How Times Have Changed

Last night, in the middle of the night, I plugged a cable from my new cellphone into my laptop. An experiment was underway.

Since the phone is on the Internet, it’s possible to tether it to my laptop and use the cell connection as an Internet connection. In essence, the Samsung Blackjack would be my modem.

It was very simple and it worked, but it was ploddingly slow. Though the phone works with AT&T’s high speed 3G network, there’s no 3G service here. I ran a speed test and found 76 kbps. My cable modem speed a moment ago was 7,275 kbps, nearly one hundred times as fast.

At least I know it works in case of an outage.

There’s something else I thought of at the same time. Back in the dial-up days, when modems were 28.8 kbps, I used to connect at 24.4 kbps.

As slow as last night’s experiment was, it was still three times faster than the Internet service I used to be happy with. Times have really changed.

What we have now for connection speed is only a stop, not the destination.

Today’s Discovery

I am not at work today. I am one of three members negotiating a new contract between my employer and our union, AFTRA. In its annual report, my bosses claim good employee relations, and I can’t dispute that. These are not ‘to the mats’ sessions.

I’m not going to talk about the negotiations.

After today’s session, the three of us and our union rep headed out for a quick bite and strategy session. At a nice new casual restaurant on Temple Street, before my Chicken Caesar arrived, I pulled out my laptop to send email.

I was surprised to see at least eight or nine wireless networks, a few of which were open. I connected to one and hit send.

Earlier, while negotiating at the Omni Hotel, there were even more networks, though none would give me Internet access. I especially liked the one named “Janeisenet.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. This is Downtown New Haven, not Midtown Manhattan. When I opened the laptop, there was no expectation of actually seeing something.

Even here at home, I have seen as many as four unprotected networks show up (all with weak signals). When my Internet service has disappeared, I’ve logged on to at least one of them.

Thanks unknown neighbor.

Over time I expect to see more and more of this free available Internet access. To quote Yakov Smirnoff – “Is this a wonderful country, or what?”

AT&T Says: They Shouldn’t “Expect A Free Ride.”

I have written about this a few times already – but it doesn’t seem to want to go away. Internet service providers, like AT&T (until recently SBC) want to charge me for Internet service, as they should, and then charge those who provide the content too.

That’s a major change in the way the Internet has run. If I were AT&T, that’s what I’d want too. But is it fair or right? I don’t think so.

Let’s put it another way. I pick up my phone and call Sergio’s to order a pizza. Should AT&T be able to charge Sergio’s for telling me what’s on the menu, or is my paying for the call enough? It always has been.

Here’s what AT&T’s president Ed Whitaker has to say:

Cruising The Pacific

Aboard the Norwegian Star

Pacific OceanWe are 70 miles West of the Baja California peninsula in the Pacific Ocean, 1037 miles from our first port, Manzanillo, Mexico.

I slept like a baby – really. The ship was gently rocking and it didn’t take long before Helaine could claim I was snoring. Steffie’s in on it too, saying I snore. I’ve certainly never heard it.

It’s probably a good thing you don’t think about the stresses placed on a ship as it sways in the water. There are noises in the cabin, little metallic groans, as the ship pushes and pulls against its rivets and welds.

A view along the rail from our balconyI was going to play Hold’em last night, but was very disappointed. A single table tournament scheduled for 9:30 was canceled when only three of us registered.

Later, a cash game started. I sat through one time around the table without playing a hand. A drunken, obnoxious guy sat in the third seat.

It wasn’t that he cursed, because I curse too. He was just crude and low class.

As much as I enjoy Hold’em, he was still too much!

Hold’em is played in a small room off the casino. You walk though the the High Stakes Baccarat area, through a door, down a small hallway, take a right and through another door.

It would be better if it were in the actual casino.

Stairs on the Norwegian StarWith poker a no go and Helaine and Stef otherwise occupied, I walked around the ship. It is huge, not just in breadth and width, but in height. We have all committed to taking the stairs. As much as we’ll eat, I have a fighting chance of counteracting it.

Who am I kidding?

Walking some of the decks was eerie. I was alone with the wind blowing. To the horizon, it was dark. I felt very alone… and remembered the guy from Greenwich who disappeared on his honeymoon.

Lifeboat sign on the Norwegian StarOn the upper decks there are numerous whip antennas and radomes housing satellite and radar dishes. This ship is totally connected to the mothership 24/7.

Before I go, a little about the Internet service onboard. It is a pain in the butt. It’s workable, but it’s a pain.

I bought 250 minutes worth for $100. In order to use the access I carry my laptop to the Internet Cafe, a few decks down. There is a wireless ‘cloud’ there. It is significantly slower than what I have at home. Of course, every second you spend online, you’re thinking about the meter running.

Sometimes, when I’ve talked about taking cruises, those listening worried about claustrophobia. Yes, everything is downsized. Rooms and corridors are tiny. Still there’s lot of room and lot’s of individual spots to explore.

I have edited some comments which were found offensive by others. That’s never my intention and only showed my lack of sensitivity. – GF

The Trouble With Comcast

There was no blog entry yesterday. Grrrrr.

We got home from Philadelphia only to find no high speed Internet access. OK, I thought. We’ve had these sporadic, intermittent problems before. Wait a while and it will return.

Meanwhile, I got on the phone and gave Comcast a call. The guy on the other end was nice, but couldn’t help me. He wanted to arrange a Tuesday appointment for service, but I pled my case, asking him to look at the myriad times I had complained about lost service earlier.

The repairman came around 11:00 this morning.

My little home office is a pig sty and I wasn’t thrilled to invite him up, but Internet service is Internet service. It’s not what it was nearly 20 years ago when I started logging onto Compuserve… at 300 baud.

Having Internet access is as important as having a phone or television set. Without it, in this day and age, you’re cut off from the world’s information.

The technician removed the coax connector from the back of my cable modem. He took the tiny bare wire that usually makes the internal connection and touched it to another bare wire. He frowned.

He went to the splitter. Another touch. Our signal was down by a lot. He’d go outside, where the cable service entered the house, and if that didn’t work he’d go to the basement.

About ten minutes later he was back at my door. He had found a corroded connector on the side of my house. It was a Comcast installed piece of equipment, so I didn’t have to feel guilty.

By the time we got back to my room, the modem lights were on. What had been a 0 db signal was now an 8.5 db signal&#185. He did a little more checking and tightened a few not too loose connections before going.

Hopefully my connection problems are solved. However, I am surprised the ‘innards’ of my cable modem doesn’t report its signal strength back to Comcast so they can head these problems off before failure occurs.

It would seem to me my modem is already capable of this trick. Maybe Comcast is just not asking.

&#185 – db, or decibels, measure power on a logarithmic scale. A 8.5 db loss (which is what seems to have been happening) means about 90% of the cable signal was being lost to corrosion before it got inside my house!

It’s Not Easy Being Florida

The forecast for Hurricane Jeanne shows no mercy on the Sunshine Sate. If things go according to plan, by Saturday night Jeanne should be bearing down on the Florida coast with a path similar to Frances.

I can’t imagine Jeanne will move as slowly, but it’s quite possible her winds will be stronger than Frances. Much of the East Coast has already been weakened without repair.

Can a state throw its collective hands up in resignation?

This hasn’t been a particularly good year to live in Florida. I can’t ever remember this many storms hitting one state. And now, the possibility of a Category 3 storm right where Frances hit a few weeks ago.

I spoke to my folks tonight. My mom and dad still have enough batteries and bottled water to start a store. The unknown adventure that faced them with Frances is now gone. They’ve seen this enemy before and aren’t please by the implications.

They are now paying a special assessment from their condo association to cover the cleanup from Frances. The four days and three nights they spent without power is still fresh on their minds. My dad doesn’t want to go another week without Internet service (as he did).

Forget for a second how this will affect people who currently live in Florida. Over the longer term how will this affect who moves to Florida? A lot of people who would have jumped to Florida a month or two ago, won’t!

Will this be a blow to the Florida economy? I can’t see how it won’t. Yes, there will be outside money coming in to rebuild (insurance, federal aid, etc.). At the same time there will be unreimbursed personal financial losses, the immediate loss of tourism dollars and the longer term repercussions of people staying away.

It doesn’t have to be a large percentage to create a large problem.

We know this hurricane season is unusual, but we don’t know if that fact is meaningful in any way. Is this an anecdotal aberration? Is this the beginning of a trend where strong hurricanes forget to turn into the ocean and hit the coast?

Is this an incredible run of bad luck or have we just been uncommonly lucky in the past?

Watching Coverage On My Computer

For the past hour, or so, I have been watching, and listening, to hurricane coverage on my computer. WFOR, the CBS station in Miami is streaming a very watchable picture. I am impressed.

This is something I touched on a few weeks ago when ABC announced their World News Now Internet service. This definitely has the potential to compete with over-the-air television. It also presents a real opportunity for Internet broadcasting now.

This is something I’ll get into into in more detail later.

Why SNET/SBC Won’t Rat on You

Over the past few months, the recording industry has reached out and sued dozens of people who downloaded songs (probably) illegally from sites like Napster and Kazaa. All the RIAA can tell is the IP address of the file swapper.

An IP address is the main way a computer is identified on the Internet. For instance, you probably came to this site by going to Your Internet service provider, using a DNS server, translates that for you into a series of numbers (4 groups of numbers 0-255). is really… click it and see.

This computer I’m on now also has an IP address, as does the one you’re using. Every computer on the Internet has an IP address.

If the RIAA knows a file swapper had IP address, they can go to a central registry and see who the address is owned by. Most likely it’s not owned by the user, but by an Internet Service Provider, like SNET/SBC here in Connecticut. So, to find the culprit, they the have to ask SNET/SBC – and they have been saying no.

There’s a very interesting opinion piece in this morning’s New Haven Register about why SNET/SBC won’t squeal on you.

In the article, they take the high road. God bless them. But, I think there is something else at stake here as well. If companies and individuals are going to start using cable providers, phone companies and ISP’s as their private investigators, there will be lots of money spent and ill will received by the cable companies, telcos and ISP’s. I don’t think they want the responsibility nor do they want to be put in the position of being forced to monitor their customers movements across the net.

There is still a great deal of misinformation, with people thinking their anonymous when they surf or email. It’s just not so. You leave a trail much more easily followed than bread crumbs for all to see.

One more thing – off the topic a bit. If you’re not in Connecticut, you probably don’t recognize SNET, Southern New England Telephone. It is a very old name, associated with the earliest telephone interconnections. It was not a Bell company. Its name will soon disappear beneath the banner of SBC. That will be our small loss in Connecticut.

A few years ago, when dealing with an out of state vendor, who needed to know my phone company, he kept referring to them as “S-NET”, as if it were some Silicon Valley high tech startup. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I will miss the name when it disappears; another sign of the ‘nationalizing’ of big business.

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