Xfinity X1 upgrade at home

My community recently upgraded to Xfinity X1 and man is it sweet.  I was pretty much stuck in the analog age up until this past December.  Even though my TV’s used digital cable from Comcast, I didn’t actually have any HD channels so my shows weren’t as sharp or things on the screen were cut off.  I guess they recently negotiated a better package for us so that meant HD awesomeness for me!

Another benefit that was realized was 25mbps internet was now free too!  I was being killed by Comcast to the tune of $56 a month for the same service and now it was included with my association fees, talk about cost savings goodness.  Another new benefit is that I now have HBO!  I was able to binge watch all of Westworld off the Xfinity TV app and set up some shows for recording.  Oh that’s right, I have a DVR again!  It’s so awesome since I can record and watch shows while on the road.  This has allowed me to keep up with my TV shows that I would have normally missed during the week.

At the same time I went ahead and signed up for VoIP through Comcast.  I was able to save another $14 a month by doing that while getting the ability to see who’s calling on my TV and my cell phone.  Xfinity Connect isn’t working on my phone where I can listen to voicemail or make calls from my iPhone with it looking like I’m calling or answering from home.  That solves a problem I had in that the gate guard couldn’t reach me half the time since we get so much trash through the land line.  Now I have caller ID so we can easily make the decision to answer or not.

This upgrade has been pretty awesome, I like being able to do a lot more when away from home for work and I can give out my home phone number instead of my cell or my Google Voice number.  Now if only that damn Xfinity Connect app would work correctly, then everything would be perfect!


No Internet is Semi Liberating

I just got back from an awesome resort in Vermont called The Tyler Place thats about 3 miles from the Canadian border.  I discovered this resort when I was looking for a place to spend a week away with my family that included everything like food and activities.  I knew going into it that internet might be spotty but I almost had a total lack of connectivity since I was so close to Canada and kept on picking up signals from Rogers, Telus, and Bell instead of my normal AT&T.  I saw that there was wifi but I didn’t know that it would be fairly limited to their main building (there are numerous cotteges at the resort and I don’t know if they have wifi).  I also took a side trip to Montreal and I didn’t have any internet there because the hotel I was staying in had really bad wifi conectivity.

Not having a good connection was both frustrating but also a good thing.  It was frustrating since I was trying to upload my pictures to Google and iCloud.  I took a lot of pictures with my iPhone and I wanted to make sure everything was backed up.  I also needed to download some additional books that I kept on Box so that I would have something to read when I wasn’t out and about doing activities.  I also wanted to get some of my email but that wasn’t happening on a consistent basis unless I was at the Inn but judging by the pictures I took it was actually worth being outdoors all the time and enjoying nature.

The liberating aspect of not having good internet is that I wasn’t able to be on my phone as much as I wanted so I pretty much ignored my phone except to take pictures of things.  I think thats what actually made my vacation aweome, the fact that I was uable to be connected through the internet all the time and answering all the different dings and alarms that come with owning a smart phone and tablet.  There’s defnitely something to be said of just going out doors and enjoying whats around you and the fact that I was with my family to do all these things made it all the better.

I might do something like that again at another resort or if I travel outside of the country.  The only time I really missed having internet access is when I need my GPS or Google to look up things like where can I get some snacks or how can I get to the nearest subway station to get back to my hotel.  In those instances thats where being connected online would be useful.

The absolute best part though about not always being connected?  I can’t receive any work related emails or messages during my vacation. 🙂

IHeartRadio is a battery killer

I have been a fan of iheartradio for a while now since I can listen to a lot of my New York radio stations, and Hawaiian ones for that matter, on my iPhone while I’m at work or at home. I’ve used it a lot while I’ve been at the playground with my daughter as well but there are two issues with the app, and one of those issues is not the massive amounts of data that it consumes when I use it.

The first issue that I have is the battery life. When I use my Music app on my iPhone I can barely notice any battery drain after spending an hour or so at the playground with my daughter. I went out again to the playground and this time I decided to use iheartradio instead and man did the battery get killed. I think I went from around 90% to almost 30% in the time I was at the playground with my daughter. On top of that, my phone got really hot as well which I’m sure isn’t a good thing either.

The second issue really was the heat aspect. Since the battery was draining so fast, the phone got really hot in my pocket. My iPhone runs pretty cool most of the time but this time it felt like I had been running the GPS app on my phone for a road trip which was the only other time that my iPhone ever got that hot. The heat really wasn’t a concern but more of an observation. I like using the app but since these problems occur I only use the app now when I can be plugged into another computer or at a wall jack.

All in all it’s good stuff, I used to have to listen to my Hawaiian music through Internet explorer but now I can listen to it on an app on my phone and not a computer.

Chronicling my Internet Past

I’ve been on the Internet for quite a while and I’ve posted a lot of stuff over the years from status updates, check ins, and pictures. There are probably things I’ve posted that I’ve long since forgotten about but I’m trying to archive as much of my activity as possible recently just so I can have it. Since a lot of my stuff is in the web and I use so many services, its hard to get them all in one place for me to look at. The services I use the most to post has to be Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter like almost everyone else on the planet. I also use this blog but I have a good ifttt recipe for that. The key to chronicling all of this is Evernote and some apps and services from the web.

The first thing I’m using is ifttt. This is a web service that takes actions on the web such as posts on twitter or Facebook and then does a corresponding action that I specify. I’ve set up recipes for Facebook and WordPress to send the posts I make or pictures I’m tagged in to Evernote so I have an archive of what I’m posting. The problem is that I can’t capture what happened in the past and I only started using ifttt maybe 6 months ago. I’m already amazed at how much crap I throw up on the web but its all good stuff for me to chronicle to see what I was doing at that time.

I’ve recently downloaded two apps to help me look into my past and its pretty interesting what I’ve been doing in the past couple of years. One app which is called TimeHop is an app my boss showed to me that looks at my past 2 years worth of Facebook posts but only shows me the posts I made on that day. It’s quite fun going down memory lane for that day to see what I was doing and also seeing my checkin’s to see where I potentially went.

I’ve recently down load a new app called Everyday.Me. It’s a little similar to TimeHop but this collects all my tweets, Facebook updates, and checkin’s in one long list starting from the most recent entry to the first one I ever made. I have years worth of status updates so I’m not sure it has everything downloaded yet. What was unexpected but pretty cool was that I got an email that showed my activity going back 4 years for 5 days worth of activity so I could see what I did. What is really great about the app is that it backs up to Dropbox and Evernote. I use Evernote quite a bit and I have ifttt doing a lot of the wok as well but I go with the idea that you can never have enough backups. I haven’t used for all that long so I can’t really write a lot about it but so far I am impressed and the Evernote syncing is exactly what I wanted in an app.

So why exactly am I doing all this to catalog what I’m doing? I really don’t know but my daughter might find it interesting one day on what I was doing on a particular day while I was away from home while she was growing up. Or who knows, I might be inspired one day and put all this together into some memento that I can look back at and laugh a little about how much time I spent online. I definitely can’t wait to go home this week, there are Easter things to do and chronicle!

NY Metro Internet BOOO

I’ve been traveling to the NY Metro area for quite some time now this year and I can say that universally my Internet connection has been pretty disappointing. I have two iPhones on AT&T and a Verizon 4G Mifi and both services have been pretty bad. I will admit that Verizon has better service but it’s not that much better. I characterize better service at this point with an ability to just connect to the Internet at any speed. In my little cave at work my AT&T connection just doesn’t work at all and my Verizon mifi can only be on 3G or else it drops like crazy.

Lately the large networks have been becoming even more stingy with their data plans by offering data share plans (I’m looking at you AT&T and Verizon) which has perceived saving but only if you don’t use a lot of data. I’m a data hog and use around 3gb a month on average. Spring and T-Mobile are still offering unlimited data which I think is pretty awesome. If they have huge LTE networks in the next year or so I might have to consider switching. It won’t matter much to my wife since she’s always at home and all the networks are decent here. It will matter more to me because I travel so much.

I personally think it doesn’t matter what network you’re on when you’re in NY. There are just way too many people in a really small area trying to get online. I can actually see a difference between trying to use my iPhone at 6am and at 12pm. One way that NY is trying to deal with this is to use old phone booths that don’t have phones anymore and making them into wireless hotspots. Now if these hotspots are free that would be awesome but I don’t think they will be. I guess I’ll just have to suffer for the next year with crappy Internet. Maybe the Doubletree will finally get wifi so I can enjoy my Netflix on my iPad while I travel.

Yahoo! is not what it used to be

Ahh how the mighty have fallen!  I remember the days when I used to be an avid user of Yahoo back in the infancy of the internet.  Back then Yahoo was just awesome because it provided everything you needed under one roof.  Of course this was back in the days when internet portals were popular to aggregate all your information (circa 1999).  Along the way Yahoo! was able to acquire some really good technology, especially in the Web 2.0 space.  The reason I’m writing this is because of the possible demise of delicious (I’d put in the proper periods but I don’t know where they go).  Like a lot of internet savvy people, I use delicious to bookmark things that are important to me and so that those bookmarks are always available online or on the computers that I use at work and at home.  I too saw all the web postings about the possible sunset of the service and yes I too also transferred my bookmarks to another service just in case.

I do think that the bad PR is hurting Yahoo!’s reputation in the market and it doesn’t help that they were doing lots of crazy things when they were talking to Microsoft a couple years ago.  I personally think that was a missed opportunity for Yahoo! to be part of MS.  While they would have been part of the evil MS Machine (which I don’t really care about), I think they could have used Microsofts drive to succeed on the internet as a way to not die slowly as so many before it have.  Things like, Excite, Infoseek, and Webcrawler come to mind.  Besides, its not like Yahoo! is running its own search engine anymore, they’re using Bing to power the thing.  I think Yahoo should have concentrated on search and tried to compete in advertising rather than acquiring services that they never integrated beyond single sign on and putting a badge that says it was a Yahoo! Company.  Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of great things at Yahoo! but they all just look like they are dated and haven’t had a feature or graphics update in the last 10 years.

I used to use their portal page exclusively but have since transitioned to Google for the most part.  My Yahoo! account is still active and I still sorta use Flickr but delicious is where I still had an interest.  Maybe the time is ripe to start picking Yahoo! apart and leaving the bones for someone to buy up.  Or maybe they should have hired some system integration consultants and melded it all together 😉  HA!

I guess I’ll still use Yahoo! here and there but since its only a shell of its former self and uses Bing for its search results,I might as well go directly to the source and use Bing all on its own.  Who knows, maybe a turn around will come soon… or not….

I want a dumb internet pipe

Ahh net neutrality.  The discussion is on and everyone is weighing into the discussion.  I guess I’ll put in my two cents as a person that is into technology.  For the most part, I want a dumb internet pipe.  I just need a way to feed off the internet to get the content that I’m asking for.  A lot of companies such as Comcast, Cox, and AT&T don’t want to be just simple internet traffic routers because there really isn’t that much money in it.  From what I understand, companies like Comcast want to start charging extra for “managed services”.  So what is managed services to the average joe?  Coming from my consulting background as well as IT, managed services is offering different services to people using the same infrastructure that has always existed but now I can charge you for using it in different ways.

One such example is video on demand services that seems to be popular.  Comcast and other cable providers want to be the people that sell this type of service but companies like Netflix upset this model because they can offer the same content at a cheaper price with the only limitation being the internet pipe it comes down on.  ISP’s want to start segmenting and putting in limits to the internet and making it more consumption based (kind of like an AT&T data plan).  Anyone with half a brain knows that video and audio streaming take tons of bandwidth and charging for how much you download/upload to me is just insane.  A lot of what companies are pushing is putting everything online like cloud computing or services that live online like Evernote or DropBox.  Companies like this will have issues with new pricing models coming from ISP’s because people will want to manage how much they are online.

In my opinion, the internet should be managed like a utility like the power or water companies.  The same thing happened with voice services a while back with the government imposing limits.  I am not a fan of big government but it does have its place and I want the FCC to give me my dump pipe so I can get the internet and its content on my terms and not from my cable/phone/isp company.  I don’t like the idea of getting my speed cut in half or having to watch what I use and then be selective on what I stream or not.  The answer is to update the infrastructure.  The more people you reach and the better the pipe, the more people will want to hook up.  If anything start doing things like AT&T which is offering free access to their wireless hotspots if you’re a customer, that should be incentive for people to sign up with one service or another to avoid paying for something they have access to at home.

Well that should do it for today’s rant.  So if you’re listening out there, give me my dumb internet pipe so I have the freedom to CHOOSE what I want to consume and not have to choose a provider based on the content they are willing to sell me.