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2010-03-30

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 (which won't work because of this problem). 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 Performance 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.

2010-03-29

Best US Broadband Provider Slacking Off

Now, I know a few folks who like the Internet.  The XYL 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. 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 and other cities will compete for, for Google makes money if the economy booms.


And, if Verizon cuts back on FIOS rollout, that's bad news for the US, for with an economy driven by quarterly earnings statements instead of long-term vision, when the leader slows down, the followes slow down, too. 

2010-03-27

CLEAR internet service failure

Beware of CLEAR, they're anything but.

Two days ago: 7AM Thursday, no internet (as per the XYL 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. The XYL 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.

2010-03-23

View 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.

2010-03-22

Amateur Radio Course/Exams on the South Side


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?


2010-03-08

Amtrak enters the 20th century

http://www.muniwireless.com/2010/03/04/amtrak-issues-rfq-for-wifi-in-all-trains/ reveals Amtrak's looking for proposals to put WiFi on all its trains. Gee, how tough could that be... when Verizon sells a portable hotspot you can put in your pocket

Put three of these on each end of each car (channels 1, 6 and 11 are the only 2.4GHz channels which don't interfere with each other) for each carrier, and the job's done, ya think?

Better Living Through Oxygenation

Want to sober up quicker? Use oxygen, as these Japanese researchers have proven.

2010-03-05

Powell's Technical Bookstore moving two blocks west

The Portland Business Journal reports Powell's Technical Bookstore is moving to a smaller space across the street from Powell's City of Books in downtown Portland. The trend towards online book buying and e-books by geekdom was cited as a reason of the 40% fall-off in brick-and-mortar technical book sales.

Employees were notified this morning, and the transition should complete by the first of September.

2010-03-04

Amateur Radio support for U Miami Med School Haiti volunteers

http://www.arrl.org/news/stories/2010/03/03/11371/?nc=1 details how amateur radio operators provided communications when satellite communications to Haiti failed. Yes, satellite phones failed in Haiti, just like they failed in New Orleans.

2010-03-02

Entrepeneurs Needed

Robert X. Cringely the Third, who, for a time, lived in Bend and produced technical industry video for PBS (Triumph of the Nerds among others) as well as a column in the influential Infoworld, has a new project which he describes at his website.

He wants to travel across America, and interview entrepeneurs, preferably outside of Pugetopolis, the Bay Area, and Boston, for a series of a dozen TV documentaries. To find them, another website collects your suggestions and then your comments and votes on which are most worthy.

Know someone unheard-of who's invented something vital? Tell Bob




2010-03-01

IARU Region 2 and Radio Club de Chile Request Amateurs to Keep Emergency Frequencies Clear

A bulletin received through the ARRL:
A massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit Chile at 0634 UTC on February 27, 2010, triggering a potential tsunami. IARU Region 2 and the Red Chilena Nor Austral de Servicio (RECNA) have suggested Amateur Radio operators monitor the following emergency communications frequencies for traffic pertaining to the earthquake and tsunami: 3.738, 3.750, 7.050, 7.100, 14.200, 14.350, 21.200, 21.350, 28.300 and 28.500 MHz.
IARU Region 2 Area Emergency Coordinator Jorge Sierra, LU1AS, reports that there is now traffic at frequencies of 40 meters from people seeking information from people in Chile: "We would appreciate if amateurs would leave free the frequencies used by RECNA, as well as the usual IARU Region 2 frequencies on in 20, 40, and 80 meters."
In addition to the above frequencies, you may also want to listen to the worldwide emergency communication Center of Activity frequencies: 14.300, 18.160 and 21.360 MHz. Other suggested monitoring frequencies are 3.720, 7.045 and 7.060 MHz. 

Since Chile helped New Orleans dry out with specialized pumping gear (ours was in the Sandbox) and since they are a net oil exporter, we have three good reasons to help.