Saturday, December 22, 2007

Three Days With Verizon

And so far, everything's working pretty much the same as it did with Comcast.

This is not a bad thing. The best thing and ISP can do for you is to not be noticed: Just give me the Internet, Sir, and we'll all be fine.

We have two TVs, one connected to a Verizon High Def DVR box, and the other one, downstairs here with me, is just plugged into the cable. Comcast let the later TV access local plus about 40 cable analog channels, while Verizon only gives you local channels, plus, for some reason, Chicago's WGN. Probably some Cubs fans around. I only use the downstairs TV to watch local sports, anyway, so that's OK. The downstairs picture is clearer than Comcast provided, probably because Verizon put in a brand-new high-speed connection from the street, while Comcast used the cable left over from the 1970s, which was sensitive to interference from the local PBS station's tower. The digital connection doesn't seem to break up as much as Comcast's did, but then it's Christmas time, so there isn't a lot to watch right now. The OnDemand feature seems to respond faster than Comcast's did. This is a function of bandwidth, and we had problems with Comcast in that regard.

The DVR software is a little annoying, in that you can set a global option to record only first run TV series, but you can't set it for individual shows, unlike Comcast's system. I can't comment on how it actually works, because, again, it's Christmas, so there aren't any new shows to record.

The phone service has been perfect, except for the fact the Verizon still hasn't put a “this number has changed” message on our old phone number.

The Internet connection has been pretty stable. The hard-wired computers haven't lost connection at all, except for the moments after I accidentally hit the off switch on the power strip. The wireless connection: well, as you probably know, Verizon provides you with their own combination modem/wireless router. The router only has WEP encryption. I'm not terribly happy with that, but then again we live in a neighborhood with widely separated houses — signals we get from other wireless systems are pretty weak, and I don't think it would be profitable for anyone to try to hack in. If somebody drives up in a car close enough to access our signal, I think we'd notice the driver hunched over a keyboard after a while.

We did have one initial problem with the wireless connection: Wednesday night it just stopped working, as in wouldn't let you connect. This was frustrating, because I could see the router from Hal's Evil Twin, but I couldn't connect to it, no matter how many times I tried. The problem cleared itself up by Thursday morning. Spouse was talking to Customer Support about getting the message on our old phone number and mentioned the wireless problem. She got the response “sometimes that happens the first day,” which may be true but isn't exactly encouraging. Nevertheless, it has worked well since then.

I also had a slight problem getting logged on to the router so that I could change security settings. (I think we'll go to MAC authentication, just to help out against hypothetical war-driving attacks. It's not like we have a lot of people who need to hook up to our network.) I couldn't log on. Verizon provided me with the IP address of the router, and the administrative account name, but not the password. I looked up the router on the net and found the default password, but still couldn't log on. Eventually I called the Customer Support number. The “we're pretending to be a computer, ignore that man behind the curtain” help system kicked me over to a live person in about five minutes, and I was only on hold there for a couple of minutes — that may be how long it takes the signal to travel to India. Anyway, the tech figured out the problem in about thirty seconds — sometimes the default password has a “1” after it. I logged onto the router, which has a reasonably clean interface, and changed that password. This week I make it as secure as possible with a WEP system. If I get really paranoid, I suppose, I can turn off the wireless function of the router and plug in our old D-Link router, but I doubt I'll bother.

Speed: we're paying for 5MB/s download and 2MB/s upload, and we're getting something close to that, if you believe all those Internet Speed Test sites. It's fast enough that I don't notice any difference from Comcast. For what it's work, the sales people at the kiosk in the Mall said that we'll be upgraded to 10/4 in a month or two.

Oh yeah, the same sales people mentioned that we'd get support to forward our email for a month after leaving Comcast. No one else seems to know about it. There is something that lets you copy your email from one web service to Verizon's, but we pop our email to the house, so that isn't particularly useful. Well, we've notified friends and family, and we'll get to our customer service emails this week, so it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

All in all, and so far, I'm happy with the service. We'll see how it goes over the next few months. I'll be particularly interested to see how the battery handles our phone service the next time the power goes out.

One more note: I still haven't activated Verizon's oh-so-generous 10 MB of web space. Hopefully later this week. It may be that the links to our old Comcast web space on the right may die before I get things changed. If so, my apologies, but remember that everything except some of the cat pictures is still here in the blog.