Switching from DSL to Cable

November 12th, 2018

I’ve been on DSL forever. I started out on Bell, have been on NCF, and most recently TekSavvy. I’ve had my trials and tribulations with DSL, and have a collection of DSL modems (some are backup, some are bad, some were sensitive to line conditions).

Cable has always been a faster alternative, but it meant I needed to pay a cable install fee and switch technology in general. Also, a static IP wasn’t possible on cable – and having self hosted lowtek.ca for a long time, I’ve always felt a bit trapped to DSL to give me a static IP.

DSL can be fast, but not in my area which seems to have been left behind for faster connectivity. The highest speed I could get was 15 down, 1 up. Now, 15 down is great – I can stream HD Netflix without any real problems. The internet feels fast enough.

I have to say, I really appreciate that Google has built a good enough speed test that is easy to use.

One motivating factor was my desire to stop paying Bell for my land line. It’s nearly $50 a month and we barely use it. Sure I could switch to a VOIP provider but then I still have to pay for the dryloop cost and it sounded like I’d probably experience a service outage (of up to 5 days) when the line switched.

Moving to cable means losing the static IP. It also means that outgoing port 25 is going to be blocked and this means my self hosted email server will have problems.

I’ve sketched out a solution for static IP hosting. I’ll try to write that up in the future once I’ve done it. For now, because on cable your IP rarely changes – I’m just pretending that the IP I have is a static IP.

For sending email, I needed to route all my mail via Teksavvy, treating them as a smarthost. My email setup is postfix, thus there is literally a one line setup change to /etc/postfix/main.cf

This works because TekSavvy allows anonymous SMTP to this from inside of the network they control. What it does is force all outgoing email to be sent to their server, which in turn will send it out.

Now modern email servers do additional trust checks, one of these is Sender Policy Framework (SPF). Configuring your SPF is done via a TXT record in your DNS. While the relayhost was working, I was seeing a warning when checking email sent to gmail (but other email providers check SPF too).

It took a while for me to figure out how to get my SPF record setup correctly. I got a bit lucky, as I was reading https://support.google.com/a/answer/33786?hl=en which pointed at _spf.google.com as the Google SPF record holder. It turns out TekSavvy adopted the same naming: _spf.teksavvy.com. Your SPF record needs to point at other SPF records, so finding this meant it was an easy change to my DNS TXT record for SPF.

I will point at MXToolBox as a great web based tool for sorting out all sorts of email issues.

Now email was not only working via the smarthost, but my SPF record was setup correctly. I’m still experiencing delays when sending to gmail, but not apparently to other sites. From looking at the headers, it seems TekSavvy can at times (often) delay delivery to gmail. This is frustrating, but there are other paths to solution if it’s a big problem.

Now that email was sorted out, switching to cable was really easy. The cable box arrived and was “installed” by finding the live cable in my basement by the power panel and plugging the box in. It turns out that since the cable comes from a box at the end of my lawn and the buried cable to my house (which is 20yrs or more old) is in good shape, I get fantastic signal strength. The tech had to install an attenuator to reduce the signal to the happy range where the modem was going to work well.

Switching from DSL with static IP to Cable with rarely changing IP was a simple matter of swapping the WAN cable into my router from one box to the other. I had to reconfigure my router to use “Automatic” from “PPPoE”, and boom I was on the internet again. Visiting https://www.whatismyip.com/ and I had the new IP address, followed by a simple DNS change to use that as the address for lowtek.ca and I’m back.

At this point all I’ve lost is the reverse DNS check is failing, because the IP that lowtek.ca resolves to – does not answer lowtek.ca when you look up that IP. This is more important for sending email than receiving, and since I’m sending via Teksavvy it doesn’t matter as much. I still want a more ‘proper’ static IP to be assigned to lowtek.ca – more on that in a future post.

Boom – cable is just faster than DSL. With the added bonus that changing speeds is zero admin costs. If I want to move to 2x faster, it’s another $7 a month. On DSL I was at the fastest speed available to me at my location. Cable is costing me about $14 more a month, but the phone line savings will make up for that – once I get past the hump of buying a new cable modem and VOIP ATA box.

 

Home Theatre Seating – Octane Contour HR (Review)

September 14th, 2018

It’s been a while (apparently 7.5 years) since I’ve written something about home theater here. To be honest, not a lot has changed in my setup. I’ve moved from having satellite TV and watching (buying) lots of DVDs to primarily streaming content – Netflix or Amazon Prime. We still enjoy the occasional Blu-ray, but the quality of streaming is good enough and the convenience factor is high. I think there is also a social aspect to keeping up with what your friends are watching as well.

There are many many options out there for seating. We’ve had two rows of couches from the start, but while couches are comfortable if you want to stretch out you either end up with some sort of foot stool – or you’re lying sideways. Honestly couches are a great solution, but they don’t have that fancy feel to them. Recliners are fancy. Many (all?) of the movie theaters today in our area have fairly nice recliners now.

This got us looking at recliners. Ideally we’d go for Canadian made, but after searching around buying local drives the price up to double or more (and the quality). The couch we had in the front row was really showing it’s age and needed replacing. Specifications I was looking for: leather with power reclining, Jenn also wanted to make sure they looked ok because quite honestly many options are fairly ugly.

With leather there is a lot of variation. You want to avoid any of the gel or bonded leather, these tend to be in the very low end of the market and simply won’t last or feel all that great long term. Sadly, leather appears to be completely unregulated and ‘top grain’ leather has a huge range as well. The other gotcha here is that the selection is nearly 100% online (at least in the price range we were looking at).

This is what we ended up getting:

BestBuy had a fairly good sale on, and they seemed to have real leather. When you go digging there are not very many reviews of these, and the result vary quite a bit. You can find Octane Seating – the company that makes these (in China). If you dig around, you find out that Octane allows for orders with custom fabric, and they have quite a range of grades they support as well. I think this explains why there is such a variety of reviews for products that are described similarly.

I think we bought a day before the sale ended. While I was waiting for the delivery, I couldn’t help but check the website – and I wasn’t very surprised to see this.

Ok, so the 3 day sale didn’t really end after 3 days, it was extended. Maybe they are trying to drain stock or something.

Yeah, at this point it’s starting to get a little bit silly. It’s the sale that goes on forever. I was wrong, on the 17th it returned to normal full price.

But… other models were now on sale. It seems there is always a sale for entertainment furniture, in fact – while I was writing the post they were back on sale for the same discount.

We’ve had them a few weeks and have really enjoyed them. Going for the power recliner was absolutely the right choice, it was worth the price increase for that. The Octane Contour HR have motorized headrests which I would recommend, as a feature it seems like a gimmick, but it is really useful (and comfortable).

The leather is not as nice as the love seat we bought a couple of years ago for basically twice the price. That said, the product that we received felt like it was worth the sale price. I wouldn’t pay the full price for these, or at least not what BestBuy is asking as full price. While these exact chairs may not be on sale, there seems to always be some of the models on sale. I’d also consider CostCo as another source.

The motors are audible, but quiet enough that it’s not too intrusive if you adjust while watching. I’m basically 6′ tall, and I fit but I suspect a taller person may not be as comfortable.

Oddities. The two seat pair, ships in 4 parts. Both back rests come off (and are easy for 2 people to put back on). You get 1 full chair (two arms) and 1 with a single arm. You simply place them together on the floor – and the weight keeps them in place. I expecting there to be some sort of locking / connection mechanism but no, it’s just placement.

Overall very happy with the purchase, already thinking about converting the 2nd row of seating to recliners too.

Pros:

  • Power recline and power headrest
  • Much more comfortable than the worn out couch they replaced
  • Fancy looking, premium seating at home

Cons:

  • Seats are not physically attached
  • Kids play with the controls
  • Leather quality is ‘ok’ and may vary from vendor to vendor

Footnote: We initially tried to buy a set of seats that EastPorters carries, but was sold / shipped by Staples. The ordering process seemed to go off the rails, so a week later we assumed they had just cancelled the order. Weeks later, a shipping company calls to arrange drop off of our assumed cancelled order. They ended up leaving seats on the front step with no signature. They did come get the unwanted delivery and we eventually got a 100% refund, but only after chasing them a bit. I wouldn’t recommend Staples for this type of purchase

Returning a Nexus 5 to ‘stock’, including re-locking bootloader

May 28th, 2017

Hmm, I had a bunch to say about used phones and my history with different models, skip to about halfway down to find the actual details on returning a phone to stock.

It’s interesting to look back over my personal smartphone ownership history. All of them have been purchased ‘used’ but some were barely used, where others saw heavy use. For the most part I’ve not had any real problems with the phones, but there have been a few exceptions. My price point has generally been under $200, but I’ve scored a few at the $150 mark too.

Resale of the phones hasn’t been a strong point of mine, I usually keep them (sometimes idle on my desk) to the point where I’m getting less than half what I paid for them. Still I think I’m ahead in terms of the diversity of the phones I’ve had, and my total layout in cost.

The Nexus 4 was a great phone for me, I used it for almost 2 years before swapping to a Nexus 5. It wasn’t without problems, something went wrong with the charging circuitry (part of the motherboard) and it was destroying batteries by mis-charging them. I went through a couple aftermarket batteries before finding a donor phone that had a good motherboard.

I flipped the donor phone with now bad motherboard and ended up $20 out of pocket to fix my Nexus 4. I ran with this fixed phone for nearly another year.

In the Nexus 4 ownership phase, I ended up having Jenn switch from iOS to Android, and so I started getting 2 of the same phone. Late in 2016 the Nexus 5 (32GB) came below the $200 price point. I ended up buying 3 within the span of a couple of weeks.

Of the 3 Nexus 5’s, it turns out one of them had something wrong with it. After a little while that bad phone started to randomly reboot, and sometimes even turn itself off and refuse to power back on. You could get it back, but had to fiddle with it for some time. I ended up taking this phone and using it as my daily driver to see if I could isolate and fix the issue. It felt like it might have been the very common power button problem, but a local repair shop didn’t think it was. Instead of trying to fix it myself, I just upgraded to the Moto X Play and sold the bad Nexus 5 (with full disclosure on it’s issues) as a parts phone for $50.

Oh yeah, and that gets us to the returning to stock story..

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