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Not loving the Cathy Crosby version in today’s Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonder_Woman_(TV_series). However, I note that DC has been publishing a digital-only “Wonder Woman ’77” comic based on the TV show. It looks delightfully campy.

The Internet Travails Continue…

For those of you following my adventures and woes of Internet connectivity, I thought I’d offer an update.

CenturyLink (which my Mac wants to autocorrect to “centurkink,” so make of that what you will) sent another tech out. My bonded-pair DSL service was crap, because line 2 kept dropping all the time. So I went out to the NID and just unhooked line 2. The modem complained for a bit, got over it, and proceeded just using line 1. Steadily. I mentioned earlier that I suspect Line 2 was just the same old crap-tastic wire that caused all the problems in the first place. The modem, in fact, claimed that Line 1 had a loop length of just under 8,000 feet, while Line 2 was close to 11,000 – which is odd because they follow the same path to the CO. 

Anyway, I told the new tech, “if you can’t make Line 2 work, don’t even hook it back up. Take me off the bonded-pair and back to single-line service.” At least I can get a steady almost-10Mbps (and a blazing 1.25Mbps up) to work with.

So that’s what he did. This, I feel, would absolve me of any contractual obligations regarding length-of-commit with the bonded-pair service, too.

So I had a company come out to install a microwave line-of-sight transceiver on the house. 20Mbps, both ways. Very low latency. I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty excited. I did some rewiring in the house so they could just plug in their Magic Microwave Box and get me going. And yes, this was pretty expensive. Very expensive. But I’d decided it was worth it; I work from my home, and I love “Grace & Frankie” on Netflix. Priorities, man.

And the happy day arrived. It was this past Monday.

And the tech couldn’t pull line-of-sight on their tower. Just couldn’t get a signal. We’re slightly below the prevailing grade, it seems, and that didn’t help.

[Insert cursing, and remember that I worked for the Navy for four years.]

So, still on single-line DSL. I’ve got two more companies coming to do LoS surveys to see if we can hit a tower. And no, satellite isn’t an option with their ridiculous 10GB/month caps. My freakin’ cell phone has a 14GB/mo cap on tethered data, for pity’s sake. And yes, that’s still potentially an option – I need to put an outdoor antenna and a femtocell in the house to pull that off, though, because the house is basically a Faraday cage. Long story.

Anyway. I’ll keep you posted. Know that I love my home (DSC Camp attendees can vouch for why, and watch this space on April 1st for the new DevOps Camp 2016 announcement), and I love that it’s in a quiet, semi-rural area. Except for the Internet thing.

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Today’s Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottoman_Empire. Long read, but it seems relevant.

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Today’s Wikipedia post is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker_(video_game). Anyone ever play it? I did. C-64 Forever.

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Fascinating. I’d no idea it was a guy in Pittsburgh. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Mac is my Wikipedia article of the day. This, by the way, is why I’m so fascinating (I tell myself) at cocktail parties. I encourage you to follow along ;).

Why Client Deployment is Such a Mess

I’ve been speaking to some folks about Windows 10 lately. I ask about it a lot at conferences, too. The general feeling, personally, is that about half the world is deploying, or gonna deploy. The other half, “meh.”

You know why the meh? Everyone probably wishes they had Windows 10 deployed, but almost nobody is excited about deploying it. It’s kind like me and “shoulders day” at the gym. Love having done it, not so hot on doing it. 

Close your eyes and go back to that happy, happy place and time, when your users all ran Windows 95. Then, Windows 98. Probably that was it. Lots of companies never broadly deployed Windows 2000 Workstation – it was a massive change over the MS-DOS based Windows versions, and they just weren’t up for it.

But along came Windows XP.

And it stayed. So not only most IT Ops people, but most entire companies, have only ever deployed a client OS maybe three times, max. Once, when you brought in Windows 95, which you probably did on new computers anyway. Again when you deployed Windows XP, and again when you finally rolled out Windows 7. Yes, lots of folks have done more, especially if you go way back, but the mass of the world seems to have done about two or three.

And it’s largely because deploying new client operating systems is a pain in the ass. It’s literally the most impactful thing IT can do to a company, because bloody everybody sees it. Everyone gets a new Start menu, a new Control Panel, and a new reason to bitch at us. Migrations never go 100% smoothly, because users stash stuff everywhere they’re not supposed to. Migration tools suck in large part because we don’t use them enough to generate any interest in fixing them.

And migrations are mainly a PITA because nobody has invested in building the skills, tools, or infrastructure to make it easy. Yes, Microsoft has released tools – lots of them, over and over – but none of them are a Magic Migration Deployment Wizard. Because migrations have always been this painful-point-in-time thing, we’ve never made it an ongoing process that requires us to make it a science. When we deploy OS v2, we don’t put in places the things to make the eventual OS v3 deployment easier. When we acquire client apps, we don’t bother even asking what the forward compatibility story will be.

And so client deployment is a mess.

Windows 10 might offer some relief. Maybe. It depends a lot on how long Microsoft follows through with this servicing branch theory they’ve got running, where most of our computers perhaps live int he Long-Term Servicing Branch (LTSB), but eventually suck down whatever updates are sent to that branch, while others can opt into a more-frequent series of updates as a means of testing new features and fixes. And if they stick with this as a means of shipping new features, eventually shifting to a subscription model rather than a one-time-sale model for client licenses. That’s a lot of “ifs” from a company that doesn’t have a great track record for sticking with update strategies (“we don’t ship new features in service packs,” lolz).

So either Microsoft takes this off our hands by making clients inherently “always upgrading,” without the need for backbreaking deployments and migrations, or we have to fix this ourselves. “Fixing” meaning actually building up the tools and processes so that if someone says, “yea verily, go thee and migrate the Sales department to Windows 12,” we can just nudge a button and have it happen. These damn client computers are our single biggest source of maintenance, upkeep, and security woes, and we need to be able to keep them updated – beyond just patching them.

Oh, also – I committed T-Mobile.

I May be Committing T-Mobile

I’ve been with Verizon for several years, and have been basically happy with their service. Recently, I’ve even been pretty happy with their pricing – it’s come down, overall, for what we use. Service at my house is a little sketchy, but that’s partially because my house is a virtual Faraday cage. Getting any kind of signal inside is hard (I’m looking into an outdoor antenna and indoor femtocell). I’ve even enjoyed Verizon’s deal with the NFL, giving me an option to stream games (over my crappy CenturyLink DSL line) now that I’ve cut the TV cord.

But damn, T-Mobile has been putting together a pretty compelling option.

  • No contract. Everyone’s basically ditching contracts, though, and I like it.
  • BingeOn. The ability to stream Netflix and Hulu without counting against my data cap? Um, yes. And yes, I know it’s 480p quality, and when I’m watching on my phone – essentially an animated postcard – that’s fine. Oh, also, I’m getting a microwave antenna on the roof next week to replace my craptastic CenturyLink DSL. So streaming at home will be in HD over that new connection, anyway. I just want to be able to catch up on Daredevil while I’m on the treadmill, and BingeOn should make that a lot cheaper.
  • Unlimited data option for phones. Tablets don’t get this, and T-Mo is pretty clear about what “unlimited” means. After 23GB of use per device, that device gets speed throttled for the rest of the period. That’s fine with me – it’s more than double the data allowance I have with Verizon anyway.
  • Tethering. On the unlimited plan, a separate 15GB bucket is available for tethering your laptop. Again, that alone is more than my total data cap with Verizon.
  • No sharing. This is actually a bit of a downside, as I’m ending up buying more data total across two phones and two tablets than I will probably ever use. But that’s only costing me about $10/mo extra, so it’s not a big deal. But I had gotten used to the Giant Shared Bucket. Of course, I’m going from a flat 12GB bucket to a 58GB bucket split across four devices, so… OK.
  • Canada and Mexico. T-Mo lets me use my LTE data and texting throughout North America for no extra fee. No roaming. This is big for me, as I get to Mexico a good bit, and am used to dropping another $50 per trip to use data there.
  • No international roaming for data or texts, and $.20/min voice calls from overseas. OMG this is huge for me. Huge. Sure, in some countries (yay, Finland!) it’s cheap and easy to get a prepaid SIM for a week or two; in other countries (boo, France!) it’s all but impossible for visitors due to anti-terrorism laws. Being able to use my data – even if it’s just at 3G speeds – overseas is massive for me.
  • Rollover data. As if all that data weren’t enough, unused data on my tablet plans (which are 6GB/mo, the lowest plan offering rollover) rolls over for up to a year. If I do this, I’ll start the tablets here. I’m honestly not sure I need 6GB a month anyway – I may end up knocking the tablets to the lowest 2GB plan, which doesn’t offer all the same international and rollover benefits, so we’ll see. It’d be a $120/year savings per tablet (times two tablets), so it’s significant enough that I’ll be paying close attention.

So I’m kind buying the whole “un-carrier” hype. We’ll see; T-Mo used to have pretty awful coverage in Vegas, and they’ve invested hugely. They just bought naming rights for our new stadium, too, which should incentivize them to providing pretty solid coverage here. I’ll keep ya posted.

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.

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