Thursday, April 30, 2009

Happy HD TiVo

My cable company recently announced that it was going to drop most of the analog channels to make room for more digital channels. Which meant that my Series 1 TiVo (first installed in 2000) would become obsolete. I've been wanting an HD TiVo for awhile but just never had the motivation to actually make the purchase. Losing most of my channels was enough motivation.

Then I read some on-line forums where people were complaining bitterly of problems with the HD TiVo: frequent reboots, freezing, not recording when it's supposed to. And the complaints to TiVo for many months saw no progress on a resolution. I went through with the purchase anyway, relying on the 30-day return policy and the 1 year warranty to cover me if the device really was that bad.

Goodbye AT&T DSL

All that's left is the cancellation. On April 20th I switched over to cable-based Internet service. I've been very reluctant to do this since my last experience with this service (years ago) was abysmally poor. But the unreliability of my existing DSL circuit has left me no choice. There are only two DSL providers in my area (AT&T being one) and neither of them was able to make the service reliable.

My AT&T service would experience some sort of outage nearly every day. Many of the outages would last less than a minute, but there were frequent outages between 1 and 5 minutes, along with the occasional outage that would last 10, 30, 60 minutes or more. The record was two days.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

California wine

My wonderful wife was in the California bay area recently on a business trip. While she was there she went shopping at the Sonoma Wine Shop, found some bottles of wine that she thought I would enjoy, and had them shipped back home. In the shipment were:

Seabiscuit Ranch Chardonnay (2007)
Wellington Marsanne (2007)
Balletto Syrah (2006)
Jacob's Vineyard Merlot (2005)
Arger-Martucci Pinot Noir (2003)
Watkins Family Cabernet (2004)

We've already had the Chardonnay and it was fabulous! I am looking forward to enjoying the rest of the bottles.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


As some of you know, the little country of Guatemala holds a special place in my heart. Sadly, this beautiful and culture-rich country suffers from a terribly ineffective government. It has a population of a little over 13 million, many of them indigenous Maya. According to the World Bank: "About 56 percent of all Guatemalans (and 76 percent of indigenous groups) lived in poverty in 2000, and about 16 percent lived in extreme poverty.... The average schooling of the adult population is 5.4 years and just 1.9 years for the indigenous population." 44% of children in Guatemala are malnourished, the highest rate in Latin America and one of the highest in the world. Now it seems Guatemala may be facing a new problem that its government is ill equipped to handle: well-armed and well-financed drug cartels.

Guatemala: the next to fall?

Monday, April 6, 2009

AT&T Phone and DSL Extended Outage

I cannot overstate how disgusted I am with my AT&T service. I am supposed to have both telephone and DSL (Internet) service from AT&T. I pay them way more than I should (and apparently way more than they deserve) for this service, and I regularly have problems, especially with the DSL. Today I am simply fed up.

On Friday April 3 my AT&T DSL Internet service went out. Thanks to the regular monitoring I have in place for the connection I was able to see that the service stopped working at 2:33 in the afternoon. It came back briefly (for 4 minutes) but at 2:47 it stopped working again. I called the repair number and received a recording that there was an outage in my area and that I could expect it to be repaired by (and this is an actual quote) "two four p.m.". I have no idea what time "two four" is but it doesn't equate to anything sensible. Nearly 6 hours later, at 8:32 PM, service was finally restored. I figured that was the end of it. Boy was I wrong.

AT&T Woes

Sometime last year I fled Earthlink DSL as the connectivity became unreliable and the customer service deteriorated. The only other option for my house was AT&T. Unfortunately, it really hasn't fared any better. In the middle of January I starting running a daemon that would check the connection via a ping every 5 seconds and record the results. Now I know exactly when the connection goes out and for how long. Here is a record of all the extended outages since the beginning of the year. This doesn't count the numerous outages that lasted less than 10 minutes. Time is given as hours and minutes.