Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Cable Frustration

My husband and I have been using a relatively slow ADSL (NTT FLETS) connection for quite some time. It is 1.5 Mbps which has been just fine for the most part. When our cable company representative came by to evaluate the ability to upgrade our cable access to HD and add in some channels, we discussed getting an integrated cable T.V./internet access/telephone package with an upgrade to 30 Mbps on the internet speed front. Using the integrated package would save us about $20 a month over the total amount of money for services we have been paying to our ISP and the phone company (and for cable T.V.).

My main concern initially was about whether or not the Japanese set-up software would run in a legible fashion on my computers which have English operating systems. The PCs have no Japanese capability installed. The Mac, like all Macs, can pretty much handle any language though it's not always 100% reliable that the software will accept the Mac itself. We asked the cable representative to bring us the software disc so I could test run it. It turned out it was all in Flash and ran just fine on the Mac.

The Flash interface of the set-up program makes everything look like a happy experience.

For those who don't know about the rigors of running software which uses double-byte characters rather than regular characters in English fonts, you can sometimes get total gibberish as your OS attempts to substitute characters for the double-byte ones. Since Flash uses graphics, all the text is nothing more than a picture so no OS fonts have to be used. The software ran okay on my PCs as well though one of the dialog boxes at the end was full of question marks and nothing else.

The cable installers came at around 4:30 yesterday and started working outside the apartment. They had to set up wiring for the phone mainly. We complicated matters for them by insisting that they not disconnect our old NTT ADSL and phone capability in case the cable internet ended up being a disappointment. They had to install a separate phone jack so we could use either one. Of course, we have to pay for both to have this flexibility but we wanted to be able to run them side by side at first. We'll cancel one or the other after we've concluded which is better.

I was afraid my taking pictures of the installation process might worry the guys doing it so I could only sneak in one shot while this fellow's attention was diverted.

The odd thing was that they drilled a hole in the wall in the living room (see picture above) and ran a cable through but they didn't use it. They ended up using the hole that was already in our bedroom. I have no idea why they did this but they capped the wire with a box and nothing is plugged into it.

It took the men doing the installation 4 1/2 hours to get their work done. During that time, they installed the wrong modem and we had to get them to bring a different one but that wasn't their fault. We later learned that we were victims of the all too common lack of communication between a salesman and the people who have to implement what he's sold.

During our initial meeting with the salesman, one of the questions we asked was about how many wired connections we could maintain in addition to a wireless one. The salesman assured us we could have 3 wired and 1 wireless but the modem that was installed was 1 wired and 1 wireless. A Linksys router had to be secured to replace the Motorola they'd brought in. I watched one fellow try to get the internet to work repeatedly and watched him fail and started to get concerned.

The first thing that worked was the cable T.V. It now has about a bazillion specialized functions and a huge remote has replaced our old one.

Ground control to Major Tom. You've left your remote behind.

The new remote has some pretty nifty features including channel listings and the ability to program favorites and call them up. With the new set-up, we no longer need a cable guide for programming. Everything is in Japanese, of course, but we can understand this sort of thing fairly well. However, it's all a bit much for now. It's an overload of features.

So far, the telephone also works fine but that's not what we were worried about. The thing we were most worried about and that turned out to be as much (or more) of a problem than we'd anticipated is the internet. While I ran the Japanese software on all of our computers with no difficulties and followed the instructions with no problems at all, our computers refused to connect.

At 8:30 at night, we had to contact customer service and see if they could help us out. The first thing the tech people told us was that the software would not work on an English OS. The most frustrating thing about this was that the salesman was well aware we were running English operating systems as that was a point we specifically had concerns about and asked about. He was too ignorant about what he was selling to know enough to tell us this would be an issue.

Fortunately, the tech person I dealt with was pretty savvy and I know enough about computers that we went through manual configuration on the PCs. The Mac somehow figured it out for itself once the router was reconfigured to act as a router rather than a bridge. The technician also told us we were only allowed two wired connections but I emphatically said that we were promised three. That was pretty much strike three for the salesman and his baseless promises and assurances.

The technician and I were on the phone for about an hour and a half but we eventually got them all to connect. I wish I could say that was the end of that but I ran speed tests on all of the computers this morning and they are running far slower than our old 1.5 Mbps ADSL connection. Even with only one computer connected, we're getting crappy speed so I know it's not a multiple computer set-up issue.

I'm sorry to say that it's back to the phone and tech support for us again. I can't express how pleased I am though that we didn't put all our eggs in one basket and decided to keep our other connection available. Unfortunately, if the whole thing craps out, we lose a lot of money for 6 months since the cable company wouldn't sign anything less than a 1/2 year contract with us. We may end up having to use double service for the duration of that contract if our issues aren't resolved.


M.J. said...

Hey wow, there's an orb in your pic (on the sofa, can you see it?) They quite often show up in my pics too.

Luis said...

What does the fine print on the cable Internet say? Usually, cable Internet connections share bandwidth for the local neighborhood; 30 Mbps might be the potential speed based upon nobody else using bandwidth at that moment. If you have several neighbors also using the Internet, and if many of them do file sharing or other high-bandwidth activities, that could be the problem.

Shari said...

They seem to show up in a lot of my pictures because my flash is a bit too much. I'm not sure what causes it but I'm guessing it has something to do with the camera lens picking up a bit of the flash when it reflects off of surrounding objects. I think those orbs are all over my apartment gallery shots. ;-)

Shari said...

The fine print is 4 pages of Japanese in what appears to be an 8 point font. However, we discussed this issue very specifically with the salesman during our long talk with he and the landlord.

We specifically asked him about bandwidth drop-off should other tenants use their connections and he promised that each unit in the building was going to get 30 Mbps and that drop-offs weren't impossible but they would be relatively uncommon.

The speeds we are getting are abysmal compared to 1.5 Mbps FLETS. If we do a CNET bandwidth meter test, FLETS is getting between 500-800 kbps. On cable, it gets 230-350. This is a ridiculous variation. We could do nearly as well on good dial-up.

I had a huge talk with tech people this morning after my post was made and they say they don't use bandwidth meters except one Japanese one. I think that's a crock. We stopped the ability of the cable company to get automatic payments this afternoon. On Thursday, the salesman and his bos are supposedly calling and coming over to discuss the contract.

For now, we're using our FLETS again.

CMUwriter said...

As a newspaper reporter who takes a lot of photos, i have had a lot of experience with "orbs." I have found that orbs are caused by two different things much of the time. The first is dried spittle on the lens or dust directly on the lens. The other is the illumination of a larger chunk of dust, which is most likely floating in front of your face, by the camera flash.

Or it could be some sort of Japanese ghost sitting on your couch.