Saturday, March 15, 2008

High-speed DSL along Grant Line

Couple of wheeks ago telephone technicians installed new cabinets along Grant Line. Some of them draw power and have active cooling, so they have more than just traditional patch panels inside. I bet we're seeng an implementation of Project Pronto at last.

As we all know, DSL's performance drops off dramatically with increased distance from CO. Since local wires get aggregated at neighbourhood patch panels, an easy solution is to install forward nodes at these panels and connect them to CO with fiber. This is much cheaper than FTTC, let alone FTTP, yet reaps most of the benefits. Such deployment was called Project Pronto in PacBell.

When I moved to Tracy, only DSL was available, and it was a horrible torture. Not only the speed was poor (about 368 kbit/s), but the reliability was bad as well. Failures clearly corellated to hot weather, so I suspect some line-conditioning equipment was on its last legs. PacBell ASI rolled the truck a few time, took their measurements, admitted that the line sucked and that they capture the noice, and then did nothing.

I asked them if they had a Pronto terminal in the neighbourhood, and if yes, could they switch me over. They said "no". Therey was no other choice but to suck it up.

As soon as Comcast started offering the cable Internet, I switched, and it was a relatively smooth sailing so far. They did have outages, but not many, and but never longer than one day. Anyway, when I called to terminate my account, the call center girl said, "No, wait a moment, we have a remote terminal in your area, would you want to switch?" Of course by that time I already had cable service, and since PacBell wronged me by not fixing the obvious problem with the line, I insisted that we terminate the DSL.

But that was then. This is now. I am moving to Albuquerque, but you stay in Tracy. Should you get your Internet from former PacBell with the newfanged short-loop DSL?

If I was doing it now, I would give it a try. AT&T owns bother PacBell and Comcast these days, so it's one mega-monopoly now. There's going to be little difference between the two going forward. So it's just the price vs. the speed.

One word of warning though. Many people think that the availability of DSL should be better than cable, because telcos are supposedly reliable and cable is run by a bunch of dorks. I would say, not so. As I mentioned before, I have never been without a cable for more than a day in Tracy, or 4 days in Fremont (back in bad old days of pre-DOCSIS modems and TCI Inc. -- not even @Home). It have however been without a PacBell phone service for 10 days, due to technician making a wrong connection in the local patch panel, and them not bothering to fix it. So no, there's no reliability advantage. In fact, since cable is all-passive from their node to your premises, and Pronto-style DSL isn't, the cable might have it better. So look at prices with that in mind.

It's so sad that DirecWAY is not competitive in suburban setting.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Word of Mouth

I went to Hairtage, the barber shop which I typically visit unless it's Sunday or Monday. The owner told me that he mostly gets customers through the word of mouth, and he would only be willing to hire an assistant from Tracy because of that. The expectation is, an outsider would not bring in customers. It sounds strange to me, because I found the shop from the telephone book. It's not like we have an excess of barbers in Tracy. There's Al's near the Blockbuster on 11th, which belongs to the former assistant in Hairtage, who started the new business last summer or so, but that's about it. So, if one wants to go to a barber, there's no need to ask friends and family.

And the haircut? I'm not completely happy, but it's better than other places. I guess at my age, I have to get more engaged with the barber. I cannot ask "just give it a go with #5" and be done anymore -- too much baldness.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Crash at Altamont pass

Here's another attempt at citizen journalism. This one is marginally less pathetic than the first, but still... I did not understand what the heck has happened, because I was driving. Lots of debris in the road, however.

One bizarre thing was how someone decided to take off the accident scene in a burning vehicle. I don't understand just what he (or she) was thinking.

She didn't get far: near the illegal truck pad the bumper melted and fell off, which was a signal to pull over (you can almost make out the bumper laying on the road in the picture above).

Friday, March 07, 2008

Yoshi on the move

I had a word yesterday that a new name has appeared on Yoshi's. Most likely it's going to be a Japanese restaurant again. Also Yoshi herself was rumored to want to open a noodle house, so perhaps she'll do that. Kickass, those are very nice (and cheap).

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Albuquerque vs. Tracy

I visited Albuquerque, NM, to scope out the place for a possible move.

The first impression is that every house has a second rebar door and barred windows, all across the city. In Northern California, you have to live in Oakland or East Palo Alto before such measures become necessary (I think even most of Union City gets by without). We ranged far and wide, and the only district without bars was in the north, along Alameda. Single story houses there are about $400,000, however.

Not an affordable house

Crime is much lower across the Rio Grande in Rio Rancho, but there is no freeway, so commuting is probably difficult, and is going to get worse.

So, I added two and two, looked at the map, and went to Las Lunas, about 35 miles south by I-25. It's fabulous.

Firstly, they have a Walmart Supercenter. Yes, the very thing our blockheads in the city council denied (it was before Mr. Ives became the mayor though).

Secondly, the same house as we have is $189,000, new. Nobody has barred windows, of course. So, living in Los Lunas and commuting looks better than living in Tracy and commuting. Crime rate in Albuquerque proper is high, but it's not much higher than in San Francisco, so work should be manageable. I think we can do it.

I'm going to pay a visit to Mr. Barringer just as soon as I can.