Faster, but are we having fun yet?

I’ll have to thank a certain “PhaTTBoi”:http://home.mindspring.com/~paulsc/phatt.html for turning me on to cable internet. After the recent upgrades, speed is sizzling, and I’m paying less than I was for DSL, and it’s way more stable.

!http://www.elburro.net/6megts.jpg(Traffic Shaped 6 megs)!

According to this “article”:http://www.dslreports.com/forum/remark,12717163~mode=flat
Comcast is working on 100 mbps connections, and so is Verizon and I think I read that Bellsouth is laying fibre all over the place for similar connectivity.

Yet, in the article it acknowledges:

“Just who would need a 100-megabit home Internet connection — and what customers would do with it — is a huge question, given that 60 percent of current dial-up customers aren’t even considering switching to broadband because they see no compelling advantage, according to a national survey by Horowitz Associates, a Larchmont, N.Y., cable consulting firm.”

At this point, I’m not even sure what I want to do with 6 megs. The few 75 – 100 meg downloads I pull in are fast enough to make my head spin, and web pages load faster, but it still takes just as long to read the content. I don’t seem to be any smarter than I was last month.

Video downloads? Illegal copies of “Dawn of the Dead” and “Charley’s Angels, the Movie”….no thanks. Music? Okay, I’m real happy with the net radio stations that you can pick from at “Shoutcast”:http://www.shoutcast.com/. And since I’m a baseball fan, and the new “home of the Braves” (640 am)
cuts back it’s power after sundown leaving me nothing but static out here in Kennesaw…..I decided to look into the net version of “XM Radio”:http://www.xmradio.com/, which is carrying 162 games per year, per team. They have a three day trial for the net version. Unfortunately, some of the programming “is not yet licensed to air over the web”. Is MLB part of the programming that won’t air? Oh well, what was there, a bunch of all genre music stations, complete with laid back human “70’s type” djs, it was mostly pretty good, and came in great over 6.6 broadband. I even tried a few voip phone calls while streaming music, expecting stuttering reception. Instead it was clear as a bell. Okay, so 6.6 is worth it for the music alone. As long as I’m paying less than for DSL.

All I know is, when it took so long to see the whitehouse.gov page on a 9600 baud modem in 1994 (after 10 minutes, Bill’s picture had loaded and Hillary was starting to come down), 56k modems a couple years later made my head spin. 1.5 mbps DSL back in ’99, that made my head spin. 6 megs today? Eh.

I guess when IPTV hits, I’ll be able to continue watching the 6 stations I watch now and say, “wow, 10,000 channels! Do I have choice now!” I’ll still be watching just the 6 channels, but I can go “Wow!” That should be worth something, as long as I don’t have to pay extra.

8 thoughts on “Faster, but are we having fun yet?

  1. My crystal ball for the future of the Intercest is notoriously cloudy and cracked (or maybe it’s just time to go to tri-focals), but your post cries out for prognostication, El Burro, so here goes:

    One thing that is necessary for the marvels of end-point bandwidth to be realized in North America is to end the artificial scarcity of IP address assignments, so beloved of most ISPs operating here, as an additional source of revenue. Personally, having drunk the residential version of the Comcast Koolaid here in JAX, I’m pretty happy with the stability and speed of my new cable connection, but I miss having a fixed IP address sub-net, and the restrictions Comcast has in their AUP against Dynamic DNS. But for the time being, I don’t yet have a business reason to step up to the biz rate plans that will get me a routable IP sub-net, and I find it a real crock that Comcast isn’t interested in making IPV6 addresses freely available on their network. I’m still looking for some technical maven in Comcast to plead the case for IPV6 addresses, but that is as much a marketing discussion as a technical one, and being a lone voice in an uphill slog looks like a long battle, down here. But suppose for a minute that with every Internet connection in some rosy future, you got a world routable IPv6 sub-net block. In that parallel universe, many things become possible.

    For one thing, presence applications start to make a lot of sense, and there is finally a technical foundation for security and Quality of Service prioritization. It’s hard to describe the value of readily knowing what the availability of remote people is until you experience it, but being able to seamlessly join and leave groups, while having the network handle and help you manage your availability has real value for collaboration. And we’re all collaborators, with someone, somewhere, in something.

    Another area that exploits high bandwidth low-latency connections is grid computing. At present, not that many applications would seem to require super-computer like processing power for individuals, but that is, I think, as much the overhang of “conventional wisdom” as it is the failure of software designers to think of possibilities. Huge amounts of processing power available to the average Joe in bursts would make things like data set visualizations and realtime language processing and translation feasible and cost effective. As a practical example, suppose your daily Google searches were piped to grid-aware applications that presented the results as a relevance governed mindmaps of the concepts covered in the result set for your queries, which you could then “fly over” using your mouse to point at “terrain features” of the mindmaps, rendered by the grid to your screen in real time. Most folks would finally have a way of getting past the first 50 returns in the Google result sets, and their explorations could be fed back to Google in realtime, informing new kinds of results ranking indexes, which could in theory, refine the mindmap you were flying over in realtime. It might transform search from its current state of being a handmaiden to the drunkard’s walk that it is, into something incredibly focused, and useful. Automatic “more like this” in real time, with contextual information relating the relative density of the Web for your expressed interest nearly as you explore it and express that interest.

    In another grid application, with access to grid resources for computation, bi-lateral automatic translation of voice calls in different languages in near real time is at least plausible—think of what that would mean for the world.

    Finally, ubiquitous big pipes and cheap storage are the foundations of a service based computing infratstructure. Hard as it is for dinosaurs like us to admit it, in the long run, what we really want isn’t to operate and maintain computers, but instead to use them. Given your recent travails with Windows, suppose that your monthly Internet bill covered your use of a virtual computer of nearly unlimited power and capactiy, a permanent file store of practically infinite size, and the promise that you would never again be taxed with updating software, or converting files for new software versions. You just use the always on, never screwed up, same-desktop-same-applications-everywhere-you go virtual machine all your life, and it just works. Sounds really good, eh?

    Admit it, El Burro. It sounds, really, really good, eh?

  2. It sounds scary. People need things to complain about. Computers need to break down so that we superior humans can fix them and feel good about ourselves.

    On the other hand, I appreciate insights into a world I hadn’t imagined yet. Yes, I could use some ‘o’ that stuff. I have no doubt that we’ll be there soon, and it will all be commonplace. Think of how primitive computing was as recently as the late eighties. In ‘95 or so I read an article on how multiple megabit per second connections were in the works coming in over cable tv lines (can you imagine?). And there was a new asymetric something or other technology that would do the same thing over common phone lines. Huh? I said. At the time it seemed about as possible as routine space travel. Shake hands with your new neighbors, The Jetsons.

    The only fly in the ointment might resemble an article I was reading in Time about how No. Korea was close to having the technology for missles that could strike the US, and it was sharing information with Iran. Hopefully, thanks to “Cupcake Condi”, help is on its way.

  3. Those aren’t cupcakes.

    I never thought I’d feel like I had a backwoods connection at 1.5mb. But now I sorta do.

    Paul’s mention of restrictions on Dynamic DNS are a bit of a concern, given some plans I have, but beyond that, like you said … what do you do with it?

    My bandwidth needs are not that intense. I haven’t switched to VOIP. I’d mostly appreciate a higher upload rate. I download a bit of music, and since Susan’s got a Sirius account, I can log in to the web streaming stations. DSL seems fine for that, and has been surprisingly stable, for an Earthstink product.

    Just the same, here I am in The Big City, and out there in the gun totin’ outer fringe, you’ve got four times the bandwidth I have.

    Is this a great country, or what?

  4. I’m not sure about the Dynamic DNS. It’s not prohibited in the AUP (I just read it), and when I had a mail server on my DSL line, I was using the DYN-DNS service pointed toward my Comcast IP address with no repercusions. I thought Paul was talking about IPv6, which I would love to see. An IP address in every apartment. As far as I know, you can use a dynamic DNS service with Comcast. In reality, the Comcast IP address never changes, but it’s not “fixed” per se. On the other hand, you only need a service like DYN-DNS if you’re pointing to servers, and What Comcast does forbid is servers of any type. Earthlink is good on this, servers are ok.

    I decided that paying another $59/mo for my DSL line just to run a mail server was an expensive hobby. Basically, DSL service in my new home has always been flaky, and it didn’t work with my two VOIP lines. But I can swear I had a telco issue that Bellsouth couldn’t (or wouldn’t) fix. My Doraville Earthlink connection was solid. I would’ve never gone cable without a nudge from Paul. A cable company running an ISP? Puh—leeze!!! Yet, every time I call for support, I get a professional within a couple minutes. The world is changing too fast for this old fart.

    Btw, us Christian-loyalty-oath signin’, gun totin’ suburban tank drivin’ outer fringers NEED more bandwidth. We just haven’t figgered out why yet. But I think I have a hankerin’ to watch that Charlie’s Angels Night o the Livin’ Dead thing on my computer. Hope I don’t git caught.

  5. Well, the Dynamic DNS and “no servers” might be an issue, because I’m planning to get one of these and though it’s primarily a network server, it also features a web server with dynamic DNS service. I’ve been doing so much web work lately, it would be of great benefit to have the box right here. And it sounds like Comcast would frown upon that.

    And as for tech support, I don’t see Earthlink as a plus over Comcast. In fact, I pray that I don’t have to contact them, as I know the routine … “sir, before we see if the problem is on our end, I need you to reinstall your OS while standing on your head and whistling Dixie.”

    Thankfully, my connection has been rock solid for a long time. Despite your temptations of 4X speed, I’m not going to mess with what ain’t broke…

  6. I like it. Completely linux based, so you’ve got a very secure router/server. You’re paying a little more than if you bought an equivalent machine and set it up yourself but they set it up completely with ez web-app configuration. Neat. Just configuring Qmail securely took me two months, and that’s just mail.

    When I had ports open to my linux server, you wouldn’t believe the sheer volume of hack attempts from China and Korea, and they all just bounce off the linux firewall harmlessly.

    Yeah, Comcast does not want web or mail servers, or even ssh servers. Earthlink is very cool on that subject. I don’t know if the web server is going to be a private testing ground, but if the public is visiting, you need more upstream or they will throttle your entire dsl experience. I’m pretty sure upgrading to 3000/384 is free. The only bummer would be the hour spent on hold to get them to do it.

  7. If it was up to me to build my own server, it would be obsolete by the time I accomplished that. The Axentra server’s price isn’t that much of a premium considering I do not have WiFi, and could use another backup drive. That’s about $300 of the cost right there. Not to mention … time is money. At the rate I charge clients, it would likely be a $5,000 machine by the time I built it.

    Upstream speed is a concern, but this box would have one or two visitors at a time. I would use it in the manner I’m now using my test directory at my domain, as a place to show clients what has been completed. With spam attacks at TextDrive, I’ve found there are times a local server would be more responsive. If my DSL is up (and the uptime has recently been higher than server up time), my client can access it. And even if my DSL is down, I’ll still be able to do work on the server locally.

    Add in the fact that I also want a Mac Mini with the fact this box will network everything together regardless of OS, and it just seems like something I must have.

    And as for upgrading DSL speed … I’m scared. Will I need to wave larger dead chickens over the modem? Will I need a new modem? Will they entirely screw me up in the process of “improving” my connection?

    Frankly, I’ve been too scared of the Earthstink possibilities to try and find out.

  8. No, a few client visitors won’t bother your speed at all. And my $400 home-built linux server so far has about $2000 in my time invested. I rationalize by calling it a “learning experience”. Considering what you’d pay for a business-class router that doesn’t even do what your Axentra does, it’s a real bargin’.

    Earthlink Support: “Yes Mr. Pdude, what can I do for you today?”
    You: “I’d like to upgrade my service to the 3 meg plan…”
    Earthlink Support: “Yes sir, you’d like to cancel your service?”
    You: “No, dammit, Upgrade!! U-P-G-R-A-D-E!!!”
    Earthlink Support: “Yes sir, but before we upgrade you, we have to cancel your old service.”
    You: “Huh? This doesn’t make sense.”
    Earthlink Support: “Yes sir, we’ll have you up and running again in say, 3 to 6 weeks. Click-click. There we are. In a moment I’ll give you the new dial-up numbers for your area, which of course, won’t cost you anything until your new service is up and running…Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
    You: “Uh, hold on there. What was that click-click stuff you were doing just now?”

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