Entries Tagged as ''

Tax Land Mines

There’s all this talk about how the Republican Party crafted a tax land mine when they put in place the Bush tax cuts with a ten year expiration — that they knew that the laws would force action by the Democratic party (you mean the Republican’s knew that after George W Bush there wouldn’t be another Republican in White House, nor would they be in control of either branch of the legislature?

Hmm… I don’t but it, but if it’s true that’s cause for major concern.

So the rational goes:

  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose not to renew the tax cuts; they are seen raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts for only those making less than a quarter million dollars; they are seen as raising taxes.
  • If the Democrats vote on the issue and they choose to renew the tax cuts as they are now, the Republican’s get what they want, and they are seen taking no action to address the growing deficit.

I don’t know what alternate Republican reality these analysis came from, but I certainly don’t understand why the Democrats can’t take the reigns and turn this into a political hot potato for the Republicans.

Elections are about votes; and most American’s earn far less than a quarter million dollars per year, so they aren’t effected by renewing the tax cuts for only those who earn less than that (the current strategy favored by the Obama administration)… so leverage that, show how (once again) the Republican’s want to benefit those who are wealthy, and are only providing lip service as to trying to control the deficit (it is, after all, Republican policies of the Bush administration that created the deficit we have now — remember when Bush took office there was the so called budget “surplus”).

Regardless of your political affiliation, the only real way to take control of the deficit is spend less than you take in — it’s not a revolutionary concept, and in the end it’s likely we’re going to have to both increase taxes on at least some American’s, cut waste, and likely reduce spending.

FY2007
FY2007

FY2008
FY2008

FY2009
FY2009

Originally posted 2010-10-02 02:00:45.

Bill of Rights – Amendment I

The past week has made me question if it’s not just the financial future for the United States that is in serious question, but the very founding principles which established this republic.

The framers of the Constitution of the United States were compelled to add the first ten amendments to that document before ratification. Known as the Bill of Rights the first of these amendments (Amendment I) contains precept son which much of the expansion of this country has been based (though this is not the first time it’s principle has been tarnished).

On 17 September 1787 the current United States Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and ratified by each US state in the name of “The People”.

The United States Constitution is the oldest written (single document) constitution still in use by any nation on our planet, and had for over two hundred years defined law in the United States.

On 25 September 1789 the following was added to the United States Constitution, and enacted in full force on 15 December 1791.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The “eviction” of peaceful protestors in a number of cities across the nation was alarming in itself; but the use of pepper spray to clear out a group of peaceful protesters at the University of California Davis, in Davis, California is a travesty.  This incident, caught on video and seen within 24-hours of it happening by over half a million people is truly alarming.

I do agree with University of California Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi that an independent investigation be conducted; but I believe that several investigations need to be conducted, including one by the Justice Department under the direction of the US Attorney General.

While I do not feel Linda Katehi needs to step down; I do believe both her and the commander of the police force, as well as any officer acting outside the bounds of the orders issued, need to be put on administrative leave immediately; and their actions would need to be fully investigated before allowing them to return to their positions of authority.

Points of law, and the legality of actions are determined by the judiciary; but it is the responsibility of the executive branch to insure that potential violations of law (and civil rights) are arraigned.

The Arab Spring was seen as a great movement forward to allowing people to be free(r) and allow them to have a (larger) stake in deciding their future; but now, perhaps the United States needs to request international observers to insure that our government doesn’t continue down this road to infringe on the rights that “we the people” have given so much to secure.


Originally posted 2011-11-21 02:00:40.

Walgreen’s

Unfortunately it’s a pattern I’ve seen all too often in the past — the tale tale signs of a merchant that clearly care nothing about you as a customer except what they can extract from your wallet.

I was in Walgreen’s, and I was purchasing a few items and I noticed that they had a $5.00 off on your next purchase with a $20.00 purchase — well, it just so happened that I could make immediate use of that so I got together $20.86 in merchandise and went up to the cash register.

The cashier entered all the promotional codes for my purchase… I swiped my credit card (which was authorized for payment), out came my receipt, an no $5.00 off coupon.

She called the manager on duty (a person I’d conversed with on a number of occasions — who I’ve always found quite competent, quite friendly, and quite helpful).  It took her a few minutes to get to the register; she said that she could void the receipt and do it again, but my feeling was that the cashier had done nothing wrong — it just didn’t work.

But wait!

Walgreen’s apparently knew there were cases where this wouldn’t work — they had provided stores with a form that customers could fill out and mail in.  It did take her quite some time to locate the form, in all I stood at the check out about 40 minutes (40 minutes of my life I’ll never get back, nor will I be compensated for in any way).

So, corporate expects customers to spend their time and money (no envelope or stamp was provided by Walgreen’s) to correct their problem.  The advertisement clearly stated that the $5.00 off coupon was instant, not a mail-in rebate; and that it could be used on the next trip to Walgreen’s (like immediately).

I can’t fault any of the store employees — they tried to do what they could; but I do fault the corporate policy.

I came home, I wrote a lengthy message to Walgreen’s customer service telling them what had happened, and what I thought of their policies, and that they’d made me a happy and loyal CVS customer (there’s a 24-hour CVS right across the street from the 24-hour Walgreen’s near my home).  And when I sent it — I immediately deleted the email address I’d provided Walgreen’s for their sales circulars and online shopping (I’ll have no need for those) and directed that they were to remove all my information from their systems.

I have no need to invest my time and my money correcting the failing of a company that doesn’t offer in any way to compensate me for their mistakes, and I encourage everyone to do what I always do — use your wallet to show you just won’t accept this type of behavior.

If a company makes a mistake — the company should fix it without any intervention of the customer that’s effected.  And my personal feeling is there should be a federal law that requires companies to pay individuals for their time and expense they invest in fixing problems that they in no way contributed to (whey are doing work for the company) – after all, the way it stands now, companies have no reason to get it right, since it always seems to be you the consumer that get’s the short end.

I’m just saying “No” to Walgreen’s — just like all the other companies who’ve shown they don’t deserve my business.

Originally posted 2012-05-28 02:00:03.

Linux – Desktop Search

A while ago I published a post on Desktop Search on Linux (specifically Ubuntu).  I was far from happy with my conclusions and I felt I needed to re-evaluate all the options to see which would really perform the most accurate search against my information.

Primarily my information consists of Microsoft Office documents, Open Office documents, pictures (JPEG, as well as Canon RAW and Nikon RAW), web pages, archives, and email (stored as RFC822/RFC2822 compliant files with an eml extension).

My test metrics would be to take a handful of search terms which I new existed in various types of documents, and check the results (I actually used Microsoft Windows Search 4.0 to prepare a complete list of documents that matched the query — since I knew it worked as expected).

The search engines I tested were:

I was able to install, configure, and launch each of the applications.  Actually none of them were really that difficult to install and configure; but all of them required searching through documentation and third party sites — I’d say poor documentation is just something you have to get used to.

Beagle, Google, Tracker, Pinot, and Recoll all failed to find all the documents of interest… none of them properly indexed the email files — most of the failed to handle plain text files; that didn’t leave a very high bar to pick a winner.

Queries on Strigi actually provided every hit that the same query provided on Windows Search… though I have to say Windows Search was easier to setup and use.

I tried the Neopomuk (KDE) interface for Strigi — though it just didn’t seem to work as well as strigiclient did… and certainly strigiclient was pretty much at the top of the list for butt-ugly, user-hostile, un-intuitive applications I’d ever seen.

After all of the time I’ve spent on desktop search for Linux I’ve decided all of the search solutions are jokes.  None of them are well thought out, none of them are well executed, and most of them out right don’t work.

Like most Linux projects, more energy needs to be focused on working out a framework for search than everyone going off half-cocked and creating a new search paradigm.

The right model is…

A single multi-threaded indexer running in the background indexing files according to a system wide policy aggregated with user policies (settable by each user on directories they own) along with the access privileges.

A search API that takes the user/group and query to provide results for items that the user has (read) access to.

The indexer should be designed to use plug-in modules to handle particular file types (mapped both by file extension, and by file content).

The index should also be designed to use plug-in modules for walking a file system and receiving file system change events (that allows the framework to adapt as the Linux kernel changes — and would support remote indexing as well).

Additionally, the index/search should be designed with distributed queries in mind (often you want to search many servers, desktops, and web locations simultaneously).

Then it becomes a simple matter for developers to write new/better indexer plug-ins; and better search interfaces.

I’ve pointed out in a number of recent posts that you can effective use Linux as a server platform in your business; however, it seems that if search is a requirement you might want to consider ponying up the money for Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and enjoy seamless search (that works) between your Windows Vista / Windows 7 Desktops and Windows Server.

REFERENCES:

Ubuntu – Desktop Search

Originally posted 2010-07-16 02:00:19.

HTML Special Character Reference

ID Code Description
Á 193 Aacute 1 latin capital letter A with acute
á 225 aacute 1 latin small letter a with acute
â 226 acirc 1 latin small letter a with circumflex
 194 Acirc 1 latin capital letter A with circumflex
´ 180 acute 1 acute accent
æ 230 aelig 1 latin small letter ae
Æ 198 AElig 1 latin capital letter AE
À 192 Agrave 1 latin capital letter A with grave
à 224 agrave 1 latin small letter a with grave
8501 alefsym L alef symbol
Α 913 Alpha G greek capital letter alpha
α 945 alpha G greek small letter alpha
& 38 amp C ampersand
8743 and M logical and
8736 ang M angle
å 229 aring 1 latin small letter a with ring above
Å 197 Aring 1 latin capital letter A with ring above
8776 asymp M almost equal to
à 195 Atilde 1 latin capital letter A with tilde
ã 227 atilde 1 latin small letter a with tilde
Ä 196 Auml 1 latin capital letter A with diaeresis
ä 228 auml 1 latin small letter a with diaeresis
8222 bdquo U double low-9 quotation mark
Β 914 Beta G greek capital letter beta
β 946 beta G greek small letter beta
¦ 166 brvbar 1 broken bar
8226 bull P bullet
8745 cap M intersection
Ç 199 Ccedil 1 latin capital letter C with cedilla
ç 231 ccedil 1 latin small letter c with cedilla
¸ 184 cedil 1 cedilla
¢ 162 cent 1 cent sign
χ 967 chi G greek small letter chi
Χ 935 Chi G greek capital letter chi
ˆ 710 circ D modifier letter circumflex accent
9827 clubs S black club suit
8773 cong M approximately equal to
© 169 copy 1 copyright sign
8629 crarr A downwards arrow with corner leftwards
8746 cup M union
¤ 164 curren 1 currency sign
8224 dagger U dagger
8225 Dagger U double dagger
8659 dArr A downwards double arrow
8595 darr A downwards arrow
° 176 deg 1 degree sign
Δ 916 Delta G greek capital letter delta
δ 948 delta G greek small letter delta
9830 diams S black diamond suit
÷ 247 divide 1 division sign
é 233 eacute 1 latin small letter e with acute
É 201 Eacute 1 latin capital letter E with acute
Ê 202 Ecirc 1 latin capital letter E with circumflex
ê 234 ecirc 1 latin small letter e with circumflex
è 232 egrave 1 latin small letter e with grave
È 200 Egrave 1 latin capital letter E with grave
8709 empty M empty set
8195 emsp U em space
8194 ensp U en space
ε 949 epsilon G greek small letter epsilon
Ε 917 Epsilon G greek capital letter epsilon
8801 equiv M identical to
Η 919 Eta G greek capital letter eta
η 951 eta G greek small letter eta
ð 240 eth 1 latin small letter eth
Ð 208 ETH 1 latin capital letter ETH
ë 235 euml 1 latin small letter e with diaeresis
Ë 203 Euml 1 latin capital letter E with diaeresis
8364 euro U euro sign
8707 exist M there exists
ƒ 402 fnof I latin small f with hook
8704 forall M for all
½ 189 frac12 1 vulgar fraction one half
¼ 188 frac14 1 vulgar fraction one quarter
¾ 190 frac34 1 vulgar fraction three quarters
8260 frasl P fraction slash
Γ 915 Gamma G greek capital letter gamma
γ 947 gamma G greek small letter gamma
8805 ge M greater-than or equal to
> 62 gt C greater-than sign
8660 hArr A left right double arrow
8596 harr A left right arrow
9829 hearts S black heart suit
8230 hellip P horizontal ellipsis
í 237 iacute 1 latin small letter i with acute
Í 205 Iacute 1 latin capital letter I with acute
î 238 icirc 1 latin small letter i with circumflex
Î 206 Icirc 1 latin capital letter I with circumflex
¡ 161 iexcl 1 inverted exclamation mark
Ì 204 Igrave 1 latin capital letter I with grave
ì 236 igrave 1 latin small letter i with grave
8465 image L blackletter capital I
8734 infin M infinity
8747 int M integral
Ι 921 Iota G greek capital letter iota
ι 953 iota G greek small letter iota
¿ 191 iquest 1 inverted question mark
8712 isin M element of
Ï 207 Iuml 1 latin capital letter I with diaeresis
ï 239 iuml 1 latin small letter i with diaeresis
Κ 922 Kappa G greek capital letter kappa
κ 954 kappa G greek small letter kappa
λ 955 lambda G greek small letter lambda
Λ 923 Lambda G greek capital letter lambda
9001 lang T left-pointing angle bracket
« 171 laquo 1 left-pointing double angle quotation mark
8592 larr A leftwards arrow
8656 lArr A leftwards double arrow
8968 lceil T left ceiling
8220 ldquo U left double quotation mark
8804 le M less-than or equal to
8970 lfloor T left floor
8727 lowast M asterisk operator
9674 loz E lozenge
8206 lrm U left-to-right mark
8249 lsaquo U single left-pointing angle quotation mark
8216 lsquo U left single quotation mark
< 60 lt C less-than sign
¯ 175 macr 1 macron
8212 mdash U em dash
µ 181 micro 1 micro sign
· 183 middot 1 middle dot
8722 minus M minus sign
Μ 924 Mu G greek capital letter mu
μ 956 mu G greek small letter mu
8711 nabla M nabla
  160 nbsp 1 no-break space
8211 ndash U en dash
8800 ne M not equal to
8715 ni M contains as member
¬ 172 not 1 not sign
8713 notin M not an element of
8836 nsub M not a subset of
ñ 241 ntilde 1 latin small letter n with tilde
Ñ 209 Ntilde 1 latin capital letter N with tilde
Ν 925 Nu G greek capital letter nu
ν 957 nu G greek small letter nu
ó 243 oacute 1 latin small letter o with acute
Ó 211 Oacute 1 latin capital letter O with acute
Ô 212 Ocirc 1 latin capital letter O with circumflex
ô 244 ocirc 1 latin small letter o with circumflex
Π338 OElig O latin capital ligature OE
œ 339 oelig O latin small ligature oe
ò 242 ograve 1 latin small letter o with grave
Ò 210 Ograve 1 latin capital letter O with grave
8254 oline P overline
ω 969 omega G greek small letter omega
Ω 937 Omega G greek capital letter omega
Ο 927 Omicron G greek capital letter omicron
ο 959 omicron G greek small letter omicron
8853 oplus M circled plus
8744 or M logical or
ª 170 ordf 1 feminine ordinal indicator
º 186 ordm 1 masculine ordinal indicator
Ø 216 Oslash 1 latin capital letter O with stroke
ø 248 oslash 1 latin small letter o with stroke
Õ 213 Otilde 1 latin capital letter O with tilde
õ 245 otilde 1 latin small letter o with tilde
8855 otimes M circled times
Ö 214 Ouml 1 latin capital letter O with diaeresis
ö 246 ouml 1 latin small letter o with diaeresis
182 para 1 pilcrow sign
8706 part M partial differential
8240 permil U per mille sign
8869 perp M up tack
φ 966 phi G greek small letter phi
Φ 934 Phi G greek capital letter phi
Π 928 Pi G greek capital letter pi
π 960 pi G greek small letter pi
ϖ 982 piv G greek pi symbol
± 177 plusmn 1 plus-minus sign
£ 163 pound 1 pound sign
8243 Prime P double prime
8242 prime P prime
8719 prod M n-ary product
8733 prop M proportional to
ψ 968 psi G greek small letter psi
Ψ 936 Psi G greek capital letter psi
34 quot C quotation mark
8730 radic M square root
9002 rang T right-pointing angle bracket
» 187 raquo 1 right-pointing double angle quotation mark
8658 rArr A rightwards double arrow
8594 rarr A rightwards arrow
8969 rceil T right ceiling
8221 rdquo U right double quotation mark
8476 real L blackletter capital R
® 174 reg 1 registered sign
8971 rfloor T right floor
Ρ 929 Rho G greek capital letter rho
ρ 961 rho G greek small letter rho
8207 rlm U right-to-left mark
8250 rsaquo U single right-pointing angle quotation mark
8217 rsquo U right single quotation mark
8218 sbquo U single low-9 quotation mark
Š 352 Scaron O latin capital letter S with caron
š 353 scaron O latin small letter s with caron
8901 sdot M dot operator
§ 167 sect 1 section sign
­ 173 shy 1 soft hyphen
Σ 931 Sigma G greek capital letter sigma
σ 963 sigma G greek small letter sigma
ς 962 sigmaf G greek small letter final sigma
8764 sim M tilde operator
9824 spades S black spade suit
8834 sub M subset of
8838 sube M subset of or equal to
8721 sum M n-ary sumation
8835 sup M superset of
¹ 185 sup1 1 superscript one
² 178 sup2 1 superscript two
³ 179 sup3 1 superscript three
8839 supe M superset of or equal to
ß 223 szlig 1 latin small letter sharp s
Τ 932 Tau G greek capital letter tau
τ 964 tau G greek small letter tau
8756 there4 M therefore
Θ 920 Theta G greek capital letter theta
θ 952 theta G greek small letter theta
ϑ 977 thetasym G greek small letter theta symbol
8201 thinsp U thin space
Þ 222 THORN 1 latin capital letter THORN
þ 254 thorn 1 latin small letter thorn with
˜ 732 tilde D small tilde
× 215 times 1 multiplication sign
8482 trade L trade mark sign
ú 250 uacute 1 latin small letter u with acute
Ú 218 Uacute 1 latin capital letter U with acute
8657 uArr A upwards double arrow
8593 uarr A upwards arrow
û 251 ucirc 1 latin small letter u with circumflex
Û 219 Ucirc 1 latin capital letter U with circumflex
Ù 217 Ugrave 1 latin capital letter U with grave
ù 249 ugrave 1 latin small letter u with grave
¨ 168 uml 1 diaeresis
ϒ 978 upsih G greek upsilon with hook symbol
υ 965 upsilon G greek small letter upsilon
Υ 933 Upsilon G greek capital letter upsilon
ü 252 uuml 1 latin small letter u with diaeresis
Ü 220 Uuml 1 latin capital letter U with diaeresis
8472 weierp L script capital P
ξ 958 xi G greek small letter xi
Ξ 926 Xi G greek capital letter xi
ý 253 yacute 1 latin small letter y with acute
Ý 221 Yacute 1 latin capital letter Y with acute
¥ 165 yen 1 yen sign
ÿ 255 yuml 1 latin small letter y with diaeresis
Ÿ 376 Yuml O latin capital letter Y with diaeresis
Ζ 918 Zeta G greek capital letter zeta
ζ 950 zeta G greek small letter zeta
8205 zwj U zero width joiner
8204 zwnj U zero width non-joiner
 

LEGEND
Section Description
P General punctuation
A Arrows
1 General characters
C Controls and basic latin
S Miscellaneous symbols
D Spacing modified letters
T Miscellaneous technical characters
U General punctuation (special characters)
E Geometric shapes
G Greek symbols
I Latin extended B
L Letterlike symbols
M Mathematical operators
O Latin extended A

Originally posted 2008-05-16 14:04:48.

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.

ASUS Eee PC

ASUS has release a series of “thin client” devices that they call the Eee PC, it comes in three basic models (the Eee PC Surf and Eee PC look identical, but the Surf versions apparently aren’t easily upgraded; and then there’s the Eee PC 900 which has a larger display).

The Eee PC Surf is available with either 2GB or 4GB; the Eee PC is available with either 4GB or 8GB — both have a 7″ screen.

The Eee 900 is available with either 12GB (Linux) or 20GB (Windows) and has a 8.9″ screen.

All of the use Intel processors… for more information just go to ASUS, and I’ll save you the pain of going through their cute presentation:

Eee PC  Eee PC Surf & Eee PC

Eee PC 900  Eee PC 900

Originally posted 2008-05-18 21:41:35.

Media Com

OK, so I thought Comcast was bad…

After I first moved I had Cox Cable — and it was great.  The installation happened exactly as they promised; I consistently got 15 mb/s down stream out of the 20 mb/s down stream burst they promised, and it was at a fair price.

Then, of course, I bought a house and moved in, and Cox didn’t service my new address — Media Com ( mediacomcc.com ) did…

So I went to the office to order service since there didn’t seem to be any way to do it online.

When I got to the office, and stood in line for about half an hour, I came to find out that they couldn’t setup cable service for me since the address had never had cable and wasn’t in their database and the person who added addresses would take two to three days to complete it.  But I was told that they would call me as soon as my address had been entered.

Never received a call… so I stopped back by the middle of the next week.

My address had indeed been ordered; and I was able to order Internet service (actually TV plus Internet was $0.10 cheaper than Internet alone, so I got both — not that either option was what I’d consider a fair price).

The installer arrived within the window provided; but didn’t actually have everything to complete the installation (no outside box — so he just wired the splitter up with no protection from the elements and promised to come back within a couple days to install the box).

There wasn’t a problem bringing up the Internet (it was a self install) — I can’t tell you anything about the TV service since my TVs (to this day) still remain in the boxes from the move.

The first thing I noticed was that the connection was slow (we’re talking very slow); but I didn’t panic right away and call technical support because I knew that on many system the modem might take 72-hours to provision correctly.

After a few days I started to run speed tests… they consistently showed that I was getting around 400 kb/s down stream out of the 8 mb/s advertised (but, of course, not guaranteed).  I might have been happy with 4 mb/s, but less than 2 mb/s meant that the connection would not be usable.

I placed a call to technical support and of course had to wade through all there attempts to deflect the problem as something I was doing.  Finally they decided that there must be a problem and scheduled an appointment for a four hour window the next Monday (almost a week in the future) with a 30 minute notice call.

Sunday evening came around and their automated system called me to confirm my appointment.  I pressed the button on my cell phone and the appointment was confirmed.

Monday I’d arranged my schedule to be around the house all afternoon… fifteen minutes before the close of their window (fifteen minutes after their notice period had expired) I called technical support.

The first thing I heard was… “we still have fifteen minutes” — then I pointed out that no, since I’d been promised a call 30 minutes before the service technician arrived that they’d officially missed the window.

A little more checking and they discovered that my appointment had been cancelled by the local office because they’d determined the problem was with the head-end and not in my home — of course no one had bother to notify me that I didn’t need to be available.

Immediately the technician offered me a credit for the missed appointment — I ask to speak to a supervisor.

The supervisor assured me that I should have been notified; but he was unable to provide me any information about when I could expect a resolution to the problem — so he committed to have someone call me back within 72-hours.

I stressed to him that if Media Com couldn’t honor simple commitments that I would switch my service to AT&T ADSL.

The week passed, and no return call – so I called in again, go a promise of a call back… and to this day I’ve never received a call back.  I also filed an online support ticket that’s never been answered.

The day after I had AT&T ADSL installed (which gives my consistently 5 mb/s downstream out of the 6 mb/s promised) I returned the equipment to the local Media Com office… and was ask why — I recanted the story so that everyone waiting in line could hear it.

The woman didn’t seem to be the list bit surprised, and never offered an apology.

The following week I called up to make sure that my account was closed and to insure that the 30-day money back guarantee was honored… the person I spoke with just happen to be a supervisor and was actually the first person who genuinely apologized without me needing to underscore how pathetic their customer service had been.

I could have lived with the poor Internet service for some period of time had I believed that the company was actually customer focused and that they would honor their commitments.  Further, I would have been far more willing to work with them had their customer service actually apologized right off, and made me feel that mine was the exception and not the norm.

BUT… 400 kb/s — come on… my cell phone does better than that!!!

Originally posted 2009-08-03 01:00:43.

Remote Access

I’ve been using a combination of bitvise WinSSHD and Tunnelier for remote access to my home network.  It basically allows me to tunnel a RDP (or simple command shell) via SSH to a Virtual machine running on my server (actually each “user” has a virtual machine all to their own, so there’s no contention).

I really like the simplicity of the SSH tunnel, and find that running it on port 22 and port 443 provides me with a very good likelihood of being able to connect through all but the most draconian firewalls.

You will want to make sure that you implement good security policies on your SSH server, and that you either use pre-shared keys or certificates OR that you make sure you have a strong password.  There are a number of bots out there that try to break into an SSH server using a list of well know user names and dictionary attack for the password.

WinSSHD will lock out IP addresses after a number of failed attempts; but I created a test account called “test” with the password “password” just to see what the bot would try to do (the account was jailed without any write priviledge in a safe sub-directory with no files).  The bot got frustrated and went away, but I was trying to upload files, and I would guess execute them (probably propagating itself).

You can black list IP addresses, and if you’re like me you run the DynDNS client (I use DynDNS.org for my dynamic ip naming service; it’s free, and it works well) on your notebooks so that you “know” their IP address via a fixed host name (though in WinSSHD the IP black list superceeds a DNS name white list).

http://www.bitvise.com/

http://www.dyndns.org/ or http://www.dyndns.com/

Originally posted 2008-10-30 13:00:59.

Domain Registrars and Hosting Companies

All domain registrars and hosting companies aren’t created equally…

If all you need from your domain registrar is just to get a domain, then find the absolute cheapest (and many have discounts for some TLDs from time to time)… but in general you might want DNS services, web redirects, email, etc… or even a full blown hosting plan — so it’s work looking around.

My domains are registered with, and hosted by 1and1.com — do I think they are the best… NO, but I do think they have a very good price for the services I happen to want, and their system works reasonably well.

But before you make a decision, you really need to decide what services you want, and look to see who offers what.

Ask your friends, a personal recommendation is one of the best ways to narrow the field.  Remember, though, not everyone wants the same services, so make sure you ask what services your friends get from the various companies, any problems they’ve had, anything they particularly like or dislike — and ask if they chose it because of a special promotional price.  The best deal today, won’t always be the best deal tomorrow.

Do you need your hosting company and your registrar to be the same?  Well, no you don’t…  Often though you’re going to find you get a better price overall by having the be the same.  That said, if you’re looking to move your domains from one place to another you might want to “try before you buy”.

I’d say the only requirement that a company has to have for you to consider them is a “money back guarantee”.  You can look over the information, play with their dummy control panel, etc all you want… but you won’t know if you like it (and it does the job) until you actually try to use it.

Most reputable hosting companies provide a 30-day money back guarantee.  I certainly ended up taking advantage of that at an “unlimited” hosting company.  And that’s something you just need to be sure they have.

The other thing to look at is what the contract term is for a reasonable price.  Some companies want you to sign up for three or four years to get a good price.  My advice is go with someone who gives you a competative price for thee to six months, and maybe even is offering a promotional package that extends the time you pay for.  Never sign up for more than a year unless it’s some incredible price, and then consider whether the company is likely going to be in business for the duration of the contract — and make sure they have a money back guarantee — and pay by credit card.

What if you only need domain registration?

Well, look at the prices charged, and any extra fees imposed.  You can check what the ICANN fee is currently, and contrast that with what the company is providing.  Odds are, though, you do want more than just a domain registration unless you do your own DNS, eMail, web, and blogs…

Here’s a partial list of feature you will probably want to consider:

Price

  • DNS (types of records you can create — additional domains, secondary domains)
  • email (POP, IMAP, SMTP — SSL/TLS — how many domains, how many accounts, forwarders, responders)
  • web (PHP, ASP, PERL, dot NET — how much storage, how much transfer, additional domains, secondary domains)
  • web applications (blogs, web page editors, etc)
  • database (MySQL, Postgress, Oracle, SQL Server — how large, how many)
  • access (FTP, Telnet, SSH, SFTP, SCP, WebDAV)

Here are a few companies to get you started:

  • JustHost
  • 1and1
  • NameCheap
  • Dotster
  • GoDaddy

And do an internet search on hosting companies – that will return quite a few.  Be mindful, many companies do business under multiple names.  I don’t generally consider this a very ethical practice; but not all companies who do this are dishonest.

 

One final personal note.

If NameCheap had more competative prices for hosting packages, and provided IMAP email I’d probably still be using them.  They do charge a little more than say 1and1, but they provide users the ability to control most every aspect of their domains.

I just moved all my domains from NameCheap to 1and1 when I decide I wanted to outsource my email, web, and blogs…

Originally posted 2008-05-12 13:17:53.