Sunday, April 29, 2012

I've Got a Secret

I've been keeping a secret. I bought an iPhone. Actually I bought my wife an iPhone. She loved her BlackBerry Curve but when Google announced late 2011 that they were dropping support for Gmail on BlackBerry I started looking for alternatives for her. To be clear, Google didn't kill Gmail support on BlackBerry but "deprecated" Gmail support. The scary part for me was that you would no longer be able to download a fresh copy should you have to rebuild the phone. I realize there are alternatives for that but still the handwriting was on the wall.

AT&T had a refurbished white iPhone 4 on sale Black Friday weekend for $49.95. I ordered her one. I was worried about her adapting to the soft keyboard after the Curve's hardware keyboard but that hasn't been a problem.

I had seen the handwriting on the wall for the BlackBerry for a while and had migrated her to the web-based Gmail interface. That made it easy to use the Exchange Active Sync protocol to connect the iPhone to her Gmail e-mail. I found Google's instructions here. Be sure to follow the "Next..." link at the bottom for Calendar support.

The Google support has been seamless. Push e-mail and push calendar are incredible. I share my calendar with her so she can see where I am.

She isn't big into taking pictures with her iPhone (yet) but what she does love is the Camera Roll. She gets lots of e-mails with pictures of our granddaughter and she saves them to the Camera Roll.

She likes to listen to the radio while she gets ready in the mornings. The AM/FM radio I had in the bathroom didn't have a good antenna. I got her a Jensen Docking Speaker System. It is compact, has stereo speakers and charges the iPhone. It actually has an FM receiver built-in but I didn't use that. There's an iTunes app that we don't use but you need it as the phone complains if it is not present when you place the phone in the dock. The app runs the radio built into the dock and presents a clock. I wanted to stream her favorite FM station over the Wi-Fi. After a couple of false starts I ended up with TimeTuner. It presents a nice clock and has 4 presets for streaming Internet radio stations. That has been a perfect solution for her.

We converted her 200MB BlackBerry data plan to an iPhone data plan. She's been running around 35MB per month as she uses Wi-Fi at all our family's houses. This is about twice as much data as her BlackBerry. With iMessage handling text messages among the other iPhones in the family she's been well within her 200 text message plan. She's actually using less text messages due to iMessage.

Last week she said "I love my iPhone." 'nuff said.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

DSL Upload Speed

I don't think I can explain this. The best I can do is show you what I did and the results.

Ok, if you don't have DSL I think you can quit reading. But I'm not sure so maybe you want to read on. I don't know.

I have AT&T's "FastAccess DSL XTREME 6.0." This is advertised as 6.0 Mbps down and 512 Kbps up.

AT&T actually does pretty well delivering this.

Except when I'm doing massive uploads. Understandably the uploads are limited by the upload speed but what I've been experiencing as long as I can remember is that when I'm uploading the download speed drops to dial-up. Consequently I end up queueing up big uploads for overnight.

Until October 2011 I thought this was something that just affected me and I wasn't willing to arm wrestle AT&T to work on this. Then when we were in Italy I had the same experience. The "hotel" I stayed at in Manarola had DSL. Their download speed was over 10 Mbps but when I uploaded my pictures the whole Wi-Fi network slowed to a crawl. The good news is there were only 4 rooms in the "hotel" so I didn't really impact anyone else.

Hmmm. The problem I was seeing must be a general DSL problem, not just something in my configuration. So I went off and Googled it.

I found this article.
You should expect download speeds to be very seriously impacted by any file uploads that you may be undertaking at the same time. This is a normal consequence of the design of ADSL services.
Read the whole article. There's lots more that I didn't understand.

So I wrote it off as a DSL phenomenon and started thinking about cable Internet. But cable Internet is more expensive and, as you know, I'm cheap. So I didn't do anything.

Fast forward to March 2012. I listen to Steve Gibson's Security Now podcast on TWiT. His show on March 14, 2012 was entitled "Buffer Bloat." The best I can explain this is that modern network devices with large buffers defeat TCP's built-in self-pacing capabilities. It was pretty much over my head and it didn't seem that I could do anything about it anyway.

A month later Steve had a question and answer edition. A listener had written in how he had used his router's QoS settings to manage the "Buffer Bloat" upstream from him. You can watch the question and answer here.

So I went into my router and found the QoS settings. I enabled them and set the uplink speed to 350 Kbps, just less than my observed upload speed.

Problem solved.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Browser Share

Tom's Hardware had a recent article on the futures of the various browsers. In summary the author predicted that Firefox would rise again after overcoming some of its recent problems. He calls 2011 "...A catastrophic year for Firefox." I agree.

Perhaps I hadn't been watching closely enough but what surprised me was the ongoing precipitous drop for Internet Explorer as shown in this chart.

The data comes from StatCounter. Maybe there's an agenda there but I'm not aware of it. Tom's Hardware doesn't seem to have a dog in the fight. The author says "take any market share predictions with a grain of salt."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Patch Tuesday

PCs I applied Microsoft patches to on 04/10/12:
  1. T420s
  2.   XP VM
  3. T61
  4. Server
  5.   XP VM
  6.   Windows 8 VM
  7. T43
  8. X40
  9. X100e
  10.   XP VM
  11. Byhalia

Lumia 900 Data Bug

I started to write a blog post today accusing Nokia of falsely reporting a problem with data on their Lumia 900 in order to offer a $100 rebate effectively making the phone free. That isn't true and I'm glad I didn't post it. If you know me, I'm not opposed to free. It just worries me to think that Microsoft/Nokia would have to make a well respected piece of hardware free in order to push the operating system.

I had the original blog post almost written. The premise was that I couldn't find any user reports of the data bug before the rebate was announced.

Finally I stumbled across the problem reports in a Windows Phone specific forum.

In retrospect I think that the problem with me not finding anything with Google was that there were not enough of the Lumia 900s sold to create enough Google "juice" to get the articles on the problem high in the search results.

On the same topic, ZDNet reported that Windows Phone's market share is dropping an average of 1% per month. In that Windows Phone is at less than 4% that doesn't look good. For the time being Windows Phone is still leading Symbian.

This doesn't look good for Windows Phone. I hope Microsoft and Nokia get their act together as we need an alternative to iOS and Android.

Update: Now you can make $80 by buying a Lumia 900 at Target.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

When Clouds Go Bump

There certainly has been a lot of discussion at the CIO level about Cloud Computing. A recent CIO I spoke with was looking at the cloud to help him address his challenges in staffing and running his data center. He and I had deep discussions about his in house alternatives to the cloud. Interestingly while we were having these discussions one of the biggest clouds went bump.

On February 29, 2012 Microsoft's Azure product had a global service failure. Microsoft's Azure Service Dashboard was overwhelmed and pretty much unavailable for hours on end. When it was accessible here is one of the updates approximately 8 hours into the outage:
The restoration steps to mitigate the issue are still underway. This incident impacts Access Control 2.0, Marketplace, Service Bus and the Access Control & Caching Portal in the same regions where Windows Azure Compute is impacted. As a result affected customers may experience a loss of application functionality. Further updates will be published to keep you apprised of the situation. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes our customers.
This is not a Microsoft bashing. In April, 2011 Amazon also suffered a broad failure.

What I want to highlight is that cloud providers are not immune from service failures. They are likely capable of providing more redundant and resilient services than many organizations can provide.

My question is as a CIO are you comfortable with this level of opacity to service failures? Are you willing to answer your users and executives with one-way information flow from a (sometimes available) web page? Would a 10 day service credit make your CEO happy?

Monday, April 02, 2012

Chrome Setup

After my previous post on Firefox's EOL, I thought I'd document my Chrome setup.

  1. Adblock Plus for Google Chrome™ (Beta) - General - uncheck "Show icon in address bar", Filter lists - select EasyList, uncheck "Allow some non-intrusive advertising"
  2. AddThis - Share & Bookmark (new) - Hide button
  3. Chrome Toolbox (by Google) - Hide button, uncheck "show image floating toolbar", uncheck "show video floating toolbar"
  4. Drag and Go - uncheck "support 6 most frequently used mouse gestures"
  5. New Tabs At End
  1. Click the settings icon (3 bars) on the browser toolbar.
  2. Select Settings.
  3. In the "On Startup" section, check "Continue where I left off."
  4. In the “Search” section, use the “Enable Instant for faster searching and browsing” checkbox to enable or disable the Instant feature.
  5. Click on "Show advanced settings..."
  6. Check "Send a ‘Do Not Track’"
  7. Uncheck "Enable Autofill."
  8. Uncheck "Offer to save passwords."
  9. Check "Ask where to save each file before downloading."
There are a few more things you may want to look at at chrome://flags/.

I use the Greyscale theme.

Have fun!

Updated 02/24/13