Saturday was the big day. The Paragon Cable/ATT installers showed up around 10:30am and a few hours later we had a working cable modem. The cable modem is one of the newer RCA types (it’s the one at the bottom of the page next the 3Com Sharkfin). I also picked up a Linksys BEFSR81 Cable/DSL router to act as firewall, router, and 10/100 8-port hub. The Linksys router is pretty cool, allowing a one machine DMZ as well as port-forwarding, DHCP, NAT and several other features you wouldn’t normally expect on such an inexpensive little box.
The install went relatively smoothly. After reading some of the att@home horror stories (or here or here) from other Linux users, I’d moved our real boxes to another room and brought an old clunker from the office and put Windows 98 on it – in case they insisted they only supported Windows or had to install their mutant version of IE. As it turned out though, the installer was reasonably knowledgable about things. He knew what Linux was and had even used it himself. He said I could sign a waiver saying I declined installation support and could then use any OS I wanted. We went ahead and used the W98 box for testing but he provided all the info needed so we could configure the Linux boxes. Third-party routers like the Linksys are another thing att@home theoretically doesn’t support but the installer thought it was a cool box and had never used one before so he wanted to see how to set it up to work with the cable modem too.
I spent a while at a list of bandwidth testing sites trying to get some idea of how fast the new setup was. The slowest download speed I got was around 700Kbps but most tests showed 1.5 – 2.0 Mbps. Not bad for $39/month. Unfortunately, att@home throttles the upload speed to 128kbps to discourage users from running any type of servers but it’s still a lot better than dial-up. :-)
The only strange part of the whole thing is that our home dial-up connection was the last analog modem that I used and heard on a regular basis. I think I’ve listened to modem connect-tones nearly every day of my life for at least 20 years. It’s going to be strange getting used to not hearing them. Made me start thinking again that someone should try to preserve some of those wonderful sounds. Perhaps an archive with WAV/MP3 files of all the classic connect tones – those strange tones the high-end US Robotics models used to make only when they connected with another USR; the old 300 and 1200 Baud connect sounds; the first DSI V.32 and V.32bis connect sounds. Hmmmm… better stop before I get all nostalgic for the good ol’ days.
I’m posting todays news from Mozilla 0.7. This version is another incremental improvement over v0.6. This version finally includes SSL support and it seems to work. On Windows NT, it crashes maybe once per hour or so. On my Red Hat 6.1/Intel box it has crashed a couple of times. On my newer Red Hat 7.0 box (my main workstation), it has been running for several days under heavy usage with no crashes. I haven’t found any sites that break it yet. It still sucks up a lot of memory but seems a bit faster than v0.6.
While I suspect I haven’t seen the last of my Verizon DSL billing problem, I am one step closer to getting decent Net access at home. This is a Good Thing. I seem to be the last person left on Earth who has to access The Net through a dial-up modem. I described my Verizon DSL horror story previously. I’ve also tried contacting ATT about their wireless broadband service. It sounds cool – high speed Net access plus local and long distance phone service. The downside is that it doesn’t use Ethernet to connect to the computer like DSL or Cable Modems. It has some sort of special hardware that requires a USB connection and they only provide drivers for Windows 95/98. We have a Linux/Intel box and a Windows NT4 box at home and I’m not inclined to downgrade either of them. I called a few other wireless boradband service providers such as Broadbandnow but they don’t provide service in my area (or provide it only to business or apartment complexes). I’ve also called our local cable company several times over the last year or so and they always say they’re going to offer cable modem Net access but it’s always a few months away.
Well, I called the cable company yesterday and they said they were scheduled to start providing Internet service as of next week. They took down some info from me and I’m on the list to get it installed. I don’t know how fast it will be or what kind of hardware they offer or if I’ll get static or dynamic IPs. And I’d prefer DSL but anything beats dial-up. I just hope the installers don’t make any trouble for me because of my Linux box.
Woohoo! We may finally be able to get a real Internet connection at home. GTE claims they are finally offering DSL in our area. I’ve been assigned an install date but, with GTE involved, I’ll have to see it installed and working before I fully believe. We’ve called the phone company and cable company periodically for a couple of years asking for ISDN, DSL or cable modem access but, up until now nothing has been available. We’ve been stuck with a 56k modem on an analog line. I’m planning on picking up one of those Linksys DSL routers unless someone has a better suggestion.