Ekiga and Diamond

This evening I decided to try out the new Ekiga. The build was very easy, no hiccups. After testing SIP support, which has never worked for me in old GnomeMeeting, I became quite excited. I then signed up for a Diamond account, and a few minutes later, was using Ekiga to call a land line.

Good-bye SkypeOut!

The Diamond quality is much better than Skype, and it’s all SIP/Asterisk-based… not to mention no more proprietary bloated static QT Skype client. Rock on Ekiga!

Earthstink Highspeed Offline

Today I drew the line. And then scribbled all over it. And then I drew a straighter line, and I like that line.

Warning: what follows is mostly rant material, but if you’re thinking about switching ISPs, you might want to read :-)

The 1.5 Mbps DSL line that I have is amazingly awful. It’s constantly going up and down. PPPoE is the culprit. Instead of fixing problems however, Earthlink instead blames my Smoothwall. This is not new. Today’s record of service was the worst in a long time: every ten to twenty minutes the connection would be dropped and it would not come back for about five minutes. This went on for about twelve hours.

$ ping -i 5 google.com
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1626 ttl=246 time=51.4 ms

Lucklily, it’s been roughly 2.5 hours since it last went down. Let’s see if I can make it through this post.

Committed to solving the problem, this evening I called Earthlink to switch from their DSL service to their cable service. They were offering the same thing Time Warner Cable (TWC) was offering: $30/mo for 6 months and $45/mo after that. I figured the switch would be pretty simple: keep the same account, just move to a different kind of line. At most it should take under a week for “the guy” to give me a cable modem. Aside from wanting a more reliable connection, upgrading to a 5.0Mbps line would be nice – and the uplink would also rock a lot more. Man, I was wrong!

Before calling however, I looked over their services page. The current DSL bill from them is about $50/mo for 1.5 Mbps. However, they now advertise a 1.5 Mbps DSL line for $40/mo and a 3.0 Mbps line for $45/mo. Shows how technology “changes” and they silently keep you locked into a higher rate for a slower connection. That alone should have set off bells in my head. Lovely. Their cable connection was also $45/mo, but 5.0 Mbps. Yes, I think I really want to stick with DSL – I enjoy paying more for less!

So back to the call… we almost had the switch completed, to the point of scheduling a time for the “installer” to drop off the modem, when the representative realizes (after I clearly said I already had DSL service, and had provided verified account information) that I have a DSL account with them (reeeally?), and that before proceeding, they would need to deactivate my DSL. Oh that’s nice! The earliest they could give me cable was around the 30th. I guess I really don’t need any connection for 1.5 weeks. Oh, the dialup should still work though. Glad I have that serial fallback modem.

I proceeded to tell her that I could just as easily call TWC and order their cable Internet service for the same price, and cancel the Earthlink account when the cable was active. She had a very hard time debating this fact, and offered to redirect me to the sales department (I swear that’s where I thought I was). After about 30 minutes of some lovely jazz-flute-over-a-cell-phone (in loud speaker mode, of course), I described the problem. The result: well, there was no result. The only way to activate the cable service was to deactivate the DSL. It’s a technical issue that no one has figured out how to overcome. Riiiighhht.

I let myself calm down a little, and called TWC. My were they friendly! I informed the sales woman that I currently have Earthlink DSL and am interested in switching to TWC Broadband. Immediately I could hear her voice raise an octave, full of excitement. She informed me that because of my current DSL situation, I was eligible for TWC Broadband for $30/mo for 12 months. Awesome. What came next was even better: after processing the order, she asked when I wanted it installed, to which I replied “as early as possible.” How does Friday sound? “Are you kidding me? This Friday? I could kiss you.”

Also, the TWC representative asked me “what Windows do you have?” I said I didn’t have any Windowseses but it didn’t matter. She then clearly explained that as long as the installation technician could verify that an IP address was being assigned, it did not matter. Rock on. I dig no bias.

So good-bye Earthlink, you lose. I sure can’t complain about 5.0 Mbps service for $360/yr. Sure beats $600/yr for 1.5 Mbps. Now let’s break this down a little bit:

Earthlink 1.5 Mbps DSL @ $50/mo = $33.3/1 Mbps/mo
TWC 5.0 Mbps Cable @ $30/mo = $6/1 Mbps/mo

Holy shit.

Now of course, that’s just for the first year. After that:

DSL @ $50/mo = $33.3/1 Mbps/mo
Cable @ $45/mo = $9/1 Mbps/mo

Something tells me that’s still awesome.

Two Ends of the Spectrum

So much has happened in my coffee world since my last post. Thanks to everyone who posted great insight.

Currently, this is my situation: there are two coffee lovers in me. There’s the addict, who must have some form of coffee at relatively regular intervals throughout the day, and then there’s the guy who can relax for a moment to enjoy a really good cup.

I wanted to try a pressure brewer for convenience, but after reading everyone’s comments on the last post, I decided to pull my french press out of storage. After cleaning it out, I went to this nice local coffee place and purchased some Nicaraguan beans, came home, and threw some in the grinder. I then fell in love with the french press :-). The sad thing is that before yesterday, I think I had used it maybe twice. I’ve used it four times since yesterday.

At some point this week I’m going to return the piece of junk Black & Decker HCC100 Pressure Brewer and get the Senseo. It sits on my desk, and is ready to deliver a decent cup of coffee with one press of a button. The HCC100 makes decent coffee, but it has awful reviews and very, very poorly manufactured.

I also had an urge for cinnamon today (and Bulgarian chocolate nut), so I added some [cinnamon] to the grounds in my last “press.” It’s very delightful. I guess the new Folgers cinnamon commercials made me do it.

My conclusion: the pressure brewer delivers “On Demand” coffee services, and the french press relieves you of the guilt of using the pressure brewer. Both actually solve my original problem of coffee being too hot when made by a drip machine, because the water has time to cool with the french press, and the pressure brewer sucks enough to not heat the water up to the same temperature as the drip machine. How neat.

Banshee 0.9.11

For those who enjoy beating a Banshee, 0.9.11 is out. I have set a new record for working through the night, and am set to retire for the evening of the 9th at nearly 7:00 on the morning of the 10th?

Before this however, I must note: also of much interest is Nat’s super-duper type-to-tag patch for F-Spot. I propose a final touch (expand on enter), and am now totally addicted to this new method of tagging and organizing my photos. I highly recommend.

On the Weekends: A Side of Web

I enjoy web-based design work quite a bit, at least in moderation, and find that dabbling in it over the weekends and on some not-so-busy evenings is a nice break from the normal cycle. I have been working mainly on the Banshee Wiki. It has a new tango-esq theme, and validates as XHTML 1.1/CSS2, which I think is fairly unheard of in a Wiki. I also extended my release monitor extension, which allows pages to have custom tags that expand with information about a tarball release on a given project.

I am working on MediaWiki+WordPress integration for Springboard. Since we use MediaWiki so much, I thought it was only fair to switch my personal site to this same platform combination. My blog is now powered by, *sigh*, yet another WordPress install – but I guess there’s a good reason for its popularity. I am still working on the wiki side of things, but the WordPress theme now pulls in its elements from the common theme I am working on for MediaWiki. This is going to be very nice: two content engines dressed up by a single theme, and sharing data. More on this will follow.

Check out my New Hard Drive

I bought a 250GB EIDE drive about a month ago, before realizing I had no where to put it. One of these days I suppose I’ll build a SATA system, but for now I just swap various EIDE drives around. The 250 has been just sitting on my desk in the original OEM packaging… until today.

I was in a local computer store looking for a cheap USB 2.0 enclosure for the drive. They had none. However, I did manage to find an EIDE->USB 2.0 converter cable/dongle thingie and power supply. So what do you get when you combine this little gizmo with OEM drive packaging?

Custom HD Enclosure Custom HD Enclosure

A 20-dollar enclosure!

Socks are an investment in your feet

About six months ago I was shopping for some clothes, and came across this seemingly amazing bundle of socks. I was groping them for about 10 minutes in amazement before I realized, “I must have these.” Yesterday I bought four more bundles (three pair in a bundle), as the trial bundle is still holding up. Quite simply, they are just amazing socks. Made from 81% Duraspun (R) Acrylic, 17% Nylon, 1% Polyester, and 1% Lycra (R) Spandex… these socks are not ordinary socks. They mold to your feet, and provide great support and comfort. I’ve never been so happy over a sock.

The amazing socks

While more expensive than most socks, these socks far outlast traditional socks which break down over a few months. It’s been 6 months with the trial pairs, and they’re still just as sturdy as they were the day I purchased them. I now have fifteen pairs of these amazing feet jackets, and they’re worth every penny.

What’s really insane is that they come with a one year warranty.

Socks with a warranty

Nothing says “you care” to your feet like a great pair of socks.

So what are they? Why none other than New Balance DuraSpun Performance Allsport Acrylic Socks. I highly recommend them. I got them on sale too!