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Cellular Carriers and Plans

In this day and age you have a choice of a fair number of cellular carriers… actually there aren’t that many carriers in any one geographic area, but there are quite a few resellers.

Nation wide the big cellular carriers are:

  • Verizon (CDMA)
  • AT&T (GSM)
  • Sprint (CDMA)
  • T-Mobile

Regionally there are a number of others:

  • AllTel

And of course there are a number of resellers:

  • MetroPCS (limited areas, unlimited plans, resells Sprint)
  • Boost (pre-pay, resells Verizon)
  • TracPhone (pre-pay, resells Sprint)
  • Virgin Mobile (pre-pay, resells Sprint)

And a new kid on the block:

  • Helios (I believe they actually resell Sprint, but I’m not sure)

The question is always which carrier and plan is best for me?

That’s a difficult decision, let me illustrate some things to consider by characterizing the service I have and why…

I have an AllTel PDA phone (Motorola Q) because AllTel offers a very competative price on PDA service, unlimitd nights and weekends (nights start at 7pm), free in-network service (important because most of my relatives have AllTel service), and provides lots of free features (unlimited text, unlimited data, ability to tether to my laptop, no charge for roaming — you do tend to roam on Sprint, but do roam on Verizon and other carriers when there’s no AllTel or Sprint service).  And AllTel provides “MyCircle”, which is a group of number (on any network or land lines), the plan I have provides for 10 numbers.

Essentially, this service saves me a great deal of money by making most of my calls airtime free because of the nights-and-weekends, in-network, and designated airtime free numbers.

 

In addition I also have a Verizon cell phone because I have so many friends nationwide that have Verizon numbers (it saves them airtime charges, and allows me to carry an account that has a very low number of minutes).  Verizon, though, charges for just about every additional feature — so the plan always ends up costing more than you expect.  Of course I also get a 19% discount on my services (because of a Corporate Discount program I was able to take advantage of).

 

My point in going into the above, is there’s a lot of details you need to consider other than just the number of minutes… who do you call, when do you call — are there any special features that you can take advantage or — are there enhanced services you need or want — do you travel…

My advice would be “profile” how, when, and how much you use your current service, then look at all the carriers and figure out what service would cost.

For instance, if you rarely travel and don’t want to have a landline you might find that MetroPCS gives you the absolute lowest cost service…

Whereas, if you only use your cell phone very rarely, you might find that one of the pre-paid plans give you the absolute lowest cost service (the major carriers also offer pre-pay; but selecting a pre-paid plan requires you understand minute expire and charges, and most pre-pay providers offer more than one pre-pay option).

Lastly, remember that there are taxes charged to your cell phone based on where you specify your billing address and primary useage area.  Many pre-pay providers don’t charge extra for the taxes (they obviously build it into their billing model)… but other carries do.

There’s no way you’re going to avoid the federal taxes on your phone; but your cellular company might be charging you a number portability fee (consider that when comparing carriers), and the location you base your service and billing address greatly effect the local taxes (for instance, the City/County of San Francisco access an $8.00 cell phone tax per line).  You’ll often find you can save a substantial amount of money by using an alternate service / billing address.

 

Let me know if there are any glaring omissions or mistakes!

Originally posted 2008-05-12 12:53:27.

DHCP

DHCP, or Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, is an internet standard defined by RFC1541 and later by RFC2131(as well as a few other RFCs relevant to other physical mediums) as an extension to BOOTP.

DHCP is a fairly elegant method to give client computers configuration information to allow them access to an IP network.

Conceptually the protocol is straight forward:

  • A client machine boots and activates it’s network adapter
  • A client machine requests IP configuration information
  • A server provides IP configuration information with a time specific lease
  • A client consumes the IP configuration information and setups up it’s network adapter
  • A client attempts to renew it’s IP configuration information when the lease has half expired
  • A client releases it’s IP configuration information when done with it
  • A server release client specific configuration information either when it’s been released by the client or the lease has expired.

Most home and small businesses use DHCP and they use their router / gateway device as the DHCP server (most of these devices default to enabling their DHCP server).

Some gateways allow you a great deal of control over the DHCP server, they allow you to set MAC address to IP bindings, specify the DHCP records to be provided.  Some gateways only allow you to turn on or off the service.

An option to running the DHCP server in your router / gateway would be to run it on a machine that is always on (or at least is one when any machine that might need DHCP services might be on).

Microsoft provides a DHCP server as part of their server operating systems (Server 2003 and Server 2008), ISC provides a DHCP server that can be run on a variety of operating systems, and there are a few shareware and open source DHCP servers that might fit your needs.

There’s no question that DHCP is the way to manage IP configuration information in a small network, and most business and enterprises use DHCP as well.

Alternately if you don’t have a device that does DHCP and don’t want to or can’t use a software solution you can use the “Alternate Configuration” panel on a Windows PC to setup the IP address configuration information and if a DHCP server is ever present it will override the information you’ve entered on the PC.  This is very handy for laptops that need to be configured by DHCP when they’re out and about or at the office, but when you don’t have a DHCP server at home and need to connect to another machine.  This is different than statically setting the IP address on the machine, if you do that you have to change the configuration each time you need DHCP.

Originally posted 2009-01-11 12:39:33.

The Anti-Green – Catalogs [Comment]

Last week I posted The Anti-Green – Catalogs; which was triggered by receiving a catalog from B&H Photo Video, the day that article posted I received the following.


I appreciate the sentiments in your post although I am disappointed to see “Comments are closed.”

B&H regrets your dissatisfaction. At the same time we have many more customers thanking us for sending our useful resource book than otherwise so we have to presume it is not time for us to discontinue print publication. While I understand your sentiment, and agree we need to maintain a sustainable world for our children, I also recognize that other customers of ours have alternate perspectives.

Henry Posner
B&H Photo-Video


While I don’t allow comments on my BLOG posts, I do provide a contact mechanism (which Mr Posner used), and I’m more than happy to provide space for any reasonable rebuttal…

I’m happy that B&H Video Photo has many customers that thank them for their printed catalogs (at least some of those catalogs might actually be received by someone who doesn’t immediately throw them into a recycle bin, or worse) — but I’ll underscore that they send them to EVERYONE that’s ever done business with them rather than allow people to select whether or not they desire the catalogs (or any other mailings).

I’ll stand by what I said in my original post…

My feeling is that companies that do not believe that they actually represent a value to consumers are the companies that are quickest to force a subscription to any type of mailing list.  Companies who believe they offer something consumers want understand that consumers will come back and they don’t need to destroy the environment in order to attempt to promote future purchases.

Apparently I’m not the only one who took a moment to comment on getting a catalog they didn’t want here’s a forum thread on the topic “Unsubscribe from B&H’s forest felling catalog“, which happens to includes the post.


henryp
May 05, 2010 at 07:27 PM

First, I apologize to those who received more than one book and to those who opted out but received books anyway. There are a variety of possible reasons why, but suffice it to say we won’t send you what you don’t want if at all possible.

I want to thank the OP for posting the unsub link. Very thoughtful and much appreciated. The unsub link has been tweeted and retweeted repeatedly (more than once by me). I doubt Twitter needs it again. 🙂

Anyone who got multiple books – please send me the individual alpha-num codes via email (NOT PM) and I’ll forward them to the list maintainer. An example of the code is JC1026#####.

Having read a lot of “why do they bother” stuff here and elsewhere, the answer is because more people want them than don’t and they do get used. People circle stuff with ballpoint pens, highlight stuff with those yellow markers, fold down page corners or tag pages with post-it notes and tear out pages and post them on the refrigerator.

We want to keep our mail list to folks who really do want them and appreciate your help to keep our list clean. Thank you. FWIW, the whole thing’s online here.

Henry Posner
B&H Photo-Video

PS Recycle, don’t discard!


Here is B&H Photo Video’s catalog unsubscribe link — but notice it doesn’t take the catalog number on the label, but rather wants to collect personal information…

Originally posted 2010-05-12 02:00:35.

Tax Day

The tax man cometh… and probably won’t leave you with much.

Income tax — a horrible thing; and the Sixteenth Amendment should be repealed.

Why this country hasn’t moved to a more equitable and more easily administered tax system is beyond me — just another failing of our government.

Originally posted 2010-04-15 01:00:34.

Windows 7 – Install With Multiple Disks

I set out this evening to install Windows 7 Ultimate on one of my “high end” desktops, and like all my desktops it has multiple SATA drives running in AHCI mode (after all, it’s “high end”).

No matter how I setup my drives in the BIOS or with the SATA cables I kept getting the larger (newer) drive as DISK0 in the Windows 7 install and the smaller (older) drive as DISK1.

Finally I started doing some reading on the Internet, and I’m not the only person who’s noticed this behavior.  In fact, some say it’s random.

Based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve read I suspect that Microsoft’s EFI BIOS implementation re-polls [discovery] the drives and ignores what the PC legacy BIOS tells it… and the first drive to respond is DISK0.  In my case the drive I want to be DISK0 is probably predictably slower than the drive I want to be DISK1, so I see consistent results.  However, if the drives are very similar (or identical) you could see either become ready first (a micro-second counts).

This is obviously a bug in Windows 7 (didn’t happen in Vista; but apprently is did happen in Vista SP1 and SP2), and can cause all kinds of problems down the road.

What’s the best way to deal with it?

Open up your case and unplug all but the first drive, do your installation, then power up the drives one-by one (if you have hot-swap capability with SATA you don’t need to power down, if you don’t you will have to power down to plug in each drive in turn).

You can easily change the drive letters in disk manager; and once Windows tattoos the drives they should be fixed in order in disk manager.

If you have a motherboard that uses the Intel chip set you may want to download and install the Intel® Matrix Storage Manager for Windows 7.

If PCs used EFI BIOS (like Macs) this probably wouldn’t be an issue, but since Microsoft uses a soft EFI BIOS to boot, they should have tested this better, and they should have fixed it (there are several people who indicated they reported this behavior during the beta testing).

While Windows 7 might be a nice overhaul of Vista; it’s not without it’s problems, and maybe the whole PC heritage is beginning to be too antiquated to keep updating; perhaps it’s time for a new design.

Originally posted 2009-11-12 01:00:38.

AT&T U-Verse – Internet

AT&T offers three separate services through their U-Verse branded advance communications offering.  This post will deal with high speed internet.

Essentially AT&T U-Verse internet is DSL broadband — though at much higher rates that you’re likely used to… the particulars of the speed offering depends on the package you pay for.

  • Max Turbo – Up to 24 Mbps downstream Starting at $65/month
  • Max Plus – Up to 18.0 Mbps downstream Starting at $55/month
  • Max – Up to 12.0 Mbps downstream Starting at $45/month
  • Elite – Up to 6.0 Mbps downstream Starting at $43/month
  • Pro – Up to 3.0 Mbps downstream Starting at $38/month

Upstream bandwidth increases with downstream, and is generally much more generous than AT&T’s older ADSL plans; though the pricing of the lower bandwidth U-Verse services aren’t as attractive as the older AT&T ADSL plans (particularly with the promotions you can probably still get for the older ADSL combined with voice or even “naked” DSL plans)..

Not shown on their ordering information is a 30 Mbps downstream plan to be offered later this Summer that will ahve a 5 Mbps upstream.

Remember from my earlier post — you must use the AT&T residential gateway.  The gateway is a descent piece of consumer technology, though I’m not sure it’s a very high performance internet router.

My tests of it show that it’s definitely capable of sustaining the advertised bandwidth of your connection (and you really get the bandwidth your order); however, my tests also show that the router isn’t capable of sustaining a large number of simultaneous connections without rather dramatic performance degradation.

Which mean in plan old English — if you’re going to do Peer-To-Peer file sharing, the AT&T residential gateway will not be your friend… you’re probably going to end up having to reset it every day or two to keep it running well (I’ve noted that simply shutting down the connections doesn’t seem to help — but that could be that other P2P nodes are continuing to bombard your IP address).

For most people P2P isn’t a requirement, and certainly most people won’t be doing P2P much — and if they do, they certainly understand how to discontinue P2P services and reset the connection (remember it affects voice and video when you reset) when they need high speed connectivity for something else.

My gut tells me that the equipment is operating as designed — and intended to enforce a “fair use” policy by penalizing individuals who try and do P2P (after all — unlimited really doesn’t mean as much as you want, it means as much as your provider is willing to let you have).

And my gut feeling about the router operating as designed is further re-enforced by the fact that a great deal of though has been put into the design of the software and interface for the router… it will do pretty much anything any use will need for it to do (don’t think along the lines of a Cisco router with IOS, think along the lines of a prosumer / SOHO router).

Overall, my feelings are that the AT&T U-Verse Internet is a good deal, that it performs well, and at the high speed levels (well, not at the highest — I think there you’re getting gouged) it’s a reasonably fair price, and a very solid technology.

U-Verse Internet is really all I wanted from AT&T; and it’s the one service I will keep.

Originally posted 2010-05-17 02:00:38.

Joke Day USA

That’s the best name I can think of for elections in the US… it really has become a joke.

But I have a few ideas that “we the people” need to push for:

  • No elected official will serve more than two terms (if it’s good for the president, it’s good for all offices);
  • All elected officials will receive pay at the rate of minimum wage for forty hours per week (and won’t be eligible for overtime);
  • All elected officials will receive the same health care coverage as do Americans who work hourly jobs (ie, they will have to deal with insurance provided at the national level); and they will pay for that insurance out of their pocket;
  • All elected officials will receive the same retire plan as do Americans who work hourly jobs (ie, Social Security);
  • All elected officials will have to publish their complete tax returns (including all supporting documents);
  • All elected officials will have to publish their complete calendar;
  • It will be a felony punishable by a minimum of fifty years in prison should any elected official use their office for personal gain or fail to provide “transparent” access to their activities;

I personally think we’ve given our elected officials too long in the candy store without parental supervision — this crap where congress get’s a raise unless they vote against it is just wrong; congress should only get a raise when the average American get’s a raise — too long has this country catered to the elite; it’s time now for this country to recognize that America’s strength is in it’s masses.

US National Debt Clock: Real Time


INCUMBENTS

Originally posted 2010-11-02 02:00:18.

Health Care

On the eve of the shortest day of the year it seems to me that this might well be the darkest day of our era.

A year ago we Americans were at what we hoped was a nexus of change for the better.  With a new president, an outsider, a visionary about to take the reigns we hoped that we would step forward and take all Americans with us.

Health care was a promise, a major plank of the Obama platform, and it would be a test to see exactly what out new president was made of.

I put forward our new president is made of nothing; he’s a failure and a disgrace.

Obviously the Nobel Committee doesn’t share my sentiment, but then again you have to seriously question a peace organization that awards an individual dedicated to the proposition that peace is sometimes only achieved through war (last I checked, war was achieved through war — and all the great wars to end all wars only spawned new wars).

Why do I say Barack Obama is a failure?

Simple, a man who cannot stand up for values he purported to have during a campaign, a man that cannot lead his own party, a man that cannot charter the imagination and dreams of Americans, a man who calls himself a leader that has failed by every measure to promote the general welfare.

Hardly a success; and certainly not deserving of an “A” for effort.

I voted for Obama for president not because I liked him or trusted him or believed in him, but rather because I didn’t like, didn’t trust, and didn’t believe in his opponent (and I still don’t).

What a sad country we live in when we must choose our leader by eliminating the worst and only having one choice remain.

I digress.

The lack of a public option for health care reform is nothing but pandering to the health care industry and will in fact achieve nothing except kill the chances of ever having true health care reform.

I simply cannot understand why Canadians can have a health care system that works and provides for each and every Canadian while in the United States we have millions with no insurance, and millions with insurance that doesn’t provide any preventive care.

If the US adopts the health care reform that’s currently working it’s way through the legislative process without adding back a public option I fear that it will be many decades before we have another opportunity to start down the road of insuring that every American has access to reasonable, affordable health care.

Originally posted 2009-12-21 01:00:46.

Zeiss Lenses

Not lenses for your camera… lenses for your glasses!

Carl Zeiss Optical has been making high quality lenses for optical needs in glasses and sunglasses (I’ve always preferred to pay a little extra for Zeiss polarized lenses for my sun glasses) at While Mill Industiral Estate just outside Wexford, Ireland for over 30 years — on 30 September 2011 they announce the facility is closing and that production is being moved to China by years end.

While the quality of the production of Zeiss optics might be every bit as good after the move; I’m thinking I might just not want to waste the money buying a “name” that’s been put on a product that’s likely made in the same factory that something costing half as much does.

You’ll have to decide if you want to support Zeiss; but more and more it seems that brands I trusted for quality are just becoming labels that charge higher prices and offer nothing.

Originally posted 2011-10-03 02:00:25.

Hello – Hello – Hello

In this day when it seems that most cellular communication companies are trying to bend you over and extort the maximum amount of money possible with complicated plans that likely don’t match your usage habits, there are two independent carries that just might be coming to help you.

MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless both offer reasonable cost flat rate, unlimited, voice – message – data plans.  Both carries allow you to bring existing (compatible) CDMA handsets to their network (you can pay them to unlock the phone, or you can generally do it yourself).

The catch?

Both companies have limited service areas at the moment, but both are actively expanding.

You really have to look over their plans to understand what’s offered. Both have roaming capabilities, but the cost structure is quite different (and if you travel frequently outside their service areas you might find services from another carrier are less expensive).  Both also have data services; MetroPCS never jumped on the 3G data bandwagon (they really never sold devices targeted at that market), but has started an aggressive 4G rollout in major metropolitan areas; Cricket Wireless does have 3G data services (no roaming data services currently available) but have no firm plans to move to 4G until equipment prices are more competitive.

Aside from MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless you might also look into MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operator — basically they purchase and resell bandwidth from one or more wireless carriers).  Operators like Virgin Mobile (reselling Sprint in the US) or Straight Talk (reselling Verizon in the US) along with a number of smaller and regional MVNOs might fit your needs better.  Most of those (except the GSM carriers) don’t accommodate handsets they don’t sell you, but that’s an every changing landscape.

MetroPCS

Cricket Wirless

Originally posted 2010-10-04 02:00:31.