DSL & Wireless Internet Info

A friend was asking recently about broadband alternatives as well as wireless. I thought I’d post our exchange so that other folks can see and compare with their own experiences. Or better yet maybe this can help clarify the alternatives for somebody.

Can you tell me what you know about the best DSL and wireless internet companies? I am thinking about making the leap to DSL and wireless and I know you have probably done tons of research.

My neighbor went with EarthLink for both and they seem pretty happy. Right now they are running a special for 19.99 per month for 6 months and then it changes to 39.99 per month. This includes start up fees (what ever that is) and equipment.

Which company did you go with and are you happy?

It really depends what you want to do with your Internet connection whether you go for DSL or cable for your broadband.

If you think you’ll enter the VOIP realm, then give the DSL a miss and go for Cable. You cannot unbundled your phone service from DSL so you are stuck with “ma bell” phone service. VOIP is VERY inexpensive. I’ve been using it for a little over a year now and have been impressed.

$39.99/mo. sounds like a VERY good deal. You’ll want to ensure that’s not one of their “Lite” products. If you can get 3 MBPS download at that price you’re doing well. I personally would not settle for any less than that. My current cable offering is 6 MBPS download and 384 KBPS upload which is ample for my current needs.

I have other friends who are using Earthlink and they’re quite happy with it too.

I originally started with Bell South directly and was pretty satisfied with them. I believe they actually run the DSL on behalf of Earthlink.

I’m never totally happy with any of these companies. They always do something that I find bothersome. But it’s a matter of getting as many positive features and as few negatives as you want. I found uptime with Bellsouth and Comcast to be roughly the same. There are always hiccoughs with both systems – it seems my comcast modem needs to be reset more often than my DSL needed. But it’s twice as fast. The DSL folks occasionally reinitialize their modem which would cause my home network to fail until I set it back to what I wanted. I think they’ve stopped that foolishness now however.

To help you gauge, I’m currently paying $63 / month for Comcast’s Internet which is more expensive than the DSL, but when you factor in the savings on Telephone and Long Distance charges, the Comcast service with Vonage VOIP comes out something like $15 – $25 less per month. It’s ironic that I get my TV from Satellite and my phone via my cable company. Oh, and my company pays for the broadband connection so it’s a theoretical cost for me now..

Feel free to shoot me an email or give me a call if you have other questions. Nothing about any of this is black or white. No matter what you do, make sure you put a router between your computer and your modem. If you invest in a wireless router now (about $80 realistically) you’ll be primed for wireless access inside your house. But the router provides an important safeguard between you and the Internet cloud.

Thanks for your response. You are always on top of the newest technology. It is all too confusing to me…

I looked over EarthLink’s home page and they are saying the $19.95/mo for 6 months ($40/mo afterwards) service is for download speeds “up to” 3.0 Mbps. I currently have dial up and it is painfully slow. Not sure what my modem speed is though… Does the “up to” 3.0 Mbps download speed sound like it would seldom be at 3.0 Mbps?

What makes the internet wireless? Is it the router and/or special software or other hardware?

I still like the Satellite for my TV. I don’t want to go back to cable. Would you recommend DirectTV over DishNetwork if I went with EarthLink or does it matter? I didn’t know if they were affiliated.

I currently have phone service with BellSouth so would that service continue unchanged if I went with EarthLink?

You mentioned that your $62/mo for Comcast’s Internet is a savings when factoring in telephone and long distance. Are you saying your Comcast Internet provides you your wireless internet service and phone (local and long distance)? And, do you have some unlimited long distance plan as well?

Thanks again for your input..

Yes “Up To” is what they usually promise. For DSL I found that to be pretty optimistic. I typically would get 2.3-2.5 Mbps whereas with the cable I’m much closer to the “Up To” 6 at about 5.8 – 6.0 Mbps. Moving from dial-up to DSL I doubt you’ll be disappointed with 2.x Mbps. at $20 / month I’d say “go for it”.

Unless you opt to get your home network set up by Earthlink too (I believe you’ll find that’s an option on some other part of the website. Probably will run you about $10/month more) you’ll just get a DSL modem. Make sure you get the one that has an Ethernet output, not the USB output. If your computer is at all recent you’ll already have an ethernet card in it. And if not you can pick one up for under $20. This will give you the most flexibility going forward.

To have either wireless and/or more than one computer share your internet connection, you need a router. Even if you only have one computer hard-wired to the internet I still highly recommend you get a router anyway since all routers now come with a built-in firewall which provides excellent protection from the Internet.
I picked up a d-link 524 wireless router recently from Amazon.com for less than $50 and I’m very happy with it.

Of course you want to have a current antivirus too to round out your suite of protection. If you don’t want to drop the $40 or so that Norton’s Anti-Virus will run you, there is an excellent free antivirus package available out there (probably it’s appended a tag to the bottom of this email) called AVG. I use it on my backup server and have just switched to it from Symantec (even though I’ve paid for the Norton AV license) because Symantec is such a resource hog it was slowing down my laptop.

Yes, even though your DSL service will actually be physically provided by Bell South, your existing phone bill will remain unchanged and you will receive a separate bill from Earthlink for your DSL service.

I use Vonage for my VOIP phone service. I can see where Comcast is offering their own (more expensive) option now too. For $27 a month Vonage includes unlimited calls to anywhere in the US and Canada as well as amazingly low overseas rates (which I never need to use). Also it includes voicemail, conference calling, call waiting, caller ID and “simulring” (you can give it up to 5 phone numbers to ring i.e. your cell phones, and the first one to pick up “wins” and receives the call). You can configure it to send you an email when you receive a voicemail (you can even tell it to send you the voicemail as a WAV file if you want). It’s an excellent value. And get this, if you take your Vonage router with you, you can phone people from anyplace that has a high speed internet connection (i.e. many hotels nowadays). If you were in London, England you could phone folks using that system as if you were local the the US.

For the same services above for my Bell South phone (not including voicemail and the long distance) I was being charged over $40. It was really a no-brainer for me to move to Comcast & Vonage.

Good luck figuring out how you’re going to go. Earthlink sounds like a great deal unless you want to do VOIP, in which case you need to do the math. You may find it’s still worthwhile to get Earthlink and then eat the cost of basic phone service from Bell South and port your existing phone number over to Vonage. But YMMV.

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on March 25, 2006 at 2:12 pm

Night Flying

Just spent a couple of hours last night regaining my night currency as well as trying to hone my “soft field landing” skills. I *really* enjoy flying at night. The air is calmer, there is almost no traffic and I, personally, find it easier to find the airports I’m looking for since their beacons are easily discernable and the haze layer is not as much of a factor at night.
I flew out of Gwinnett (KLZU) and did several full stop landings to meet and exceed the night currency requirements. I alternated between normal landings and soft field. Then I headed over to Winder (KWDR) to practice my night flying skills. I had my GPS with me and turned on, but I ignored it to brush up my night map-to-terrain skills. I did a few touch-and-gos there with a soft-field thrown in for good measure and then headed up to Gainsville (KGVL). There was a modest crosswind there, between 8-9 knots with no real gusting that allowed me to practice a crosswind landing while doing a touch-and-go.
Flying at about 3500 feet late at night (it was about 10 pm by then), it was dark and quiet. Perfect.

Posted under Aviation

This post was written by Marc
on March 25, 2006 at 7:02 am

Vonage Voicemail Notifications flakey?

Has anybody else out there noticed that Vonage’s voicemail notification (stuttered dial tone, LED indicator on your phone – if you have such) has been a little erratic as of late?

For the past few weeks I’ve found that, as often as not, the indicators are not clearing properly after I’ve retrieved and deleted my voicemails. I would have to go into my voicemail box again, go to the deleted messages and re-delete them before the indicators would clear.

And, beginning about a week ago the notifications have been not activating for new messages. I received one yesterday morning and another message this morning and for neither one did the indicators activate.

I’m wondering if there is something awry with my setup or if this is something that other Vonage users are experiencing as well.

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on March 20, 2006 at 6:25 pm

Uploading Pictures to Gallery2

This is more a note to myself as it’s well documented here on the web.

It seems I SNAFUed myself by replacing the default “404 – page not found” with a customized version that prompted folks to search my site specifically for whatever it was they looking for.

After doing this, the tool I use to upload pictures “en masse” to my website – Gallery Remote – didn’t work properly.

To correct this, two changes needed to be implemented:

1) I needed to create a “fake” gallery_remote2.php file in my gallery directory containing the following code –

< ?php header("HTTP/1.0 404 Not Found"); exit; ?>

2) I needed to add the following line to the GalleryRemote.properties file (located in the “program files/gallery remote” subfolder) –

forceGalleryVersion.n=2

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on March 19, 2006 at 6:28 pm

New Bar-B-Que

When we moved into this house, there was already installed on the backyard patio a Broilmaster “Warm Morning” Bar-B-Que. It was pretty big and was fairly old as far as Bar-B-Ques go. When it came time to replace the burners in it (big old cast iron jobs) I found that I was not going to be able to easily find a replacement burner for the right hand side of the Bar-B-Que.
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Also, the valves had become sluggish and I think the regulator was gummed up. I would turn on a burner and then have to wait up to a couple of minutes for the gas to actually flow. Not exactly a safety feature. I’d listen for the gas to flow and then light the burner once that happened using an extended lighter.

Not being an expert in such things, and finding that there apparently aren’t very many such experts out there at any of the places I phoned or visited, I elected to replace the bar-b-que with a brand new Broilmaster P3BL-1 unit. We even sprung for the optional front and right side shelves.

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It’s a real pleasure firing up the grill, I now have an electric starter, it starts right away and I have nice solid places to put my utensils, plates and drinks while cooking.

I bought my bar-b-que through Metro House of Fire and worked with Kathy Heeth. She was great in dealing with my many questions and scenarios.

Posted under General, Retail Experiences

This post was written by Marc
on March 17, 2006 at 10:06 pm

What, Me Pregnant? A For Better or for Worse Collection

What, Me Pregnant? A For Better or for Worse Collection What, Me Pregnant? A For Better or for Worse Collection
As always, Lynn Johnston’s cartoon chronicle of family life is one of the best comic offerings out there. I have to admire the fact that the characters have grown up with me and at the same rate as me. That was a pretty gutsy approach to take for this medium. It’s very much like having another family friend who is sharing their experiences with you.

Posted under Comic Books

This post was written by Marc
on March 15, 2006 at 7:55 pm

Wine Tasting Party – Australian Shiraz

Mich and I hosted our first wine tasting party yesterday.

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Since it was our first attempt we decided to keep it REALLY small and low key.

We spoke with Bob Cochrane at our local East Cobb Sherlock’s and he was instrumental in helping us decide on the wines we would sample for this first attempt.

I visited aromadictionary.com’s Wine Education resources and used their “Nine Wine Glass Place Mat”. I also had to choose a score card and had many excellent options to pick from (thanks JB!) and eventually settled on this excellent offering from “The American Wine Society”. This appealed to me because there was plenty of room to make notes on the various wines plus a good description of the evaluation characteristics plus a take-away wine aroma wheel that complemented exactly the laminated, colored wheels we had purchased from Sherlock’s to help prompt us through the aroma evaluation.

Mich picked up 24 wine glasses from TJ Maxx for an excellent price which meant that we would not need to be constantly washing glasses throughout the evening.

We decided that we would focus on a single varietal (Shiraz) and primarily one country (Australia). This drove our wine selection.

The wines we evaluated where (in order):

  • Penfold’s Thomas Hyland Shiraz 2003 (Australia)
  • Nine Stone’s McLaren Vale Shiraz 2003 (Australia)
  • Grant Burge Miamba Shiraz 2003 (Australia) < -- unanimous favorite among our guests

For contrast we then chose two non-Australian wines to demonstrate how much variation there can be in a single varietal.

  • Perrin Cote Du Rhone Villages 2003 (France)
  • Rock Rabbit Syrah 2003 (California)

There was quite a lot of agreement that the French wine had the “silkiest” texture and it rated very favorably with the Grant Burge offering edging it out as the overall favorite in the end.

After a palate-clearing glass of Argyle Brut Champagne we then offered our “Wow” wine for the evening – Peter Lehmann Shiraz (Australia). Now, “Wow” wines are very palate specific, and most of the people sampling these wines were not experienced wine tasters so I think – in retrospect – I would not have gone past the 5 principal wines of our tasting were I to repeat this tasting theme. The “Wow” was more of a “hmmm” but I don’t know how much of that was due to the wine I’m not even sure that the Californian got a fair shake as I know my taste discriminatory abilities were long gone by then. Steve, easily the most experienced taster among us suggested that the wine may have needed much more time to “breath” than I had allotted and that’s a fair assumption as I had not opened this bottle until nearly halfway through the evening. I had allowed all of the other wines a good couple of hours breathing time.

Overall I believe the evening was a success and hopefully marks the beginning of a series of such tastings in which we’ll explore many more varietals, vintages and appellations.

Posted under Retail Experiences, Wine Tasting

This post was written by Marc
on March 12, 2006 at 8:14 pm