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Penultimate Day – 2017

This past year was full of changes.

In January I dropped AT&T U-verse as my Internet provider and went back to cable. Because my wife wanted to keep our landline number, I had to go with my new provider’s gateway device and router. I wasn’t able to configure the house telephone wiring to accommodate the change so were using cordless phones which is working out alright. I had already gotten an Obihai device and set up a Google Voice number. I still have it connected but it doesn’t get much use.

In April, I reevaluated my need for a hosting provider. I’d been having some issues with my POP3 email accounts, particularly when using them with Thunderbird. I’d also had a few DNS issues when they retired some of their DNS servers which causes me some problems connecting with my blogs and web pages. Other than a few WordPress blogs on the site, the only really active Web pages were my genealogy pages.

I had been tossing the idea of dropping the host for a couple of months but when the bill for another year’s service showed up in my bank account at a time when I could not afford it, I decided to end it. I backed up everything down to my PC, updated email addresses, moved the blogs to my WordPress.com account, and ended my relationship with them. and let the domain names expire.

The other big change was upgrading my main PC. My HP 6005 had always been a little temperamental with Linux Mint but by November it began getting a lot more temperamental. I found a good deal at Micro-Center in Cincinnati on a refurbished Lenovo M91p. It was advertised with an i7 processor, 8 GB of memory, a 500 GB hard drive, and Windows 10.

After I got it home, I found that it had a 2 TB drive so I decided to keep the Windows 10 and dual boot it with Mint 18.1. (I still haven’t booted to the Windows partition and activated it. Since I’d previously set up an M91p for my wife with 24 GB of memory, I swapped some memory around to bring hers down to 16 GB and mine up to 16 GB. Once I was finished with the HP, I added its 16 GB to the M91. It’s been working well. I’m quite happy with it.

Throughout the year I’ve continued to improve my BASH scripting skills, developing a few new scripts and making some older scripts more robust. Most of my scripts are for routine tasks. I continued to tweak my conky script.

Recently I found HomeBank to manage and keep track of my financial accounts. It’s capable of downloading QIF files from financial institutions but I haven’t tried it yet. Quicken (on my Windows PC) has been prompting me to upgrade for a while now but once it’s no longer capable of downloading my transactions, I may not up upgrade and just use HomeBank exclusively, keeping my current version of Quicken to access past transactions. When that occurs, I’ll probably move my spreadsheets from the Windows PC to my Linux PC.

Tech goals for 2018? I plan to continue to reduce my dependence on Windows although, realistically, I’ll probably still need it for some tasks. I’ll probably look into running it on a VM but there are some things about VM I still need to figure out. I’ll continue to improve my scripting skills.


No more host

I received my invoice to renew my hosting for two more years last week and with money being a little tight these days, I had to reconsider my need for a hosted site and email. In the past year I’d had a few problems with the DNS servers and email but my host had always been very responsive in resolving every issue. It was just a couple weeks ago I’d finally fixed all of my email problems.

I took a good hard look at my activity on my sited. Because of the email issues, I really hadn’t been using the email accounts much and I use Gmail for most of my correspondence. Most of the content I had on rbromig.org and mojoreisen.com was quite static and hadn’t been updated in quite a while, to include my genealogy data. Two of the three blogs on the site were about the only content that was active, and I had the conky page which has been updated quite a bit lately.

I had been providing email accounts for my son and daughter-in-law and they’ve already told me it was okay to terminate that. I went through recent emails and changed the addresses for most of the ones I cared about. I backed up the entire site to my local computer so I wouldn’t lose any content. I backed up the blogs and exported the two more active ones to WordPress.com so they’re up and running. I may have lost a few readers in the process but I probably didn’t have that many readers anyway. I created a page on this blog for the Conky information and changed the commands to download the script and configuration files from my Dropbox.

Just after midnight this morning, after I’d shut down my computers, I got an email alert on my phone from my bank informing me that the amount for the hosting invoice had hit my account. My invoice had said that it needed to be paid by the 7th so I wasn’t expecting it to go through so soon. I had hoped to have a couple more days to make sure I had everything ready to close my account. I left a message with support explaining the situation, my intention to close out my account by the 7th, and requested a refund. Within a couple of hours, I received confirmation that the money would be refunded and the account would be closed. When I checked my bank account this morning there was both the charge and the refund pending.

They’ve been an excellent hosting provider and they’ve been very responsive to any problems I’ve had. I evaluated my need for hosted email and content and decided it was something that was nice to have but not really necessary. I would like to have a place for my genealogy information so I’ll be looking to see what I can find for that. Some of the information can be put on my “Official” weblog on WordPress.com. But right now, not having some kind of web site up feels strange. I’ve had a personal web site of some kind for many, many years going back to the days when I had a dial-up ISP. I’m going to miss having a personalized domain name.

Keeping the number

The journey to keep the land-line phone number we’ve had for over 20 years was arduous and tumultuous. I had changed my Internet provider from AT&T’s Uverse to Spectrum cable and had set up a new number through Google Voice. Everything was working quite well and I was very happy with it.

But there was pressure to maintain the old number and I discovered that it was possible to also have telephone service through my cable provider and port the number over, so I looked into it. My savings over my old provider would not be as great as they could have been with my original set up after converting back to cable but if it would keep peace, I’d do it.

I changed the plan, picked up the provider’s cable modem that supported the telephone, and installed it. I had to reconfigure my network, changing static IP addresses and default gateway settings but I got everything up and running. The new modem/router/gateway had wireless capability but once I had my WAP configured, I turned off the gateway’s wireless to avoid any potential conflicts. Plus, I didn’t really need wireless coverage in my neighbor’s house. The gateway’s wireless didn’t reach to the other end of my own house.

After waiting a few days for the number to be ported to the new provider, I hooked up a phone to the equipment and got nothing. After spending too much time with tech support and rebooting and resetting the gateway a few times, they scheduled a tech to come out the next day. After doing the hard reset, I had to reconfigure the gateway.

It took a while for the tech to get everything working again. He finally got the phone portion working but I had no Internet access. Then I had Internet access again but no phone. Finally, he closed the work order saying that it might tell the system work properly. After a few minutes, both phone and Internet were up and running.

I also spent quite a bit of time tinkering with the wiring in the phone box on the outside to adapt the house wiring. At this time I don’t know if that’s working since I’m using a set of wireless phones. The main unit is connected to the gateway and the satellite units are on her desk and mine. I’m thinking about moving the VoIP box to my room and connecting the corded phone I have there to it, using the Google Voice number.

Was it worth the trouble and effort? Only time will tell.

502 – Bad Gateway

While working on my blogs earlier today, I suddenly couldn’t connect to anything on my domains, not even my cPanel. I tried to connect on another browser and another computer and got a “502 Error Bad Gateway” message. I put in a ticket with my host and a while later got an email from them stating “We have found that your IP xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx was previously blocked by our server firewall, but for now it is unblocked.” There’s something about the wording that has me a little confused. The IP address was my public IP from my new Internet provider. I’m wondering about the “previously blocked” and “but for now it is unblocked”.

Is this something I need to be concerned about in the future?

Changed Provider

The tech arrived an hour ahead of schedule, good thing. I was able to use the old cable that I’d used for my cable modem years ago so there were no new holes in the way. Also a good thing. The tech hooked it up, called in the modem’s MAC address to register it, and we waited for over an hour to get connected. He said he’d never had to wait so long for it. Just a few minutes after he departed for his next job, the Welcome screen we’d been waiting for finally appeared.

I connected the router to the modem and the USFF Linux box and restarted the modem to get a good public address. I was able to connect to the Internet and everything looked good. I’ll switch everything else over later on today at a time when no one needs access. All I need to do is connect the router to the Cisco switch and patch the switch in my office to the router. I only have two devices with static IPs where I need to change the default gateway setting (the WAP and the NAS).

I should have the VoIP box by next weekend and once I have that set up, I can cut the umbilical cord to AT&T Uverse.

Time to change my provider?

This past Sunday my son came to me complaining about slow download speeds. He’d run a speed test from is phone and the download and upload speeds were dismal, less than 2Mbps on the wireless. I ran a couple of different speed tests on my computer and confirmed his findings. The first run was 1.38 Mbps download and 1.29 Mbps upload. Running it again returned 2.32 Mbps and 1.26 Mbps.

My current provider is AT&T (Uverse) so I ran their speed test twice with the following results:

  • 10.3 Mbps download / 1.36 Mbps upload / 32 ms latency
  • 4.66 Mbps download / 1.12 Mbps upload / 49 ms latency

The Internet package I have from AT&T is supposed to be giving me download speeds between 6.1 and 12 Mbps and upload speeds between 512 Kpbs and 1.5 Mbps.

I ran the AT&T speed test again this morning and got more satisfactory results – 14.13 Mbps download, 1.99 Mbps upload, and 32 ms latency. That result actually exceeds the advertised speeds for my package. Maybe the performance I saw on Sunday was a fluke.

Sunday’s Internet speeds got me to thinking about going back to the local cable provider for my Internet access. Their basic plan offers download speeds of up to 15 Mbps at a monthly cost that is $10 to $15 less than what I’m paying now for Internet service. AT&T caps my data at 1TB while cable would be unlimited access.

Of course, I’d be losing my landline phone unless I purchased a VoIP device and set up Google Voice using my current phone number. The hardware and the one-time set up fee to do that would be $100 or less but I’d have phone service at no additional cost expect a small annual fee for E911 service. It’s something I should look into.

Overall, I’ve not been particularly impressed with my AT&T setup. Their Residential Gateway (RG) is proprietary and needs to be rebooted frequently. I had to turn off the WiFi on it because it would drop the wireless signal and it was only 801.11G. (I used my old Linksys WRT54G router to provide WiFi and later I installed a D-Link WAP)

Going back to cable I’d need to lease or buy a cable modem. My old Linksys router (with WiFi disabled) would fill in for the RG. About the only configuration change I’d have to make with my network settings would be to change the default gateway address since the AT&T RG and the Linksys use dffferent gateway addresses.

For now, I’m going to monitor the situation and try to put aside some money for possible hardware expenditures. Moving to back to cable seems like it would be more cost effective with the added benefit of non-proprietary equipment.

Nameserver decommissioning

I recently received notification that my web host would be decommissioning its old nameservers in a couple of days. I got on chat with their support and confirmed that both of my domains are on the correct nameservers. I also logged into my registrar account for the add-on domain and changed the information there.

Given the issues I’ve had in the past few months with MX records and access problems, particularly with the add-on domain, I wanted to be sure. I’ll know for sure in a few days. I’m still thinking about letting the second domain expire. I can download the files to my PC and move the two blogs to my primary domain or to WordPress.com. As for any other content I have on the domain, I’ll look at it and see if any of it is worth putting back on-line.

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