Archive for October, 2008

Comcast vs. BellSouth

I live in Jacksonville, FL.  Here, we have a few options for high speed Internet access:

1. Clearwire wireless.  Up to 2 Meg service for about 34.95/month, I believe.
2. BellSouth (AT&T) DSL.  Up to 6 Meg service for 42.95 a month with a phone line, or 47.95 naked.
3. Comcast Cable.  According to what I can gather from their website, 6 Meg service with a burst capability.  Normally priced at 42.95 a month, but a $19.99/month promo is available.

I’ve gone back and forth between DSL and cable several times over the last 12 years.  Each time I’ve left a service, the competition looked better in terms of performance once I got it installed.  So, this means that both services have continuously gotten better since I’ve started using high-speed Internet service.  Mostly, I’ve left a service because of service problems.

Up until very recently, my provider has been BellSouth.  I began having intermittent connection issues over the course of a few weeks, called them to complain, finally got a tech out who “fixed it”, only to have the problem come back very soon (since it wasn’t happening when the tech arrived, how would he know if he fixed it?)

My first stab at replacing them was Clearwire.  The idea of picking up a box at BestBuy, driving home, and jumping online was very appealing.  DON’T.  Resist the urge.  Clearwire is bad news and I urge everyone to avoid them.  They throttle your Internet connection.  If you download torrents of any kind, don’t even think of this is a viable way to handle things.

About this time, I found out that my old friend Comcast was offering a 19.99/month deal for 6 months on their 6 Meg service.  I decided against the “burstable” option, but after the service was installed, I found that it was something they couldn’t just turn off.   In my case, they couldn’t get their standby Motorola units to work, so they installed this “Touchstone Telephony Modem”, even though I didn’t buy the cable telephone service.  When I go to download files now, I’m regularly seeing just over 1 Megabyte per second downloads.  This is just insane.

Needless to say, I’m happy with the speed!  Chalk this one up to Comcast!

Here’s my speedtest.net result:

October 31, 2008 at 10:00 pm 3 comments

Hardware woes

Back many months ago, I wanted to place a small hardware order.  Since it was a very small order, I thought I should go ahead and get something else with it.  Since I seem to have about a power supply a year that dies on me and I didn’t currently have a spare, it sounded good, so I picked up a low priced unit.

About two weeks ago, a friend at work who I had built a machine for had his power supply go out.  Since this was his SageTV machine, which records his wife’s soap operas among other things, it was a pretty high priority to fix.  He thought I might have a spare, so I retrieved it, that night he installed it, and all was well.

A few days later, a machine I use as a SageTV Client died.  In this case, it wasn’t completely dead.  Fans moved, lights came on, the hard drives spun up.  But, there was no output from the video card.  So, I removed it, and tried the built-in video, which also did nothing. I’ve had at least one system that failed in a similar manner, so I figured it was the power supply… Figures!  Just after loaning it out too.

Soon after, I found a good deal on a power supply from a major on-line parts seller.  I ordered two: One for me, and one for my friend.  (The spare I lent him did not have enough SATA power connectors)

Days pass, and I finally got the power supplies in.  I tore into one of them, and installed it only to be completely underwhelmed when I found the same problem staring back at me.  It wasn’t the power supply.

Not wanting to wait for shipping any longer, I drove the CompUSA and bought a new motherboard (Asus P5Q), CPU (Intel E7200), memory (Corsair 2GB, DDR2 667 Mhz), and video card (8600GT) for good measure.

I popped all the new parts in only to experience random lock-ups while trying to build the machine. I adjusted the timing in the BIOS to the 4-4-4-12 specs printed on the memory (even though the SPD seemed to indicate that 5-5-5-15 were the proper specs).  Things seemed much smoother, but after a while, I had another lock-up.  I next swapped the memory from my old system (Crucial DDR2, 533 Mhz, but only 1 GB).  Since then, it’s been rock solid, so I’d say it’s one of those situations where the motherboard is picky about the memory it takes.  I read there was a BIOS update to help, but didn’t want to bother with it if I could avoid it.

The good news is that the problem wasn’t the memory of my old system, so either my processor or motherboard is shot…

Oh, and now we can watch SageTV upstairs again!

October 31, 2008 at 9:45 pm Leave a comment


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