How @CenturyLink and @CenturyLinkHelp Failed… Again.

If you followed my mid-2015 Internet travails, then you know that CenturyLink, like most telcos, is barely competent to be in business. The old Scott Adams joke about cable companies employing engineers to couldn’t cut it at the phone company might still be true, but damn, CenturyLink isn’t exactly raising the bar.

A huge part of their problem, in our area especially, is the preponderance of buried wires that were hand-spun from virgin copper by Ma Bell herself. And wrapped in paper. And, as I said, buried. They’re obviously expensive to dig up, and so the cable technicians essentially refuse to believe any cable is broken or damaged unless it is physically shrieking at exactly 2600Hz. At high noon. In harmony.

I want to point out that the previous solution was only arrived at because I convinced a cable tech to detach one of my neighbor’s pairs from their bonded-pair DSL service, connect that pair to my house, and then put my service on that pair. My problems evaporated, proving that it was the goddamn wires all along just like I’d been saying, you… ahem. Sorry.

So the solution was to order bonded-pair DSL service, forcing the company to build out a new pair to my home. Anyway, the neighbors wanted their pair back (greed), and so I’m pretty sure I’ve got one all-new pair (which works) and one all-crap pair (which don’t). But it was basically fine. We mostly had reliable Internet and could finally look into that Netflix thing you’re all going on about all the time. I mean, we had blazing fast 15Mbps. With 1.5Mbps up. Yeah. And don’t give me any crap about how I work in the IT industry – I don’t own a phone company or cable company. If I did, I’d fire everyone and kill myself, I think.

Oh, Cox volunteered to run coax to the house. For $26k. So.

Second aside: We’re literally bracketed by coax and fiber. If these carriers were firing shells at us, they’ve have our range dialed right in by now. It’s just pulling said coax/fiber down the damn street is prohibitively expensive since we only have, like, 16 homes on our road. It’s a rural, desolate area 5 minutes South of the Las Vegas International airport. Like, 10 minutes from Mandalay Bay. Slight sarcasm.

Fast forward to now. A couple of weeks ago, somebody – presumably the county – decided to have a bulldozer go grade the shoulders on our road (we don’t have curbs, so this isn’t difficult). Pretty much everyone in our cul-de-sac lost DSL that day, and it hasn’t been the same since.

Well, not anymore. DSL2 – the crappy, old wires – gave up the ghost, and not only refused to connect faster than 2Mbps, but was obviously leaking packets into the ground. Now, the problem with that is that bonded-pair DSL splits up your traffic more or less evenly across both pipes. When one pipe is leaky, the Internet stops working. 

So CenturyOldTelephoneLink sent a tech out yesterday today, who putzed with the wires for an hour or so in the morning. He got DSL2 to come back on at 8Mbps, and left. Upon which DSL2 failed epically, reconnected at 2MBps again, and practically spewed data into the dirt. If it’d been water, I’d be in jail. It’s a drought here, you know.

A call back to India CenturyLink revealed the fact that they still show a problem with the line. Which they fixed. Allegedly. Only not. Oh, and they can’t have another tech out for a week, because their service sucks so much that they’re all engaged. Even though this has been a recurring problem, was supposed to have been fixed this morning, and is a carry-on from a recurring problem that I had to get corporate involved with to get any action on. I was even assigned to the “Chronic” team, for God’s sake, and that’s not something you ordinarily want. 

Deep breaths.

So I said to myself, “self, you’re not dumb. You used to work for the phone company. You know how this crap works. If one pipe is spewing your data into the ground, just stop using that pipe. DSL1 has been holding steady at 8Mbps, right?” So, pop open the NID, disconnect DSL2…

…and relative bliss. I mean, crappy, 8-down-and-.75-up bliss, to be sure. But relative bliss.

Fun facts: Even though both lines originate at the same CO (which I could hit with a shoulder-mooned rocket, something I briefly considered), and go to the same house, one of them travels almost 11,000 feet (which is too far for decent DSL), while the other travels less than 8,000 feet. It is clearly the goddamn wormhole that DSL2 is passing through en route which is causing the problem. Because I’m assured it isn’t a problem with the wires.

SNR on DSL2 is 10% worse than DSL1, but that can’t be because of the wires. Attenuation on DSL2 is also almost 2x worse than DSL1, but I’m sure it’s the wormhole again. Damn wormholes.

I’m leaving a copy of this in an envelope, attached to the NID, for the technician who may or may not arrive next week to “fix everything.”

So I’m seriously considering a 20Mbps/5Mbps microwave connection on the roof. Like seriously. As in, I have a quote, and no, it ain’t cheap. But I love my house, and we do live in a rural area where “coax” is still a newfangled thang, so it’s pretty much my only option (apart from satellite, which caps you at 10GB of data, which I mean, my cell phone can beat).

So the next time you complain about the price of your Gbps+ cable connection, and their crappy customer service, go… you know. Just go.

Cox vs. Nexstar & CBS: Everyone Loses

Here in Las Vegas, Cox has gotten into a fight with Nexstar, owners of our local CBS Affiliate, KLAS. It’s the usual content-provider-versus-carrier argument: KLAS wants more money, Cox doesn’t want to pay it. KLAS says they’re just asking for the same amount paid by Dish, DirecTV, and CenturyLink. Cox says they’re trying to rip off the 50+% of Las Vegas customers who are on Cox. Right now, they’re in a blackout, meaning CBS’ advertisers are losing over half the Vegas eyeballs. The ones that don’t just fast-forward through ads on their DVRs, of course.

At the heart of this, which nobody wants to mention, is the fact that KLAS essentially operates under a government monopoly. Back in the broadcast days, this made sense; today, it’s almost utterly meaningless.

Continue reading

OK, fellow nerds: Need a BT headset recommendation

So, I’m looking for a new Bluetooth headset, after not using one for quite some time. To be clear, I’m after a one-ear, talk-on-the-phone headset, not a two-ear, run-on-the-treadmill earbud situation.

My preferences:

  • Lightweight, good volume, and uncomplicated controls. I’m fine running most of the control from my phone, actually, so the fewer buttons and knobs the earpiece has, the better.
  • Charge via micro USB (and I’m fine with one that has to go into a charging case; that might even be better, as I’m apt to damage small things if they’re not in a case).
  • Decent battery life. I’m talking 4-5 hours of talk time between charges. This is kind of a big deal and I’d be more willing to compromise elsewhere than here.
  • Good audio quality, especially on the microphone. My iPhone 6S supports LTE Voice, which sounds just amazing, and I’d rather not dumb it back down to “scratchy I can barely hear you.” I’m not normally in a super noisy environment.

Thoughts? Feelings? I’ve got a hand-me-down B&O Earset 2, which looks cool but is a left-ear model and I’m really finding myself preferring something that can go right-ear instead. And it’s battery life ain’t much to write home about (it’s an older model, I know batteries have come a long way).

Half Off “Month of Lunches” Offer Details

On December 30th, Manning will be offering 50% off all the “Month of Lunches” titles. This applies to ebooks, as well as to print books (which all come with a free ebook copy). Just use their promo code, dotd123015au, when checking out on their site. The deal starts at midnight Eastern time going into the 30th, and will last for about 48 hours, I’m told.

The offer applies to:

  • Learn Linux in a Month of Lunches
  • Learn SQL Server Administration in a Month of Lunches
  • Learn Windows IIS in a Month of Lunches
  • Learn PowerShell Toolmaking in a Month of Lunches
  • Learn Active Directory Management in a Month of Lunches
  • Learn System Center Configuration Manager in a Month of Lunches
  • Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches, Second Edition
  • Learn Git in a Month of Lunches
  • Learn Cisco Network Administration in a Month of Lunches.

Bet you didn’t even know the series had grown so much, eh? And there’s more on the way in 2016!

OK, DSC Book Campaign Didn’t Work :(.

Well, it was worth a shot – but it’s looking like our IndieGoGo campaign to fund a comprehensive DSC book is gonna be a bust. Around January 5th, IndieGoGo should refund everyone who contributed – and thanks for that support! Unfortunately, the demand just doesn’t seem to be there within the audience that Jason and I can reach.

That was a concern all along. I’ve mentioned before how advanced books tend to do pretty poorly – PowerShell in Depth hasn’t broken any sales records, for example – compared to entry-level books. And we’re still early on in DSC’s life, so the adoption isn’t huge, which means the audience isn’t huge.

This doesn’t mean the idea is dead, however. Jason and I are going to be spending some time discussing possibilities. We’re considering, for example, offering an ebook on a paid subscription basis, which would enable us to update the thing more or less continuously. Dunno. Even with the DSC documentation now open-sourced, and even with great DSC video education available via Pluralsight, I think there’s a lot of need for the expertise and explanation a book can bring. So we’re going to think about it some more.

Anyway, thanks again for those of you who supported us, and we’ll keep you posted.

Book Campaign: The Complete Guide to PowerShell DSC

Jason Helmick and I have been prodded and poked for a while now about producing a “real” book on PowerShell’s Desired State Configuration. Thing is, books don’t always pay off the massive investment they take to produce. So we’re going to see if there’s actual demand for this thing – and if there is, we’ll write it. We’ve started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise the funds we’ll need, and it’ll be up to you to make it happen. You’ve got 60 days – that’s roughly until the start of January, 2016.

If we meet our campaign goal, we’ll begin writing when Windows Server 2016 (containing the “final” DSCv5 release) goes General Availability or Release to Manufacturing (GA/RTM). We expect a 3-6 month effort. We’ll touch on absolutely every aspect we can of DSC, including tons of tested code examples.

It’s important to note that this is not a project – this is me and Jason, personally

Help get us started today.

IT Ops News and Talk Show: October 2015

Hop on over to register for my October News & Talk show, and don’t forget to check out the recordings from September! It’s likely that future show recordings (they’ll all be recorded) will end up on the same YouTube channel, so consider bookmarking that. Or subscribing, even. Or whatever you kids do with YouTube these days.

We’re also working on getting an audio extract for you iPod commuters. Watch my Twitter feed for that info.

This month, we’ll focus on Containers as our technology topic, and I’ve got a great guest lined up to cut through some of the spin and talk about what’s real. I’ll also rant a bit about technology debt, what it means, how real it is or isn’t, and what you can watch for to stop it from happening. Or at least to refinance it. Plus, the usual quick news bits (and opinion), and some hot new Pluralsight courses you can check out.

Join for the live show and I’ll take selected questions from the audience!