FCC Report shows Verizon much faster than Cablevision

The FCC recently conducted a study of some of the top broadband ISPs in the country and measured customers’ actual bandwidth as compared to what the ISPs advertised. FiOS really came out on top.

The report is available on the FCC site. The bottom line, though, is that Verizon FiOS averaged nearly 120% of advertised speed (i.e., more than was advertised) and Cablevision was between 50% and 75% of advertised speeds. Latency (ping) was also heavily in FiOS’s favor.

FCC - Fios vs Cablevision
FCC - Fios vs Cablevision

Continue reading “FCC Report shows Verizon much faster than Cablevision”

Information is overpriced.

On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_wants_to_be_free

I started college around when Napster was getting big. Between Napster and the ability to browse other students’ shared files, I downloaded plenty of MP3s, mostly due to the novelty of being able to get one-off songs that I’d never otherwise pay for. Songs like AC/DC’s “Big Balls,” which I’d never heard before, but which I noticed hundreds of people had in their collections, so I downloaded it and laughed as Bon Scott dragged out a double entendre for about 3 minutes.

In the years since then I’ve purchased lots of CDs, many of them due to having downloaded the MP3 years earlier. I’m certainly not an audiophile, but I can hear MP3 compression artifacts in anything encoded in “joint stereo” or under 192 kbps, so I usually bought the CD so I could create a pristine rip with my own settings. I haven’t bought every album, only the ones I really liked – one of the things that made MP3 downloading so novel was the ability to get a single track rather than having to buy an entire CD of crap, which is what the music industry was trying to force everyone to do.

A few companies tried over the years to sell individual MP3s, but nobody really had much success until Apple rolled out the iTunes music store. Apple succeeded for a few reasons, but I think one of the most important was the simplicity of the pricing model: $0.99 for a single track, or $10 for a full album. No subscription fees or any of that annoying crap, just pay once and you own it. Yeah, there was annoying DRM, but 95% of people don’t care about that.

I happen to be one of the 5% that does care about that. There were ways to strip the DRM but that was already too annoying for me, plus I hated iTunes (still do) and didn’t own an iPod, so this wasn’t very appealing to me. But on a more basic level, I already owned almost all of the CDs I wanted. When new albums were released, I could usually grab them (in CD form) online for around $15 shipped. Compared to Apple’s $10 for a DRM-laden AAC, this was a no-brainer for me – a physical copy of the disc to serve as a permanent backup, and the ability to rip the entire album at any bitrate I wanted.

Fast-forward to 2011. I have an iPhone now and so I’m stuck with iTunes (which also sells DRM-free MP3s now), but I still don’t buy music from Apple. In the intervening years I’ve come to realize that I just find $0.99 per track overpriced. There’s a price I’ll pay for a song, greater than zero, but less significantly than $0.99. The last few albums I’ve bought have been $3.99 specials on Amazon, most recently Foo Fighters Wasting Light last week. 11 tracks for $4; about $0.36 per track. The CD version of this album normally sells for $9.99; the MP3 version normally sells for $7.99. For $9.99 you get a physical item shipped to you to do whatever you want – rip to MP3, lend to a friend, sell in a yard sale, donate to a library. If you get the MP3 version, you get it instantly and save $2, but lose all the other stuff. I don’t know if Amazon lets you redownload stuff you’ve purchased, so maybe you don’t need the physical medium in the event of a HD failure. But for $2 more I’d rather have the disc.

What got me thinking about this is the NY Times paywall. I love the NY Times and apparently by their measure qualify as a “heavy user,” someone who reads more than 20 articles a month. I probably read 5 to 10 stories a day. I’ve found it’s pretty easy to bypass their paywall – I’m sure they realize it’s trivial, but most people won’t bother – but I do feel kind of dirty doing it, and it’s kind of annoying. I was thinking I wouldn’t mind paying for it, but certainly not their ridiculous prices. For one thing they have ridiculous pricing distinctions depending on whether you’re just reading online, on an iPhone, or an iPad. Who cares? If you’re paying for the content you should be able to view it on any medium. You’re paying for the CONTENT! $3.75/week for “nytimes.com and Smartphone” or $8.75/week for “All access” are the options and both of them are horrendous.

How about this: fund your account with $20. Each article you read debits your account $0.01 to $0.05 depending on age (stories older than 30 days shouldn’t cost as much as today’s news – I mean, you couldn’t give yesterday’s paper away for free on the street). When your balance gets below $5 it auto-debits $20 again. You can keep all the rules you have about referrals from Twitter & Facebook being “free” but that seems kind of silly. Maybe people who pay get a more pleasant experience while freeloaders get bombarded with ads. Paid users should also be able to see a full report of every article they’ve “purchased” and the date.

I guess my point is that I wouldn’t mind paying for this content, but it’s overpriced. I understand that people need to be paid, but when CDs were $20, I didn’t buy any. When they dropped to $10, I bought plenty. If the NY Times is $200/year, I’m not going to pay for it. If it’s $40/year, I might. If it’s $20/year I’d definitely pay just to assuage my conscience. I want the NY Times to continue to exist and I understand someone has to pay the reporters and everyone else involved, but I’m not paying $200/year for it. I have a price in my head, what I think it’s worth. If you’re not near that, I’m not paying. A year ago my DVD player died and I wanted to get a PS3 for use as a BluRay player, but there was no way I was paying $300 for it, even though it’s probably a fair price. If it were $150 I would have snatched it up, it just was not worth $300 to me. In the end I bought a $50 Sony upscaling DVD player.

The NYTimes has overpriced itself as well, so I’m going with the cheaper alternative – bypassing the paywall and viewing the content anyway. They could tighten up the paywall, and maybe I’d find a way around it, or maybe I’d just get my news elsewhere, in which case we both lose. If there was a “name your own price” way to make it work, everyone would win.

Going back to FiOS

I’m not sure why these guys operate this way – they’re more than happy to lose me as a customer and then throw huge discounts at me to get me back. If they’d just give me a good price I’d love not to have to go through this rigmarole. But after being with Cablevision for 2 months I checked Verizon’s pricing and it beat my current deal with Cablevision.

FiOS digital voice with number ported for free; 25/25 Mbps internet; HMDVR free “forever” plus a second HD STB, Showtime, Movie Channel and Flix. Since I already had the battery thing installed last time I had FiOS they gave me a fair discount. Basically the whole package for $87/month + tax, price locked for 2 years, no contract. Not as great of a deal as I’d had with FiOS originally, but it’s pretty good, and FiOS’s service is definitely better than Cablevision’s. I’ve heard Cablevision was rolling out their “DVR plus” service with all programs recorded “in the cloud” rather than on the actual box, but it’s been two months and I haven’t heard of it coming to Long Island. So basically 2 years later Cablevision’s service is exactly the same while Verizon has iPhone apps to control the DVR and use the phone as a remote, plus DVR that’s much faster and just generally better service.

On a side note, I noticed tonight I was having problems trying to stream Netflix to my Wii. I tried loading netflix.com on my laptop and that also didn’t work, it said “couldn’t find server movies.netflix.com.” I tested this via dig on my linux box and sure enough, movies.netflix.com isn’t resolving against the default Cablevision nameserver ( – getting a SERVFAIL:

[evan@lunix ~]$ dig movies.netflix.com

; <> DiG 9.3.6-P1-RedHat-9.3.6-4.P1.el5_5.3 <> movies.netflix.com
;; global options:  printcmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: SERVFAIL, id: 17569
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 1, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 0

;movies.netflix.com.            IN      A

movies.netflix.com.     232     IN      CNAME   merchweb-frontend-1502974957.us-east-1.elb.amazonaws.com.

;; Query time: 2129 msec
;; WHEN: Sun Apr 24 01:23:58 2011
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 103

I tried the same query against Google’s nameserver ( and it resolves correctly:

[evan@lunix ~]$ dig movies.netflix.com @

; <> DiG 9.3.6-P1-RedHat-9.3.6-4.P1.el5_5.3 <> movies.netflix.com @
;; global options:  printcmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 43718
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 2, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 0

;movies.netflix.com.            IN      A

movies.netflix.com.     300     IN      CNAME   merchweb-frontend-1502974957.us-east-1.elb.amazonaws.com.
merchweb-frontend-1502974957.us-east-1.elb.amazonaws.com. 39 IN A

;; Query time: 34 msec
;; WHEN: Sun Apr 24 01:37:26 2011
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 119

I set my router to resolve against rather than whatever Cablevision provides and now it works. I’m not sure if this is related to the big EC2 disaster of the past few days but it looks more like Cablevision’s fault than Amazon’s or Netflix’s.

Traffic spike

Somehow this site became the top Google result for two different searches, “Shogun2.dll appcrash” and “fedora 14 gnome3”. My theory is that Google’s indexing the referring keywords listed in the widget on the right, causing a snowball effect. But the rise in traffic this year has been dramatic, especially for a site really about nothing.

Traffic 2011-02-01 to 2011-04-08
Traffic 2011-02-01 to 2011-04-08

TP-Link TL-WR841ND v7 802.11n router, wireless dies after a few days

I mentioned in a previous post that I got the TP-Link TL-WR841ND 802.11n wifi router and it solved the speed problems I was noticing with wifi connections since going from FiOS to Cablevision. This seems to be the case still, however I’ve now had another problem with the TP router. Basically, wireless becomes unusable and the web UI becomes inaccessible. The SSID still shows up but I can’t get an IP address. When accessing it from the wired LAN via a browser, the connection times out – apparently whatever’s going on inside the router is also crashing its internal webserver.

Power-cycling the router resolved the issue both times it occurred (most recently tonight), but twice is two times too many. Tonight I downloaded and installed DD-WRT v24-sp2 and configured it. It only took a few minutes – I was pretty impressed with dd-wrt – though I was surprised not to see SNMP monitoring included. Not sure if I missed it in the UI but I assumed it would be under “Services,” and I didn’t see it there. I tried snmpwalk against the router and it returned nothing, so it’s not on by default.

Anyway, hopefully dd-wrt will give me better luck than the native TP-Link firmware. It seems to be a good router hardware wise, but crashing every few days negates that.

Update: April 19, 2011: I’ve had DD-WRT running for a few weeks now on the TP-Link router and it’s been great. No reboots required. For some reason DD-WRT doesn’t seem to have SNMP available, at least not through the web UI, but other than that it’s far better than the default TP-Link software.


Speed comparison: Optimum Boost vs Verizon FiOS

Optimum Boost advertises 30 Mbps down, 5 Mbps up. Here’s a speed test I just ran at Ookla’s SpeedTest.net:

(My desktop is plugged into the router, the router is plugged into the Arris cablemodem.)

Here’s one of the last speed tests I did with Verizon, on 2/15. I had the 25/15 internet package:

(Desktop was plugged into 8-port Linksys 100 Mbit switch, the switch was plugged into the FiOS/ActionTec router.)

Continue reading “Speed comparison: Optimum Boost vs Verizon FiOS”

Back up on JustHost.com

As I expected/feared, Cablevision still blocks port 80 so I had to move my site to external hosting. I signed up with JustHost.com, which has (supposedly) unlimited storage and bandwidth transfer for ~$5/month. Not happy about their DNS handling, and that my 404 pages are apparently filled with ads & popups now, but with the discount code I found it came to about $42 for a year of hosting. Not bad.

Still cleaning up, hopefully all the existing links will work. WordPress’s import function is pretty good but I wasn’t able to pull the attachments off the old server (due to the port 80 block).

At least this seems way faster than my old Athlon box.

Edit: Ping times have gotten much better since the move:

FiOS speed 10 months later, better than ever.

I switched to FiOS in December, 2009, and I was pretty apprehensive, having been a Cablevision customer for many years. I really had no problem with Cablevision’s service, I just thought their pricing was much too high in the face of the new competition (and deals) Verizon was offering. I ended up going with Verizon due to their awesome deal, but now it’s almost a year later and I can’t imagine going back to Optimum. It’ll probably come down to price when the current promo pricing I have with Verizon ends, but if the price was equal then no contest – I’d stick with FiOS.

Moving an Exchange 2003 server to another location with minimal risk and disruption?

So our Exchange server is located in our office building. This made sense at the time because that’s where the users are. Over time though, this has proved problematic for a few reasons. Primarily, our office is certainly not a datacenter and doesn’t offer the amenities of one – clean, reliable power, and redundant cooling. In an average year we lose power probably 10-15 times, often for an hour or more. The rest of our production environment is hosted in a top-tier datacenter, so after a while I started to wonder why our Exchange server wasn’t there, and making plans to move it there. Oh, and did I mention I’m not an Exchange admin in any sense of the term? I just inherited the Exchange server about 2 months ago.

Continue reading “Moving an Exchange 2003 server to another location with minimal risk and disruption?”

Passwordless SSH Everywhere

I’ve known about ssh keys for a long time and frequently use them, most frequently so that a script can transfer a file between two servers without having to do some mumbo-jumbo where I try to pipe a password into it or some other wacky thing. I hadn’t fully embraced ssh keys, though, because I didn’t like the idea that if I lost my laptop, I’d be losing a free key into my servers. Then I discovered ssh-agent. This isn’t new, so I’m kind of embarrassed I didn’t know about it, but I’ve been using it for a few months now and I can’t imagine going back.

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