Odds and Ends From the Past Month

Broadband Solutions?

I’m moving by the end of November which means I get to deal with the joy of dealing three or four customer service departments to transfer my utilities. Most of them are an easy switch but I’m getting a little frustrated with my hunt for suitable internet. I’m currently in a Comcast area. I’m have their fastest package which is 16 megabits per second down, 2 megabits per second up. Leaving aside the megabit versus megabyte trickery that every ISP seems to indulge in today, I’ve been reasonably satisfied with Comcast’s service.

Unfortuantely my most likely relocation spot is in North Charleston, in a Time Warner “RoadRunner” cable area. The best package they offer is 10 megabits down (up to 16 with “power boost”) and 512 kbps up. DSL is through AT&T and caps out at 6 mbps down and 512 kbps up. Frankly these speeds are pathetic. Particularly when there’s no technical reason upload speeds should be slower than download speeds. These are caps imposed by the providers because they figure most people download far more than they upload, and that heavy uploaders are engaging in illicit actives.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a heavy user (read: no bittorrent of movies/music) but I do have several uses that are relatively upload intensive. Skype, remote desktop/ file upload to work, and archiving RAW images to flickr. I also play the occasional online game so I can’t totally ignore latency/ping.

I’ve tried calling the business internet group at Time Warner and didn’t get much traction. Has anybody else gotten their provider to bump their bandwidth for a fee? The only other solution I can think of is buying a dual WAN router and getting Cable AND a DSL line and using the connection together. It wouldn’t increase any individual transfer but it would raise my overall throughput. It seems like a suboptimal way to go about it but it might be my only option at this point.

The DMV and Security Theater

This xkcd pretty much sums up my feelings about the general populations parking skills.



I went to the DMV a couple weeks ago to swap out my Pennsylvania licenses.   The DMV was in a shared building with the department of public safety, health department, and the magistrates office.  Upon entrance they had a metal detector.  I proceeded to dump my cell phone, my pocket knife and my trusty, if a little worn leatherman into the little “metal objects collection bowl”.  I was immediately told I’d have to return and leave the leatherman/pocketknife in the car.

On the return trip it really struck me was that this was a blatant case of security theater, something that seems to be a huge part of our society in the past few years.  I understand that the DMV can be a stressful place, but a full sized walk through metal detector, additional small hand detectors, and an armed officer seem like overkill to protect the entrance to that building.  I’m not really bothered by the minor inconvenience of having to walk back to my car, but there are more troubling aspects to this growing scenario.

The most obvious problem I see is cost.  Using admittedly unscientific methods and ballpark numbers I thought of some back of the envelope numbers for what that little checkpoint costs to run:

Full size metal detector, approximate $3,000
Hand metal detectors x2 $300-400
Police Officer Annual Salary $40,000
Training, Equipment, Weapon, Ammunition (estimated) $2,000

That seems like an awful lot of money to be spending for very limited security returns. Granted the magistrates office was in the same building but I feel like someone should have had the common sense to look at this situation and do something a little bit more cost effective. I know I would simply install keycard access doors to the more sensitive parts of the building (the DMV was accessible from the entry on the first floor, the other office were upstairs.) When someone needed access to the interior they could simply buzz in and have someone sweep them down with a handheld metal detector. It would free up an officer for doing police work and save the annoyance to the bulk majority of people simply trying to get in and out of the DMV with a minimum of fuss.