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January 14, 2004

Life, Death, Change, and Wireless

When I last made time to blog I was in Atlanta. I write this now from the 11th story of a building in Arlington, VA. When I look out the window (if a could see a little more to the left) I look over the Potomac towards the Mall. The Iwo Jima Memorial is just down there.

I've moved, yes, sort of. Back in November I was scrambling to try to land a post in privacy at USPS, but the contracts we were hoping to use as vehicle to park me there were not the van the prime contractor had hoped, more of a specialized sports car or something, so another prime was designated because their vehicle fit the parking spot better.

While all this was going on I was playing far too much Star Wars Galaxies to keep from stressing too much. (It works, really!) This had sife-effects, about which I will probably write at some time in the near furture.

Then near the end of November, with the crash of hopes and fears of a move to D.C., the prime contractor called the sub (my "boss") who called me with another opening, this at a large Federal agency. It was all rush-rush (for government). Could I start January 5th? I replied that it wasn't out of the question, but I'd need to know pretty fast so I could get started managing the logistics. I heard nothing for two weeks.

The week before Christmas, no, the Friday before that week, I got copied on emails that affirmed that of course I had the position, wasn't that made clear two weeks earlier? (No.) So now I had two weeks to arrange to move to start on January 5. Have you ever tried to find a place to live over the Christmas and New Years holiday? Don't.

So I sit here typing this. I'm camping in a suite-style hotel while trying to talk to apartment managements. It gets dark earlier than I expected (D.C. really is east of Atlanta) and they all close at 6pm. Weekends appear to be my best hope. My start date was delayed to Monday the 12th, which helped a little. Now I sit and wait on paperwork that needs processing before I can DO anything.

To compound everything, insanely, the morning after Christmas my Dad died. He was back in the Amazon with Mom, filling in for a missionary on furlough. He went out for his morning walk (he's been a runner all his life, but at 74 his concession to age was to slow down to a fast walk), came back early, and Mom saw him collapse on the porch. He rallied three times briefly, once to say "no!" when Mom wanted to rush him to the hospital, then was gone on ahead. He'd just recently passed the Brazilian pilot's physicals, so it was a bit of a surprise. Those involve very stringent stress tests for the cardio-vascular system, and he passed easily. The cause of death was undetermined, but involved some sort of circulatory system failure.

He was buried there, in Benjamim Constant, Amazonas, Brazil. A couple of my sisters managed to make the trip in time for the burial. My passport was expired. I plan to go down there later this year, that had been the plan before.

The Verizon wireless I put into this notebook is both wonderful and disappointing. I love the flexibility, but the performance is subpar. I had the notebook on the whole trip up from Atlanta and I was in touch with a friend the whole way. We were connected via chat, even if we only really sent anything when I paused for a brief break from driving. I stayed mostly connected with a couple breaks. At the Georgia-South Carolina border there was a dead spot in coverage. Just south of Charlotte I had another 20 miles of broken connectivity and then a long one up on the North Carolina-Virginia border. But I was connected about 8 of the 9.5 hours I was traveling. That was pretty impressive.

But, despite words from a user here in DC to the contrary, the service here is not that good. The performance is lower than advertised, and there are more drops and infrastructure problems than there should be for an "established" telecom company. It appears that I have to look up domain names twice to succeed when browsing, no idea why. Sometimes DNS fails completely. Disconnecting and reconnecting usually solves the problem. They may have some flakey DNS servers and it may be that reconnecting assigns me a different one, but the every-second-lookup failure is pretty consistent.

Sometimes packets just get dropped. I don't lose the wireless link, and some traffic inbound comes in, so it does not appear to be the wireless end of things. It looks more like it's the backend infrastructure connecting them to the internet. Oh, yes, I do run for hours at a time with no visible loss of packets. Then everything starts dropping. Sometimes it corrects itself after a while. Sometimes a disconnect and reconnect fixes it. Occasionally not, and I just have to wait a while to get back the service I'm pay for. Eventually I'll start hassling customer service, but not until I have a viable alternative. (Need an apartment with DSL!)

And the client end of things is eating enough RAM that SWG is locking up about twice as often as it does otherwise.

My review, then, is: if you need flexibility and anywhere-service, it's pretty darned good. If you need reliability, it rates about a D+ or C-. Okay, I'm spoiled. I'm used to BellSouth's DSL service. That isn't perfect, but Verizon makes me appreciate just how good BellSouth is.

Posted by dan at January 14, 2004 11:40 AM | TrackBack

Sorry to hear about your father. Good luck with the new job -- and welcome to the neighborhood!

Posted by: nate at January 14, 2004 04:51 PM
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