Entries Tagged as 'Internet'

Dynamic DNS

Most broadband users have an IP address that is issued by their provider via DHCP or PPP (PPPoE technically); that address, generally, will not change as long as the connection is kept up (in the past, some Telcos implemented a policy on PPPoE where the IP addresses would by cycled every few hours to insure that users could not depend on IP addresses staying the same, as far as I know that policy hasn’t been in effect for several years).

Realistically there are only a handful of reasons why you might need a fixed IP address rather than a dynamic IP address.

  • Running a DNS server
  • VPN endpoint (particularly a VPN server)

Further, it would be advisable to have a static IP address for the following uses (though not required).

  • SMTP server

Many people mistakenly believe they must have static IP address in order to have a web server (or FTP server).  That’s simply not the case.

Many domain registrars that provide DNS service offer dynamic registration of host (dynamic DNS), and even if your registrar doesn’t provide that service there are a number of free providers that allow you to register a dynamic host name in their domain (you could then create a CNAME in your domain and point back to that).

Provided that your gateway or a host on your sub-net can provide the dynamic DNS provider with notifications of changes to your IP address, you will always have a canonical name that you can reach your IP address via.

Which means, you always have a way to find a web server, or most any other type of network service that you choose to run on your home network.

NOTE: You should check your terms of service, your provider may forbid you from operating one of more services on your connection.

While there are many dynamic DNS providers, I tend to recommend individuals look at DynDNS.org first, they offer a free dynamic DNS service that should suit the needs of most individuals, and offer update clients for most operating systems in the case that your gateway is unable to update your IP address (or is unable to do so correctly, which may be the case for DSL services where the modem initiates the PPPoE connection).

One other thing you might think about… even if you have a static IP address, it may make sense to use a dynamic DNS service to provide you with your IP address — you can generally enter it as static, or just go ahead and run the update client.  That insures you that if anything goes wrong you can still find your IP by name (and provides a redundant DNS entry).

Originally posted 2010-01-21 02:00:24.

Web 2.0? Talk About Version Number Creep

Personally I’d say we’re somewhere around Web 0.01 right now, and I’m not totally convinced we’re moving forward.

While AJAX definitely improves the user experience, I would hardly call it an enabling technology for the future, I’d categorize it more as a stop-gap to create a dynamic user interface on legacy systems.

The real question is why are we promoting this as Web 2.0?  We could be focusing on create new standards for browsers and servers that created real interactiveness and addresses many of the short comings of our current systems.

And what’s with the countless frameworks?  How can anyone be expected to be productive without real standards and standard based frameworks?

To me this all seems too reminiscent of the “good old days”…

Originally posted 2008-05-15 20:45:37.

AT&T Provides Exceptionally BAD Customer Service

Yesterday morning (and well into the afternoon) I spent over two and one-half hours on the phone with AT&T trying to resolve an issue with a “$50 Cash Back”.

First I call the customer service phone number on my bill; and was quickly told I’d have to resolve it online since it related to an online order.

Then I brought up a chat window with online customer service, who was quick to tell me I needed to call the rewards center (which I did was I was chatting with them — and left the chat open exchanging information slowly).

With the rewards center I talked with a useless individual who transferred me to a supervisor who was actually some what helpful; but she told me I had to go through customer service and have the rewards center conferenced in (they apparently can’t access customer records, nor can they make outbound calls).

So I called back customer service, spoke to an individual who wanted to help — but wouldn’t transfer me to a supervisor; determined I need to talk to the rewards center (duh — that’s what I told him — I needed to be conferenced in to the rewards center with a supervisor)… he transferred me to the rewards center (main number) and hung up… so I talked with a rewards center person, and was again transferred to the same supervisor (who told me again there was nothing she could do — and I pointed out that I had done EXACTLY as she ask, and again AT&T had incompetency was the issue).

She transferred me back to customer service — which turned out to be more of a hassle since it was a different office, and I had to enter all my account information.  The person I spoke with was EXTREMELY rude, and the supervisor she transferred me to was an absolute BITCH (trying to play the power game).

I then called back to customer service, was transferred to a supervisor, who did conference into the rewards center and then got an absolute BITCH there.

After that (and noting all their names and operator IDs — at least the operator IDs of the ones that would actually provide them to me) I decide to just call and go through the complaints process…

I explained the whole thing to the woman, she read over the notes; ask me a few questions, and then just said “How ’bout I just credit your account $50 and put this issue to rest”.

It took her less than five minutes to understand the previous two and a half hour nightmare with AT&T individuals who were for the most part in a hurry to say NO, tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about, or tell me I needed to talk to someone else…

And all of this is a result of AT&T designing a system of rebates / credits / incentives that is difficult for an individual to navigate through and redeem… after all, they don’t really want you to get the money, they just want to defraud you.

HORRIBLE company (yeah — I already knew that)… and certainly AT&T doesn’t do anything to retain customers…

I’m already making plans to change my Internet provider as soon as I get the credits for the other promotions.

As far as I’m concerned, if I have to deal with crappy customer service, I’ll just play the providers against each other and maximize my savings.

All I can say is…

Just say NO!

Originally posted 2009-08-04 01:00:18.

Media Com – Followup

I got an email notifying me of my first (and last) Media Com statement about two weeks ago, only problem, I couldn’t access my bill online without the PIN printed on my first statement… a bit of a flaw in their system (nice of them to switch me to paperless billing before they sent the first statement).

And, of course, I’d already gone through customer service and been told that they will not provide me with the PIN over the phone (nor is it printed on anything they had given me to date)… so I had to ask that they send me a paper copy of my final statement.

The statement arrived on Saturday, and it had a balance (nice how their 30-day guarantee guarantees nothing but to waste your time). 

No only did the bill not have a zero balance (they had refunded my payment to my credit card), but it didn’t have the $20 credit for a missed appointment — so by any measure the bill was WRONG.

I called up customer service bright and early Monday morning, and actually spoke to a billing representative who seemed moderately bright… as she went through the bill she found more and more issues and from the tone of her voice was almost as disgusted as I was after reading the notes and looking over the bill.

Apparently the individual who closed the account noted the money back guarantee, but didn’t do anything about it.  The supervisor who refunded my credit card didn’t process the money back guarantee either, and that’s why the system re-billed me.  The system billed me for more family cable than it should have (on the first bill Media Com indicates you have to give them a seven day notice of disconnect, technically I told them when they failed to provide me reasonable speed internet that I was disconnecting — but even using seven days from when I turned in the equipment the system billed me for over two weeks).

You’d think that companies would build into their billing systems rules that enforced their policies… and who knows, maybe they do build in rules to enforce their billing polices and sending out fraudulent statements is the way they choose to do business.

Original Post

Originally posted 2009-08-15 01:00:59.

AT&T U-Verse – Summary

After thinking over AT&T U-Verse service I’m going to have to make the call that it’s something you’ll have to consider long and hard and figure out if the cost makes it something that’s worth it to you.

AT&T is a horrible company to do business with; but then again, so likely is the company your get your video, telephone, and internet services from now — so that might be a wash.

AT&T is a company that doesn’t engender trust is the least — and you’ll have to keep documentation and follow up on them on just about every aspect of your order, your service, your rebates, your rewards, your bills, etc; but then again, that’s probably all true of almost every company you do business with now — so that might be a wash.

The prices are high; so unless the service offerings are a good fit for exactly what you want (and you can take advantage of some of the bundle discounts) you might want to deal with separate companies for each of the services.

The only real positive thing I can say about AT&T U-Verse is that there isn’t a long term contract; in fact there’s not really a contract of any sort (as long as you ignore the fact that you will need to retain the service for some period of time to actually get your rebates and rewards).

One thing I suspect we’ll see as the economy continues to stagnate is that companies will do more to retain existing customers; so you might find that pricing becomes much more flexible (I’ve already been offered a “free” upgrade to U450 service with the top-tier internet for 90-days… of course I’m pretty sure they’re betting on me forgetting to downgrade [I said “no thanks”]).

Originally posted 2010-05-18 02:00:50.

AT&T U-Verse

I signed up for AT&T U-Verse service about two months ago — I’ve already made a post on that, but I decide to go ahead and do a series of posts on it.

This post will be an over view of what it is; then I’ll do a post on each of the services that are part of it.

The first thing to say about AT&T U-Verse is that it is offered by a company that I think very little of; a company that does not engender trust (in fact I’m suspicious of them at every turn — they seem to make mistake after mistake after mistake — and all their mistakes benefit them).  The sad thing is you might not have any substantially better company in your area to receive similar services from — so it’s not necessarily choosing the best, but often choosing the one that gives you that most without costing you the most.

U-Verse in short is AT&T’s name for an “advance” set of services — voice, television, and internet.

AT&T’s system generally provides these services to the home over copper (fibre is required in fairly close proximity as well).  The technology is called FTTN (fibre-to-the-node) and while they do have some FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) it’s only found in extremely dense areas.

With FTTN a VRAD (video-ready-access-device) is present between the Central Office and the end node consumer; in FTTP it isn’t.  VRADs are generally fairly large pieces of equipment similar to a cable company’s “head-end” (used for digital cable deployment) and much larger than a TELCO’s mini-DSLAMs (used for DSL deployment via copper from fibre from the Central Office DSLAM).

The services offered via U-Verse are: voice (“land line” telephone), television (“cable” tv as well as video on demand), and internet (“high speed” broadband).

When the service is installed it’s likely the installers will work in a team; the outside cable will be run by one person (generally the entry copper from the pole will be replaced) and new inside wiring is run.

It’s important to note that all services are digital.

Voice is provided by voice over IP (VoIP) technology; television is provided through ip video (including live and video on demand [VOD]); and of course the internet service is the core of everything (though an optional part).

The center of the system in the home is a residential gateway which handles all three of the services (along with a battery backup unit — mainly to insure that emergency services work in power outages).

Many people ask the question if they can use their own residential equipment rather than what AT&T provides.  The answer simply is NO.  Currently you must use the AT&T equipment — you may use your equipment in addition to the AT&T residential gateway, or remove your equipment and use exclusively the AT&T provided equipment.

I’ll cover the details of each service with respect to the gateway in the following posts — but your installer will work with you to provide a reasonable installation that should provide you with voice, television, and internet services much as you currently have.

The gateway itself has one WAN side connection, two telephone jacks  (it’s not clear to me whether it’s cable of three lines or four lines, but currently you can only subscribe for two lines of service), four 100-Base-T Ethernet (LAN) connections, one wireless (802.11-N) radio, one USB connection (for a PC), one “F” connector for video, and one Ethernet “broadband” connection (I’m not sure what this is for, it’s got a piece of transparent tape over it on my unit).

Initially the set-top boxes and DVR units must be cabled directly to the unit to insure proper discover; after they are configured you can use a switch if you want more ports; or you can connect your router to the gateway if you like (you will need to reconfigure the gateway if you do this to allow your gateway to work as before).

If everything goes well in the installation, once the wiring is in place the gateway, set-top boxes, and DVR units will register and come online within a few minutes — however, AT&T seems to have quite a few units that are defective, so don’t be surprised if there are some problems.

I had ordered one DVR and two set-top boxes (mainly because I wanted the maximum installation I could get for free).  One of the set-top boxes was DOA (dead-on-arrival), one of the set-top boxes worked (but I decided I didn’t really want to keep it so the install took it back), and the DVR unit wasn’t completely dead, but was defective.  Fortunately the installer had another unit he could replace it with — but since the unit had worked well enough to register itself it took quite sometime for the installer to find someone at AT&T support who was able to clear out the previous registration so my “new” DVR could register.

We also had some issues with the voice service; but by the time the DVR issues were resolved a reboot of the gateway seemed to download the proper service configuration and both inbound and outbound calling worked.

I will note that my install was originally scheduled for a Saturday (it was the first day I could select); and AT&T never informed me that they had moved my installation date to the following Monday.  I found out when I called them 15-minutes before the close of the installation window.  I was more than a little pissed since I had changed my plans Saturday to accommodate them, and now I had to change my plans for Monday as well!

Over all I give my installer fairly high marks for doing a good job (though he still owes me a jack — AT&T doesn’t give there installers a very good supply of equipment or parts); but like almost every AT&T system, it’s brittle and almost appears designed to fail.

The one short coming of my install is that he really didn’t know a great deal about configuring the gateway for a “complex” network; but since that isn’t something AT&T technically supports I can’t fault him on that, and I certainly knew enough to figure out what needed to be changed (the 2Wire device they use could be considered a “pro-sumer” grade device, so it capable of meeting most needs, but don’t expect it to have highly technical descriptions of the various settings).

I will say, that after the initial installation the system appeared to work… though before you place your order you’ll want to read my next three posts as well as do a price-feature comparison with what you have now.

Also, you may find that it turns out to be less expensive to order more services than you want.  For example, if you only want internet service — it’s cheaper to order enough service to get a free installation (well, it’s not free — I found no way to avoid the $29 activation fee — but it’s easy to see how to avoid the $149 installation fee).  If you order a bundle, the installation fee is waived; if you downgrade in the first thirty (30) days there’s a $5 fee — so as the installer is leaving, call and downgrade — save $144 of the installation fee… though taking advantage of some of the rewards and promotions may actually make it less expensive to have more services for longer.

Oh, and one last word — make sure you keep copies of everything you “read” online to do with any promotional credits, rewards, requirements.  As I’ve already said, AT&T does not engender trust.

Originally posted 2010-05-14 02:00:22.

1and1 POP / IMAP / SMTP Settings

If you have a 1and1 hosted domain with email (like my domains are), you can use the following settings for your email client:

POP:

host: pop.1and1.com
port: 110
port: 995, SSL

IMAP:

host: imap.1and1.com
port: 143
port: 993, SSL

SMTP:

host: smtp.1and1.com (requires authentication)
port: 25
port: 587, SSL

You can access 1and1 web mail via:

http://webmail.1and1.com/

Originally posted 2008-05-19 14:26:41.

Web Site Version Control

I’m not sure this is something that occurs to everyone, but I use SVN to version control my web pages. Essentially I treat my web pages just like a “software project”.

You do need to be mindful of files that you want to exclude from source control and/or transfer.

But I find the combination of SVN and FileZilla works great to take a local working copy of my web pages, maintain versioning, and push them out to my hosting facility.

While it’s not quite “one click” — it’s fairly simple to do, and it allows you to roll back changes easily.

Originally posted 2008-07-18 21:01:19.

Dynamic Sitemap

About two years ago I wrote a program that created a sitemap from a local copy of my web pages (I also wrote an automation wrapper so that I could do all my web sites along with other mundane tasks reliably).

When I installed WordPress over a year ago I really liked the fact that the sitemap plug in was capable of dynamically creating a sitemap when a request was made; and I set it as a goal to implement that on my web site.

Well, yesterday that goal was realized.

I wrote a simple PHP script that takes some meta information and creates a sitemap, either uncompressed or compressed based on what is requested.  I used a rewrite rule in my .htaccess file to allow search engines to continue to request the familiar sitemap.xml and/or sitemap.xml.gz file.

Now I don’t have to worry about creating and deploying a sitemap file when I change a file; I only have to make sure that the meta information is updated when I add or remove pages.  Plus, I incorporated the concept of dynamic pages, so that the sitemap can accurately report fresh content.

At the moment I haven’t decided if I’m going to “publish” this code or not.  It’s likely I will once I clean it up and actually test it more completely.  Like I said, it isn’t rocket science – it just takes a little knowledge of what a sitemap is, and you can get everything you need from sitemaps.org; a little ability in PHP, and a basic understanding of how to write a re-write rule for Apache.

Originally posted 2010-02-23 01:00:50.

Air Time Free

If you have a flat rate cellular voice plan, you may not be interested in this article; but for most of us who simply don’t have cost effective options for flat rate plans this might help cut down on cellular bills.

Most cellular telephone companies off the ability to add one or more telephone numbers to your cell plan that will not be charged air time for inbound or outbound calls.  It goes by various names, A-List, Friends & Family, My Favs, My Circle, etc.

Unfortunately, all of them limit the number of telephone numbers you can designate as air time free to a fairly modest number.

But… by using Google Voice, you might find that one air time free number is really all you need to greatly reduce your monthly cellular expenses.

You can go to Google and read a fair amount about Google Voice, they’re adding new features all the time so I won’t even try and cover all of them; just a few that might be of help to you (by the way, the “Call Me” widget on my web site uses Google Voice, and it’s no cost to the caller or me).

So how exactly can you use Google Voice — or really what will be covered in this post is how I use Google Voice.

First, I setup a Google Voice account a few months ago, mainly to be able to give out a telephone number that I wouldn’t be bothered answering when I didn’t want to, and still be able to get voice mail (at my convenience).  Mainly I wanted to do this because I’m going to disconnect my home phone (AT&T offers “naked” DSL here, and since all my home phone does is provide telemarketers with a number to call I really don’t see a reason to ever answer it).

The Google Voice line worked great for receiving messages; I got them in my email inbox, and more times than not the voice to text transcription wasn’t very useful, but I could just click the link and listen to the message as well.

Second, I added my Google Voice number to my Verizon “Friend’s & Family” (what AllTel used to call “My Circle”) so that it would be air time free.  Partially because there would be times when I wanted to actually route my Google Voice number to a phone so I could answer it (say when I was expecting a call), but mostly so that I could use Google Voice for outbound calls to people who were not going to be air time free.

So to use Google Voice for air time free outbound calling you need to log onto the Google Voice web site (there’s a mobile version of it as well, so if you have an unlimited data plan you don’t even need to be near a computer to make use of it) and simply instruct it to make a call.  What happens is Google Voice calls you, then calls the number you instruct it to call and conferences you together.

To make all this air time free, you need to setup Google Voice to present you Google Voice call on inbound calls (that’s the number you specified as air time free with your cellular provider).  This, unfortunately, means that you don’t know who’s calling, but there are some Google Voice features that help there too (I’ll let you go through all the features yourself).

For outbound calls you could setup Google Voice to present your actual telephone number, but it makes more sense to have your Google Voice number presented (especially for toll free calls, remember that they always get your telephone number).

Now you might not care whether or not you get charged air time for a quick call to your doctor’s office to confirm an appointment, but when you’re going to be on the line with customer service for half an hour (or more) you might want to think about the extra step of using Google Voice.

Now let me make it perfectly clear.  I don’t trust Google with my personal and confidential information, so I would never have any sensitive data go through a Google Voice call; but hey, when it’s something like a customer service call people I don’t really trust with my information already have it.

You can request an invite to Google Voice, it’ll probably take ten days to two weeks before you get it.  I’d recommend setting up a Google Mail account as well (you can forward the message from the Google Mail account or you can directly access the Google Mail account with POP3/IMAP4) to go along with Google Voice.  In fact, even if you don’t expect to use Google Voice much, I’d say go ahead and setup an account now.

Also, Google Voice will be adding VoIP (SIP) service (they purchased Gizmo5) soon.

Originally posted 2010-02-10 01:00:49.