Monday, April 27, 2009

Reports from a recent Verizon FIOS installation

Last Monday I worked from home while a Verizon technician installed FIOS service at my house. I"d placed the order in late-March, and was eager to check out the promised upgrade in speed for my internet connection.

My FIOS package includes Internet, television, and phone service.

Internet -
I ordered the 20/5 internet service (20Mbps download, 5Mbps upload). The package also includes 10Mb of webspace; I added an additional 50Mb of webspace for another $4.95/month.

I didn't notice any dramatic increase in speed while web-browsing. This is probably due to a couple of factors. When surfing the web, the pages you view are sent to you from web servers located remotely. Those servers are attached to the internet through an internet connection, just as your own PC is attached through your own DSL, cable modem, etc... Even if your connection is the fastest connection possible, you won't receive data any faster than it is being sent to you, so if the connection at the other end is slow, you'll wait. Another probable explanation why I didn't notice blazing speed at first is that my main desktop PC at home was purchased in 2000, and isn't a real powerhouse. So, web-browsing didn't bowl me over, but was perfectly acceptable.

I maintained a couple of websites on the Speakeasy servers. Before cancelling the account, I needed to retrieve the files from SE's servers, and upload them to Vz's servers. The FTP transfers were unbelievably fast! That DID blow me away.

Then, a few days ago the latest version of Ubuntu was released. I started up a uTorrent session, and managed to get a full copy of the new Ubuntu .iso very quickly. And with my increased bandwidth, the torrent activity doesn't impact the phone, so I've been sharing the Ubuntu iso for several days for others that need it.

A couple of years ago I registered an account at DAD is a torrent sharing site for concert recordings. DAD enforces a strict upload/download ratio, mandating that users upload as well as download. I always had trouble sharing enough to maintain my ratio, due to my pitiful upload speeds with Speakeasy. Once FIOS was hooked up, I logged in to DAD and started sharing a few concerts until I'd uploaded about 20Gb, putting my ratio well into the green.

Part of the FIOS installation required the replacement of my trusty Linksys WRT54G wireless router with Verizon's branded Actiontec router (MI424WR Rev.D). The Actiontec takes a coax feed from Verizon, and splits that out to all of the computers in the home. It broadcasts wireless, including WPA2, and also has a 4-port 10/100/(1000?) wired switch built-in.

The management GUI in the router is very-full-featured, and pretty nice, although it isn't perfect. I've got to admit I was very, very surprised at how much flexibility and control the user is permitted. I'd expected Verizon, the giant corporate overlord, to lock that sucker down tight.

The Actiontec introduced a problem with my wireless network though. After it was installed, 3 of the 4 laptops in my home could no longer use the wireless internet connection. Those laptops could establish a wireless connection, but would then drop the connection in under 5 seconds, and then immediately begin connecting again. This cycle would run continuously unless the wireless was disabled. The signal strength was perfect. The 4th laptop was fine. (Note - 2 of the 4 belong to my employer, don't get jealous!)

After trying all usual approaches (change wireless frequency (channel), reset the router, update the wireless driver software on the laptop), I hit upon an unlikely solution. Configuring the laptop to use the Windows wireless software instead of the Dell wireless software solved the problem.

(Will continue later, with additional comments, concerning the phone and TV service.)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Uncommonly good

Following my occasional and usually depressing ritual, I sauntered over to my 401k management webpage this morning, curious to see just how dreary things looked today. While there is still much lost ground to make up, I was happy to see something very unusual:

Go, Baby, Go! Daddy (and children) could use new pairs of shoes, really!