AT&T U-Verse: So far so good

2009/08/06 at 08:55

For years, we’ve had cable TV and internet access from our local cable provider Suddenlink (the small local company was bought by Cox and then Suddenlink). We haven’t had any particular problems with either one. During this time, though, we’ve had several telephone providers. We tried Vonage and Suddenlink’s own VoIP phone service, but in both cases, we could never get good quality (I went around with Vonage’s support multiple times before I just gave up). We finally just went back to AT&T regular landline.
For the last several years, we’ve had a DVR provided by Suddenlink (a Motorola 6400 hundred series with a Microsoft OS). While we knew it wasn’t as good as Tivo, it was good enough. In fact, we’ve become addicted to being able to watch what we want when we want and to forwarding past commercials.
A few weeks ago, however, Suddenlink downloaded a completely different operating system to our DVR. The overall user experience was much poorer than before and we lost some significant functionality.
As a software engineer, that really pissed me off. Clearly, the motivations for this change had absolutely nothing to do with users and were, in fact, hostile to the users. That sealed the deal, we were shopping for a different TV provider.
After some research, we decided to give AT&T’s new U-Verse service a try, mostly because we could have integrated TV, cable and internet. We got a lot more functionality and a few more channels for a little less than we were paying for TV, phone and internet.
The AT&T installer spent four hours at our house yesterday getting it all hooked up. I was not home for the installation, but Katie reported that a knowledgeable-seeming 30+-year Southwestern Bell/AT&T employee did the installation and that it went without any problems.
When I got home last night, I connected my laptop to the wireless, explored the TV/DVR options and got our voice mail set up. Everything seemed to be working without any problems or complicated setup.
I have to say, so far I’m very impressed. It’s clear that U-verse was designed as an integrated service. We had considered getting a bundled deal from AT&T a couple of years ago, but it was clearly a cobbled-together offering: DSL, regular phone and satellite TV from Dish or DirecTV.
With U-verse, I can manage all aspects of my service from their web site. I particularly like being able to manage the DVR from the web site and getting voice mail via email or on the web site; the kids really like having DVR capability on both our TVs.
I’ll try to remember to post an update in a few weeks, after we’ve lived with U-verse for a while.
UPDATE: So, I got my first email notification of a voice mail message shortly after I wrote this post. It’s great that I can listen to the voice mail online, but the email falls a little short. It shows me the number that called and then includes a link to the U-Verse home page. After I click on it, I have to log in and go through about five more clicks to hear the message. Couldn’t they provide a direct link or even attach the *.wav file to the email? So clase, but so far. I guess it’s the 80/20 rule in action.
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Odd coincidence

2009/07/17 at 14:57

In my previous post, I pondered how the people who tormented me in high school feel about that now: Do they realize what they did? Do they know it but not think it remarkable? Do they regret it?
I just read a blog post by Bob Sutton that may provide an answer:

This research is part of a long line of studies that show people can be remarkably clueless to their own behavior and how others perceive them. . . This helps explain a lot of things, for example why the Zogby survey a couple years ago found that over one-third of American’s reported being bullied at work and yet less than 1% ever ever reported bullying others.

Memories light the corners of my mind

2009/07/17 at 14:01

A guy who was teased mercilessly in high school explains on his blog “Why I won’t be at my high school reunion.”
After outlining the hell he experienced in high school, he says:

Now it’s twenty five years since I got out of that miserable fucking hell-hole. And people from my high school class are suddenly getting in touch, sending me email, trying to friend me on Facebook, and trying to convince me to bring my family to the reunion. (It’s a picnic reunion, full family invited.) Even some of the people who used to beat the crap out of me on a regular basis are getting in touch as if we’re old friends.
My reaction to them… What the fuck is wrong with you people? Why would you think that I would want to have anything to do with you? How do you have the chutzpah to act as if we’re old friends? How dare you? I see the RSVP list that one of you sent me, and I literally feel nauseous just remembering your names.

I was also teased mercilessly in high school (though not as badly as this guy describes). Thankfully, though, I also found a group of people (go, band queers!) who became close friends and commiserated with me. In the 25+ years since high school, I have let go of most of the anger and bitterness towards the teenage shits who caused me misery back then, but I do have a similar WTF reaction when these same people try to ‘friend’ me on Facebook now.
It makes me wonder, are these people just not aware of the pain they inflicted back in the day? Do they not care? I know that I was horribly mean to others who I considered below even myself in the adolescent hierarchy, one guy in particular. In fact, in some ways, I think I was mean (or meaner) precisely because I experienced such abuse myself.
But I was always aware of my meanness, and within a few years after high school, I regretted it. If I ever meet up with that one guy again, I will still apologize for what I did to him.

The best part of waking up…

2009/07/06 at 09:10

… does not include downing the last slurp of coffee from your travel mug on the way to work, only to get chunks of something.
I’m just saying, if you were on the road with me this morning and saw me suddenly swerve into the oncoming lane briefly, I was trying to quickly spit my coffee back through the opening in the travel mug without spilling it all over myself.

The simple joys of summer

2009/06/10 at 07:28

The simple joys of summer
This is my great-nephew Scottie.

Like father, like son

2009/02/01 at 19:46

This weekend we celebrated my mother-in-law’s 79th birthday at Lake Buchanan. On Saturday, we all went on the Vanishing Texas River Cruise, and then we spent the night at the lodge at Canyon of the Eagles. We had a really good time. (You can see all our photos from the weekend here)
As we walked around the Canyon of the Eagles park, we discovered that it was lousy with armadillos. I lost count at ten. For years, I’ve regaled the kids with stories of my childhood armadillo chasing and catching. This weekend was my first opportunity in over 25 years to relive those good times. To my surprise, it was much easier to catch an armadillo than I remembered.
Here’s the first one that I caught. It was a young one:
My first capture
Samuel would not get near the first one that I caught; but he was willing to hold the second one. By the time we went hiking on Sunday morning, he was ready to try to catch one for himself. Fortunately, he got the chance. Here he is with his catch:
Caught him!
He’s very proud of his accomplishment; he asked me to print out this photo so he could take it to school on Monday.

Monday…

2008/12/15 at 09:37

Got to my office this morning, got my coffee, sat down at my desk and started going through my email. I happened to look down into my lap and noticed ugly brown stains in the crotch of my jeans. Since I don’t recall soiling myself, I’m pretty sure it’s cat barf*. Fortunately, it’s only visible if I’m sitting down with my legs spread somewhat, and you can see up between my legs. I get to go through the whole day worrying about this.
* Unfolded, clean laundry piled up on the couch last week, and the cat started sleeping in it. When I finally started folding laundry, I discovered cat barf on another item of clothing.

Blessing

2008/11/04 at 09:33

Gordon Atkinson has written a blessing for his fifteen-year-old daughter. As the father of a daughter who just turned fourteen, the entire blessing speaks to me. From my own experience, the following passage struck me:

Walk the halls of your school with your head held high. While others may worship at the altars of camouflage, conformity, and compromise, you stand above those shortcuts and soul slayers. Rise up, young woman, and do not be afraid. Rise up and be true to yourself. Let the strength of your presence transcend hair and clothing and music and boys. Let your true colors show in the halls and know that many in high school have scales on their eyes. They only see what they want to see. Many will not see you. There will be times when you walk the halls and feel invisible.
But here is a secret that I know. One boy will see you. He will see you in the middle of the noise and the energy and the hype and the crowds. He will see your strong walk and your eyes. He will listen to the answers you boldly call out in class. He will hear your voice and know your power. He will watch you until he knows you, and then his heart will fall into his stomach, for he will understand that there is only one like you.
Look for him. He is the only one that matters. Do not listen to boys who say they love you. Instead believe in the boy who wants to cherish you. If you hide now, ducking into the crowd like so many others, dressing and looking and acting and praying for safety, you might indeed be safe, but the only boy that matters will miss you. He will miss you because he is looking for a girl like no other. And you will have become just another girl in the crowd.

I’m extremely fortunate that I ran across this one person very early on and that we each recognized the other as the one. Thirty-some years later (24 of them married), I still consider myself blessed.

Singapore souvenirs

2008/10/08 at 21:07

Sinapore skyscrapersI am working this week in my company’s office in Singapore. Singapore is a cosmopolitan, international city. Because the residents of Singapore come from so many different cultures, it’s hard to find souvenirs that are ‘uniquely Singaporean.’
I was discussing this fact with another coworker from Minneapolis who is also working in Singapore this week. He said that he described this situation to his girlfriend as follows: “Asking me to bring a unique souvenir from Singapore is like asking me to bring a unique souvenir from the Mall of America.”

The death of neighborliness

2008/10/02 at 10:11

Our son’s elementary school is only about three blocks away, and there is a crossing guard at the big intersection. He’s in third grade, but we still walk him at least partway because of the traffic on a side street that he has to cross (without a crossing guard). The danger in crossing this side street is caused mostly by the large number of other elementary school parents who who park in the side street in order to let their kids out or to walk them from there to the school. Because of this, there a lot of cars turning each way into and out of this street before and after school.
One woman frequently parks right smack in the crossing zone (which is not marked as a crosswalk), so that we have to walk around her car to cross the street. Yesterday, she pulled in right in front of us, so when I got across the street, I came around to the passenger side of her car and made the ‘roll down your window’ signal. Instead of doing so, she assumed what I wanted to say and pulled out to find another parking space.
Today, she was parked very close to the crossing zone. We didn’t have to go around her car, but having it right there just adds to the visual clutter of the already busy intersection. She was helping her kids out of the car as we crossed the street.
I came over to her and asked, “Excuse me, ma’am, could you please not park your car right here?” She came around to the back and noted that she was not actually in our way, to which I responded, “Yes, I understand, but I feel that it makes this intersection more dangerous to have cars parked so close to the crossing zone.
She rolled her eyes at me and went back to her kids. I was so shocked at her blowing me off that I uttered a profanity that didn’t help the problem.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about why her response upset me so much. I came to the following conclusion: I assumed that the fact that she lives in the neighborhood and that her kids go to the same school resulted in some sort of neighborly connection between us, even if we don’t exactly know each other, and that that connection would lead her to at least make an effort to be polite and pretend to show understanding for my concern.
I guess my assumption was incorrect. And that makes me sad.
And I’m even sadder when I think about the future. Because she didn’t even feel the need to pretend to understand, there will be tension every time she and I cross paths. Plus, I’ll probably escalate my concerns to the city: asking the to come a few mornings and monitor the parking and traffic around this intersection.