Archive for the 'Tech / Internet' Category

10
Mar
10

Your Life on the Net

03
Nov
09

Vonage Uses All of Downstream?

It doesn’t happen to many folks, but it does happen to some. And it’s a problem that is not easy to replicate on the tech support side of things…

You have a shiny Internet connection with gobs of bandwidth. You hook up the Vonage stuff and it works. But you notice that your download bandwidth has been murdered. As in, 90% of your available download bandwidth is being soaked up even when you are not using the phone attached to Vonage. Vonage is only supposed to use 90k in both directions at max. In my case a 6 meg download line that provided nominal bandwidth of 5.23 meg was being knocked down to less than .5 meg. Ugh. Called phone support which suggested that a new adapter would solve the problem. It didn’t. Then got in an email support march that wanted to send yet another adapter. That didn’t help. Then the email folks suggested that this was out of their control and that I should just go buy a third party adapter. Huh? One last phone call to tech support.

Kelly answered the call after I navigated the barely tolerable automated voice response system. I described the problem to Kelly. Kelly knew exactly what the problem is and apologized for the lack of help offered by previous reps. Apparently, there is some kind of DNS conflict that can occur between the Vonage box and some home routers. Mine was one of them. Here’s how Kelly told me to set up my Vonage box:

  • Assign a static IP to the Vonage adapter in the Vonage configuration manager.
  • In the same manager, assign a new primary and secondary DNS. We used OpenDNS
    • 208.67.222.222
    • 208.67.220.220
  • Click the apply button.

That’s it. Really. All is well.

Update: Not so much. Now my speed is back in the dumper and I am talking with somebody who has a thick Indian accent who wants to start all over. Her fixes were temporary.

Jason has remotely rolled back my firmware thinking that will solve my issues. He’s going to call back in four hours to make sure that all is still well.

Bill got involved late Tuesday. He tried a few things. But it was no help. He said that he had to bump me up to “Tier 2” support. They were unavailable, so he made an appointment to call me back on Wednesday. The time came and went with no contact.

It’s now Thursday.

29
Jun
09

Dell vs Dell

Well, it’s time to get my geek on. A few weeks ago I was ruminating on getting a new desktop computer for my office. I bought a Dell Dimension 4600 a little more than 6 years ago. I’ve run it 24/7 since purchase and have been generally happy with it. I know that the expected life of a desktop is about 3 years, so I am not upset over a HD replacement, memory upgrade or video card upgrade. It’s  Pentium 4 system running at 3gHz on XP Pro with maxed out RAM and is now showing it’s age. It also has an upcoming HD failure (again) and the watch battery has been replaced (a sure sign of doom), as well as signs that the power supply is getting wonky. This machine cost me around $2,000.

I ordered a new Dell this weekend. I got a system that features the Intel Core i7, 3G of tri-channel RAM, blah, blah, blah. I ordered an additional 6G of RAM from Newegg.com. My total bill is about $850 to my door. It should be here in a week or so and I am already dreading the data transfer debacle. Hell, that never goes smoothly. Hopefully, though, I’ll have another machine that will blaze through another 6 years!

28
Jun
09

Oh Hubble, Where Art Thou?

The Hubble orbiting telescope has undoubtedly provided some of the most amazing astronomical images ever seen. Over the couse of its career it has produced a stunning amount of data by way of those images and observations. Did you know that you can actually access that data? Of course, it’s in its raw form… To beautify it you need to process it, which means subtracting a dark frame, a bias frame, dividing by the flat field, flagging bad pixels, combining multiple exposures to get rid of cosmic rays, performing a geometric correction… and if you want color, you have to do that for the other filters used in the observation, and then combining those using Photoshop or some other software. But if you are game, head on over to the master Hubble database and have at it. You are gonna need to get your geek on to even query the database, so be warned! BTW, images that are not at least one year old will not be available.

13
Jun
09

Default Password

30
May
09

Broken Rule

I’ve had a computer or two in my hands for a *very* long time. Let’sjust  say that I still have a TRS80 Model II (with cassette drive) in a well-padded and sealed box in storage… I manage to make my computers last, though. I try to buy toward the top of the heap when it is time for a new one and take care of the thing. That has usually meant an outlay of $2,000-3,000. The uber geeks always said that the computer you want costs at leat $2,000. It would appear to be no longer true.

  • Intel Core2 Quad Q8200
  • 4G of RAM
  • 640G SATA Hard Drive
  • 512M Dual DVI Output GeForce Video Card (have my own flat panels)
  • 16X Optical Drive Burner (adding my own second)
  • Integrated 7.1 Audio (have my own speakers)

Under $700. I’m not too thrilled about having to use Vista64 to take true advantage of the Quad and the RAM…

20
Apr
09

WP: I’m Sorry

As some of you may have noticed, this blog got “taken down” for a few hours today. The notice said that I had violated the Terms of Service of WordPress hosting. I’m not sure what I did to deserve that, but a few emails to customer support seem to have fixed things up. I do not know what I did wrong, so I do not know what to remove. But whatever it is, I’m sorry. I will now return to issuing sporadic effluvia from an addled brain.

03
Mar
09

Chroma Key Fashion

Stolen directly from the Wikipedia page:

Chroma key is a technique for mixing two images or frames together, in which a color (or a small color range) from one image is removed (or made transparent), revealing another image behind it. This technique is also referred to as color keying, colour-separation overlay (CSO; primarily by the BBC[1]), greenscreen, and bluescreen. It is commonly used for weather forecast broadcasts, wherein the presenter appears to be standing in front of a large map, but in the studio it is actually a large blue or green background. The meteorologist stands in front of a bluescreen, and then different weather maps are added on those parts in the image where the color is blue. If the meteorologist himself wears blue clothes, his clothes will become replaced with the background video. This also works for greenscreens, since blue and green are considered the colors least like skin tone. This technique is also used in the entertainment industry, the iconic theatre shots in Mystery Science Theater 3000, for example.

What is not pointed out in the Wiki page is that young and inexperienced weather guessers should not choose sartorial accoutrements with any color similarity to the chroma key used in the studio. Bad things, man.

28
Dec
08

Office Depot Still Sucks

I do not know why I continue to hope against hope that the Office Depot near me will get its act together. There’s an Office Max across the freeway, just a short distance away, but I don’t like fighting the traffic to get an extra half mile down the road. So I keep banging my head against a concrete wall. I vowed to never shop there again when they would not accept my American Express card without first seeing my ID. “It’s for your security, sir.” “It’s a violation of your merchant agreement.” And I left a sizable purchase on the counter and left in a huff, even after the manager on duty informed me that it was “corporate policy”. I carry my American Express card so that I do not have to be bothered with silly inconveniences such as corporate policy.

Fast forward to this past Friday. My venerable laser printer, an HP 1100A, is on its last legs. I have adored this printer. I’ve had it for years and it has served me very well. It reliably makes razor sharp prints at a decent speed and cost. It has a kind of built in copier that lets me make a single copy in rather short order. But it has no built in networking, it uses a mini-Centronics plug that is a pain in the posterior, and has some parts that are wearing out that will cost more to fix than I care to spend. So I have been hunting for a new printer for the home network. It had to be, of course, network ready, a laser printer (I cannot stand ink jet), color capable, equipped with built in duplexing, reasonably fast, possessed of a small foot print and reliable. Oh, and it had to be under $500. As for everything but the price, the HP CP2025dn fit the bill perfectly. Now, though prices are starting to crash. I found the brand new printer at Amazon for $438.50. That’s a whole lot cheaper than the original retail of $861.87. That was a shipped price, which I thought was pretty good. Thinking that I might be willing to sacrifice a few bucks for being able to get it now, I went over to the Office Depot site to see what they wanted for the beast. The website had the printer listed at $529.99 minus an instant rebate of $50. That brought it to $479.99. I had a $15 off coupon and my sales tax exemption certificate (I would be using this for business, etc.), so I was down to about $465 and was going to see if they would price match a whopping $26.49 (I would be helping out with the $15 coupon).  I got there and the printer was marked at $499.99; no sale, no rebate, no nothing. I asked for the manager and asked if she would be willing to price match the Amazon price, which I had printed out. I got laughed at and told that “we do not match Internet pricing”. I pointed out that their price match policy specifically mentions Internet competitors (I had printed this out, too) and was given a curt “that’s not what it means”.

So then I asked her why the printer was not priced the same as the Office Depot website price and was given some BS about how some file must not have downloaded properly and that there was nothing that could be done. Fine. “Would you price match your own price?” “No. I don’t know how to do that.” I went home and did what I should have done in the first place: I ordered it from Amazon. Point, click, spend.

24
Dec
08

Would You?

Given the recent circus revolving around my father and his colon removal, my brother and I have had an opportunity to chat about our “prospects” for healthy living in the future. We’ve inherited a cornucopia of medical issues and developed a bunch on our own. My brother used to have blood pressure and cholesterol issues and is still battling triglycerides. I have high BP, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, neuropathy, degenerative disc disorder, cluster headaches and the normal stuff associated with the aging male and pissing. Both of our parents have high BP, my father has been successfully treated for colon cancer, colitis, etc., my father has had a stroke and a quintuple bypass and a couple of angioplasties, and has diabetes. My mom has had her neck roto-rootered and has Parkinson’s and cataracts. Our maternal grandfather died of colon cancer and our maternal grandmother died of Parkinson’s and had cataracts, too. Paternal grandfather probably had several heart attacks and died of a massive one. Paternal grandmother died very early. So we figure our prospects are pretty bleak. About the time of that discussion, I read an article about Google’s Sergey Brin using a DNA test to discover that he had an increased liklihood of contracting Parkinson’s disease.

Technology has come a long way. I’ve stopped fighting with my doctors and take all of my meds like a good boy. Both of us pretty much have our issues under control. But Parkinson’s is one of those issues that absolutely gets worse. And we know so little about it. Now, there is a genetic test that is going to give us a heads up on the fact that we are or are not likely to suffer from a debilitating degenerative nerve disorder. One whose treatments has some nasty side effects, too. We’ve both passed on having the test done.