Thursday, August 26, 2010

40% Rid of Comcast (or: how I learned to stop worrying and love fiber)

We have shed our outdated Comcast cable modem and traded up to a Verizon Frontier FiOS fiber-to-the-home Internet connection. While our measly 15/5 Mbps has already been laughed at by most of the modem world, it is satisfying to at least have the security of a modern reliable network.

Don’t get me wrong; Comcast High-Speed Internet wasn’t bad for us – reasonable price (except for the “modem rental”), and more than adequate speeds for our tastes. Our traditional enemy has always been Comcast TV, with its over-compressed “high-def”, its unusably buggy DVR, and its ridiculous price gouging for basic service. However, the TV and Internet share one fatal flaw – the failure-prone Comcast local networks, which over the past month have been out more often than they have been working. One theory I was presented was that this is a result of heating on the underground wires on hot summer days. No cable = no Internet AND no TV, a fate no techie should have to endure.

Unfortunately, Comcast has a TV monopoly for us. Trees firmly block any satellite option, and while FiOS does provide a wonderful TV package, a quirk of King County broadcasting regulations prevent Frontier from offering us service. However, said regulation does not block Internet.

So we’re wired. They dug up a trench in our yard, ran the fiber to a box in our garage, then jacked our house’s coax connections to wire up a respectably beefy-looking modem/router/wireless combo device. By the time I got home, both computers were back online.

While in theory our new connection is no faster than what we had with Comcast, it *feels* much more responsive. Web pages load noticeably faster, downloads regularly pull upwards of 1.7MB/s, even Netflix loads faster. Who knows, maybe the latency is better… or maybe the hardware is just better than the old cable modem. If nothing else, it just reinforces the simple fact that speed is not just is about raw pipe bandwidth.

Oh, and it hasn’t gone out once since they hooked us up.

So, while I was only able to get rid of the lesser of two Comcast evils, it’s nice to take a tiny bit of money away from them and get a more reliable (and apparently faster) alternative. And the best part, on hot summer days, when the TV cuts out, we can watch Netflix instead of being forced to go outside Winking smile.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Sassafras has been adopted!

Many of you know that Amber and I have been fostering a young Golden Retriever girl that we renamed “Sassafras”, or “Sassy” for short. She entered our care from a local vet, who had been requested by her owner to euthanize her (at 7 months old) because she had got sick.

Sassy at Marymoor park.

We advertised her on a few Microsoft lists, and the response was incredible! She was almost immediately matched with a loving home. Sassy is now happily in her new home, living with her now step-sister golden and a Mommy that loves to take them hiking and swimming!

Sassy (left) and her step-sister (right) at Rattlesnake.