Spam via the USPS

I get so much mail from Clearwire, and I don’t really know why.  It would seem to me that if I don’t respond to their mail and advertisements the first forty times they send it, they should stop pestering me.

Honestly, I get around 3-5 pieces of mail via the USPS from them per week.  Today, I sent an email to the only e-mail addresses I could find for them on their website: Investor Relations and Public Relations department.

I’m getting tons of mail via USPS every week from ClearWire asking me if I’d like to sign up.  I’m not sure why your marketing/sales organizations feel compelled to deliver these letters to me on average of 3-5 times per week.  What I’d really love to sign up for is finding out how to stop getting these advertisements.

Is there a way of opting my mailing address out of these mailings?

Thanks for your help!

Perhaps my mail was a bit snarky, but I’m ok with that generally.  Stop killing trees and filling up my mailbox with junk, I say.

Besides, if I wanted to be really snarky, I’d take a peek at their latest SEC 10K filing, and let their investor relations group know just how much their mailing things to me impacted their earnings per share.

Geeking Out at Home

Diann and I spent last night doing something we didn’t think we’d be doing yet: looking at houses online.

To this date, I’ve avoided the insane Seattle real-estate market, but we figure it’s time to bite the bullet and jump in.  It just doesn’t show any indication of slowing down in the next 3 years or so more than it has in the last two months.

This is where the geeking out comes into play.  You see, our realtor had sent us a list of listings (list of listings? that doesn’t sound right) that we were supposed to look over and pick out a few that we were interested in.  Having only laptops in the house doesn’t exactly lend itself towards sharing screens to look at things.

(Warning: lots of product identifiers coming up)

Luckily, my Samsung TV (HL-S5687) has a VGA input.  I connected up the laptop to the TV, and we suddenly had a 1920×1080 (1080p for you theater buffs) screen about 10 feet away from us.  This was brilliant, except for the lack of ability to control the computer.  Several years back, though, I had bought a Bluetooth mouse, and I paired it up successfully to my Lenovo T60p.

There we are, sitting on our couch, looking at home listings on our TV.  Diann had our older laptop looking at addresses and tracking which MLS numbers we liked. So, you’d think we’d be content there.  Then Diann started playing music, and the tinny speakers on the laptop drove me nuts.

I cranked up the Xbox 360, and enabled Windows Media Connect on the laptop.  Shuffled all the music in the 360’s media player, and then we had our background music.

To sum up: Laptop connected wirelessly to the ‘net and VGA to a TV, controlled by a wireless Bluetooth mouse.  Another laptop connected wirelessly to the ‘net, streaming music to the Xbox 360.

I wish I had taken pictures.

FiOS Installed

At about 7:15am, a Verizon guy showed up at my door to complete my FiOS installation.  A lot of people have asked me about it, so I figured I’d post a bit about it as well as a few pictures of what they actually install.

About a month ago, on a Tuesday, I placed an order via Verizon’s website for FiOS.  I got an option to schedule the installation for that Friday, and scheduled it to happen in the morning.  The Verizon tech arrived right on time, but, unfortunately, their contractor had not yet run the fiber from the pole to our house.  We rescheduled the Verizon guy for the following Friday.

He came back, and the fiber was still not run.  Apparently, the contractor had run into a permitting issue with the city, and hadn’t notified Verizon.  The Verizon guy gave me his cell phone number, and asked me to call him to reschedule when the fiber finally arrived (after I grumbled a bit about having taken off work two mornings to get this done).

Two weeks later, I got home and there was a spool of fiber sticking out of the ground on the side of the house.  I rescheduled with the Verizon folks, and a week later (due to my schedule) the guy came back out to finish the install.

They installed two devices: a battery backup unit, as well as the ONT (Optical Network Terminal).

Battery Backup The battery backup unit is a small unit containing a gel battery that should be good for 3 to 5 years (or so the tech told me).  It plugs into a power outlet, and provides power to the ONT.  The battery backup unit is there to provide power in the event of a power outage.  This is probably a requirement because of the possibility of putting a voice line on the FiOS — which I didn’t need, so didn’t order.  At any rate, I think the FCC mandates that the phone company must be able to provide you dialtone for a certain period of time following a power outage, and this unit let’s Verizon meet that requirement. (I may be wrong, it’s been years since I’ve deal with telecom laws)

FiOS ONT The unit that does the heavy lifting is the Optical Network Terminal.  This was installed on the outside of the house, though I’d guess it could just as easily be installed inside.  The fiber optic cable (single mode at 1390nm for data, I asked) plugs in here, and the ONT outputs on either a standard ethernet cable or a coax cable.  The Verizon installer was able to put my data signal onto an existing coax cable running to my in-house wiring point.  The awesome and convenient thing is that he was able to leave the cable on that piece of coax as well, so no additional cabling was needed, and I still have my digital cable on the same wire.  Verizon’s router that they provide can take either an input from the ethernet or coax.  The router actually seems to perform better than my previous Linksys WRT54AG did, which was a pleasant surprise.  To my shock, the Verizon router comes configured for WiFi out of the box — with WEP enabled!  This was unexpected by me.  I reconfigured it for no WEP but MAC address restrictions (yes, I do understand the tradeoffs I’ve made, and I’m ok with that).

Speedtest.net Results

All in all, the install took about an hour and a half and it works at slightly over the speed that I ordered.  Here’s my results from speedtest.net over the WiFi.  I ordered the 5/2 package, and when I did the test earlier from a wired connection, I was getting 5.2/2.3.  Not too shabby.

Vegetarians, avert your eyes!

Fired up the Big Green Egg again this weekend to cook fajitas for a close group of friends.  By cook fajitas, I mean cook lots of fajitas.  We picked up a whopping ten pounds of flank steak from Amazon Fresh and cooked it all.  If that wasn’t enough, we also cooked up some chicken fajitas; probably another two pounds worth of food.

10 pounds of flank steak

Blockbuster Total Access Changes

I use (and love) Netflix, but I’ve been following this whole hoopla about the changes that Blockbuster is doing with their Netflix competitor, Total Access.  I’ve also been trying to persuade my office-mate to ditch Blockbuster in favor of Netflix. I think I may have found the solution…

Knowzy.com put up an article that outlines the Total Access changes.  Reading it, I can’t help but think of a lot of infamous New York City based camera stores.  Read the next paragraph if you don’t know about the NYC camera store racket, otherwise, skip the paragraph. 

You see, when you search online for cameras, you will find many of them at unbelievably cheap prices.  You go to order your camera, which claims to be in stock, and all is well.  Then, a few hours later, you get a call from the camera store, and they try to sell you accessories: "Well, you’ll need a memory card.  You’ll need an additional battery.  How about a tripod?"  If you don’t buy these accessories (which typically have higher margins for the company in question), they’ll suddenly tell you that your camera went out of stock.  (People, seriously, do a store search on resellerratings.com before you buy a digital camera or computer parts)  This scam is pretty well known, especially for camera "stores" in Brooklyn.  I use the term "store" loosely, as people have taken photos of them and found them to be nothing but abandoned storefronts often times.  Just do a search for Brooklyn Camera Stores and you’ll see what I mean.

(side note: B&H Photo is a glaring exception to this NYC camera store hate that I have.  They rock. Seriously.  You may spend more money with B&H than you would elsewhere, but you’ll be happier in the end.)

So, anyway, back to Blockbuster.  It seems that they’ve confirmed that they’re basically singling out customers that exchange movies from the store most recently (which drives up their costs) and/or never buy anything at the store.  This is a racket, plain and simple.  You don’t buy our high-margin stuff, and we won’t let you have access to our low-margin stuff.

Nice business sense, Blockbuster.  This is downright slimeball behavior.