October 2001--I had cable access
very early on in my area, in fact I was the first non-employee
install in Austin for Roadrunner (the Time-Warner cable service) and
the results off the get go were outstanding; while the logon
software was a huge pig I could achieve results of 4Mb on my test
That Was the Good, Now the Ugly
Sadly, as it usually is with many good things,
that kind of speed didn't last. By the time my neighborhood was
"built out" and I relocated I was lucky to get 128Kb on my test
site, the minimum they promise you. Better than dial up, but not by
much and very frustrating when you're used to 4Mb.
The DSL Story
DSL in Seattle wasn't great either. In retrospect
I should have gone with an ISP and plan that stood behind a minimum
level of throughput but hindsight is 20-20. Instead of the 1.5Mb
down and 750k I was usually in the range of 800k/300k. Not bad, but
certainly not close to what I thought I was buying.
Flashback to Testing
Allow me to digress a bit as I've been throwing
around some testing numbers without explaining how I arrived at
them. There are any number of testing sites on the Internet but my
preferred method is a program called iSpeed which allows you to
select an ftp site and a file and it will automatically track your
download speed and keep a history.
Because getting out on the Internet subjects to
you a lot of traffic variables that your ISP/connection can't
control I used two ftp sites that were very few hops from either
location; in Seattle I used the Microsoft ftp site and in Austin I
used the Dell computer ftp site. Here's an example of how close the
Dell site is in terms of a trace route:
1 16 ms 16 ms <10 ms 10.32.96.1
2 <10 ms <10 ms 15 ms 184.108.40.206
3 <10 ms 16 ms <10 ms 220.127.116.11
4 <10 ms 16 ms <10 ms 18.104.22.168
5 <10 ms 15 ms <10 ms 22.214.171.124
6 <10 ms 15 ms <10 ms 126.96.36.199
7 <10 ms 16 ms <10 ms gbr1-p70.auttx.ip.att.net [188.8.131.52]
8 <10 ms 15 ms 16 ms gbr4-p10.dlstx.ip.att.net [184.108.40.206]
9 <10 ms 16 ms 16 ms gbr2-p40.dlstx.ip.att.net [220.127.116.11]
10 <10 ms 16 ms 15 ms ar3-a3120s2.dlstx.ip.att.net [18.104.22.168]
11 16 ms 15 ms 16 ms 22.214.171.124
12 * * * Request timed out
13 16 ms 15 ms 16 ms bt185k2-dmz.us.dell.com [126.96.36.199]
14 16 ms 15 ms 16 ms 188.8.131.52
15 16 ms 15 ms 16 ms ausoladrcm25.us.dell.com [184.108.40.206]
I had a similar type connection to Microsoft in
Flashforward to Now
I had really wanted DSL in Austin, mostly because
of my 128kb experience and I run a modest server which is acceptable
under almost all DSL agreements but is forbidden under the
Time-Warner acceptable use policy. I talked to several DSL vendors
and all assured me I could get 1.5Mb, no problem.
I was almost ready to sign up but I thought I'd
check with a neighbor or two and sure enough, between the two they'd
tried for DSL three times. Each time they were promised 1.5Mb but
ended up with 128kb. Seems the tables the DSL providers use for
distance to the central office isn't correct.
My favorite ISP, Speakeasy, did offer to try it
for me and if it didn't work out to let me walk away, but I just
didn't feel I could burn the time required to go through the install
cycle, find out it didn't work and get in the cable install queue.
How Cable Has Changed
Firstly there was no install queue, I could have
picked up the cable modem at the Time-Warner facility and installed
it myself, but since I was getting TV cable and there wasn't a
charge I had them bring it out.
Installation of the 3Com cable model was as simple
as it gets; plug it in to the cable outlet via a standard co-ax
connector, select a NIC or USB connection to the computer and power
Nor is there any clunky software to install. Just
tell networking to automatically obtain an IP address and change
your connection type to LAN and that's it.
I had a casual conversation with a T-W tech and
they admitted that they had some serious balancing problems that
have since been resolved and my testing agrees with that. Oh, I
don't get the 4Mb that I got when I was virtually the only user on
the system, but in running a number of tests to the Dell site at all
times of the day I get 2.7-2.8Mb, even during cable's "heavy load"
The aforementioned AUP precludes a server. You can
buy a static IP address, I'm not sure of the purpose of that since
you can't run a server and T-W did refer me to their hosting service
which was laughable; their prices and services aren't even in the
ballpark, so I'll have to outsource even more of my server work to a
hosting service, but overall I'm impressed with the changes over the
past three years.
Until next time stay connected!