxes, low regulation) tend to have greater income inequality, whereas states which focus on quality of life (he didn’t say it explicitly, but he meant high taxes and lots of entitlements) have not only less inequality but happier people. Therefore, um, business-friendly states are bad.

    Right, bubba, it’s bad that if you work hard and provide a service that people want, you’ll be rewarded. By contrast, it’s good if more than half of your income goes to support those who cannot or will not add economic value to society.

    Holy fucknozzles, you sure do grow ’em stupid up there, OFD.

    (But, speaking of stupid, I’m still in NY. And over half of my gross income goes to taxes. Stupid, stupid, stupid…)

  19. OFD says:

    “Rich Nadworny is principal at Empatico, an insight and innovation firm in Burlington.”

    A typical touchie-feelie Burlington/Chittenden County operation and yet another “management” fad for corporations and gummint contracts.

    It isn’t stupidity; it’s the usual left-libtard claptrap filtered through a privileged upper-middle-class ethnicity and derived largely from neo-Marxist strategies and methodologies. A lot of it also just plain and simple snake oil, flogged around the marketplace by the usual sorts of carny barkers and hustlers like this doofus. VPR has no shortage of these ass-hats; I only listen to their classical music programs not this chit.

    (you can go to the VPR site and hit the Commentary section and look up his previous commentaries if you enjoy that sort of drivel; he is one homely cuss, too, but all too typical…)

  20. dkreck says:

    TWC promises Los Angeles 1 GB over the entire city.

    Article points out they did the same in NC at one time. Promised that is.

  21. Rod Schaffter says:

    Hi Bob
    I have the base Verizon FIOS, which is fiber into the house.. I get 25Mbps down and 5 up, but the upload speed is supposed to increase to 25 soon. I believe the maximum they offer for residential service is 500/500. I’ve had it for several years, and am happier with their service than I was with Comcast…..

  22. I’ve been sort of assuming it’s too obvious to mention, but people here do realize that these sorts of speed changes make almost no difference in everyday web browsing, right? Most of the delay when browsing the web is due to latency, which improves only marginally when going even from 1 megabit speeds to gigabit speeds. You have to actually be downloading or uploading massive quantities of data, for this stuff to matter. And even then, your local link has to be the bottleneck. With, for instance, Netflix’s recent issues, the bottleneck hasn’t been in the last mile.

    For that matter, if you actually are uploading or downloading massive quantities of data, you’re likely to run into data caps; AT&T’s gigabit service reportedly has a data cap of a terabyte per month, which at gigabit speeds you’d blow through in a couple of hours.

  23. Jim B says:

    Norman, first of all, an overdue thanks to you for your web site and the large amount of useful information it contains. While you are correct that higher throughput speeds have less influence than latency on everyday web surfing, I would hope to have enough throughput and freedom from jitter to be able to do video streaming and VOIP. In my case, I am literally an outlier (not a liar, thanks to Bruce Schneier.)

    Verizon has a fiber link for voice service to our little slice of heaven, so those customers have good voice lines but no access to DSL. When Verizon rolled out DSL a decade or so ago, they put in a copper binder to jump the fiber and give 25 lucky households access to their often crappy DSL In this case, it isn’t the last mile, rather the last three miles. Their DSL is a lot better in other areas of our little valley, although the cable provider is lots better… when their service is up. For other reasons, I don’t have access to cable service, another “last mile” thing, although it is literally a last 200 yards. Go figure. Been trying to work with both the cable company and the phone company to get better service for at least a decade, with little progress. I keep a running log, and occasionally look back in it when I am feeling too good.

    So, radio links of various kinds are a good answer. I rejoiced when WiMax and similar services rolled out elsewhere, only to sink when it withered. I mentioned our mom-pop point to point wireless service, but that is currently the slowest of all, for various reasons, mostly, I suspect, money. This is probably our best bet, but I sometimes wonder if I will live long enough to see it.

    Finally, the cell data network is promising, but not likely a candidate for fixed base. I have AT&T, and really like their overall cell voice and data service. I have “unlimited” data, and plan to keep it, but their new fixed base wireless data service is separate, and more limited. As of now, they are pushing over 20 Mb, but not at our house, so it is moot anyway. I have a friend with Verizon Wireless’s (a different company from Verizon) fixed wireless service, and he likes it.

    And, all this in a so-called “hi-tech” community! Still, I wouldn’t trade our clear skies and freedom from crime and traffic for better Internet service. Some day, this will be solved, but those other problems will likely only get worse.

  24. brad says:

    Yeah, web infrastructure and performance are not always obvious. Latency is a big problem. Another are the intermediate buffers that get in the way of TCP flow control.

    But the single biggest problem for commercial sites is modern web “design”, whereby they load eleventy-zillion little pieces from umpty-three different servers, and the page doesn’t properly render until the last little bit has been loaded. This is a huge side benefit of Adblock and Ghostery: they zap piles of needless crap out of a page as it loads, meaning that pages load piles faster.

    Gigabit internet will only benefit people who do lots of downloads. For us – a family of four intensive internet users – we are quite happy with a 10MB connection, because downloading isn’t that big a thing with us.

    Our “splurge” is that we have a second 5MB connection in load-balancing mode – when someone does download something, they only nail one of the two connections, and everyone else automatically uses the other one for a while. We also have the occasional connection failure, but these are independent wires to the house (cable and telephone), so it’s unlikely both will fail at the same time.

  25. Lynn McGuire says:

    I have AT&T Uverse DSL+ at the house. It is 18M down / 1.5M up. On a good day. It works ok, nothing to write home about.

    I have two AT&T Uverse DSL lines at the office bonded together using a Peplink 30. They are 12M down / 1.0M up. Works ok. I have a Sprint Wimax modem as an emergency backup using the warm failover on the Peplink 30.

    I use a DirecTV satellite with a couple of DVRs for our TV. The DVRs have VOD capability for random tv downloads which come down the intertubes pretty fast, be they SD or HD. Very few of the major networks allow HD downloads over VOD, they only supply SD for some weird reason.

  26. Jim B says:

    Streaming, baby!! All the trad broadcasters and narrowcasters (not over the air, meaning cable and satellite) are touting streaming. Hollywierd is behind it solidly. None of this benefits those of us who don’t have the good services some of youse have. I remember when DSL was intended for television delivery, and local storage was a key component. Now, that is over, and in order to get decent TV over any kind of IP connection requires much higher quality transmission capability. Capability beyond what I get.

    We have DirecTV, and like everything about it except the cost. Sadly, they have also adopted the streaming model, and going forward there will be more restrictions on content buffering and archiving. I would drop them except for the wife’s desire to watch stuff we can’t otherwise get. Netflix, Roku, etc. are nonstarters for us until we solve the connectivity problem.

  27. Higher speeds do help with VoIP jitter, but the cause is somewhat complicated. It’s not that the datastream itself is high bandwidth (it’s a pittance), or that prioritizing it is hard (VoIP has distinctive port numbers, so can easily be forwarded ahead of other traffic). The real problem is bufferbloat, where manufacturers of routers and modems throw in oversized buffers, just because memory is cheap these days. Then when anyone in the house tries to do a large upload or download, the buffers fill up with a second or two’s worth of delayed packets, imposing delays and jitter that kill VoIP. Router software might promote VoIP packets to the head of the buffer… but then send everything to a cable modem, which has its own buffers that are first-in first-out.

    Higher speeds help here because at higher speeds the size of a bloated buffer, measured in seconds, is smaller. But the real cure is just to shrink the buffers. I’m running an experimental router distribution by the name of CeroWrt, which has been pretty thoroughly debloated and contains mitigations for bloated buffers elsewhere in the link. With that router, VoIP works reasonably well, even when large uploads and downloads are going on. But I had to buy one particular model of router, because that is all that it works on. (It’s based on OpenWrt, and some of the changes have made their way upstream, so recent versions of OpenWrt also might do; and OpenWrt works on a lot of routers.)

  28. Jim B says:

    Hey, thanks, Norman. I have filed Cerowrt away for possible future use. My experience with VOIP is very limited, actually, just playing around once or twice; no real need for it right now.

    I do admire the open wrt software, and have been using dd-wrt for a while. It seems pretty stable, but other than that works about as well as any other native firmware I have tried.

    Your comments on buffer bloat seem right to me. Another example of mainstream stuff trumping less popular needs. All I have ever asked is that we be given an informed choice in addition to look-alike mainstream stuff. I have learned much more about networking from my problems than I had ever wanted!

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