How Comcast Killed 9 Days of My Productivity

Last thursday, Comcast decided to ban me from their internet service. This came without warning, and left me with no internet for nine days. That isn’t completely true, as I have Verizon EVDO service, DSL in the office, and free wifi all over the city. But it wasn’t even close to the same because my primary machine was not hooked up anymore, and I was in the middle of transitioning from a desktop to laptop for primary use.

So what happened during these nine days? My primary internet connection became the Verizon EVDO, which provided ~500 kbits/sec of bandwidth. I caught up on some coding work, but didn’t get far because I couldn’t test it properly. The project is client / server based, and I didn’t have the server fully up yet. And I couldn’t upgrade the server software because I didn’t have the actual software packages. If I originally downloaded the full distribution, I would have the software local, but network based installs are alot easier. You don’t have to download as much initially, and when you install something, you will usually get the latest version. Yes, I could have downloaded it with the EVDO connected machine, and then move it to the server, but that is a whole lot of wasted time to me. I tried to continue my migration from a desktop machine to laptop, but that didn’t get far either. On new systems I like to install the latest version of whatever software I use, which I couldn’t get quickly because I was on a slower connection.

I would say that going from a 8 mbit/sec network connection to a 500 kbit/sec single connection reduced my computer based productivity by 75%. Tasks that take seconds on a fast network connection now take minutes on a slower connection. And after attempting a few tasks going at least half of your normal speed, you grow tired quickly. It was just not worth my time anymore.

Lifehacker has a couple posts on ‘things to do when your internet connection is out’ here and here. Lifehacker’s posts actually link to the postings from Commute Smarter and Speaking Freely. I read through all the posts, and there are some good comments in them.

On a somewhat related note, there is an experiment next month to see if you can survive without a computer for 24 hours. You can find more about Shutdown Day here or read some people’s comments at this digg thread.

Lenovo X60 Tablet

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After a long wait, I finally got my new laptop. I bought a Lenovo X60 Tablet that has a core duo 1.8ghz cpu, 2gb ram, 100gb 7200rpm sata hdd, and a 12″ SXGA+ (1400×1050) screen. Microsoft Windows XP Tablet Edition is installed, but I do get a free business upgrade to Vista by filling out some forms. But because this will be my primary machine at home and on the road, I will probably keep it on XP. So far I am happy with the unit, and it feels lighter than my old IBM X22 laptop.

Comcast HSI Abuse – Part 2

Two months ago I received a call from Comcast’s High Speed Internet Security Assurance Center telling me to reduce my bandwidth consumption. My thoughts from that call can be found here. Yesterday, I came home to disconnected internet service. I tried the usual power reset, which resulted in a full connection, and shortly after completely offline. I then called the regular help line at 888-824-8103, and they told me to call the network abuse department at 856-317-7272. This was a different number from my past experience, but I decided to call it anyway.

That New Jersey number presented me with a lengthy answering machine service, which talked alot about email blacklisting. It also mentioned that because of large call volume, they wouldn’t be able to return my call the same day. Eventually I was able to leave a message, but because I had no internet connection, I decided to call the general help line again. This time I tried to get status information of my account, but they redirected me to 856-324-2025, which was the number I had from my first experience with the network abuse department, so I left a message with them as well.

They called me back today, around 3pm, and told me that my account has been terminated, not suspended. Asking for the reason, he stated that I used 333gb of bandwidth last month, and in return I asked if there was an actual limit. He sarcastically said ‘333gb is apparently over the threshold.’ He also stated how all that traffic takes away from other people’s internet experience. At this time I didn’t want to argue, so I asked why my account was terminated rather than suspended. He said because this was my second instance, I am banned for 12 months. I was shocked because I nothing was said to me about this during my first instance with them. I questioned it, but he and even his manager couldn’t do anything for me. I stated that I have been a customer from the very start, from @home to ATT to Comcast, which is probably over eight years of service. I even posed a question of if I guaranteed bandwidth usage of 1gb/day, would I be let back in. I had no plan of actually doing that, but I wanted to see if I could get back in. He said none of that matters, and that this was your second abuse instance according to the system, and that I am out. Period. I laughed, and said that if this is the way you treat customers then good luck.

I was pretty mad at this point, mainly because I was without internet connectivity, and I had alot of work to do. I also knew other people were having similar problems from threads like this one. So I decided to put together a small argument list, and this is what I came up with:

  • You were abusing the network by using too much bandwidth.
  • Do you have a limit?
  • They say no limit is set because it varies per region, and only the top 1% get flagged
  • Do they notify users of this regional / variable limit?
  • Do they notify users when they are getting close to the limit?
  • Advertisement refers to unlimited service.
  • By consuming x amount of bandwidth, you are reducing other people’s internet experience.
    • Do they have anything to back up this claim? Statistics or graphs ?
    • Why don’t they throttle bandwidth?
  • As a consumer, you shouldn’t be using this much bandwidth.
    • IPTV, VOIP, downloadable dvds, streaming radio, web services, etc are all legit services.
    • More and more network based services are becoming available, and soon your limits will have to be raised. I know this isn’t an argument point, but its more of a statement to them that they need to wake up.
    • How do you define a consumer?
    • I am guessing that they would say average consumer is 1gb/day.
  • If you need all that bandwidth, move to a business account.
    • This was all personal use, I am not in a business.
    • For an individual person, what makes the difference between residential and business accounts?

    Later on in the day I received another call, and because I know the final outcome, I decided to discuss about the above points with him. He understood all the things I was talking about, and agreed that there needs to be changes done. He mentioned tiered service and posting of limits, but it wont happen because of the market. Current marketing technique gets more customers, and it is easier to just take out the top 1%. I talked with this person for around an hour, and he actually said ‘its getting late, I have to get going’ to me! Now that is funny.

    In the end, they have a clause in the Terms of Service (TOS) that says they can disconnect anyone for whatever reason they feel like. I will be getting DSL service within the week. Anyone have suggestions?

    One Sweet Notebook Mouse (But Not For Me)

    I am on the road quite often, and I am always looking for things that increase my productivity while away from home. A mouse might not seem like a productivity increaser, but comparing it to a trackstick or trackpad, I would say that it does help.

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    The Logitech VX Revolution has been getting lots of good reviews, so I decided to try it out for myself. The mouse is a bit bigger than average notebook mice but smaller than desktop ones, and it’s really comfortable when in your hand. It is a wireless mouse, taking one AA battery that supposedly lasts for six months, and has a ton of buttons from four way scrolling to zoom and search. Some of the buttons are even programmable via the packaged software.

    So why isn’t this mouse for me? First, the scroll wheel is metal, and its incredibly hard to middle click. Second, I like the scroll wheel to ratchet, and Logitech even made it user adjustable from super smooth to ratchet, but with a metal wheel it makes a ton of noise. Third, its a wireless mouse which means batteries. The mouse has its own antenna, and I have no idea what might interfere with signal.

    But like I said earlier, tons of people like this mouse, and I just noticed that John Chow even stated that its ‘The Best Notebook Mouse Yet‘. The VX Revolution just isn’t for me, and I will continue to use the Microsoft notebook mouse while on the road.

    Macworld Expo

    I hit the show floor today, and I was a bit disappointed. Having been to Linuxworld several times, I was expecting more software vendors showing off their latest tools, giving technical talks, and most importantly, giving out SWAG. The big companies had decent sized booths, but the small companies had tiny ones hidden away in a corner. And of course, most of the companies were showing off iPod related items.

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    I didn’t chat with the folks that made this product, but do you think there are enough speakers in there?

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    Kevin Smith was there too, I think he gave a talk as well. There was a small line to get a picture with him, so I just quickly snapped this one and left. I probably should have taken a couple, as this one is a bit blury.

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    Didn’t I say the show was filled with iPod stuff? ’nuff said about this picture.

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    This jukebox was nice looking if you are into that look. You can have one for under $500!

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    Nikon was a pretty big sponsor at Macworld. They had the 400mm f/2.8D and 600mm f/4D primes setup for people to try out. That is some expensive piece of glass right there.

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    What good would a picture review of Macworld Expo be without iPhone pictures?!

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    Etymotic Research, my favorite ‘in the ear’ company was there. They were the only company that gave out SWAG (that I found), which was a magic eight ball. I can’t recall if Shure aka shure to break was there or not.

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    This chair was at the Anthro booth, and I was wondering where the Matrix jack in plug was. Surprisingly, the chair wasn’t that comfortable.

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    We all had a long day, so why dont you treat yourself to a nice back massage :)

    Going around the show floor wasn’t nearly as fun as Linuxworld, it was very consumer oriented, which I suppose is the core target. But I only got one piece of SWAG! That is unacceptable at an expo. Next year I will pass on Macworld and go back to CES in Las Vegas.