Jan 192009

I’m currently on American Airline flight #15 en route from New York City (JFK) to San Francisco. The plane is wired with wifi from Gogo inflight internet. It’s a good connection. Speedtest.net reported a ping latency of 144 ms, download speeds of almost 2 Mbps and upload speeds of over 300 kbps. Both SSH and VPN worked without a problem, and there was no issue with typical web usage or instant messaging. I fired up Skype, and while I was able to connect to the Skype services, voice service was not usable. Video from YouTube was great, but I was unable to find any sites where live streaming video worked well. (However, that might be an issue with my computer in general.)

Speed test from AA #15

samg@flywithme:~$ ping samgreenfield.com
PING samgreenfield.com ( 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from apache2-grog.nexus.dreamhost.com ( icmp_seq=1 ttl=44 time=644 ms
64 bytes from apache2-grog.nexus.dreamhost.com ( icmp_seq=2 ttl=44 time=389 ms
64 bytes from apache2-grog.nexus.dreamhost.com ( icmp_seq=3 ttl=44 time=270 ms
64 bytes from apache2-grog.nexus.dreamhost.com ( icmp_seq=4 ttl=44 time=170 ms
64 bytes from apache2-grog.nexus.dreamhost.com ( icmp_seq=5 ttl=44 time=264 ms
64 bytes from apache2-grog.nexus.dreamhost.com ( icmp_seq=6 ttl=44 time=560 ms
64 bytes from apache2-grog.nexus.dreamhost.com ( icmp_seq=7 ttl=44 time=564 ms
64 bytes from apache2-grog.nexus.dreamhost.com ( icmp_seq=8 ttl=44 time=323 ms
64 bytes from apache2-grog.nexus.dreamhost.com ( icmp_seq=9 ttl=44 time=533 ms
64 bytes from apache2-grog.nexus.dreamhost.com ( icmp_seq=10 ttl=44 time=508 ms
64 bytes from apache2-grog.nexus.dreamhost.com ( icmp_seq=11 ttl=44 time=950 ms
64 bytes from apache2-grog.nexus.dreamhost.com ( icmp_seq=12 ttl=44 time=765 ms
64 bytes from apache2-grog.nexus.dreamhost.com ( icmp_seq=13 ttl=44 time=934 ms
64 bytes from apache2-grog.nexus.dreamhost.com ( icmp_seq=14 ttl=44 time=704 ms
64 bytes from apache2-grog.nexus.dreamhost.com ( icmp_seq=15 ttl=44 time=883 ms

--- samgreenfield.com ping statistics ---
16 packets transmitted, 15 received, 6% packet loss, time 15101ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 170.832/564.688/950.614/241.978 ms
 Posted by at 3:06 pm
Jan 182009

My friend Phil Jache’s is very close to the Appalachian Trail. I went to his house for Thanksgiving this past November, and we hiked a couple of small segments. Hiking through the forest is relaxing and energizing.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Phil, Anne, Kathy, and myself

Hiking the Appalachian Trail Hiking the Appalachian Trail
The flora and fauna on the trail are amazing. I could probably spend hour just documenting an area of land less than ten square feet.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail
The trail winds up and down mountains of all sizes, from hills to high peaks. It also dips into valleys and wetlands. Across many of the swamps, people have build walkways across the mud and water. Since it was November, this land was semi-firm mud.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Hiking trails are marked with blazes at irregular intervals attached to features like trees and rocks. The Appalachian trail is uses one white paint blaze most of the time. When the trail turns, you will sometimes see two blazes pointing the way.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail Hiking the Appalachian Trail
If you walk the trail quickly, you sometimes miss odd features. I found the skull just to the side of the path.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail Hiking the Appalachian Trail
The views from the peaks can be fairly spectacular, even if they aren’t actually that high. The second photo is a self-portrait. It was back-lit, and it wasn’t possible to get a perfect exposure on my small camera.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Anne, Phil, and I hiked two sections of the trail, while Kathy left after one. The trail goes by a lot of houses; a man was walking dogs along the trail.

A video of one minute of the hike.

If you live on the East coast, it’s definitely worth taking a day trip along the Appalachian Trail. And it’s arguably a good reason to visit the East coast.

 Posted by at 11:04 pm
Jan 182009

I guess it is a bad idea to yell at your servers: “Brendan Gregg from Sun’s Fishworks team makes an interesting discovery about inducing disk latency.”

Check out the high resolution version at YouTube if you want to see the charts on the screen.
In essence: yelling => vibration => disk latency

 Posted by at 11:01 pm
Jan 182009

Chris’s Invincible Super-Blog has a write-up of perhaps the worst comic book ever. All you really need to know about it is the ultimate line of the issue, “You have to get out of here! Your vagina is haunted!

I’m tempted to but the comic book, Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #53, just so I can own a copy of those words.

 Posted by at 10:57 pm
Jan 172009

Last week I decided to order Verizon Fios. I’ve been tired of Time Warner Cable’s anti-competitive practices, their poor customer service, and their flaky appointments. In addition, Verizon Fios offers high-speed Internet for the home; I decided to order their 20 Mbps upload and 20 Mbps download package. (Compared with TWC, this is quite a different; my maximum download speed has been 10 Mbps and my maximum upload speed has been 1 Mbps.)

Signing up with Verizon should have been easy. On Monday, I went to their website, picked the correct package, chatted with the online service rep. and scheduled my installation. I confirmed with my manager that I could work from home on Friday to accommodate Verizon’s very large installation window of 8 am through 5 pm.

A few hours after signing up, I received a phone call from Verizon: they did not have the CSC code from my credit card. I know I entered my credit card information correctly, and I am not in the habit of giving out private credit card information to random incoming calls. So I let them know I would call back. When I called back, it turned out that Verizon had no record of my order at all. Apparently, when I did not give them my CSC code the order was canceled completely.

This wasn’t a huge problem, I thought and we were able to create a new order and reschedule the installation for the same date. The only minor snafus were when the Verizon representative attempted to get additional personal identifying information from me, such as my birth date and social security number. When I asked why they wanted that information, I was told it was totally unnecessary.

After the phone order was completed, I received email from Verizon confirming my order. Then, I received a phone call confirming my appointment. And finally, a few hours later, I received another phone call from the New York dispatcher’s office confirming my appointment. The next day, I also confirmed the appointment online.

Yesterday, I sat around my house trying to do work. Unfortunately, I found out that my company’s VPN solution does not play nicely with my cable modem, so I was only able to read email. Around 2 pm, I decided to check with Verizon to make sure they were still coming. And after navigating their phone tree and waiting on hold, at 2:30 pm I was told that I would get a call back within two hours.

At 4:30, my phone rang. It was Verizon telling me that my appointment had been scheduled and then canceled at 7:57 am. Needless to say, I was a big annoyed by this revelation. There was no explanation for the missed appointment, nor any guarantee of credit. (For what it’s worth, New York City has regulations where if a cable company misses an installation appointment, they must perform free installation and give one free month of service. Verizon was trying to get this provision waived for Fios.)

I scheduled another appointment for Saturday from 8 am through noon. At 12:05 pm, since no one from Verizon had shown up, I gave them a call again. I got through to a rep around 12:15 pm and was told I would get a call back by 1. At 1 pm, I called again–I was told that they were running two hours late.

And now we get to 2 pm. A Verizon tech just arrived at my apartment. He has never wired a large co-op apartment before and does not know where to put the ONT or the power supply. His current proposal is to drill a large hold in my closet wall to access the apartment power supply. At best, that would look terrible, so he is going to make a few calls to see what he should be doing.

I’m going to file complaints with New York City DoITT, my council member, and probably the FCC–this kind of service is absurd. I’m curious to see if I’m going to get anywhere near of a good resolution.

Update 2:41 pm: I’ve spoken with the technician who has come to install Fios. Like all of the people I’ve dealt with at Verizon, he is smart and enthusiastic. Unfortunately, the Verizon management has over-scheduled the techs and not given them the equipment they need. In this case, the tech was sent out without the equipment to thread the fiber from the main distribution point on my floor to my apartment. We’re waiting to see if he can get the equipment needed.

I’m not sure what’s so hard with this installation. Everyone I’ve dealt with is professional and pleasant, and it’s unfortunate that the employees seem hobbled by poor management. Verizon, you seem to have good product and good people! Why is this experience so unpleasant?

Update 4:30 pm: The technician from Verizon did not have the equipment he needed to perform the installation in my apartment. (He needed a tool to thread the fiber from the floor wire closet to my apartment.) His manager did not call him back, and he had to leave at 3:30 pm. (Verizon is not authorizing overtime.) I spoke with Verizon after he left for a bit, and I now have an appointment for February 1st. Who knows if they will be showing up. As I wrote before, I filed complaints with DoITT, the FCC, and my city council member. It will be interesting to see what kind of response I get. Hopefully, the official complaints will prompt change from the senior management of Verizon to run a tighter ship and bring some better management to their dispatcher teams. Also, note to Verizon: don’t overbook appointment slots.

Ironically, I would be a much happier customer if Verizon had proactively called me to cancel or reschedule the appointment. I know it’s a shocking idea for a phone company.

 Posted by at 1:01 pm
Jan 172009

Like everyone else in New York City, I was fascinated by the miraculous ditching of US Airways 1549 on the Hudson River. Several coworkers mentioned to me that the plane was visible from the offices of the 15th floor, and they watched it float down the river. The Hudson river has a strong current, and the water was frigid, and the prompt actions of the ferries, tugboats, and emergency services saved lives. (One friend of mine walking down 10th Avenue shortly after the crash saw more ambulances at once than she had ever seen.)

Two websites caught my eye after the crash. The first was FlightAware, which provides live tracking of airplanes. You can see the minute-by-minute progress of flight 1549; I’ve also grabbed a screen-shot from flightaware.com.

Another site that had a unique view of the rescuers was Tugster. I mentioned this website previously; Will Van Dorp had some terrific photos of the ships involved with the rescue.

Incidents like this make me proud to be a New Yorker–the city has so many heroes.

 Posted by at 12:52 pm
Jan 082009

Shortly before Thanksgiving, I was taking a walk downtown with a friend of mine. We stopped by the South Street Seaport to take a look at the river and saw this barge pushed beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. (The Brooklyn Bridge goes over the East River in New York City.)
Interesting barge by the Brooklyn Bridge
My friend Phil notes that this is a crane; the large posts are pylons that sink into the riverbed and keep the crane steady. I wasn’t able to find any references to this barge in five minutes of searching, but I did find this interesting blog about the New York Harbor.

 Posted by at 2:40 pm
%d bloggers like this: