December 2006 – Stay N Alive

How to increase your internet speed

I’ve recently been battling Comcast. They tell me I’m paying for 6 Mb/s downstream speeds, when Broadband Reports tells me I only have 2-3Mb/s. I would call their tech support, they would run me through the whole “disconnect everything from your modem (has that ever worked for them?), wait 30 seconds, and reconnect the modem again.” And then there’s the classic, “connect your computer directly to the modem, rather than through the router, then to the modem.” It always ends up with a technician coming out to my house, testing the line, telling me I’m getting what everyone in my neighborhood is getting, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Well, I went through that process again recently after giving up for a few months, figuring maybe someone else would have a solution finally. After 2 or 3 sessions of tech support, I finally convinced them to send out a technician *again*. The first technician called my cell 2 times in a row (my cell phone literally showed him calling less than a minute apart), and said he had called twice and it was their policy after 2 calls to cancel the service call. I called furiously (being sent on a wild goose chase to even speak with the guy’s manager, who I never was able to talk to and had to leave a message), and was forced to reschedule for several days later. Well, this time it was my fault and I was unavailable when the technician called. So we rescheduled again.

Today, the technician finally came and we were both available. When he got here, I showed him the broadband reports speedtest (I think this was probably the first time he had seen it, as he was taking notes as I showed him), and he agreed that it was too slow. All this as he ooh’d and aah’d over my Windows Vista install and custom-built computer. Well, I suggested we disconnect the modem from the router and connect directly to the modem. This time we got up to 4 Mb/s. He grinned and said that was it, that no one in this neighborhood could get the full 6 Mb/s.

So I started to search around the internet looking for solutions as to how I can speed up the connection between the router and the modem so I would still get at least the speeds we got when we disconnected it from the router. Here’s where I think I finally found a solution!

I found an article at, which suggested moving the router away from the modem, and that line noise can cause significant slowdowns. I didn’t really believe this would work, but I decided to try it.

So I moved everything apart from each other. I moved my router up to the highest level I could, tucked away between some floorboards on the level above. I then moved my cable modem 2-levels down, also tucked between 2 wall joints. I then moved my VOIP box away from all the rest. I went and tested the connection on Broadband Reports. What do you know? All the sudden I was showing 6.6 Mb/s down with 360 Mb/s up! I now officially get more than I’m paying for!

So, rule of thumb is if you’re having speed issues, one of the first things you should try is move all your equipment away from each other. I think Comcast would have a lot more customers if they actually recommended useful things like this.

Open Web Hosting?

Okay, so I can’t make up my mind on hosting lately. Unless you get a fully dedicated solution that’s practically hosted on your own server, there’s really not a ton of options out there that satisfy all my needs. Either they have too few options in one area, but lots in another, or they offer lots of options with some other caveat such as only one site can run at a time without paying an arm and a leg. Most of the dedicated solutions out there don’t offer much protection in the event of someone hacking into your server – you’re pretty much on your own. I was charged $500 for a Terabyte of bandwidth I didn’t use on one dedicated server I rented once.

So it got me thinking – I wonder if there is some way groups of geeks like me could share their disk space and bandwidth for others to use in a clustered-server environment. Some things it would need to do:

  • detect how much up/down speed is available and being used by each participant so as to not affect their current use of the servers and bandwidth they own
  • somehow have multiple mirrors of the data on other participants machines should one not be available
  • data would need to be encrypted or inaccessible by anyone but the owner of the data for security
  • somehow the browser would need to know which server to send the initial request to
  • I’m sure there are many other things I have not even thought of that need to be considered

I’m sure it could be done if enough thought was put into it. For now, I think I’m going to have to sacrifice one thing or another.

As some of you may know, I founded a little group called It’s basically a group of LDS developers, all supporters of Open Source Software, on a single mailing list to discuss using Open Source to build the Kingdom of God. There are quite a number of developers working for the LDS church on the list (we welcome all religions however that support our motive), and they chime in every so often to get input on things they are working on. It has been quite a success and I encourage others wanting to help do some good with Open Source Software to join the list.

I received an e-mail from the CIO of the LDS Church today. He has started a blog at to discuss what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is doing with their software development. He seems very excited to use LDSOSS as a resource. I encourage all to check out his blog and comment.

Server Issues

I recently switched to Media Temple for my hosting – I got tired of worrying about uptime, etc. on my own server. I tried WestHost, here in Utah, for a couple days, but they just didn’t have enough flexibility, in particular for Ruby on Rails support. Media Temple even has a page for how to set up Typo in their docs, so I was sold right away (this blog is written on Typo).

Anyway, despite my satisfaction with Media Temple, it seems they are having some server issues. This site maybe up and down in the next few days until I get this issue sorted out. Hold tight until I can fix it.

Oh, did I mention I’m learning Ruby on Rails? More about that later…

Living in the Vista

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m starting a new section called reviews. I figure as a tribute to James Kim, who was known for his CNET reviews, this was a better time than any to start. We’ll see how much time I have to maintain this and how long my posts are, but I figure this is a section I can post my notes and experiences with products I buy and use for others to use later. Expect reviews down the road on the Xbox 360, Intel Core 2 Duo 6600, the nVidia GeForce 8800, the T-Mobile MDA, among other things.

The last week I have spent my evenings, and any spare time I have had towards building my new computer (a review and my experiences with that to come later), an Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB DDR2 Dual-Channel RAM, nVidia GeForce 8800 768MHz video card, and 2 ATI TV Wonder 650 cards (with HDTV support) for the full media experience. I decided I wanted the full 64-bit experience, and as part of that I decided with Vista being released to consumers end of January I would try the full RTM version of Vista (the 30-day trial period ought to expire just in time for me to buy it in January). As a MS beta tester, I figure it due-diligence to share my experiences for others to use, especially when it is released to the general consumer in January.

As a disclaimer, I’d like to note that I am an avid Linux user (my primary desktop at work), also own a MacBook (and love it), and I do like to use Windows for Multi-Media, in particular in conjunction with my Xbox. I find the Media Center server and Extender capabilities of the 2 working together to be far superior to anything else, even OSS, available out there. Maybe I’ll compare and contrast sometime on that.

So on to Vista… My first experience with Vista RTM I have to admit wasn’t very good. In fact, I gave up for a short while, moved on to try and reinstall Windows XP, and realized I was having similar problems with XP, so it must have been something to do with the hardware. In fact, what was amazing was that XP wouldn’t even recognize my SATA ports or SATA RAID 1 array I had set up with the hardware, while Vista recognized it immediately. Vista does seem to have much more support on the CD for modern hardware. And if you don’t have support for the hardware on, the good news is Vista allows you to load them off of a CD or USB device, while XP’s install CD still requires you to somehow either have a floppy drive (which must be marked as drive A:), or create a custom install CD bundle with the drivers already on it with something like nLite.

So after several tries (and 2-3 days), both on Vista and XP install of starting the install, and waiting 1/2-1 hour for it to even get to the setup screen, I finally decided there was some sort of issue with the way Windows was interacting with the hardware (I’ll admit that I think this is an MS flaw, not the Hardware’s fault, as their software ought to catch the issue and report an error to the user if there really is something wrong – the install, for both XP and Vista was just freezing!). I started by removing my extra PCI TV Tuner cards and a spare Firewire card I had put in the machine. I restarted the Vista install, and it didn’t freeze any more! So one rule of thumb is that if the install starts freezing, start removing hardware one at a time – it is most likely a conflict with hardware somewhere.

I was finally into the install. The install went flawlessly after that. Some things I liked about it:

  • It was very simple. Only about 3 steps.
  • I really liked how it recognized my SATA and RAID right off
  • Hardware drivers can be loaded right off a CD or USB key!
  • No more ugly DOS screens! Fully-graphical UI the whole way through
  • While it may have just been that I have pretty fast hardware, the install in full seemed to go much faster than previous Windows installs I’ve been through

Some things I didn’t like about it:

  • It was not very good at telling you status of what it is doing, particularly at the beginning of the install process. Even at the end when it lists the steps it is going through it doesn’t tell you how far into those steps it is in.
  • It should have caught the hardware issue and rather than freezing or spontaneously rebooting on me in the install it should have reported an error
  • Not enough ability to customize – it seems to automatically connect to the internet for updates. This I would like the ability to turn off if I want to.
  • My mouse didn’t work through the entire process. I have a Logitech Wireless Click Mouse (I think that’s the model) that isn’t yet supported. In fact a lot of miscellaneous peripherals aren’t yet supported – I’m guessing most of them are the older models. I suspect this will change as vendors write support for their hardware, but I would really hope support for something like this would at least be on the install CD!

So, that was my experience with the install. I intend to write another review on my user experience of the Operating System itself. Overall I am quite satisfied (as a Linux and Mac user I hate to admit), with only a few disappointments. Stay tuned for more of my Vista experience!