Well, Now All I Can Complain About Is the Price

Ding dong, the witch is dead.

Ars Technica:

AT&T is getting rid of Internet Preferences, the controversial program that analyzes home Internet customers’ Web browsing habits in order to serve up targeted ads.

“To simplify our offering for our customers, we plan to end the optional Internet Preferences advertising program related to our fastest Internet speed tiers,” an AT&T spokesperson confirmed to Ars today. “As a result, all customers on these tiers will receive the best rate we have available for their speed tier in their area. We’ll begin communicating this update to customers early next week.”

Data collection and targeted ads will be shut off, AT&T also confirmed.

Since AT&T introduced Internet Preferences for its GigaPower fiber Internet service in 2013, customers had to opt into the traffic scanning program in order to receive the lowest available rate. Customers who wanted more privacy had to pay another $29 a month for standalone Internet access; bundles including TV or phone service could cost more than $60 extra when customers didn’t opt in.

Seems curious that they would drop this so suddenly when it’s been a huge part of their push up until now. It was the thing most deterring me from switching to GigaPower, which is actually available at my address.

Now if I can just get them to drop this bit on pricing, which makes it $30/mo more than what I’m paying right now:

The lowest price depends on how much competition is in each city. AT&T tended to match Google Fiber’s $70 price for gigabit Internet in cities where both ISPs operate, while charging more elsewhere. Last year, AT&T customers outside Google Fiber areas had to pay an extra $40 a month, even with Internet Preferences enabled, though more recently it’s been an extra $20.

I’m not holding my breath.

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Remote-First vs. Remote-Friendly

Zach Holman has some great points about creating a work culture that truly embraces remote work:

I think there’s a split between being remote-friendly — hiring some workers in a different city — and remote-first, meaning you build your development team around a workflow that embraces the concepts of remote work, whether or not your employees are remote.

By forcing yourself to use chat instead of meetings, by forcing yourself to use chatops to mercilessly automate every single manual action, you end up creating things faster, with more built-in context, and greater ability to share your knowledge across the organization.

If you’re not working in a remote-first environment today, not only are you not going to have a remote-friendly environment tomorrow, but you’re going to eventually have a hard time retaining talent and keeping competitive pace in the future.

The world of work is changing. That’s just the way it is.

If your workplace is not already looking at adjusting to become remote-first, you should take a good look at why that is. There’s no reason for lots of work to require sitting in a specific office with other people. I’ve been working remote-first for almost six years now, and I don’t want to look back.

The future is already here; it just requires that businesses throw off the chains of tradition and embrace location-agnostic workplaces.

Markel Retro Week: Why You Should Wire Your House

In my previous post today, I talked about how I’d seen some network performance issues with my wireless connections. I wanted to bring that up in more detail and show the problems I’ve had with my home networking.

In the end, if you like playing games online or do anything similarly latency-dependent, you should have anything you play on connected with wires as far as I’m concerned. Let’s take a look.

Topography

I have three basic connection nodes in my home:

  1. a wired network that is comprised of a wired router, an 8-port switch in one room, and a four-port switch in another
  2. an Asus RT-AC66U wireless router that has been placed in access point mode (and was the prime suspect in my internet woes)
  3. an older Netgear (I don’t remember the model number and I’m lazy) that has been placed in what they call access point mode, which doesn’t really resemble how an access point works (not important why)

The “Dark Knight”

The Asus router is the “Dark Knight” of internet fame. I’ve been largely happy with it since I bought it, but in recent days, I’ve seen some bad performance out of it in some applications. I tried to wire as much as I could through it and only use wireless if I had to.

The router supports 802.11ac, and so does one of my laptops. The throughput on it is amazing; I can get my full internet connection speed through wifi on it, which is about 105 mbps. BUT:

Shepard:~ ryanmarkel$ ping -c 100 google.com
PING google.com (74.125.224.164): 56 data bytes
[…]
--- google.com ping statistics ---
100 packets transmitted, 100 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 67.185/86.720/407.895/45.314 ms

Whoa, what? That’s a pretty big range there, and the standard deviation for the connection is nuts. That’s from about five feet away from the router in its new location on the main floor of my house.

I wondered if it was just the transport, so I tried a different 5 GHz connection.

The Old Standby

Here’s a result from the Netgear dual-band router I have in WAP mode in the other room (still on the main floor) of my house. This is from across the house itself, almost all the way on the diagonal:

--- google.com ping statistics ---
100 packets transmitted, 100 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 66.758/80.619/398.580/46.795 ms

It’s almost as bad. And that’s on the connection type most of my devices are using: 802.11n at 5 GHz.

Apparently, You Can Stop the Signal

At this point, I’m pretty sure it’s an interference problem. I’m seeing it on two different bits of hardware, using two different protocols. And using an old wireless bridge I have upstairs, this is what I see for the neigborhood when I run a check for networks:

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 1.06.51 AM

On the main floor of the house, or checking with one of my laptops, it’s even worse. I can find something like two dozen access points if I try. Looks like some people on U-Verse have newer 2-Wire gateways than others, and Charter has people on 802.11n gateways, which isn’t a bad thing, but wireless access points are everywhere now.

And I’m in a pretty medium-density subdivision. I have no idea what it must be like in an urban area.

At least I’m not seeing packet loss. But I know I can do one better.

When in Doubt, Run Copper

From the same laptop that served up the first score, and using the same 802.11ac router, I ran a connection test using the Apple USB gigabit ethernet adapter. Look what we have here:

--- google.com ping statistics ---
100 packets transmitted, 100 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 66.435/68.782/75.167/1.719 ms

Low, consistent, stable. That standard deviation is more along the lines of what I would want if I were doing anything latency-dependent.

I’m happy that my decision to wire the house ended up being the smart choice. I’m going to mess with wireless channels and other things to try and get some better performance out of this, but with a wired connection, I get the best of everything:

  • stable latency
  • faster device-to-device file transfers
  • fewer problems due to wireless ubiquity

As mentioned above, if you plan on playing games on the internet, try as best you can to have a wired connection for doing so. I have a feeling you’ll be much happier with the results.

And if you have any ideas or suggestions for what I could do to increase wireless performance, by all means, leave me a comment or a pingback. (And you can find the raw ping data I got for the tests listed above in this gist.)

Markel Retro Week: Wired Gateway

It feels a bit like I’ve stepped back in time this week as I have some new home/office stuff coming in that in some ways is a bit of a throwback.

Yesterday was part one, when I installed a wired gateway for my home internet connection.

That’s right; the hardware that connects my home to the internet and does all the router-y things for all the devices I have doesn’t have wireless antennae anymore. It’s wired-only. I got tired of wondering if the “outages” I was experiencing were my wireless connection, the router itself, or the internet connection, so I decided to uncouple some of the factors involved there.

The model router I picked up is the TP-Link TL-R600VPN. It’s a super-simple piece of hardware and so far I’m pretty happy with it. Pretty basic controls, no-nonsense setup, and no limits on reserved DHCP addresses – which is pretty good, because right now that list looks like this and I’ve only set up half the devices in the house:

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 12.51.46 AM

It’s only been about a half-day, but already I feel like things are more stable and performance seems better. I ran some numbers on the internet connection that lead me to believe that my router is at fault, and if that’s the case, then I’m kind of disappointed. I’ll talk more about those numbers later today – and tell you why you should do what you can to make sure your home is wired for ethernet.

Who Has Control?

For decades, the overriding construct of good marketing and public relations was that you had to tightly control the message your company was broadcasting to the world. Commercials, press releases, and other materials were carefully meted, checked, and rechecked to make sure everything was “on message”.

In the 00’s (the “aughts,” if you’re wondering how to pronounce that), we like to call these things “talking points.” Even though we are still in an environment where the method by which we share information is changing on a frequent basis, companies still like to make sure that everyone is toeing the line. After all, you want to make sure that everything is portrayed in the most positive light possible, right?

The problem with this approach is that in this post-Cluetrain, post-information-revolution age, control is an illusion.

Companies don’t have control anymore.

The control has passed to the consumers. To the rank-and-file. Your company might try to stay on-message, but look at the statistics. People don’t trust “official” communication now. They see it as too closely managed, too dishonest and impersonal. They want to hear from someone they trust.

Your customers have already taken the conversation to places you possibly haven’t thought. Are they on Facebook? Twitter? A forum somewhere? Email lists of their colleagues? You’re not going to reach them by elbowing in on their turf with an impersonal, robotic corporate mouthpiece and a few posts somewhere. They don’t want subversion; they don’t want to be crushed. They might even be avoiding you.

They want you to participate. And they want you to participate—as in you, the person who is reading this. Not your company. Not some official place for them to gather information. They want to hear from people on the inside, from people very much like them. They want to “get to know you” and to build a relationship of trust.

Sometimes, they want to lavish praise on you. Sometimes, they want to dump on you. They want to share their opinions, and they want honest, personal responses and discussion. The reward for your participation in this conversation is that you earn a measure of trust and can then share with them things that interest you—and those are very likely the things you are working on. (At least, they should be, or you should find a different job.)

They’re in the driver’s seat now.

What are you going to do about it?

So If She Weighs as Much as a Duck…

I spent a good portion of today and this evening mulling over the methods for application deployment and trying to figure out a few things; I think it only relevant and interesting that I share whatever insights I have gleaned from very likely thinking too hard.

For some time, I have resisted the very in vogue notion that the future of computing is “in the cloud,” as it were, though no one is quite sure where the cloud is and I’m pretty certain that no one person owns that cloud. Listen to tech podcasts or read tech news for a short amount of time, and you’ll see that many in the technology punditry business are saying that before long, many computers will be nothing more than dummy terminals. You won’t have Microsoft Office, you won’t have complicated desktop applications, and you certainly won’t have the complex operating systems you have now or store your files locally – everything will be handled through Internet-based communication. Your documents and your files will be stored “in the cloud,” and my impression is that everyone wants a piece of this cloud before it floats away.

It wasn’t until today that I really understood the appeal of this methodology.

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