DSL Arrives and Starband is out

DATELINE July 2005

Well, I have been using Starband for 4 years now. It was a pretty happy experience until the winter of 2004 when part of the satellite failed. Starband jammed everyone together on the remaining part of the equipment and performance has been rotten. I'm looking at 54k up and around 256k down, though occasionally I've seen more. Before the crash, we saw around 400k down, and up has always been slow but compared to dial up which never worked better than 19.2 here a reliable 54k up was better.

Now, I never believed in my lifetime I would see DSL here at the ranch. We are 15 miles from town and dialup was flaky. Well guess what? It's here. Qwest installed a remote DSLM about 5 miles away and even though that is beyond the documented range, it's here provisioned at 1.5m down and 640 up. We are sort of at the outer end of the range so Qwest had to derate their advertised 896 up to 640, but I am consistently seeing speeds close to 640 up. It is said that if you get within 80% of the nominal speed you are in good shape and I am doing that. At the moment the down speed is disappointing (in the high 800's, but this is twice as fast as anything I've ever used.

The other remarkable issue is the cost. Starband has been a $69.00 a month service. I signed for for DSL internet basic, which per Qwest provides an internet connection, but no email or web space for $$37.00 a month. Since I have my own domain housed on another provider I have all the email and web space I need so this works for me.

I'm fairly sentimental about Starband as it is my first broadband system. My first modem was 300 baud mickey ear modem, and I remember being so excited when the telnet provider juiced their system up to 1200 baud and I bought a direct connect modem to replace the acoustic one. Oh those were the days when I had to make a long distance call to connect at 300 baud to look at a BBS. It's been a while since I've thought of pulling a download using Xmodem protocol.

The only real nuisance of the Qwest DSL service is that the Actiontec Router they sell you (along with everyone else's uses the same IP address for your local network (192.168.0.1) as the base address. Now grafting this into a network that already used that IP address as a base address is a problem. Needless to say about the first thing I did was change it.

The router is then intended to be plugged into your computer. This is fine but presents a security issue in my opinion. If you have all the computers on your network defended with virus checkers and spyware checkers and the like, then this is OK. My preference, however is to defend the network at the edge with a proxy server. Obviously if you plug the router into a switch and send the internet all over the network you don't get the job done. The only bad thing about a proxy server is that they are a real pain to set up.

Early August 2005

DSL (digital subscriber line) has been up for some weeks now and seeme stable. Download speeds are consistent as are upload speeds, and though I have never measured them at the advertises speeds, they aren't that far off either. Just now I measured 1009 KPS down and 484 KPS up--- a little faster down than I usually see, but radically faster than Starband which when it worked was never over 500 KPS down and dial up speeds up. Don't ask me why I have recorded a down speed faster than I thought my service was. Oh well. The good news is, it works. And I have decommissioned Starband forever, severely disappointed at their diminished service after they satellite failure in late 2004.

Just as I write this the FCC is issued a directive that ILEC's will no longer be required to wholesale out their DSL service to competitors. The impact is yet unknown. I signed up for a 'basic internet' service with Qwest which includes internet access but no email or web server space (as my website is hosted by Yahoo). Hopefully Qwest won't use this as an excuse to make me really unhappy with them.

A third generation satellite service is just coming up, WildBlue, and just to keep up with the Jones's, I'm going to try it out and see how it works. It will cost more and run slower than the DSL line, but then who knows, one needs to keep up on these things.

Now, I'm trying to get up my courage to try out VOIP. Should be interesting.

April 2006

It has indeed been interesting. The Qwest DSL service as stabilized working reliably at over 1200 up and over 400 down. One thing I have learned about the DSL service---Qwest doesn't have back up power on the remote DSLM they installed so when the power is out at the location of the remote DSL, my DSL line is down. This is not a good thing if you want to rely on the DSL circuit to complain to the power company that your lights are out.

I have in fact experimented with Vonage VOIP. It works, but I don't use it much. I've looked at the new generation dish internet service, Wild Blue. All indications are that is is providing a good degree of satisfaction, but neither its performance or reliability exceed that of DSL, so if you can get DSL there is no reason for Wild Blue.

Those of you with dial up will probably get annoyed at the newer parts of my web site. It used to be pretty well dial up friendly as I used really small thumb nail photos. After all I had a slow dial up when I wrote the early parts of it, and worte the site so I could use it. Now that I have a pretty good DSL service the photos keep getting larger. They are much prettier, but there is a price for that and the dial up people--- especially those with badly degraded dial up like I used to have (9.6k on good night) have to pay it.

Many of the revision dates on my web pages say 2001, but that is only the date I transported my web site from a former ISP to my current ISP location. I started writing pages for this web site in 1996. Now that I have a digital camera and a good scanner, I have been trying to upgrade the photos some and add some more, and grinding out a newer version is a real undertaking.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, I built my first computer with a PCI-express video card and an Athlon 64 CPU. --- My those things do perform. I used to think a computer was fast when it would RECALC a spread sheet in a reasonable time. Now I see if they choke on Google Earth.

Date Line Feb 2007

How time flies. Qwest DSL has been working reliably for almost 2 years now. A rerun of speed tests disclose 1323 down and 441 up. I check it now and then. Don't recall seeing over 1200 down before, but recently its been running in the 1200's down. All in all not too bad for a system spec'ed at 1.5down.Reliability has been consistent except during power outages at the remote DSLM which takes it down.

Dateline Aug 2007

DSL has now worked reliably for just over 2 years. I tried Vonage VOIP and wasn't very happy with it. I'm still looking for some dual mode wi-fi telephones. I can put wi-fi around the ranch and make the cell phones work over VOIP in that mode since we are way out of cell phone range, but haven't gotten there yet. WildBlue has been around for a couple of years now as a internet dish product but seems to have the same issues as Starband. It has issues---but usually works. I would have bought it if DSL hadn't come along. Verizon in particular is pushing data over cell phone towers as all they new towers are data capable and they are converting older ones, but since we have no cell service at all this doesn't mean much. Windows Vista is out but I haven't bitten yet. Bought a new Pentax K10D digital camera and at 10 megapixels, the JPG files are running 3 to 4 megs a photo about double that of the Pentax ist D which was a 6 MP camera (Both are SLR's.) It is doing things to my hard drive. Never thought I'd fill a 40 gig hard drive, but......

The extra bandwidth has encouraged me to upgrade the quality of my photos and the thumbnails on this website are now 300 pixels wide, compared to 200 and originally 100 that I used when life was in the slow lane. I'm now able to provide really good photos. The digital medium is a great improvement over even a good photo scanner. The Pentax K10 has 'shake reduction' and that really works and is a good deal. It gives you an extra F stop or two. This lets me make good use of lenses around F 5.6 is a fairly deep shadowed area which has helped collect the wildlife photos. I've had an 80-320 Pentax Zoom for some years, but getting the speed to use it was always an issue, but I have set the K10 program to boost the ISO to 800 as needed.

The speed of the DSL service I have is 'hanging in there' with no signs over the 2 years of degradation. I just recorded 1323 down and 455 up on the same test I've been using for 2 years based in Seattle. That is virtually identical to the February observation.

Dateline: November 18, 2007

Tonight we are measuring 737 down and 573 up ---- slower don't than I've seen in a while and faster up.

Dateline: November 21, 2007

Today it is 1324 down and 573 up.
later 1322 575

Dateline November 30, 2007

Today it is 1239 up and 570 down

Dateline: Sunday, December 23, 2007

1303 and 463

Dateline: Thursday, March 19, 2009, 09:18 PM

1353 Down and 740 up (the highest numbers I've ever recorded)

Dateline: Sunday, January 2, 2011 1:07 PM

The Qwest trucks were seen at the DSLM that provides us DLS service. They were adding some more copper bandwidth to the DSLM. Fibre now comes out about 3 miles from town and the last 4 miles to the DSLM is some cobbled up copper. Our DSL has now been in service since 2005 and has been reasonably reliable. We were sometimes seeing evidence of over subscription (congestion) on the DSL so glad to see the backhaul getting some help.

Todays speed reading was 1310 up and 750 up which are pretty good numbers. Given that we are well over 4 miles from the remote DSLM, I don't much expect a service upgrade, but am pleased to see this basic service working to specification. While a 100 megs would be nice, 1 meg consistently working isn't all bad.

Dateline: Saturday, December 15, 2012 8:55 AM

129-132 up and 75 down--I've always used the same speed test but they have moved a decimal point. These are effectively the same numbers that I saw in 2009.

- - Updated 12/16/2012
- - Updated 01/02/2011
- - Updated 03/19/2009
- - Updated 04/25/2008
- - Updated 4/26/2006
- - Updated 2/25/2007
- - Updated 8/10/2007
- - Updated 03/21/2008