ISDN and the Art of Line Monitoring

The last couple of days have been spent helping Erin get up and running on ISDN. She lives in an area where DSL is not available and she’s got a terrible quality analog phone line that prevents a good modem connection. You’d think by now that the phone companies would have ISDN down to a science but we ran into an unbelievable number of problems.

The worst was that her ISP, SWBELL, is a long-distance call from her area. She had metro service on her analog line but apparently this sort thing doesn’t work on ISDN data calls. SWBELL was apparently well aware of this problem but didn’t think it worth mentioning until after she’d gotten ISDN installed, the analog line disconnected, and we’d spent hours trying to determine why things weren’t working. Needless to say, she’s no longer using SWBELL as her ISP. After finding a local ISP she discovered the next problem – the same physical wiring was used for her ISDN as had been used for her unusually noisy analog line. The ISDN line is now suffering from a variety of intermittent problem that have so far prevented reliable use and allow only minimal use of one B channel. SWBELL (the phone company, not the ISP) is now “monitoring” her line.

If you’ve followed the saga of NCC’s T1 problems you’ll probably know that “monitoring” never works. The last attempt by SWBELL to monitor our T1 for 24 hours took over a week. First they monitored the wrong line, several times they scheduled the right line to be monitored but later claimed no one had carried out the monitoring. Eventually they claimed to have found the right line and actually monitored it but did not log any of the data. “Monitoring” as used by SWBELL apparently means that someone just wanders by from time to time and checks to see if your line (or perhaps some other line nearby) is up. No automated logging is done and they never provide any evidence that they’ve really done anything. They claimed that no errors were detected during a 24 hour period. During the same 24 hour period our router log showed around 100 line drops pretty evenly distributed over the entire time period. Hopefully Erin will have better luck with her ISDN. Hmmm…

Alexander Courage and Blink 182

Another busy week… here’s what we’ve been up to lately. On monday, we went to the DSO Christmas program. It was about what you’d expect – with one exception. The last piece of the evening was an arrangement commissioned by the DSO for the Christmas program. The arranger was Alexander Courage. Anyone who’s a Star Trek fan will immediately recognize the name as the composer of the music on the original series. Apparently he’s still around and has become a fairly well known arranger of music.

Monday was also my birthday but we didn’t get around to doing anything about it until tuesday. Susan came up with a tasty chocolate cake which was pretty much finished off with some help from one of my sisters and her family. Later I bought myself a birthday present – the new Blink 182 CD.

In other news, the saga of the SWB/Worldcom/Verio T1 continues. We’re still having problems with random drops though they are now generally 30 seconds or less.

Chow Thai Addison

Susan and I were putting in some overtime at the office last night and decided to check out a nearby Thai place for dinner. It’s called Chow Thai Addison and it’s near the intersection of Montfort and Beltline, in the same general area as The Great Outdoors. It’s definitely the best Thai place I’ve tried yet in the DFW area; great food, nice looking dining area with weird artwork and jazz playing in the background. Recommended.

Neighborhood Christmas Lights

Susan and I just returned from a long walk around the neighborhood to inspect all the Christmas lights that are going up. It looks like quite a few of our more industrious neighbors have already installed lights on their houses, trees, and bushes. There also seems to be quite an assortment of large, internally lighted, plastic creatures such as reindeer, angels, elves, and santas. I don’t usually do any special Christmas lighting on our house but it’s always fun to see what weird stuff everyone else is doing. Hmmm… We did decorate our corporate web site with a nice wreath – does that count?

Winter in Texas

Winter has finally arrived in Texas. The weather has been really nice until lately. The last few days it has gotten pretty cold. I believe it was down to 32F last night. But it stays nice and warm here at the office with all the heat being generated by the servers. We still haven’t needed to turn on the heater.

The Windows NT work is all done for now. It will be nice to get back to Unix again. Hopefully some long awaited hardware upgrades will begin this week.

Running Apache on Windows Sucks

I’ve made quite a bit of progress on the Apache/Perl project. I now have Apache 1.3.9 and ActiveState Perl running on a Dell Inspiron 7500 laptop. I sure wouldn’t want to run NT as a real web server but it looks like it’s stable enough and fast enough for this job with only the local web browser as a client. One annoyance was having to go through all the scripts to fix little things like path delimiters to work the Microsoft way instead of the right way. If you’ve been fortunate enough not to have encountered a Microsoft OS before, the weird thing about them is that Microsoft chose to use ‘\’ as a path delimiter (instead of ‘/’ like everybody else) and many programming languages (like Perl) use ‘\’ to mark an escape sequence. So a path like /home/http/index.html has to be rewritten as something like e:\\apache\\html\\index.html. It’s good to be nearly finished with this one.