2009
08.20

UPDATE 3: Here is the official Comcast information regarding the new speed tiers. Note that, according to the site, PowerBoost has upper limits depending on the speed tier you’re using. Comcast has deployed these limits in some ares, however they aren’t here in Denver yet. When they are, I’ll report/moan/whine/complain about them in typical blogger style.

UPDATE 2: According to other Denver-area folks, the DOCSIS 3 upgrade does not require a truck roll, as I suspected. Just go to your local Comcast store (the closest one to Golden is in Wheat Ridge, 11501 W 44th Ave), make the upgrade and pick up a modem if you want to rent one.

UPDATE: Apparently DOCSIS 3.0 in Golden went mere hours ago (this morning, to be exact). So if Comcast representatives don’t seem to know what they’re talking about yet, try to forgive them; the northern part of the Denver metro doesn’t even have DOCSIS 3 turned on yet. Some places aren’t even on DOCSIS 2.

Also, if you want to get a Motorola SurfBoard 6120 modem to take advantage of DOCSIS 3 speeds (or channel-bonding PowerBoost, which from what I hear works even on lower tiers) they can be had at Amazon for about $93. On the flip side, that’s 29 months worth of modem rental fees, and prices will go down for the modems as time goes on. On the other hand, if you plan on sticking with a non-DOCSIS 3.0 Comcast tier, looking around for a cheap modem could put you out ahead of rental fee costs in under a year.

Finally, for those wondering where Qwest’s service falls in relation to Comcast’s in terms of speed, Comcast trumps both Qwest tiers available here unless you guy the Economy tier on Comcast. On the other hand, Qwest costs less than Comcast when not on promotion…

ORIGINAL POST

Sometime in the past couple of days, Comcast has gone live with their DOCSIS 3.0 service in the Denver area, just in time for school. Below are current speed tiers and prices based on what I was able to gather from a Comcast rep online. The two highest-end tiers require a new channel-bonding DOCSIS 3.0 modem like the Motorola SurfBoard 6120 (or you can get whatever Comcast has in stock, which might be a Cisco model instead).

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2009
08.11

So you got a shiny MacBook as a graduation present. While it’s a great computer, it isn’t quite compatible with everything on-campus. You’ll need Windows and Office for the best on-campus experience. Here’s how to get both with relatively little pain in the pocket:

  1. Don’t buy Vista. Wait for Windows 7 to come out. Meanwhile, grab the Windows 7 Release Client. It’ll be available for download until the 20th, at which point I’ll put up a non-Microsoft link here (it’s legal; they’ll still give you a key directly, until Windows 7′s actual release).
  2. Get an upgrade or OEM edition. On Vista, installing an upgrade edition of Vista twice (once without a key, then once with one over the first install) gave you a working copy of Windows at a significantly lower cost than a full edition of the software. There’s no reason why it won’t work that way with Windows 7. Or you can grab an OEM edition when they become available. If you’re looking for a place to buy Windows, I prefer Newegg.
  3. You don’t need ultimate. Windows 7 Home Premium is great for 95% of folks. Windows 7 Professional takes that operating system and builds on it, satisfying another 4.9%. Translation: you don’t need to shell out for an expensive Windows 7 Ultimate copy.
  4. Buy Office with The Ultimate Steal. Microsoft has a special promotion for college students (read: potential pirates if the price isn’t low enough). With the promotion, Office 2007 is just $59.95. It’s worth every penny at that price. Microsoft also offers Windows Vista Ultimate at a discount, but there’s no reason to waste money on Vista this late in the game.
  5. Use VirtualBox if you don’t want to reboot. It’s a fast and free alternative to using Windows under Parallels or VMWare Fusion, and there’s no rebooting required. One hangup: Microsoft’s activation system may not like running two copies of Windows 7 (one virtualized, one real), even though they’re on the same system. There are ways to get around this is the problem comes up, but they’re, uh, not exactly legal.

Bottom line: with less than $200 ($60-ish for Office, $120 for Windows 7) you don’t have to use the computer labs to do Windows-centric work (trust me, it’ll happen if you stick around Mines long enough).

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2009
08.09

In case you’ve been here before and are now questioning your sanity, yes, this is a different WordPress template than what this blog used to use. Also, I’ve gone back and tagged all Tech Break posts with keywords relating to post content, in case you want to, say, pull up all posts relating to Google’s Android operating system. The tags aren’t quite perfect, but my intention is to tag every post from here on out to make things easy to search.

I also have added “more tags” on posts so most posts aren’t displayed in full on multi-post blog pages. This should make Tech Break slightly easier to browse through, rather than having a very lengthy page for each collection of posts.

Last but not least, I corrected a few punctuation, capitalization, spelling and typographical errors in my previous posts. I didn’t catch ‘em all, but things should look slightly better now.

Hope you like the changes!

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2009
08.09

In all fairness to Qwest, the last post about their sly-fox DSL pricing schemes was a bit harsh. The company is in a mountain of debt, and yet they are trying to roll out next-gen internet speeds in “select areas”. But what exactly is this next generation internet, and what makes it different from what’s available right now? Well, here are some answers (twelve, to be exact):

  1. Qwest’s medium of choice from here on out is VDSL2.
  2. AT&T also uses VDSL, albeit a generation older (for now), for their U-Verse network.
  3. Unlike AT&T, Qwest isn’t going to try to run a TV service over their VDSL network, leaving more bandwidth for internet-only service.
  4. VDSL2, unlike VDSL, works over copper “loop” lengths longer than a few thousand feet, albeit at speeds comparable to Qwest’s older “Fiber to the Node” ADSL2+ system.
  5. Due to (4), all Qwest upgrades will be to VDSL2 equipment, with no ADSL2+ intermediate step.
  6. VDSL2 requires a special modem, in contrast to garden-variety ADSL2+. Qwest’s VDSL2 modem is the ActionTec Q1000, which has built-in 802.11n wireless, gigabit Ethernet and backward compatbility with older DSL systems.

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2009
08.09

Welcome (a bit early) to the 2009-2010 school year. For those of you moving off-campus, you’ll need internet access. Get Comcast if it’s available to you. Get US Cable if it’s not. If neither provider is available then (and only then) get Qwest DSL. Be creful though; Qwest’s pricing can get crazy quickly, once all the promotions are peeled away.

Qwest does business a little differently than Comcast. Whereas Comcast’s website tends to emphasize non-promotional pricing for internet tiers (which run $35, $55 and $65 per month without TV, depending on whether you want 1 Mbps, 6 Mbps or 8 Mbps download speeds, s=respectively), Qwest prefers to tuck non-promotional pricing away behind a few layers of internet fluff. The result: Qwest’s deals seem better than Comcast’s…and they are, as long as you ditch their service when their promotions expire and rates steepen dramatically.

Even with Qwest’s “Price For Life” option (which requires a two-year contract on service), you can’t lock in Qwest’s best promotional rates. Price for Life just shaves $10-$13 off of Qwest’s after-promo price, turning highway robbery into something more palatable.

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2009
05.03

Seven Awesome Linux Apps

I use Linux. Not as a main operating system on either of my three physical computers (iMac, MacBook, IdeaPad) however there’s a very good chance that I have a few SSH (secure shell for the uninitiated) sessions open to various virtual servers around the country, and I’ve probably got a virtualized instance of some Linux flavor sitting in VirtualBox, or maybe even running.

As such, I’ve found that there are a few commandline utilities that will make your live better/easier if you’re working on Linux. The cool thing about the operating system is that a one-line command will generally install any of the applications I’m about to list.

Finally, my main Linux distribution is Ubuntu, even on the virtual servers. Don’t judge…it’s built on the resource-light Debian distribution, is the biggest thing on the desktop/notebook/netbook market at the moment, and seems to run stably enough in my environment. No matter how non-1337 my techie coworket at The Oredigger says I am. Seriously dude, you’re trying to run a server on Fedora? They aren’t even trying to be a server distribution.

Onward…

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2009
05.01

Want to make sure a file is absolutely bit-for-bit (okay, not exactly but the probabilities are astronomical of has collisions) identical to a “genuine” file copy? Want to see if you downloaded said file correctly? Compare hashes, AKA checksums.

Basically, a hash condenses a file’s data into a small, pseudo-unique string of bits that is identical between identical files but otherwise different. Many files on the internet have their MD5 and/or SHA1 checksums posted to help you ensure your downloaded file is the same as the file on their servers.

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2009
04.30

Mines’ E-mail system

Sorry for the utter lack of content here lately. To tide things over, check out this e-mail sent on the 27th to everyone at Mines. Apparently we’re not switched to GMail yet, and the campus’s mail servers are more cranky than ever. Not so point fingers, but the enterprising folks at AC&N could probably build a $1000 rig that could easily do mail serving duties for the five thousand or so people on the system. But not yet…

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2009
03.25

If you’re using Comcast for internet right now, you’re either renting a modem from them, or you’ve bought one. If you’re renting, chances are you’re paying around $3.20 per month for the privelege. In that case, your modem is likely a cheap Scientific Atlanta/Cisco model that you could get for $20 off of eBay.

But before you go and get the modem off of eBay, check this out.

The item in question is the Motorola SB (SurfBoard) 6120, a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem. Aside from being rather expensive (regular cable modems run around $50-$60 in stores), it’s pretty much future-proof as far as cable systems go. That’s what the DOCSIS 3.0 is for.

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2009
03.22

Ever needed to share a block of text? How about just copying code of some sort from one computer to another? If you’re a Mines student this is probably the case, since most of us have to take C++ or an equivalent.

With that in mind, check out the list below. What are these sites, which vary in form but not much in function? Pastebins. Paste your text in, and that text is made available via a link for you and/or others to see. Plus, many patebins ad line numbers and syntax highlighting to the pasted material. The bottom line: the service is useful, the providers are many, and you just might find sometime that a pastebin is just what you need to get a bit of text from point A to point B.

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