U-Verse And The NFL


Helaine and I watched the NFL all day. The Eagles debacle was tough to take. We still watched. This is our Sunday ritual.

Football viewing takes place upstairs in the loft where we’ve got a comfy sofa and a wall mounted TV. I’m not sure how large the set is, but it’s the biggest we’ve ever owned. Nowadays it’s considered mid-sized!

Bigger sets really let you see the action. They also let you see the shortcoming of your TV reception.

Here’s the hidden secret of HDTV: What you get from cable or satellite is a shadow of what you could or should get!

In order to pack more signals onto a satellite transponder or coaxial cable each is compressed. Picture details are sacrificed to preserve bandwidth.

Each channel is individually compressed. Not all channels are equal.

I expected AT&T U-Verse to be less compressed than Comcast, my provider back in Connecticut. After all, AT&T’s run from the central office to my house is over a dedicated strand of fiber. The available bandwidth is huge.

Compression artifacts are most easily seen in areas of high contrast. When a football player runs down the field, his body is surrounded by these misshapen and miscolored pixels. And the bigger the screen the more noticeable they are.

You can see some of the distortion in the Fox Sports logo at the top of this entry. The edges should be clean. They are not.

I’m wondering whether AT&T U-Verse actually knows their own product. They should be able to sell a superior video service. Their infrastructure is much more robust than cable or satellite. And yet their video product doesn’t seem better to me.

Make no mistake. I’m not unhappy with U-Verse, their DVR alone is worth the price of admission, but I know it could be so much better at virtually no additional cost.

Sometimes you just shake your head.

We’ve Got Cable… Sorta

att-u-verse-logo-600x400We spent a good part of the afternoon with Federico from AT&T U-verse. He came to install our cable TV and high speed Internet access packages. Our house came nicely wired, but it still takes time.

I think we have TV, but I can’t be sure. As of this evening our Connecticut stuff, including TVs, was just passing through St. Louis–not quite halfway here. We have no monitor to check with, but all outward signs say we’re OK.

I am surprised and a little disappointed AT&T’s Internet speed is only 16 mbps. Considering I’m on my own piece of fiber all the way to the central office, I could have a lot more bandwidth for nearly no additional cost to AT&T.

I knew this was the speed going in. No complaint.

What I didn’t realize was my upload speed is only 1.5 mbps. That’s crazily slow. There truly is no excuse for this speed in an all fiber install.

With vastly superior hardware AT&T is offering an inferior product. Why? Is there still a DSL/dial-up attitude within the phone company?

AT&T could easily blow Cox (the incumbent cable company) out of the water, but they don’t. They’re leaving cash on the table.

Home   AT T U verseMaxing out at these speeds when there’s fiber all the way to my house is ridiculous. If someone wants to turn up my speed, I won’t tell.

One of our cable boxes is wireless. That was a major selling point for me. I look forward to bringing a TV out into the California room and watching outside.

U-verse does provide some live programming on our PCs for the TVless Foxes, though CNN’s live feed shows only the little spinning icon. No video!

Most of U-verse’s streaming shows are provided through Hulu. I attempted to watch Family Guy and was ready for trouble when the synopsis was in German!

I clicked and was told I couldn’t watch, because it’s only available in the United States!

Family Guy   AT T U verse

It’s early, but some of AT&T’s infrastructure lacks polish and seems unfinished. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, both Helaine and I have our laptops out here in the family room. That’s a huge advance over yesterday.

My Conversation With Rose

I spoke to Rose who works in Meriden for AT&T. I was calling about my soon-to-be AT&T Uverse service.

“New construction. You’ll have fiber right to your door,” she told me proudly.

Most likely she’s been hearing about the promise of fiber since she walked in the door. Even if I didn’t understand the implications, her demeanor said I’d hit the jackpot! The closer you are to fiber the faster and more smoothly things will flow. Fat pipe.

The call was three or four minutes old when Rose asked if I used to… She’d recognized me.

I am still very affected when someone does. It’s cool when people think you did a good job. I’m not going to lie.

I suspect Rose headed home and told people whom she’d spoken to, just as I am telling you. She enjoyed our conversation. Mutual.

There was a problem with my order. Probably something to do with the house still being under construction. She said she’d keep on it.

If you’re wondering the benefit of celebrity, that’s it. Rose will keep on it.

Our Taxing Problems

Tim Cook from Apple testified to Congress yesterday. To summarize, Apple moves money around the world to reduce/eliminate taxes as the law proscribes.

Our tax laws make this possible! This is a face palm moment, right?

Before we let Apple off the hook, let’s remember tax policy is greatly influenced by lobbying which is paid for by people/corporations whose ox is about to be gored.

During the last election Mitt Romney said he paid all the tax he owed and not a penny more. Left out was these were tax rules Bain Capital had rallied for.

What I’m getting at is, when someone says they’re just following the law, take that with a grain of salt.

Meanwhile, what’s going on here with Apple has been going on in England with Google.

From BBC.com: Google’s boss has told UK politicians to “sort out” the tax system, after criticisms of the internet search giant by Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Mr Miliband told a meeting of the firm’s staff that he was “disappointed” it had paid just £6m in corporation tax on UK sales worth £3.2bn in 2011.

But executive chairman Eric Schmidt said Google followed “the tax laws of the countries we operate in”.

I’m sure they have, but I close my eyes and see accountants playing Twister on the books!

There was a time when big business and the American dream were closely aligned. We could afford to give corporations a little slack, because in the end we knew they’d employ people and drive prosperity. Those days are over. We shouldn’t favor corporations with gifts for acts they no longer perform.

We can’t afford big corporations being financial takers. We just can’t.

Huffington Post: Citizens for Tax Justice, which advocates steeper corporate taxes, said it surveyed major U.S. companies and found that 26 on average paid no net federal income taxes between 2008 and 2011, among them General Electric and Duke Energy .

“This isn’t fair to the rest of us,” said Bob McIntyre, director of the left-leaning tax research group.

No joke. It isn’t.

This doesn’t just go on with money moving to Ireland or the Cayman Islands. There is a state-to-state competition as well.

Take a look at your phone bill (if AT&T is your home or cell carrier). Look down near the bottom for a copyright notice.

Since 2008 all of the current and past AT&T trademarks and previous regional Bell names are now owned by various Nevada Limited Partnerships based at 645 East Plumb Lane Reno, Nevada. This office location is currently an AT&T main office-formerly occupied by SBC/Nevada Bell.

That means when your Connecticut phone bill comes, a rights fee is paid to AT&T Intellectual Property for displaying logos, etc. That lowers AT&T’s taxes here by shifting the income to Nevada where there’s no corporate income tax! Any time you see an AT&T logo, money is being moved to Nevada.

The problem with fixing the tax code is those who want the code fixed (you and me) will be outspent and outmaneuvered by those who want to avoid paying taxes. I wish I had the solution.

Back in the Eisenhower administration, Charles Wilson was nominated for Secretary of Defense. He had been president of General Motors so there was concern he’d make any decision that affected GM in the company’s favor. He said he would not…

“because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa”. – Wikipedia

Those days are gone.

AT&T Calls Back

GALAXY S II Lifestyle Image_0AT&T’s John Flynn said he’d call back and he did. Score one for him and them.

This is about my Galaxy S2 which dies on its own a few times a day. It gets rebooted with much less power in the battery than when it went down.

He’d spoken to the product manager for the S2. The fix is in the final stages of testing. Would I give him ten more days? He expected he wouldn’t need that many.

He said this problem is limited in its impact. I don’t think they know (or want to admit) how widespread it is.

My suspicion is AT&T wouldn’t have handled this problem as they did had they known corporately what had happened. The chain of command isn’t set up to handle self inflicted wounds like this.

They’ve sent replacement phones to some people and spent lots of time fielding calls and complaints. The response has been uncoordinated. At AT&T’s size you coordinate to save money. It would have been cheaper to get it fixed quickly.

I’d just as soon not switch to a new phone. A fix is my ultimate goal. I said, “Yes.”

I know I’ve beaten this topic silly, but there’s at least one more post coming. Good news, hopefully.

My AT&T Galaxy S2 Saga Continues

Samsung Galaxy S2 with cordBack on March 7th I wrote about my Samsung Galaxy S2 and its ‘sleeping’ problem which began when AT&T pushed a firmware upgrade late last year.

Frustrating? Yes. Maddening too!

The phone shuts down intermittently for no reason and with no warning. When it’s revived the battery’s been heavily depleted.

It shut down again this afternoon. Can you see the smoke coming out of my ears?

I sent an email to the big guy, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson (full text at the end of this entry). I didn’t expect Randy would get involved, but I knew someone would.

It wasn’t an hour before I got a call from AT&T’s John Flynn. Judging by area code, Seattle based John Flynn.

He seemed nice, concerned and totally uninformed about this Samsung problem. There are dozens of phone models on the AT&T network. His lack of knowledge is defensible. After a few minutes I asked him to do a little research and get back to me.

This is not a small problem. The Galaxy S2 is a very popular phone. I am not alone in suffering.

Because many of the afflicted probably think the problem is something they caused, it’s probably underreported to AT&T.

If everything was working correctly my likely path forward would be the newly announced Galaxy S4 from AT&T sometime this summer. Not now. I’ve got a bad taste from this affair. Right now AT&T owes me for my loyalty.

I’m a good customer, wronged. They’re expected to right it.

I’ll let you know what I hear.

My email follows–

Continue reading “My AT&T Galaxy S2 Saga Continues”

AT&T, Samsung And The “Sleep Of Death”

Updated with AT&T’s response

I have been an AT&T wireless customer for a long time. We have three phones on a family plan, two with data. We shell out a few thousand dollars a year to AT&T.

My phone is a Samsung Galaxy S2. It is a phone I’ve written about and really enjoy having.

Not now. Now I’m pissed.

Before Christmas AT&T sent out a software update. These are normally bug fixes and upgrades. It’s a way to make the phone better.

AT&T’s implementation of Android 4.0.4 broke the phone! I now suffer from a problem dubbed the “Sleep of Death.” Here’s the conversation from other unhappy campers on AT&T’s forum. It currently has 381 messages spread across 13 pages!

Randomly, while the screen is off and the phone ‘resting’, my AT&T Galaxy S2 locks up. Something very CPU intensive is taking place while the phone is incommunicado, because when you discover the problem the case is hot, the battery greatly depleted.

For me it happens four or five times a week. Some folks claim it happens three or four times a day.

There is no way to know you’ve suffered this fate until you go to use the phone and find it dead to-the-world. There’s no notice anyone’s sent a text or called! Texts will be received after a a reboot, but incoming call details are lost.

If you’re someone who calls a number and doesn’t leave voicemail, I might never know you contacted me.

AT&T’s update caused this problem. They know about it and acknowledge it. In fact JamieH posted this in AT&T’s customer forum:

Hey guys…

Great news

We worked with Samsung to research this issue and a fix will be available in the coming weeks. I don’t have any specific dates just yet but as soon as I do, I’ll post them here.

I want to note that this is a direct result of you discussing this issue in the forums and telling us what you are seeing. Great job.

That was January 23rd, 44 days ago. Six weeks plus is too long for a problem like this to fester! A later post from an AT&T Community Manager changed “coming weeks” to “soon.”

Because of coverage where I live, AT&T is my only totally viable option.

AT&T gets deservedly bad marks on many customer related concerns. Add this to the list of unacceptable behavior.

I thought you’d want to know.


AT&T responded via Twitter

@attcustomercare: @geofffox Waiting for Samsung to release update for us to release to our cust. No exact ETA. Check link periodically: bit.ly/t68a5

I responded to them

@geofffox: @ATTCustomerCare AT&T could pressure Samsung on its customers behalf or roll back this upgrade. Instead, it’s my problem, not yours.

The First Upgraded Phone Problem Surfaces!

Ice Cream Sandwich is the new operating system on my Samsung Salaxy S2 cellphone. Sweet… or so I thought.

As soon as I went into my contacts to dial a number (Dial… there’s an old reference) the phone hung up. Could it be the 12256 contacts imported!

Ice Cream Sandwich is the new operating system on my Samsung Salaxy S2 cellphone. Sweet… or so I thought.

As soon as I went into my contacts to dial a number (Dial… there’s an old reference) the phone slowed to a crawl. Could it be the 12256 contacts imported!

I’m running a program to cleanse the contact list and reloading from a partial backup.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Who’s Going To Do This To A Perfectly Good Phone?

Other that geeks like me who’s going to do this to a perfectly good phone?

I’ve been working ten minutes already and it’s all been prep work on my PC. I haven’t touched the phone yet.

When it was finally time to connect, the PCs software churned for a minute or so before asking me to reset an obscure command three menus deep in the phone!

I got a text yesterday. There’s new firmware for my Samsung Galaxy S2. As I type software is being downloaded to my PC to facilitate the upgrade. It’s the latest version of Android called Ice Cream Sandwich.

Other that geeks like me who’s going to do this to a perfectly good phone?

I’ve been working ten minutes already and it’s all been prep work on my PC. I haven’t touched the phone yet.

When it was finally time to connect, the PC’s software churned for a minute or so before popping an error message and asking me to reset an obscure command three menus deep in the phone!

Again, other that geeks like me who’s going to do this to a perfectly good phone?

It’s finally beginning. First though a few admonishments about disconnecting the phone and warning it would take 5 to 30 minutes. The process is slow. A mustard colored line is slowing expanding in a dialog box. I’m warned of disconnecting again.

No matter how well thought out these upgrades are I always worry they won’t work for me and I’ll be left with a brick! There is no reassurance that works while the device does stuff you can’t see.

After about ten minutes it was time for my phone to reboot. Uh oh. It now plays a little tune briefly during boot!

Everything seems normal, but I’m not as close to finished as I thought. It’s optimizing 176 applications one-by-one! I have no idea what that means, but it’s what the phone’s screen says.

Now the screen says, “upgrading contacts.” Good. I need a better class of friend. Maybe that’s not what it meant?

Installing applications.

This is taking forever.

Ta da!

It’s early, but right now the changes seem minor or superficial. It will take some exploration time before I know for sure what I did. Google, Samsung and AT&T all had a hand in bringing this update. But really, other that geeks like me who’s going to do this to a perfectly good phone?

Hey AT&T!

If AT&T really has a capacity problem why is that my problem anyway?

I have a smartphone from AT&T. I am on their unlimited plan. I use my phone incessantly usually via WiFi. That’s about to change!

AT&T has begun taking the top 5% of their wireless users and throttling their data service. Instead of getting 3G or 4G service they are reduced to dial-up speed. Reports say this slowdown is happening at around 2GB downloaded.

AT&T, you’ve managed to piss me off even though I’m nowhere near the cutoff point!

Over time we will all demand more data. Putting limits on data now will inhibit innovation in new services. It protects AT&T’s interest at the expense of ours.

If things are really bad AT&T has the ability to be more flexible in who gets cut off and when. What purpose is there cutting someone off in the middle of the night or on an underutilized cell? They’re able to separate day from night on cell calls and even roll over unused minutes. Doing the same for data seems a trifle.

If AT&T really has a capacity problem why is that my problem anyway?

As a service to my fellow AT&T subscribers I’ll be turning off WiFi for data and using cell service instead. If each of us increases our usage the 5% threshold will increase as well. It’s the least I can do.

Something Else To Be Considered Before AT&T Swallows T-Mobile

How can employment implications not be part of what’s considered in mergers and acquisitions? How will more people out-of-work benefit our nation?

I am an AT&T landline and cell subscriber. I am not a fan of AT&T’s proposed purchase of T-Mobile. Like the Department of Justice I think

the proposed $39 billion transaction would substantially lessen competition for mobile wireless telecommunications services across the United States, resulting in higher prices, poorer quality services, fewer choices and fewer innovative products for the millions of American consumers who rely on mobile wireless services in their everyday lives.

There’s another problem I see. It’s one that’s not looked at by the government when mergers and acquisitions are proposed. How many jobs will be lost?

No one expects the new(er) AT&T to absorb all of T-Mobile’s employees. These out-of-work casualties will provide additional savings/profit to AT&T, but at the expense of the rest of us who will now have to provide benefits and services to them.

How can employment implications not be part of what’s considered in mergers and acquisitions? How will more people out-of-work benefit our nation?

I Still Feel Ripped Off

I suppose at&t has no obligation to tell me I’m paying them more than I should. I feel ripped off.

A few years ago while being pestered by a prank caller I added some security features to our landline phone. Now, with Stef working in Hollywood where even businesses hide their phone number on outgoing calls, I am removing them.

That sent me to at&t’s website and a quick look at my bill. My service includes $20 for “Flat Primary Residential Line” and $17 for “The Basics Package.” For $23 I could have “Complete Choice Basic” which includes everything I use!

That means I’ve been paying $14 a month extra for nothing and doing it month-after-month-after-month.

I have heard about this before–people with service ordered years ago before rates went down. I never thought it would be me. l lost out by my own lack of attention to detail.

I suppose at&t has no obligation to tell me I’m paying them more than I should. I still feel ripped off.

Commercials: I Can’t Not Look

There are commercials on TV I have to watch. Seriously, I can’t look away.

There are commercials on TV I have to watch. Seriously, I can’t look away. When the UPS guys nerdily sing to me about logistics my head turns so fast my neck might snap off! That’s amore!

This all started when Helaine noticed me watching the at&t ad with the two guys on the ski lift.

“You can’t not look?” she asked… but she was really making a statement.

Yes! I can’t not look.

I watch the Lowes commercial where the couple’s washing machine goes nuts… and they kick it into submission.

Now there’s a new one with a little girl who builds a lemonade stand that blossoms into a big business: Susie’s Lemonade. In the final scene her dad looks for her but is confronted by another grade schooler who asks, “Is she expecting you?”

I’ve watched it intently dozens of times. Unfortunately we had to roll back the DVR as I was writing this. I couldn’t remember whose commercial it was.

Sorry Verizon Wireless.

AT&T Plus T-Mobile Is Subtraction Not Addition

Without T-Mobile in the mix I expect prices will rise and cellular contracts will become more restrictive. Great.

Confession first: This will be a mostly emotional blog post. After it’s up on the web opposing views in the comments are encouraged. I’ve just looked at the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile combo platter. I am not pleased!

T-Mobile is ‘small’ by cellular carrier standards. However, it plays a huge roll in the American cellular universe. T-Mobile is the low cost nationwide carrier and others respect its pricing in much the same way the legacy airlines respect Southwest and JetBlue.

Without T-Mobile in the mix I expect prices will rise and cellular contracts will become more restrictive. Great.

T-Mobile allows cellular customers to freely tether their computers to cellphones for data. AT&T does not. What incentive is there for AT&T to adopt this T-mobile policy? None!

AT&T is getting the best of all worlds. While reducing downward pricing pressure they’re also swallowing this country’s only other nationwide GSM carrier. Nearly everything they acquire will be compatible with what they already have. That allows them to expand their infrastructure very quickly and at a reasonable price.

What do you think? Will AT&T’s prices fall to what T-Mobile’s were or will T-Mobile customers see their bills rise? I’m betting on the latter!

This is a federally regulated business and the purchase will be subject to government approval on a number of levels, but I suspect nothing can/will stop it. Comcast/NBC went through, didn’t it?

And then there’s the question of what will happen to Carly Foulkes? I’ll miss her.

Hey AT&T–What’s The Deal At Fenway?

I was astounded that as soon as I walked into the ballpark my data service (and possibly my phone service) disappeared.

We spent the weekend in Boston watching the Phils play the Red Sox at Fenway. I was astounded that as soon as I walked into the ballpark my data service (and possibly my phone service) disappeared. This happened Saturday and Sunday though we sat in different parts of the ballpark both days.

The limitations of the 3G network were readily apparent at Boston’s Fenway Park during a Red Sox game last week. Signal was consistently 4 bars, but the data network was totally non-responsive.

That’s my story… except it was written in 2008 and posted on Gigaom.

This is a long standing problem. Here’s another person with the exact same complaint as mine from Apple’s website.

You know what’s interesting… I was at Fenway Park in Boston yesterday. I had full bars on 3G, completely max’d signal as far as the phone was concerned. And with all of that signal, I could not get to a single web site or even send a text message. I kept getting errors sending data as well as timeout errors when trying to hit a web site.

It’s from July 2008 and, again, my story exactly.

More recently commenter writing about the iPad ban at Yankee Stadium added this about Fenway.

when I’m in my seats at Fenway Park with my iPhone, I get NO service. Not even EDGE.

Even a voice cell call from Stef went directly to voicemail while I was at Fenway. I got notice of the call only after we were walking back down Brookline Ave.

It seems difficult to believe at&t doesn’t know this exists. How could they not?

Recently at&t announced they were eliminating their “all you can eat” data plans for the iPhone. Maybe a nice gesture would be for them to stop signing new customers until they built a network that could handle the ones they’re collecting money for now.

Call me frustrated.