Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Clear clearly unclear, again

A follow-up story to: http://clackablog.blogspot.com/2010/03/clear-internet-service-failure.html, in which many and various blunders at CLEAR leave us without Internet service for > 4 days.

Come home tonight after a wonderful movie, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, and went to Google Mail; instead of my friendly pile of 9,947 messages, every PC in the house is stuck at Clear's welcome screen, shoehorned in by their proxy servers. Every web page anywhere, on every browser, on every machine, is replaced with the picture you see below. Can't get anything else.

Now, it's a pretty page, but we don't pay for a 3 Mb/sec high-speed internet connection just so that one web page can be served up really, really fast. And, their instructions to clear it on said web page, well, can you guess how effective they are?

So, luckily, Clear-as-Mud Internet hasn't quit taking calls, yet, so off we go to the phone. Agrapinal assures me he has the solution, and has me do exactly what Mark the L2 Supervisor told me to do two days ago. Mark, too, assured me his fix would be a permanent solution, but since the problem recurred in 48 hours, well, not that permanent, eh?

The irony is lost on Agrapinal, who then suggests if the problem he just permanently solved forever recurs after they close, we can use their web chat help line. He also suggested, since this problem prevents access, that I could get another broadband Internet connection so I could report the problem through the web. Gee, Clear suggests having a backup broadband Internet connection for when Clear fails.

Clear-as-Mud, indeed.

Portland Wireless Data Speeds Compared

PC World published a new multi-city survey which shows Verizon's 28% faster here than last year's testing. Here's the results for Portland, showing all four carriers, their data speed and reliability, for both laptops and smartphones:

Put another way, here are bar charts comparing the carriers and their Portland speeds:

It's interesting that T-Mobile outperforms Verizon in download speed, especially given the price differential between the services.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Best Clackamas Broadband Choice Just Got Tougher To Get

Now, I know a few folks who like the Internet.  As you can tell from the prior post, Mrs. Clackablog and Yours Truly just had a leetle problem with our broadband (settled last night after our fifth call to our current provider, who CLEARly had not troubleshot the problem with their equipment well).

So it is with dismay that I read Verizon, the provider of FIOS, is cutting back expansion plans. Verizon serves much of Clackamas County, and their FIOS system is not only technically superior, but also, according to everyone I know who uses it, is purely addictive and the best darned broadband ever.

DSL Reports, a reliable source for broadband industry information, provides cutback details:
Verizon's essentially cutting and running on additional deployment plans, leaving a very large chunk of their footprint on last-generation DSL and copper-based voice networks.

(Industry analyst) Burstein tells Broadband Reports that he doesn't see Verizon expanding any further (with the exception of major cities where they've signed franchise agreements) unless they get money from Uncle Sam (aka, taxpayers). "They want to get on the gravy train, although I think the new, less competitive leadership is the primary explanation," says Burstein when asked why Verizon's shifting tactics. (CEO) Seidenberg, the driving force behind the first wave of FiOS, is on his way out -- and his replacements aren't quite as bullish on angering investors for the sake of this whole "future" thing.
The feds gave major concessions to telephone companies, Verizon included, based on the promises made to the Congress for the Telecommunications Act of 1996, to encourage broadband growth, and although broadband makes money for the phone companies in unexpected ways (see next-to-last paragraph), they haven't delivered on their promises to open up broadband. 

That's why Google is experimenting with high-speed Internet deployment, which Portland will compete for, for Google makes money if the economy booms.

And, if Verizon cuts back on FIOS rollout, that's bad news for Clackamas County.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

CLEAR no-speed internet

Beware of CLEAR, they're anything but.

Two days ago: 7AM Thursday, no internet (as per Mrs. Clackablog, who didn't tell me).
Called CLEAR @ 10AM, report problem when I found no dial tone on the phone.
Perform every troubleshooting step, technician diagnoses problem as being in the tower site equipment. Says they will send someone to the site. No idea when that will occur.
Called again Thursday evening, was told once the technician is dispatched, it takes a day for that to occur.

Yesterday: No CLEAR internet service. Mrs. Clackablog called tech support, and was told there was no problem; and then they closed. Unable to chat with their chat system with two cellphones and three cellphone browsers (including Opera Mobile).

Today, day three: No CLEAR internet service. Cycled all equipment, performing all steps prescribed by CLEAR's website:
  1. Powered down the modem for 120 seconds.
  2. Re-positioned the CLEAR Home Modem until it has 3 light ‘bars’.
  3. Shut off the computer.
  4. Connected the CLEAR Home modem directly to your computer using the Ethernet cable, bypassing all other devices like wireless routers.
  5. Checked cable connections from the modem to computer. The cable fits securely in the sockets and did not wiggle loosely from side to side.
  6. Restarted the computer. Still no internet connection.
After a web chat (took a laptop to a hotspot), a chat session with 'Kathy Jetson' was useless (why does CLEAR have their staff use such ridiculous aliases?). I then called CLEAR, at 23 cents/min, and eventually talked with 'Michael' who 'works with' their level two support (after asking for a real supervisor) and was told to go back home and go redo everything we've already done.

My next window to do so is Monday, as although their call center opens at 5AM Pacific, they robotically reject all calls from the Pacific time zone until 0900 (a shining example of customer dissservice in action).
Also, when we signed up for CLEAR internet and voice service, it was with the understanding that CLEAR would port our phone number from Vonage. Well, they didn't, and won't cancel even though that was our reason for signing up for CLEAR VOICE; definitely a lack of honor on their part. 
Fool me once, shame on you. I won't stay with this miserable excuse of a provider past my contract expiration date.

Beware of CLEAR, they're anything but.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Surf the web, see an ad, get a virus

cNET, a web division of CBS, documents how simple it is to get a virus if you use Windows to surf the web.  Web servers from Yahoo, Google and other webvertising companies automatically delivered ads that looked for Windows and out-of-date software, and infected computers automatically:
Users don't need to click on anything to get infected; a computer becomes infected after the ad is loaded by the browser, Avast (Ed. note: A trusted antivirus company) said.
Solution: Get Ubuntu Linux. I just installed the latest version on my PCs, and it automatically found everything in my Lenovo ThinkPad and HP Pavilions, found what space was available for Linux, and left my Windows intact; when I boot, I have a choice of Linux or Windows.

Linux can automatically connect to the Windows side of the hard drive, and use pictures, movies, movies and Office files you created or downloaded previously. It can even run World of Warcraft. Updates are automatically offered, and downloaded when you're ready, also for free.

Free is a very good price for an operating system and all the programs which work on it, and when it protects you from viruses, all the better.

Monday, March 22, 2010

South-Side Amateur Radio Classes and Exams

Amateur radio's evolved greatly in the last century, and in that evolution, saved many lives, and advanced the art of communications. FM, television, digital, Ethernet, satellite radio and cellular are all innovations pioneered by radio amateurs.  A pocket sized two-way amateur radio can talk to all seven continents and the space station.

Amateur radio helps recovery effort today in Haiti and Chile, and provided yeoman's service in the recovery from Hurricane Katrina. When, not if, the major subduction zone strikes the Pacific NW, amateur radio will give communications when cellular and landline phones fail from overload and facility damage.

Local publicly-spirited amateurs are offering two-day classes, free, with the only charge $12 for the Federal Communication Commission to receive the exam result. Pass the test, and you've got the first of three amateur licenses; and there's no Morse code on any exam.

The format and times will be the same, one week apart..

Friday evening runs from 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM (perhaps only 9:00 PM, depending on questions posed in the class). Saturday runs from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM; a (BYO) brown-bag lunch break for questions and review, with testing at about 2:00 PM.

Two churches have donated their facilities for these April sessions:
We can't prevent natural disasters, but we can be ready to overcome them. Would you prefer to be a victim, or a survivor?

Monday, March 08, 2010

More proof that Vitamin D is important for your health

http://www.smartplanet.com/business/blog/smart-takes/vitamin-d-its-a-linchpin-to-your-immune-system/4835 offers more proof that Vitamin D is an essential booster for health. It shows Stockholm researchers proved Vitamin D is required so that the T cells of your immune system can do their job.

Many folks don't get enough Vitamin D, for other research revealed Vitamin D amounts in milk and other foods is not enough to do the job.

Vitamin D3, the form best metabolized, is $17 for a 300 cap/2,000mg bottle at Costco; very, very cheap prevention against heart attack, diabetes, colon and breast cancer. Please make sure to show this article to your friends, as this is the best and most effective cancer preventative known.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Global Warming Natural?

Is global warming natural? German and Russian research suggests so. And, Havard researchers have found periods when glaciers covered even the Equator.

Those friendly CO2 emissions may not only not be pollution, contrary to recent EPA fiat, but they might just be holding off the next batch of glaciers.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

But it wasn't strictly a subprime mortgage crisis

Robert X. Cringely the Third, who, for a time, lived in Bend and produced technical industry documentaries for PBS (Triumph of the Nerds among others) as well as a column in the influential computer industry trade journal Infoworld, has joined a project focusing on the finance industry. Today's interesting post, titled Panic Attack, explains as per:
a new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Great Recession wasn’t the result of a bursting housing bubble at all but rather a bank panic in the long tradition of American bank panics. Yes, subprime mortgage securitization was a mess -- a house of cards probably doomed to fall -- but subprime by itself simply wasn’t big enough to put the entire financial system at risk. That required a failure of the Renew Sale and Repurchase (REPO) market for collateralized securities that over the last 30 years had quietly come to backstop global finance.
Read the report. It is fascinating and chilling.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Make them no better than us

"An idea whose time has come"

For too long we have been too complacent about the workings of Congress.  Many citizens had no idea that members of Congress could retire with the same pay after only one term, that they didn't pay into Social Security, that they specifically exempted themselves from many of the laws they have passed (such as being exempt from any fear of prosecution for sexual harassment) while ordinary citizens must live under those laws..  The latest is to exempt themselves from the Healthcare Reform that is being considered...in all of its forms.  Somehow, that doesn't seem logical.  We do not have an elite that is above the law.  I truly don't care if they are Democrat, Republican, Independent or whatever.  The self-serving must stop.  

This is a good way to do that.  It is an idea whose time has come.

Have each person contact a minimum of Twenty people on their Address list, in turn ask each of those to do likewise..

In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message.  This is one proposal that really should be passed around.

Proposed 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution:
"Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States".