Well it’s been awhile since I sat down and legitamately typed up a blog post so I figure it’s due.
I got AT&T U-Verse installed on Wednesday and cancelled Comcast the next day. The install was pretty much a breeze since I didn’t have all that complicated of a setup and my house is fairly modern and everything is pretty much in the north east corner of the house anyway so no long cable runs were needed.
The installer called me around 8:30 to make sure we were arond and that he would be stopping by the node where our phone lines terminate down the street to cut us over from analog service to digital. About an hour later he came by the house and I showed him where the HDTV was in the living room where we’d be placing the DVR, and then showed him the basement where we would locate the gateway and hook it up to the phone network on the side of the house.
Overall it took maybe 2 hours and everything worked great. I have the U200 TV package which is about 200 channels including locals ($59), plus HD versions of channels in the packge ($10), and an HD DVR to for 1080i to my LCD TV. I also have the “High Speed Internet Pro” which is 3-meg down, 1-meg up ($30). Finally, I have the “Voice Unlimited” ($30) which replaces my local phone service with VOIP (similar to Vonage) and gives me unlimited nationwide + canada/etc calling as well as features like caller ID.
The gateway is in the basement on top of my fridge and is a 2wire unit that takes care of providing DSL internet through a 4-port switch and 802.11b/g wireless, as well as doing the VOIP for the the phone in the house. The HD DVR is cabled to one of the 4 ethernet ports on the gateway through cat5 cable that the installer ran following a coax cable up through a vent on the floor behind my TV, from the basement.
The status webpage on the gateway says I have 22-meg downstream about 2-meg upstream. I assume this is the overall speed and a large chunk of that is for streaming the TV channels. Too bad there isn’t an obvious way to unlock that speed for the PCs in the house.
The HD DVR is nice, about half as wide as my Dish ViP622 DVR. It has a 160GB hard drive and a motherboard with an HD chip and some other stuff. I opened up the case because it only had 3 screws and no “warranty void if opened” sticker. Pretty basic stuff. The hard drive is an IDE drive and I’m tempted to hook it up to my PC to see what format the filesystem is. The unit runs Windows CE for Microsoft’s IPTV stuff. Overall the unit works well, everything seems to flow nicely. It’s a big change from the Dish interface though.
The internet works fine, just as speedy as Comcast so I don’t erally notice much different there. Speed tests show I am actually getting about 3-meg down (~330kb/s) and 1-meg up so that’s good. The installer provided a 2wire USB wireless adapter for ashley’s dell as it didn’t have any wireless capability. It’s a pretty basic wireless adapter and it kept losing connection so I ended up running a 50-foot cat5 cable (that I still had from when I lived in the Ravines apartments at GVSU) across the basement ceiling and up through an air intake vent behind her desk so she is cabled once again and all is well.
The phone just works too so no big difference there. The gateway is on a Belkin UPS courtesy of AT&T and they say it will last for something like 2 hours during a power outage, but my phone is cordless so it wouldn’t work anyway. The voice service comes with all kinds of voicemail that you can listen to online and such but we have the answering machine and we’ll probably just stick with that. No sense in making things more complicated.
Overall the whole U-verse thing was exciting to think about and cool to have it all installed but it’s fading in to the background of normalcy as nothing terribly exciting. That’s mostly due to the fact that phone and internet are things we pretty much take for granted and only really consider when they don’t work. And they work just fine.
The HD DVR and TV service work fine too but I think after this free month is up I’m going to cancel it and just stick with Dish. We have a lot of content recorded on the Dish DVR that we haven’t watched yet, plus we’re super-used to the Dish interface since we’ve had it for something like 5 years and we just like it and don’t really want to get used t something new. The U-verse DVR has some cool features that the Dish DVR doesn’t like being able to watch a “channel” of your Flickr photos, and an interactive news/weather feature that Dish does have but U-verse does it better, but these extra features just aren’t all that exciting when all I really want to do is watch some TV. Plus we have 4 TVs in the house and all 4 of them can watch Dish programming (3 of them all have to watch the same thing because they are all cabled to the “TV2″ output on the back of my Dish DVR but that’s fine). If we had 4 TVs on U-verse, it is $7/month for each extra TV and that is too much of a hit to be able to watch a different channel on each. We don’t need that and haven’t had any occurrence where we couldn’t get by with the 2 satellite channels that we can watch at once plus an over-the-air HD channel. So Dish is working out just fine.
My only concern is reading the Internet and Voice packages, their prices are dependent on having TV service. So hopefully that price does not go up much or there isn’t any cost savings with U-verse. We will be switching the Internet to the lowest package – 1.5/down, 1/up to save money ($5), and also bumping the Voice down to the 1000-minute plan ($5 cheaper).
In other news, The-BOB.org will be moving to a more respectable home. I had been moving everyone off the original server that we’ve been on since something like 2003 to a newer one with a different hosting provider, but the new one doesn’t even seem to cut it so I managed to secure an awesome colocation deal with a local Grand Rapids provider.
The-BOB.org is currently hosted on a 29.95/month dedicated server which has a junky Celeron processor, 512mb of memory (pitiful) and we’re limited to something like 200GB/month data transfer which we have frequently exceeded in the past. New.The-BOB.org is hosted on a 79.95/month dedicated server with another crappy Celeron and 1024mb of memory (hooray) but with more and more folks using MySQL, it is not able to keep up with demand either. We’ve had this server since April I think and been able to pay for both servers at once with hosting income but it’s not pretty and we can’t be on two at once.
So with crappy expensive servers that aren’t cutting it comes the third and hopefully best server yet. A recycled (thanks Metro) HP DL140 with a Xeon 3ghz processor (hyper-threaded) and 4096mb of memory. We will be on a shared 3-meg internet pipe with unmetered bandwidth. The pricing is very good and works out excellently for our budget. I hope to sign the 12-month contract and get it back to them this week and then hopefully get the server online quickly and start moving people again.
I’m very excited. The new server is running Ubuntu Server 8.04 which feels like it was made exactly for our purposes: LAMP hosting. It is Linux (Debian), has Apache2, MySQL5, PHP5 and is already configured to do name-based virtual hosts in apache. Everything we need software-wise is available as a package and easily installed and configured. I thought Fedora was easy to get up and running but Ubuntu Server is just a piece of cake and really a dream to be quite honest. I’ve been plugging away at it in the evenings and it is definitely ready to go.
I’m watching the Obama Express on CNN as he makes his way from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. Very cool. I will try to find a way to watch the inaguraton, probably at work or at home somehow.