Sunday, August 31, 2008

Verizon FIOS vs. Comcast

It's good to have competition.

Comcast internet service offers maximum download/upload speeds "up to" 8/.768 Mbps for residential customers. The "up to" is key since the more people that are using the cable in your area the slower your speeds will be.

FIOS has a variety of packages but the middle tier residential package I have provides download/upload speeds of 20/5 Mbps. Comcast offers a "business" package that provides download/upload speeds of 16/2 Mbps.

My FIOS TV service is working great, the installation went smoothly, and the technician was competent, friendly and helpful. I ordered service Friday and had it on Saturday. FIOS TV includes over 200 channels and the picture quality is excellent for standard and HD broadcasts. Comcast has to use video compression for their video due to bandwidth limitations of their infrastructure, which leads to the blockiness you occasionally see.

The cost of FIOS TV is the same as what I was paying for Comcast basic cable.

It's good to have competition.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Verizon FiOS - Tips

Verizon has rolled out new national bandwidth tiers which are available to current FIOS internet customers free of charge. The kicker is that existing customers have to either call Verizon, or go to their website, to ask for the free upgrade to the higher speed. In my case I was getting 15/2 Mbps download/upload speeds which will increase to 20/5 Mbps. Additional information is contained in this Wikipedia article.

A money saving tip for anyone who is getting FIOS TV service and wants to connect multiple TV's is to call 1-888-GODIGITAL (1-888-463-4448) and ask for two free digital converter set top boxes. If you don't do this Verizon is happy to charge you $3.99 a month per you are saving about $100 a year by calling 1-888-GODIGITAL. There are some comments on this program at Engadget HD. The Motorola DCT 700 boxes you get are for analog TV's. If you have an HD capable TV and want to watch HD you will have to pay $9.99 a month for a HD box.

Everett is the second city in Washington to get FIOS TV, thanks to an approval vote by the City Council on July 23. In case you are curious Lynnwood was the first city in Washington to get FIOS TV.

I'm expecting the installer to show up sometime today and am pretty excited about getting to watch CSpan-2 (which Comcast pulled from their basic cable), TV Land, Turner Classic Movies and actually see some HD shows on my LCD TV.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Montana Sunrise

Montana Sunrise XVIII
Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen
Montana is a good place to watch the sunrise. In fact about any place is a good place. I like hearing and watching a city wake up just as much as out in the countryside. I was on my way to Anaconda, Montana when I took this picture.

We had a fun quick four day trip to Montana. We drove over 1500 miles in that time. The cost for gas works out to about 60 dollars per person so it's still the cheapest way to get there. You can't fly to the places we went anyway - so we would have had to fly to Butte or Bozeman and then rent a car.

Highlights of the trip were Owen's Meat Market in Cle Elum, WA. (best jerky), seeing "bears" in the Pioneer mountains that turned out to be a herd of cows, Elkhorn Hot Springs and the owner who told us to help ourselves to beer and wine from the cooler in the dining room during the night and just write down how much we took, seeing lots of kids having fun at Elkhorn including the ones outside the pool on the rocky slope where the hot water mixes with the cold creek, seeing Dillon and having coffee at the Kick Ass coffee shop, showing up at Fairmont Hot Springs and contrasting it to Elkhorn (Fairmont's current claim to fame is that Barack Obama stayed there), riding tandem bicycles (including having the seat on Rachel's bike come loose), seeing the little boys fishing in the pond from their home made raft and one of them who was about six jumping on his little motorbike and give us a riding exhibition with hill climbing and jumps, Betsy winning on the poker machine, going to see Mama Mia at the historic Washoe theater in Anaconda, going to Phillipsburg, and most of all just being together.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Taking Time

Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen
Life's a journey not a destination.

As Harry Chapin wrote, "It's got to be the going not the getting there that's good."

If you want to foster happiness and creativity, take the time to slow down and smell the roses - and while your at it try nibbling a few and later reading a book to learn more about them. Slowing down and taking our time, allows us to see all sorts of things to be curious about - providing us with opportunities for learning, growth and new discoveries.

We frequently treat our lives like a road trip where we want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. We pass a lot of interesting attractions on the way and think to ourselves, "one of these days I should stop there". Unfortunately in some sense - we will never pass this way again. That day, that time, that moment, is never going to be repeated.

Think of a river - if you sit down by the side of the river, or float along on top, you will see a lot of interesting things passing by. If you dive into the river, keep your head down and swim with the current you'll see the same thing in the water surrounding you, even though you have the sensation of movement. A lot of us are swimming frantically with our heads down every day.

Some of the most interesting people, places and ideas come to us on those unplanned moments. Take the time to allow for some serendipitous events each and every day - life's too short to do anything else.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sailboat at Sunset

Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen
Taken at Big Bass Lake in Northern Minnesota earlier this month.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Clarissa Park Rules

Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen
I thought this sign in the small town of Clarissa in central Minnesota was interesting. It would be unusual to find a place to camp free in most towns and cities but in Clarissa you can camp free for a week. The latest census showed 609 people in Clarissa, and it's off the beaten path, which probably explains how they can manage to allow free camping - with  playground equipment, swimming (in a creek), electricity, barbeques and bathrooms.

It's nice to see the civic pride of people in small town America by taking some of the Blue Highways. Driving north on highway 71 from I-94 you will pass through several small towns including Bertha, Browerville, Long Prairie and Sauk Centre - the home of Sinclair Lewis and the inspiration for his novel Main Street, which provides a less than rosy look at life in a small town. You are also in Lake Wobegon territory, where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average," so it can't be that bad.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Bob Dylan's House - Hibbing MN

Grand Marais Donut

I was taking pictures of the sunrise on Lake Superior and smelled
something heavenly. I was there first customer this morning.